An eye for cupcakes

Kate makes the best cupcakes and she defends them vigoursly.  Hence the scouting eye.

  

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Easy going happiness

Last night we took Elly down to Mother Earth.  It has been months sinc we have visited that bar, but it is as pleasant and crowded as ever.  Elly was wonderfully happy.  The wind brought great smellls.  The rain made puddles that splashed as she walked.  And the bar was great fun.  She got a lick of pizza essence of the floor, a chance to nibble on a few pieces of popcorn, and some pets from strangers who thought she was the “IT GIRL”.  Leaving she even got to meet a couple other dogs.  I am always amazed at how such little stuff can make a dog so happy.   We should take lessons from her.

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Wire Wrap Inspiration

At work, I have club “Creative Collections” where a batch of like minded people (usually women) get together for arts and crafts.  My employer, a large defense contractor, supports clubs with money.  And we spend that money on art supplies and art classes.  Mostly we teach each other new skills, call it professional development, and buy the supplies for the class.  It is amazing how many people are happy to teach a small class.  Everyone has fun; it is a great break from the workday.

Last week, there was a class on tying headpins for jewelry.  Basically you create a loop in wire and then wrap the end around the bottom of the loop.  Picture below illustrates this.  My part in the class was finding the teacher (easy because there are so many volunteers), making sure that person can get the supplies, help them do the paperwork of getting riembursed, get an attendance sheet, find a conference room, and send out a notice.  Probably 30 minutes of work total spread over a several week period.  Not a big deal. 

But a lot of people seem to think this is a big deal.  Probably because it is fun, it is nice to go home from a class with a new pair of earings or two, and the company is really good.  We laugh.  But I feel I get more out of the classes than I put into them.  Not just a pair of earrings and friendship; I get inspiration for new projects.  For example, at this class I started playing with wire and beads.  Two days later, I have 10 new pairs of earrings, ideas on how to make many more earings, and even some bigger projects. The inspiration was realizing that I can use the wire as a focal point, not just as a support structure.  While the first few earings are not perfectly matched, they are good enough to wear with pride.  And the possibilities with different color, weight, and shape of the wire  offer many great artistic challenges. Was talking with Liz last night.  She’s getting almost done with school.  Onnly two more weeks and she graduates  from college.  Only 1.5 weeks and she’s done with classes.  Only 1.5 weeks and I get to go on a roadtrip to New Mexico.  Hurray.  As part of our conversation, Liz said “I’ll help you find home for those earrings.”  And she will gladly take more of my jewelery.   Thank goodness.  I can make jewelery faster than I can wear it.  So Liz, tell me which ones you want.  And if someone else wants a pair, let me know.  I’ll be glad to give you a pair or two also.  Would enjoy swapping earings for postcards.

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Ah, the beauty of the to-do list

Daily Prompt: The Satisfaction of a List
Who doesn’t love a list? So write one! Top five slices of pizza in your town, ten reasons disco will never die, the three secrets to happiness — go silly or go deep, just go list-y.

Ah, the beauty of a list.  what kind shall I write?  A fun one about vacations and places to go.  Or how about a list of presents others can buy for me.  A list of art supplies I want.  A list of my projects?  Or….Or….A TO-DO list.  That’s the thing.  All the stuff I need to do.  A list of work and chores and ugly tasks.  No, doesn’t sound like fun.

Well then, there is only one thing left to list and thats the joy in my life.  My family.  My friends.  My art.  My pets.  Even my job (although not all the time especially when I have to leave for work in the morning).  A wonderful breakfast with great coffee made with love by my husband.  The jackalope magnet on the refriderator because it makes me laugh.  A fire outside with family.  An upcoming roadtrip.

The problem is that there are so many things which give me love and happiness, I cannot list them all.  So instead of trying, I’ll stop writing and enjoy the breakfast Bob just put in front of me.  Have a happy day.

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Mad Hatters Hat Stand

Daily Prompt: Roy G. Biv
Write about anything you’d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet — make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.

For the last month, I have been obsessively working on an art project called the Mad Hatters Hat Stand.  Now it didn’t start with that title nor was it expected to be as complex a project.  I thought this would be a simple lets put together a structure and show how LEDs can be used in sculptures.   Along the way, I have met with some very interesting problems–challenges that have to be answered artistically.  First attempt was to use commercial LED’s within a tree structure.  No problem except I ruined the LED wiring by bending it too much.  The fact I had a flawed approach to masking, spray paint, and then removing the masking might also had something to do with ruining a set of cheap chinese LED’s.

Second round, different approach.  Create the structure and then add in lights.  Ok, can do.  A piece of old fir scrap lumber became a base.  Two cheap candy jars from the dollar store, sprayed with mirror paint became the structure for holding the lights.  An unfinished box from Bob’s projects added interest.  And a structure created with popsicle sticks, masking tape, bamboo skewers, cardboard and left over rope pieces became the led structure. 





Added paper mache and voila, I had a hat.  Not originally planned as a hat, but that’s OK.  I can use it.  But the hat was large, heavy, and not balanced well.  Also the LED lights were too bright to look at, they needed to be masked.  Plus some holes had to be drilled  into the glass (new skill here) for power cords and other electronic stuff.  Had some ribbon that look beautiful against the dark gold spray paint, but not enough.  So Ibegged a friend to give me the remainder of her very expensive ribbon rolls.  Notice how different the hat looks with paper mache, spray paint, and ribbon.



Also began looking at adding in some other pieces so LED lights could sparkle.  The black glass cat didn’t work although Charlie thought it might be a fine addition.  The glass mouse my dad brought back from Sweden sometime during the 1970’s will be gorgeous with LED’s and gold ribbon.





At this point, was hopeful I could get the sculpture donein time  for submission to the del mar faire, fine art competition.  Deadline for photos is April 24th.  So I took a day off work which turned out to be a kind of shitty day.  First, Sophia disapeared.  That dammed cat did not come home for 24 hours.  And we knew when she disapeeared–sometime between 5:30 and7:00 pm on tuesday night.  Kate saw her outside waiting for me.  Sophia has been doing that for the last 12 years of my life, waiting outside under a bush in almost all kinds of weather except pouring rain  for me to come home.  But last tuesday she was not there.  Wednesday morning she was not there.  And I was kind of depressed about her being gone.  

During the day, I ruined another set of electronics  by breaking the cheap chinese wiring in the power supply.  Eventually went to Frys with the intention of buying very expensive LED light strips for this project.  But that packagge had no instructions and some mysterious parts.  It got returned and now I plan on ordering more expensive lights elsewhere.  Also on this day off , Bob had to visit the doctor.   More antibiotics for his infection which besides being worrisome, put hims in a bad mood.  And it takes hours to get all these things done.  But the good news at the end of hte day was that Sophia did come home. Which made me happy.  And by the end of the day, it was obvious I was not going to finish in time for submission to the fair, so a deadline disapeared.  Less pressure although I WANT to get this sculpture finished.  I am very eager to see the finished piece.

On Sunday, began working on a new base for the lamp.  Since the hat is heavy, I need to add weight at the bottom.  Otherwise the lamp will fall over.  In the scrap box, there was a piece of really heavy dark rough wood.  Perhaps walnut.  The piece cost 12 dollars 25 or 39 years ago, would hate to buy it now.  It is so hard, I will have trouble getting it sanded down to perfect smoothness.  And as we clean up the wood, Bob is thinking it might also make a great table.  Who knows, I will figure it out over the next couple of weeks.





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Taxes

Finally turned in my tax forms yesterday.  Got a refund from the state (Hurrah) and owed a little bit of money to feds (boohoo).  Now I know that’s opposite of what every financial advice column recommends which is “owing money to the IRS is good”.  But they don’t take account of the emotional issues such as my absolute hatred of writing a tax check or the joy of getting a refund. Fine, call me a bad money manager. We have enough money to pay our bills, do some saving, and even have a little bit left over at the end of the month if all goes well.  And if I miss out on a couple dollars interest (at 0.25% for the small amount of my refunds), who cares.  I don’t.  And speaking of taxes, why can’t the IRS put an online system on their site like the California tax software?  It took me less than 15 minutes to do my taxes, cost noth8ing, and I had the same n umber as the manual calculations I had done earlier.  Fantastic sofware.  It must be that Turbo Tax has paid someone to keep software like this off the IRS website.

I did have some fun with taxes.  My girls and I had a competition — last one done buys drinks.   The conversation, mostlly via email, follows 

Me:

“Hello  Girls,
     Gentle reminder that Taxes have to be done this weekend.  Of course, I’m sure you all are on top of it—especially Maggie whose W2 I just found in the bottom drawer while looking for mine. Unfortunately, I haven’t even started mine.  So let’s have a race.  Last one done with taxes buys drinks at Art Beat or Mother Earth this June.
    And Mags—if you want me to scan and send your W2; I’ll do it tonight.
 Love Mom.”

Liz responded:

“Hah, I beat you all. I did my taxes last month! Someone owes me a drink!”

 Mags responded:

“Eh, doing taxes last minute is cool. But game on!  
     Also, Mom, what is the W2 for? I have one for Penn State and one for the Northrup Grumman Federal Credit Union, and thought that was it for this year? But yes, if you could scan me a copy, that would be very much appreciated.”

Both girls responded within minutes of my initial email.  A very fast response.    And yet it actually took a couple of days before I did scan and send the W2’s to Maggie.  I don’t know if she needed them or not.  So now e come to Sunday afternoon.

Well it actually took a couple of days before I did scan and send the W2’s to Maggie.  And in that time I did have a conversation with both girls.  Liz 

 Me:

“Done.  OK almost done.  Figured out that I owe the federal government and have a big refund from the state. Still need to fill out the forms.
   So does this mean I win the contest and Maggie owes everyone a drink?”

 Liz:

“Not valid until they are actually filed”

Mags didn’t see Liz’s email.  So on Tuesday, we had the following exchange:

 Mags:

“Aw crap. A couple of possible interpretations. One – I was a lazy bum who finished her taxes the night before they are due. OR Two – I love you guys so much I couldn’t wait to buy you all beer and waited until the last minute on purpose
   Happy Tuesday!
   Love  M

ME:

“Well I haven’t yet filled out the forms or sent the check to the IRS.  So it is still game on.” 

Mags (on april 14th):

“Wow. This must be how Tom Hanks felt when his character was found floating in the ocean in Castaway. But I’m clocking out. Official end time 9:43pm (PA time).”

Guess I owe everone drinks since I didn’t finish unitl April 15th.  That will be fun.  So some good did come from the exercise of doing taxes.  And Mags owes her sister a thank you for speaking up about what “being done” realy means.  But I had fun doing taxes and not every one can say that.  So I also win.

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Holy Moly, Alfred came to visit

Last night while Bob was doing the dishes, he suddenly stopped.  “Holy Moly, Robine come look.  No wait, let me get the camera.”  I sat at the kitchen table wondering what was going on with my husband.  After much commotion, Bob found his camera and came back to tell me there was a lizard crawling out of the dish washer. 

Now how often does a lizard crawl out of a dishwasher?  Not often in my experience.  So this was a big event in the household.  Meanwhile Charlie, the great bug hunter and defender of all  that happens in the kitchen, was calmy eating food only a foot away from this Lizard.  Charlie loves hunting lizards.  And if only he had known what was sitting right below him, calm cat food crunching would have stopped.  Charlie has twice in his life (at least to my knowledge) caught a lizard.  One of those occasions, Bob took one away before it got killed and Charlie spent weeks hissing at us in anger.  

Posing for a photograph session, Alfred the lizard, remained still until we finished taking snapshots.  Several are below for your viewing pleasure.  Bob then opened the dishwasher and pulled out one very lively lizard.  Alfred immediately climbed onto his back.  Elly began barking.  Charlie began leaping.  Sophia began hissing at Elly who bothered her.  Bob shouted “Help me, open the door, where is the lizard”.  I opened the door to let him out.  And then in my confusion, immediately began turning off the lights.  Big Help I was, not.  Bob got outside and the lizard leaped to the garage floor.  The cats were screeching, the dog barking, and I was trying to be helpful.  Alfred, the lizard was scurrying around on the floor of the garage.  “Not the shovel” Bob yelped.  “We don’t want to kill the poor thing.”  “I only want to pick up the lizard and help him get outside” I yelled.  But Bob was right, so I put the shovel down and went in the house.  We left the lizard alone as it scurried under the woodpile.  I hope he finds his way to safety and food.

And now for the photos.  Enjoy both the lizard and the great view of Bob’s Hands.  I like them.





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Welding a new house

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “If I Had a Hammer.”

If you could learn a trade — say carpentry, electrical work, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, flooring, drywall — you name it — what skill(s) would you love to have in your back pocket?

Interesting this prompt appeared today, because yesterday I was wondering about welding and using a torch on metal.  Specifically, building a house from shipping containers.  A single container, 10 feet by 40 feet and 12 feet high costs about 2000 dollars or perhaps as cheap as 1000 dollars if in poor shape.  Buy several of these containers, stack them artistically, and you suddenly have the foundation for a very sturdy house.  But the house needs doors, windows, and walls.  And that means cutting holes and welding various walls together. All this can be done with fire — hot torches to cut the holes and melt metals together.  Sounds like fun; the ultimate playing with matches experience.

Or perhaps I should learn how to make a house out of straw.  They are supposed to be great for the desert–lovely thick walls holding out the heat of the day and the cold of the night.  Then I need to become a drywall and stucco expert.  Making beautiful walls with wonderful ledges for sitting and sleeping upon.  Places where one can watch the world or grow a garden of plants.  Built in nooks for storage.  All of this with wonderful wooden floors and high wooden beams in the ceiling.  A courtyard in the middle with big porches, like the classical mission and hacienda style from early spanish and mexican settlers in california.

Why a new house when I have a perfectly fine house already?  I want a house where I can see the stars at night, especially the milky way.  Yeah, I can see some stars although the number is far less than out in the country like my mother and dad’s home.  Its a city view of the stars, one or two peaking through the clouds; the ones bright enough to stand out against all that light from the neighbors.   I want a complex, a place where I can have friends and family come stay for months at a time and yet still have privacy.  I want an art studio with spaces for storage, a room dedicated to messy projects, and a place to show off my work.

Or maybe I stay where I am and become a scupltor.  Fill the yard with bronze statues.  A dragon cat and a giant mouse big enough for kids to climb.  Smaller fountains and hidden animals under Bob’s garden.  Learn to cast concrete statues and cover them with mosaics like Queen Califa’s garden in Escondido.  But unfortunately first breakfast and then work call.  So the lovely daydreams need to be put back in the box.  Later I can take them out again and play.

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Bluebird Update

This is a guest post from Bob’s facebook page (used with his permission).

Update on the bluebirds. Wishing I’d installed a cam in the box.
Both parents are tireless, building and guarding all day.



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Smoothies don’t mean all goes smoothly in the kitchen

Last night Bob was making smoothies.  Blend, moosh, squoush.  Bob started moaning that he didn’ t know how to make a berry smoothy.  Nothing was blending nicely.  And that adding icecream was probably not the correct action.  I told  him to call my mother, she does it all the time.  He said something rude about my backseat cooking skills and things devolved.  At the end we were left with the following questions:

  1. How does my Mom make her berry smoothies?
  2. What happened to the missing end of the spoon?
  3. Where is smooosh on the blender dial?
  4. What does the word smooosh mean?

I need to call my mom and get instructions before the next smoothy making episode, if only to get ammunition.

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Tomorrow awaits

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Three Letter Words.”

Damm, it is Friday.  That is what my husband tells me.  I so wanted it to be Saturday.  No Work, only play.  Those dreams about lovely activities need to wait until tomorrow.

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Warning, Dead Gopher Zone

The other night, I came home to no Charlie.  Elly and Sophie were there demanding attention, but no Charlie.  Came in, gave lots of pets, talked loudly and no Charlie.  Where was he?  We started wondering if he had gotten outside, something not allowed since he is a carrier for feline bronchitis or some such disease.  Fed treats to the animals and no Charlie, but I heard a growling in the corner of the kitchen.

Charlie was there with a nice dead gopher.  Big teeth, ugly shape, very distinct adult gopher.   Charlie was growling to ensure no cats, dogs, or humans got near him and his prize.  My first thought was were did he find the gopher.  Bob’s first comment was “get rid of that gopher”.  Now you need to understand the rules of the lewis household.  Those that find a mess, clean up a mess.  That includes cat barf, dog hair, and gopher guts.  It is amazing how no one can see such things occuring.  If  you step in cat yack and then holler in dismay; everyone knows you found it and you get to clean up the mess.  I had acknowledged Charlie had a gopher; it was my problem.

Approached Charlie armed with some plastic bags.  He growled, picked up his prize gopher, and ran for the living room.  I followed, he ran around furniture and back into the kitchen.  Repeat the process a few times and it becomes obvious that I cannot catch the cat.  Mentioned later to Bob I was dismayed about him not letting me get the gopher and her responded in a very serious voice “Of course, you never abandon a perfectly good dead gopher.  Everyone knows that.”  And of course we do have experience with dead gophers.  I do remember Elly running around the yard with a very dead speciman, gulping it down as she ran away from her humans.

Bribery was the only solution.  “Sally, Sophie, Charlllieeeeeee” I called.  Response from two cats.  Repeated the cry while getting some deli ham slices from the fridge.  Still only two cats in the kitchen.  Started putting down plates with small pieces of ham; finally the competition for good food got to Charlie and he came running.  The gopher got abandoned in the dining room and I was able to retrieve it.  Later he spent over an hour trying to find his gopher.  But he didn’t blame me for the disaperance.  After all, why would I want a perfectly good dead gopher?

The next part was inspired mischief.  Called Kate and got her after a long hard day in the bathtub.  “Kate, I’ve got a problem.  Charlie caught a gopher and both of them are loose in your bedroom”.  

“What?” she responded. 

“There is a live gopher in your room.  It’s vicious and even Charlie who caught it can’t deal with it.  What do you suggest I do?”

“What?  YOU LET CHARLIE TAKE A GOPHER INTO MY ROOM?”

“YEP!”

More conversation and Bob helped embroider the story.  Kate (who is a good sport) finally sighed.  “OK, I am going to get dressed and come over to take care of this gopher”.  

At that point we relented, laughed and told her the truth.  It was a beautiful prank, only one day before April Fools day.

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Adventures Ahoy, Passion Demanded

Daily Prompt: Tagline

Often, our blogs have taglines. But what if humans did, too? What would your tagline be?

One of the biggest jokes among friends and family is how many different things I get involved with, how many projects I am working on, and how many adventures (big and small) seem to happen in my life.  That’s because I have an insatiable need to try need to try new things and always  be learning or creating something.  When I utter the words “You know we could….” or “Why not try …..” or “How about ….” my family rolls their eyes and say to themselves, “That’s Robine for you.”

This last weekend is a perfect example of that passion for doing things.  Three lovely days off work, filled with adventures small and large.   Friday  morning Bob and I slept in until 6:30 am.  It felt lovely and we followed it with breakfast at Allan’s Alley.  Since Kate had spent the night at Grandmothers, it felt like a special treat date, only Bob and I.  Came home and had my friend, Marianne come on over.  It was great seeing her, always a joy to find out about her grandsons and various adventures in her life.  Plus we got to sit outside in Charlies Shack and watch bluebirds creating a nest.

The afternoon demonstrated how I am willing to change plans as needed to accommodate different adventures.  Of course, Adventure is  how you define it.  In this case, instead of working on an art project, I enjoyed cooking some exotic dishes.  In the afternoon, I had planned to work on my macrame wall hanging light project.  But instead ended up cooking.  Made the BEST chocolate cake in the world–Mattie Ann’s Bachelor Bait Cake.   Found the recipe several years ago in the NY Times.  This chocolate cake is rich in flavor, but not sweet.  Although better with the chocolate Ganache, this cake as a great way to use some of the frosting left over from my Equinox celebration at work — the one where I ended up with a butterfly painted across my face.  Also got to try a new recipe for barbeque sauce and since our server went down while I was cooking, couldn’t see the recipe.  Therefore I made it up the sauce based on what I remembered from reading a variety of on-line recipes.  It turned out good, but I don’t think I will ever be able to fully replicate it .

Saturday morning, I woke up in Charlies outside shanty having moved outside to the cot during the middle of the night.  Since I wake up and am awake for a long period of time, Bob never worries when I am not in bed in the morning.  Hot and restless at 2 am, the quiet stillness of the morning lets me do yoga, watch stars, or simply relax in the early morning quiet stillness.  Having a cot outside lets Sophia, my constant companion come join me in the star gazing.  But Saturday morning, I had the added benefit of watching the bluebirds wake up and stick their heads out from the hole in the box.  Actually I don’t know if the birds sleep in the box or not, but it seems much more romantic if they did.

Saturday was a lovely day -0 lots of small adventures and joys.  Breakfast with family.  Lunch with Bob.  Finished the macrame portion of my newest lamp project and spent a few hours reading a novel.  Even did a bit of cleaning in my art studio and began planning an all day sewing adventure for next weekend.  Mary is rolling her eyes at the thought of me coming to her house for the day to make skirts.  It’s the possible mess I can make that bothers her.  But she will get at least one new skirt with pleats and a pockets from that adventure.

And Sunday was the grandest adventure of them all.  I got another sailing lesson.  Hard work, I am now getting very good at jibing and tacking and sending the boom across the boat way too fast.  That is not good for those of you who are not sailors.  But with some practice, I eventually will get the hang of sailing.  Darn, Bob probably will complete the class before me since he has been approved for checkout and I am slated for at least one more lesson.   But it was great fun, I did not get badly sunburned, and I got a great photo of a seagull.  You don’t often see a gull sitting in a swimming pool.

seagull_blog

As you can see from the post, I do have lots of small adventures.  There is always something new to try, something wonderful to experience, and something great to be shared with family.  Even if they roll their eyes at my newest ideas or proposed adventures.  Living a life of passion is why my tagline is “Adventures Ahoy, Passion Demanded”.

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My what teeth you have

Last night, Elly had fits of happiness over being a dog.  Laid on her back and played wildly with her wubba toy — a hard rubber ball covered with almost indestructible fabric.  Squeek, squeek, squeek. We laughed.

elly teeth

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We have bluebirds!

At the beginning of the month Bob build a bluebird box.  A pair of bluebirds had been visiting the yar and Bob decided to offer them a chance to stay.  I wrote about that in the post “Hoping for Bluebird Chicks”

https://robinesworld.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/hoping-for-bluebird-chicks/

Well over the last week, this pair of birds has been seen bringing sticks and other things into the box.  Very busy and industrius birds, Bob managed to get a great shot



So if we are lucky, we will get to hear and maybe even see some babies

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Great Photo of ME

This week at work, we had a celebration for the padres.  They are our local pro-baseball team and this year, Northrop is sponsoring some tickets for the local military.  Good excuse for an employee engagement party.  Now I don’t know much about baseball, but one of my cubicle mates (aka another person who shares the space we call a desk at work with me) suggested that we could get baseballs signed by Randy Jones, number 35.  After some  amount of chatter, I pulled out the last  10 dollars in my wallet and off went my mate to get baseballs.  He got a dozen balls and took three with him.  The rest I had in my bag.  Standing in line, I started giving away balls.  By the end, I had four balls  all of which were signed by Randy Jones.  Leaving, I stopped to talk with Terry, the company photographer.  He got a great photograph of me with the balls and unknown to me, the team Mascot–the Friar.



One ball given to the photographer, another ball to my cubicle mate left me with two signed balls.  Not sure what to do with them–but I am sure that we will find someone who will love them as presents.

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Celebrating the spring equinox

Yesterday was a great event in the astronomical calendar.  There was a solar eclipse on the same day as a spring equinox.  Of course we couldn’t see the eclipse down here in southern california.  But I did get to see some great video clips.  Especially liked the ones from EAS (European Space Agency) and on the Guardian showing the partial eclipse through clouds over the Edinburg castle.  Newspapers were also talking about a supermoon, but I don’t understand how there can be a supermoon during a new moon at least in terms of viewing it. 

So, down here in Vista, we had very low key celebrations of the Equinox.  At work we had a face painting and cake decorating demonsration during lunch.  I was lucky to be the model for part of the demonstration and got a wonderful butterfly across my face.  Yes, I did return to work with that design.  Interesting how many people were afraid to say anything.  Those who knew me fairly well were not that surprised and they happily put frosting on graham crackers.  Turns out that both art forms are fairly easy and fun.  I liked doing both and could enjoy learning more.  But facepaints will take some investment, evidently it is important to buy good quality face specific paints.  Then use makeup sponges and artist quailty brushes for application.  There are tons of great patterns on the internet making it easy to learn. 



Then last night, Bob and I had a fire outside.  We cooked Jiffy Pop–the same one from christmas time.  Had planned on doing it with kids during the winter solstice.  But it was raining then.  Planned on duing at the midpoint celebration on Feb 1st, St. Bridgid’s day in Ireland and many other names / celebrations thorugout the celtic world.  But we didn’t because I was sick.  So yesterday was the first chance to cook the jiffy pop and we almost failed.   Since I was worried about putting a plastic pan over the fire, Bob started checking out the construction.  At one point the entire jiffy pop pan was held by a single point of wire with a loop from the pan edge above.  Reconstructed the pan and then burned the bottom of the pan.  There were some good kernals.  Even Elly likes popcorn.

Finished the evening by sleeping outside in Charlies Shanty.  Bob had put a cot out there for me and I enojed listening to the both the quiet at 2 am and the birds at 4 am.  Charlie and Sophie were excited, this was something different to have a human sleeping outside in Charlies room during the middle of the night.  Very cool, very lovely; I will have to do that again.  But now I have to go clean up the mess, so this blog post ends.  Happy Spring to everyone.

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Silly Dog

Before we start, I apologize for the quality of these pictures.  Snapshots, they tell a story, one that cannot be reproduced easily.  Take a close look at the picture.  Notice anything scary in it?

If you look closely, you will notice there is a plant in the window.  Here’s a picture of the plant from inside my kitchen



Doesn’t look like much to you or I.  Just a bunch of cilantro in a glass of water.  But to Elly that was the scariest thing she had seen in months.  Grrrrrrrr.  Grrrrrrr.    Wooof.  Grrrrrrrr.  She couldn’t go outside into her dog run because the big scary plant was too threatening.  So we brought her inside  to look at this plant.  It took a few minutes before she could get close enough to smell it.



And since this morning I am talking about Elly, here is another cute snapshot of her wearing cat ears.  She found them in the garage and brought them in as a treat.  Of course wearing them may not have been the treat she was expecting.



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Small Bits of News

Life continues on at the Lewis household.  Many small things (good and bad) that make an ordinary life rich.  Enjoy these stories.
 
Charlie.  Created a new outdoor hammock for him.  He likes it when put into the hammock.  However as of Sunday afternoon, he had not yet conquered the getting into bed process.  It was really hot this last weekend; so Bob moved a cot into Charlie’s shanty for me.  On Saturday night, I woke up about 2 am, hot and grouchy.  Went out to this nice cool cot and laid down with a pillow and blanket.  Ah, bliss.  And then Charlie tried to climb into his hammock.  And I was terrified.  I kept waiting for him to fall out and fall down on my face.  It reminded me of a backpacking trip with Bob many years ago.
 
We were camping up in the Sierra’s at the top of  a pass.  Very steep, very long hard day; we set up the tent in the only flat spot not directly on the trail.  There was one tree suitable for hanging the food bags.  At that time, the advice was counterbalance; hanging food backs about 10 feet above ground.  Use a stick in the morning to push one bag up higher and the other bag down lower.  Bob hung the bags and I cooked dinner.  It got cold and dark; we went to bed.  Laid down, looked up, and there were those dammed bags swinging over our heads.  Too cold or dark to do anything, so we went to sleep hoping a bear would not step on our faces.  Awoke the next morning; pleased to be alive, in one piece, and with intact food bags.  Neither of us has ever forgotten that terror.

But this evening, Bob told me that Charlie lounged in his hammock earlier today.  And tonight, the big bug hunter has been actively clearing our kitchen of moths.  Terror of a different kind as he leaps everywhere after the bugs. Everything is fair game as a launching post for bugs.  The top of a fridge, table top, my head, bob’s shoulders, and even the dogs back are good places from which to leap. It is dangerous in our kitchen tonight.
 
Lost Badges.  Today I get to wear the Turkey Badge, the badge of shame at work.  Don’t know who started called it a turkey badge, but the temporary badges have a big T on the front.  Plus the added shame that it doesn’t work for many of the secured doors, meaning I have to wait for someone to let me into my work areas.  Yuck.  Wore it home on Friday (yes I did get to work and yes I left early despite the word road trip) where I safely put it away.  Where, I don’t know.  Hope I can find it tonight otherwise I’ll have to get a new badge of shame tomorrow.
 
Cheap dates.  Bob and I went out for dinner on Friday night.  We were very extravagant and ate as Costco.  Even splurged for something besides the $1.49 soda and hot dog.  Yeah.  It was fun.  Better yet, it drives Kate crazy.  “How can you call that a date?”.  “That’s not a date, you should go out for a real dinner.”  But we did splurge and get some great things. I got a couple packages of new socks.  Elly got some dog bones and beef jerky for her training classes. And Bob got a big bag of pistachios and a jar of cashews.  We all scored except the cats.  However, they got the smoked trout that I had not eaten in a timely manner, so life was good for them too.  And then Elly afterwards got a lovely fish skin.  Scored again!
 
Art Projects:  Spent lots of time working on projects. Bob finished a really cool microscope for a smart phone camera.  Using the lens from a laser pointer, he created a structure that uses the camera to display microscopic images.  Kate happily took this structure over to grandma’s before I got to play with it.  Guess she liked it.  I got to my oil painting class on Saturday morning.  Get to use colors now, will write a seperate post showing off the pictures.  Afterwards, had a friend come over to help me build bow tying tools.  You know those 10 dollar per decorative bow you can buy at Micheals craft stores.  Well my friend will be teaching a class at work later on how to make them for about 1 dollar apiece.  They take a simple tool of several short posts close together to hold the ribbon before tying.  The best part of the afternoon was making these tools.  We got to use POWERTOOLS.  Yep,  a circular saw and a drill press.  Bob taught us.  And then we went to work–measuring, cutting, and drilling holes. Way cool.  So much fun, my friend went home and told her husband she needed a drill press.  We both like using powertools.
 
Turkey Dinner:  Mary was given a turkey.  She gave it to Bob.  Earlier in the week, Kate said we were being selfish for always going to Mary’s house for dinner on Sunday.  Ok.  Easy.  We decided to cook the turkey on Sunday for family dinner.  That was Friday.  Then the weekend got hot.  Hot, really hot, temperatures in the high 90’s.  Sunday we get a call offering sandwiches at Mary’s house.  Now she has air conditioning and we do not.  So this question was a comment about how hot it might be for dinner at our house.  Moreover, given that Bob was roasting a turkey for almost 4 hours, that was a valid concern.  Nevertheless, we did not back down and made everyone come to our house for dinner.  It turned out great.  First time Bob has done an entire turkey dinner including gravy and everything tasted wonderful.  Used the second best china and silverware, table clothes, and fancy wine glasses.  Outside, the weather was lovely.  An ice chest filled with ice cubes and cold drinks helped immensely.  

Doggy Education:  Elly got busted back to basic training.  The problem — demand barking and jumping on women she thought might give her food.  So Bob has taken her back to the basic dog training from Liz Palika at Kindred Spirits.  Since lessons are on Saturdays at the same time as Oil  Painting, Mary has been going instead of me.  Well Elly has not been learning much, but her grandmom Mary has learned how to not feed her. And Bob has been asking lots of questions.  On Saturday  Bob asked how to stop her from digging.  As reported by Bob, the conversation went as follows:  “What kinds of digging?” Liz asked.  “Gophers” Bob responded.  “Well that’s too bad, there isn’t much

 
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The word of the day is roadtrip

Roadtrip.  Roadtrip.  Roadtrip.  If I repeat this word enough maybe I’ll be able to go to work and enjoy it.  Today is friday, an off friday at my workplace.  No one will be there except me.  And I am only there to make up the hours from my trip last week.  I was really happy to visit my parents and look forward to doing it again.  But that does not translate into my being happy about going to work on what should be a three day weekend.  So I repeat the word ROADTRIP.

What roadtrip represents is time with Bob.  Liz graduates, actually all three girls have a graduation ceremony this spring.  Mags and Liz have their ceremonies on the same day in two different states.  Thankfully, Kates graduation is local and in June, so attendance is easy.  For a variety of reasons,  many of them relating to laziness in planning trips, we are not going to Maggie’s master of science ceremony in State College, Penn State, PA.   Instead we buy her off with a graduation present of first and last months rent, something she thinks is pretty awesome.  And now we are figuring out how to attend Liz’s ceremony.  My preference is a roadtrip.

When Liz was deciding which school to attend, UNM (University of New Mexico) seemed like the best deal.  Not only was it the cheapest; but California schools were being substantially impacted by the recession.  Constant budget cuts, overcrowded classes, and impacted schedules where a five year or six year bacholers degree seemed all too common.  In contrast, UNM offered the ability to get the classes needed at a school with a great rating at half the cost.  What was there not to like? besides the fact that it was 1000 miles (or so) away from home.  So I took Liz on a roadtrip to see the school, part of my strong-arm techniques.  She had applied simply because I had asked her to do so based on cost.  And then she got accepted with a great scholarship.

So we took a roadtrip to UNM–Liz and I.  It was great.  We had a wonderful time, saw some great sights, and bought my first piece of metal sculpture.   I loved the shop we stoppped at before seeing Salt Canyon.  I think the shop was called the copper pickle (perhaps Liz remembers the name).  There were signs all over the roads leading to this shop.  There Liz got a great bracelet with copper, gold, and silver strands.  And I bought Bob a piece of copper artwork — a beautiful Gecco which now hangs in our hall in our house.  At the school, we took a tour where the most memorable moment was Liz asking the guide about snow.  He said that it snowed a few times per year, usually melting by noon.  Liz was excited about snow being a proper southern california girl who had never seen it snow. The other participants in the tour were from Minnesota and excited that the snow melted.

On the way back, we stopped at a rock shop in Quartzite.  It was memorable and I want to go back.  So I am willing to endure days of driving just to visit a rock shop.  Plus the joy of another roadtrip with Bob.  I like that kind of trip; getting in the car and just driving away to the next destination.  We get to spend a few days in may going to Albuquerque before attending the graduation.  Yes, I look forward to those days.  It will be a great vacation.  Then a couple a days watching Liz graduate and helping her deal with four years of life accumulation.  Bob and Liz (the lucky ducks) then are going on an extended road trip, possibly to CArlsbad Caverans.  And I the not so lucky duck have a long drive home.  But still it is a roadtrip and I love them in all forms.  I’ll get to spend a couple days listening to some great book on tape and driving where I want.  I’ll build enough slack into the schedule that if I decided to spend 3 days driving home, it’s ok.  And that needs PTO — the vaction time hours from work.  

So because I need PTO hours, I will go to work on my off-friday and make up the vaction tie from last monday.  But you will understand if I chant the word “Roadtrip” to myself during the day.

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If only I could…..

Daily Prompt: Study Abroad

If you were asked to spend a year living in a different location, where would you choose and why?

Europe.  Italy, France, and Scotland.  I need a place where I can find: great food found at the farmers market, language tutors, artists willing to give lessons, and beautiful scenery.  I want the chance to live in a place rich with history.  I want to go see the smaller things that make this place unique, learn the language of the land.  And paint.  Learn to paint beautiful oils; coming home with boxes of large finished canvas’s.  Or maybe never coming home.   Finally there is the food, deep rich flavors made with love and spices I have never tried.

Fell in love with italy a few years ago when Bob and I visited Rome and Venice.  I was determined to get back there, especially after learning how cheap one can rent an apartment for a long period.  On AirBNB, there are houses on the tip of Italy one can rent with private beaches for a couple thousand euros per month.  Or an apartment in Tuscanny for 1500 euros per month.  It wouldn’t matter.  After all the italien language has these wonderful lyrical sounds.  The food and wines are exquisite.  There are fields of thyme where the herbs attract bees and scent the air.  I could be happy spending a year in Italy.

Or northern France on the Brittany coast.  Imagine the big sur coast in california with 100 foot cliffs instead of 1000 feet drops.  Huge tides, wonderful fogs, incredible scenery, history, and again great food.  We ended up in a small town on the beach last summer instead of italy.  I fell in love with the landscape.  The day Chantal took us to see the devils cavern; an area of incredible beauty where the river flows underneath giant boulders; was the day I decided I wanted to live in this place.  By that time I knew how to buy food, find great sites, and locate potential art teachers.  With a tutor I could be speaking french well in 6 months. At least well enough to get along.

In Scotland, language is not a problem.  Scenery is beautiful, especially the windswept northern regions.  It rains all the time and has bad weather.  But there is a wild spirit in the land that calls.  One feels that life is harsh and survival is something to achieve.  The opportunities for painting with glorious light abound.  Again, this is a place with history and mystery.

The reality is that I can be happy almost any place.  I like my home. I love my family.  I enjoy my job.  And yet I still dream of different places like this road in Ostica, Italy.  Someday it might even become real.  But until then, I’ll be happy with the love and richness of life in southern california.  







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Apple Pies

Daily Prompt:Too Big To Fail
Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).

When I went up to visit my parents, Bob sent a pastie.  It was frozen when I left in the morning, carefully wrapping the pie in a big towel and putting it in it’s own special grocery bag.  Carry on baggage, this pie fit perfectly under the seat and arrived at my parents house about 7 hours later still frozen.  Mom cooked the pie and it came out fantastic as described in my last post.

So yesterday, it was time to return home and Mom had to return the favor.  She taught me how make her perfect apple pie.  All the tricks–using egg as a sealer, cooking a carmel sauce, how to seal the pie, create a parchment bag, cook at multiple temperatures.  It was the first time in many many years were we had cooked together.  I enjoyed this activity and wish we had done more earlier.  Next time I come visit; cooking together has to be part of the plans.

Anyway, the pie came out of the over at a quarter to 1 pm.  Hot, delicious smelling, and perfect looking.  Wrapped up that pie in aluminum foil and the same towel used to bring a pastie pie to them.  And off to the airport I went.  The security guard at TSA tried to rearrange my pie — “please dont put the bag on it’s side; that’s a hot apple pie from my mom”.  He left the bag alone and no one needed to inspect it.  Called Bob to tell him that I had frozen store bought pasties and apple pie for dinner.  Other passengers said I should be sharing.  No deal. That pie came home still warm and looking perfect.  We ate some for dinner last night.

I have never made a pie as good as that one.  Thank you mom for sharing the secrets.  Delicous, warm, beautiful carmel sauce, and picture perfect.  I did something new.

Mom’s Apple Pie

Ingredients

Pastry for double pastry crust

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons of flour

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

8 granny smith apples

shot of vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

1 egg

Steps

1.  turn on over to 425 degrees, let it preheat

2. roll pastry dough for bottom crust and put into the pie pan.  Take an egg and beat it in a cup with a little bit of water.  use a brush to generously paint the bottom of the pie pan with egg mixture.

3.  prepare the caremel sauce.  Melt butter over low heat.  Add flour and stir until there are no lumps.  Add water.  Add sugars and spices.  Stir until everything is mixed and then let it cook on a low heat, stirring occasionaly.

4.  Prepare apples.  Peel and slice into small pieces.  Heap in middle of pie pan.

5.  Pour the sauce over the apples slowly.  The sauce should sink into the apples.

6.  Put the second crust over the appples.  Seal the pie crusts.  Make slits and then paint the top crust with egg wash.

7.  Make a parchment paper bag for the entire pie.  Use a stapler to close the sides.

8.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Then turn down the head and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  Check half way during the cooking, you may want to open the parchment paper bag and let it brown more.  Or not as you please.

9.  When done, remove from oven and enjoy.

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The view from the bathroom….and more

Last night, I sat near a window watching the full moon rise over black pine trees. As I sat there, sipping a glass of wine, the flames from the furnace created a wild pattern of light on the ceiling while the moon slowly began showing her face. The stars were hiding under the brilliance of the moon. It was a night where anything could happen. Bears, coyotes, wild turkeys, rabbits, and deer might possibly show their faces if I was willing to wait long enough. But I didn’t. It had been a long day, starting early in the morning with a trip to my parents farm.

Full with dinner and wine, I sat and enjoyed the stillness. Earlier, we had enjoyed a wonderful pastie—the traditional meat, potato, and onion pie Bob had made as a present for my parents. I was amazed, the pie was still frozen solid even after hours of driving, plane travel, and even a couple hour stop for breakfast and book store browsing. My mom cooked this pie in a parchment paper bag—something I had never seen before. What a great cooking tip, you create a bag using staples and parchment paper. The pie cooked for two hours, coming out of the oven with all the smells I remember from special events in the years past.

When I was growing up, a pastie was the biggest treat of the year. Traditional Cornish miner’s dish taken for lunch in the gold mines, my mom learned as a little girl how to make them. My mom would only make it one or twice year, usually for Christmas eve. Mom taught me how to make them and I started cooking them a couple of times a year. The pastry shells were always the hardest part and for a long period I only used premade pie shells. Now Bob has learned how to make these meat pies with incredible pastry shells and no mess. He is the king of pastie in our house and I am blessed to get this special treat more than once a year. Last night was no exception – Bob had made an excellent pie and my mom did an excellent job of cooking it.

pastie1

Earlier that day, my parents and I attended a fun lecture on nature photography at a local winery by David Wong. Lots of fun, I learned a few photographic tricks.

  • First, fog can be an excellent way to bring out the colors and mood of a scene. Black and white is a great for portraits.
  • It’s ok to have things blurry, that can help define a mood.
  • To capture birds flying, move the camera with the birds. Let the background become a blur.
  • Use a tripod to get really good nature shots.
  • That way you can control the lighting and aperture without moving the camera. Most of his great shots are taken using a tripod.
  • Look for the lighting and turn around. What seems to be the “IT” picture can be overshadowed by the unexpected.
  • Change the angle. Get down on the ground and shoot upwards.

He did an incredible shot of some shorebirds standing in water on a foggy day. The reflections look like a painting. I wanted to buy this picture, but it was more than my budget would allow this week. Perhaps some other time. Check his work at:

http://www.photographybydavidwong.com/

david wong

After coming back from this lecture, I did take a couple of fun pictures. First was the tree outside with the light shining on the moss. I like the contrast between the green moss and green grass punctuated by shadows. I want to paint this.

tree with light

The second great photo was taken while sitting on the throne on the bathroom. With the low afternoon sun, the little bird on the sill had some great shadows. That was my view from the bathroom.

bird_in_bath

Pastie Recipe

  • 1 lb beef chunks
  • 2 onions
  • 2-3 potatos
  • Pastry Dough for two layers

Line the bottom of pie pan with pastry dough.  Put a layer of meat, potato, and onion.  add another layer of meat.  Use parsley, salt, pepper for spices.  Cover with another layer of pastry dough.  Bake in parchment bag for 1.5 – 2 hours at 375 degrees until delicious smell fills the house and the pie looks done.

 

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Hoping for Bluebird Chicks

One of the things I really love about Bob is he has so many interesting projects and ideas.  The latest one is creating a box for bluebirds.  The hope is they find this box and make a nest.  We have several bluebirds that visit our garden, so yesterday Bob built a box based on the following specifications”

  1. 5 inches high
  2. 1.125 inch hole
  3. 3/4 inch plywood
  4. vents at top for hot areas
  5. designed to mount on a pole
  6. for a really smooth bottom — score it up to give purchase to baby birds
  7. 6 feet off the grond

Since he wants to make sure they have afternoon shade, thus ensuring proper temperatures, Bob is going to put this box under the apple tree.  The only thing left to acquire is a camera so we can see into the box.  If we get lucky and have baby bluebirds, will be sure to share the pictures.  Notice the hinge at the top.  Per the internet–source of always true information–it is ok to lift up the lid and check on things.  The Western Blue Bird Parents don’t get spooked by this.  But if we have camera inside, then it won’t be neccessary to test that hypothesis.



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For Kate, Liz, and Maggie

Girls, 

Ran across this ad which you should watch.  Not appropriate for breakfast; but hysterically funny.  I’ve never seen such a good promotion for tampons.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-pauline-lowry/hello-flos-camp-gyno-best_b_3673990.html

Let me know if you want one of these care packages.

Love Mom

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That damned cat

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Me Time.”

What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?

The plan was for an ideal or almost ideal day.  Breakfast in the morning at curbside.  Art class — oilpainting where I get to use color, a friend coming over in the afternoon for power tools extravaganza, and an evening at home with my husband.  And then the damned cat strikes.

Brought home flowers for Bob last night.  We both like them and it was easy since I was at the grocery store anyway.  Since Bob has been feeling a bit under the weather for the last few weeks I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing home something to cook for dinner, then cooking it, and doing the dishes for him.  Flowers are just a nice touch.  I like being able to spoil him occasionaly since he does such a good job taking care of me.

Beautiful not quite blooming flowers looked wonderful on the table last night.  But this morning came out to find that Charlie had been at work.  Knocked over the vase and ate the unopened flowers.  So we won’t get to see them open.   Spilled the water all over my laptop computer.  Hope it is OK.  I’ll find in a couple of days after we let it dry out.  Right now it’s sitting on the table sideways, dripping water from the insides.  That DAMNED CAT.

The day will go on as planned.  Breakfast, Art, Friend over for Tool Making, and a date with Bob tonight.  So a perfect hedonistic day of joy.  Only slightly marred with worry about the computer.  I don’t have a good backup of my stuff and I should since as a software database engineer I know better.  But on the optimistic side, no more water is coming out from the vents, so it will probably be OK.


 

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The Kate Show

Isn’t this a fun shot.  Might try painting it just because I like it.



Here’s the real scene–Kate at Allans Alley



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Why I want to paint

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Three Perfect Shots.”

Have you ever been at the playground that still has the old fashioned very tall old metal slide, complete with the steep narrow ladder for stairs?  Someday I want to paint that slide covered in kids.  This picture has to be painted.  I am not sure there are even eny slides like this remaining in southern california.  Plus kids are never given the freedom to just swarm all over a big dangerous toy like the metal slide.  They might fall.  And even if I found this scene, probably could not capture all  be able to capture the emotions in a single photo.  Might not even happen with three photos, but I might get closer.

First shot, one kid is climbing up the ladder.  This little boy is terrified, but there is one kid ahead who is excited and several more behind on the ladder.  The little boy cannot go down.  He doesn’t want to go up, but the pressure of more kids behind him forces him to climb.  He knows everyone else can do it and that he should also be able to do it.  He wants to slide, but also doesn’t.  The picture would clearly capture all these clearly conflicting emotions.

Second shot shows one kid sitting on the top about to be pushed down by yet another kid.  This little girl holds tightly onto her stuffed animal which is perched between her legs.  She’s preteding it’s her baby brother or sister that she’s teaching how to slide.  On the slide, there is another little girl shrieking with delight as she flies downward.

The final shot shows kids grouped around the bottom of the slide, picking up a kid who fell on his but.  The kid sitting on the grown has a huge goofy grin on his face.  He survived the slide and it was FUN.  He wants to do it yet again.   And again.  Life is good.

These photos are why I am taking oil lessons.  Not this year, but maybe in another year or two I can paint this picture.   Plus the picture of the two old surfer dudes. Two older guys going to the beach in wetsuits holding thier boards.  But they have the same excited look of a younger men going surfing.  It’s going to be a great afternoon.  Who knows, theose older men may just get the perfect wave which leads to scroing the perfect girl and that might lead to the perfect evenings entertainment.  Wouldn’t it be great to paint those scenes.

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Playing with pictures–A Guessing Game

The other morning I was having fun with the IPAD photo booth and got a great picture that looks like butterflies.  Can you figure out what this was originally?



The second picture might give you a better idea



Still having trouble figuring out where that picture came from?   Well this might help.

And here is the source object.



Perha

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Art Purge

Last minute update — Liz wants me to keep the quilting stuff for her. So I am pleased, a nice starting selection of dreams will be put into a box for her. One box only plus a sewing machine when she is ready! Anyone else want anything? Speak up today.

Original Post
Over the last few couple of weeks, I began an art purge. That means I am cleaning out all the old projects and supplies that have not been touched in years. I haven’t made a new quilt in over 10 years. I have not even considered doing fabric dyeing in that same time. The girls no longer fit into patterns for little girl dresses and even if I made adult versions, they wouldn’t want them. I don’t need kits from old building nerds days and someone else may enjoy them. I don’t think I will ever get into spinning wool and then knitting sweaters from that yarn. For one thing, it is way too warm in southern California to even wear those sweaters. But I won’t get rid of the half finished green sweater I started for Bob several years ago. Perhaps it may get finished.

But the biggest heartbreak and biggest purge are the quilt tops. I am never going to finish those quilts. So why am I keeping them. Someone else may very well create a beautiful art piece and enjoy the work. Five quilt tops are going — Kitty’s in the garden quilt; the crazy quilt; the international dolls, signature squares, and Y2K children’s square exchange quilt; a light summer duvet cover; and the octopus’s garden quilt. Heartbreaking and yet freeing at the same time. There are hundreds of hours needed to finish those projects in the way I want them. By giving them away, I can make a statement about my art. It has changed and now I am focusing on painting and sculpture.

But I have decided to pull the large piece of beautiful plaid material out of the pile. That piece came from a shop that specialized in Guatamalain fabrics in the early 1980’s. Bob’s Dad and Mom took us to see San Diego State University as treat before we were married. I remember even then that Mary was surprised about my buying fabric because it was pretty. She only got fabric when she needed something specific for a project at that moment. But buying fabric was always buying dreams for me. Perhaps I
will make a beautiful full plaid skirt from that lovely soft material.

And most importantly, what am I going to do with all the purged art stuff. GIVE IT AWAY. On Monday at work, we are having an UFO exchange. Unfinished Objects. Bag them, tag them, and bring them to work. Those who bring stuff get first pick. Then anyone who wants can take the rest. Left over stuff will go to charity. Any charity. If I end up taking them, then it
is probably good will. But maybe someone has a church group or school that would like all the resources. Yeah to them, they get to haul the remainders away.

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Charlies Grand Adventure, Oh My! And Friends.

Last Monday night, I woke up to the yowl of a cat. Sophia, who was tucked in my arms was frantic. She climbed out, checked all the windows and even went outside into the cat cage. Then back into the house, racing around checking all the windows. Now sophia is a thin coated siamese who gets cold easily, she does not normally even consider going outside at night. So her actions caught my attention. But there had been only one yowl, so we both went back to sleep. Later, the cat yowl repeated along with a couple of meow’s and other such noises. Again, sophia repeated her check of all windows and the cat cages. And then we both went back to sleep.

Tuesday morning, I was really tired. Had gone to bed way too late and had not slept well. Coffee was the most important first step and I took my cup outside. To my surprise, Charlie was outside. I must have let him out about eleven when I took the trash outside. He came in an exhausted wretch, not even carrying about breakfast. Went to sleep and didn’t move until 3:30 in the afternoon

It had been him howling in the night. No wonder Sophia was upset, she recognized the cry. And she knew he belonged in the house. Were they friends or not, I don’t know. But obviously she keeps track of him. They often sleep close to each other. And don’t mind being together most of the time. In fact, all the animals keep track of each other. The family pack is a dynamic fluid grouping of cats and a dog; all of whom want to be as close to as many humans as possible. Or touching their favorite human.

On Tuesday morning, I was feeling blue. Tired and slightly down, I felt like I had no friends and a purposeless life. I am always trying to do too much and when I don’t get it all done, feel bad about that fact. Most of that was exhaustion and overwork. Add in what seems like constant illness and bronchitis to exaggerate all feelings. But yesterday proved my fears about friendship are all wrong in multiple ways.

First I wrote a post and got back a very nice comment from a good friend. Thanks Marianne, I love hearing from you. It’s a wonderful moral boost. We need to get together soon, it’s been too long.

Later in the day, I was still not doing great. But my two “Arnold Time” companions came by. These two guys go to the gym twice a week and they let me tag along. Not only tag along, but when I said I was tired and didn’t want to go, they both reminded me that there was no art class if I didn’t get at least three exercise sessions. And they don’t consider a classroom experience on sailing as an exercise session. Of course with that kind of nagging, I went to the gym and did my 30+ minutes of the stationary bike and other exercises. Finished before the two guys and went out to the lobby of my work building where the gym was to wait.

There I ran into several women friends–all of whom were delighted to see me and all of whom said we need to make time to get together. Carolyn might go to the Saturday art class. We see each other at our creative collections club at work — an excuse to get together and do some kind of craft with Northrop paying for materials. It is training and professional development, various people take turns teaching a new art skill. Next week, we make birds nest pendants with wire and fresh water pearls. I will see Bonita and Leila there. I was happy to see these ladies.

And I also heard from Suzie and she wants me to go out for lunch with her on Sunday. Of course she has an ulterior motive, she wants to pick up a custom dress from a vendor at the Encinitas Sunday fair and can’t walk there yet with her broken foot. But really, its an excuse to get together with one of my oldest friends in San Diego. We met at BAE Systems when I was 9 months pregnant with Elizabeth. She came in for an interview and we both got along well. After a brief maternity leave, she became my lunch buddy. You know its a good friendship when going to home depot at lunch to buy a toilet repair kit is fun.

By the end of the day, there had been so many reminders of the love and friendship in my life. It ended at dinner with Bob and Kate and too many animals. We had as always the procession of the cats–various cats getting picked up in the kitchen, walked into my bedroom, and locked in there because of their bad manners. Cats do not belong on the table, especially during dinner. Elly barked and got sent to her bed in the kitchen. Life was normal and full of love. And I was happy.

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Two more sailing lessons

Sailing lessons are going well. Last night I passed my written test, barely. Bob on the other hand got a perfect score. At least I passed and am now done with the classroom portion. But it rankles, my score while passing was barely passing. It should have been higher. Guess I didn’t study enough. I would have failed if I had not gotten into an on-the water class last Sunday.

The water portion of these lessons are really fun. You put your name on the list, indicate available times, and then wait for an instructor. Bob got his name on the list first, but I was the one who got contacted first–hurrah! Lessons are about four hours. In the convair sailing club, you–the sailor–have to rig the boat. That means put up the sails, check all the lines, determine weather and tide conditions, and verify equipment on the boat. And when you return, take down the saiils, stow everything away in just the right manner, and then clean the boat. And don’t even think about damaging the boat. If you do, then you have to help fix it. Everything on the boats is done by club members.

Sailing was beautiful. There are going to be many great photographs. In fact on Sunday evening, I got the chance to take a picture of a great blue heron in flight. The photo was terrible, but perhaps next time I will get lucky. We practiced man overboard drills, tacking, and other sailing techniques. Did OK for my first time and am looking forward to the next class. Both Bob and I will finish this course and have fun doing it. I am glad we decided to take sailing lessons.

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Laid low by the flue

I’ll have a case of the flue with a side of bronchitis. Lets add some codeine cough syrup and tamaflue as sides.
Sounds like a fast food order, but not as fun. Went home over a week ago feeling rotten. Went to the doctor who confirmed I had the flue and bronchitis at the same time. It wiped me out for a few days. But the interesting thing was that a number of my co-workers all got the same flue on the same day. And we all went to our doctors and got prescribed tamaflue. And it worked! Everyone who took the tamaflue feels it cut the fever down by several days. While we were all out of work for several days, it wasn’t the three weeks that other people have been reporting. I’m glad. I don’t have enough sick leave or vacation time to be sick.
But now I am better and off for a weekend of classes and activities. Today it’s oil painting. And then this afternoon either Bob and I will have a picnic at the park or we will take Elly down to the ocean for swimming. She loves that activity. Then tomorrow I have a sailing lesson. So look for some more interesting posts coming over the next few days. It’s good to have energy for that.

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A couple great comics

Yesterday Tom Bautik had two great gags–one in crankshaft and one in funky winkerbean. I laughed like crazy at both them. Enjoy.

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Getting Lost for sailing lesson one

Yesterday was the day of weird including getting lost. It started in the morning ..warning this is a long post.

Yesterday was a lost cause, everything came with an extra twist or unexpected outcome. And yes, I did have my first sailing lesson last night; but there were many things that happened before. First weird event was buying gas. Normally it is n easy process, you hand the attendant money and then put gas into the car. Only this time she handed back a card and insisted I swipe it through a machine. “What is this card?” I asked. “It’s money, we are giving you money.” “What?” “It’s money, take it” said the girl. “Read this”. Well it turns out the local gas station has a new incentive program. And I could game the system by adding tons of cash, pumping gas, and then return for the change. Spend enough and this card becomes a prepaid gas card.

Work also was surreal. IT strikes again. Theoretically IT for information technology, I like the concept of “IT” from the book A Wrinkle in Time. IT, the all knowing, all controlling evil entity.

Came in to find that our IT had indeed disabled much functionality on the XP workstations. Now our customer wants us to develop software that works on an XP machine. They have not yet made the switch to a window’s 7 machine. But we have too. And so last fall, we started ordering second computers for everyone — two computers per very small desk.

My second windows 7 machine was ordered last september. It arrived at the beginning of January. But it was not satisfactory, it cannot handle two monitors. Evidently my XP computer and its monitors are so old (8 years) that IT cannot figure out how to hook my two monitors to the new machine. Can’t order a new video card. Can’t use an adaptor to make two monitors work well. INstead, I have one monitor and feel crippled in my work skills. But at least I have a computer that has email, web access, timecards, and various software packages not yet working correctly. Half of my team doesn’t even have that. Nice going IT–half of the team can’t do their job.

It gets even better. One boss changed the values on my peer review (he didn’t like them) after I left work for the weekend last week. And when this person came in late to work, he asked why I hadn’t finished the job. Well DUHH, my computers were not working. Talk about being set up to fail.

Yet we are not through with work yet. At the end of last year, my division sent out a video message box to everyone’s home as a year end present. Whoopeeee….it was kind of neat. Think of a super fancy musical birthday card, but instead of happy birthday we have a Vice President talking to us about how great the company is. 10 seconds of the message was great. And then what?

Well being a good engineer, I immediately started hacking this box. And it turns out there was a community of people at work who also wondered what else we could do with the video boxes. Mine are going into art projects if I can get another power source and movie put onto the card. And I have extras from employees who didn’t throw it out. One guy offered to let me have his and sent over some new interns (high school students) to deliver this box. They asked why I wanted it and I explained my goal was dismantle the thing and reuse the components. Interested, I tasked the two kids with doing the same job on the box they had brought. At first they looked at me as if I were insane, but when I started pulling apart the cardboard and explained what they would find, one kid was happy to hold onto the box.

Their mentor has also instructed them to ask for a tour. “Of what?” I thought. “No one had a working computer.” But being game, I took them for a walk through the building. We looked at the display case with models of planes and I talked about the different programs. We looked at the lockers where people can lock up phones before going into labs. They tried putting their phones into these small cubicles and noticed that the new iphones won’t fit. We went upstairs and talked with some new hires including one woman who had been a college intern. She told them the money was really good, especially if she worked on Sundays where she got double pay. Both young men now know to start looking for a paid college engineering internship starting next December.

Continued on with the tour. Had another engineer show off a GUI (graphical user interface) with lots of yellow, green and no red buttons. Explained that pilots looked at these gui’s while flying the plane. Walked them into another room and showed them pictures on the wall of planes being built. We talked about drones for a while. And I concluded the tour by showing them all the vending machines. Thought I did well for an impromptu tour. Those kids learned all the important things about money and food.

Finally the work day ended and I left early for our first sailing class. Now I had arranged to leave early so I could pick up Bob from the downtown train station. But at the last minute he decided to drive and I decided to NOT tell anyone I had extra time. Good thing, because getting to the class was an exercise in getting lost.

Went downtown just fine. Took the 15 to the 63 to the 8 and then forgot to get off at the correct street. First chance to get lost, driving around mission bay. Eventually ended up on Harbor Island downtown in time to watch the sunset and moon for a few minutes. Called Bob who wasn’t to be seen and he was shocked. “Why aren’t you in La Jolla?” he asked. “La Jolla, I thought we were meeting at Harbor Island across from the airport” I replied. “No, it’s in La Jolla next to the AMC Movie theater. I am looking at the mormon chapel across the freeway.

Good thing he told me to look for the mormon church since that is a very easy to see landmark. Because I took that drive as an opportunity to get lost several times and see more of our city. Missed the freeway onramp from Rosecrans and had to do some interesting turns. Got off at the wrong place and had to get back onto the freeway. Eventually I made it to the shopping center and we had a long conversation before realizing Bob was talking about landmarks from inside the shopping center while I was in a car outside the center.

Fate wasn’t done with me. The trip home offered yet more opportunities to see unusual streets as I struggled to find the north bound freeway on-ramp. But the class was good. Bob admitted to some sailing experience and I admitted I had been on the boat while he sailed. Did well at the knots, really rocked with my square knot. Next week we have class number two. I am looking forward to it.

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Oil Painting Lesson Number 3

On saturday, had lesson number 3 in oil painting. Still doing the single color paintings, today a green still life focusing on a glass vase and an orange. Clear glass and water are very hard. There are so many shadows and brights.

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But next week, I get to start using colors. That is, if I get my three exercise sessions done. But that will probably happen, there is a lot of support at home and at work. Everyone knows that I am rewarding myself with art lessons for exercise. Twice a week, I go to the gym with a couple co-workers. Bob goes on walks with me. And monday, Bob and I begin sailing lessons which will also count. Yep, even the classroom portion counts since I am learning something that can be used for exercise. Lets hear it for 2015 — the year where I try to balance fun, work, and exercise at the same time.

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Missed the money shot

Today Bob and I are going to watch the Super Bowl. First time ever we decided if most of America is watching the game, we should see what it is all about. I hear the commercials are great. And of course that means snack foods; not only for us, but for our pet companions as well. Elly and Mitzy have frozen beef bones. And the cats get sardines and catnip. Which leads to the money shot. A new trader joes double wide cat scratching box, complete with fresh dried catnip. What could be better…at least to my cats. So for a moment we had all three cats and the dog sniffing the new catnip. Missed that photo op AKA the money shot since Sally quickly chased everyone away. For an old lady; she can be quite forceful when she wants. And fresh catnip is something she wants. Instead, I got a shot of her after the first roll, she is a filthy mess.

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Chocattly

DAILY PROMPT: Play Lexicographer
Create a new word and explain its meaning and etymology.

Chocattly: the process of allowing cats to make choices about what they eat for dinner

3 cats, 3 courses, 3 different choices about what to eat first. AKA: leftovers, affectionally known as refrigerator review. With Chocattly, each cat chooses something different to gobble down first. And then they all took a look at the other cats to see what was left, decided something looked better on another plate and thus began the cat plate swapping game. Interesting how these animals have very different personalities and tastes.

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The power of pictures

Over the last few days, I have been graced with a couple of great photos. One of the wonders of this modern technology is how easy it is to share a story, a moment, or a sight that inspires awe. One of the first great photos came from my mom. She used her cell phone to capture a moment from Maggie and Josh’s last visit. The composition and color are great showing off the glory of a beautiful day at brindejon farm. The shadows and the barn roof direct your eye down the action in the center; where the story is being told. In a glance, you can see that my Dad, Maggie, and Josh have been joyriding, driving around the farm for the sheer joy of movement. Of course there is the added benefit of being in a beautiful place, on vacation, and with people you enjoy, but the main attraction is illicit feeling of freedom on their mule. Everyone in the picture looks happy and it obvious there was lots of laughter.

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The second photo is very different–no people. The image of a single Joshua Tree standing proudly in a stark landscape with a beautiful blue sky. A perfect day in the desert, a photo taken by a visiting frenchman. Charles sent us this photo as an expression of his awe and appreciation for the beauty of this national park. A friend of a friend of a distant cousin (by marriage) he ended up at our house as part of three month trip to the United States. After spending a few days with us, he rented a car and went to see the desert, something not found in France. And he was impressed. As he should be, Joshua Tree is one of nicer national parks we have. Fantastic scenery, I want to go back there.

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The next picture is simple snap, taken this morning. Elly is relaxing with her paw resting on a bone. This bone was a treat we bought her last night. Instead of taking the kids to the icecream shop, we take Elly to the pet food store and buy her a bone. When she got it last night, her attitude was almost reverential. Very gently, no chance of screwing up this treat. She took it outside and spent a very happy hour chewing it while laying on cold concrete in the dark. Elly likes lying on cold concrete, she didn’t want to come inside. We took the treat from her at the end of the evening, I draw the line at dogs bringing bones into my bed. And we returned the bone to her this morning. Result–the photo you see. Elly doesn’t want to let that bone go.

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Each of these photos tells a story that makes me happy. And its so easy and quick to see these pictures. I remember the days when we would take a picture, save up some money, and then go get the pictures printed. Each copy of a picture was precious, costing money and time to create. Now, I can a take a picture, edit it, and share it with many people in less than five minutes. Sometimes technology is truly amazing.

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Clothing Emergency

It has been an interesting afternoon. This Friday, I am attending a traditional japanese hawaiian american funeral; whatever that means. Rumor says there is a ceremony, a lunch, a wake, and more. It will be an adventure. And it starts early with me picking up my parents at LAX at 8 am. So until about 3 pm this afternoon, I thought that meant dressing in all black and formal. I had a black skirt, blouse, and jacket all picked out. But no, about 3 pm my Mom calls with new instructions — Hawaiian Clothes. What, yep, that is right; no black allowed. They want bright colorful hawaiian shirts or dresses. OH NO! I don’t have anything to wear.

Luckily there is a great hawaiian shop in Escondido. But no one answered the phone, so I declared a clothing emergency at work and left early. The website for the Wave Shoppe indicated they didn’t have much in stock and it was accurate. But they will have a great selection of dresses in early march. And they did have fabric, so I bought enough to make two skirts. Considered a co-worker’s suggestion to check out the second hand stores, but decided it was quicker to sew up a skirt. Second stop at the local fabric store to buy elastic and thread; ended up with a lot more fabric for skirts and dresses.

Came home to total chaos. Cats, dogs, kids, and dinner preparations were big distractions. Put my pile of fabric on the table and considered what to sew. Too many options and I was tired. Decided to check out the closet once more. Three possible dresses, only one was even somewhat suitable. And Kate pointed out that it was so old it was literally falling apart. Checked out the one extant hawaiian dress in my closet–giant white paint spot on the front and several other paint spots. I had worn it one day doing art and as always ended up a mess. Not suitable but yet the only really good option unless I spent the night sewing. Kate had the best suggestion “Use a sharpie”. It worked. I spent the next half hour coloring spots on my dress. Clothing emergency resolved! Now it is sitting very carefully in a drawer. Don’t want to get any water on this dress until after the funeral.

Then Bob fed me dinner. Amazing how a good meal and the opportunity to spend some time writing makes for a relaxing evening. And then later this weekend, perhaps I will sew up some of the skirts with material purchased today. In the end, this was a great evening.
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Playing with pictures

DAILY PROMPTA Moment in Time
What was the last picture you took? Tell us the story behind it. (No story behind the photo? Make one up, or choose the last picture you took that had one.)

For the last few days we had a visitor from Paris, France. Charles is a friend of a friend of a cousin’s wife who got three months off work to practice his english. He’s doing that by immersion–coming to America and finding people with whom he can practice conversations. On his last evening here; Bob, Charles, Elly, and myself tried Oceanside Ale Works brew pub. Lots of fun including the discovery that Charles had never played much with any kind of image processing software or cameras that add effects to the photos. He played and we got some great pictures. Enjoy.

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Agree to Disagree

DAILY PROMPT: Agree to Disagree
Do you have a good friend or close relative with whom you disagree on a major issue (political, personal, cultural)? What’s the issue, and how do you make the relationship work?

My stomach and me have been disagreeing the last few days.  This is big deal stuff, because when your stomach is upset, the whole body reacts and it doesn’t matter what you the person want.  I don’t think the relationship is working.  Not sure if it was food poisoning or the 24 hour stomach flue,   but both are unwelcome guests.  There were a few benefits–a great start on a new diet with immediate weight loss, an new appreciation for very bland foods, and a chance to relearn the joys of hot water instead of coffee.  But thats not enough to make this relationship work.  So the sooner I can kick this unwanted guest out the better.

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One happy cat

Since Sophia has very short hair as a siamese cat, she is always cold. You can trust she will find the best spot in front of the heater. This is one happy cat.

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Old Technology

Watching the movie Patriot Games, I was struck by the changes in technology. When was the last time you saw car phones this big and clunky?

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Or a cordless phone in house that looked like this?

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Do you remember when this computer was the best available? Small screen, orange or green text only, limited processing, floppy disks, and very limited file sizes.

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One nice thing in the past, computers were a tool we used, not something that we spent 10 hours a day staring at. Even though I now have two big flat screens on my desk at work, I liked engineering better when we didn’t have such great computers. The problems seemed more fun to solve

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Oil Painting Class Number 2

Oil painting classes continued last weekend. I made a bargain with myself, three exercise sessions and I get an art class. Then made the mistake of telling people about this bargain. Its a good incentive. Many experts recommend trying something for three months…if you can keep up a new habit for three months, then it might become a permanent lifestyle change. And I want to be healthy. And I want to learn to paint with oils.

Why oil painting? Several reasons. I love the way oil paintings look and the fact you have time to work on the picture. Acrylic paints dry very fast. But they are cheap compared to Oils which is why most people use them. I got lucky and was given all my oil paints. Years ago, my mother in law bought an entire kit — brushes, paints, books, canvas’s, and other accessories as a present from an estate sale. I have used everything except the oil paints. Those scared me, they seem so complex. But then last December, I went to an art demo at my sort-of-local good art store, Blick, in San Diego. And I won the drawing for new high quality artist oil paints. And when I learned about drop in art lessons at my local art gallery, Art Beat on Main Street, it seemed a good time to learn.

Which leads to lesson number 2 where I continued studying chiaroscuro — using only one color and creating tones with quantity of paint. My teacher, Maggie Chiaro, says this is a good way to begin understanding how to use oils effectively. And if I create a good underdrawing with a single tone, then I can paint in layers on top of this, adding color later. Yesterday I did a still life, two vases and an apple. Since the drawing looked unbalanced, I also added in the light source.

Here’s the classroom and my set up. Also including the original still life, not quite from the same angle as the painting.

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And here are two versions of the picture. First was after class. Second was after I went home and worked more on the picture. The second picture does have better shading. But there are some details that suffered such as the shape of the pitcher and the lighting on the left hand side of the vase. Also I need some help getting the total ambient lighting correct. It should be dark behind the lamp with light coming down onto the still life. Guess more practice is needed.

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Trying to maintain good posture while slumping gracefully

After an evening of adventures, Bob and I relaxed at home with a fire. Totally dysfunctional, we both had our own movies on separate devices. The togetherness was in the activity, not what we were watching. Every so often, one or other of us would make a comment. And every so often, I would take photos just because. Actually got a couple of great ones that Bob described as “trying to maintain good posture while slumping gracefully”. So what do you think, are Elly and Bob maintaining good posture?

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No more selfies and other stuff

Last night I learned from Kate why there would be no more selfies. She recently got a new galaxay s4 samsung smart phone. And since the camera is too good, Kate can’t take any selfies unless the make-up is packed on and perfect.

The older kids are gone. On Sunday, Bob and I dropped Liz off at the airport. On Wednesday, I dropped Maggie off at the airport. Now its back to the half daughter with Kate spending half her time at our house and half her time at Grandmothers house. So Bob and I are feeling a bit lonely. To counter that we are going take sailing lessons starting at the beginning of February. I am looking forward to this new activity.

I started oil painting lessons last week. Made the mistake of telling Bob that I planned on taking lessons any week where I have three exercise sessions. Now I will have to be honest. Oh well, was successful in meeting my goal, so will have another art lesson on saturday.

Kate has a 4 day weekend next week. I am jealous. And on top of that, she had the gaul to say “What, you just had two weeks of vacation, wasn’t that enough”. No it was not enough and it was not two full weeks and that’s not even the point. She gets a break after less than two weeks of work. I don’t get a break until May. And this year, I don’t even get a holiday for the 4th of July since it falls on a weekend. Oh well, someday she will understand.

This morning Charlie was sleeping in the middle of Elly’s bed. A big giant dog bed with a warm blanket, one small cat curled in the middle. So Elly responded by sleeping on my bed. There is nothing she loves more than using my pillows and curling under the blankets.

We nailed it on birthday presents for Maggie. A portable battery charger. A power strip with a couple of USB ports. A set of rgb led lights. And a spirograph with colored pens. Perfect presents for turning 25. It’s hard to believe that I have a daughter who is a quarter century old. I don’t feel old enough to have a daughter that old. But she’s turned out great and we had lots of fun with her and her friend Josh over the last couple of weeks. We also had a lot of fun with Liz. Liz had turned 21 last december. She got almost the same set of birthday presents as Maggie. And so while the kids were visiting, we got the chance to take them out to Mother Earth and Fifty Barrels. It’s nice to be able to take kids out for fun and NOT have to be the meany.

Since all three girls were together, they obeyed their mothers mandate and had a picture taken of all three of them. It was one of my best christmas presents. The only better present were the new earbuds from Bob which gives me music again with my IPOD. Anyway, the animals helped make this picture special.

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Mountain Lion Reported in Vista

Don’t ever say that we are missing a wild life here in vista. A couple days ago, there were reports of an actual mountain lion in Vista, only a mile or so from my house. Wow, what fun despite the reports of missing and presumably eaten small dogs. I am pleased to hear that they are adapting to our suburban life and hopefully will once again become part of the normal landscape. Probably not, there are too many people scared by them.

But here’s the news report.
http://www.10news.com/news/mountain-lion-spotted-in-vista-neighborhood-01032015

It has a picture of the lion in a tree. Hard to see, so I played with snapseed. You can see something is in that tree from the second photo, but I cannot tell if it is a cougar or mountain lion. Big difference in size between the two and both used to live in this area before humans.

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Why have a dog?

This photo from the bbc news is great. It shows why one wants to have dogs — because they have so much joy in life and are happy to share their joy with us. Those dogs are having a blast in the snow.
http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-30680435

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Fall Colors, a simple photograph

This is a simple composition–a leg, some leaves, and bits of hands. But I love the colors and contrast, they remind me of the winter season colors. Took this picture at the Empire State Mine during Thanksgiving weekend. We had gone to visit my parents, Liz had flown in for two days from New Mexico. Flying on Thanksgiving and Saturday following turned out to be OK experiences, those days were not as crowded. Now it is the Sunday after New Years Eve and we are about to again take her to airport and she again will be departing for New Mexico. I don’t want her to leave, that means vacation is over. We had lots of fun as a family.

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Being able to take your kids out is one of the joys of getting older. Since they are adults, I don’t have to be a big meanie and say no to everything. In fact I can corrupt the kids with bad habits. Last night we corrupted Liz and took her out for a glass of wine before a family dinner at Grandma’s house. Yes they carded her at 50 barrels in downtown Vista; but that is part of the fun when you have been a legal drinker for only one month. And thus I was able to get a nice photo of Liz, her dad, and Elly. The picture of the old pepper tree was a bonus, the lighting is good.

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So what does this have to do with the daily prompt: First!

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Everything. It is the last day of vacation and that means the first day of work for the new year begins tomorrow. So I have an obligation to smile, wish Liz best of luck on beginning her new year of life and work, and then go on to do the same. Think we will visit the Zoo as a celebration of the last day of vacation. Might even get a chance to see the parrots flying since we will be there early.
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/first/

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