Monday, December 30, 2013

Thoughts Regarding The Past 364 Days

It's not quite time for Resolutions but I have been thinking about changes (improvements) I would like to make in the coming year.

Time.   I think I have to find a better way to spend the time I have.  Not fill it with clutter (things that do not make me smile).  Like second jobs.  Set aside time for art.  Set aside time for reading.  Set aside time for cleaning (yes, cleaning makes me smile).  Organizing makes me smile also.  Weird, huh?

Life.   Here I have to start making better choices when it comes to what I eat and how I move through my days.  I need to add the daily 3 mile walk that I had for Riley's early years.  Once G retired, I stopped being "the one who walks the dog" and I gained weight.  Simple.  Now G walks the dog. I need to re-introduce myself to the Pilates machine and my Yoga mat.

Importance.   Prioritizing the things I do.  I did far too many things (this year) that made me unhappy. On Saturday I helped a customer create a terrarium in an old fish tank.  In a touch of whimsy we added a goldfish plant to the other four foliage plants in the tank.  Teaching.  That is where my heart truly is.

Family & Friends.  When you get right down to basics, family and friends is where the rubber meets the road.  Without them--well, life doesn't have many smiles.  I need to be more "available" to both. Set aside the time to do things with them--even a walk-- and take the time to listen and hear what they have to say.  Both of my children are experiencing difficulty right now.  Searching for something that makes them happy and productive.   I haven't made time for friends I used to lunch with.  They have been patient.  Waiting for me.  I need to make sure I open my schedule for them.  They do make me happy.  I have missed them during this "seasonal" over work.

Choices.  Now that I have this one "bucket list" job out of my system (2 working days left)--and I have to say the shine is definitely off that job--- I can now enjoy my winter furlough from my full time job which ended Saturday.  I have two full days off.  Today and tomorrow. Working New Year's Day.  Next week I am FULLY unemployed.

I am going to be far more careful in choosing what I do in 2014.  I want time for my garden.  I want time for my friends.  I want time to finish work in the sewing room (mending clothing, dog toys and finishing an old friend's quilt top).  I don't want to walk around exhausted.  I want to be well rested, smiling and engaged in life.  I don't want to be moving from point A to point B--just waiting for the days to go by.  That's not living.  Too much of that in December.

And, I want to be able to post more often, here, and actually have something entertaining for you to read and look at.  We'll be moving forward on the kitchen.  Perhaps a bathroom or two (why not do them both).  Riley will have his picture taken a time or two.  I have no idea what surprises await in 2014.  I do know I am looking forward to them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

After Christmas Art Class

The first step--pencil drawing (very simple and loose) of the subject.  Use your eraser.  Just get the basic shapes into the paper.   Here it's the terra-cotta pot, center stem and branches.

Here I have started coloring the terra-cotta with a variety of brown, tan and orange pencils.  My paper was more textured than I wanted (or is good) and the soft pencil lines didn't smoosh together as I would like.  Try for a smooth card stock if you try this at home.  I think I bought the pencil set at Staples.  So, this is easy to supply.

Here is the pot filled in.  I over-color in layers of different pencil tones.  You'll notice the little sun drawn up in the top left corner.  I put that there to remind me of where the light (sun) is so all the shadows will be on the opposite side.  There is nothing more annoying (to the viewer of your art) than scattered darks without purpose.  I also added the stem.  A dark line on the right and a lighter pencil color on the left.  A simple way to give the line volume.

Here is a sample of the stem line.  The dark on the right, the lighter brown on the left.  I started adding the needles.

Here is a diagram of needle placement.  Start at bottom and then sort of shoot your pencil upward to make a needle.  Look at your "model"  (a little tree from the greenhouse or a branch from your Christmas Tree) and notice how the needles grow.  Around the branch in a spiral.  So try and replicate that, but simpler (less) and space them out so you can go back and use another color of green (or two) to add depth.  The lighter color adds sparkle.

As you can see in this close up of the needles, I have lighter colored pencil marks closer to the little pencil "sun"  and darker needles where the "sun don't shine" as much.  The stem also needs needles so remember to add them.  At the very bottom you can see one spear shaped leaf.  This is the original "baby" leaf for this little Norfolk pine.  I colored it as I did the stem.  One side (right) darker than the left (light) to give the little leaf some shape and volume.

This is a very forgiving project.  Oh- I filled in the pot with "dirt" of various darker browns.  Leaving little white spaces for the perlite that is in the mix I use.  In other years, I collected mosses to top the soil and that made the picture interesting.  I think I used three different mosses I found in the woods.

In general, a very good artistic tip is to use, one, three or five of anything.  Odd numbers.  So if you only find one kind of moss--fine.  But don't use two.  Try and find a third one.  Odd numbers "read" better to the human EYE.  This is true of bouquets and perennial beds also.  1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 etc. ( it may even be true of children and husbands (1, 3, 5))  In the drawing above - only one baby leaf--but generally baby (seed) leaves come in two.

Now, go find some smooth card stock, sharpen any colored pencils you have, get a plain lead pencil, an eraser ( I like the white ones) and then find a "model".  Like I said--a snippet off the Christmas tree.  Roll your shoulders. Relax.  Draw.  Color.  You can do it.  Just like Kindergarten.  If it's awful?  Turn the paper over and start again.  Each time we try--we learn from the previous mistakes.

When I make a series of 10 of these, all the same tree, I can see where I learned from the first ones. Where I goofed.  What worked.  Same with those Doodle Trees.  As the work progressed they got better.  The first one (like babies and husbands) is the most difficult. (smile)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Another Christmas--Another Sweet Memory

Today, in the car, on the way to buy sand to spread on the ice covered driveway of our daughter, G mentioned, in a startled, sad way, that he hadn't gotten me a present.

This is the man who has been driving ME to and from work for weeks because he knows just how terrified I am of night time driving.  That is gift enough.  For a lifetime.

And, while he was buying the sand, I was remembering another December.  1979.  G was a new hire for a major corporation.  Traveling to Europe for two weeks a month.  One of the benefits was an annual trip with your wife along. He didn't want to miss taking me that first year. We left on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and were away for two weeks.  I was 32.  We'd already moved three times.  Sam was 10 and C was 8.

First stop was Stockholm.  About 4 hours of daylight.  Jet lag.  But I remember the cobbled streets, the wonderful food, the brightly lighted shop windows, the little pink pig ornaments .  Instead of "good luck" the Swedes would say "have swine".  A pig was very good luck as you would have food for the winter.  Therefore, the pig ornaments and the little pig candy treats.  I brought home little red candles in wooden cups and a box full of straw ornaments.  Still have them.

Then we traveled to London.  The most wonderful hotel just down the High street from Selfridges and Harrods. I walked.  Window shopped. I drank tea.  Ate wet, cold toast.  I bought lined boots which came in handy at the next stop.  I bought Christmas Crackers.  G and I went to the theater.  Ate artichokes drenched in butter. I brought home a very large Paddington Bear (with red rubber boots) for the 8 year old, but it ended up being mine.  I also brought home a Christmas book about a grumpy Father Christmas.  A book I love looking at (no words) each and every Christmas since.

Next stop was Munich.  Where Christmas lives and breathes.  G arranged a bus tour of the castles for me one day (he worked as usual and I was on my own all day for the two weeks) and I met two lovely women on the bus.  The next day the three of us drove to Strasberg.  I brought home lovely memories and two lovely Hummel dolls.  I have never seen any like them in all the years since--even while living in Germany.  We had wonderful food.  Slept in carved pine beds with huge, soft down comforters.  Oh, I thought I was in heaven.

I still have the things I brought back home with me.  But most of all I have the memories of a delightful "Christmas" trip that I remember with love to this very day.  And, guess what?  I was telling a co worker this story--of that trip--- just as G was driving to pick me up today---while he was realizing that he had no gift to give me tomorrow.   Those lovely memories-- gift enough.  For a lifetime.

And being able to tell my stories to you, dear readers---  Gift enough.  And my thanks. Have a very Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Card Workshop- 2013

I move my placemat and napkin to the side and set out my supplies for a session of drawing.  Not that there are any "real" meals being served here.  I am not home to do the grocery list making or prepare any meals.  G is struggling.  Sandwiches.  Take out.  Leftovers thawed out of the freezer.  Pasta.  I'm thinking this morning would be a good chance for me to get a pot of chicken soup going.  For him.  He does have snow to clear off the driveway.

Our daughter had her bathtub drain clog this morning as she was taking an "after shoveling the driveway" shower.  Guy came over pronto (what good news is that!) and found three bottle caps in the drain.  S doesn't use things with bottle caps--so the clog was there for all the years she has lived there.

Here are the Tree Doodles I have managed to finish and the Hallmark card holder with a pencil drawing of the little Norfolk Pine.   I have them numbered as an edition of 5.  So I need to make 2 more.  The Pine drawings look better in the card holder than the doodles do.  So the doodles may go in an envelope all by themselves with a small card saying Merry Christmas.  Or a note.  I guess I could write them at some time?   What do you think of the doodles??

G purchased two pears for me--- I thought for lunch but I think he was reminded of the red pear he bought for me several winters ago (long time) that I painted and used as "models" for a few weeks in the winter.  He did select ones with interesting shapes and tones and stems.  I may try to do a few Pear Portraits.  Edition of three or five.   They would also look good in the Hallmark card holder.

My request at the retail job (belated though it was) has been granted.  No scheduled hours after this week later than 6:30.  This week?  Brutal.  All 11 or later.  Getting home at midnight is not making me a very happy camper.  And, to add to the struggle----- the greenhouse wants me to work past Christmas.  OMG!!! I have NEVER worked past December 24th.

I am moving to the kitchen now to start the pot of soup.  No celery but I think it will still be good.  G just likes the broth, chicken and noodles and I have plenty of that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Card Trees - Years Ago

One, from this series, is in a very nice frame in my neighbor's house across the street along with another from a different series.  I, personally, do not have any of the trees I made each year.  This purchased "photo" card holder was one of the nicest I ever purchased.  I think I got the box of them at Goodwill.  Gold embossed holly leaves.  If you ever come across old boxes of good looking Christmas photo cards--I will glad buy them and pay postage.  I think they are a "thing of the past" with email and e-cards.  And Facebook.

We had a big storm last night.  The snow at the end of the driveway was up to G's knees when he went out to snow blow it early this morning.  I was supposed to be at work (greenhouse) by 9am.  I called.  No one answered.  I called again at 10 am.  No one answered.  I called at 11 am-no answer.  By 3 pm I decided to change out of my work clothing.  Have you EVER heard of an employer who would close for the day and NOT notify his employees????  Well, not notify me?  I think he has the cell phone number of one young woman and she knows all the other young people.  I do have keys, so could have been sitting there, lights on, doors unlocked, waiting for the others with an unplowed parking lot.  Wow.

I worked Friday and Saturday until 11 pm at the retail job and tomorrow, as well.  Working two days in a row is better than once a week.  I was a much better employee.  And I was very, very tired.

So, all in all, I enjoyed my "snow day" by setting up  my work area and making Doodle Trees.  As with everything, the first few weren't worth much--but once I got the bugs out I was able to go back and "fix" them.  I also made a colored pencil drawing of a Norfolk Pine which looked really nice in the "not so lovely" Hallmark photo card holder.  Now I have to draw more of those for next Christmas.

I will try and find time (and daylight) to take pictures of the Doodle Trees I have finished.  Six, I think.  So, I need to make 4 more.  Or 6 more if I send out 12.

G had leftovers of the meatballs and sauce I pulled out of the freezer--so I had dinner for the first time in about a week.  Here in my own house.  What a novelty.  I'm going to read a book, now, another novelty.  And go to bed at 10pm.   My retail shift tomorrow is 10:30 to 7.  Pretty nice.  I really, really hate working until 11:30 and climbing into bed after midnight.  Too old for this.

Did I mention that it's really cold?  Like zero.  And very windy.  83 in Florida.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One More Week

The Poinsettias are Buy 2 Get One Free starting today, so the end is very near for my greenhouse job.  I think the 21st will be my last day.  Retail on the 22nd and 23rd.  Then Christmas Eve.  The Party's Over, as G always says.

Speaking of Party.  G and I got dressed up (like adults) and attended the Holiday Party our bank invited us to this afternoon (evening 5 to 8) .  Huge pans of creamed lobster (big chunks), scallops wrapped in bacon and for dessert, cream puffs.  A Maine Event.  Also, very strong drinks.  G's rum and coke was ¾ths rum.  My Gin and Tonic was all gin.  We got there at 6 and left at 7.  No one we knew from our local bank was there. We did see a neighbor from our street who moved long ago.  He was with the newest girlfriend (ahem) and she was tightly wrapped in gold foil wearing stilettos.  When a man leaves the family---- well, it's certainly an interesting change.  He has grown fat and old.  Much younger than G and I but looks older.  Each new girl is younger than the last.

We watched a couple eat three or four heaped plates of lobster and have 4 or 5 of those 75% alcohol drinks.  They were very casually dressed.  G wondered if they even worked for the bank or were just people in off the street.  I bet they were going to drive home.

I styled my hair with "product", applied BB cream to hide everything, and even put on mascara.  Surprised myself with how nice I managed to look.  Of course, none of my holiday clothing fit. So I wore black pants, white shirt and a draped sweater jacket.  I was afraid I would be too casual, but it was good.  Not skin tight gold foil but age appropriate "good".

Got to go wash my face.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Storms, Winter Roads & No Sunshine

It's been that kind of week, so far.  G was kind enough to drive me to work.  Well, first he drove me to the hospital for yet another blood test, then to work, then came back to get me to take me to see the doctor, and then took me back to work and then picked me up at 6 pm.  The roads were terrible.  I am wondering if our Town intends to plow this year or not?

All my tests were great.  My BP has gone down (for no reason at all--I am not doing anything different).  My rash is gone (likewise--for no reason).  My hip still hurts.  (bursitis takes forever to go away).  My triglycerides (spelling) was 69.  Amazing.  I think that's due to not eating much flour and sugar.  We all know I eat a great deal of FAT and Dairy.

I celebrated with two raspberry filled jelly doughnuts from Frosty's.  Yes, I know that was stupid.  But they are SO GOOD and the local grocery has them in the bakery case.  For the first time in my life here in Maine.  Frosty's new owners must be baking during the day.  The old owners only baked (fried) from 2 am to 8 am.  When the doughnuts were gone--no doughnuts.  I had TWO raspberry jelly doughnuts in the 20 years we have lived here.  I managed to get one at a library meeting about 10 years ago and one on my own in that same year.  So, being able to buy one "any old time" is both exciting and terribly depressing.  It was delicious.  THEY were delicious. And now I am over it.

I confided in G that I have one too many jobs.

I am so tired.  I wish the holiday was over--but that just means "returns" and after sales.  The nightmare that is my "seasonal job" is never ending.  And the real joke--I haven't had a moment's time to use the coveted "discount" to do any holiday shopping.

The upside?  Well, I get laid off from my number one job on December 24th.  Then I will only have the retail job.  And the first week (after being laid off)  I will have three days at the retail job.  So, this might be okay eventually.  Still time to shop when everything goes on sale.

I have all the materials set out for my annual (re-started) Christmas card.  I just need to find time to actually DRAW.  And dear, C.  I have all your stuff in a pile.  Next to the box it goes it.  Not in the mail.  Bad Mommy.  So sad.  Perhaps tomorrow???????????????

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Simple Christmas Thoughts

The trees at work are not looking very good.  I am thinking this might be a good idea for 2013.  Just a basket and a tiny tree.  Some paperwhites.  A poinsettia.  Little clay pots with a very small Norfolk pine seeding in each which can double as tiny gifts if someone walks in with a present for us.

I found the (remainder) of unused Christmas photo cards I have sent in past years.  Now, I can get past the bad choice of photo card I purchased on Black Friday.  Looked ridiculous with my Doodle Trees.  One of the cards would look wonderful with a pencil drawing of a poinsettia and the other with a pencil drawing of a pine tree.  I bought the cards years and years ago.  It's exciting to find things you have forgotten--when you go looking for things you do remember owning.  Age????

My evening (yesterday) at the retail job was a nightmare (towards the end of the evening).  I ran out of gas.  I was unable to cope.  Very close to tears.  And it wasn't anything.  I was just too exhausted to even think, let alone problem solve.  Today at the greenhouse--I enjoyed watering and making decorated wreaths. Every. Single. One. Has. Sold.  Some, just moments after being hung up in the display area.  I am using the end bits of everything we have left.  Just riffing on my imagination.  Good Times.  No Crying.

Needless to say, I won't be doing the retail job again. I'll just buy everything I want before the end of my seasonal job.

Made a huge pot of kale, tomato, potato, bean soup before work yesterday.  Took a serving to work today but didn't eat it so gave it to a co-worker.  She was thrilled.  Home made soup.  She lives alone and will truly enjoy a good homemade soup.

Snow storm arrives in Maine tomorrow.  G has gas for the snowblower and the generator.  He is READY this winter.  Last December he was working--at the end of his own employment rope-- so we were not ready.  He even vacuumed the whole house.  Nice to come home to a clean house.

Nice to come home.  Looking forward to my furlough from both jobs.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Here's A Sample Of Shaker Cabinets & Assorted Things

I am liking the simple vibe here in this kitchen.  Plain, flat, vanilla.  Well, actually a pale, greenish white.  Not that I am moving any closer to actually making up my mind.

G's Jeep went in for a new muffler and it's been three days.  Catalytic Converter.  $2000 plus.  And we still have no idea what is happening.  Parts are supposedly coming from Boston.  On the bus? On foot?

The Jeep "muffler" and the recent carpentry bill have "put me off" continuing on the remodel for the time being.  Sticker Shock and the balance in my bank account.  The kitchen is usable.  It's not time sensitive.  I can wait.

Still no Christmas Tree.  I ordered a fat bottomed 8 foot "wild" tree.  From my very own employer.  So far---silence.  And, no tree.  I'm taking that as a sign.  No tree. This year. Let's see if I can live with that.

I've been making custom wreaths all week.  Some pretty awesome ones.  Not like anything anyone has ever made.  And they are selling.  I stopped looking at the pictures in the book and just made a "version" of what was in the pictures.  Bigger.  Bolder.  Still an 18 inch wreath but the components  are larger.  It's fun.  I made three of my version of Katahdin and while making number four--was told the other three were already sold.  Then I got asked to make a 24 inch version--only with meter balls and a bow.  Wowza was that gorgeous.  Today's version had meter balls instead of berries.  I'm always ready to add or subtract.  So, work has been fun.  We're running out of the "usual supplies" so I am having to use my imagination.  Switch things up.  What I'm good at.

I took an orange pill at work yesterday (the wreath making table is just a bit too low and my back doesn't like it after 7 hours standing on cement)--no rash on my eyes.  I also have been having Trader Joe's Bran Flakes and soy milk for breakfast.  Wow.  They are so good and crunchy even in a bowl of milk.  Being "regular" is such a lovely thing.  We may have to go back and get more.

The days begin with freezing weather.  End with rain and fog.  Travel is dicey.  Visibility is tricky. Just doesn't seem like a Maine December.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Mother and Daughter

Can you tell she has an Apple product that takes pictures?

She will be ticked that this is the one I used and not the "good" picture of me.  But, I can't find that one.  My hair looks nice.  We're both staring at the computer screen.

Now we are on the steamroller ride into Christmas.  No stops.  I worked greenhouse on Friday all day, then retail until 11pm on Saturday and up at 7 for a full day at the greenhouse.  My back was pinging and I thought it would seize up.  I showered, ate some T'day vegetables and stuffing and sat down on the couch.  Last thing I remember was eating my final slice of pie.  Then G shook me awake at midnight so I could go to bed.  Took me awhile to fall asleep again.  I finally got out of bed at 10 this morning (to let G in the garage door).

He's having the exhaust system on the Jeep repaired.  The carpenter was here with his bill.  Yikes. The kitchen designer wants a meeting.  I need to pick out and order my new cooktop, oven and microwave.  This week I am working Tuesday to Sunday.  Today is my only day off.  I paid all the other bills, made up a deposit ticket and G wants to know if I want to go into Portland to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.  I'm thinking I do.