Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 3 for the Kitchen

The destruction continues!  Honestly, sometimes I wonder how we managed to live with things the way they were, and then I think of the kitchen with which my mother-in-law had to contend for close to sixty years.  That makes me shut my mouth very quickly, I can tell you!

This is looking into the kitchen area of the room.  You can see the lonesome dishwasher; it's now the only appliance in the kitchen, and it isn't even where it belongs or plugged in! The dry wall had to come down in this area because some pipes had to be re-routed.  The shiny silver one is the new pipe that was put in today.

Now you are looking into the eating area of the room.  In both pictures you can see that the ceiling had to be completely taken down for wiring purposes.  

D has caught a cold so we went out for lunch today as I wanted him to have some hot soup - comfort food for both of us.  We do have a toaster oven, a crock pot, Keurig, and electric kettle and so far we've done all right, but already there are times when we just have to get out.

By the way, the ubiquitous blue pail is in both photos.  Today it is catching drips from the upstairs bath tub - another pipe to be replaced!  

Anyway, the pail is fun to watch and see where it turns up each day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Succumbing to Temptation

Okay, I admit it.  When I started quilting, I didn't know much about the various textile "names" like Andover, Westminster, Moda, et al.  I was ignorant.  I didn't know the difference between a traditional and a reproduction (I still have difficulties trying to tell some apart) or why some people didn't like batiks or orientals.  But - and how many times have you heard this? - I knew what I liked, and I loved the lush florals that Benartex was making and the colors they were using in those first years of my adventure in quilting.

Therefore, it may not be all that surprising that I succumbed to a temptation that was much bigger than my will power.

What can I say?  When I fall, I fall with great enthusiasm!

Monday, February 24, 2014

And So It Begins - Again

Our kitchen renovation began today, and it certainly was off with a bang  It's amazing how much can be destroyed in one day!  While we had done our job of clearing things out, there were still many things to move before destruction could begin.  Yet, even that went startlingly fast; within two hours all furniture and most of the appliances were moved into different places in our house.  And there went my dream of making sure to keep things organized and corralled in one room.  Ha!

Island, stove, microwave, and refrigerator are gone.
 All of the lower cabinets are now in a dumpster in our drive way, and the sink is also a thing of the past.
That blue pail is such a lovely touch!
The upper cabinets have met the same fate as the lower and more of that early 80's wallpaper (which I really liked then - but no more wallpaper for me now!) is a thing of the past, also.  Look, that dreadful, dimpled linoleum is disappearing!
The "swag" of wires is a nice touch, don't you agree?
We are now tired and a bit discombobulated from all the mess so I'll say, "Good Night!"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Yesterday I didn't write because we were up late watching the Olympics; I just had to see the ice dancing final.  And of course, we did almost the same thing tonight not because we were riveted by the events (though interesting, none were sit-on-the-edge-of-our-chairs-worthy to us) but because our eyes were glazing over.  Okay, our eyes were drifting shut!

All that aside, the big news is Raking the Hay 2 is finally finished!  Whew, it took what seems to me to be a very long time, but I also feel I learned a lot.  Now I hope I can use what I learned in my next foray into watercolor.  One of the things I have learned is how valuable a tool this medium is for making studies of subjects before going into oils.  So, although I really want to get back to those oils, I will continue with the watercolors, also.

Here is the finished work:

Raking the Hay #2

Our grandson will be visiting for the rest of the week so if I don't get to "blog" you'll understand why.  Enjoy the coming warming weather!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Plans for Painting

When I take the most recent watercolor into the studio this week, I plan that it will be for the last time.  It's time to move on.  There may come a time when I decide to revisit the subject for an oil painting (for which I feel it is more suited), but that won't be for a while.  These are my plans now after working some more on it during the last few days, but we'll see what happens on Tuesday.

Anyway, I have spent time working on a drawing and would like to do a second drawing, different subject both for new paintings.  Indeed, one of them may lend itself to a series of drawings/paintings; we'll see.  I didn't take pictures of the one I did, yet, and I may not share it for a while until I have a better notion of what it will lead to. 

And my mind is dwelling on the canyon quilt that I designed after we returned from our trip out west but never got around to making.  It's been whispering in my mind for several weeks, but there are so many other things I should do first.  Yet another "wait and see".

Ah well, I did take some more snow pictures:

This is why I didn't feed the birds! 

Two that I think are pretty:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Still Winter - on Valentine's Day

This is being written much earlier than usual because I am afraid I will be rather tired by tonight.  Nothing unusual; you are all probably feeling the same way after shoveling today.  We are lucky to have someone plow for us who was able to come relatively early so when I got up the driveway looked very good.

But the front walk doesn't get plowed so I decided to shovel before showering (smart move, I thought!) and bundled up.  We have those wonderful push shovels which work very well - if the snow isn't too deep to push.  You're right; it was too deep to push!  So, remembering to use my knees, I shoveled the snow layer by layer and got the walkway done.  

Front walk cleared but not the Bonsai Stand!
Then I looked at the driveway.  It was clear, but to a member of the "Black Driveway Club", clear is not good enough.  I traded in my lifting shovel for a push model and got to work taking off that last layer before it turns to ice.  You see, our driveway is a slope, not really quite a hill but sloped enough that ice makes it treacherous and difficult to navigate for both human and automobile.  It took a while, but thanks to the right shovel, it was relatively easy to do.
Snow blowing off the White Pines
Back inside, I took care of the chores that needed to be done.  I was upstairs in my studio when I looked outside again and saw that the town snow plow had come through and had left just enough at the base of the driveway to make life miserable if it should freeze there.  Out I went again, and this time it wasn't much fun.  By now the snow was very wet so that even pushing it was hard to do.  I did get it all done, did some more work on the little patches the sun hadn't melted from our driveway, and returned to the warmth of the house.

Front yard birdhouse

This "cone" of snow made me laugh.

Another snowy birdhouse in the back yard.
I admit I took some Tylenol when I got inside thinking it would stave off achey muscles and keep them from tightening up.  So far it's working!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Quiet Winter Day

Wow, what a winter's day, and it isn't over yet!  At one point when I looked out back I saw five male cardinals back by the feeders.  There was no point in even trying to get a photo of all of them as they were on the move constantly - flitting from bush to bush to feeder to ground and back again.  But, oh, they were beautiful!

There aren't any photos for today as I didn't do anything that would be worthy of making a record.  It was a quiet day where I kept busy but don't have anything exciting to relate; I think I was as muffled as it was outside in all that snow.  

This morning I made a vegetable quiche.  I made one earlier this week for a neighbors and had plenty of fresh ingredients left over so I decided to replicate the quiche and save the vegetables that way.  It was either that or the compost bin so they wouldn't really have been wasted.  But this way, we'll get to enjoy them more.

Then this afternoon when I couldn't settle on sewing, painting, or cleaning out, I baked two batches of biscotti.  The first was using a recipe I'd used before but making some changes.  So instead of chocolate pistachio today's version is semi-sweet and white chocolates with macadamias.  The corner I tasted was quite good.  Then I tried a new recipe for almond, anise, and lemon biscotti.  This one is rather disappointing.  I had bought a new box of anise seed and used a tablespoon instead of 2 teaspoons, but the anise is quite faint.  So is the lemon, too, which is even more of a surprise.  I'll have to look for a new recipe that might make more of the anise flavor.

The only other thing I accomplished today was doing a load of laundry.  Maybe tomorrow I'll feel more lively.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Charles Burchfield, Oh My!

Childhood's Garden
Welcome to the fantastic world of Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893 - 1967).  Today our studio class took a field trip to see an exhibit of his work at the NYS Museum.  And while this is not one of the paintings in the exhibit, it is one I love for color and form and sheer exuberance!  This exhibit is called "Weather" and the focus is on how Burchfield painted wind, sky, and lightning among other natural phenomena that we normally don't think about as something that can be painted.  Look at the sky in Childhood's Garden.  The sun is pouring down.  If we were in the presence of this painting and stepped back to look at it from a distance, it would vibrate with light.  The glow would lift right off the painting!

I know that because that's what happened with many of the paintings I saw today.  These are some that are in the exhibit:
Fireflies and Lightning

Landscape with Gray clouds

December Storm
If by any chance, these pictures don't show up in my blog, google Burchfield and just look at his paintings (his designs for Birge wallpaper are pretty amazing, too).  But better than that would be to make a visit to the museum; the paintings really need to be seen in person.  Look at them both close up and far away, but do it soon as the exhibit closes on February 23, 2014!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Painting Day and Lifting the Spirit

Teaching is not an easy thing and not every teacher is the right one for every student.  Let me tell you why Sharon is the right one for me. 

She's teaching me:

  • how to think.  I've mentioned this before.  Having never had the luxury of a teacher's 100% attention before, I was able to avoid the difficult task of thinking about what I was doing.  Drawing came easily, I intuitively understood value or light and dark as well as everything in between, living in a family that joyously visited museums, gave me an intuitive sense of what made a good composition based on what I had seen, and I gloried in color.  So I never thought about any of those things; I just used what I "knew" in my gut.  But when something went wrong (and most of the time, I knew when it had), I usually couldn't 
    • tell what went wrong
    • or if I knew "wrongness" had intruded, I didn't know how to fix it
  • how to evaluate my work myself.  Now I can critique (well, I'm getting better at it!) my work and hit on at least some of the things that need attention.  I can explain what I wanted to do and whether I think I've achieved it or not.  I can also talk about what I like and why. 
  • how to share my work without wincing and how to ask for and accept critiques from others without getting too defensive
  • how to weigh the critiques against what I want the finished piece to be and decide whether to use suggestions after due consideration
There's more, of course, but that should help as I go through some of the above steps with my before and after today's class photos of Raking the Hay 2.  First the before:

Rats.  Turns out I didn't take a photo of yesterday's work after all.  I was not a happy painter at that time so I guess I just turned my back on it.  Oh well, this will do.  While I like where the farmer is "going", I wasn't happy with the painting as a whole.  All the colors are the same - same colors, same intensity, no drama or intensity.  The distant hill doesn't seem far enough away as it shares the same colors and values as the trees in the farmer's field.  Because the lake has hardly received any attention, it looks like a void.  The painting could be cut in half and nothing would be lost.  I like the pale suggestiveness of the farmer's field but it does need more punch and heat.  Where's the sun?  Why is the sky so limp?  I had done more work as I said, but that had merely made matters worse.  

So I took it in and plonked it on the easel.  Sharon said okay, "What do you think?" and I told her.  I included the fact that my attempts to fix it hadn't changed it for the better.  She agreed with my assessments almost completely including the fact that cutting it in half wouldn't affect it much at all.  So what did she suggest?

Lighten the farthest hills.  They did not appear far enough away.  My darks weren't dark enough so my lights didn't sing.  Also, the colors in the distance were too warm (without thinking of the consequences, I had used red to darken my greens which made them too warm).  

E mentioned that the lake could use some reflected color from the sky - hard to do if your sky has little to no color!  

I painted the sky.  I sponged off color from the back hills.  I made the darks in the tree line darker and am working on defining that area a bit more.  There's a lot more detail in and around the farmer; the field is nearing completion - still needs more heat.

And the lake.  Ah yes, the lake hasn't changed - yet.

Backyard Birds

It is 6:30 a.m. so I'm not sure whether I should say I'm writing this very late (it should have been written last night, after all) or I'm writing this very early.  We had to go to bed earlier than usual since D had to be up earlier than anyone should have to be (3:45 a.m.), I didn't take care of this yesterday.  Maybe it's an in-betweener!

Yesterday was our usual sort of day with all of our current activities: errands, cabinet cleaning, painting for me, computer work for D.  However, the highlight was the appearance at our bird feeders of the pileated woodpecker, aka Woody Woodpecker.  Since he is quite skittish, I didn't dare try to get outside to take his picture so all of the following shots are taken from our family room windows.

Again, remember that if you click on the photo, you can get a full screen view of all the photos I'll have in the blog today.  This woodpecker is the largest of the one we see, and he is lured to our feeder that we stock with peanuts.  He visited for quite some time until something spooked him - or he was simply full.

For such a large bird, he can certainly contort himself quite well and manage this feeder from top to bottom!

Here is one of the other woodpeckers we see on a slightly more regular basis.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker is on the suet which is his particular favorite.  We also saw both the hairy and the downy woodpeckers today, but that was before I got the camera out.  Off to the right you'll see a nuthatch and a chickadee who are both familiar everyday visitors.  

I think this is a little house finch above the cardinal, but I can't be sure as by this time the light was fading.

And now the cardinal all by himself.  He was watching as his mate was feeding under the nearby bushes where we scatter seed for the little, more chary birds.  Of course, the cardinals are welcome no matter where they want to feed!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Still Cleaning Cabinets

It's been a weekend of emptying cupboards and making piles in the family room.  Clearing those cabinets has actually been an enjoyable activity in part because we have such a wonderful goal in sight but also because it is always nice to have things clean and orderly.  It's been a very long time since the island was either!  

That doesn't mean that all is complete; not by a long chalk!  First of all, some things have to be left where they are because they are essential on a daily basis.  You know, salt and pepper, basic spices, a few plates and cups and, of course, glasses.  It's funny now to see how very bowed our shelves are.  After all, we moved in in 1979, and the house was built on speculation which means "builders' quality" throughout.  Trust me, it was very low end quality.  Ah well, we have lived with it for all that time, and it served us reasonably well.

There are some cabinets that haven't been tackled yet.  That's because we don't have to get everything done immediately; it will be a couple of weeks before work actually starts.  We're working now because by doing it gradually, we are more careful about what stays and what goes.  Too often we've moved too quickly and precious things are thrown away and not so precious is kept.  Also, working more slowly means we aren't spending all our time slogging away at it.

For example, today I had enough time to do some painting in the afternoon.  And I had enough time to be depressed about the way the painting went!  

You might say, that I had a bit too much time.  Sigh.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Today's Work on Raking the Hay 2

Can you tell what I did today?  Not hard, is it.  This is what my set up for painting usually looks like with one major exception - in this photo my practice sheet is to the left of my palette and that's where my painting would normally be.  The practice sheet would then be to the left of that.  I compressed the work area because I had already moved the painting when I decided to take this photo.

By the way, my palette reflects the last several months of painting, not just one day.  if I need a clean spot for a new color mixture, I take a damp towel and wipe away some color that's not being used in the current painting.  Since I usually do at least two passes at one subject and change colors only a little, this works for me.  Of course, the fact that I want to rearrange my palette and rearrange the paints and add new colors but am too penurious to wash the entire shooting match away, this is the way it will be for a while.

And this is what I did today.  If you look up at my work area photo, you will see how I adapted the foreground to suit my composition. Remember it is definitely incomplete, but what is your reaction?  Comments?  Critiques?  My ears are open . . .

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rusty Brown and Snow-Day Activities

Just received an email from the owner of that darling dog I shared the other day.  She kindly told me I could share photos of him any time and even tell you his name.  It's Rusty Brown; isn't that perfect?  If you can't remember what he looks like, here he is again:

This is the original photo sister-in-law sent.  She says he is even popular with men despite his diminutive size (5 pounds).  I'd scoop him up in a New York minute!

Today was another ho-hum day even though the snow wasn't (all 11.5" according to the ten o'clock weather report).  It was stunning - especially when seen from the inside looking out.  We were plowed out once, and the town went by with the big town plow and plowed us in twice.  Isn't our language fascinating?

While all that snow was falling, I tackled the 3-shelf bookcase in our kitchen.  When I finished, I had a few more books in the "library donation" pile and three empty shelves.  The books we are keeping are in the family room because D refused to clutter up the family room again.  He cleared out the left side of the pantry where the cleaning supplies are but left the ones that are used weekly.  Then he moved on to the top two shelves of the right-hand side where our canned goods, baking goodies, and well, pantry things are stored.  By that time the bookcase was finished so I moved over and finished the pantry.  That right side is also now empty.  Those items are stored in bins in the - yes, family room.

Our next targets are the wire shelving unit and the island (shudder!).

It just occurred to me that I may not have written about our next foray into construction.  We are going to re-vamp our kitchen both to make it more attractive (something it never was) and also to make it more user (we are a sometimes-two-cooks family sharing an inefficient space) friendly.  Many of the errands I've mentioned lately were to choose cabinets, flooring, counter top, faucet, and back splash.  Fortunately, I'm not one who takes a long time making those decisions so that part went reasonably quickly.  It's also the reason for all the sorting and clearing out.

Trust me, I don't mind the work one little bit!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Preliminary Study: Raking the Hay #2

Wow, I have had a severe case of the writing doldrums.  While life has been zipping along at its usual clip, blogging didn't seem like a good idea since my days were full of the same old errands, cleaning, sewing, and painting.  As for the last two subjects which are the usual more entertaining parts of my blogs (to my way of thinking, anyway), the results of those endeavors weren't worth talking about.

So . . . I have been messing around with Raking the Hay 2 (which you've seen before).  You already know that I've changed the composition to give more room to the farmer.  Doing that meant that I had to re-draw that farmer, his tractor, and mechanized hay rake.  Then, Sharon suggest that I do a practice painting of just that so I could fool around with the colors and let muscle memory get to work.  Here he is:

Interestingly enough, this enlarged version made me realize that there are still portions of this part of the photo that I can't see clearly.  After a bit of pondering on the problems that presented, I decided how to deal with those areas.  One problem solved.  I also saw areas where even though I had drawn this several times, I had to paint over the left hand tire when painting the top bar of the yellow rake - yellow over gray doesn't work well.  Remember that, NP.  There's not much use in using the masking material as the actual painting already has washes in this area (which were planned and shouldn't present too much of an issue).  I'm happy with the colors in this version.  Since this section is now larger, I was able to tone down the red I had used before on the rake and farmer's shirt.

While it doesn't seem like a lot was done today, significant progress was made.  This is going to sound strange, but the most significant part of all of this is I am learning how to think my way through painting instead of relying on gut instinct.

BIG difference, there!