Catching Up — Busy Lives

The last few weeks have been intense stress filled days.  Good Days, but even good things come with stress.  Big thing, I am now in my third job of the year.  This one it totally different type of engineering.  So over the course of the last few months, I went from being the queen of SHALLS under the worst boss ever to being a coder and then joining a cyber security team.  Same company, different bosses, different buildings, different tasks, different teams.  It turns out I don’t blog well with that kind of stress. But now that life is calming down, the blog should resume with more stories about the cats, the dog, and life about vista.  

It was easy to move from the first job to the second job.  I was bored and hated working for a miromanaging bully who’s goal in life was making me cry.  Plus I didn’t get much choice, management offered me up to the new team.  But there I hadto change tasks.  I hadn’t coded professionally for over 20+ years and these were new languages.  Scary stuff. But it turned out to be a great team, good management, and I got the chance to work with some fun women (first time in my career).  I think the job tasking could have evolved into something I would enjoy.

But a few weeks into the new job, another job offer appeared.  Somewhat unexpected, it was something I had been trying to break into for a couple years.  Every month or two, I would call this guy (now my new boss) and ask if there were any possible job’s for me.  “Hi, this is your friendly nag notice.  Do you have anything coming up?”  So when the opportunity to interview came up, I took it.  And got the job.  But that meant leaving a great team and possible new job for something unknown.  Plus leaving behind my women friends….now I’m only working with a lot of older men.

It was surprising to me how stressful that decision was.  Leaving a bad job with little choice about the move is scary.  It’s hard to walk into a job not knowing anyone or even what you are going to do.  But it is much harder when you leave a good job with great co-workers and move to something totally unknown.  Every day, the indecision would arise “Am I doing the right thing?”.  Now one week on the job, the answer is yes.  I am excited by the work, pleased by the challenge of a new career.  This is something I can do for the next few years.  I get to learn lots of new things.  Yeah!  And plus in a year or two, I’ll be portable again–able to get a job almost anywhere.

The omens are good for this job, just like they were for the other job. With both new jobs this year, opportunities arose unexpectedly for the small business the same week I started a new job.  So with the coding job, two days after I started working for the new boss, I had to take off an afternoon and then work a long lunch the following day at a craft show.  Made the assumption that if it had been OK the week before, then it had to be OK in the new position.

Then last weekend (one day after starting my new job), I went to art class on Saturday. Art Beat on Main Street ( offered me the chance to have a booth at the strawberry festival on Sunday.  100,000 people were estimated to attend this one day event in downtown Vista.  Well, my partner and I were successful, we got our business “Dragon Cats and Doggie Bags” launched.  Hosted a booth all day with a only a couple of sales.  One of the I think was a mercy sale, someone from the shop being nice.  But I’ll take it as a vote of confidence.  And I get the opportunity to repeat this at any other downtown event in Vista.  HURRAHHH!!!!!!

One other thing happened over the last couple weeks–I got a piece accepted into a professional juried show.  Not a big one, but the quality of accepted works is high.  I feel like a winner just having my piece displayed on the wall.  I was told that the subject matter was interesting to many people, something different.  And the frame came out very nice.  It was an old one that needed loving restoration.  Sanding, new stain, and polyurethane can make all the difference.  You let me know.  Here is “In the Sink” immortalizing Charlie’s love of recycled food (AKA scraps) by Robine Lewis.



Still life with cat

Like most weekends, this last one was way too short.  Already I am sentimental and nostalgic for the freedom of two days with no work responsibilities.  Especially when we were lucky like last weekend to enjoy a rain storm.  Rain storms in San Diego are a treat to be savored.  Today we get another one, probably timed to arrive when we are out driving on the freeways.  There is nothing like celebrating a rain storm while driving on the freeway.  Woohoo!!!


Instead I leave a few minutes for a fun filled day working at the speed of molasses for a wonderful boss, a guy excellent at finding all errors in draft work.  Can’t I stay home and paint still life with cat?  Wish me luck at surviving another week at work.image

daily prompt: Sentimental

The power of software

This year I am determined to learn how to draw and paint a dragon cat.  What is a dragon cat you ask?  Well, imagine a standard house cat infected with n-th dimensional nanobots.  This incredibly small robots are able to change the shape of that cat at a cellular level.  The cats grow larger, about the size of a golden retriever.  Add some wings, opposable claws, the ability to breathe fire, and the mental capacity of a five year old kid.  But don’t change the basic selfish character of a cat, always watching out for something that moves, able to open cupboards, and now able to fly.  That’s a dragon cat.

So last Saturday, I did my first acrylic painting on two hours.  It needs work.  The cat on the log is too small and the wings are wrong. I am not happy with the drawing.  But using software, I can add a lot more drama to the picture.  If I had painted the second one, I would be much happier.  Back to the easel I have to go.  If you have suggestions on how to improve the picture, please speak up.  I need advice on how to make it better.



New Years Challenge 2.5

Daily Prompt: Learning Style
What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

Dragon cats are an obsesssion with me.  I think, draw, dream, and write about them.  And I live with the two original models — charlie and sophie.   And so this years challenge is to learn how to make a dragon cat in all it’s glory.  Part 1 — drawing.  Part 2–sculpture.  New years resolutions 2.5 and 2.5 since I not sure which comes first.  The drawing models come from a cat a day calendar plus some rather disturbing dragon toys.  The challenge, draw a dragon cat every day.  Only a few minutes are allowed, these are quick sketches with a different one to be done every day.  Or if I forget, I have to play catch up by doing several in a day.

And then with these pictures, I plan on making a large photo mosaic.  The subject, charlie laying outside on his back, totally happy with a perfect day.  Tiles from this mosaic are created from photos of the daily cats, the original drawings, and snapseed versions of the cats.  Snapseed, while limited in the image processing tools, is a great app on my ipad.  easy to use, I can do the processing in a few minutes.   So I guess you might say I learn by doing.



A party for me…By the Dots….

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By the Dots.”

We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!

Punctuation! Puncuation!….The Daily Prompt wants me to talk about Puncuation!!!!!!!!  What the ……..  It’s so grody.:>;  And the wordpress application has a non-functional spell check@##*&@!@#&^  To the max!!!  No punctionation here, I want to talk about is personality quirks!!!!!!  And Parties, great parties.  Like hit me with a spoon!!!!

I did have a party last weekend — a renaisance party.  Not a costume party like the annual faires one can attend all over the country or at least all over southern california.  Nope, one to recognize all the changes in my life.  Yep, I took care of my mid-lie crisis with a party.  It all started on a dark and lonely road, months ago………..Coming home from Liz’s graduation with plans to attend several more graduation ceremonies……

Having three girls graduate and move into totally new lifes without Mom hit me hard.  Yes, that’s what every parent wants, a kid successful enough to make choices, act on them, and live with the consequences.  Hopefully with excitement, joy, and passion: but at least competent enough to take care of themselves.  All three of my girls did that with great panache.  I am so proud of all of them.  Maggie has a new job, a great significant other, and all kinds of opportunities in Baltimore.  Liz just startedher PhD at Akron, Ohio; she seems to be thriving.  And Kate has mapped out a great plan for becoming a school teacher while working as a music teacher and living with Grandmother.  All three of them represent the best of life.  They have hope, optimism, and joy in thier futures.  And I’m left behind.

That’s not bad.  Bob and I have lots of time to do fun things with minimal responsibilities.  The hard work is done.  But the house seemed big and empty.  And there were lots of challenges — money with a new set of school bills and a new car; problem neighbors; changes in my work environment; climate change with the hot weather this summer; family; hobbies; and more –we chances to revaluate everything in our lives.  The common name for this is empty nest syndrome. I hate that name.  Because that implies an end with no future.  Renaisance is a much better name.  We have a new start as well.  The question is what is important to Bob and I?  What do we want to do with our time?  Over the last few months, we’ve been questioning lots of things.  Do we want to move and if yes, where to?  Do we have enough money for retirement?  What hobbies do we want to pursue?  How close do we want to live near family and what part of the family?

So I came up with the brainy idea of having a celebration for our changes in life.  Bob and I deserved a party just like the ones we (the whole family) pulled together for the all the graduation ceremonies last spring.  And the planning begun.  Bob decided he wanted a toy — a new IPAD — instead of a party for himself.  That was fine, but I wanted a party.  Which occured last Sunday.

Went to Artbeat with a few close women friends and family.  Food, wine or other beverages, music, and art–how can it get better.  Kate provided the music.  But since she is under 21, she had to play out on the sidewalk with a speaker piping the music into the art gallery.  Turned out great and she even got a lot of tips (plus the money I promised to pay her and will later this week).  Brought lots of food that no one touched, opened a tab at the bar, and we all settled down to painting wine glasses.  The party was great fun and I feel content.  A new life is starting, full of opportunity and possible joy.  It’s up to me to make something of if.

And I will.  What, is not yet clear.  But I am planning on couple more trips to Europe.  Have several good books to write.  Want to remodel my house into something good for multiple generations.  Will be taking lots more art classes and doing a lot more sailing with Bob.  And of course, a lot more posts to write on the blog.  Even about topics as boring as bad punctuation.  So lets make a toast for the future–may there be many adventures in our lives!  And may we all enjoy reading or writing about the good and bad of adventures afterwards!  May we look forward to tomorrow with optimism and hope!  And may the gods smile down on us with their blessings without getting too close and tangling us in their politics!

I look forward to the next phase in my life.

Charlie and the Cone

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Inside the Bubble.”

A contagious disease requires you to be put into quarantine for a whole month (don’t worry, you get well by the time you’re free to go!). How would you spend your time in isolation?

In cat years, Charlie spent about a month in isolation with that cone.  Although it was only one week the King of the macrame, Charlie, terrorized the house with the cone.  Of course, most of the terror was watching him bump into things as he learned to walk, jump, and eventually run with this cone.  It didn’t garner him any special status with the other cats; Sally still controlled the food bowl and Sophie bossed him around like normal.  Pills twice a day, hot compresses on the chin, and other indignities were suffered daily by both Charlie and Bob.  It turns out that coating a pill with butter makes it easier to shove it down a cats throat.  There was one benefit for Charlie, every time there were indignities he would get some extra special food.   Lovely mouse or rat sized  lumps of tuna, chicken, and other delicacies delighted our housebound cat.

Well I am pleased to announce that Charlie no longer has a cone.  Like a male stripper, Charlie is showing an inordinante amount of skin.  Setting a new fashion, Charlie is strutting the bare look neck which has a ruffle down along the collar line.  Not having the cone is useful for this trash digging cat, he can now stick his head and half his body into the kitchen trash without knocking it over.  Here he is, strutting his new skin look.


Now seeing that skin reminds me about my dragon cats.  The one in the long standing novel where the first 200 pages written were supremely boring.  Written like a technical manual with no dialog or character development, I am now starting over.  It means teaching myself how to write dialog and add human interest to the story.  And I am finally learning how to draw the dragon cat.  Here’s my first successful sketch.  All I need to do is change that bare skin of Charlies neck into some scales and he’s on his way to a new modeling career as the archtype of a dragon cat.  Think what fun a cat about the size of a golden retriever, with opposable claws, wings, and a bit more intelligence could do.  No door would stop them, so it’s free range time in the refridgerator.  And hunting became a lot easier when they can swoop down on unsuspecting prey.


Helpful Charlie

Another great  weekend (thank you Bob for the time to play with art); lots of unfinished bad art. Did some jewelry design with Liz, played with watecolor pencils, and covered myself with wood stains.  Overall, a weekend dedicated to art and the pursuit for happiness.  Charlie was a big help with the art.  He guarded my colored pencils, ensuring that no one could touch them without his help.  I love the picture of him sleeping in the middle of  my art supplies.  Capturing this picture as a potential oil painting could be the best art I did over the last weekend.

So what did I manage to do with with almost unlimited free time.  Design a bit of jewelery, create a water color pencil painting of a tree that needs rework with regular colored pencils, add some color to a play with materials painting, and cover myself with stain.  Thank you Bob for making the time possible.  Without your support, I could not play at being an almost full time art student.

It is fascinating the difference between different brands of watercolor pencils. I have decided that a small set of pental pencils is better than a big set of derwents pencils because the colors are so much more vibrant..  The worm was made with shavings  from the small pental pencils.  The background was very heavy derwent..  The tree below failed in part because I tried to make the tree vibrant with pencils designed for subtle.  Well, truth be told, there were a few misdrawn lines as well and with watercolor pencils—one mistake and the drawing is ruined.  Even regular colored pencils could not help recover the picture.  Finally, the jewelry below.  Had lots of help with that.  Liz dessigned and made the earings for me.  The crow necklace is my designbut I used a new kind of wire and it has already broken.  The last necklace is holding, that was a gift from a friend where I added the rock.     



Trying to be selfish–Oil Paint Lessons continued

Daily Prompt: Blogger With a Cause
If your day to responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?

My girls have always said that I would be the busiest stay at home mom if that had been a possibilities.  And they didn’t mean doing housework.  Probably true since I am always throwing myself into new causes and new projects.  So this year, I have been trying to be selfish and only focus on my artwork.  Well, not quite true.  I am also learning to sail, running a craft club at work, holding down a full time job, and enjoying the selfish lovely joy of Bob treating me like a queen.  And I just started a competition with a friend at work to write five pages of our respective novels every week.  By the end of the year, I should have a good solid draft of “Dragon Cat Lives” finished.

So as you can see, there is no time for causes.  No time to take up the offers of teaching electronics to artists.  All my energy is going into being SELFISH and LEARNING.  As discussed in a post a couple days ago on “catching up on oil painting“.  Those paintings were not very good–student quality work. But great learning exercises.  Then I started in on a difficult painting, spending weeks on a work called “Portrait of Kate’s Hands” based on the photo from the kate show.  What I like is how these photos illustrate the process of getting a picture correct. In the beginning, the proportions were not correct.  And the colors needed work.  After getting the cup looking good, I worked on the table, book, and hands.  Finally had to work on the knife and fork — removing them since I am not yet skilled enough to include them in the picture.

Because these photos demonstrate my progress in oil painting, I am working to remain selfish and spend this year learning new art skills.  NO, NO, NO–I don’t want any new causes.  I want time to be a student.

First Session — Laying in the basic elements

First DayHands

Second Session–Refining the table and shadows

Second Day Hands

Third day–working on correcting shapes and proportions

Third Day Hands

Fourth Session — A new blue in an effort to get the colors better balanced

4th Day Hands

Fifth Session — Finally getting the cup into more appropriate proportions  

Firfth Day Hands

Session 6 — Adding detail –hands and book

6th Day Hands

Last Session — removing the fork and knife


Catching up on oil painting

For the last few months, I’ve continued taking oil painting lessons.  But since the photos were on my camera instead of the IPAD, it’s taken months before I got the pictures processed enough to show off the progress.  After doing a number of chiaroscuro paintings (links below); I finally got to play with color.  First picture is a still life with white light on it.  Goal of that painting was to try and see colors in the white.  Second still life had a blue light shining on the white box.  Neither was finished, but both were a good exercise in learning how to mix colors.

Seeing Color

blue light



Sometimes cats can be TOO Helpful.  Especially with a new macrame project.  All that lovely string that needs to be tested and re-arranged.  Lets unravel everything–YEAH!  Go Team Cat!  It even gets the humans excited and they yell as well.


Art Project Finished!

For the last few months, I have been building various sculptures with led lights.  There is a giant tree made with coat hangers that will become the mouse house.  There is a macrame wall hanging that will demonstrate light mosaics.  There is the mad hatters hat stand  where I ruined the LED wires.  Each project is smaller and smaller.  So this morning before work, I actually finished a working LED sculpture–The Crystal Tree.  

Made from bronze colored wire, lots of glass crystals and a beautiful piece of scrap fir wood, this sculpture contains a single hacked LED lamp.  On top is a crystal bunny that at night shines in different colors.  The tree sparkles with life in the morning when the sun shines on it.  And during the day, the plants guard a small birds nest with real pearls inside.  The rock was made from oven bake clay covered in spray paint and standard acrylic paints.  This is truly a mixed media piece — wire wrapping and jewlery, ceramics, wodworking, electronics, and a little bit of making do with available materials.  Add in a few living air plants and the piece is done.  It’s gorgeous, everyone thinks it looks beautiful.  I am pleased with the work.  

Bob helped a lot with this task.  He showed me how to use the electric sander, how to stain wood, how to use a drill press, how to chisel wood, and how to drill screws into wood at funny angles.   He did the electronics hacking and placed the bunny with museum sticky wax.  Without  his help, this project would not have been possible.   Thank you Bob for the teaching.

Below are some photos.  Next task is learning how to learn how to take pictures of this sculpture.


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.

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.

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.


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”.

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.  

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.


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.

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.







My first Oil Painting

Painted my first oil painting today — an apple still life in a single color. Don’t remember what this is called, but it is a classical technique similar to using charcoal. Cover the entire page with a medium shade and then remove paint for highlights / add more paint for dark colors. Used Burnt Seina which is a lovely brown color. Really great class, I am lucky to have a resource called Art Beat on Main Street available here in Vista. An art gallery that also offers classes and has a wine bar. This shop is an up an coming place. And they have a great teacher named Maggie Chiaro. The class is a drop in class, only 20 dollars per session. Bring your own project and Maggie helps you. Today there were only two students, so I got lots of help. Here’s my paintings


The website for Maggie Chiaro classes is:

and the address for artbeat on Main Street is

playing with photos

Today is a very short post showing a couple of photos where I have been experimenting with photo effects. What do you think about them? I like the reflection in the window. There is a lot of room for possibilities in this technique.

This could be a fantastic background for something. Not sure what yet. And it could be a lot of fun to paint, swirling precisely placed drops of paints into the swirl.

Here’s the original

The final picture shows a style that could be fun to try with watercolor pencils. It is a snapshot of another artists picture, one my mom likes very much, especially for the colors. She wants to do a room in her house with blue, green, and camel color. This artist, Lee Ann, from Nevada City, likes to do giant canvas’s–four feet by six feet. Bob says he would be willing to make me some big canvas’s.


What has Robine been doing?

Yes, I am alive and doing well despite rumors to the contrary. Evidently various family members have been checking with Bob to see what’s happening since both the quantity and quality of blog posts has diminished. The last month has been an incredibly creative and productive time, just not with the writing.
Decided to start finishing some projects, beginning with the lady in the moon. It was one of my first forays into both sculpture (with paper mache) and lighting (using a set of christmas lights). Made a ton of mistakes and then put it away for a year. As the creator, I can see every small error and the large ones also. Not finished yet, at least I know how to get past the problem spots. Plaster, spray paint, gesso, and a willingness to accept paint spots on light bulbs as artistic elements helped with this transformation. Last weekend I finished the back. And I now have the patience to slowly paint small sections at a time. 20 hours of painting and it probably will be done. Below is a picture of it partially finished. Look for a series of photos showing the progress in a couple of weeks. Every weekend, I put on a few mor

But thats not all. I’ve been working on my painting. At lunch a couple weeks ago, a friend at work taught a short class on using water color pencils. We did apples. I don’t have my watercolor apple from the class, another friend borrowed it as an example and then lost it. Dang…won’t lend her my pictures without at least getting a photo first. So I tried to redo the apple using INKIST, software on the IPAD. Here’s the first apple.

And then I went on to multiple water color pencil drawings. First picture of Elly had a bad perspective. That lead to an exercise of doing 20 complete drawing of her in an attempt to get a good one. You will see those later when I finish the series. Right now I am on number 7. Each drawing takes hours, so it will take a few more weeks to complete. And I have tried several other drawings with watercolor pencils to learn techniques — how to draw, how to blend, how to add the wash. Actually have a few good photos of the work. But I must confess that the photos look better than the reality. More vibrant and better contrast. I still don’t think I am a water color person–it is too hard to correct mistakes. But the medium is intriguing.



But we still are not done with the artwork. You see, I also took a beading class and have gotten back into making jewelry. This started when visiting Liz in Albuquerque. We went to a beading shop and bought way too many beads. Gorgeous hematite, lovely tiger eyes, copper beads, and more. The photo below shows a small portion of the recent output. There are a few more necklaces downstairs waiting for clasps and earrings waiting for fasteners. Plus another dozen necklaces in the planning. Guess what everyone will be getting as presents over the next few months.

But wait, have done still more work this last weekend. I am not teaching electronics although I now have two art studios that want me to do so. Art beat on Main Street offered me a teaching gig last saturday night while we visited their wine bar and listened to piano jazz. And of course I can teach at the California Sculpture Academy. The question is can I figure out how to make money from this process. And of course, first I have to learn all the electronics before I can teach the classes. To do this, I am making a lighted tree sculpture. And working through a series of electronic lessons. Spent hours wondering how to do the complicated wiring of 24 LED’s until I realized that 8 groups of LED’s was really easy. No real impact to the artistic element, having 8 groups also leaves me with a lot of input ports on the computer. That means I can play with fancy knobs to change the color, the brightness, the blinking rate and even allow the user to set a timer on the lamp. Might even pull together a light organ which would allow the tree to light up based on music. Below are photos of the electronics class, tree being checked out by Elly, and some of my notes on electronics.



And still more has been going on. Decided to reuse an old embroidered pillow (the frog on a rock) as a seat cover. Maggie has been gone for years and probably has forgotten the pillow. If she complains to loudly then I will put making a replacement on the to-do list although when it gets done is negotiable. Here’s the chair.

As you can see, I have been busy. Unfortunately it seems I can’t do both the art and lots of writing at the same time. But hang in there, this phase will pass and then there will be more stories.

quick amusing notes

Was just at Lowe’s where they had no cashiers working.  A long line of people with two self service machines.  Watched one man hassle with scanning large pieces of lumber because there were no hand held devices either.  When it came my turn, they wanted me to scan a special bar for the paint.  Since I had no idea what this special bar was at the time, I declined to scan it.  Later when putting the paint in the car, realized the special bar must have been the strip on the top of the can.

Does Lowe’s really want me to turn a can of paint upside down at their scanning station?  Imagine the mess created if the top came off the can of paint.   There is not much time before the paint covers a large surface area.  Bob suggested that the best way might be grabbing a dustpan or a hose to cordon off that paint.  And I don’t even want to think about cleaning it out of the cracks. At that point, I would be like “There is a spill here, can you get someone over to clean it up?”  Wonder if I would get a new set of clothes out of them to replace the paint covered ones?

There is an art festival in downtown Vista today.  Someone had a lot of fun putting up signs like “tearable puns”, “trolls looking for a home” and “Found Cat”.  The found cat poster showed a black and white skunk with text detailing how to pick up Stinky.  I’ll see it later today when I meet friends for dinner and an art class.

Bob thought he would conserve water by sharing a shower last night.  Boy was he surprised to learn I was taking a literal cold shower.

Went out for breakfast this morning with Bob, Mary, and Elly.  Curbside was busy; lots of dogs outside.  So Elly got excited.  She was a real stinker; kept wanting to bark.  Like having ill-mannered little kids, Bob and I spent breakfast time taking turns with eating and walking the dog.

Charlie is really hard on the hair bands.  He’s managed to steal most of a new package from me.  It’s hot, too hot for down hair.  So this morning, I was reduced to using a hair stick instead of a hairband.

A good day followed by insanity

Today was great day, despite having to work. Got some really good tips on finding the next better job internally at work. Have been training a new person who is doing great at her job. Got more work which is good for job security. Of course, it seems like I have too much work, but thats much better than too little work. Learned that a good friend has job suggestions for Liz. Talked with Maggie who is coming out for XMAS at winter break. Since I am paying for Liz and Kate’s plane tickets at thanksgiving, it seems only fair to pay for her ticket at year end. And that made Maggie really happy. Heard from the guys in scotland that they received their unexpected but much appreciated tee shirts. And had a good art class at lunch. And of course, I did get some work done in the short periods between everything else. Essentially nine hours worth of work since that’s what I am getting paid for. Although I am really glad we don’t track time by the minute.

At lunch time there was a demo / tutorial on water color pencils. At work, we have created a new club “creative collections” where crafty type people (all women at the moment but men are welcome) get together to share our love of art and hand crafts. Monthly meetings vary between tutorials done by members or show and tell type sessions. Best of all, we did the formal paperwork and now my workplace pays for supplies on the tutorials. Past lessons had been sewing, beading, show and tell, and general gossip. The club started because a woman at work wanted some friends who enjoyed doing cross stitch at lunch time at work. Well those of us willing to do the work are running the club and hosting the tutorials. Which means that this month, another woman named Carolyn and myself, got to take a road trip down to Blick Art Supplies and buy some water color pencils on company money. Yeah. I get to try the different brands of these expensive pencils. And today Carolyn hosted a lesson on how to draw an apple using the colored pencils. The lesson was very successful although I don’t have anything to show for it. After the lesson, all three sets of club pencils were checked out. And my artwork along with Carolyn’s were taken as examples for those who missed the lunch lesson. I will get it back and now I am inspired to do more artwork.

So here is where the insanity arrives. I signed up for two new writing / blogging classes starting next week. 30 days worth of prompts, no home work on weekends. So weekends can be used for catching up on assignments. I’ll use robinesworld.wordpress.blogspot for storytelling and to do an art journal. Its going to be a very busy month. But all in a good cause. Hopefully I will learn more about writing and more about art during that month. And hopefully I have lots of fun doing it. Even if there are days where I curse at my insanity–signing up for two classes while working full time. And lets not even talk about the art electronics classes I am supposed to be planning and teaching. Wish me luck.

Brittany Flowers for Painting

Last night I was dreaming about Brittany, France.  In particular of brick walls and beautiful pink hydrangeas.  These came from a picture I put on my work computer desktop.  It’s a picture I want to paint.  But before I can start; need to have a free weekend for cleaning the art studio downstairs.  So instead, I use software for playing with the picture.

Here’s the original picture


One of the things I want to do is change the picture — take out some of the plant on the left and make it taller.  Clean up the house a bit, simplify the background and add more ocean.  I can do some cropping, but the adding will have to be done using imagination and oil paints.  I can use the software to blur the data and add more color variations in a filter called oil painting.



and then I can play with just the flowers, looking at how the picture might appear without the house and beach behind.  Here’s the cropped original


and here are a couple variations of the oil painting algorithm and cropping.


and even closer details


So in a month or two, I’ll have some actual paintings to show off.  Can’t wait to get started.


Sally, George, and Rain

Let me tell you the story of Sally and George; both of whom were residing in my house this weekend. Now Sally has been a long time resident; an old lady; she has very definite rules on what is and is not proper behavior. So the advent of George was enough to disturb her well ordered life. George was a drifter; he came by the house and looked inside. Everyone else — Elle, Charlie, and Sophie were charmed by Georges good looks, his lively eyes; his distinctive voice, and his beautiful red hair. Sally wanted nothing to do with George and refused to even go look out the window at this interloper.

The rain was coming, the coyotes were hunting, and George kept up his cry “Let me in, let me in”. Eventually the inhabitants of the house broke down and let George enter. As befit a new guest; George was given his own room; complete with food and a bathroom dedicated for his use. And comforted by the safety and warmth of the house; George slept well on Friday Night. Sally continued ignoring George; he was way too young for her. But Sophie and Charlie continued a dialog; slipping notes and paws under the door to say hello to George.

Now it should be noted that George was a stray cat. And we already have 3 cats; too many at times. But he was a sweetheart; purring at the first signs of attention. Sophie and Charlie liked him. Elle was intrigued and George was not scared; despite the hunting coyotes. We debated the wisdom of keeping 4 cats,. More accurately, we debated the insanity of keeping four cats. But there were two events that settled his fate. First was Kate; she went into the bathroom to visit George and came out all indignant. He peed all over her. Kate was not happy. But we chalked that up to nervousness on Georges part; but then incident number 2 occurred. George was allowed to wander in the house and within 2 minutes had started marking. Bob declared “That’s it; he goes”. And off we went to the humane society. He will be available for adoption in a few days. I think he will find a good home; one where he can settle in and be a lover boy. He liked the other cats and he purred like newborn kitten. Friendly red haired tabby’s can find home fairly easily; I wish him the best.

To conclude the story; we need to show some pictures. First is George; the photo does not do him justice. He was a lover boy cat; big and friendly; but with a 200 dollar vet bill. He needed some attention. He had been someones pet and either got abandoned or was lost. Since he was not microchipped; we will never know. A few days of hard living left him with a cut on the foot, fleas, and ear mites. He also needed to be neutered and get all his shots. The humane society will take care of these needs before putting him up for adoption.


And then there is Sally. She would not take well to another cat in the house. This old lady has a routine THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED. Sleeping in Kate’s room; one gets up abut 8 am and gets a bite to eat. This is followed by a nap in sun in my room for several hours. Perhaps a short trip outside if the weather is nice to sit in the sun; otherwise, it’s the bunk beds in Maggie and Liz’s room for an afternoon nap. In the evening, she become social and spends an while sitting on a ledge in the house. It’s here that I captured a good photo of her. What I like about the picture are all the different walls and how they change color in the light. It’s all the same color paint; but with the different light; I would need to make 7 or 8 different shades to capture the picture.


The final picture shows the beauty of that day. We had breakfast in downtown Vista right after the rains and the water reflected both the sunlight and trees. It looks like one of those romantic pictures of Paris; not downtown Vista. At breakfast; we debated the wisdom of keeping a fourth cat–everyone knew it was stupidity and yet, and yet, we wanted him. Thank you George for making the decision easy.


My Purse, a reflection of my life and other stuff

Was looking at Maggie’s blog and she had the greatest photo. So I am reusing it; which sounds a lot better than stealing or plagiarizing her work. You can find the original at; but my version has been enhanced. The picture made me laugh. Thanks Mag’s. It looks you are doing well and it makes me happy to see you content. Josh’s visit was good for you.


Anyway life has been hectic; and we all have ways of relaxing. For me; it’s a pallete to pallet night at art beat on Main Street. Went with a friend to repaint a master. Cheap paints, so I couldn’t get a good green by mixing blue and yellow. Hence the very impressionistic version of this still life by cezanne. Lots of fun because a friend asked me to go. Normally I end up arranging most of the events. But even better, found that Bob has hung the picture while I was gone at work. That was nice, it made me feel wanted. Here’s my photo.


But Kate has a more interesting way of relaxing. She likes face masks. And as always, they are interesting to view.


One interesting aspect of life was that I had to replace my purse and wallet. It’s a common thing; these things do become worn out and yucky over time. But as I looked at the compilation of stuff; the realization that collection was an accurate representation of me at this moment in time. Lets start with the purse. Between too much overtime at work, a major presentation for the California Sculpture Academy, teaching a new class, Liz visiting, and general life; I’ve outgrown the regular purse and am now using a canvas shopping bag to hold my purse and stuff. Of course, the fact that the purse itself was broken did influence the use of a shopping bag which did lead to stashing more stuff into a single location.

Anyway, the contents of said bag were an eclectic collection of unique items. A list might be informative

  • A soldering iron — needed for class, it was easiest to shove it in my purse this morning
  • toothpaste, but no toothbrush — where did that new brush go? I just bought both last week before class
  • four books — one for programming the arduino, another on make electronics, a hard core science fictiion and a book of fantasy short stories
  • graph paper with a variety of notes and drawings
  • 2 hair brushes — no wonder I can’t find one in the morning
  • a mold test kit — so I can check the quality of air at work
  • various plastic bags for picking up dog droppings
  • a collection of wine corks — one of which talks about friendship shared over a bottle of wine
  • 3 pens — various colors
  • chapstick, lipstick, and cough drops – a must have for any woman’s purse
  • lots of change and a 1 dollar bill — always broke, finding a 20 dollar bill is like winning the lottery only better because it is real.
  • an IPOD with 130 gigs of music, stories, and other stuff. Over 10 centuries worth of music, everyone finds my IPOD an amazing trove of weird stuff.
  • a set of art tools and a key for the California Sculpture academy
  • a wallet containing way too many store cards and little else
  • No real money to be found in my purse, no make up other than an old lipstick, and no keys. But all the detritus from the passions in my life--family, learning, art, and reading. The IPOD was a gift from Bob. He got it; being unsure if I would like it. That is one of my most prized possessions -- the gift of music and stories. And also one of the most borrowed items; everyone wants to finish listening to something. I've been thinking about buying a spare ipod just in case apple stops producing them. I'm a lucky woman; I"ve got so many more riches than just money.

    And of course; we are going to need money for replacements over the next couple of months. It's bug season and Charlie is going crazy. That clock on the wall; it's a good place to leap towards; it might give him a place to hang from enroute to the bug. OOPS, ti went on the ground; well lets find another thing to use while hunting bugs. We are having to charlie proof -- it's worse than baby proofing because his leaping skills are both impressive and not very good. It's going to be a long couple of months until the mayflies stop hatching.

    Thinking within the box


    The comic below tickles my fancy thinking only in the box and yet being totally creative. This is an old cartoon from the new yorker by Leo Cullum. Well tonight, I had a great time thinking in the box. Had the second class in my LED programming for artists series. It went so well. Everyone had a blast soldering test leads and making a blinking light computer.

    These artists quickly understood what was going on, change the timing sequence and you have a different blinking pattern. Add in a second LED and its more complex; but you can get some great patterns. Soon the phrase “That’s Boring” for the basic on/off pattern was heard on a regular basis. We had strobe lights. We had slow drum rolls of lights. We had complex dances with a couple different colors. It was marvelous; I can’t wait to see what these people come up with after this class series is done. It will be creative — one person already has an old pressure sequencing valve and he’s thinking about adding steam and lights to moving wings. Wonder where the steam will be vented — out from the bottom of the wings or from the joints?

    Next week, we are going to build a small array — everyone will get 6 LED’s in 3 colors. And we will add a random number generator as well as mimicking a stoplight. Big things these people will learn is using a breadboard, resistors, capacitors, and other things. I’m not sure what because I don’t know what is needed. ARGGHHHH! Another weekend spent frantically learning a lot of stuff. It feels like I’m barely in control and frantically learning so much new stuff. But that’s the fun of this class, especially since I’m paying for the privilege of teaching. However, I actually am gaining so much — learning new things and setting up a whole curriculum of new classes. The artists are excited. So now if we can find enough paying students, I can get a second job teaching. HURRAHH!!!!!! That will be fun. And if not, the journey is fun and worthwile.


    Brindejon yet again

    It was very flattering to wee how much my folks liked the plaque I made. It was posted right next to the door of their barn. I’m pleased to see it enjoyed. It was a good project, I learned a lot from making this plaque. It was the first time I had ever done a scratch block– a form for metal constructed from sand and resin –its a shape where you carve a reverse image of the desired picture. Well I knew that intellectually, but I only understood what that meant after I carved out stairs going in the wrong direction.

    But I’m jumping ahead in the story. Knew I was going to an iron pour and would have the chance to try a block. So the first thing I created was a concept drawing. It was based on both original photos and new photos of the barn. Then I got to the event and reality slapped me in the face. The available squares were too small. So I had to make a new one. That meant showing off my lack of nailing skills while creating a box. Learned how to use a fancy saw and got the box made. And learned how to create a resin mix for the mold.

    cocept drawing


    original barn


    current barn



    Well after creating the mold, the iron pour didn’t go smoothly, so my mold didn’t get poured. It took a couple of months before we poured aluminum along with my wolf. BUt here it is, newly poured.
    just poured


    And then I got to play with patinas before finishing the plaque. It got sent up to Brindejon in early August and put on the barn. Here’s the final finished plaque on barn.


    Light, Brindejon Part 2

    Last week at Brindejon, we got to see leaves changing color and the glorious light coming through the leaves. And then I got to play with the pictures using Snapseed. My Dad was amazed at one could do with the software.

    Here’s a couple of the pictures (before and after). More will follow.

    First, we’ll start with a leave. Because the IPAD camera has almost no controls (totally point and shoot), the original needed to be cropped. I shot the photo knowing that fact. It’s amazing how much removing the extraneous stuff helped.



    The next photo has 3 different views. First is the original. Second is my attempt to highight some of the features. The third photo would make a wonderful painting. My dad did this one using Snapseed. He had never played with the software before, but that didn’t stop him from pulling together a great art image.




    The final picture is only going to be shown in the cropped state. I liked the way the shadows pointed down towards the tree.


    Panic, excitement, OMG — way too much work

    This fall, my big art project has been getting a new sculpture academy — CSA the California Sculpture Academy going. We are going to make a great sculpture academy with some interesting extras. Amazing collection of ideas — classical drawing and sculpture training, certificates in very useful skills like welding and foundry work, and modern things like robotics, 3D computer modeling, and embedded computers within a sculpture. I will get to teach robotics and 3D modeling at this school. Scary thing is that there are already 4 people who want to take the class and I”m not ready to teach it.

    Right now I feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. There are so many different pieces to juggle. The best analogy is it’s like cleaning out the garage. You have everything spread out on the floor and don’t know where to start. But in reality, your close to getting finished. Shelves are clean, things are getting boxed, and it’s the last 25% that is really hard to put away. Put in a few more hours and garage will be clean. I’ve been feeling that same state of depression about this CSA academy. But yesterday was very reaffirming. There are a lot of people willing to help. All I have to do is give them a well defined task and keep them on schedule. Daniel will do the brochures and fliers after I give him the basic text. Christina will help with the foundation paperwork, after I give her access to all the materials. She’ll also take a position in the foundation as a starting point. Nick, the first student will help us with recruiting new students and his parents are going to provide some good insights in how to recruit. Peter is going to look at accreditation — what does it mean and how to we position ourselves to get it as soon as we are eligible. Brandon is almost ready with the kickstart campaign. Bud’s doing a lot of the paperwork. And Jodha Sara has agreed to help me with the SWOT analysis and figure out which site is the best for a big fundraising campaign. If I can keep juggling all these pieces, we might actually pull together a great school.

    Yesterday was good, I felt blessed with so much enthusiasm and willingness to help. I’m scared also, I’m getting lots of new responsibilities. It looks like I’ll get a new titles–President of our to be formed non-profit Foundation. Christina nominated me and voted for me. But she agreed to be Vice President of Administration so her name gets to be on the paperwork as well. We might have a more formal meeting to sign everything — that would be after the new Friday Night Lecture and Social Hour.

    And this the panic inducing item number 2. Brandon and I decided to start a new lecture series. We’ll get it going by sheer determination and a willingness to pretend that it’s highly successful (i.e. lots of people coming) from day 1. These lectures will be 45 minutes long with a 15 minute question and answer period followed by a social hour and school founding meeting. Lecture number 1 will focus on the Florence Sculpture Academy and what a classical education in art means. I’m doing lecture number 2: Robotics and the art of Possibilities. Lecture number 3 will be about mexican art. OMG, I have three weeks to learn enough and pull together a public talk. Fun and panic inducing at the same time.

    There is still lots more work; but my regular day job is calling. One last photo. Yesterday on the way home from Fallbrook, there was an amazing sunset which I captured with the IPAD camera. Framed by the car window, it’s an interesting picture. Not great, but fun. It gave me pleasure and hope.


    Animals in our lives, a photo essay

    In the last 24 hours, I’ve been able to get some great pictures of the animals in our lives. Each one of them has a unique personality and yet, they all are part of our family. And we laugh and enjoy them all.

    We will start with some Elly pictures. She loves her toys and especially her stuffed animals. Bob says she has about the same intelligence as a toddler. And like a toddler, she brings her stuffed animals with her everywhere. Here she is with her giant dog and her teddy bear.




    Bob and Elly have a fantastic relationship. It’s obvious that Elly adores Bob and that he adores her. It is a beautiful thing to watch them playing together, you can see the love.



    And sometimes I can get a picture where I get play. This will be an excellent study for charcoal.


    This morning, Charlie had fun playing with my hair. I was not as amused since he has sharp claws. But despite the pain and a really thick shirt, I did mange to get a cute shot.


    Also managed to get an interesting shot of charlie last evening in our bedroom. Even the cheap image processing software is fantastic these days. I was able to straighten the image, play with the contrast, and create a great snap from an ok picture.


    Yesterday evening, Bob and I went down the Mother Earth, the local brew pub. Good beer, dog and kid friendly place, and a short walk from our house; this bar has become one of our favorite places to visit in Vista. Elly loves to go there. It’s her kind of place. Lots of people, good smells, and other dogs. Here is a series of pictures of her playing with another dog.






    And while Bob and Elly were checking out the other dogs (those are Bob’s legs you see in the previous pictures); I was busy taking some art pictures. Got a good still life to practice in both color and charcoal.



    And while down there, I got a couple more pictures of the man, child, and umbrella statue. These pictures will be used on my art chair, I’m going to paint a picture of this statue on the chair back.



    After all the fun downtown, Bob cooked Kate and me a great dinner. Not only did the animals like the leftovers last night, but we are having fantastic french toast this morning.





    What I find amazing is how much joy we can have with such simple things. Food, beer, friends, and family — what more does anyone really need besides a good set of art supplies?

    What I did with my weekend

    Had 3 days without any family around. What a wonderful, productive time. I got several paintings completed and made progress on my bronze castings. You can see them here.

    First art the paintings. I did a couple of pictures Fire Dance 1 and Fire Dance 2. Both were completed using a single brush — a flat number 4. I think I like flats the best, you can get some very fine lines. Anyway, Fire Dance 1 might need a bit more black, but looks like fun. It’s sort of abstract and shows my joy in fires and life.


    The second painting, Fire Dance 2, began by using the left over paint from Fire Dance 1. I created a background that looked like grass in just the right evening light. Beautiful Red’s and Browns, creating a fire of light. So then I added the dancing grasses on top with black and gold. It sort of captures the wild wind and dancing colors.


    Next I spent a day working on bronze. Didn’t get much done beyond some sand blasting and filing a few nubs off the metal. But suddenly the beauty of the metal began to shine through. And I can see these pieces will be nice. Not yet fine art, but there is promise there. The bird and box will look really good together, the bird perching on the edge.


    And I got the rough spots off the tail of my gecko on the bell. Still need to learn how to polish the metal. Think I’ve a decent idea, but I want to use power tools when someone else is around. At the sculpture school yesterday, I ended up there by myself. So the power tools came home and I’ll try it with Bob around. Or it can wait 2 weeks when I go back out there. We may actually get the wolf and plaque for my parents poured then.


    The best piece is my snake bowl. What a fantastic piece, its going to be great fun on a desk. No one would want to steal a quarter or piece of candy from this bowl. After finishing this one, I’ll have to try it again, this time using clay and a mold. Perhaps I can do a better job on the scales.


    Not everything got completed. I’m still figuring out the painting on my lady in the moon lamp. I don’t like the silver paint, so next weekend I’ll have to redo it. And I’ve been avoiding my BARD essay. Finished that course a couple weeks ago. OK, not finished, I’ve not done the lesson where we study fire and water together by enjoying mead. Haven’t found a bottle yet, guess I’ll have to visit some different stores. Or try making it, but that’s a lot of work for an unknown. And I’ve not done my essay — the final piece reviewing what I learned and why I should be allowed to do the next course. It’s sort of like a final exam; successful completion and a decent grade means I’ll get the chance to study the ovate course. I believe it focuses more on herb lore, folk medicine, and nature. The first course was a great spiritual journey and helped me focus more on my art. That’s enough to make the second course attractive even if I don’t know the content.

    Departures, transitions, and me-time

    Over the last 24 hours, I’ve helped everyone in the family go away on vacations. Yesterday morning it was Maggie — leaving at oh way too early in the morning for the airport. Because of comic con traffic, we took a long time to get to the airport. That meant no time for coffee of breakfast before work. And truth be told, I was pretty desperate to get out of the car by the time I got to work. But one of life’s great joys is a clean bathroom when really needed. Maggie is now in albuquerque, visiting her sister Liz and going to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sounds like fun, I’ve been wanting to visit Liz in NM for the last two years. But there is always someone taking the prime vacation spot.

    Work, work, work; desperately trying to get enough hours in so I don’t have to work over my 3 day weekend. And then it was back to the airport to drop off Jenn, my niece who has been visiting for the last couple of weeks. Yep, I visited San Diego Airport twice yesterday. But stopped first at Old Town to pick up Jenn and Kat. They took the train down since no one else dared drive to downtown San Diego from Oceanside, again because of comic con traffic. While Jenn was a bit nervous about the train, she understood the need when she saw how the Highway 5 was stop and go in oceanside, 40 miles from downtown San Diego. Her nervousness was somewhat justified since I was late picking them up from old town — again bad traffic. We had time to drive over to the airport, stop at a grocery store where the girls got dinner (none for me since I was driving) and then dumped her at the front gate. She’s 18, old enough to handle the airport by herself. We waited for an hour at a nearby bookstore until she made it through security lines and then Kat and I boogied back to Vista.

    We did stop and by some coffee beans on the way home. Much needed since Bob and Kate left at 3:30 AM, yes that is oh way too early oh dark in the morning time. They were catching a boat from Ventura to go back packing on Santa Rosa Island. Sounds like so much fun, Bob and I did it a few years ago for our anniversary. Of course, that was the first time I hurt my knee, so perhaps it’s better Kat went instead of me. And before they left, we did have fun with Bob’s new watch. Somehow the alarm on this complex electronic piece of junk got turned on for midnight. Bob doesn’t hear it and doesn’t know how to turn it off. But I can hear it which explains why I was doing yoga and exercises at 12:13 am in the morning. It took a while to become sleepy again after the hunt for the watch, bright lights, and a few interesting words being spoken; which explains why I was still doing various exercises and yoga poses at 1:12 am in the morning. Then the excitement between 3 and 4 am as everyone left. So no one should be surprised that I slept until after 8 am this morning. Missed my swimming at the wave.

    So now I have a beautiful free weekend with almost NO responsibilities. Suppose I ought to face into calling the hospital and doctors again. We are still hassling bills from that ER visit a few months ago. It took the hospital billing agency over 20 working days to produce an itemized bill with 4 items and even then it only shows the discounted insurance price. I’ll pay it in full, but was waiting for today’s paycheck. Have to call them because they are now threatening to send everything to a debt collector since I’ve been slow to pay. Of course, the fact they took more than a month to send the original bill and a month to send the itemized bill is none of their concern, the fact is I am late on paying. Got to love our american system of insurance.

    And then there is the second orthopedic doctor I visited. This man gave me a quick check to verify I am healing ok. No pictures unless you count the picture of a knee from a text book. And it only took him 10 minutes. He was competent and I felt that I would be ok in time. But then the insurance company told me that he was OUT OF NETWORK. Dreaded words, this means that while he will accept the insurance, he won’t accept the negotiated price. And since it is out of network, I have brand new huge deductible to pay. Basically it means that a 10 minute visit is going to cost me $875. Yes, that is almost 900 dollars. And if we add a few minutes of time to review record (AKA the total appointment time for the doctor was 15 minutes or so), then this guy is earning three thousand six hundred dollars an hour. I want his salary. I would even be really happy to earn this much in a week.

    After the fun of dealing with doctors, then I get free time. And have the joy of figuring out what I want to do. Probably lots of art projects. Go to fallbrook and work on my metal sculptures. Finish the lady in the moon lamp. Start painting an art chair. And work more on my hand sculptures. Had wanted to stop at Dick Blick art supplies yesterday while waiting for Jenn, but the traffic in downtown San Diego was too bad. So I’ll have to make a visit to Micheals or Aaron brothers for some white paint. Perhaps I’ll ride the bike and make an expedition of it. Get to take the sprinter and could work on some of my writing tasks. Or I could be nice to Elly and take her out for an adventure. Aaron Brothers in Escondido is ok with me bringing her in the store. On Sunday, I’ll probably go over to my friend Suzie’s house. Her dog is expecting puppies this weekend. It’s fun to watch little dogs be born. And Saturday night, there is another artists reception at Art on Mai Street in Vista. These are fun events, buy a glass of wine, enjoy some free food and great music. Look at some good art, talk with some artists, and then come home.

    Well, I’ve had my two cups of coffee. No more delays on the medical bills so have to go. Have a great day.

    Aftermath — Good News / Bad News

    Yesterday was long and busy for all. Elly really enjoyed her parade duties and came home with a new scarf. Bob and Kat had a good time at the comedy show followed by a fantastic dinner of bacon, corn cakes, and watermelon. I learned a lot at the iron pour, but didn’t get all my pieces poured. So the good news / bad news is that we don’t have an iron sign for Brindejon Barn or an Iron wolf. But we will have those pieces poured in bronze in a couple weeks. Bronze is much prettier so overall it’s a plus. Captured some very interesting pictures yesterday, so will share them here.

    First is Elly with her new scarf.


    Next are some scenes from the iron pour. First were the sand block etchings. These are a sand resin mixture where you scratch out a reverse of the image you want. Interesting learning process. Kat’s picture is indented, Brindejon is protruding. Since they only had really small blocks yesterday, I got to learn how to make a mold, use fancy table saws, make the sand / resin mixture, and use a mixer with a 3 foot long shaft. Think hand held kitchen mixer on steroids. And then I got to help everyone else make their own sand resin / mixtures, taught visitors to the sculpture school how to do the etching, and generally spent hours working hard. Here are the resin blocks.



    The iron pour started about 6:30 pm. Prior to that a batch of big strong guys broke old bath tubs into chips of iron. These got tossed into a large furnace with raw coke — that is high quality coal. You can see the iron chips and the furnace.



    Once the metal was hot, it flowed out from a spigot near the bottom of the furnace. They had lots of problems with this iron pour. It was not melting correctly, so it burst into flames and hardened at inconvenient times. This meant that some pieces got incomplete pours because it was not flowing and a lot of metal got wasted. It took a long time with lots of stops / problems all the way through. For the final pour at 11:30 pm (which should have been at 9:00 pm), the iron did not come out the spigot at all. Instead, the bottom of the furnace had gotten cold or something had not burned right leading to half hardened iron. The last pour did not happen and they ended up making a hOle at the bottom of the furnace. Lots of metal pieces, coal, and molten metal poured out the bottom, igniting into flames as it was exposed to the air. I didn’t get a good picture of those flames; but did get a few from earlier points in the pour. It’s dangerous stuff, the iron is molten at 2600 degrees.




    Overall it was an exciting time, I’m going to learn lots at this sculpture academy. I did pick up some hints on how to do acrylic paintings and making straight lines with the paints. First, I need to thin the paints, I’m putting the paint on too thick. Second, I need a good stiff brush. Evidently the really good brushes (60-100 dollars each) can be worth buying. They work much better. Finally, big pieces are selling better than small pieces. Evidently the only people buying art are the really rich and they like dramatic pieces. The final photo is the picture of a dog watching this event, I like the composition.


    Pouring Metal

    Well school has ended and I think I’m getting a mercy B in the class.  It’s a pity, I love making metal sculptures.  It’s so much fun to pour metal and the results are impressive.  Unfortunately crutches, knee injuries, and power tools don’t mix.  But I got a taste for metal and eagerly await the fall semester.  And I got a chance to see different kinds of metal getting poured.  Aluminum is gray, Bronze is gold, and Iron is white.  Between Bob and I, we got some great pictures of pouring metal.

    The process starts with a mold.  We use the lost wax method which begins with a sculpture made of wax. There are many ways to make this wax mold including sculpting directly with the wax or creating a mold and pouring wax.  Once you have the wax piece, it gets contained into a mold made from either a plaster and sand (the big round cylinders) or ceramic shell (in the oven).



    The metal gets heated in a crucible for either aluminum or bronze.  In the two foundry schools I’ve seen (Palomar College and the Fallbrook Academy of Sculpture), these crucibles go into an oven in the ground.  I’m sure there is a more formal name, but I don’t know it.  In the first picture (Fallbrook), you can see some raw bronze metal waiting to be melted.  In the second picture (Palomar), aluminum blocks are beside the furnace hole.



    Iron is special, it requires much higher temperatures.  In Fallbrook, they had a large cylinder with gas flames underneath.  Two views of this iron melting tank are shown — daytime before they starting the melt, and a night shot where the Iron and Raw COKE (high quality anthracite coal) were mixed together to create enough heat for melting the metal. They spent all day extracting iron from old bathtubs, sinks, and brakes, you can see the piles in the first photo.




    After the metal reaches temperature, it becomes a viscous fluid.  Aluminum and Bronze are melted in a crucible.  Iron is melted in a large tank and flows into the crucible.  The ceramic molds are heated to 1800 degrees and placed into sand.  Then the crew, dressed in leather and special heat protection suits, start pouring metal into the molds.  It’s very exciting to watch the metal.  The pictures tell the story better than I can.  But look at the different colors coming from the crucibles.  You can see the difference between aluminum (gray), bronze (gold), and iron (white).  The heat pulsates outward and tension rises.  If anything goes wrong, someone could get hurt very badly.






    In this last picture, something happened and the metal exploded into flames.  There are crew members with buckets of sand.  They quickly shovel sand on the molds and flame.  But everyone gets excited, its events like this that make metal pouring dangerous.


    After the metal gets poured, the molds need to cool down.  Then it’s like an easter egg, you get to crack the shell and see what’s inside.  Usually people have trouble waiting to do this, so they crack them while metal is still hot.  Below are several pictures showing first the aluminum in the mold, after being taken out from the mold, and sawing off the sprue.


    alumnim sculpture


    Here’s what hot bronze in ceramic shell looks like


    And here are some pictures of finished sculptures.  You’ve seen them in older posts, but they help finish this story.


    iron cat

    bronze and ceramic

    bronze pieces

    Unfinished Art

    One of the casualties of my knee lessons was my art class. Metal working and crutches don’t really work. I will heal and be ok as long as I take it easy. Standing and using sawzall’s don’t qualify as easy. So yesterday Bob went with me to palomar to pick up the unfinished art. The bronze box needs sanding, polishing, and a metal bird attached on the box. There are lots of other unfinished pieces — the snake cup, the gecko bell, the spider bell, the wolf, and bird on branch. My borg houses never got beyond the conception stage. I’ll have to finish them up next semester. But the teacher promises I can be on the metal pouring crew–that will be fun.

    So last night I was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at all this unfinished work; feeling a bit melancholy. But part of good art is angst. Started playing with the camera and actually got some fun pictures. Thus I can present “Art Unfinished”



    Irresponsible Board Members bumming it in San Fran

    Well Maggie is off having an early retirement in San Francisco, enjoying the easy life in coffee shops without WiFi. You can read all about it at “”. As part of her new early retirement plan AKA unemployment, she’s decided to try practice drawing. What an ungrateful kid, she complains about the tutorials.  I give her supplies and send her off with a textbook called “The Natural Way to Draw” by Kimon Nicolaides. This is a classical text; we even have at least 2 copies in my house. And one copy came from my grandfathers second or third wife so it is really old.  Of course it must be good.  How can one even contemplate that there might be a better way to learn drawing?

    Basically her complaint is that contour drawing doesn’t look like much of anything — so why do it. It’s hard and boring. Well she’s sort of right; but it’s a good way to learn how to draw by looking at something, not at your drawing hand. Very useful if you want to draw using a digitizing tablet and a computer. In fact, I’m going to be an irresponsible Vista Band Booster Director and skip the spring meetings for an art class.  This class, called art illustration, focuses mostly on contour, gesture, and other line drawings. Lots of focus on how to draw things accurately.

    But to make Maggie feel better, I’ll include a few of the contour drawings from my current art class. Don’t laugh too much when you look at them.  First, a blind contour (after much practice). That means I did not look at the pencil at all, but looked only at my hand or the bottle.  The first drawing got stopped at the end of the finger because I lost it going around the curve and had to look.  The second drawing went well, it took about 30 minutes to do that blind contour.  And the bottle, you can tell that I rushed the drawing by how I missed having edges meet.




    Now some contour drawings were I look at the drawing occasionally.  Here I focused on both looking at the object and getting lines fairly close to their position.  You can tell I had a few problems with the pliers, but Maggie’s wallet is not that bad.



    Man and Dog

    Man and Dog–that will be the theme of an upcoming drawing. Not as a class assignment, but because I love the subject matter. Perhaps this picture will make up for the lack of progress on a knitted sweater. Any as part of this picture, I need to collect resources. Resources is a fancy term for pictures and objects that become the models and base of a picture. So I have a couple great photos to start this project.  The first couple of pictures come from local parks.  They provide a great starting point for the drawing where the main subject is a man and his dog in the park.


    Then we add in some details for the dog and the man; getting colors, shapes, and facial details.  Still need to get some detailed photos of the dog and the man’s face.  Want to capture things like the trip to the park today.  Evidently Elle had a great time although other dogs had to teach her proper manners.  And she was the instigator of big trouble.  When Bob got to the off-leash park with Elle, all the dogs were sniffing around this giant muddy puddle.  Elle went bounding into the middle of it and other dogs followed her example.  Bob professed not to know the dog for a moment or so; but was outed by the dog and other owners.


    Wait…how did this picture sneak into the group.

    Guess the cat’s don’t want to be left out.  Wouldn’t the dog Elle look wonderful with that cat’s coloring.  Cats are on my brain right now, all three of them are going crazy in the living room because of a new infusion of catnip.  They all love it when I put some down on their scratching post.  Its interesting to watch the pecking order arise.  Sally is definitely in charge of catnip.  No one questions it, especially not the other two cats.  She took one look at Emily who quietly snuck off in shame to wait her turn.


    Monday night random thoughts, politics included

    Right now I’m finally listening to Bill Clinton’s DNC 2012 speech.  Its been described as one of the greatest political speeches as good as President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.  I would agree.  I like this speech, I am inspired.  He’s a great spokesman and has a way of making words work.

    Disclaimers first – I am a staunch democrat.  I believe in supporting our communities and that most of us are only a paycheck or two away from poverty; perhaps homelessness.  So the republican speeches about doing things by yourself don’t resonate for me.  I’ve been homeless (albeit with some support) and I’ve been so broke that going to a doctor was unthinkable.  I’ve had people tell me that I can’t be trusted to pay my bills because I’m a student and I’ve been turned down for WIC (women, infants, and children) because I  chose “voluntary poverty” as a graduate student.  Help from others – my family, the schools, my friends, and our government have all made it possible for me to get through tough times.  I need the bigger community to help me through the tough times.

    One of the themes that captured my attention is that it is better to work together than by ourselves.  “We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.””

    I like working together and I like a safety net.  But enough politics; your welcome to make your own opinion.  But if you want something as entertaining (perhaps more) than  Netflix, take a look at his speech.  And then for grins go look at Ann Romney’s and Michelle Obama’s speech.  That is good entertainment.  I watched them both, it will take you less than an hour to do the same.  Tell me what you think after watching both.  There are differences.

    Other than politics, always a sore subject; life goes on. Rode to work today.  WOW, having decent weather is great.  For the first time in months, I made it to work without being totally covered in sweat.  It was nice, I enjoyed the ride and only had to stop once going over the really bad hill.

    One last story today.  I’ve hung the first couple of art class projects up at work for everyone to see.  Ok—to be honest, only those who come by my cubicle can see the projects.  One is the gray scales and the other is a line drawing of some toys from my desk.  In class, everyone said—what is that thing?  At work people said – oh, that’s the little giraffe; where is it, it’s not on your desk?  Now to be fair, the giraffe was headless, I ran out of room on the paper.  But the reactions are still very interesting.  My coworkers do notice the toys left on the desk.  And they were pleased to see my work. After all, this is a place where people pride them selves on advanced degrees.  To have someone taking pride in getting an AA in art is unusual.  It’s something to talk about and something people can tease me about.  I don’t mind; it’s nice.  I assume that means they like me as a co-worker.  And that makes me happy.

    By the way — thank you Liz for calling.  I liked hearing your voice.  And Maggie, thanks for the photo, its looks beautiful and I’m jealous of your adventures.  Mom.

    Cages, Gardens, Friends, and Kids

    cages for college students
    Captured College Students Dec 2011

    Today was a great day.  Did lots of good things and  even made progress on my paper mache projects.  But was having a hard time thinking about a blog post.  why, I’m not sure.   No, I know why, because writing the blog post is like getting ready for bed.  It’s the end of the day and I’m finishing things up.  Don’t want to finish things up; it was a 3 day weekend; but I want MORE TIME.  Always want more time even though I do enjoy work.  And that is a wonderful thing.  If I hated my job; life would be horrible.

    So I went looking for blog inspiration and found it in a couple of great places.  First was Maggie’s blog at  Saw that she had a great time and was going to bed.  I’m glad to hear that; I want to hear the details.  But how can I expect her to provide details if I don’t do my part and write back?  It is interesting this method of communication.  Both of us are basically writing for ourselves as well as others.  It’s a reflection on the good parts of our day for the most part.  But I’ve seen lots of pop psychology that says you should look at the good parts of every day; how can you understand what is good without looking at the good parts.  Anyway, I like Maggie’s post and so I write my own. They make me happy as well, I’m a writer something that has taken me years to accept.

    The second inspiration was looking at my collection of blog photos.  These are a collection of really interesting events and photos which I’m going to use as a cheat.  When I don’t know what to say or am too tired (usually Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights); then you’ll get  a photo.  Today your lucky; you get a photo and a blog post.  The picture from last December shows a group of college students (Maggie, Josh, Ping and Liz) who made a geodesic dome for me from newspaper.  This was going to be a Middle school project for my engineering club.  But we never got to that project. Instead, the four kids — no strike that — the four young adults had a wonderful evening figuring out how to make a clubhouse from newspaper and staples.  Note that I had done the rolling of the little rods earlier.  It still took them 1.5 hours to make the clubhouse.  And there in the photo you see them all.

    By the way, I ran into Kathy Sims; the front desk lady at Vista Magnet Middle School.  She said the engineering club was a great success this year despite my absence.  Evidently the parents like running it and there are a couple of young science teachers (Mr. McGreggor and a new one) who like the idea of having club that supplements science class. Since NGC gives a grant with minimal strings (i.e. has to be spent in engineering club on engineering related stuff); they get to play.  It’s not hard to justify projects; successful or unsuccessful.  The real key is learning by doing something.

    Well this morning, I got to play at being the leader for my local Labyrinth group.  We met at 9 am to do the gardening needed to keep the labyrinth nice.  It was fun, I like this group of people.  They are friendly, warm, and accepting.  You don’t need to pass a morality or ideology test to be accepted.  I was surprised when Peggy asked me to cover for her.  One of the nice things about this group is that I don’t have to be a leader.  But I was flattered and pleased.  On reflection, I think she was telling me that I am accepted as a member of the group and could rely on me to be there.  Amazing considering I’ve only been to a couple of her events.  But sometimes you just know when things are working well.  I’ve met some great people who probably will become good friends over time. One person, Marianne, would like to make a large garden paper mache elephant with me.  That sounds like fun — something we can do after VIFT is finished in November.  We can actually make herd — the difference in work between 1 and several more is not that large.  It all takes time.

    We wanted the labyrinth to look great and it does.  Next weekend there is a celebration of the solstice at the Alta Vista Gardens.   I’ll be working at the labyrinth entrance from 2:30 to 4:00 pm.   They put in a new lawn by a pagoda for this event.  There will be at least three different musical groups playing, yoga, and what promises to be a huge labyrinth walk at the end of the evening.  Sounds like fun; I’m looking forward to this event.  All in celebration of the solstice. Lots of great stuff happening, check out the link if you want to see what the events are.

    Spent some time today working on VIFT.  Mr. Ewell tells me there are bands registered who do not have any supporting documentation.  I’ve checked with the treasurer to see if there is a record of these checks getting deposited.  If yes, then I’m going to have to write to a couple of schools and get information.  Will let you know.  We decided to create a new position this year — pre vift work.  Actually Leslie Casie, the vift volunteer coordinator, had some other great title.  Basically the job is doing the paper work (programs, forms, announcements, badges, directors packages, and lots of other stuff).  Great job for someone who can’t work at that tournament.  Guess I have to start working on all the permits and things.  Yuck.  But I did sign up for this task voluntarily so have to do the work.  And it’s interesting learning how to run a project.  Am putting it in my resume as a job skill — title is VIFT DIRECTOR; job is program management to throw a party for over 10,000 people with 1000+ performers, using only volunteers.  Hard work.

    Did get to do some good stuff this afternoon.  Worked on my paper mache having finished the homework yesterday from art class.  Decided I do NOT like tempura paints for my artwork.  The quality is too cheap and I am not satisfied with the colors.  So bought some spray paint and started finishing projects with the first coat of paint.  Got a vase, a picture frame, a southwest box, and the rome box almost finished.  Repainted the dragon cat for the third time. This is it, that cat will get finished good or bad and I’m afraid the bad wins.

    Well I’m tired and need to start getting stuff ready for tomorrow.  I’m planning on riding my bike to work.  Lots of fun; but time consuming.  And I need to get things ready — clothes for work; empty the back pack; check the bike lights, and find the bike lock.  Although if i left it behind, could save a pound by simply putting the bike into my cubicle. Has a certain appeal.

    Liz– haven’t talked with you in weeks.  Hope all is going well with you.  How did the career fair go?  How are your classes?  Are you cooking your meals or getting them from the cafeteria?  Lots of questions.  Pop me an email sometime when you get a chance.

    Maggie — update that blog; I’m eagerly waiting details on your canoe trip.

    Long Day, what did I learn?

    Long day and I’m tired.  But still I learned a Few things

    • Don’t wear your good light blue shirt to an art class when your using graphite.  It gets dirty.
    • One has to say hello to the Dog and THE CAT before going to the bathroom when getting home late.
    • Sleep is a wonderful and needed thing.
    • Lack of sleep, no dinner, and PMS make for a grumpy Robine.

    Let the blog wars begin

    Ok, Maggie was first.  She started a blog about her life as an intern in the forests of MN near Ely.  Its sounds like so much fun although the work is very hard.  That inspired me to start a blog, something I’ve been thinking about doing for the last year. After all, turning 50 was great. I’ve been enjoying exploring different aspects of my life and my creative skills.  Now Bob is trying to cause trouble by encouraging us to have a blog war.  I don’t think so, just being able to keep a blog going is going to be hard enough. But since I’m enjoying a chance to live vicariously through Maggie’s posts of life as an intern up in the woods of MN near Ely, I’ll try to give her and the rest of you a chance to hear about my life and thoughts.

    Since both Bob and I have been feeling a bit under the weather, we’ve been doing little on this beautiful holiday weekend. As long as I don’t move much and don’t eat, everything is fine.  Lots of Perrier — bottles and bottles of the stuff — help as well.  Of course it’s not environmentally sound to drink this, with small plastic bottles sent from France, but I’m going to be bad.  Perhaps I’ll make another chess set from the bottles.  Speaking of the chess set (my first sold piece of art); found some pictures yesterday when I downloaded the camera images.  Below is a good picture of the pieces.  And I’ll include the written description for your amusement below.

    Hannibal’s Army Chess Set


    Hannibal and Elephants Chess Set

             Set up a chess arena in your own home.  Extra large chess pieces revisit the days of Hannibal and his elephants.  Thrill to advancing armies as elephants, bishops, and warrior knights crush pawns to capture the king and queen of the Roman Empire.  Can be enjoyed in the luxury of your living room or even outside for a more authentic experience.

    Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca, lived between 247 and 183 BC.  He was Punic Carthaginian military commander who fought against the Roman Empire.    Known as a brilliant tactician; Hannibal marched armies with war elephants from Iberia over the Alps and into Italy where he conquered and ruled for over 15 years.  Considered the greatest tactician in European History by men such as Napoleon Bonaparte, he had many victories against the Roman Empire.  Eventually betrayed, Hannibal committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans.

    This oversized chess set is a unique art piece.  A one of a kind set, the pieces were created by hand using Perrier Bottles and Paper Mache.  It is painted in Black, White, and Red; classical chess colors that are also Vista High School Colors.  The chessboard, crafted from the highest quality canvas and ribbon, can be used for many purposes including chess, picnics, and a cover at VHS Football Games.