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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fruits and Frogs and Pollywogs

 You are probably wondering about the title to my blog post - it's one whole nickname we call Scotty, our family miniature schnauzer.  There's even more to that nickname but it's embarrassing to finish it out loud or on "paper" - only family and true Scotty lovers can sing the refrain.  I painted Scotty.  He is my first true portrait and I painted him for my son Heath's birthday.  He will receive the portrait today.  Here below is the rest of the portrait and then I'll explain the story.
 Below is the picture I painted from.

I didn't want it to be an perfect copy but rather a close representation of one of my favorite pictures of Scotty.  I changed the carpet and made the box a tad shorter.  A couple years ago, Heath and Emma were getting rid of some stuff in their apartment and they put Scotty in a box and told him they were taking him to the Salvation Army with all the other boxes.  That's how they labeled the picture when they texted it to me.  I titled the painting "Yard Sale Pup".  I will miss that painting when it leaves today as I have loved placing every brush stroke and then talking to the finished painting the whole week it has leaned against the wall in our kitchen.  Happy Birthday Heath! (next week anyway).  I've finished three other paintings since my last post that I'll show here as I go along and wrap up another month of fun-ness.

We had a great time in Tulum Mexico ( Riviera Maya area).  The weather was flawless - sunny and mid to high 80s everyday and we followed a schedule we kept on our last two beachy trips - breakfast, long morning beach walk, bake in the sun and read and drink diet coke until lunch time, eat lunch at a different place each day, go on an adventure all afternoon until dinner time and then pick out a different place to eat each night.  We stayed at a place called Viento de Mar along the jungle road where eco-hotels are built cheek by jowl on the ocean side of the narrow road and shops and restaurants line the other side.  I say they are cheek by jowl close but they don't feel that way because each boutique hotel is quite small, 8-20 rooms, most with thatched palapa style roofs, and open floor restaurants and bars.  We loved it.  Here are some pics of that trip.

 This is the view from our balcony.

 This is the beach side of our hotel.

 Our room was like being in a white washed tree house - it was great!

 The maids designed dolls with our fresh towels every day.

 I'm starting to turn really brown here.

At home I got back to painting.  Here are two 8x10 ones I did of scenes from Turks and Caicos (the girl is not me - it could be if I quit eating cake - ha!  It's from someone else's photo).

 This one is an impressionist style of our beach one late afternoon as the sun was going down.

This one is abstract expressionism except for the girl - I kept her somewhat realistic.
Below are both of them hanging in the hall way on the second floor.

The painting below is large - 36 x 36 - Dan and I saw one similar at a gallery in Connecticut and we both liked it for its fresh, fun, nautical vibe and it was priced at $2000!  I said that I would paint something like it for under $100 and I did and we love it - it's cheery and cheer for sure and here it is below in my studio drying and then we hung it in the second floor hall outside of Dan's office.

 I love the look of fresh and modern in a 217 year old hallway.

Last Wednesday, for the 175th anniversary of the Relief Society, my church's women's organization, we put together a "birthday party" with cake, ice cream, a "let's make a deal" game and a service project.  My second counselor and I each made a few homemade cakes, different kinds, and homemade ice cream.  My first counselor went out and bought a bunch of fun and silly prizes for the game.  My secretary put together a beautiful flower arrangement and our friend Bobby H emceed the game.  Each woman from our congregation/ward was asked to bring two purses - a used one to give away (don't we all have old purses we'll never use again?) and to be filled with items to donate to a local shelter for abused women and children and then our own purse to be filled with a bunch of non pursey objects found around one's house for the game.  We had a great turnout with dozens of donated, filled purses and the game was a blast.  The cakes were yummy too.
 These were items I put in my own purse.  None of them were called out.  I did win one prize for having an address book in my purse, a real one, not the one on my phone.
 Here's an old purse of mine washed and in great shape to be donated to the shelter filled with personal items and art supplies for kids.
 Here are three cakes I made -  angel food with fresh raspberry sauce, flourless chocolate souffle cake with berries and whipped cream, and a white chocolate 3 layer cake with white chocolate curls on top.  And a gravy boat full of warm ganache for the ice cream and any thing else you want to pour it on.

Taryn made a killer chocolate mousse cake in the back there next to a delicious carrot cake.  We were all in a cake coma afterwards (Taryn's words).  

A couple days ago, Dan and I went to NYC to see a play and peruse more bakeries.  We also met up with our friends Carly and Jesse for lunch.  Details below.
 We saw "Waitress".  Music by Sarah Bareilles.  It was enjoyable and I loved the songs.
 You probably won't care about this news but to me it was a monumental find.  We passed by a french cafe on our way to our hotel and I looked at the menu and it offered Valrhona hot chocolate on the breakfast menu UNSWEETENED!  I  was so excited I exclaimed that we had to eat breakfast there the next day.  I have said to Dan so many times that I wished a restaurant would made unsweetened hot chocolate, good hot chocolate, with no sugar added so a person could drink it straight or sweeten it with whatever they wanted.  Wish granted.  It was really really good! It could have been hotter - I like it burning hot and it rarely comes hot enough anywhere, but it was so delicious (they make a paste from melted 100% cocoa bar chocolate and add it to hot steamed whole milk).  I drank most of it unsweetened and then added a bit of truvia for the last couple swallows (and to dunk my baguette).
Here's a painted rendering of the place that was near our table - you can see its names and address - the corner of 9th and 21st in the Chelsea neighborhood.

 Every time we go to NYC we try to explore a different area.  This time we chose Chelsea.  We stayed at a lovely hotel called the High Line on 10th Ave and 20th St.  It's a 1863 former seminary turned boutique hotel.  Here are a couple pics of our room - it was new and old fashioned at the same time.

 Some of our activities besides the play were walking the High Line Park (I went from end to end - so fun and much to look at), bakeries of course (Amy's Bread, Billy's, Daily Provisions, Aux Merveilleux, Maison Erik Kayser), Chelsea Market, the Whitney Museum, Le Labo (for perfume - the best!) lunch with the Smith's at Buvette (right out of Paris), dinners at Bobby Van's Grill and Bottino - both really good!  And lots and lots of walking - Dan did great on his new knees; better than we both thought he would.
Smelling all the offerings at Le Labo.  They make your perfume right there in their little lab.

 Billy's Bakery across the street from La Grainne.  I liked their cupcakes better than Magnolia.
 Walking on the High Line (an ancient, unused, once an eyesore, elevated railway that has been converted into an elevated garden/park/walkway).  Someone installed a very realistic zombie along the path.
 Buvette at 42 Grove St in Greenwich Village.  Very tiny, very french, delicious.
 Modern art at the Whitney - this is a huge painting - acrylic on twin sized bed sheet.

Super super tender and delicious crullers from Daily Provisions at 103 E. 19th St. in the "furniture store district".  The hot chocolate was fabulous too - very very rich and not too sweet.  

On the train ride home from NYC to Boston, Dan and I ate from our bakery purchases the whole way. We felt pretty sick by the time we got home.  Next week I am going to be in a bathing suit for most of the time and it's not gonna be pretty.  Well, I think that's the last few weeks in the life of cheery and cheer.  We have another blizzard coming on Tuesday and Wednesday here in New England which we are going to miss but I wouldn't complain at all if I were here for it.  I love snow!  I am not tired of winter by any means because we have barely had one - maybe two weeks worth if you add all the snowy and cold days together.  And spring is always sitting on the kitchen counter no matter what. 

Oh!  And I'm going to be a Gran!  My daughter is pregnant with the first grandchild of my three kids.  Here she is with her teeny tiny baby bump.  Hooray!!!

One more thing - Heath was just here and received his Scotty portrait!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Structure And Color - Good Things

 After the holidays ended, I created a schedule for my days which has given me a much needed structure to accomplish all my tasks, projects, chores, essential and non essential pursuits and exercise that need doing.  And Monday has become my favorite day of the week believe it or not!  A couple things; Dan and I are both planners and list makers which is a convenient trait to have in common, and winter is essential for me - I mean the kind of winter we get here in New England that requires one to be indoors a lot.  Only in winter can I carry out repairs, home improvements, deep cleaning, reading for pleasure and my current obsession and delight - painting.  Several times I have said to Dan as we are watching TV or lying in bed and reading before lights out that if it were late spring and summer, I'd still be outside.  So, my schedule right now goes something like this: wake up around 6:30 am, make the bed immediately, put make up on, get dressed, go downstairs and make the essential huge cup of my hot chocolate concoction, read some scriptures, say my morning prayer, read emails and some social media.  I have my little corner of the living room where I do this every day (next to the "plant head person").  Dan has his own similar routine in the kitchen.  We don't like to chat a lot and interrupt each other during our morning rituals.  After our individual constitutionals, each day has different morning chores, like bathrooms on Monday, floors on Tuesday etc.  I also wash one window every day except Sunday, inside and out, which is such a pleasure now that we had installed double paned tilting windows.  By winter's end, all windows will be done.  I do love home keeping, I really do.  Then I either go to the gym or walk along the ocean; sometimes Dan does this with me but he still has PT a couple times a week for his recovering knees and he'll work out on his own too.  I go to my studio and paint from 10 - 2 pm.  I have to have this time scheduled as if I am going to work so that I make it a priority and stay disciplined.  After 2, if I didn't exercise in the morning I go then or it's errands, church service stuff for my church job, the scheduled house projects (which I have calendared so they all get done and I have to "obey the calendar"), some times we go to the movies, little afternoon field trips, etc., until it's time for dinner preparation and Dan and I take turns with that.  We each take a chunk of days where one of us plans the menus, shops for all the ingredients and then cooks the dinners until our block of menus has been accomplished.  Then we switch.  After dinner Dan likes to watch TV and read but most of the time I continue with tasks until bedtime; I don't like to sit down until I'm sitting up in bed.  After we take our showers at night we like to talk and read our books and magazines in bed, we read some scriptures together too, say our prayers and the day ends.  Many times I'll think to myself as I drift off to sleep "in 8 hours I get to drink hot chocolate again!".  Now this schedule doesn't occur 100 percent of the time because things come up but most of the time it does and the structure fuels productivity and contentment.  I do stop and smell the roses or in the case of winter, stop at several windows and watch the legion of birds at our bird feeders.  What a pleasure bird watching is!  Except for the Starlings that I find to be greedy, aggressive and very messy.

 Because it is white and brown and gray outside, color is so important inside.  Fresh flowers are in several rooms, candy jars brighten the butler's pantry.  And everything that I am painting is bright and saturated.  Here are some examples of what I've been doing in the studio.

This painting below was made for my daughter Gabe.  She asked for something bright and either with flowers or boats.  I decided to paint in a flat, modernistic style and this is how it turned out.

 Isn't this collage of pink delicious???

I loved her painting so much that I wanted one similar for myself (or ourselves since Dan has to live with it too).  I used a wider canvas, actually a 20x24x2 birch wood surface.  I chose to paint anemones, pink of course, a minty turquoise wall paint, the same tablecloth (seen in a Matisse painting) an orange table and then I added objects; a ceramic dish that Gabe made for me in her 9th grade ceramics class, a hershey kiss, and then a set of house keys to our very house.  I love how it turned out too and now it is hanging so cheerily in our bedroom.
Setting in the objects

The finished painting

 How is that collage for a jolt of color?  This season's work so far plus the one below.

Saturday I finished what has been my most challenging painting to date.  I saw a little photo on a paint store ad of a child on a yellow chair.  Inspiration struck, I sketched out my interpretation and got to work and now it is hanging in the kitchen "Going for the Candy Jar".

 These two pics above were shot at different times of day - look at what a difference light makes.

When I think about color I think about what a neighbor back in Elko, Nevada said to me almost 30 years ago - she was and is an interior decorator and she told me that most people are afraid of color.  They like color but they are afraid to use it in their homes because they are paralyzed by two concerns - reselling their home and what will people think?  Here's what another designer had to say about that in this quote I found in House Beautiful.  Read below.  P.S. - those kitchen walls above might be getting a new color this winter - we'll see.
Think about it - we are so worried about the next people living in our own home that we miss truly living in it ourselves.  And as for what other people think - who the heck cares!!!  You live there, you must please yourself.

  Here's a little color from our house in the living room:

Here are some pictures from magazines featuring homes where people aren't afraid to use color nor do they care what others think.  I adore all of these pictures, I go back to them again and again.  As a matter of fact, I'm trying to convince Dan that we need to paint our den that fabulous deep coral pink! (it's probably not going to happen - I'll have to paint the Jungle room that color) 

 This is designer Kate Ridder's house in NY state.

 And below is Kristin Nicholas' house in western Massachusetts.  She lives on a sheep farm and the white exterior of her old farm houses belies the brilliant color throughout her home inside.  She's an artist, textile designer, knitter and book author and some summer I hope to attend her workshops she holds on her farm and see her amazing house.
 She painted the pictures, the furniture, the lampshades, wall finishes, painted "wallpaper" herself.  And she made the pillow covers and knitted the furniture throws and grew the flowers in the vases.  She said she could no more live in the beige home she grew up in than fly.  She's my kindred spirit.  Her husband is a great sport - he says he wouldn't dream of holding her back in any colorful pursuit - after all, he is living his own dream as a sheep farmer.   Google her, find her website and blog and hit the link to her house tour that Houzz filmed.

 Read her words of wisdom on this pic above.

My favorite artist of all, Henri Matisse, because of his brilliant use of color and unique painting style, is going to be featured at an exhibit in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts April 9 - July 9 2017 - I can't wait to go!!  Here are a couple of his paintings from the MFA website.

Don't you want to stand by those pink flowers and look out at the pink houses and ocean?  I do.

And more color from my house - Copper!
For the whole time we have lived in this house, this bar sink was dark, almost black like the dark bronzed faucet.  I knew it was copper from the hammered finish but I didn't realize how easy it would be to restore the color until I had spotted some metal polish at the hardware store and thought to try it.  Ten minutes later, look at the glorious sheen that was previously a black abyss.  And more copper below, something fun - on Etsy I found an earring hanger made from copper tubing and wire - I have had all my earrings stored in piles in three compartments of a jewelry box for all of my adult life and I was sick of it so recently this hanger came in the mail and I spent a pleasant evening hour organizing my earrings.  This hanger holds 75 or 150 pairs depending on how you hang them.  Isn't is cute?

It's only 11" x 5" so it doesn't take much space on the dresser upstairs.

Today I made colorful curtains for the kitchen.

And here's a glimpse of colored pots and my colorful dress from an alley way in Cordoba Spain for more color love on this Snow Day!

And here's our cheerful house just as the two day (Sunday-Monday) storms are about to begin!  By the way, I love snow.  I love winter.  Yesterday Dan and I took a walk on the golf course trails just before the heavy snowfall began and we probably should have used our snow shoes but we didn't and we were as comfortably warm in our coats, boots and mittens out in that winter wonderland as we would have been walking in our shorts on a summer day.

So long!  I'll post next when we return from Mexico!