Cold # 2

I am being a whiny baby.  I have my second cold in as many weeks.  Don’t believe any collodial silver claims made by convincing health food store clerks.  It’s a crock!  I’ll send you a picture of my Rudolph nose as proof.

As a result of the aforementioned cold, I have been startingly unproductive today.  We went to the gym, ate lunch at 11th Street Precinct (where the Guinness is excellent), came home, took a nap, and then I watched 3 episodes of Veronica Mars, an episode of Doll House, and the beginning of the new Willy Wonka. It is a very, very strange movie, and I’m sure it will give me nightmares if I watch the whole thing.

Fortunately, I was much more productive yesterday.  We visited my parents in Monticello, and I ventured out among the drifts and got some really great shots.  I think my parents live on Hoth.

Lucky for us, it was nice and toasty warm inside.  We had a great day with Mom and Dad.  We even got them to play Settlers of Catan.  Mom tried to beat me, but I won!  Mwah ha ha!

Hopefully I’ll be more productive tomorrow.  Days off don’t grow on trees, and I really need to take advantage.

True Grit

Tim and I saw True Grit yesterday.  Wow.  What an amazing movie.  It was the perfect mix of funny, touching, and beautiful.  The characters were all well-developed and engaging.  The actress who plays Mattie Ross, Hailee Steinfeld, is super talented – so self-assured and convinced.  Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper – they were all so good in it.

The cinematography was beautiful too.  The final scene, where an adult Mattie Ross, dressed all in mourning black, is walking over the crest of a hill touched by golden light was a piece of art.  I wanted to walk out of Rave Cinemas, away from all of the neon and commercialism and all the lost people and hop on a horse and ride off into the mountains.  Of course, the only time I tried to ride a horse, I couldn’t get it to actually GO anywhere, and there are no mountains in Iowa.  My point, all that being said, is that the movie is inspiring.

I read that it was filmed in Austin, TX.  Hopefully over the next 7 days I’ll be able to convince Tim to move there.  The film was beautiful, in many different ways.  I see this being a movie like Serenity, where I feel I have to convince everyone I meet to see the movie.  It’s so good, you just HAVE to see it.



Tim and I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I am using of this time off work and the general gaiety of the season as an excuse to indulge a little bit.  My employer is shut down for the last two weeks of December, so I am at home in the Quad Cities.  Tim and I are taking advantage of being back here during mid-day to reacquaint ourselves with our favorite local cuisine.

Yesterday we got beef tacos from Bent River Brewery.  Tim and I discovered this delectable treat this summer, when Bent River would sometimes serve them on Saturdays (they only serve tacos on special; they are not a regular menu item).  Eventually, to our dismay, they stopped serving them on Saturdays and reverted back to only serving them on Wednesdays.  We got them yesterday, and they were deeeelicious.  I wonder if they simmer the beef in a delicious stout or something….

Today we are going to get donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.  We drove past a roving billboard for DD yesterday, and it whetted our appetite.  After that we are heading to La Rancherita 2 for a tasty Mexican breakfast.  Our goal is to hit Hungry Boy Deli in Moline (hands down the best gyros in the QC) for lunch.  But,  as Tim and I are not bottomless pits, I’m not sure if we’ll have room.  We’ll definitely need to make it there over the next week or so, though.

We also recently discovered some very tasty treats at the store – Tim Tams and Rold Gold Bavarian Dark Chocolate pretzels.  Our interest was piqued by a Pepperidge Farm display at Target yesterday, advertising an Australian cookie called a Tim Tam.  We figured it would be worth $2.50 to see what all the fuss was about.  Tim tams are chocolate sandwich cookies that are also dipped in chocolate.  Australia has good taste in cookies; I mean “biscuits.”  They are super, duper tasty.  I highly recommend them.  You can follow the link above to get a $1 off coupon (as long as you are not using Ubuntu like I am).

Tim was seduced by a well-placed end cap and bought the other treat that we are currently in love with, Rold Gold dark chocolate covered pretzels. The combination of salty pretzels and not-too-sweet dark chocolate is awesome.  Very tasty. Very dangerous.

So much tasty food, so little time.

La Rancherita 2

Tim and I were lamenting the lack of really good Mexican restaurants in the Quad Cities these days.  Los Agaves used to be good, but the quality of their food has nose-dived as of late, likewise with the Aztecas.  It seems as if they all offer the same things – cheap ground beef inside a lackluster pocket of fried corn meal, smothered in cheese and the cheapest tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream that can be bought.

I resorted to using Yelp in my own home town to find something new and better.  I stumbled upon a couple of good review of La Rancherita  2 on Elmore Ave (by Wal-Mart).  Tim and I had actually tried to eat there right after they first opened, but they do not take credit cards, and we never carry cash, so we walked out.  Well, I had $24.00 in cash on me for some reason, so we decided to give it another shot.

The restaurant itself is nothing to write home about – except for the chairs, that is.  The chairs are the hugest, sturdiest, most colorful things you will ever see.  They look as if they belong in a play-room for giant-sized children.  They are pretty awesome, actually.  On the downside, the outer door opens directly into the restaraunt, keeping the innards very chilly.  You’ll be warmed up stat by the delicious chips and salsa, however.  The salsa is fresh pico de gallo, and it is spicy and delicious, as are the chips.  On Saturday they were selling $2.75 Mexican import bottles, so Tim and I chased our lunches with Corona.

Tim got 3 steak tacos in corn shells.  They were delicious, especially once they were coated in the red hot sauce that is brought to your table with the chips and salsa (by pretty Mexican ladies in Santa hats). I got a torta (always searching for a torta in the QC that can rival El Olmito’s in Muscatine).  It was good, but it lacked El Olmito’s  jalapenos and carrots and ultra- crispy chicken tidbits.  Truth be told, I think that El Olmito’s torta is better because it is all around crispier – the chicken is crispier, the torta is crispier.  Which means that El Olmito must slather everything in oil and/or butter.  It’s probably why my cholesterol and blood pressure is up over last year.

All-in-all, Tim and I really liked La Rancherita.  They also serve breakfast, so over Christmas break, we are going to check it out.  I can’t wait to try some of that pico de gallo on eggs and toast.  Deeelicious.

Artistic Experimentation

As I mentioned in my last post (several weeks ago; I’m sorry to say), I worked on an art project a few weeks ago.  At the time, I couldn’t post pictures because the art was going to be gifts to my family.  But, Mom and Dad’s anniversary is over, and all the art was given to its intended recipients, so I can post pictures now.

As I’ve mentioned before, I dislike doing backgrounds when  I draw or paint.  I also enjoy doing calligraphy even though I am no good at it, due to a tremendous lack of practice.  Well, a couple of months ago I ran across Strathmore notecards made of watercolor paper.  I was intrigued and tempted by their small size.  I decided to marry my love of calligraphy with my dislike for large pieces of paper and made these:

With very light pencil lines, I drew centering lines vertically and horizontally.  I then used the Speedball Textbook to find a type of font that I liked.  I settled on blackletter, a beautiful gothic font.  Since, as I previously mentioned, I never practice calligraphy as I should, I cannot reliably free-form the letters.  Instead I sketched them out,  trying to get the angles and shapes correct.  It was difficult to see if the shape was perfect until the lines were filled in, however.  As a result, some of the angles are off.  There is something a little wrong with the bottom of this B, but I can’t quite figure it out…

Once I was fairly satisfied with the penciled-in letters, I went over my pencil lines with a Pilot Parallel pen (quick aside here  – I love this pen.  I hadn’t used it in months and months, but I just ran some warm water over the nib, and the ink starting flowing freely immediately.  It’s super easy to use).  As you can see in some of the more up-close photos, the ink did not lay on the paper completely evenly.  This is mostly due to the grain of the watercolor paper – it’s not the best medium for a calligraphy pen.  I think I should have used an Artist Pen, like the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, something that is waterproof and super black.    I also had issues with the ink from the parallel pen bleeding into the watercolor.  I kind of like how it looks, though – a little scratchy, a little messy.  I didn’t want the letters to look as if they were created on a computer.

Once the letters were drawn on with the pen, I started filling them in with watercolor.  My mom lent me several tubes of beautiful watercolor paint, but I resorted to using my cheap little Prang set.  My workspace is very truncated, and the Prang set is so nice and compact.  I mixed colors together that I thought were pretty and interesting, just to see how they would look.  In short, I experimented.

Blue fading to green for Nathan:

Red fading to yellow for Timmy Tee:

Inspired by the Celticness of the C for Charles, my Dad, I did green fading into orange.

To match my Mom’s gorgeous blue eyes, I did blue fading to yellow for Donita.  This is actually Take 2 for Mom’s card.  The first D I did for her was done using Uncial, a more rounded script.  I had a hard time getting the balance of the letter correct, and the color was not quite right.  When I tried to fix it, it just turned to mud.  So, I started over, and the second one turned out much better.

It’s hard to tell in the photos, but on each letter, I threw salt on the paint when it was still wet.  The salt absorbs some of the paint and gives it a slightly mottled look.  I just had to be careful to wait until the paint was completely dry before scratching off the salt; otherwise, smear city.

Once the letters were done, the cards looked a little too empty, so using a ruler I painted a border on each card, using the major color of the letter.

I wasn’t sure what to actually write inside the cards once they were finished.  “Happy Anniversary, Love Heather” just seemed too generic.  Tim gave me the idea to write a haiku in each card.  I haven’t written anything remotely poetic in probably a decade, but it sounded like fun.  I wrote 3 haikus for each person, and Tim picked out the one to put in the card.  They were nothing very earth-shattering or very clever, but I enjoyed writing them, and at least they will never receive a card from someone else with the exact same verbiage on it.

I want to make some more cards, so yesterday Tim and I took the 15 minute trip to Evergreen Art Works to get some more cards.  Unfortunately, they were plumb out.  They had every other single kind of card; just not watercolor cards.  Argh.  However, I kept looking around, hoping to find some cards forgotten on an end-cap somewhere, and found something else super cool – Artist Trading Cards.  They are these tiny (2.5″ x 3.5″) pieces of paper on which people create a piece of art.  The art is then supposed to be traded with other artists at some sort of art swap meet.  It’s amazing how creative people can be on such a little piece of paper.  Check out these images.

I can’t find any swaps in our area, so maybe we’ll have to start one.  I’m trying to talk Tim into doing some.  He is a super creative artist, and could make some really trippy ATCs.

Well, if I keep writing, I’ll never get to the cards, so I best sign off.  Happy arting everyone!