Christmas crazy

HI Everyone! 

I hope you had a lovely week. Once again ours was busy and involved moving furniture and boxes. I keep telling myself it WILL end eventually. My back is sore and stiff from three days of moving stuff. I should have lost weight and look like a body builder by now!

I’m not sure I have much to report that is news worthy or all that interesting, but for the sake of consistency I will fill you in.  

We got the Christmas tree up and all was good until two days ago. We now have a half lit tree (no alcohol was involved). My other lights are in our storage unit. I was planning to go get them today but now it is SNOWING and I lost all motivation for leaving my cozy wood stove. 


Did I mention it is SNOWING? I’m one of those weird people who like snow. I don’t like winter, but I do like snow. It’s even better when there is a ski slope under my feet! I’m hoping these two days of snow will bring in some Christmas spirit. It has been MIA and I am alternating between Scrooge and Grinch. I haven’t purchased the first gift yet and now the Christmas stress is setting in.  Ok, I know the economy supposedly would crash without the December buying frenzy, but I really think most people would enjoy the holiday sooooo much more without all the gifting pressure.  I like the decorations, limited amounts of Christmas music, a hefty amount of Christmas goodies and visiting with family and friends, but I hate to shop. I especially hate to shop for gifts that I know people don’t really need or often want just to be giving a gift. I don’t want to receive something I don’t need or want just to be given a gift.  I am then stuck with gift guilt because I either keep it and it takes up valuable space or I give it away and then live in fear that the person who gave it to me will ask about it. I’m a terrible liar and then have to confess. LIFE SHOULD NOT BE THIS COMPLICATED! 

Miss L. and I are making gifts for the people on her Christmas list and I do enjoy that.  She is learning how to sew and seems to be enjoying it most of the time (the machine sewing is good, but she is not into hand sewing). We have had a few pretty comical moments during our marathon sewing sessions. We have had two machines going at once and the time I accidentally stepped on her pedal could have been a bad moment, but luckily it left us in laughing stitches instead of emergency room stitches!  I know that many people don’t like or appreciate handmade gifts, but I personally think they are the best. Someone really cares about you if they make you something and often the supplies that go into them actually cost more than store bought. I have to wait until after Christmas to show you our projects.

I am going to wrap (pun intended) up for today because there is a good chance the school will call for us to get the kids out early due to the snow and I need to be set up for more sewing when Miss L. gets home. Hopefully I will have more Christmas spirit and shopping done by next week.

Keep southern California in your prayers. Those folks are in a bad situation. 

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Another rabbit hole

Hi Everyone,

I’m squeezing this in just before my self imposed deadline is up. I try to get my posts done before Saturday. It’s 9:17 pm on Friday night and everyone has gone to bed except me.

So I’m feeling pretty good about this week. I finished and delivered my commissioned piece. You will have to wait until after Christmas to see it though. I had a pretty good work week including meeting a tight deadline. The laundry is caught up. The house is in pretty good shape. I have had enough down time to keep me sane. Yep, best week in a LONG time. 

I am planning a series of drawings and paintings and other stuff now that the commission is done. I’m just in the gathering stage right now so nothing to show yet.

Along with my sock knitting I decided to take on another project for my evening lazy hour or two when I can get it. I found a pile of partially pieced quilt sections that we think were started by D’s grandmother and want to see if I can put them together. There were two parts that were almost sewn together so I started by finishing them. Oh please don’t judge. I have never hand pieced before and they have not been ironed yet.


Then I tried to figure out what the block design was. I looked at pattern blocks on Pinterest  until my eyes bled and could not figure it out! So I turned to Facebook. You know there is a group for EVERYTHING on Facebook so I found a quilting group that has about 52 THOUSAND members. Seriously! Surely they would know what it was. I gave them the same photo as here and in just about 2 minutes a lady told me it is a star pattern and how to put it together. From there I did some star pattern research and it looks to be a Tribute Star pattern.

Yes, I have a habit of falling into rabbit holes on a fairly regular basis. But look at all the cool, weird stuff I chase down. 

Don’t look for the finished product to show up any time soon. I am hand piecing these babies (I can’t keep my sewing machine out all the time and will be too tired to sew if I have to drag it out every night) and there are 37 sections which will eventually make 9.5 Tribute Stars. I’m assuming the half is in case of disaster or I’m missing a half, but I can sort of visualize 3 rows of 3 stars to eventually make a quilt. Do NOT hold your breath waiting to see these. It’s gonna take awhile.

That’s all from The House of Weird this week. Go make something! 

Glorious Saturday 

Hi Everyone!

I have no idea why I missed writing this post yesterday other than I was enjoying the fine art of lollygagging through my Friday. I survived a high level deadline for a job on Wednesday, a day full of deliveries Thursday and only had one low level deadline yesterday that evidently numbed my brain.

Today is the first Saturday in MONTHS that I have been able to stay home and do neglected domestic stuff and work on my commission and just enjoy a no deadline day. Glorious!

I think I am almost done with my commissioned drawing. I need to just spend a few days looking at it and seeing if there are any touch ups to do. I can’t show you the whole thing but here is a little sneak preview. 


I still have a logo to do for my daughter. I’m so glad she is distracted by her anatomy class right now and not needing the logo right away. The hours and hours I have spent on the computer the past few months seem to have made me reluctant to focus on technical creativity. Normally I enjoy creating logos but it requires a long time on a computer. I get a little squeamish thinking about it at the moment. 

What I am looking forward to is soon having the time to start work on some projects that have been percolating in my head for a VERY LONG time. I’m sure you have had the experience of thinking about something you want to do, a place you want to go or a needed solution to problem and out of the blue comes the exact “thing” you needed. Call it what you will, God at work or the universe, but it happens often and it has happened to me.

Without the long explanation that I will probably cover in the future, I have a fascination with textile art. In the past couple of years I have also developed a fascination with quilts, especially art quilts. For most of my adult life I had a sewing machine that only sewed a straight stitch…when it felt like it and too many other things on my plate to really spend the time or money working with fabric. 

Take a wild guess at what I have wound up with during all this cleaning out of the husband’s family stuff. Better yet let me show you just a drop in the bucket. 


I now have boxes and boxes of supplies to work with. Hobby Lobby may not have the inventory that I do. I’m pretty sure I am being told that it is time for me to get to work! There will be a learning curve and I have no idea where this is going but I’m itching to get started.  No, I’m not going to give up the drawing and painting. Somehow I think it is all going to work together but we will have to wait and see how. I have been playing with ideas for years. 

That’s it for this week. I had planned to spend some time cleaning a lovely antique piece that is moving in here but it’s a little damp and windy today for me to take that on. Miss L. is away for the weekend visiting friends and making up shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. I told her I was going to work on reorganizing her room while she is gone. There is chili to make for dinner. D. is heading out to the woods this afternoon for some time in his deer stand. Not a bad Saturday at all!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 

I see Normal!

Hi Everyone,

I’m running a little late this week but better late than never. I hope you had a great week!

As we are winding down this last week of October, off in the distance is a glimmer of light. That thing called Normal Life is coming into view!

Now of course Normal is as subjective as Olympic ice skating, but we all have our own normal. Our normal has forever changed, but we have a good idea of what we want it to be now.

This week we end the weekly and sometimes twice weekly trips to my SIL’s house. There is still more to do but the worst is over and what needed to come out will all be out tomorrow. We get our Wednesdays and Saturdays back!!!

Miss L wraps up her soccer season this week so we get our Tuesdays and Thursdays back!!!!!!!  If we weren’t so far behind on all the things that need to be done on the farm and house I might think we would be bored. Nope. Never happens around here!

Tonight kid# 1 is helping with her National Honor Society Club chicken stew and won’t be here until late, kid #2 has a bonfire/dance/chicken stew at her school (like I have explained in previous posts, chicken stews are a BIG thing around here) and the two exhausted adults are going to enjoy a do nothing evening.

Soooooo, hopefully you all will not have to hear me whine and complain much longer and I can get back to doing the fun, artsy, creative stuff I’m supposed to be writing about. I can tell you that those creative things are going to be taking an interesting turn by the first of the year. I’m so excited to start some new stuff!!!

Have a NORMAL week!

Photo credit Matt  Kochar

Miss L. and life at a snail’s pace

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are having a great week.  Oh, how I would love to tell you that we have made marvelous strides toward at least one goal, but, alas, it has not happened.  Sigh.

We ARE making progress, but it is excruciatingly slow.  Slow, like watching grass grow, as a snail crawl, molasses pour, banks do their job.  Sigh.

I will not name names, but there is one very large bank that I MUST deal with in all this and evidently their faxes, email, phone and PERSONNEL systems do not work or communicate with each other.  I am losing count of how many times I had had to fax the same paperwork to the same number only to have them tell me they have no record of it.  I’m pretty sure that is the definition of insanity. I have quit praying to God for patience because when I do He sends me more paperwork from this sorry excuse for a bank. Ok, rant over.  Moving on.

I know that many of my readers check in here to check on Miss L. so I thought I would give you a brief update.  I want to protect her privacy so I limit what I put out there in cyberworld.  I’m sure you can understand that considering not only her situation, but the dark side of our world.

Miss L. is doing great!  I checked in with her homeroom teacher (who she really likes) and I got a lovely report.  Her grades are still excellent.  Her reading score is off the charts.  She is participating in class and is making friends.  Don’t tell her, but I love sitting in the car line and seeing her talking with friends and not paying any attention as to whether I am there or not.

She is playing soccer.  None of us have been overly impressed by the soccer organization at the moment, but it’s fresh air and exercise so we will finish the season and re-evaluate afterwards.  Miss L. has also gained some healthy weight.  D. and I are borderline health nuts who cook at home 95% of the time and rarely eat much junk food (ice cream being the regular exception).  At first she resisted eating anything she had not tried before,  but now gives new food a try (that’s all we ask, is that she try it) and most of the time finishes a plateful.  When we went clothes shopping I gave her the choice of a tried and true fast food restaurant or an unknown entity…Greek food.  SHE CHOSE GREEK FOOD and really liked it!

Miss L. is now a regular at our church Youth group meetings and started singing with the Youth choir last week.  She loves to sing and I think she will love this group.  Ms. Jenny had ordered 25 sets  of music for the new year and Miss L. made the 26th member so there will be more music ordered.  I raised my two kids at this church and in this Youth group and even though it is a 45 minute drive for us each way, I know the huge amount of love and support that surrounds each young person involved in this group and it will be worth the time for Miss L.

Next week we start with doctor visits.  After two months of agonizing attempts to get her health insurance that is finally done and I have vision, dental and regular doctor checkups lined up.  I also have grief counseling scheduled for her with Hospice.  With all the enormous changes that have occurred in her life in the last three months I am amazed at her strength.  Yes, she has times when it all gets to her, but overall she has handled it very well and we want her to have an outlet and knowledge of how to handle what will be a long process.

Probably the biggest adjustment any of us have had to make is just getting to know each other and living in the same house.  Although we all saw each other several times each year (for me it started about 5 years ago, of course D. all Miss L.’s life) that is NOT the same as every day.  D. and I are fairly old school parents who think kids need rules and responsibilities.  I’m not sure how many rules Miss L. had on a regular basis, but I suspect not many and very few responsibilities.  There have been a few “adjustment” moments for all of us as the settling into new roles has occurred.

Right off the bat, Miss L. had to take regular responsibility for Dinah (her dog) and Sweetie Pie (her cat).  We already had several critter mouths of our own to feed.  Dinah had always been an outside dog.  I have no idea how that tiny fluff ball survived three years outside, but she very likely would not survive outside up here with the high level of predators that would consider Dinah a snack.  So, I taught Miss L. how to house train a dog.  Every two hours she had to take fluffy butt outside whether either of them wanted to go or not.  Fast forward two months and Dinah is pretty reliably house trained. If there is an accident now it is human error, not canine error.

Miss L. gives Sweetie Pie the cat her daily food, water and snuggles AND she has discovered that she enjoys feeding the horses.  Most days now she helps D. get the three pasture ornaments fed.  At the very beginning of her days with us, Miss L. informed us that she has a bird phobia.  Even though she will not get very close to them, occasionally she will even help feed the chickens.  She also gets to clean her room each week, keep up with all her school papers, help with all the house chores and has added bean picking to her resume.  We will be working on cooking this winter.

That’s the update on life in Crazyville right now.  Miss L. is the easy part.  The bank…not so much.

I hope your week will be slow in a good way! Until next week…

Alex Blăjan

Stuff

Hi Everyone!

I hope you have had an excellent week.  We are still thinking of all those folks in Texas cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey and now are watching Hurricane Irma starting to roll in.  Both of my kids are at the coast and we are putting together supplies here in case we need to have another evacuation hurricane party like we did last year during Matthew.  Mother Nature does not cooperate with life plans and I feel for all the people who are trying to decide what moves to make to protect lives and property.

Once again I can’t say that this week has included much artwork or creativity for that matter.  I did ship a print to Australia yesterday.  That was fun.  Guess I’m officially an international artist now (I hope you heard the chuckle I made typing that).

What I have been doing is sorting through yet more and more boxes from my SIL’s estate.  Much of it also comes from my husband’s Mother and his grandparents and even great-grandparents.  Where probably 75% has been general current clothes and household items the other 25% has been some vintage and antiques items that have been interesting to find.  I thought I would include some photos of what is currently laying around my house as we decide what to do with all of this STUFF.

I would hate for you to miss out on my other pile of STUFF…the peas that are begging to be shelled and canned.  This may be the first year EVER that I have looked forward to winter!

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Wishing you a great week.  Stay safe those of you on the East coast.  We will have you in our prayers.

Life has gone to the dogs!

Hi Everyone!

Hope your August is off to a great start. It’s hard to believe that school will be starting soon and summer will be over.

I got a quick visit from my son this week and his new puppy, Rainey. What a cutie and he is just as laid back about life as Arden is. 


This week has been all about dog training. My dog, Kato, has become a Master Trainer over the year.  He has managed to turn my fearful other dog, Odie, into an almost well adjusted dog.  Kato has taught both of my daughter’s dogs a good dose of social skills in the limited time they have visited and he taught Rainey the fine art of tug this week. Kato is also Master Tugger and never loses that game. Kato lives for the tug!


During all the dog chaos I decided we should go ahead and bring Miss L’s dog, Dinah, into the mix.  Odie does not easily make friends and has had difficulty dealing with small dogs in particular. Now why would I do this you ask?  I have learned that when Odie is overwhelmed with new people and/or dogs he just gives up his bravado and hunkers down to watch the insanity around him.  Dinah is too small to continue living outside, especially out here where she would be considered a snack for some of the wildlife. 

Like most small dogs, Dinah makes up with attitude what she lacks in size.  After three days of being inside with two big dogs she has essentially convinced them she is a force to be reckoned with. Though she is slowly warming up to them, all she has to do is show her little teeth and both dogs retreat to the safety of the sofa.  This morning though, she seems to be allowing Kato to be in her personal space more and is taking some interest in playing with him. Hopefully in about a month I can post a picture of all three dogs happily snuggled on the sofa. Of course, I will need to find a new place to sit. Now if we can get her properly house trained. Miss L is learning all about doggy parenthood and the responsibility that is involved in proper care and training of a pet. 

Other than visiting with my son, lots of home cooking while he was here, and wall to wall dogs, I managed to finish the commissioned drawing of the barn. All done and delivered to its new home!  This is one of THE MOST DETAILED drawings I have ever done. If you have seen my work in the past you know that is saying a lot. 


My clients wanted to have the details of the old construction and the old boards plus some of the surroundings. The finished size was 16″ x 20″. I’m very surprised it did not take me longer. I gave up trying to keep up with hours. 

Since I do not have much space right now to work, I think I am going to concentrate on drawings but want to add some color without dragging out lots of paint. Some experimentation is in order I believe. 

The upcoming week may very well turn into another crazy, on the road week. I am supposed to be getting some of he legal paperwork I need and there is school shopping and soccer sign ups to do.  Hopefully I will get to check in but forgive me if it doesn’t happen.

Have an awesome week! 

Death, taxes and CHANGE

Hi Everyone,

Yes, it happened again. My post day got away from me last week. I did start it, but before I could finish the day was gone and we were well into a busy weekend.

We are slowly settling into new routines all around.  Mine seems to be the biggest struggle right now because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork and appointments I have to make in the process of settling J’s estate and getting Miss L’s benefits and other life stuff in place. Yesterday was an entire day of driving to different meetings only to arrive home late in the evening feeling like I only made two tiny drops of progress in a ocean of red tape.  

Danny and Miss L have worked out a complex schedule for who gets to sit in the King Chair (the recliner with the best view…outside to watch horses for Danny, the TV for Miss L) what day. I just stay out of that whole thing. They seem to enjoy the debate process!

The food buying and meal planning is also under adjustment. Our health nut food ways are not completely pleasing Miss L. She has the family genetics for an amazing metabolism and she does not waver on her likes and dislikes. I am compromising on allowing some junk food and she is attempting to try new food. I will admit that I have missed Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese. 

Sweetie Pie, the cat, had been stuck in confinement while awaiting her spaying surgery. Unfortunately that was not sitting very well with her and she jumped at the chance for escape while Miss L and Danny were cleaning her crate. The surgery appointment got cancelled and we are hoping that the now invisible Sweetie Pie does not appear in the future with a crate load of kittens. 

Princess Dinah, the dog, it adjusting very well and we are slowing introducing her to my pups. She will be getting her surgery next month and if the budget allows, a professional haircut. Her Princess title isn’t matching her wild child look at the moment. 


The chickens have had to give up the free range life as the Thing In The Thicket has increased its chicken consumption. We lost two of our little girls in the past two weeks. There will be an upgraded chicken coop in the Fall. 

Our oldest horse, Christy, carried her last rider this week when she gave Miss L her first riding lesson. Christy’s hip is causing her lots of pain so Danny decided to let her enjoy a rider free retirement. Now Bob is in major training to take over Christy’s job. 

I believe the quote about death and taxes needs to be changed to, “the only thing you can count on in life is death, taxes and CHANGE.”  Lots of change sometime. None of it bad here, just different and all of the elements of the quote are in play with our changes. A death brought about the changes and those darn taxes will be paid at the end of all the paperwork!

I have gotten a good start on a commission piece and hope to show at least some of it next week if not the finished piece.

Embrace the changes this week!

Sudden Insights, This and That

Hi Everyone!

I wrote the Sudden Insights part of this post a couple of week ago but for some reason it only showed up on my Facebook page.  I’m adding to it this week.  My apologies for the wonkyness.

May 26, 2017: Sudden Insights

Who else is living through monsoon season? We had tornados yesterday in three counties including where my family lives and where we live. We are all safe and unscathed, but there were places with extensive damage. I have not heard of any injuries, but I would be not  be surprised if there were some. Most bad weather you have some time to prepare, but tornadoes are not so kind. I once had a tree go through my bedroom. I still get edgy during a storm thirty years later.

Thanks to a combination of monsoon weather (no gardening can be done in this relentless rain), a holiday week (before the long Memorial Day weekend) and one of my major suppliers moving their location (closed all week) I have had some extra time on my hands. Nope, as tempting as it is, I have not been napping. I have been painting and drawing.

After last week’s post about working on portraits I found myself very stressed and frustrated with the progress on those. In the wee hours of the night (my usual insomnia) I asked myself, “What do you REALLY like to do?”.  I looked at my past work and my Pinterest boards where I save artwork by other people that I like and am inspired by. 

Here is what I discovered:

I definitely do not like doing landscapes. I couldn’t find a single FINISHED landscape in all my past piles of work. Sketches, yes. Started paintings, yes. Other artists’ landscapes, yes. Finished work of my own? No. I have done buildings and house portraits but landscapes of sweeping vistas. No.  Clearly I need to just let that one go unless somewhere in the future I get struck with some sudden change in direction. I will just enjoy the views I see and the beautiful work by other people. 

Portraits of people cause me a great deal of stress.  Commissions especially, but even painting my own kids was stressful. Human faces are so subtle in their detail. A slight deviation of an eyebrow or curve of a lip changes a person into someone else.  It is especially hard to work from photos. So much detail is lost with bad lighting. Kudos to portrait painters who can do a true likeness from photos alone. If I were a portrait artist I would have to require in person sittings at least during part of the process.  The fact that my portraits have all been children or pets compounds the problem. It is a waste of time to try and get either to sit still!  All of my work has had to be with photographs, thus the stress to get it right. 

I won’t say that I will stop doing portraits because they make me dig deep to see, test and hone my skills and work on my patience level, but I think I will limit what I take on knowing how much stress they cause.  There have been times when I have had several right before Christmas and that was not fun.  

So what the heck do I like? THINGS! Seems I might be a still life painter.  Looking at past work and picking out the ones I got the most joy out of were things. Things in nature to be exact. Seashells, gourds, deer skulls, etc.  I like animals too and odd manmade things, particularly with rust involved.  I knew I had hit on something when my brain started popping out ideas like popcorn.  

I guess that all these years I never stopped to analyze what I really enjoyed. My time with pencils or paint was so limited I just jumped at the chance to do SOMETHING.  If you do creative stuff, you know there is such a joy to the process that you crave the time to spend doing it. Music, art, sewing, pottery, etc. is all an encompassing process that takes you out of normal life and into some other realm.  Now that I have some insight I can work accordingly. I can’t say plan accordingly because I rarely plan what my next project will be.  They seem to choose themselves! 

Here are a couple of things I have been working on this rainy week. My first horse painting is finished! Trust me, that is a big leap. 

I need to get back to the easel. Next week the weather clears up and we will probably have to use machetes to weed the garden. There will also be new additions to the farm this coming week that I will introduce you to. Wouldn’t it be horrible to get bored?! Not going to happen around here anytime soon!


June 9, 2017:  This and That

This week is one of those weeks that is hard to describe.  We have enjoyed several lovely evenings outside watching crazy chicken antics, various and assorted wildlife and birds and fun visits with the neighbors.  On the other hand it has involved either learning of the passing of friends’ parents or knowing that several are friends are in the final days or hours with a parent. Days of alternating joy and sadness.

My son is in his second week of his Iceland trip and currently offline in the wilderness there.  My daughter finished her last year of teaching and is transitioning to a new career. Danny and I will celebrate our 1st anniversary.  The ebb and flow of life.

I sought the comfort of my pencils this week with this fish drawing.  After the intensity of my Bob painting last week I needed the meditative process of drawing to ponder life’s changes. 

My thoughts and prayers are with my friends and children as they navigate endings and new beginnings. My thoughts and prayers are with any of you going through the same turbulent waters.

Peace be with you this week.

I’m doing it! 

Hi Everyone!

Lots of To Do’s have been done around here this week. We finished a shelf for the bathroom, more work on the barn, garden and yard, ordered new tires for my car (yuck) and today we will be getting up hay (double yuck).  Life as usual. So how are things in your world going?

I won’t blather on this week, but I am patting myself on the back a little.  Now that I have some time back to call my own and knowing next week will be a slow work week thanks to Memorial Day weekend and one of my printing suppliers being closed, I jumped into the BIG scary stuff. 

Over the years I have drawn many portraits in pencil and charcoal, but if I painted portraits it was back when I used crayons. Even during college I don’t remember any of my art classes requiring painted portraits. Lots of drawings of people, but no paintings. 

After completing the grandpup paintings I have been feeling a little more confident as my skills with acrylic paints have started to return. In case you are wondering, I do not use oil paints. I don’t like dealing with the solvents and I have no patience with all the drying time involved. I appreciate them and love the blend-ability, but that is where my love for them ends. I may try them again one day and change my mind, but I’m not there yet. 

So, this week I drug out some photos of my kids in the early years and have jumped into portrait painting.  These are still works in progress and there have been several moments of total frustration. I realized today that my easel was turned the wrong way. Once I situated it where the natural light was on the painting life got much better.  Don’t you hate those slap yourself moments? 

Honestly, it is freaking terrifying! I think painting my own kids was a bad decision. I know their faces so well and the events and emotions tied up in these that it makes them harder to paint than someone I don’t know. My next attempts will be of strangers. Do not be surprised if I ditch these and redo them in the future. Overall though I’m getting the feel for this process and I’m not hating these paintings. Practice, practice, practice!


Have a great week and go do something terrifying!