Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Milestone

This afternoon, I was playing with my watercolors. I got this book out of the library, called Watercolors: A new way to learn how to paint. I'm not bothering to link to the book because it was very simplistic and not very helpful. The one good point it made was that with watercolors, you have to be patient and allow them to dry before working with adjacent sections.

Blah, blah, get your paintbrush loaded with color. More color is more vivid, add water to dilute it. Duh. Blah, blah, add water and move the color across the page for a wash, more and more water for a graduated wash. Blah, blah, draw your outlines in with pencil ... wait, what? You have to learn to draw first? Bah, humbug.

What I do have is a cheap set of watercolors, the kind you get at Target or Walmart, a recently-purchased set of brushes that have turned out to be simply luscious to work with, and lots and lots of watercolor paper pads.
 No, really, a lot.

Sometimes I chide my daughter for being a hoarder, but when it comes to art supplies, I'm the hoardest. Sketch pads, white and grey and tan, all different sizes; colored construction paper in four sizes (and multiples of each); pastel papers in a pad that I lusted for and can't bring myself to spoil with my crappy art; oil canvases in their myriads; watercolor paper. Unless I get my ass into very high gear, I will never use up what I have hoarded in the studio before I die.

Today, however, something new happened. I pulled four sheets of watercolor paper for "stretching" (soaking with water and flattening on a polyurethaned board so they don't buckle), two of Strathmore paper and two of Bienfang. Since I can't do anything with them until they are dry, I got another sheet of Strathmore and used some watercolor pencils to draw some geometric shapes, then filled them in with paint. But I wasn't ready to be done; I got a reference photo from my digital pics, put it up on the laptop (the old one that came back from the dead) and ... tore the last sheet of paper from the 9 x 12 Strathmore pad.

It's ... empty.


I worked on the new watercolor for a while, and had some success with it before I had to stop for the night. I peek at my art work, always surprised at what comes out of my hands and brain, but what my eyes keep coming back to is that empty pad. Cover, backing, nothing more.

My guess is that it's been a quarter of a century since I used up a pad.

But I discovered yesterday an interesting function of Photoshop that yielded some VERY interesting results, and as I said before, I love this new Prolene brush, so maybe I'll break some records.

A shame my husband reads my blog, otherwise I could show him the empty watercolor pad and convince him to buy me five more.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Since we have had few clouds lately, I had a chance the other night to photograph the moon in the evening sky.

I tried every setting on the dial on my camera (except video) and frankly, except for a couple settings making the sky appear more blue, the focus remained the same. Apparently the trick is to get the photo before it gets dark.

Over at the Resolution Blog, I've posted another moon picture, one I tinkered with a little in Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Quite the Day

This is what the avocado tree looked like at the end of that nasty freeze we had a couple weeks ago. Poor thing really took a beating.

But although this tree plays into today's monumental occurrences, the brown of the leaves does not. The tree will live.

The least savory amazing thing today was seeing a dead fox along the side of the road. Now I don't like animals being hit by cars at all, but while wondering why an animal as smart as a fox would get hit at an intersection right by a stop sign, I had to admire the size of the fox, and the richness of its pelt. It's fur was beautiful, and though it was dead, it was a reminder that this area does support some grand wildlife.

And speaking of wildlife, around lunchtime Bernie called me to the back door (the same one the thrush had hit, see below a day or two) to see an unusual bird. There, sipping out of the little fishpond, was a female oriole. (Bullock's Race) I've never seen a lady oriole in our yard before, and it's been many years since I saw a male. Glorious!

But there to the right was the capper for the day:
As Bernie was watering plants, including the beat-up avocado tree, he spied something in the branches.

Our very first avocado from our very own tree.

Now that's something!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

But Can She Make Bread?

The grocery store we most often frequent makes the best French bread I've ever tasted.

They churn out loaves all day long, and recently have even begun slicing it, which makes for some heavenly sandwiches. Of note, it is only this local store that makes the bread so perfectly. Other stores in the chain just ... can't do it so well.

How difficult can it be, I asked myself. Especially when Bernie has a lovely Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do the kneading for me.

I found an easy recipe, and had at it. The loaves are beautiful, and it is indeed bread. So the answer to the title of this post is "Yes, she can."

The texture is nice, the smell is nice, the taste is ... nice.

But it's not as good as our Savemart store's bread, and while the older folks in the household all say my bread is good, Joan the Ba-Ba (18 months old makes for an impartial judge) agrees with me. She saw the loaves of French bread and begged for some, just as she does when we take her to Savemart with us. I cut her a slice, she bit into it.

She handed me the slice back and walked away.

Oh well.

Friday, January 03, 2014

You Dope, What Were You Thinking?

Each winter a thrush -- or maybe several -- makes his hangout our back patio, sipping from or bathing in the birdbath, rummaging around the plants on the back bank. In this picture, I caught the thrush rooting through the rosemary plants for whatever it is thrushes eat.

But this evening, as the sun was going down, there was a whonk! on the sliding glass door to the patio, and Alex exclaimed, "Oh, what have you done?"

We all talk to the birds. Who cares if they don't understand? We don't, they don't. Maybe they do understand. But Bernie and I rushed to the back door to see what bird had knocked himself simple (or killed himself) flying into the glass. Looking at the greyish-brown back, and catching a glimpse of the chest stripes, we knew it was our thrush. "Why where you flying so close to the house?" I asked. Usually he is no closer than the bird bath.

The poor thrush was lying on his belly on the cement outside the door, his head bent at a horridly unnatural angle. It didn't look good for the bird at that point.

But we've watched other glass-bonkers rally in the past, and while the thrush was still breathing, we kept vigil, with 18-month-old Joan shouting encouragement at the bird and thumping on the glass door.

Abruptly, the thrush rotated his head back to a normal angle. Good, good, bird's still breathing. A few minutes later, with a stagger, the thrush stood up. One foot was kind of bent under itself, but it was progress.

Then it was a waiting game, Bernie and I poised to open the door and drive off any of the myriad of loose cats that wander the neighborhood. The sun went down. Alex turned on the patio light. The thrush still stood there in the same position, breathing, unresponsive to our movements on the inside of the door.

It was nearly dark when the thrush turned his head and looked at us. He watched us all for a few minutes, then hopped forward, away from the house, his foot righting itself. We cheered as he hopped towards the back bank, and we followed with a flashlight, to make sure he wasn't going to try to go to sleep on the ground.

He hopped onto the retaining wall, and again took some minutes to re-boot his birdy programming. At last he fluttered up into the nandina bush, and we all expressed relief in cheers and sighs: a cat couldn't get to him there.

I have no idea why birds fly into glass, especially ones that usually don't come close to the house. But when one does, just leave it alone until it either gets up and flies away, or dies. Please don't try to "help" the bird by picking it up. The impact throws them into shock, and handling by a giant can push the shocked system right into the only escape possible -- death by terror.

We're all hoping to see the thrush back at the bird bath tomorrow around ten, when he usually drops by for a drink.

Cheers, Thrush.