Wind in the leaves

Today was a very productive day for many reasons.  As previously mentioned, I jogged.  I also did a little yoga.  I tried to find a good hatha yoga video on Youtube, but the ones I found were either too hard or too new-agey.  I found a great one 2 weeks ago, but I neglected to bookmark it, so I must start the search anew.

Before heading out to run, however, I did a little quick house cleansing.  I say “cleansing” and not “cleaning” for a reason.  I didn’t clean anything, I just went through some book shelves, closet shelves, and bins in the basement and sent Tim off to Salvation Army with about 4 bags/boxes of old board games, books, and clothes.  Lightening our material load just feels so nice – at least until we get a hankering for The Simpsons Trivia, and we cannot play it.

I also attempted to cut Tim’s hair.  As I was putting on the 1/2″ clip guard it went and broke right in half.  After lunch we headed to Sally’s to pick up a replacement guard.  Once at the store, we couldn’t remember, for sure, which kind of clippers we have.  Tim swore up and down that we have a Wahl clipper, but I was 99% certain it was an Oster.  Tim was so certain that he bet me $20 that we had a Wahl.  Ha!  I am now $20 richer with absolutely no effort.  I should gamble more often.

We also, finally, went to Michaels and ordered a frame for the awesome Aphex Twin painting that has been chilling out in our computer room for years now.  I won’t say it’s “our” painting per say.  It technically belongs to Benny, but I think we’re legally married to it under common law.  So we’re getting it framed.  It will soon be placed prominently in our computer room/guest bedroom to creep out any and all guests.

We returned home, took the Luce out for a poop-inducing walk, and then retired to the back lawn for some lounging, reading, beer-drinking (Great River Roller Dam Red), and pretzel-eating.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Totally perfect.  It was shady, breezy, cool, and sunny, musical and peaceful.  So beautiful.  It’s hard to believe in the existence of evil, on an afternoon like that.

I am still wading through Delta Wedding.  I’m sure Eudora Welty is brilliant, but she exhausts me.  Quit dancing around the subject and speak plainly.  It’s like reading paragraphs of poetry.  I’ve never really been into poetry (unless it’s my own, because then I can actually figure out what it’s trying to say).  One big book of it is just too much.  I will finish it, however, because I am slightly interested in what is happening with these damn Fairchilds.  Why write a book about a family that is super self-absorbed?  To be fair and punish them, they should be the LAST family to write a book about.  Show them how truly uninteresting they truly are.  Man.

I also got some laundry done and 2 or 3 rows of Benny’s blanket.  I’m working on the heather grey section, and it is just really pretty.

Back to work tomorrow.  No more sunshine, lounge chairs, and mind-stretching books for me.  At least not for another 5 days.

Exploration on Two Wheels

On Saturday Tim and I braved the 90 degree weather and went for a monster bike ride.  We took Grand to Kirkwood, Kirkwood to Iowa, and then Iowa to downtown.  We crossed the Mississippi using the Government bridge.  That is one unsettling bridge to bike over, what with the the platform of the bridge being a GRATE and all!  You can look down and see the river flowing beneath your feet.  From there we hit the bike bath and rode east all the way to I-74.  On the way, we saw things we’ve never seen before, even though I’ve lived here for over a decade, and Tim has lived here is whole life.

We discovered Sylvan Island.  It’s this island park between Moline and the Arsenal.  It’s laced with gravel bike-paths and the ruins of a steel mill.  I found this great article on the history of the island and the people who convinced the City to turn it into a park.  Road bikes are not the best bikes to use on those paths, however, so we didn’t ride around much.  We want to go back and hike and take the camera, however.

We also discovered that along the bike path in Moline, there are more industrial ruins – perhaps of John Deere facilities?  It looked as if there were walking paths and signage around the ruins, so we need to go back there with the camera too.

Once we hit the 74 bridge, we turned around and headed back to Rock Island.  We biked through the new Schweibert Park (where the gross casino used to be).  It’s a beautiful park now, and it was packed!

From there we biked downtown and onto the Centennial Bridge.  That bridge is even scarier to bike over than the Government Bridge, as the path is partially blocked at intervals by the beams holding up the arch.  We took it slow, though, and didn’t end up scraping any hands off on the beams.

We biked across downtown Davenport, and then headed up Main Street.  That hill is a KILLER, especially after you have already biked 20 miles in 90 degree heat.  Tim, of course, totally out paced me on the ride up the hill.  As I was slowly cranking my way up the hill, I ran across some people directing traffic (must have been some event at Palmer).  One of the guys was kind enough to give me a push, and, man, it made all the difference.  It gave me a great boost, both physically and mentally.  I love nice people.

Tim and I recuperated for a bit at the top of  hill, drank the rest of the water in our water bottles (which, even though our bottles are insulated was nice and lukewarm), and then headed home through VanderVeer.

By the time we got home, we were drenched with sweat and completely wiped out.  But, it was super fun.  I am so excited that I can see progress.  I am getting stronger and can bike longer and harder.  I’ve been wary of changing my left gear ever since I got my bike. The first time I tried to do it, the chain fell off.  But, since I’m getting stronger, I’ve felt the need to use the hardest gear on the left, and I’ve finally have figured out how to change it without jacking up the chain.  I just have to make sure that I’m in the correct gear on the right side first.  If I’m in the correct gear, the bike shifts seamlessly, amazingly well.

Our plan today is to get the bike rack hooked up to our new hitch, so we can drive over I-80 and catch the bike path there on the Illinois side.  Tim tried to hook the rack up yesterday, but we discovered we received a bum bolt.  It’s threads are off, so when Tim tried to tighten it on the bolt, it became fused to the bolt.  Tim and I together had to muscle it off, amidst a bunch of cussing and hand cramping.  Hopefully we can find a nut at Home Depot that will work until we can get a replacement nut from Swagman.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful day!

6 O’Clock on Sunday Evening

I have a cold.  It is so unfair to be sick on the weekend.  Tim got sick with a cold on Thursday and was just coming clean when it smote me today.  No bike riding or jogging for Heather today.  No much of anything for Heather today, except for nose blowing.  I swear I’ve used a whole box of tissues.

Truth be told, I did get some stuff done today – laundry, dishes, breakfast, Target shopping, etc.  I also pulled out 3 tomato plants and chucked them into the yard waste bin.  They are still producing tomatoes, but the tomatoes are gross.  They have soft spots and black spots, and they just end up rotting on the vine.  So I chucked them.  The back yard is a little better looking now.

Besides today though, it’s been a pretty great weekend. Tim and I made it to the gym yesterday.  It was the first day back for me since last Wednesday!  My morning workouts are getting harder to do.  I need to steel myself, is all.  Tim and I are thinking of starting a Facebook page for us and our health-minded friends to encourage each other to work out.  It’s so much easier, or at least it sucks less, to work out when one has friends to which to be accountable.  I did arm weights and elliptical, and my arms are literally killing me today.  I don’t know if I’ll make.  I love you all, and it’s been a fun ride.

We also had Mom and Dad over this weekend.  They arrived in time for macho nachos last night, after which we played euchre and watched The Ugly Truth. TUT is not a good movie, per say.  But, Mom and I were looking for a light-hearted, funny movie, and it fit the bill perfectly.  It’s a little raunchy, but there are some good, tender moments in it – like when Gerard Butler is all falling for Kathryn Heigel, and she’s oblivious to it until the elevator scene.  Tim and I were discussing Inception today, specifically the point where Joseph Gorden-Levitt steals a kiss from Ellen Page under false pretenses.  We agreed that those simple, clean, restrained moments are more romantic than full-on knocking boots (ala the last scene of TUT).

Anyway, it was great to see Mom and Dad again.  I asked Dad in June if he could build me a tall table/desk, so that I can use my computer whilst standing up.  The desk will also serve as a stand-up drawing table.  I was just looking for a simple, tall table, but Dad found a beautiful pattern for a drawing table with an adjustable table top.  It’s full of whimsy and will be an heirloom of our household when it’s completed.  I can’t wait.

I am taking another watercolor class held by the Figge on Saturday.  I am looking forward to getting some instruction again.  I enjoy drawing and painting, yet it’s oddly hard for me to do it unless I have to for a class.  I’m starting to get suspicious that I’m just lazy.  I hope that’s not true.  It’s definitely something I need to work on – producing instead of consuming.  Consuming is just so much easier.  And, we all have our addictions.  Tim and I went to the Active Endeavors Tent Sale yesterday, and I almost bought another travel  bag, even though I already have 2 perfectly servicable, attractive travel bags.  I just really, really, really, love bags and purses.  I don’t know why.  I just do.  I like to buy them and use them, and look at them – more than I like to sit at my desk and draw or paint.  It’s easier, but less fulfilling, which is the way of life, I guess.

I got some reading done with weekend too.  I am almost done with Lord of the Rings, which I am reading for the fourth time. I had forgotten how bastardized the movies are.  They portray so many characters inexactly.  Frodo, Faramir, Gimli – they are all mockeries of their book-selves.  I do really enjoy the movies, and I understand why they felt the need to alter things (to reach a wider audience), but it’s a true shame that they took so much honor away from these noble characters, especially Frodo and Faramir.  They are no noble and wise in the books.  Anyway, the books are making me somewhat pensive and reflective – making me wonder what good I am doing in this world, how I am fighting the darkness.

But, this post has gone on long enough.  It’s time for supper and Tim and Lucent.  Take care and have a wonderful week.

Yours truly,



Herein lies an amalgamated synopsis of our busy June & July 2010.

In early June Tim and I, all dressed to the nines:

went to a wedding in Muscatine, and then stopped in downtown Davenport on our way home.  Of course we hit up our favorite tasting lounge first.  On our way there, we saw this amazing sky over downtown Davenport:

The beautiful sky lasted long enough for us to get a beer and then walk to the Skybridge.  By the time we hit the sky bridge, the sky was taking on a more ominous quality:

We hung out on the bridge until we felt the wind hit it.  The bridge started to sway underneath us, so we got the heck out of there.  We exited the bridge into a full-on rain storm.  We ended up having to sprint from the Radisson to our car, parked by Great River. Running in heeled sandals is not fun a’tall.

Since we were all dressed up, Tim tried to get some good pictures of us.  I have a disorder wherein I cannot keep my eyes open while getting my picture taken.  So we have a vast collection of pictures that look like this:

When I consciously try to keep my eyes open, I look as if I’m crazy.  Click on the picture below – it will enlarge, and you’ll be able to see what I mean:

Poor Tim.

Now, I’m fast forwarding a few weeks.  When Nate and Rachel were back, we drove up to Monticello, intending to canoe.  We got rained out both Saturday and Sunday.  So on Sunday we went to the Grant Wood Art Festival instead.

Attending The Grant Wood Art Festival is somewhat of a tradition in our family.  We used to always go on Sunday after meeting.  Actually, at one point the festival was on both Saturday and Sunday.  That was so long ago that I was in the face painting stage/kid tent stage.  I think I made a paper plate doll head with yarn hair and everything.  Back in those days, the festival was super awesome.  The first awesome thing about it was that, as an elementary student at Strawberry Hill, we had the chance to draw a picture that would be used on the buttons used to gain entry to the festival.  That was always super exciting.  I don’t think my drawing ever got chosen, but that was just due to the poor taste of the judges, I am sure.

The second thing that made the Festival awesome was that you could take a bus tour around Stone City, which is this super neat little town northeast of Anamosa, Iowa where Grant Wood started an art colony.  Several years ago, the bus would take you ALL over town, even to the burned out Green mansion.  You could get out of the bus and walk around the ruins of the limestone mansion.  It was such a cool thing to see.  One never sees stone ruins in the Midwest.  Eventually, however, they stopped letting you get out of the bus – you would just drive by the ruins, craning your neck to see as much as you could.  Then they stopped taking you past the ruins all together.  I think the ruins have actually been torn down now, which is so sad.  It was  just a portend of things to come, however.  After decades of having the festival in Stone City, the festival had to get moved to downtown Anamosa because the new owners of the 3 story barn that was the heart of the festival no longer wanted the festival on the grounds.

A Grant Wood Art Festival not in Stone City is just wrong.  The organizers did their best to make the event engaging and interesting, but attending a “festival” in a community center cannot measure up to one held in the magic of Stone City.

Plus, it was raining.  Buckets.

Hopefully some day the new owners of the barn will have a change of heart, and the festival can move back to its homeland. In the meantime, we’ll have to comfort ourselves with this:

It is easy to see why Grant Wood chose Eastern Iowa to found a colony.  It’s super serene and beautiful.  This photo was taken in my parents’ front yard.  Every time I visit their house in Monticello, I feel as if I’m in the Shire.  I’m re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy right now, and I’m afraid that what was true for the Shire in the book is also true of Iowa – there is no safe place from the long arm of Sauron anymore, not even in our beautiful heartland.  But, I digress.

Here is another picture of serenity to get your thoughts off the somewhat imminent (probably) destruction of our peaceful lives by greedy, evil leaders (aka Sauron).

We finally did get our canoe trip in.  Benny came back the last week of the month, and I took Friday off, and we hit the Maquoketa river.  It was a perfect day, and we had an awesome time.  I’m glad we got the trip in when we did, because with the dam breaking at Delhi, who knows when the river will be safe for canoers again.

My garden is producing fruit.  I’m pretty amazed that it is, because most of the plants look like something growing in the Dead Marshes.  I don’t know if they are getting too much sun, not enough sun, too much water, not enough water, not enough soil, or what.  They are mystifying me.  But, we’ve gotten some good peppers and small tomatoes from them, so I count the bucket garden a success.

Lastly, but not leastly, I’ve started a new blanket. This one is for the Benny Boo.  He wanted it long enough so that he can tuck the blanket under his feet.  Consequently it is NINE FEET long.  It is going to take buckets of hours to get it done, but it will be a thing of beauty and function in the end.  I know Benny will use the heck out of it.  The blanket is going to be a mix of Peruvian Print and Heather Grey.  I haven’t done any rows with Heather Grey yet; I’m too enamored with the Peruvian to switch colors.  I love variegated yarns – they are a joy to crochet with.  They keep it interesting, too, because you never know which two colors will meet up.

That is a random bunch of stuff, but there’s been a lot to write about lately.  I need to start posting more often and more succintly.  Some day…

I so tired…

I hit Green Thumbers nice and early yesterday morning.  I wanted to get in and get out before the crush of people started.  I bought a flat of vincas and a flat of impatiens in various shades of white, pink, red, and lavender.  I also got 3 cubic feet of good dirt and my first pair of official gardening gloves.  They are blue and very pretty.  Or at least they were very pretty, now they are covered in dirt and grub residue.  I was in and out and back home within half an hour.

When I got home, Tim and I headed straight off to the gym.  We haven’t been there in almost two weeks because Tim was sick and then I was sick.  We did leg weights and cardio.  It felt good to get back into the routine.

When we got home I started working on the yard.  Boy o boy, does it ever need a lot of work.  I did the easy stuff first and planted the vincas in a pots for the front steps.  Then I raked the old mulch off the bed in the back of the house, tried to pull the chives out by the roots (I mostly just got the tops), and then started spading out clumps of dirt, making holes for the impatients.  Our dirt cannot really be called “dirt.”  The soil, especially by the front of the house, is more clay than anything.  To plant the flowers, I dug out a hole, filled it with potting soil, planted the flower, and then topped it off with some more potting soil.  I did this a couple of years ago, and the plants seemed to do just fine.  Of course when I pulled them out at the end of the summer, they were completely root-bound within their original clump of first.

Mom says I need to add some compost to the soil, but at this point it’s so clay-ey that I don’t see how I could actually MIX it.  She also said I could do some raised beds – put good soil on top of the clay.  One of these years, I’ll have to do something like that, but for now I’ll just have to address it one spadeful at a time.

I still have about 3/4ths of a flat to plant.  It’s cloudy today, but hopefully the rain will hold off until I can finish up.

Over the years, the lawn has crept over the sidewalk,  so I also spent an hour pulling up lawn carpet from our sidewalk.  I could just roll it back and the tear it right off.  I ran across tons of disgusting grubs and weird red, um larvae maybe?.  I don’t know what they are.  I should have taken a picture of them, but they creeped me out, so I didn’t want to spend any more time with them than necessary.  After rolling back the lawn, we now have a 2 inch ledge where the sidewalk meets the lawn.  It looks odd, but better than it did before.

I also cleaned off our back patio.  It was covered with helicopters, and the lawn has started to overgrow that too.  I raked it off and then swept it.  It looks way better.  Once the impatiens start to fill out, it’s going to be beautiful back there.  Right now it looks a little meloncholy:

Obviously, we still have tons of work to do to the yard.  I better stop typing and get to work.


I won!  I never win anything.  A few weeks ago I started reading the Simply Stated blog by Real Simple.  I ran across this post where readers could make a comment and by doing so, put their names into a drawing for a Burpee Home Gardens starter set with tomato, pepper, and basil plants.  I got an email yesterday from Real Simple saying that I was one of the 8 lucky winners.  I wasn’t sure it was legit until I looked at the blog this morning and saw my name listed as an official winner.

I’m not positive what the set IS.  I assume it’s seed packets and not live plants?  But, I’m excited about it whatever it is.  Tim and I wanted to start a square foot garden this summer, but it’s already  May 15th.  Is that too late?  Maybe we can at least get our boxes built this year, so we can start a garden next year.  We already have quite a few projects to do this summer – paint the garage, repaint the front of the house, rebuild our back porch, paint the stairway to the basement, etc. etc. etc.  Plus, we need to have tons o’ fun.

I’m excited to see the starter kit.  Thanks Burpee and Real Simple!

A case of the Sundays

It’s been another lovely weekend in the Longoria household.  Not that it hasn’t been without its faults.  I re-potted two plants yesterday morning (and froze my fingers off during the process – literally.  Just kidding.  Not literally.  I figuratively froze off my fingers) but not before I dropped them three times.  One plant, the rubber tree, was actually dropped by Mother Nature.  A freakish and evil gust of wind blew the plant off our patio table, and the plant crashed to the ground.  The pot was a complete loss, but the plant seems to be okay.  The next plant I repotted was our beautiful jade.  The leaves seem to be falling off quite easily, so I postulated that the plant needed more breathing room.  As I shook the plant out of the existing pot, I noticed that the 14-inch tall plant was completely root-bound in its original clump of soil.  The circumference of this base was maybe 3 inches.  I broke up the root ball a little bit and then repotted it.  As I was taking it in the house, the top-heavy jade flipped right over and sprayed soil everywhere in our kitchen entry-way.  I clean it up, repotted the plant, and then cleaned the outside of the pot, which was completely covered in soil.  I walked 5 steps into the living room and promptly dropped the whole pot.  Dirt sprayed everywhere.  I was still looking at it mournfully when Tim returned from the grocery store and helped me clean it up.  Hopefully the jade will survive.  It lost many, many leaves.  It looks…curly, somehow.  I don’t think it’s supposed to look curly.  I hope it perks up.

That was pretty much the end of the tragedies for the weekend.  Although today when I was jogging, I did get glanced by bird poop.  It hit my sunglasses and the edge of my shirt.  It could have been much, much worse.

The good stuff that happened this weekend consisted of me making super delicious chocolate chip cookies, Lucent’s ear infection improving dramatically (thanks to Tim religiously cleaning his ear and putting meds in it daily), me purse-shopping and not buying anything, getting a tremendous deal on A Brief History of  Time and The Universe in a Nutshell book duo at Borders, finding nice folks at BWW who shared their table with us and relieved us from a 40 minute wait, and watching Shaun of the Dead.

Timmy Tee is ill, though.  He has a super bad chest cold.  I need to start sending him to work with a face-mask and rubber gloves.

I watched 500 Days of Summer on Friday night.  Gotta say, I’m not a fan.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good in it, but I found Zooey Deschanel to be affected and unrealistic.  They made her out to be some sort of guy fantasy.  I guess any girl with huge, blue eyes and a penchant for The Smiths is irresistable.  Maybe I’m just too used to seeing her sister on Bones.  Maybe one can only like one Deschanel at a time.  It’s interesting too, how being an architect is so often held up as being this laudable achievement.  I enjoyed architectural drafting as much as the next person, but I have to imagine that being an architect in real life is all sorts of tedious.  Drawing beautiful buildings would be awesome, but having to know thousands of building codes would not be awesome.  What’s wrong with being a greeting-card writer?!

I also finished I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (author of 101 Dalmatians).  I really enjoyed it up until the point that Cassandra (the 17-year-old girl who is constantly referred to as a “child” – is a 17-year-old really a “child?”!) falls in love with her sister’s fiance based on a single kiss.  Suddenly she is completely devoted to him.  It didn’t seem like realistic behavior for a girl her age, especially a girl who is continuously presented as being wiser than her years and more mature and insightful than her 21-year-old sister.  I liked the movie more, I think because you don’t get to know Cassandra as well in the movie, so her behaviour is less nonsensical.

I also attempted to do some watercolor painting.  I discovered that any talent I may have had has completely deserted me.  This is all I have to show for my attempts:

I decided to give color a rest and pick up my old standby, sketching.  I used a 2H pencil to sketch out Lucent, and then darkened it up with a nice charcoal pencil.

I think I need to find a good house to paint – maybe then I will find my mojo again.  If you have a good house photograph – one with interesting light and shadows (and uncomplicated detailing), please send it my way.  Maybe if I am beholden to an outside entity to do another painting and to do it semi-well, I’ll actually stand a chance.

Bike Path Etiquette and Other Randomness

The Teem and I just returned from the jogging on the bike path.  We both had really good runs, but my tranquility was spoilt by my annoyance at the cyclists who kept whizzing by me super fast, without even a grunt to acknowledge that they were speeding up not a foot away from me.  I wasn’t wearing head phones or anything, but I still didn’t hear them until they were right up on me.  If I  would have taken one little step to the left, I would have been creamed.  How hard is it to say, “On your left?”  Dummies.

But, despite the whizzers, it was a still a great morning to be out there.  I’m steadily building up my endurance.  I ran a mile, walked 1/2 a mile and ran a mile back home.  I came home and did this quick little yoga routine to stretch out.  I love this routine – it takes maybe 3 to 5 minutes, but it does a great job of stretching out muscles.  I need to find a new yoga mat, though.  I got a cheap Gaiam mat from Target a couple of years ago, and it’s too thin and makes my feet & hands sweaty.  It’s almost impossible to do downward dog with sweaty hands and feet.  Laura and I did pick up a good mat tip at class on Monday night.  Instead of rolling the entire mat up into a tube, fold it in half first, and then roll it from the folded end.  This ensures you always know what side of the mat touches the floor (and your face), and it also prevents the ends from rolling up once the mat is laid out.

One of my motivators for jogging is a recent purchase of some good workout clothes.  I typically shy away from spending money on nice exercise cloths because, really, who am I trying to impress?  But I have a problem with my running shorts riding up, and I read that if you have a shorter inseam in your shorts, it actually helps.  I thought I would give it a try.  I went to Dicks and spent $90 (of course nothing was on sale) on these items:

Nike Fit Dry Running Shorts

These cost $28.  They are super light and have a convenient inside pocket for keys/tissues.  They have mesh on the sides to keep you cool and a non-restrictive elastic waistband.  They are pretty short, but not too short.  They stay where they are supposed to stay too.

Nike Dri-fit Running Shirt

This shirt is also is super light and breathable.  It has a nice unrestrictive fit, but still has an attractive cut – it’s not boxy at all.  The cool mint color doesn’t attract the heat of the sun like my black gear. Plus it perfectly matches my running shoes.  When I wear it, I actually look put together.  I love this shirt, but I think it’s too pricey at $30.

My final purchase was a running skirt.  Yes, that’s a right.  A running skirt.  I’ve been eying them ever since last summer, but when I tried to buy one at Dick’s last year, they were all out of black larges.  Dicks is ALWAYS  out of  the most sensible colors and sizes.  Which is why I bought these three things immediately without waiting for a sale.  If I waited, I would be stuck with a S or XL in fuchsia.

The skirt is a Reebok Play Dry Medium skirt.  The closest one I can find is here.  Mine is all black  mesh, with grey, very light shorts sewn in to it.  That is one thing that frustrates me about Reebok.  It’s really hard to find the EXACT thing you want online.   If you find a Reebok item you like in the store, buy it, because you will never be able to find it again.

The skirt was $25.  I’ve run in it 3 times, and it works great.  I had Tim run behind me to make sure the shirt doesn’t kick up in the back and show too much junk and stuff.  He says it stays where it’s supposed to.  It’s very light, modest, and fashionable.  I think I could even wear it for casual clothes.  Maybe.  If I start wearing skirts.

If this new gear keeps me motivated to keep jogging, it will be well worth the $90 investment.

I was wondering if I would be able to get myself to exercise today at all.  Yesterday Tim and I embarked on a massive house-cleaning exercise.  We were having company over at 6, so we started up around 10AM.  I worked on the bathroom first.  We often light candles and matches in our bathroom, and all the soot and match residue has been steadily accumulating and mixing with the moisture of the shower for the past 6 years on our white bathroom walls and ceiling.  We have made a couple of half-hearted attempts to clean up the black stains/mildew, which only resulted in worsening the appearance of the bathroom.  Instead of uniformly grimy walls, we had swaths of lighter grimy walls, set off by darker, grimy walls.  So yesterday I drug the ladder up from the basement, mixed some TSP substitute with bleach and set to.  It was a hot, sweaty, frustrating job (the ladder is almost bigger than our bathroom), but it was worth it.  Our walls are 95% white again. I couldn’t get the stains completely off some areas.  Our only solution is to repaint the walls.  But it looks way better than it used to:

That corner in the upper left used to be disgusting.

I am super sore, though, this morning, from contortioning my body into awkward positions and from bracing it against the ladder steps.  My back is rather jacked up, but running didn’t bother it at all.

Tim also removed the door separating our kitchen from the basement stairs.  We leave this door open always anyway, so Lucent can get to the litter box in the basement.  The only purpose the door served was to annoy me – when the door is open, it partially blocks the basement stairs.  I always run into it while carrying things up and down the stairs.  Last weekend, while I was negotiating around the door with basket full of laundry, I stubbed my toe on the steps and tripped up into the kitchen.  Not only did my toe hurt like a mother, but I was also super embarrassed ’cause I tripped.  While I was cleaning the bathroom, Tim surprised me and removed the door.  I am amazed by how much more open the back entry-way looks now.  Once we paint the basement stairwell and the closet that used to be hidden by the open door, it will look awesome.

All-in-all we had a very productive Saturday.  Our friends came over at 6, we ate Tim’s delicious (and healthy) chicken tortilla soup, guacamole, and macho nachos, and then played a rousing game of Settlers of Catan.  I was totally in the running to win (despite being repeatedly attacked and robbed by Teem), when our friend stole my Largest Army victory points, flipped over her secrete Discovery cards and stole the show.  It was still fun, despite losing.

Our guests brought delicious treats for dessert – turtles made of pretzels, Rolos, and pecans.  They were super tasty and cute.  I say “were” because all of mine are now eaten.  We have 3 left, and I’ve reserved them for Tim.

So goes another weekend, way too fast.  I wanted to plant some vincas in my pots today, but I went to Green Thumbers at 11, and the parking lot was packed to the hilt.  I didn’t feel like pushing an unweildy cart through narrow lanes of flowers, clogged with the after-church crowd, so I drove through the parking lot and came on home.  Maybe I’ll sweet talk Tim into picking up some flats of vincas and impatiens for me during the more sane week-day hours.  At least I pulled out all the pots from the garage (gingerly tapping each pot to scare out any mice or other creatures who had taken up residence over the winter) and rinsed them out with our mice-eaten hose.  Get me some dirt and some flowers, and I’m good to go.

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

And the weekend comes, the weekend comes (and goes)

Friday night Tim and I headed up to Mom and Dad’s.  It was a beautiful drive to Monticello, and it was great to see Mom and Dad again.  Seems like forever since we’ve been up there.  We had a good time – had supper together, played Tick (I think Mom won again, as usual), helped Mom tag some scrubbies and koozies for her upcoming craft show, and ate some of mom’s delicious jello cake (which she made especially for Tim since he always helps her with her computer stuff).

I also tried to help Mom organize her computer files.  They are currently all stored in her Downloads folder!  We made some progress, and I got introduced to Amigurumis, which are these awesome crocheted toys/dolls.  My mom even has a pattern for crocheted Brain Slugs (from Futurama).  Mom is going to make one for Tim, complete with a chin strap, so he can wear it on his head, in true brain slug style.  Maybe I’ll have to brush up on my crocheting skills, so I can start making these awesome toys.  So far, I’ve stuck to super simple blankets, all made with an easy-to-do slanted shell stitch.  Here is my most recent blanket, which I made for Lucent:

Mom found a bunch of this beautiful, super-soft green yarn at a thrift store, and it made a perfect blanket for Lucent.

We went to bed Friday night to the sound of wind playing the chimes, ala Twister.  We awoke Saturday to a super misty and beautiful morning.  I took a few pictures, but the camera cannot truly capture how pretty it was.

We got home from Monti around 3:30, and I was completed exhausted and hungry.  We tried out Kimchi Teriyaki at Five Points for supper, based on a recommendation from a friend.   We are looking for a GOOD Chinese restaurant, but they all taste the same – oily, salty, fried food.  Sometimes HyVee can be super good, but it’s not consistent.  We were hoping to find a consistently good place.  We thought Kimchi was just okay. Next time maybe I’ll work up the courage to try one of their Korean dishes.  They looked good, but I was wary because I’ve never eaten Korean, so I wasn’t sure what to get.

I don’t know if it was because I didn’t sleep in my own bed Friday night, or if my body rebelled against all the simple carbohydrates, but after supper, I was just super duper tired.  We watched 4 or 5 episodes of Archer (which is hilarious and super inappropriate).  I think we ended up going to bed at 7:30!!!  I didn’t wake up until 7 Sunday morning.  I was super tired all week.  Hopefully that 12 hours will get me back up to speed.

Sunday was a typical, nice, relaxing Sunday.  We went to the gym, bought groceries, did laundry, watched The Wrath of Khan – the usual.

And then the weekend was over.  I wish I lived in the alternate dimension where people work Saturday and Sunday and have Monday through Friday off.

Better Late than Never

The time has come.  I am finally going to write about my art class.

First of all, I need to provide some history.  There are two important facts you need to know.  Firstly, in high school I really enjoyed art.  I took 4 years of it, and it was one of my favorite classes.  I even got in trouble by the principal once for trying to skip a school assembly to hang out in the art room.  My two favorite things to make were pottery and pencil drawings.  I loved drawing people and houses.  I melded these two loves in this picture:

This house can be found in Monticello, by Riverside park.  I got the idea of the eye looking through the house from my Psych textbook which contained a photograph of a sidewalk with a puddle on it that reflected the sky and trees.  I liked the idea of a picture within a picture.  I cannot draw solely from my mind’s eye, so I scoured magazines and found a picture of a convict glaring through jail bars.  His eyes had the menace I was looking for, so there it is.  As you can see, I struggled with the background.  At my teacher’s instruction, I added the full moon to make the background more interesting.  Of course, if the moon was really behind the house, the shadows of the house would be all wrong, but whatever.  I still liked the drawing.  My uncle actually tried to buy it off me, so it must be cool to other people besides me.  By the way, the poor background here was a portend of things to come…

The second thing you need to know is that while I loved art in high school, I have produced maybe 2 pieces of artwork in the past 14 years.  This is the case for a few reasons.  I’m essentially a lazy person, and it’s easier to read or watch TV or check my email than to pull out all of my art supplies and try to uncover a patch of house in which to be creative.  Also, I was a non-traditional student, so on and off for the past 14 years (since high school), I have been working full-time whilst also getting my AA, BA, and then MBA.  I finally finished school last summer.  I enjoyed my free time for a few months, and then I saw that the Figge was offering this Architectural Rendering in Watercolor class, taught by Tom Hempel, a local artist whose work I have always admired.  If you’ve gone to any art shows in the QC, you’ve seen his striking, colorful paintings of houses and local landmarks.  My time to jump back into artistic waters had arrived.

Tom taught his 4 step process to produce an architectural painting in watercolor.  To begin, we drew very quick (15 to 20 minute) sketches of our houses, then used a T-square to straighten out the horizontal and vertical lines.  Then we filled in the basic color of the house.  After the first 2 hour class, this was my masterpiece.  Oh wait, first of all, I have to show you the photo I was drawing from.  Please keep in mind that the tree background on the printed photo is much darker than it appears here:

Okay, now that you’ve seen that, here is my starting point:

Actually, I think this was my painting after Week 2.  I forgot to take a picture after Week 1.  It pretty much looked like this, sans the shadows and the color in the windows.

After week 2, we started adding in the details.  This included drawing the shadows to represent the wood siding, using an exacto knife to painstakingly scrape paint and a very thin layer of paper off of the painting to get the areas that should be white to actually be white.  FYI – If you want an area of your painting to be white – DON’T PAINT IT!!!  It’s much easier than scraping layers off the paper.

I worked on the painting over the weekend (Tim and I set aside “creative time,” where he worked on his short story, and I painted).  Well, first I had to do some more art supply shopping.  The $2.99 brushes I picked up from Major Art and Hobby majorly sucked.  They were losing bristles the first night I used them. Based on recommendations from a friend, I bought some short-handled sable brushes from Micheals.  They made a world of difference – the paint went on much more smoothly and more controlled.  Here was the painting after the weekend:

The next step was to add the grass, steps, flowers, and background.  As you can see from the photograph, the background is very dark.  It’s essentially trees.  To start me out, Tom had me paint a few patches of blue, and then paint the whole background light green, as a base.  It actually looked pretty cool at this stage.  Tom said it looked like the cover of a storybook.  I wish I would’ve taken pictures, but somehow I forgot.  Anyway, during the last night of class, I put on layers and layers of dark, greenish/bluish/purplish paint to try to achieve the dark-looking background of the photo.   I kept a few places light, to convey light striking some of the foliage.

The background kept getting darker and darker and wetter and wetter.  This was my first foray into watercolor painting, so I was/am still learning how to manage water and the paper and the brushes.  I didn’t know before we started that you are supposed to stretch and tape/staple your paper to the drawing board.  This is a very important first step.  You can’t really tell from the photos I’ve posted, but my paper (140 lb cold press (made out of cotton)) was ultra wavy and crazy.  I eventually had to use duct tape to keep it attached to the board.  As a consequence, my dark, wet paint kept sliding off the peaks and settling in the valleys.  It made for a strange effect.

While I was trying to figure out what to do about the encroaching darkness, I worked on my grass, sidewalk, and flowers.  Tom recommended using acrylics to do the flowers, to make them really pop (I’m using that sardonically, but you can’t tell).  I got a couple of tubes of Folk Art paint and set to.  I’m really happy with how the flowers turned out.  Tom gave me lots of tips regarding the colors, shading and shadows, and it really helped.  I worked on the painting a little bit last weekend after the final class, and here is the semi-final version:

Overall, I am quite happy with how it turned out.  I LOVE the greenery, the door, the windows, and the foundation bricks.  The grass could use some highlighting/lowlighting – something to make it less uniform.  The background needs the same thing in a big way, but I’m at a loss.  I need to lighten up sections.  I might take Tim’s advice and have a go at it with the exacto knife.  I’m afraid of making it worse, though.  I have to ponder on it a little more.

But, overall, since this is my first watercolor painting ever, I am very happy with it.  I have tons of brushes, paints and paper now and all the reason in the world to keep at this, I just have to make myself do it.  I really enjoyed the class, and it’s  just super nice to get back into an artistic mind frame again.  The class shifted my perspective, and I started seeing all the variation of color and shadow that make up things I looked at cursorarily daily.   I started to notice how the tan weeds growing up through the snowbanks were actually a dark lavender at the base, how the clouds in the sky actually had brown and purple in them, how grass isn’t just green – it’s red and orange and blue, as well as green.  The class really made me see things differently.  Even if I never paint another watercolor, at least I’ve learned that.  Plus, I got to meet some really neat people in the class, one of whom sent me this class picture.  That’s Tom, our teacher, in the middle:

What am I going to do for my next project?  I need to paint a picture for Tim – one of Lucent, I think.  I need to paint “Serenity” for a friend.  I want to paint this photo:

One of my fellow students, who has a BFA and is an art teacher, asked me what I was going to do next, and I described this picture to her.  She said, “Wow, you’re ambitious!”  Am I biting off more than I can chew?  Painting people is probably harder than painting houses.  I guess we’ll see.  I would also like to do another architectural painting, to reinforce the concepts.  Should I re-paint our house, in which case I could actually measure out the house, so it’s to scale?  I had a problems with parts of the house not matching up correctly (don’t look at the stair railing too closely).  Plus, I could paint a beautiful cloudy sky behind the house instead of Fangorn forest.  Or, I could try my hand at a brand new house…  So many choices.

Well, if you have any ideas on how to fix the background, let me know. Otherwise thanks for reading, and if you ever get a chance to take Tom’s class, go for it!