Friday, April 30, 2010

Learning to Draw Straight Lines (Not for Art Professionals)

I love to paint and draw but have never had a steady hand, long straight lines were out of the question for me. Well I have been taking a Calligraphy Class and I am actually learning to draw straight lines! That means you can too. Like riding a bike, it just takes practice. I thought it was all gifting. I'm not there yet by a long shot as you can see but my improvement has to be at least 50% in just three short weeks, and all for a few minutes a day.

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I like this one because the Blue Ink is my teacher's flourish and I ventured one of my own with the black J third from bottom left.

I did not realize there would be a side benefit until I tried my hand at a watercolor of a little house with wood siding: all the lines you see in this section of my very unfinished little work are made freehand, no ruler, no tricks with a round brush and you might not know this but it's a huge improvement over what was. I'm not sure I'll like the finished work but I LOVE the much steadier hand...


Here's a suggestion: take any lined paper. Turn it sideways and with a ruler, draw in your own lines across the printed ones about an inch apart or less, sort of like so. The double lines are for air space in between. 

 Then I recommend angling your pen as for Calligraphy, which means 45 degrees from the top corner. It actually helps you see what you're doing, your hand is more out of the way than if you hold it straight up and down as I do for writing. Then ever so slowly, slowly follow the vertical lines down, one at a time. Take your time. This is actually very relaxing if you put on some of your favorite music. Or maybe I think that because I'm over 50.  I really like Classical music for this type of work, *simple* string like Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach is my favorite.

Here you see the angle better, make a 45 degree angle. The last three were made with a chisel  or calligraphy pen if you like. It's easier with a fat nib but I believe it'll work just as well with a regular pen as you can see here. Just follow those lines again and again like tutors and I'm sure you'll get results just as I have.

I will leave you with these B's which I enjoyed making, The Green Star was my commendation for the day :) Enjoy and hope it works for you!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some info you can so do without...

Ahoy there you net surfers and blog readers. It's been a while since I posted anything on the front page, I've been working feverishly on my Proverbs musings (see further down on the left for the list) and having a rich and wonderful time, but this front page gives me the family look everytime I whiz by to reach for the other ones. So here is my offering. I took this picture in a local park not 10 minutes from my house. Can you believe we live here???

It's really this beautiful all the time. It's not always sunny of course, this being the Northwest. Besides, it is also full of Dutch descent type people with names ending in A. There are however,  a couple of noteworthy exceptions and that is the point here. By the way, did you know that the French have a saying, well they have many sayings and they're all good like this one: the less jam you have the more you spread it, isn't that good, and this one that I was actually meaning to get to: "the exception confirms the rule," school teachers loved throwing it around as they slipped us "51 exceptions" to the new grammar rule. Anyway one noteworthy exception to the names ending in A (stay with me now) is a Honda dealer in the area; the name is Klein, at least the business is called Klein Honda. Now klein, in Dutch, means small. So Small Honda.. The first time I saw that I couldn't believe it, I wondered, should tell them, you know like when someone has a tag sticking out or a piece of food on their chin. But I didn't and now I'm totally cool with it. Maybe that was done on purpose come to think of it. Anyway then there's a billboard I drive by, I forget what they're advertising because the name on there is Koetje, and I can't ever get past it. Ok so koetje is Dutch for cute little cow... So there. Another smile along the way.  I just love this place.

The reason I mention the Dutch descent people is because Holland has much grey (gray?) weather like this, actually I think it has more but some of us love it (check out Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away, another poem among my pages). So all my compatriot cheese toting bulb lovers came here, took one look and said "oh look honey, aren't we the lucky ones, gray skies and rain" and they all stayed. Like I said, you could so live without knowing all this. Thanks for reading. Hope you're enjoying your week, mine's great so far.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

What Violets Want.

Here's the story. Judge for yourself. To quote Randy Newman in his Theme Song for the once good TV show Monk:  "I could be wrong now.... BUT I DON'T THINK SO!!!"

The home in which we raised our kids had a green house window in the kitchen (with a little help from us). I kept at least one violet growing there at all times since they seemed to be perpetually in bloom. We lived there 17 years. I think I had two violets that whole time, transplanted several times, I didn't even know about the trick with the silk ribbon in the soil poking out of the center hole of the pot to wick up the needed water from the saucer. I would meet people who had the hardest time growing them and I would wonder why. For me it was effortless. When I fed them, it was almost too much, they got bionic looking, violets on steriods, it was almost creepy there were so many blooms, like they could get up and step out of that pot any minute. Not restful. Anyway, we eventually moved (it turned out really well in the end but you know that's where I raised my kids so I still refer to it as "home" when I talk to them). We stayed in Georgia briefly, the house was gorgeous but no greenhouse window. There was a lot going on in our lives at the time and frankly I don't remember if I had any violets anywhere let alone how they did.

A couple years later, we moved back to the West coast (we drove cross country but that's another fantastic story - well the story isn't fantastic necessarily, but the drive was). First we rented. I got some violets. They didn't make it, I figured it was for lack of a kitchen window. Eventually, we found a crazy old house, bought it and immediately put a greenhouse window in the kitchen. I was home! Again, I got a violet. Again, it didn't make it. This time I was puzzled. After all, I had a Greenhouse window now (can you tell I'm not a real gardener)!! I got another one that soon stopped flowering and wouldn't start again for over a year. Feeding did nothing. This time I couldn't bring myself to toss it. On a whim, I put it in a room with a Western window, my kitchen window, you see, faces due East. Drum Roll, are you ready? Not a week went by and it had several flowers!! two weeks went by and look at this picture! I mean look at it! This is no photoshop concoction. The very violet in a normal pot, no silk nothing in it! I didn't even feed it.

Ok here goes: my first greenhouse window, where I raised my kids, yep, you got it, it was a Western facing window! I'm still stunned it would make such a difference. But it does.

Now I realize this does not constitute scientific evidence but it's enough for me: violets want Western Sun. Just remember that ok, no more of those silly pots or tricks and wives' tales. How do you grow gorgeous blooming violets? Western exposure. Got it? Good. Have a great weekend and long live the West.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hello Monday

Time to start another week and.... another round of Coffees! We just had a family discussion on our collective love of the stuff today. We agreed it so helps to focus. We all keep our beans in sealed glass jars and oh, the waft when you open one... But I digress.

This is a warning to all of you Espresso Machine owners about the proper removal of spent coffee grounds from your pod handle, or whatever it's called pictured above. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT whack your coffee pod silly to get the spent grounds out. Some of the wilder and woollier members of my family (and some friends) have actually broken this pod handle and had to spend a pretty penny replacing it.

Well! I just heard from my hairdresser that they are no longer just expensive, they are now also hard to find. She's scouring Ebay to replace hers. When we got our beloved Barista (years ago), we also bought a spent grounds receptacle. It had a bar across on which you were supposed to whack the pod handle so as to remove the old grounds. It seemed a barbaric use of force to me but I complied. Then not long after that it broke!!! No, the receptacle broke!! I couldn't believe it, I mean I never even could get myself to really slam the thing, you know, I always sort of cowered up to it. That was the last time I ever whacked. I now carefully remove the spent ground over the garbage can with the help of one of these most adorable jam spreaders pictured above. I found those at Harry and David but any butter knife will do. I like a little knife over a teaspoon, the straight blade fits the edge of the pod perfectly. Plus, aren't they cute? Here's to Coffee and have a great week.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's Sunday tomorrow...

This is one of the first paintings I did about 5 years ago. It's a church in St. Simons Island in Georgia. What you don't see is the moskitoes that swarmed around us and the intense humidity and heat. I tried to convey some of that here along with the brightness of the sunlight and the enduring presence of churches in our world... Right now I'm in a reflective mood because I just attended a wonderful Saturday evening service full of people sharing and testifying about the tranformation they experienced in their own hearts and as a result in their lives because of the work of the Holy Spirit. It was so real and so refreshing. You know (here comes one of those three languages I mention in About Me) I just realized that to translate that into French (because of the work of the Holy Spirit) I would use the expression "grace (au) Saint Esprit." Yes, it's the same word 'grace' we have in English. It's a common way of saying "thanks to" or "by means of." I like that, come to think of it. A blessing in French is often translated "une grace" (there should be a hat on the a, but my program won't let me do that). Inherent in the meaning of the French is that the thing given is coming from beyond us, and it's a gift. So true. Our English "thanks to" also communicates the gratitude aspect of it but what I like about the French usage here is the aspect of "free gift from God". That's actually what the preacher talked about tonight: the free aspect of God's salvation, that amazing work He does to transform us here on earth and I'm convinced beyond this life aswell, it cannot be earned, it can only be received. Quite amazing. Well you can tell I'm reflective and introspective. Have a wonderful Sunday everybody.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

It's a snappy spring day out here in the Northwest. Look what rain and sun will do with some bulbs!!

Then I had to run back inside because it really is snappy out there. And look at this beauty :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Proper Travel Tea

I have to share this with you from the road, I thought they didn't make these anymore. It's the BEST thing since sliced bread for tea drinkers: an Immersion Heater

We found this puppy at the local Hardware store, (Ace Hardware on Caledonia in Sausalito, Ca.) It has revolutionized my travel tea woes. I know of only one hotel (caveat: I don't know many hotels)that serves tea made from BOILING water. Most give you a pot of lukewarm water with a tea bag on the side. By the time you drink it, it's insipid, having never been brewed properly to begin with. Just bring your mug (WARNING!!! use a ceramic mug, NOT GLASS I JUST CRACKED THE GLASS HOTEL MUG!!!). It's a less than $5 contraption and also sells at Amazon. 

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Mahjong at FREEGAMES.WS - Play free Mah-Jong, a solitaire game online

Mahjong at FREEGAMES.WS - Play free Mah-Jong, a solitaire game online
Dear Reader, 

Here it goes, my very first post!! Please bear with me (or not as you wish) while I learn how to navigate this stuff, posting, editing etc. I've put up a page, it's a poem I wrote not long ago but have held in my heart since early childhood. I actually meant to post another story about an adventure (real life one) in Paris last year but I'm on the road now and apparently never put that story in this  laptop. So you get the one I do have, Rain, rain, Don't Go Away. Interestingly enough (or "cosmic" as my girls would say conspiringly) it's raining heavily today and has been all day. I love it. Greetings from California.