Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry, Happy & Joyful

Just bit of musing on the season. I'm enjoying this holiday more than usual. Maybe it's a result of my finally admitting that I am retired, instead of simply unemployed.  G'vment says my benefits are expired, so that means I'm off the statistical rolls. So... retired. Meanwhile, I have noticed that the usual Xmas music that saturates the airwaves hasn't set off my irritation meter. I'm humming along and making up the words as I go. This year I'm taking the time to notice things, to take pleasure in the efforts of stores and neighbors to make the season bright.  I like all the sparkle and glitter, the lights and ribbons. I even like the blow-up snow globes. They are so totally over the top, but they make me smile. It's like Las Vegas. Of course it's not natural, but that's the point. They are a talisman for happiness in this season. 
Thus, I hope to extend my happiness to all of my friends and family, with a wish that it spreads like ripples on a pond.  I wish you moments of sheer delight, of warmth in your hearts, of contentment at the end of the day.  May you have the gift of time to enjoy the world around you, and pleasure in little things, to make you smile.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, & Joy to the World. 
All my love, Elaine

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Ombre Basket

This is the first basket I've started after the lovely workshop with Carolyn Zeitler.  Her infinite patience and gracious teaching are inspirational and I look forward to a long and creative connection to her. 

This photo shows the top wrapping, and a little of the shaded coloring, from black to sable needles.  (Thus the name - "Ombre Basket")

I started with Canary Island Pine needles that are darker than the ones shown on the left (you can see the difference between dyed and undyed needles). This batch of needles is the transition or middle of the basket. The needles on the right are the ones used at the top of the basket. The tips of the needles absorbed the black dye more than the shaft, so the basket has a continuous spiral of the black on the outside.  A little aside: I look at the coloring of the dark sable needles, and wish just a little that my hair was that deep, rich, brown-to-black. It's yummy!
This is how the basket looks when you start. This is a full day's work. The beginning is the most difficult, and for the basket itself, the most important work, for as it begins, so it will follow.  (Yes grasshopper, keep stitching.) 

Now you can see the early stages of the basket, where I am changing from the pure black needles to the deepest sable. This is about day 3. 
I work on this a little here and a little there, as time permits.  The baskets may be the "final straw" in driving me to install better lighting over my favorite chair. I like working while the idiot box is on, but it's so dark... 

Here is the start of the finish, where I am wrapping the needles with raffia.  I'm not sure exactly how I will end it, but I'm up to three rows of wrapping so far. I may need to get a curved upholstery needle soon.

You can see a little of the inside of the basket, and the three rows of wrapping. The basket is not as large as I envisioned in the beginning, and I believe I understand why. (I started coming "up" too soon!)

Working on this basket is a joy. I feel centered and calm after stitching for a while, and watching the progress brings a smile to my face.  Carolyn Z. plans out her marvelous baskets, but I seem to have a more organic streak in me, as the baskets I work on all seem to have a mind of their own, and the outcome is frequently not what I had planned. 

Perhaps as I practice the new-found techniques I will become more disciplined, ... or not. 

Addendum: I left the basket on the table overnight, and my furry little devils chewed most of the trailing pine needles off.  Not a tragedy, as I can add more needles back, but a reminder that nothing is sacred in ART.  Four-footed art critics.  Hummph. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pretty, Shiny, Sparkly... Stuff

I confess to that very popular affliction that seems to touch many creative people, although I am not sure if I am ADD or ADHD or dyslexic or whatever.  (At this stage of my life, it really doesn't matter, does it?)
Distracted by things that sparkle or are shiny or move, I can lose thoughts faster than the blink of an eye. With that said, I also claim that this "affliction" helped drive the creative force within me, so that I found alternate methods to achieve what I wanted to create. Seeing things slightly out of the usual, grasping for the chaotic, I find pleasure in the edges of beauty. Perhaps I will always be "three degrees off plumb", but it works for me.
My earlier artwork has incorporated bits and pieces of shiny metals, sparkly papers and found objects. I now believe that I've stumbled upon something that can take what I've learned before and translate it into more "pretty, shiny, sparkly" things. 

Recently, I have become involved in a class that explores glass and metal design. I'm having a ball. Glass fusing, metal shaping, and soon, enameling are all part of it, and I look forward to each class with anticipation. I've made new friends, and look forward to the time when we continue the teaching of the class on our own time, perhaps collaborating with each other to create new things. I've already learned from them, and hope that I've given back some too. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Indian Summer

 I am always surprised at how much I enjoy Autumn. It's early morning; I woke at 6:15 and tiptoed into the family room to have coffee and a quiet read with the cats while Jim slept. 
 The backyard is slowly revealed as the sky lightens, and I can see the leaves scattered over the grass and patio. It's time to start raking leaves to pile up for compost and mulch.

A week has gone by since the party, and I am still basking in the warmth of accomplishment. It's a small thing, but I take pleasure where I can, and laugh at myself for the omissions and errors that occur. I meant to take photographs of the event, and other than the shot of the first delightful little guest, nothing more was done. No one else did either, so it will only live in memory, which might not be too bad after all.

The other fun I'm having: a jewelry class and blues harmonica lessons. Four Sundays of listening to Mick Martin ramble on about blues harmonica, and some tips on playing for a couple of hours. He has a rich history stuffed into his brain, and knows the players, the events and so much more.  I can play part of "Low Rider" now. Just part. Won't disgrace myself by trying to play at parties yet...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Working On Art, Working On Life. Not There Yet...

Family, Friends and Welcome Readers:
A friend posted this on Facebook, and I read it with that incredible feeling of excitement I get when I come across something that resonates in my soul. Ira Glass has nailed it.
I'm still working on things, on art, on life.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Patio Project is Finished...

 The patio project is finished, or at least the cement part of the cobblestone pavers. We are now adding some fill dirt to the edges and starting to plant ground
cover to landscape. This has taken three of our summers to complete, and I will never watch the DIY channel again and think "Oh that looks easy, I can do that". 
However, it is soooo worth it. I love the look, and it has that air of very old cobblestone streets, a bit uneaven (no 4" spike heels please) and worn.  We acquired a table and chairs from some friends and have discovered that there is a lovely breeze that crosses the yard there.  It's nicer than the little patio off the family room.

Now we are starting to take care of the rest of the yard, which was sadly neglected this summer in favor of the cement work. Think we will have a party in October to celebrate.  Brats on the BBQ, beer in the cooler and Bocce Ball on the meadow/lawn. Wheeee.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Red Shoes

There is something about a pair of red shoes that uplifts my spirits and makes me smile. I am ready to invent an occasion to wear them, to prance around and grin until my dimples ache.  Is there love in red shoes, or just the illusion of romance?  Happy dance for feet!

The miracle of current internet shopping has made a chore (one that formerly brought me to tears) a pleasant prospect. With this delight, I currently have two new pairs of shoes that fit my odd-duck feet, one the pictured in red, and a lovely black suede in the same style.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pavers, Cobblestones and Cement Mixers

The Great Patio Project is nearing the finish. It's taken three summers, instead of the foolishly estimated "couple of weekends" (Curse you, DIY channel)...  We have only a couple more rows of paving stones to cast and place, and individual cobbles (?) to cast along the edges.

Would we do the same if we only knew???  Accorting to my beloved husband, uh - NO!  Would we be able to find anything that would be similar commercially, probably not. The patio is unique, and I really like how it looks, although we will have to come up with a solution for the edge, as I am not completely happy with what I used to edge it (composition board, like "Trex".)  

We will be celebrating our project's completion sometime after Labor Day (appropriate, eh?)  BB-Q fired up, meat on the grill, Bocce Ball and Croquet in the backyard. Hammocks will be hung, and chairs scattered under the trees.  Last days of summer...

Summer's Swift Passage

Summer is flying by, and we have only a few weeks to call it our own before the appearance of Autumn. I had the pleasure of taking part in a "Plein-Air Paintout" as part of the California State Fair here in Sacramento, where about 35 artists spent two days painting in public at the fair. We then presented our work in the art section for comment, ridicule, awards and general viewing. These are the pieces that I completed.  The top work is of the stairs leading to the Raging Waters waterslide, as seen from the Forest section of the fairgrounds. Kids haul huge floats up the wooden stairs, and then jump into a slide/tube, and scream until they come out the end, splashing into a pool. Fun... right?
 These are the view I chose for the other painting. The one on the left is the composition "test" I did after scouting the fairgrounds a few days earlier, and the one on the right is the one I did for presentation. Left is pallet knife, the right is brushwork.  I sat under the shade of huge redwood trees, at picnic benches, in a lovely setting.      
I was amused to find that the people who talked to me were generally kids, who asked: "What are you doing?", as if they had never seen anyone paint before, (a sad comment on the arts in schools, no?)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Roses and Apple - (oils/pallet knife ) Painting at Hildas

It's been a busy few days. Had a lovely painting session with an artist friend, worked on those pavers that have been hanging around for multiple seasons, set up some activities for August (a basket-making workshop with an incredible instructor) and did the normal household chores that are always around. Since I have a guest coming (actually two this month) I actually ironed pillowcases and freshened up the room. I can't believe I actually did that (ironing sheets), but Martha Stewart must have taken over my brain for a little while. I'll do an exorcism later to make sure she doesn't take up permanent residence.
We've had a strange summer with the garden, but are still harvesting green beans, those pale green scalloped squash, corn, some (small) tomaotes and zucchini.  The corn is so sweet when it's fresh picked and thrown into the boiling water.  I can eat 2 or more ears by myself. Nom nom nom.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Plum and Apricot Tart

This was the best tart I've ever made. Classic frangipane and fruit filling, with fruit from our trees. Added some of my favorite spice mix, Divine Desserts from Pollen Ranch. Yummmmm. I'm keeping this recipe and looking for more fresh fruit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Plums from the Garden, Small Oil Study (8x10)

Plums today, maybe apricots soon. So, 2nd week, 2nd painting. This might be a nice little series of fruits and vegetables, the bounty from the garden. Hmmm. Green beans?  Patty pan squash? It's a thought. No painting today, had to be a plumber. Such is life. At least the temp. stayed below 100 degrees. Lots of visitors and plans for the month of July.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Magnolia Leaf Study

So this morning, I slipped out of bed, started the coffee and went into the studio to paint. I'm trying to limber up the skills so that I can participate in a plein-air paint-out at the California State Fair in July  (oops, I'd better get that application into the mail quickly...)  It's over a weekend, and any work completed will be exhibited. Of course, any artist working will be an exhibit all their own, and better be ok with people offering advise, or wanting to talk about their grandchild's fingerpaints that show genius.
So, this is the first of the studies meant to get me in shape.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where Do the Mornings Go?

Intention: finish emptying dishwasher, put breakfast dishes in the washer and head out to do some garden work.  9 AM

Reality: Emptied the dishwasher, put in breakfast dishes, and started to wipe down stove. Noticed that the fan screens were a "bit" dirty. Took them out. GROSS!  OK, I hadn't cleaned them since before I took the temp job with VZW last September, and time just slipped away. In face, many of the "deep" cleaning jobs around here were shuffled aside during that intense 7 months.

The screens were saturated with grease, which is no surprise, since my beloved hubby has been making popcorn lately, and while he cleans up his mess (mostly) those aren't even a speck on his horizon. 

I started with dish washing detergent, grabbed a toothbrush (they are aluminum mesh, and a bit fragile) and started in. Mmm, no go, or at least not really fast.  Dug around for the Goo Gone, and it's down to it's last little bit, and the sprayer doesn't work well.  Fetched the Dissolve-It from the garage-laundry area and dragged the rolling stool to the sink. 

Gaack. There is an impossibly large amount of stuff that those screens hold, and it kept coming out.  Once started, in to the finish on this, so I kept running hot hot hot water and spraying them down, gently brushing all the while.   Now they are clean. Finally. I re-inserted them under the hood, and wiped down all the surfaces with the last of the Goo Gone. Cleaned up the nasty mess in the sink, and put my kitchen back in some semblance of order. Now it's 11am. My hands are pruned, and the morning is almost gone, the temp outside is warmer. Oh well. Will water the plants I was going to set up irrigation and pick a few weeds for good measure. 

Maybe tomorrow?  Naaaah.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Plein Air Painting at Pt. Arena

 Here are a couple of small paintings I did last week off the cliffs at Pt. Arena, near the lighthouse. I used a limited palette suggested by Terry Miura, not much more than this:
ultramarine, ivory black, cad yellow light/lemon pale (I can't read the tube anymore), cad red light, transparent red oxide (he calls it magic brown...), white, cerulean, and yellow ochre

I decided to limit the colors I use for a while, although I am going to play with Sarback's colors this summer. I'm thinking that using her method of underpainting warms and cools will work for a number of things.
The day I was painting the lighthouse, the wind was blowing so fiercely, that I taped and tied and bungee'd everything down, and started roughing in the composition. Jim stayed in the car to read where it was warm (don't blame him). After about 40-50 minutes, I had the "bones" but realized that the wind was so strong, I couldn't keep my hand steady, so I packed up my kit, and took my frozen fingers back to the cabin, and painted on the sheltered porch. It's amazying what a row of cypress as a windbrake can do for temperature and wind speed!

I am going to pick a day this week and set up my paints for another session. Might also try to drop by an open studio and do some figure painting as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back from the Coast

This was a journey colored by blues and greens, with splashes of every other color to accent it. Every day along this rocky, dramatic coast was different, and the blues changes with the passing of the hours.  These are not friendly beaches, with miles of sparkling-sugar sands. These are jagged teeth and crushing waves that hammer and pull and grind. For all of this, it is breath-taking. For all of this, I am pulled to stand along the cliffs and watch, mesmerized by the drama and power.                 
Jim and I had a chance to tour the Botanical Gardens outside of Ft. Bragg. The rhododendruns are in full glory right now - I've never seen them like this before. If I lived up here in the northern coastal area I would be here frequently. to walk and paint and just feast on the variety and richness of the plantings.

Will post the plein air paintings I did soon, and more photos. Need a nap right now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The bowl in the lower right corner is salad for dinner. We are eating fresh greens now, with onion blossoms and herbs added. The flavors are bright and intense.  You can see how much things have grown in just two weeks. (Scroll to previous post. Even though is is a different tree, the plants went in on the same day.)

Last night I had enough fresh greens to feed seven friends for dinner. This makes all the work we've put into the garden worth every sore muscle and broken fingernail. The only good thing about the cold and rainy weather that we have had this last week (record breaking cold for May, coldest in the last 100 years) is that the lettuces are thriving.  They love cold weather.

And about thriving, I am enjoying my free days again. The job ended about 10 days ago, and I've been pouring my time into the garden, house, and a massive cleanup project. Catching up on routine  doctor visits (yes, yes, my labs are all good: cholesterol, sugars, blood pressure, etc.) and getting more exercise/activity.  I have already dropped a few pounds and am feeling great. 

I learned from this last session at work: don't think that you have lots of time to do/finish/accomplish things. Life happens, and things come up that create roadblocks to the successful completion of projects. So, I've put completing things up in my high priority lists, if that makes sense.

So, even though the weather outside is nasty, I'm feeling pretty good, and overall in a great place.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the Garden, Crisis with Marlee

Renewal of spirit: quiet time in the garden, contemplating life and things growing, thinking about the meaning of this and that.. with muddy gloves and the sounds of birds, the sun on my back.

Planted all the things I brought home from the nursery last week, started the drip system, pulled weeds. Pulled more weeds. Oh, and pulled some weeds. Sitting down for a break, looking at what we managed to accomplish in the space of two weeks: it looks like someone cares about our yard. That someone is a bit haphazard, but still cares. That someone has to pull some more weeds. (WHO watered all those weeds this winter??? I wanna know... Did they have to fertilize them?)

Jim took the rototiller to a patch where I planted two zucchinis, and will add corn next weekend. Squash and corn. I read somewhere that they do well together. We will see.

In the middle of today, I took Marlee (silver tabby) to the vet. She had started favoring her left hind foot last night, and it seemed worse today. The vet says that she has a something something kneecap/patella. Said it shows up before the end of the first year in small dogs like Pomeranians. I had to break it to Marlee that she might be a Pom... The kneecap slides out of it's groove, and the leg goes wobbly, and probably hurts like hell. There is an operation for that. Not too horrible as far as operations go (according to the vet), and ONLY about $1,500. It will come and go for the rest of Marlee's life, and cause nasty arthritis. Glucosamine supplements. Ironic, not funny, that a woman with two bad knees facing knee surgery adopts a cat who needs knee surgery.. and supplements.

After I brought her back home - without surgery or anything else but the exam and the diagnosis, (at least no worse for the wear), and she headed for the nearest hidey-hole, I headed back to the garden. When there is nothing that I can do, when I feel at a loss, digging in the garden helps. It soothes, and somehow takes some of the sting out of feeling helpless.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring - Glorious Spring

I've spend the last two days in the garden, finally starting to feel like winter is really over. I've planted, weeded, shoveled, hauled, raked, spaded, watered, and there seems to be some progress. Both the citrus trees are in the raised boxes that Jim built for me, and various herbs, flowers and vegetables planted as well.  The two citrus are a Myers Lemon and a Buddah Hand.  (That's the strange yellow one). In addition, I've put in: 

Lettuce (oak leaf, butter and mesclun mix) Italian flat and curley parsley, lemon verbena, armenian cucumbers, tomatoes, basil- sweet and thai, marigolds, sweet allyssum, nasturtiums (I eat the flowers in salads) raspberrys, epazote, bush beans (green beans). Will put in corn and zucchini after Jim roto-tills the bed.

I am a bit tired.. no, let's revise that: I am VERY tired. We still managed to

put in time shopping for a canopy, a battery for my motor scooter, do three loads of laundry, (Jim removed the drive/line from his old Chevy Truck), go to the nursery to BUY all those plants and some other mundane stuff like feeding ourselves. I suspect I'm going to be relieved to go back to work tomorrow.  I've had a marvelous weekend, and there are no complaints. 
Funny/interesting things that happened:  While turning over the compost in the bin, a small grey mouse hopped through one of the vent holes, startling me and hopping away. We don't see many mice around here with all the cats, so it was a bit unusual.  I just stared at it, so by that time, I must have been hitting my limit. 

The second thing: while planting the raspberry canes my friend gave me, I unearthed one of the tiny little snakes that live around here. The photo at left is larger than life-sized.  "My" snake (sharp tailed snake) is skinnier than a pencil, and I saw one or two last year. I carefully covered it up again and hoped that I hadn't injured it. The frogs around here are bigger than it is. It moves very slow and if you didn't notice that it actually has a head, you would think it was a long skinny earthworm. We have worms that are about the same size (very very healthy soil!)...

So, next weekend: work on the watering systems (get them in place before the hot weather hits) and plant corn and squash.  Trim trees, pull weeds. tidy up neglected areas. Jim will probably mow during the week, and both of us will be putting in time in the late afternoon (after work for me...)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wine and Snow

Take 9 friends, add a 60th birthday celebration, and transport the party into the California foothills for a wine and food tasting, and you have an event that promises to be fun. Oh, add snow. SNOW??? Wait, that wasn't on the dance-card. All the rain that Northern California has been getting translated into snow in the high-country vineyards.  The limo was a bit of a let-down, more on that later.

The rows of vines, bare and stark against the new snow was breath-taking.  Or, maybe it was the temperature...crisp and cold-cold-cold!  We all looked like steam engines walking from one building to another.  I happily discovered that new snow makes snowballs that burst apart when coming in contact with winter coats and hats. No fair hiding behind your wife when you are a target, someone else will get you! 

While waiting in line for the ladies room, (a good place for social interactions...) I started talking with Holly, (The Holly of Holly's Hill Winery) and asked if there would be any objection to my coming back to paint when the weather was more conducive to being out doors, and she was delighted at the idea. Artists and wine are a natural pairing, almost as good as Abalone and Viognier! Here the vines nestle among pines and oaks of the foothills, instead of the lower elevation vinyards of Napa and Sonoma.  The differences in the grapes caused by varying soils and growing conditions could take a lifetime to learn. 

Meanwhile, the story of the limo may have to wait for another posting. The new "improved" editor won't let me add any more photos, so I think I will back away, and return to post another day, to paraphrase a long lost quote.  Taaa Taaa

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Pair of Ravens

Standing at the kitchen sink, peeling the skins off a package of chicken thighs, I had a flashback to a time when I lived in the mountains below Yosemite (probably around 1995). There was a mated pair of beautiful ravens that lived along the stretch of Hwy 140, along the Merced river, and I saw or heard them regularly. Their raucous cries echoed off the canyon walls, and they took to sitting in the Oracle Oak outside the cabin. (An Oracle Oak is not a place where a seer in skirts and bells sits for clients, but rather an unusual cross between a Black Oak and a Live Oak, mostly found in the Sierras of Northern CA.).

One day, while cooking, I went to toss the chicken skins in the wood stove, and discovered the stove was cold. I heard Heckle and Jeckle in the tree outside, and decided to see if they would like the skins.  I tossed some up into the tree, and they hopped down to check it out.  What a racket they made.  They played with those skins, tossing them around and then flew off, skins in their beaks. 

Since they are (among other things) carion eaters, didn't think the raw meat would disturb anything.  More fun than road kill!.  H & J were back within 10 minutes. They sat in the tree and "talked" to me for about a half hour before I relented and tossed the rest of the skins up into the oak.  Again, the game of catch and they were off.   They must have known that they were the last of it, as they didn't return that day.

A week or so later, I started another chicken, and was startled to hear the two of them outside, squawking and hooting like a couple of teenagers.  I set aside the chicken skin, and went outside to play with these incredibly intelligent birds. 

Over the course of a couple of years, these two came to visit, somehow seeming to know when there might be treats, and on those occasions that there were none, talked, chatted, hopped and danced in the tree, letting me know they were there.  I could sit outside on the bench, and they kept me company for hours, acting like clowns, flying away, playing what looked like a game of tag, landing in the oak, and starting all over again.  I could watch the sunlight flash off their wings, blue and black streaks of light. They are magnificent, awesome creatures, and I took great pleasure in the short time I had them in my life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Play Dates Aren't Just for Kids.

Had a lovely afternoon with some friends, playing with ribbons, glue, stamps, ink, glitter... all the wonderful things that remind me of a day in kindergarten.  We were making Valentines, and talking, drinking tea and wine, eating wonderful little bits and pieces of yummy stuff. (OF COURSE chocolate was included).  

This time we spent was away from chores, work, family dramas, and all the cares that hang over our heads during "at home time".  Melinda, the hostess of the day had a collection of family Valentines, dating back almost (my guess) a hundred years.  There were a number of those wonderful pop-up scenes that belonged to Melinda's mother, and lots of things that the family made over a long period of time.

Home made Valentines, something that we miss these days.  These days, there is no time. No time for playing, no time for silly little creative projects that allow each of us to go into our fantasy worlds.

I know that I need the time to escape to that world, and gathering with friends to do something creative, or a project that keeps hands busy while we talk is a way for me to rejuvenate my spirit and my imagination.  It lets my subconscious connect with the deep river of creative drive that heals, that uplifts my sense of life, and inspires me to other creative works. It also keeps me going when I don't  have much time to dive into things like painting.