lantana from my garden

lantana from my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
A bunch of stuff. First: BACK TO SCHOOL PREP.

My mom and dad are in North Carolina for the summer, but my mom came back to town for some appointments and to help get Gracie ready for school, so it’s been a very busy few weeks.

Gracie’s starting a new school in just a few weeks- her Montessori school only goes up to third grade, so she “graduated” in May. Because of the change in schools, we had a lot of school shopping to do this year. The new school has a dress code, but it’s a very flexible and relaxed dress code. The issue is that Gracie is picky about clothes because she’s petite  (especially pants), so finding stuff that fit the dress code and that were comfy and things she liked wearing and felt good in was a little bit of trial and error. At Montesorri, she wore t-shirts and yoga pants, but now she has to wear the school-logo polo shirt, khakis/shorts, and sneakers. We’re still on the hunt for pants that aren’t leggings. But she got shorts and skorts that she loves, and a bunch of solid hoodies and sweaters. And new shoes! She loves Converse and Toms.

The school supply list was extensive and very specific. We’ve never had to buy school supplies before because Montessori provided everything, so that was interesting. I love paper and office supplies, so I was excited to do that part before I got the list, but the kids aren’t allowed to have anything with too much variety so it was just basic yellow number-2 pencils and black/white composition books and pink cap erasers and a plain binder with filler paper, etc. Now we have a dining room table full of supplies for the year.

It’s been a busy few weeks. On Sunday, my mom flew back to North Carolina on Sunday, and Gracie went along with her to spend a few weeks with Nanny and Papa in the mountains before school starts. I can’t believe it’s almost back to school time, and that Gracie will be starting FOURTH GRADE. It’s a bit much, to be honest.

But it’s also sort of nice. I have to admit, every year that passes, Tom and I say to ourselves “*this* is the best age”. I know a lot of people are all about the baby/toddler stages, but Tom and I are more “kid” people, I think. I love being able to really TALK to Gracie and hang out with her. I love going with her to Disney and Universal and the movies and hanging out with her, and talking about books and things we find online and art projects and food and whatever. It’s amazing to have that connection with her. I love that she asks me really emotional and complex things about issues and topics that are not easy to deal with or provide immediate answers to. I like that challenge of parenthood- it’s bittersweet.

It just feels like we are this unit now, as opposed to two adults with a tiny kid. She has opinions and ideas and they matter.

Hoping…
As you might know, we have three cats: Milo (the perpetual kitten, who is now two years old), Chester (our big boy who has been with us over ten years), and Ginger (our sweet calico, who came home around the same time Gracie did, nine years ago.)

You also may know Ginger’s had some health problems the last year or so. The glands near her tail started being an issue about 18 months ago, and they got seriously infected. She had several surgeries to get them healing, and to help her recover. While she was recovering from the first infection, we consulted with two different vets, and both advised us to try and let the glands heal on their own and see if they would remain stable rather than go ahead and get them removed. There is surgery to remove the glands, the major risk of that is that she’d lose bowel function. So we decided to go that route- because we have the resources and time to take really intensive care of her (making the back bedroom into her personal space, being home a lot, etc.), we decided to follow the vets’ advice and see if she could recover and then stay healthy, even though recovery might take a while because of scar tissue and things like that.

So for the last 18 months, Ginger has been under very special care- she has her own room in our house, she gets special food, her own litterbox, and basically leads a very stress-free life. It took several months for the glands to cycle through infections, and then for her to be treated for the resulting issues from being on antibiotics for so long, and to heal, but they finally did.

She was doing great until a few weeks ago- she developed another infection out of nowhere. We caught it pretty much immediately (she was acting weird, and we got her right to the vet before it even opened) and she’s being treated for it. But now it’s clear she needs the surgery- the gland issue will be chronic for her. We feel *terrible*. On one hand, we tried to do the right thing- we held off on surgery because it is risky and not something to enter into lightly. And if the infections were just a weird thing that happened once and she recovered from, then the surgery would have been unnecessary. But on the other hand, I keep wondering if we just went ahead with the surgery, if she’d be all better now and not have had to deal with all this these past few months :(

The game plan now is to get her totally healed, and then get her in for the surgery as soon as it’s safe, and we’ll hope for the very best. No matter what happens, we’re here for her, and will care for her no matter what it takes. I just hope she can get the surgery very soon, it all goes very well, and she comes home pain-free and able to be part of the “main” part of the house again and interact with her brothers and be able to do normal cat things without worrying any stress might cause her medical problems.

Poor girl. I love her so much.

Hearing…

The new Florence and the Machine album has been on repeat on my iPod shuffle. At first I was a little crushed that it was so much more low-key than her previous stuff, but then it grew on me. It isn’t quite as dramatic and soaring as her previous stuff, but there are so many great *moments* in the new songs.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say her really BIG, epic songs aren’t my absolute favorites. There is *one* of those on the new album (“Which Witch”, which is supposedly a DEMO track. Florence Welch is *seriously* a genius…), and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Supposedly she created a whole concept album with that particular style of song and storyline and she scrapped it for How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, and the idea of losing a whole album of songs like “Which Witch” makes me want to cry a bit. Maybe she’ll release it in the future. I hope so.

She writes and performs music that makes me feel alive and young again, in a really vulnerable way. It’s almost like there’s some thing inside me that tends to get a little dusty and diminished as time passes, that thing that I felt strongly when I was young- the possibility of anything, the incredible emotion of life, the power of creativity and humanity… and when I hear some of her songs, the dust and grime of years gets blown off and that part of me comes alive again. The only other band that does that for me right now is M83. (Oh, and Metallica, but that’s been going on since I was 17, and Metallica soothes my anxiety more than anything else, besides maybe swimming.)

In the art studio…
Coloring with watercolor pencils that I forgot I had (more on that in a few days…).

Playing with Brusho (which is so messy and fun and so hard to use, more on that in a few days…)

Experimenting with resists and watercolor. I hate embossing powders (did it this weekend and it reminded me how much I hate it) and am determined to find an ink/liquid that provides a resist on watercolor paper. The search for a good liquid resist is sort of a never-ending experiment in the art studio. I have been trying things for years- glues, paints, waxes, solvents, resist mediums, etc. and have yet to find anything amazing- something that works with paintbrushes, stamps, dip pens, etc.

I feel a little aimless but trying to ride through summer, as far as creativity goes. I’m doing something creative everyday and trying lots of different stuff, so I’m actually doing a lot of work and that’s great. A lot of playing and experimenting and just seeing what I feel like doing and following through. I think the feeling of restlessness is just a summer thing. I think that everything I do should bring the intensity and focus and passion I feel when I’m painting with acrylics. I took a break from that because I was agonizing over the painting I have been working on since late 2014, and not able to finish it. I knew I needed a break because it was making me so unhappy.

Also, I felt really drawn to watercolors and water-based mediums, and missed the “looseness” of those mediums. So that’s what I’m doing. It seems to be a trend with me- in winter I paint with acrylics, and in summer I play with watercolors. I hope to mix the two as the year continues, because I just hate abandoning projects because I can’t figure out how to split my interests. I don’t have much free time, so when I start breaking it down into tiny chunks devoted to different projects, I wind up getting very little done.

Outside my window…
RAIN. Rain. All weekend. We’ve had a VERY mild summer, as far as Southwest Florida goes, and I’ve been very grateful for that. Morning storms have been minimal, and the afternoon storms haven’t brought excessive rain- excessive meaning enough to damage my garden. It’s just been hot and cloudy and the storms have come later in the day so I have had plenty of time in the mornings to garden and get my swims in without having to check the lightning tracker every two minutes.

But this weekend, some sort of weird tropical storm blew in, and the rain just fell from the sky in  what seemed like bucketfuls. Just torrential, hard rain, all weekend. It was so forceful that it pushed one of the top screens on our lanai out of the frame. Thankfully, there was very little thunder and lightning, so I was still able to go outside and swim and do my thing, it was just wet and steamy. Yesterday was kind of a pain because there was a little bit of lightning on the radar, so I had to keep getting out of my pool and waiting it out while I was trying to finish my swim. It took about five and a half hours to get my five miles in (it usually takes two and a half hours).

We now need a few good, dry days for everything to dry out and become less “squishy”. I’m hoping Mother Nature will bless us with a few days of sunshine, mild temperatures, a little bit of breeze, so the standing water can go away and the plants on the island can recuperate. Rain is good, but torrential rain does a job on the plants and trees all over the island.

In the garden…
See above. I’ll have to wait a few days to see what the results of all that rain will be. I just planted a few new plants, and I hope they pull through.

I’m a little freaked out about the mushrooms, which fascinate me but completely gross me out when they are in *my* garden. Some of them are really, really weird. We found an Elgant Stinkhorn Mushroom in one of my planters a week or so ago and I had to have Tom get rid of it for me. It was just *too* weird for me. It was about 6 inches long, pink, kinda foam-y, looked phallic, and it smelled disgusting. When Gracie saw it, she literally shrieked and ran across the lanai, which is NOT common for her. It was just weird and otherworldly. *shudders*

So fingers crossed for dry weather and sunshine.

Reading…
“Day Four”, which is about a cruise ship that runs into issues and chaos (and creepy mysterious stuff) ensues. It’s very readable, but not particularly scary, so I’m just reading along, seeing what happens. I’ll let you know what I think of it. I just grabbed it (well, for my Kindle) because it was available and I read a review of it in Entertainment Weekly that made me curious. I like spooky, eerie stuff- not downright horror or gore, but eerie things that suggest creepy happenings. You know the movie “Mothman Prophecies” from about ten years ago? That’s my idea of good spooky stuff. (On that note, I like spooky stuff set in space even more. But all spooky space books tend to be more fantasy fiction, and I’m totally not into that.)

Thankful for…
– compassionate vets, their staffs, and strong medication to help Ginger through this health issue.
– Tom, for taking a major role in Ginger’s care these last 18 months.
– Gracie for being a superstar about all the new changes with school and for being brave and excited about everything new coming her way.
– my parents for helping out and for sharing their summers with Gracie every year in North Carolina.
– kind people in this community (particularly Andrea, who is on staff at our favorite movie theater and who has been incredibly lovely to us since the day we met her.)
– Milo and all his insane habits and quirks (and obsession with sliced carrots, running whenever the cabinet door is opened because one of us is either getting a piece of chocolate – which he likes to nibble- or getting him a brand new toy to play with, and having to be locked up at night because he’s learned to open doors by hurtling himself at them full force which is NOT a stress-less noise to hear at 3am.)
– Good TV shows, like Orphan Black (we binged Season Three last week- love Helena and her “science baby”). Now we’re starting season Two of Broadchurch.
– Watercolor pencils (a rediscovered passion.)
– Storms *without* lightning.

Planning…

Nothing *yet*, but since fall is around the corner (I feel like every time I even think about that, confetti and balloons should drop from the ceiling because it IS that much of a deal to me!)

I’m starting to think more about cooler, dryer weather, and sunshine, and spending more time outside. The fall gardening season- nasturtiums, maybe, this year??

I’m also thinking and starting to plan for a few day trips to Universal and maybe even Disney in the fall- as soon as the rains slow and the temperature drops just a few degrees (September), we’ll get back into going again. Now that we have annual passes, and we all have such a good time, I want to make it a regular habit for us, especially the two Harry Potter parts of the parks.

Thanks, as always, for checking up on me and letting me share my life. Hope you are having an amazing summer. :)

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mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

Last week I did a little watercoloring with my Tombow markers- it’s a mandala I printed from the book “Color Me Calm”. I actually just colored direct to paper, and then blended and washed out the color with a waterbrush, and then went over the edges with a little Irojiten colored pencil.

I love Tombow markers, probably more than anything else I’ve got in my art stash. If you are remotely interested in watercolor, or markers, or both, I can’t recommend the Tombows enough. You can use them direct as a marker or put them down on a palette and use them as watercolor paint. I would just go for the entire set- it’s a little expensive, but it’s a GOOD investment and you’ll never have to buy another watercolor, marker, or colored pen for years since the color range is so complete.

Here’s a color chart I made a few weeks ago:

Tombow markers color swatches

Tombow markers color swatches

Now that I am making so many color charts, I’m considering creating a journal just for them… or maybe a binder, with the color charts in page protectors. At some point, I’ll make sort of a master post with all my color charts that I’ll keep updating, and share it here. I know I REALLY rely on color charts when I am considering purchasing a product, and I use them constantly when I’m working with a product. Plus, making them is a GREAT way to figure out how the product works and get a chance to sort of “break them in”- then when I sit down to use them on a real project, I’m not afraid of doing anything that might ruin it. (I get weird about making marks on blank sheets of paper- so much so my art teacher in high school used to come around with his hands covered in charcoal and “mess up” my paper before I started a project so I wouldn’t get so caught up in it!)

Thanks for checking in! I hope you are having a great weekend.

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Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

I mentioned a few posts back that I was working on a little mini-scrapbook to document our day trips to Universal Studios this spring, and I finally finished the project.

I took a lot of photos, and I felt really conflicted about not using a lot of them, but if I used all the photos, it would take up half my regular scrapbook. So I decided to just make a little album specifically dedicated to any “out of the ordinary” adventures, and will add to it as we do more day trips and stuff like that. That way I can add as many photos from the day that I like without worrying that it’s taking up too much room.

Here’s what’s in it so far:

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Our second Day trip in May:

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook (Second Trip)

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

The book I used was a 6×6 Kona field journal- it comes with the brown kraft pages.

I decided to use this because I liked the way the saturated photos popped against the brown pages, and for some reason, having a kraft background made me feel less pressured to over-do the pages. I wanted to keep this project super simple because every time I have done a mini-album for a specific event, I agonized over it for weeks. I didn’t want to do that- I wanted to get the photos in the album, get the stories noted, and add some simple embellishments.

For embellishments I used some patterned paper from 6×6 pads (I chose one pattern for each day trip for some continuity), stuff from the Freckled Fawn monthly paper crafting kits, wood veneer pieces, letter stickers, and I used my Dymo label printer to make some captions.

This is actually the only scrapbooking I have done this summer. I think it was kind of a good idea for me to take a break from my regular scrapbooking because I started getting overly obsessive about it in the spring- being too perfectionist about it.

After working on this little project, I think I may actually continue using a kraft paper journal/sketchbook as the “container” for my main scrapbook because I really liked the kraft paper. I didn’t feel the need to create a patterned paper background, which I can get obsessive about. The photos look great on the brown background and I can add layers if I want to, but I don’t *have* to. I also liked keeping it super simple and letting the focus be the photos.

I have an extra 9×9″ Big Black Bee brown kraft journal here that I could use. I currently use the same journal for my art journal and I love it, so I think that will be my next scrapbook project- starting to document the later spring and summer.

As always, thanks for checking in with me! <3

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Spectrum Aqua Markers

watercoloring with Spectrum Aqua Markers

Last week I played around with the Spectrum Aqua markers I got a few weeks back. There was a big sale on them so I grabbed them for a really great price.

They are a water-based dye ink marker (watercolor marker) from Spectrum, who also makes the Spectrum Noir alcohol ink markers. I have a set of the Spectrum Noir markers, which I got for Christmas, but I haven’t done much with them yet. Even though I am very familiar with alcohol inks and dyes from using them so many years on my beads, I’m a little nervous about using them in marker form. I think I just equate markers with paper, and paper with water. So the idea of not being able to use water with markers is a little weird for me.

Anyway, I got the Spectrum Aqua markers because the reviews I read said that they were really vibrant and full of ink, and played well with water. And the reviews were exactly right.

I am really, really impressed with the Spectrum Aquas- I think I like them more than I thought I would. And I wouldn’t have ordered them if I didn’t think I would love them, so that’s saying a lot.

The Spectrum Aquas are INCREDIBLY reactive to water, even after drying. They react immediately to any sort of moisture, and create the most beautiful marbelized kind of effects. They are also incredibly saturated, so if you use them with a paintbrush, they go on like watercolor paint as opposed to watered- down dye ink. They remind me so much of Distress inks, just a brighter range of colors.

I never got on the Distress marker bandwagon because even though I like the Distress inks (especially how they react with water), I have heard some not-so-great things about the markers, mostly that they are a little dry. I like REALLY juicy markers, so the idea of dy felt tip markers did nothing for me. I think one of my “sensory” pet peeves is when I feel the tip of something (pencil, pen, marker) tearing into the surface of a piece of paper. You can kinda feel the paper pill up under the tip as you do it. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.

Anyway, the Spectrum Aquas are great. They are so juicy, they just glide over paper.

Spectrum Aqua Markers color chart

Spectrum Aqua Markers color chart

The one thing I think could be improved is that there could be more colors in the range. There are 48 markers in the complete line, which is a lot, but there are no true reds or vibrant pinks, and I think they could use more blues. But whatever- if you are up for experimenting, you can mix most colors you need. It’s just hard to mix colors *on* paper with water-based inks, so you have to do it on a palette and bring the mixed color to the paper as opposed to using the markers directly. I tend to do watercolor with markers using a palette and a waterbrush anyway.

Spectrum Aqua Markers

using a palette to paint with Spectrum Aqua Markers

As far as the image, it’s actually a fold and crease diagram from an origami pattern. A while back I saw a virtual exhibit of someone who had done gorgeous paintings inspired by origami, so I looked up “origami crease patterns” on Goggle and found a ton of diagrams of what origami would look like unfolded. All of the patterns are beautiful geometric shapes, sort like mid-century-modern stained glass windows or something. I just think the simple shapes and straight lines are perfect for messing around with watercolor/markers.

When I finished coloring the image, I wasn’t thrilled and considered tossing it in the trash, but before I did,  I decided to cut it apart into individual color fields and “collage” it back together in my art journal, like a mosaic. I like it a lot better as a mosaic rather than a flat, colored piece.

Anyway, I recommend the Spectrum Aquas if you are looking to buy a set of watercolor/dye-based markers. They have sort of been overshadowed by the release of the Zig Clean Color Brush pens (which I also love), but the Spectrums are definitely worth the investment simply because of how vibrant and water-reactive they are. They are just amazing to work with- they make me feel like a little kid with a big, brand-new box of Crayolas, you know what I mean? Like the possibilities are endless.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by and seeing what I am up to. Have an awesome weekend! <3

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french poster for "Inside Out"

beautiful french poster for the movie “Inside Out”, which we just saw :)

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
First, and foremost: I’m super happy that Grace is done with her first round of camp.

Because the weather is so crummy here in the summer, camp is sort of necessary- it’s very easy for kids to just want to stay in and attached to a screen all day when it’s so crummy outside, and I can’t really say I blame them because it feels sorta cozy. And Gracie is great at entertaining herself- she mostly reads, writes (she writes and publishes tons of stories on a fiction website plus maintains her blog), and takes online art classes. She does watch TV shows and movies on Netflix, and plays the Wii, but fiction is sort of her thing, so that’s what her preference is.

But a kid can only do so much of that, and Gracie loves other kids, so camp is a good place for her to go and interact and do something besides write and draw and play Splatoon. She gets to run around and laugh and be silly.

But camp here is tough- there’s a few different camps for kids, but none of them are summer-long, general kind of day camp, which is what I had as a kid. It’s all special interest (dance camp, drama camp, football camp, bible camp, etc.) and most camps run only for five days, or for two weeks. There are long-term programs, but they are more like day-care for toddlers and super young kids with working parents. A lot of families go north for the summer (when I say the weather is crappy here in the summer, I *really* mean it!) so the offerings are kind of minimal for older kids.

After a few summers of her doing nothing in the summer and getting a little stir-crazy, we got her in a few camps this summer- a week of art camp at a local church, and two weeks of theater camp. The art camp was okay. It was more religious than we were told, and we aren’t a religious family, so Gracie was “meh” about it. But a lot of her friends were in it, and the teachers were nice, and she likes learning new stuff, so it wasn’t an issue for her. But she didn’t love it enough to feel sad when it ended.

Then she had two weeks of theater camp, which we thought she’d LOVE. She’s been in a bunch of little skits and performances throughout her years at Montessori, and she’s great at it. She likes to memorize lines, tell stories, sing, dance, learn things.

Low and behold, she HATED theater camp. HATED. Gracie is really easy-going, for the most part, so we were kinda shocked when she came home after the second day and asked us if she could stop going.

When we signed her up for the theater camp, we thought it was going to be two weeks of different performing arts kinds of activities in a camp-like environment. Singing, playing, doing skits, dancing, improvising, maybe learning how to create sets, all in a fun camp-like environment (ie focus on fun).

What it turned out to be was a theatrical performance of the musical “Mama Mia” with two weeks to learn all the lines, dance moves, songs, and staging. She got her script and songs the first day and for the next two weeks it was just full-on rehearsal.

Most in the girls in the camp were serious dancers and singers who have done the summer productions for years in addition to their regular round of dance stuff and singing lessons (like, the kinds of kids who likely already have agents and headshots…), so they were used to hours of rehearsal and practice and performances. Gracie has never been into that- she plays soccer and did a few years of Tae Kwan Do and Hip Hop Dance (but refused to do performances/recitals, and we accepted that). So she had to figure it out quickly and try and not let the yelling and demanding teachers freak her out, since she wasn’t used to that, either.

It was basically Mama Mia bootcamp. We persuaded her to stay and see it through for the two weeks and through the final performance. On one hand, I wanted to just say “forget it”- she hated it, she doesn’t often resist or get upset about stuff and it really wouldn’t change her life if she was in a performance of Mama Mia or not. Every day she came home so frustrated and my heart broke open and it felt like I was just making her do this miserable thing, so it was a pretty stressful two weeks of being a mom.

But on the other hand, she was a few days into it when she decided she hated it and asked to quit, she had a pretty big role in the play, and it would be a good experience for her to do something so challenging and outside her normal realm. So she did stick with it, but she disliked every minute of it. (But she was so great in the play!)

She did say she’d like to be in another play, maybe at her new school- she’s convinced the teachers won’t be so “Dance Mom” demanding, which I actually tend to think is the truth. I was in a few school/summer camp plays when I was a kid and it was nothing like what this camp was. Doing plays was always fun and interesting and sort of felt like a gift, to have a little role in a play and be a part of something like that.  I hope she gets the chance to experience *that*.

Moving forward- next week is a week of sailing camp, and then *maybe* jewelry camp, and then she’ll be spending some time with my parents up in North Carolina (where they go for the summers) before school starts second week of August. SECOND WEEK OF AUGUST. Holy crap!

Speaking of school, THAT’s been another adjustment. After years of Montessori, in which everything was provided by the school, and no dress code/restrictions, Gracie’s new school has a particular dress code (school logo polo-shirt and khakis/navy pants, shorts, or skirts with sneakers), a VERY long reading list for the summer and a lot of stuff to get ready.

The wardrobe might be tricky because Gracie is petite and has her own unique style. Luckily, she compares the new wardrobe to that worn by the Hogwarts (Harry Potter) students, so she’s kind of excited about it. I hope she still feels that way when she gets her stiff khakis and needs to wear them. I hated dress code at my schools. But ours were much stricter than hers, so hopefully it won’t be too bad.

.

Watching…
Confession: I am totally and completely addicted to “TheTimTracker” on YouTube. I discovered the channel last week when I was listening to Disney theme park music (I love the queue music from Soarin’) and I have been watching it pretty constantly ever since.

“TheTimTracker” is a young couple in Orlando who vlog every day, and they go to the Disney/Universal parks at least once a week.  When they go to the parks, they take their little GoPro camera with them, and vlog all day from the park, on all the different rides and areas. Watching their channel is almost like a little day trip to the parks a couple of times a week, from their perspective.

Because they are at the parks all the time, they are able to spend time really exploring and appreciating the parks in a way that people who just pop in for a focused, time-constricted vacation can’t. They spend a lot of time doing things like stopping to enjoy the live bands, animal-watching (everything from the ducks in the lakes to the exotic animals at Animal Kingdom), looking at the plants and decorations, wandering around different areas of the parks that aren’t simply a way to get to another ride, etc.  They point out stuff that you might never see as a tourist.

And their “from home” vlogs are fun to watch, too.

I think what I like most about them is that even though they are fun, kind, and energetic, they aren’t, like, laser-focused on making a business of their adventures. So many bloggers and YouTubers seem focused on trying to make a career from their hobbies and interests, which is great if you can do it, but then it sometimes overwhelms them and starts driving their content.

Tim and Jenn just seem to be having a good time and enjoying whatever it is they are doing for the day. They get just as excited about staying home and watching an old movie as they do about going to one of the theme parks. That’s so unusual, it seems, in our culture- especially from anyone who is a “personality” in the online world. Like, if they go to Disney, it’s great day. If they stay home and clean out the yard or watch movies, it’s also a great day. If they go to work and come home and have dinner together and just hang out with their dogs, it’s also a genuinely great day.

I guess because I am so stressed and anxious about the “am I doing a productive, *useful* thing? Am I living a fulfilling life? Am I doing *enough*?” questions, and trying very, very hard to break away from that, I appreciate the fact they just go day-to-day, and enjoying what they enjoy without worrying about if they are doing “enough”. That’s just so refreshing to me.  Watching them kinda makes *me* appreciate my every-day, too.

Oh, besides YouTube, there are movies- we finally started catching up on summer movies! In the last few weeks we’ve seen Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, and Inside Out. I forgot how much I love going to the movies in the summer- it’s much less crowded in Naples and at the movies, the traffic is so much better, and it just feels so much more fun. Plus, you don’t have to buy tickets for the movies a week in advance- there are still lots of good seats available the morning of the movie. During tourist season, it’s not uncommon for tickets to sell out a few days before the movie actually plays. So it’s nice to be able to decide day-of that we want to see a movie that day, and know there are tickets available.

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Outside my window…
Hazy, hot. So hot! I can’t get over how hot and tired I get from my usual swim- being in the sun for that long really does kinda zap me for the rest of the day. I have to really keep an eye on my hydration and try and get in the pool earlier to avoid the sun beating on me. Tom goes for his runs/bike rides early in the morning and he comes back feeling the same way. It’s such a lovely relief to come back inside and take a cool shower and spend some time relaxing after I swim. I don’t need as much time to recover in the winter as I do in the summer, so I’m trying to remember that and give myself the time that I need every day to bounce back.

June was actually an okay month, storm-wise. I am very very grateful for that. I only had one day where I had to sit around the pool all day, getting in laps when there was a break in the lightning. I hate that more than anything (five hours outside in a chlorine-soaked wet Speedo, alternately dripping wet and shivering and then damp and sweaty as the weather changes…) Now it’s July, and my fingers are crossed that the storms stick to the afternoons.
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In the art studio…
In early June, I finally relented and got a new computer.  I say “relented” because for the past five years, I have doggedly used my old MacBook, refusing to update the OS because most of the applications and files I had on there wouldn’t work with any of the new Mac OS. But then I started to literally run out of disc space (I had about 2 gigs left), having to delete everything as soon as I was done with it, just so I had enough to allow the programs I use to have enough space to run. And then, a year or so ago, everything started becoming incompatible- Apple wasn’t releasing anymore iTunes or Safari updates for my OS, YouTube stopped working, Facebook went wonky. Pretty much anything online gave me the message “your browser is completely out of date!” But I knew if I updated, I’d have to spend a few weeks transferring data and re-entering endless settings and I couldn’t bear the idea of it.

Tom was incredulous, because he’s a software engineer. It was kind of like using a horse-drawn carriage after cars had been invented, or using a calculator to get on the internet. I think the final straw was when my bank updated their site (I pay bills online) and they directly made me use the iPhone site because of my crazy outdated OS, so I could only see a few lines of text on my screen at a time. It took me a few hours to figure out our bills and get them paid. I mean…

Anyway, my parents gave me some money for my birthday to put towards a new computer, so one afternoon in mid-June we just stopped at the Apple store on our way home from the movies, and I got an iMac.

Setting it up and getting all my stuff over to it, and get that stuff to the point where it was WORKING… that took weeks. I’m still working on it. Every day is something new.

But… NEW BIG SCREEN with ANTI-REFLECTIVE COATING! Wireless keyboard! Everything loads so fast! Everything looks so pretty and sounds so nice! The speakers blew on my MacBook about two years ago so it’s like having a stereo or something. I don’t know… I’ve had this computer for a few weeks now and I’m still really excited about it.

My computer lives in my art studio, so that’s been taking up a lot of time this month.

Besides that, I have been really into colored pencils and markers and watercolor, still. Coloring with markers and with colored pencils makes me happy right now, so I’m letting myself do that whenever I have a little bit of free time. Nothing amazing, just an excuse to use my supplies and try new things.

I do want to take a watercolor class over at Creative Bug, I just have to commit to it. I have to remind myself how much I love taking art classes online and just go for it. But whenever I sit down at my desk, I kind of go into auto-pilot a little bit- I pull out my latest coloring project and turn on an episode of “The 100″ (I’m binge watching that this summer in my studio) and just relax a bit.

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In the garden…
I’m finally back to gardening at the level I was before I got sick. It’s crazy out there- now that I have a lot of tropical plants that continue to grow throughout the summer, which is usually our “dormant” period , gardening is just as intense in the summer as it is in winter, which wasn’t always the case. I have to water like crazy because of the heat. So it’s a lot of stuff out there. I enjoy it a lot, but I won’t lie and say I’m not happy when I go out there and realize it rained the night before and there’s not quite as much watering. That’s kind of like an unexpected day off.
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Reading…
“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. I’m not quite the super fan of her writing as a lot of people are, but I’ve liked a few of the books she wrote so I grabbed this one from the e-book library. I have to admit, this book sort of baffles me. I know it’s leading up to a big reveal at the end, but I think other authors do a better job at it (especially after just finishing “Girl on a Train”).

The thing is, I keep wanting to pick this book up and read a little more, which is sort of key for me. Sometimes I feel like I just need to go ahead and read whatever keeps me reading, just so I don’t lose the whole “reading momentum”. There are times when I’ll sort of force myself to slog through a “good” or educational book just because it’s enriching my brain, but then I just stop picking it up one day and will go weeks without reading anything. So the key is to keep reading whatever it is that keeps me reading. (That’s a totally terrible sentence, but hopefully you get the idea…)
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Drinking…
Iced tea with a dash of lemonade. So yummy and refreshing! It feels like the perfect summer drink.
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Loving…
– the smell of air conditioning (weird, I know… but something about that *ice* cold smell when you first come inside…)
– the sound of cicadas
– the juvenile cardinals and doves at the bird feeders- so cute!
– the baby dolphins that are swimming in the bay behind our house
– the tiny tiny baby lizards in the garden
– getting to bed earlier and waking up earlier
– my new desk cover (it’s the little things…)
– my Chester cat (I love all my pets so very much, but this guy has been with us for 10+ years now, and he’s truly like a big, fuzzy ball of mush with me. I adore him.)
– flower stamps and watercolor markers
– succulents and lantana in the garden, and the way the new sunset vine is growing like crazy!
– carrots in salads
– hanging out with my little family

Thank you, as always, for stopping by. Hope you are having an amazing, relaxing, fun summer! <3

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I don’t know if you remember, but several weeks ago I thought I was going to do The 100 Day Project, but after two weeks I realize it took ALL my creative time (which isn’t much) and I couldn’t keep it up and keep painting, taking classes, working on other creative projects, etc. so I had to give it up.

This past week I went through the journal I started for it (a Kona 8×8″ sketchbook) and removed the projects I really liked, and put them into a Bee Paper Brown 9×9″ journal. It’s the same kind of paper (dark brown kraft) but it’s a bit larger. I just like the way the brown paper looks underneath the bright white watercolor paper.

Anyway, I’ve decided to use this journal to keep all my watercolor painting, stamping, coloring, projects in one central location. So it’s not really a true “Art Journal”, it’s more of a journal filled with random little pieces of art I make. And as far as I can tell right now, my creative focus this summer is sort of coloring and playing with watercolors (maybe taking a class or two), and taking each day at a time.

Here’s a peak of the first few pages:

newartjournal001

watercolor/coloring with Tombow markers

I actually completed this as a Christmas gift for my mom (which I printed out with archival inks and framed for her) but since I had the original just floating around in my scanner drawer, I decided to put it in the book. The paisley image is from a Dover coloring book (Paisley Stained Glass).

newartjournal002

misc. watercolor and stamping

Just messing around with stamps and watercolors.

newartjournal003

watercolor “bokeh” and circles

I tried the watercolor/ink “Bokeh” technique that has been floating around YouTube and some ATC-sized watercolor circle paintings.

newartjournal004

playing with Gelatos

I watched some Gelatos on watercolor paper and decided to use the little squares of colors to make a geometric design.

newartjournal005

Gelatos on stamp with Twinkling H2O dots

I tested stamped with Gelatos, and then using Twinkling H2Os to make some little dots on the image.

newartjournal006

more circle watercolors

More circular watercolor paintings.

newartjournal007

watercolor with Gelatos

Just playing with Gelatos again. They really are quite nice, even if some of the colors fade a bit after drying.

newartjournal008

stamping/stenciling with watercolor

Again, just playing with stamps and watercolor paint. The bird image is from a Dina Wakely stencil.

newartjournal009

coloring with Irojiten color pencils

My first colored pencil coloring project- I used my Irojitens to color an image from another Dover Stained Glass coloring book- I think it’s called Arabic Designs (Gracie took that one after I scanned it, so I don’t know the actual title. I scan all my coloring books, and print the images out on watercolor paper so that I can paint them without worrying about ruining the book or working with the coloring book paper, which usually isn’t made for anything but crayons/pencils.)

newartjournal010

coloring with Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens

For my birthday, I got a set of the Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens, and they are awesome! I watched them and then tested them out by coloring in this image from the “Just Add Color Mid-Century Modern Patterns” book, which is one of my favorites.

new art journal pages

coloring with Lyra color pencils

This is the latest project I worked on- coloring in a mandala from “Prism Designs” with my Lyra colored pencils, which are oil-based and a little different than the Irojitens.

So the plan is to keep doing little projects as I can and add them to this journal. It feels like a good fit for what I’m interested in and have time for now.

Thank you, as always, for checking in and I hope you are having an awesome summer! <3

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coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

my first project using Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

In my last post, I mentioned that I got a set of Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils for Mother’s Day. I used colored pencils quite a bit in school, but haven’t really used them in the last twenty years. I don’t know why, they just seem sort of … formal.

Even though I tend to gravitate towards paint and markers and inks, when I saw the color palette of the Irojitens, and the photos of them, I *had* to have them. I rarely buy an art supply on impulse without knowing how they work and feel in my hand but I went ahead and asked for them anyway. Just… those colors.

Here are some photos of the pencils from the manufacturer’s site:

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tom and Gracie got me the pencils and they are AMAZING. I’ve had them for over a month and I still really get excited every time I use them.

They are gorgeous, lush. Their packaging is so unique- they come in little books that have a little pencil holder bound into them. There are ninety pencils, ten pencils in each “volume” and each volume is organized by a color theme.

As gorgeous as the packaging is, I knew I would never use the pencils if I stored them in all the little volumes on the shelf. It kind of broke my heart, to be honest. After taking the pencils out of their packaging and then putting them back in a few times, I realized that while I was willing to remove the pencils from their little cases, I couldn’t bear to break the pencils out of their pre-arranged groups of nine color families. Normally whenever I get any sort of new art supply, I IMMEDIATELY take them all over and re-organize them all according to my version of the rainbow. But I couldn’t do it with these! They just look so pretty organized in mini-rainbows.

I moved them into an empty Tombow marker stand on my desk, but left them organized by color families.

After making a color reference chart (which is kind of my favorite thing in the world, making these charts…) and trying out a few colors, I went ahead and tried coloring an image with them, just to see how they worked.

coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

I used a scanned image from “Arabic Patterns Stained Glass Coloring Book” by Dover that I printed out on watercolor paper. I used both Gamsol and a Prismacolor blender pen to blend as I worked.

It took a few days (I’m super slow at anything requiring fine motor control because of my Spina Bifida) but it was fun. Very fun. And very calming.

So now I feel really interested colored pencils and coloring. I got a few sets of markers for my birthday (which was at the end of May), so I’m having fun with those, too. It’s mainly playing, but it feels relaxing. I just have to get over the whole inner critic…

Coloring is a tricky thing. It’s very creative and fun and intensive and takes time and effort, but it sort of makes me feel a little guilty because it doesn’t feel like “real art”, which is total nonsense. But a little voice inside of me says “it would be a lot better and authentic and honorable if you just drew something from scratch and made a completely original work of art.” But, screw it. This is *fun*. I need a little more fun, especially in the art studio. It’s nice to have something that doesn’t require 50 million decisions and has no room for the inner critic. The only choice I make is what color to use, and where to use it.

So, I’m kind of on a little bit of a coloring binge at the moment. And I think I might go with it.

Next up: coloring with the Zig Clean Color Brush markers I got for my birthday. More on that soon…

 

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ivy geranium from my garden

ivy geranium from my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I am enormously relieved that school is out, tourist season is over, and things are sort of calming down. Seriously.

This past week I have felt so many moments of profound relief, and they come out of nowhere. I’ll be putting on clothes after my shower or sitting down to a meal or getting out of the pool and all the sudden feel myself take big giant deep breaths and closing my eyes and feeling utter relief wash over me. I love it. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.

It seems like the first week of June, everything just stopped and got still. Not only did the daily stress go down, but the island itself just got quiet- all the snowbirds and tourists left at once. There’s still stuff like figuring out camp schedules and getting ready for Gracie’s new school and Tom’s new karate schedule and day-to-day stuff, but it seems manageable.

These last few months have been incredibly stressful. I don’t think I realized how completely overwhelmed I was until I started getting really, really sick in late April/early May. Not only regular body pain and stuff related to the Spina Bifida, but in early May, my teeth and jaw started to REALLY hurt. I have never experienced anything like it, and it was so severe that I voluntarily went to the dentist, ready for worst-case-scenario. They couldn’t find anything and mentioned it might be a sinus infection.

A few days later, it hit. I’m not sure if it was a sinus infection, but for a few weeks I had something flu-like going on- sore throat, stuffed up head, headache, a cough, exhaustion. The works.

Gracie was also sick- she had a head cold/flu thing that even involved her ears and eyes, which she’s finally over. Tom had it, too, in very early May.

Usually I either get sick just a *tiny* bit, or I avoid it altogether, but this thing stuck around for about three weeks. I’m just now getting over it, but I still get waves of the “yuck” (headaches, throat stuff, cough, etc.) from time to time. Right now I’m just feeling kinda weak and ache-y, but happy not to have the major symptoms.

Anyway, it was not fun to go through it, but I have to admit, it was a bit of a relief. Being so sick definitely gave me implicit permission to slow the heck down and hibernate for a few weeks, which I desperately needed (and wanted). I didn’t have to think about anything, or feel bad about not getting too much stuff done or saying “I absolutely cannot”, because I just *couldn’t*. No decision to make, it was decided for me. It was such a relief, which is terrible, right? Being sick should not make you feel relieved. But it did.

That in itself was a wake-up call, of course.

People are making summer lists and I love reading them, and making my own. And I started making a lofty summer list, too. But then I got sick, and I realized that unless I’m healthy and functioning, I can’t do *anything*, so health has to be the priority. Health and well-being.

I can talk a good game about “peace” (my one little word for 2015) and learning to chill out and relaxation and mindfulness and everything else in the whole “well-being” category, but unless I really work on those practices and make them part of my every single frickin’ day life, they don’t mean anything.

I think it’s just easier to operate on auto-pilot, even if the old behaviors don’t make any sense any more. I change my behavior and outlook for a few weeks, and then find myself slipping into old habits. The “habits” don’t seem very bad- drinking too much caffeinated tea, staying up too late, getting anxious about something I have no control over, etc. But they actually have a tremendous impact, if  I look at how they sort of spill over into the rest of my life.

For example- staying up at night. It was great in college, and in my 20’s, and when Gracie was a baby. But now, what’s the point? I don’t do anything fun after 10pm (I usually just watch YouTube videos or look up stuff on Wikipedia or IMDB), it makes me cranky, and the longer I stay up, the harder it is to go to bed. To be honest, I’d much rather be in bed, reading a good book. But for some reason, I never go to bed before 11/11:30pm. It’s like some weird struggle, even though I know it’s stupid. And the next day I feel like crap. (And I also post some weird Facebook status messages late at night that I have no recollection of posting when I see them the next morning…)

What is the deal? I mean, honestly. Just writing this makes me irritated at myself. Such a simple thing, but it’s this struggle, and it bleeds into the next day when I feel exhausted and cranky and then drag all day all because I chose to watch just *one* more YouTube video of some guy falling off his treadmill.

The problem is that changing habits take self-control, and mindfulness, and not just for a few weeks. So it also requires a lot of patience and time, which I think might be the issue. And it’s not always concrete action. I’m good at that kind of stuff- like with swimming, or gardening, or even when I decided to become vegetarian- those are physical, action-y things, with rules and boundaries and instructions. With deciding to go to bed, it’s just going to my room and getting in bed. For some reason, that requires 100000000% more of my energy and self-control than getting in the pool to swim five miles does.

You know what was also a big wake up call? We were watching the final episodes of Mad Men and in this one episode, Don Draper makes the comment that as you get older, it’s supposed to get better, it’s supposed to get easier. So why wasn’t it? And I sat there, wanting to tell Don Draper that the crap he got away with when he was younger was clearly no longer working for him, which was why he was so frickin’ stuck. That he needed to make different choices. Better choices. It was *that* simple.

Duh. Same for me.

I think I just need to figure out what exactly I need to focus the effort on. “Peace” is a lofty goal, as is relaxation, and good health, but all of those things are made up of tiny habits and actions and practices that happen throughout every single day, and if I want peace and happiness, the kind that STICKS, I need to figure out the tiny little shifts that need to happen to get to those goals. It’s like figuring out the ingredients for a recipe, in a way.

Outside my window…
Rain. Clouds. Rumbling. It’s summer. But as long as the storms stay away just long enough for me to get my swim in every morning, I don’t mind. It’s kind of cozy to be in the house while the rain is falling outside.

The only thing I don’t like is when it’s rainy and dark all day and then it clear up right before the sun sets, like morning-bright. It feels VERY strange to have the sun come out at 8pm, when you are getting settled in for the night. It makes you feel like you should be outside, playing, and not tucked in on the couch with your jammies and dinner. Almost guilty.

In the art studio…
I am spending almost all my creative time coloring. More on this in a post soon. But, briefly, for Mother’s Day, Tom and Gracie got me a beautiful set of Tombow Irotijen colored pencils. I’ve never been interested in colored pencils because they seem very formal and not “loose”, but for some reason I decided I wanted some colored pencils for Mother’s Day, so that’s what I got. (I’ll be honest- it was totally the color palette. I saw the colors that were available- colors I hadn’t seen in any other art products- and just HAD to have the pencils, even though I had no idea what I would use them for.)

Because I didn’t know what to do with them, I just looked up some YouTube videos on how to really use them and I started coloring some printed out pages from the different coloring books I have, just to play with them and see how they worked. And I enjoyed it a lot. I especially enjoy blending them- when I used colored pencils in school, we had to blend them using other pencils. Now people use solvents, so they blend almost like paint. It’s magic.

Anyway, I love just *playing* and coloring and now I am coloring with everything. Coloring and making sheets and sheets of color swatches. For my birthday, I asked for more stuff to color with- Zig Clean Color markers (*swoon*) and more colored pencils (a set of Lyras). My dear friend got me a gift certificate to Jerry’s Artarama and I immediately ordered a bunch of Watercolor Markers.

I’m swatching and making color charts for every medium I own- watercolors, markers, Pan Pastels, Twinkling H2Os, inks, colored pencils, stamp inks, oil pastels, Gelatos- you name it, I’m making a new color chart for it.

I kind of feel a little “off” about it because it’s sort of mindless and useless (well, maybe not- it’s incredibly useful to have all these color charts, and it definitely teaches me how the medium works…) but right now it’s all I feel like doing. So I do it. Whenever I have a few minutes or an hour, I come into my studio and pull out a sheet of paper and just scribble or paint. I think I like it because there’s very little decision-making involved. When I make color charts, I just go in rainbow order. When I color from a book, I just pick a shape on the page and then pick a color to put in it.

I’m also working on some scrapbook stuff, but that’s sort of on the backburner. I’ve got a little Universal Studios mini-book in the works, which I work on intermittently. I kind of took this week off from it and having been playing with the Windsor & Newton Watercolor Markers for the last several days.

In the garden…
While I was sick, Tom was amazing and awesome and took over the watering in the garden for me. I really needed to be off my feet, so he really stepped up. Our giant passiflora vine canopy finally gave in and fell over, and he had to spend half a day dealing with it. He could have just cut it down and threw it out, but he worked hard to save the plant, which was above and beyond. I am very grateful.

This past week, I’ve been getting back out in the garden a little bit at a time and it feels good. If I overdo it, I get tired, so I’m trying to be mindful of the heat and time.

I did receive two plant orders- there were some end-of-season sales and some empty planters in the garden, so I got some tropicals (another shrimp plant, Hawaiian Sunset Vine, Mandevilla- which I have never grown before, even though it’s a Florida staple- and Lantana.) The past few days Tom’s been dumping old planters/soil and I have been putting in the new plants. I hope they do well. I’m excited to see how new plants grow and do. Something to look forward to.

Reading…
I *finally* finished my Alexander McCall Smith marathon, and started “The Girl on the Train” which has totally and completely sucked me in. Rachel is such a hot mess that I almost couldn’t stand to read at first, but the story is so compelling that I kept going, and I’m glad I did.


Watching…

Okay, if you haven’t watched “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix, just shut your computer and go watch the entire series right now. Seriously.

We blazed through that and now we’re working our way through the four seasons of Veep. It’s a comedy on HBO that has sort of flown under the radar. But it’s very amusing.

We finished Mad Men, which was bittersweet.

Tom and I tried watching season two of The Fall, but it’s just not that good. I think because Jamie Dornan is so huge they switched the focus of the show to his character, and after two episodes, I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I guess we’ll finish it at some point, but neither of us chooses it when it’s time to pick what to watch.

As a family, we are watching Amazing Race Australia, Season Three, which I found online. We LOVE Amazing race, so I was thrilled to find seasons from other countries. There are several versions from around the world, several seasons of each. The Australian version is excellent.

We have not been to the movies since Avengers since we’ve all been sick, but hopefully we’ll be going to see Pitch Perfect, Jurassic Park, and a few others soon. I know we won’t be able to completely catch up on all the great movies that have come out, but the whole point is to go and have fun, so that’s the plan.

Crocheting…
A blanket for my dad. Still. I got a little side-tracked when I got sick, so I din’t think it will be ready for Father’s Day, but onward.

Planning…
Nothing. And that’s just perfect :)

Thank you so much for reading. Have a GREAT day!!

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[Forgot to post this, too!]

A final batch of pages from the winter/spring scrapbook:

559a

This is a photo I found on Gracie’s Instagram feed (I monitor all her accounts, but I like her to be able to document her life because I wish *I* had more of my own photos and scraps and accounts of life when I was her age!) This is a photo of Gracie and my parents’ cat, Knuckles, who is her favorite pet in our family. Knuckles pretty much decided Gracie was the Best Thing Ever the minute she came home (he shares that in common with my parents!) and has become her best friend. When she’s at my parents’ house (they live nearby and she’s over there several times a week), he’s with her. She adores him, he adores her.

I love that Gracie’s so into our pets and animals, and that she’s kind of chosen her own path with which animals she really bonds with. She loves them all, but has special favorites. Knuckles is the oldest cat in our family (he’s about 16/17 now…) and you’d think Milo The Eternal Kitten would be her favorite, but Gracie loves Knuckles. He *is* a GREAT cat.

560a

As you can probably tell by now, I have a thing for both the weather and the sky. Both things really have a *MAJOR* influence on my mood. I am a big fan of sunny skies, foggy weather, and colorful sunsets. I’m not crazy about heat, and I generally hate storms (especially in the morning, but anytime after 4pm is fine, because I’m done with gardening and swimming and most major outdoor stuff.)

561a

I have about ten orchids now (Tom and Gracie have started buying me one for every occasion) and every spring a bunch of them bloom at the same time. We bring them in from the lanai and put them on the kitchen counter so we can enjoy them for the two-three months they are blooming. These are some photos of this year’s bloom.

562a

Two pages about Gracie’s late-spring activities- school, basketball, her yogurt obsession, sleepovers, Girl Scouts, etc. It was a very busy spring for her. I’m not a fan of overscheduling (but it sort of happened because she developed an interest in sports this year and they offer a bunch of community programs. So she was playing soccer and basketball, doing things with school and friends, Girl Scouts, plus stuff with Nanny and Papa. It was a busy spring.
563aMilo celebrated his 2nd birthday. He still acts like he’s about 3 months old- he’s into EVERYTHING. I’ve never had a cat like him- he’s super friendly and fun and outgoing and plays super hard (fetch is a favorite- he always brings me little toys when I am sitting in my studio to throw for him to retrieve). He has a weird obsession with carrots. I could write a book about him, and I intended to do a lot of journaling on this page, but since I did all these pages in one big batch, I was starting to get burned out on writing!

 

564a

Some photos of the garden and the lanai… I like to document the changing seasons. I also like to look back at photos of the garden every year to see how it change because even though it doesn’t feel like it changes very much, it really does.

566a

A page about Gracie’s Girl Scout troop volunteering at the cat shelter.

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I documented a few of the art projects I was working on. Once again, I was intending to do a lot of journaling for this one, but I was ONE PAGE away from the very end of this particular scrapbook and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, so I wound up just jotting down a few words on a label and called it done.

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And this page has ZERO writing on it. It was the last page of the book and I was ready to be done. So I added the word “meow”, a few enamel hearts, and called it DONE.

I’m excited to start a new scrapbook- I’m going to use the same thing (a 9×9″ Bee Super Deluxe sketcbook) as the base. I wound up re-binding the book with a huge spiral binding a month or so ago. For Mother’s Day, Tom and Gracie got me a Cinch binding machine, so I am thrilled to try that out and make my own sketchbooks, journals, and mini-books with it. Right now I’m trying to figure out whether I want all the Universal pictures to go in the mail scrapbook (makes sense, but will take up half the book…) or in a mini-book. *shrug* I’ll figure it out! [note: I decided on a mini-book, and it’s about halfway done…]

Thank you, again, for looking at these pages- I appreciate it!

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So, last time we were at Universal Studios for a day trip (just a few weeks ago, on May 1st, 2015), we promised Gracie we’d try to get there one last time before summer. Summer is a no-go because of three things: the weather is INSANELY hot,  the crowds surge the parks, and our annual passes has blackout days.

We watched the weather and the crowd calendars, and on the 21st, we got up super early and made the drive up to Orlando for the day, this time with my mom and dad, as well.

It was a good day- a little hot, a little crowded, some ride closures due to the weather (quick lightning storm in the middle of the day, but enough to shut down the outdoor rides for the rain and then to be re-cycled back into being open again…) But we had a full day of rides and Butterbeer and hanging out as a family, celebrating Gracie’s graduation from IMA and my birthday a week early.

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My mom and dad got annual passes when we started out, so that we can come back in the fall. The parks are about four hours away from us, each way, so it’s okay for a day trip every few weeks. My parents like to stay locally when they go so they don’t have to do the big drive home after a long day at the park and can do the parks for a few days. I always prefer to just come home- one day at the park usually wears me out, and with the pets and garden finding someone to keep an eye on everything gets complicated. Plus, nothing feels quite as amazing as sliding into your own bed after a long day at the parks.

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The weather was hot (in the 90’s) but beautiful blue skies. It got a little cloudy and rainy as the day went on, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some days we have had at Disney when we’d be jammed into the corner of some tiny store for hours, waiting out the rain, along with hundreds of other people. So I was very thankful for that. One quick downpour, 15 minutes tucked into a building, and we were able to go back out and enjoy the parks.

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As usual, we started on the little train ride in Seuss Landing. Quick, cool, easy way to start the day.

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Then we began the walk back to all the Harry Potter stuff, passing through a few different “lands” on our way there. There’s just a stunt show, a talking fountain, and a restaurant between Seuss Landing and Hogsmeade.

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We did the main Harry Potter ride back there, and just as we were about to do the Gryffindoor, which is an outdoor roller coaster, thunder started, so everything outdoors (pretty much everything else in Hogsmeade) shut down. Gracie wanted to do some spell stuff outside with her new wand (this time she got Cedric Diggory, another Hufflepuff- Gracie’s loyal to her house!) and Tom and I wanted to do the Double Dragon coaster, but with the rainy conditions, both were impossible.

We waited a bit to see if the weather might clear and the ride might open, but after a while we decided to just go ahead and get the train from Hogsmeade to London (Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios – the other park) and do the indoor rides over there.

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Luckily, by the time we got off the train, the bad weather passed and we were back to blue skies. We went back into Diagon Alley, did the Escape from Gringott’s ride (awesome, as always) and got some Butterbeer, Gracie did a bit more shopping (Hufflepuff socks!) and we went back out into Universal Studios.

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We went to the Men in Black ride and rode it twice in a row (Gracie’s favorite) and then Gracie wanted to ride “Disaster” (which is a movie-making interactive show) and Tom and I wanted to do the “Mummy” coaster, so my parents went with Gracie and Tom and I quickly rode the Mummy.

After that, Tom and I had time to kill since Disaster takes half an hour, so we decided to go and explore the back of the park, which we had never been to. There’s a huge Simpsons land back there, as well as another small land for kids.

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(Fun fact: Tom’s last name *was* Duff, but he changed it to mine when we got married [I wasn’t changing mine and we wanted the same name]- so it was sort of funny for him to pose with the Duff Beer guy…)

The Simpsons stuff is super-fun. I don’t watch the TV show (*gasp*, I know…) but if you are a fan, you should really check it out. We went on the big ride back there and it was very entertaining. There were a few people on the ride who were clearly Simpsons fans and they were LOSING it with laughter from the minute the pre-show started.

Gracie never wants to go back there even though it’s very kid-friendly. I think she rode the Simpsons motion-simulator ride once when she was very young and it was a little too much for her, so she’s decided she doesn’t like it and doesn’t need to ever ride it again. Next time we go, we’ll take her back there and talk her into riding it again- I think now she’s older, she’ll get a kick out of it and it won’t seem so overwhelming and scary.

 

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On our way back to meet Gracie and my parents, Tom and I found this beautiful part of the park that was themed after Central Park in New York and it was SO beautiful- a big, cool canopy of trees. I could stay there all day- it was beautiful and shady and green. I really, really miss big, shady trees!

After we met my parents, we walked around for a bit, and Gracie wanted to go on the Shrek ride. While they did that, Tom and I debated going on the Rip Ride Rockit coaster, but neither of us could bring ourselves to do it.

I LOVE coasters but the only ones I have been on are the ones at Disney, and so I think I need a few more times on the Double Dragons before Rip Ride Rockit because Rip Ride Rockit looks scary as hell.

Here’s a video of Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Hart riding it- it’s hysterical, even if you don’t like coasters!

The thing that always draws me to that coaster is that you can pick a song that plays while you ride it, and they have a couple of Metallica songs on there, and the idea of listening to Metallica while on a fast, steep coaster REALLY appeals to me. But I still couldn’t do it- that first drop (and the fact that there are no shoulder harnesses, just lap restraints) spooked me. Someday. Tom was fine with skipping it it- he likes coasters less than I do, so he could pass on it forever and not miss it.

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So Tom and I sat and talked and people-watched for a while, getting ready to make the trip home. Gracie and my parents emerged from Shrek a half an hour later, and we got some drinks and last minute snacks, took some last minute photos, and headed back to the cars, then home.
Good day was had by all, and we’re all looking forward to going back as soon as the weather gets cooler and the crowds go down, maybe some time in September?
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[TOTALLY forgot to publish this from early May- Woops!]

A few weeks ago I finally finished putting all the images/stories from winter/spring into my scrapbook (I just have a bit of journaling left…), and I thought I would share a few pages.

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For the month of February, I would wake up every morning and check the weather on my phone and take a screen shot of the temperature. After I found them all on my phone when I was downloading batches of photos, I decided to put some the weather screenshots together to track the changes in temperature and also talk about how I LOVED winter mornings.

One thing about documenting this way, it helps me realize what is really great (or really challenging) about different times of the year, and then the next year, I can sort of look back on it and adjust accordingly. Now I know I love mornings in February, so I know next year I’ll take the time to look forward to that and appreciate it.

 

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A page documenting some of the things that Gracie did with her school in February. When I do these pages, I get her to journal about these photos – in her handwriting- so we have a document of her experiences.

550aA page about Gracie’s first season of soccer. She resisted joining for years, and finally this year she went, and she LOVED it. She loved it so much she even won a special trophy for her commitment to the sport and to her team. She LOVES soccer, she loves the game, she love splaying with her friends, she loves pretty much everything about it.

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Knuckles, my parents’ cat (and Gracie’s favorite) came and spent a weekend with us when my parents were out of town, so it was like Gracie having her best friend sleepover.
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Random stuff from February- Valentine’s Day, stuff in the garden, the painting I was (and still am) working on, and my new purple “painting” (aka reading) glasses.

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I wanted to capture that magic moment at the very beginning of March when the garden is at its peak, so I wrote a bit about that and how the amazing weather really made everything out there (and me) very happy.

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A page about Chester cat… he’s very shy and very introverted (he was seriously abused as a kitten, and it took a long time for him to come out of his shell after we rescued him and got him home) and after ten years with him, I realized that he and I are kindred spirits and he’s taught me a lot about being okay with what makes me truly happy as opposed to what I’m told should make me happy. Meaning-  he doesn’t yearn to be out in the world and exploring and gathering and doing things that a lot of cats are “supposed” to enjoy doing. He’s happiest when he’s at home, when he’s with people he knows, when it’s not too noisy or chaotic. He has his little rituals and routines and that is what brings him peace and joy. By observing him, I realized that instinct doesn’t always set the rules for how a good life should be lived.

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One foggy morning in March, a school of Manta Rays swam right up to the seawall in our backyard. I wanted to capture it, because it was TRULY amazing.

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Gracie’s new bedroom- our major spring house project. I wanted to document what it looked like when she moved in, and some of her choices and behaviors (like the “open/closed” sign on her door, and all the Harry Potter Hufflepuff stuff she’s got hanging up- it’s her house in Harry Potter.)

558aChester and Milo- even though they are about eight years apart, and not from the same mama cat, they are brothers to the core. We always call them “the Brothers” whenever we see them because they are usually in the same area and they are always looking out for one another. After Delilah passed, Chester was REALLY heartbroken- he spent weeks wandering around the house and moaning and hiding. When we brought Milo home, he came back out of his shell- Milo was just a bitty baby (under two pounds!) and Chester immediately took on the roll of his protector. Now they are on more even footing, but they are buddies and always grooming one another and looking out for one another and when they aren’t together, they are calling out for each other.

Okay, these are a lot of photos and stories so I will do more in another post in a few days! Thank you, as always, for reading this far and for stopping by. <3

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(I thought I’d go ahead and journal about this since I want to remember it.)

Back in January we started talking about day trips to the parks up in Orlando for spring. We have annual passes to Universal this year, so we knew we wanted to go there. Plus, we haven’t seen the newest Harry Potter addition (there’s two of them now), and Gracie is an obsessive Harry Potter fan (Hufflepuff! I’m also Hufflepuff, and Tom is Ravenclaw- we’ve been sorted by the sorting hat…) so we knew that’s the first place we would go.

We’re about four hours from Disney and Universal by car, and since it’s not the easiest thing to find a pet sitter for all our crew *plus* someone to tend the garden properly (it’s a bigger deal than it seems and one day of bad watering, or no watering, can cause tons of damage…) it’s easier to do day trips to the parks than plan vacations where we stay there.

Plus, honestly, after one full day in any park, you kinda just want to come home, crash in your own bed, and spend the next few days recovering. A full day in the park is not relaxing – it’s SUPER fun, and exciting, but not really relaxing. So getting to come home the night of a park day is really blissful. It’s like a mini-break.

Anyway, stuff came up all spring. Finally, around Easter, I set my mind to us finding a time to go. I watched the crowd calendars, and the weather, and after two weeks of rain, humid, hot weather, we hit a good day.

We woke Gracie up at 6am- I told her to get dressed, and she told me it was too early for school, and then I told her we were going to Universal and she flipped out. She got dressed (complete with her Hufflepuff school tie) and we hit the road.

Four or so hours later, with a few stops for gas and facilities, we were at the park.

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I didn’t realize that the parks (there’s two of them at Universal- Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios) closed early that day- 6pm. So we didn’t have much time. But the park attendance was super light, so we knew if we skipped a leisurely lunch, we’d do fine.

To be honest, I like it SO much better when we don’t stop for lunch. I hate eating in the fast food restaurants in the parks except for a rare few exceptions. Imagine eating in a giant (kinda gross) warehouse with people crammed in all sides of you. While you eat, people push past, trying to find an empty table.

I can see why it’s necessary, especially larger families that need a break from the rides and need a cool place to sit and gather themselves for a while, but when it’s just a small family (two of which are vegetarians, one of which is an insanely picky eat [me], and one of which isn’t too interested in giant meals [Gracie]), it’s easier to not take the 45 minutes for the counter service and waiting for a table. We just pack sandwiches in a little cooler and purchase drinks and snacks all over the park. Find a shady place with a breeze and not many people and it’s the best quick meal you will have in a park.

 

Anyway. We started out in Islands of Adventure, so we could do the original Harry Potter part of the park, and then take the Harry Potter train (which is also a ride/attraction) over to Universal Studios and spend most of the day there.

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We actually stopped and did the little People Mover thing in Suess Landing, which is a kid-friendly part of the park devoted to Dr. Suess. There’s lots of tiny rides in there, but Gracie is getting a little too big for them, and we were shorter on time than we’d like, so she was okay with just doing the Sky High Trolley Train Ride. It’s not a big deal, but if you like taking photos, or just want an overview of the parks, I really recommend it. I always like to start out on that ride for that reason.

After that, we headed back to Hogsmeade, which is the original Harry Potter park.

 

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We poked around in the shops, Gracie bought some much-saved for and much desired Hufflepuff gear (headband, pin, emblems, stickers, etc.), and then we rode the two original Harry Potter rides. One, Forbidden Journey, is a full-blown attraction, and it’s amazing. The other is a medium-sized coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a little intense but very short. Good for older kids. Gracie does NOT like coasters, but she does enjoy the smaller ones.

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While we were waiting to get on Forbidden Journey, a very sweet cast member (also a Hufflepuff- all the cast members in the harry Potter themed part of the parks are sorted into their houses and wear their house uniforms) told us a bit about the new Harry Potter ride, and suggested we also check out “The Mummy” ride when we were at the other side of the park. This will come up later on in our day…

After doing the Harry Potter stuff, Gracie got a glass of frozen Butterbeer (kind of like a butterscotch milkshake)- a lot of which I drank, to be honest. It’s REALLY good. Like, REALLY good. So good. (okay, enough…)

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Then Gracie stopped to pick out another wand (she has Hermione’s, this time she chose Luna Lovegood’s) and we tried the new interactive features around the park. There’s several spots in the parks where you stand with your wand and incant a spell with certain motions, and interactive features will turn on in front of you.

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Then we boarded the train at Hogsmeade station that takes you to the other park on Universal property- Universal Studios. That’s also where the new Diagon Alley is.

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The train was excellent- it’s an actual train and in the area where the windows are, they show different Harry Potter adventures in 3-D. 15 minutes later, we were at the other park- themed for London, with a secret entrance to Diagon Alley tucked in.

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I gotta say, they have done an AMAZING job with this part of the park. The London street face is lovely, and then Diagon Alley is *inside* of it, full of shops from the novels (Grace was especially wanting to see Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and was thrilled when we found it was there), and a lot of it is in the shade, which is fantastic when you’ve been in the sun all day. It’s a good place to spend time.

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There’s also another amazing ride back there- Escape from Gringott’s. We rode that, and then got some Butterbeer flavored ice cream, which is basically soft, creamy vanilla fluffy ice cream with butterscotch swirled in. (Again, allow me to try and express just how GOOD Butterbeer-flavored anything is. And I don’t even love Butterscotch.)

After that, we headed back to the “real world” of Universal Studios and did a few things around the park.

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Men In Black was a definite for us- it’s like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, in that you board little cars and aim your blaster at various alien targets throughout the ride and try and score as many points as you can.

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Then we went around to The Mummy. Gracie was a little nervous, but ready to try it. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that The Mummy is definitely an in-the-dark coaster. Like, full-on. I would compare it to Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Disney. It was Gracie’s first coaster besides Space Mountain (which she does not like) and it shook her up. I felt *so* bad. She was a little pissed off (quiet and irritated with us) for a few seconds but then we let her choose the next ride and she recovered. We went into the bathroom after the ride and she told me that she was going to go on school Monday and tell all her friends about it, so it became her own little personal legend. She’s proud of it, but she probably won’t ride it again.

For the next ride, Gracie chose “Disaster”, which is sort of this half-hour movie making experience. They basically walk you through making a movie, and at the end, they screen the movie and different audience members are in it. Lots of audience interaction and funny stuff. She loved it, we got chosen for the movie at the end, and it was really fun. Great way to end the day.

The park was closing as we finished Disaster, so we headed out. Gracie stopped to get a Gold Frog, which she regretted not buying when we were in the Potter part of the parks, but it turned out to be for the best since it’s a solid chocolate frog that would have melted if we’d carried it all day. Bonus was that she got Helga Hufflepuff’s card inside, and she was thrilled about that. She also tried a Churro for the first time, and loved it.

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She’s normally not a big junk food eater (she’d easily choose water over soda, never finishes a serving of ice cream,  , so when she asks for treats at the parks, we don’t say no.

We got to the car, headed home, and by 11:30pm, we were all showered, unpacked, and in our beds.

Lovely day- I can’t wait to do it again!

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a ceiling in a shop at Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios)

a beautifully decorated ceiling in a shop at Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios)- I want this in my house!

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
Okay, the truth: Spring kicked my butt. Seriously.

It wasn’t any one thing in particular, it was just a whole lot of everything happening at once.

I have this thing I call “moving parts”- I usually use it to describe small tasks that don’t take a lot of time and/or effort, but that have a lot of different aspects to them so they aren’t simple and straightforward. These tasks tend to stress me out more than other things because there’s a lot of little things to keep track of. Like, for instance, laundry. Laundry isn’t much of a chore, and the time spent actually doing it isn’t a whole lot, but the whole process of laundry has got a lot of “moving parts”. There’s gathering laundry, sorting laundry, getting it into the washer, waiting for it to finish being washed, moving it into the dryer, waiting for it to dry, folding it, putting it away. I mostly hate the in between parts. And then it just piles up again. Same with cleaning the bird cages- it’s a task that literally takes about five minutes, but it feels like a lot more because there’s so many tiny little parts to it. It’s not, like, one smooth motion.

This spring felt like one big session of too many “moving parts”. Gracie stuff, Tom stuff, family stuff, health stuff, life stuff, home stuff. Every day, a zillion different little things popping up and it felt a little like Whack-A-Mole trying to keep up with things. Nothing HUGE, just lots of little things, all different times, different levels of importance. And things switching every day. I’m a total creature of routine. Also, we’re big on not overscheduling, and I work hard at keeping life very flexible because we often have stuff come up and I like to have time and space built into our schedules for that, but this spring was still busy.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, and people who know me will be surprised to hear me say this, but I am totally looking forward to summer. Seriously. The reason this is surprising is because I normally don’t like summer. It’s because of one thing- the weather.

I know everyone else is looking forward to a few months of warm weather and sunshine, but down here in the swamps of Florida, summer is basically one giant storm with brief periods of blazing hot sun in a hazy, grey sky. It’s almost like winter, just really hot and humid. Or life on another planet. I’m a blue-sky-and-a-breeze kinda girl. Nothing makes me happier than waking up in the morning and throwing open the doors and windows and letting the fresh air rush in. I spend a whole lot of time outside every day (gardening and swimming) so when the weather is not great, it really has an impact on how I feel.

So hurricane season is a long period of iffi-ness for me. When people complain about the long winters, I totally get it because that’s how I feel about summer.

But this year? I am just so excited to have some stuff off the schedule that I am actually looking forward to summer. I am looking forward to not having our time punctuated by a schedule of activities. There will still be things on the schedule, but the days will be a lot more flexible, which I know will be a relief.

I’m trying not to make any sort of grand plans or attach too many hopes onto the summer. I start thinking “oh, I’ll use it as a time to replenish and relax and catch up on stuff…” but then I feel myself just getting stressed at the thought of attaching any sort of expectation to it at all that I make myself shut down that train of thought.

Bottom line? I need to relax. Chill out. I don’t know what that looks like, but it has to happen. I say this constantly, but I’m hopeful sooner or later maybe I’ll figure out what it means.

My health is so glitchy right now, and I know that a lot of it is because I’m not taking care of myself like I should be. Every single time I shift things around and force myself to take better care of myself, something comes up and I’ll need to focus on that for a while, and then BANG, my body harshly reminds me to get back on the program. So, I need to force myself to put my health back as a huge priority. It’s been this cycle all spring.

I usually don’t have issues with myself as far as maintaining a baseline of self-care, so this is all a struggle for me. Honestly, it’s pissing me off. Part of it is that the demands of my health have really changed in the last year. I know a big part of that is that I’m now 40 years old, and things really do change as you get older. Everything from your skin getting dryer to aches and pains going from “I must have pulled something, whatever, no worries” to a genuine fear of “is this pain going to be something I deal with for the rest of my life? Oh my God, is it going to get worse?” I used to roll my eyes when my parents and grandparents talked about stiffness and frozen joints, but now I totally get it. Like, you pull a muscle, and suddenly it’s very likely the pain from it might not go away, but get worse. What *is* that?! It just sort of pisses me off, to be honest.

Usually I’m at peace with my health situation, but these last few months (pinched nerve stuff, some muscle weakness) it’s making me so frustrated. But then I get a reality check/dose of perspective and go back to understanding how it has to work. No room for temper tantrums, just do what you have to do and go forward.

I’m learning the new rules and figuring out the new “operating instructions” for my body at 40 years old. It’s tricky, so I’m trying to have compassion for myself. It definitely took me a long time in my 20’s to “get it” and learn how to take good care of myself. So I know in time, I’ll figure it out. It’s just that I got really, really good at knowing my body in its 30’s. Expert level. I knew what every twinge, ache, restless night was. So I guess I’m bummed that I have to start over again.

I feel like I’m a stranger to myself, in a way and I think it scares me a lot more than I will let myself truly recognize. I feel like my body at 40 is a puzzle and I’m a year into it and I haven’t really learned much at all.

Actually, I have learned one thing: I have to make more time to sleep. The whole six hours thing doesn’t work anymore. I definitely feel 100% better when I get more sleep. Which means I do more during the day, which means I rest better the next night, and it’s a good cycle to have in place. But then I ruin it by staying up ’til midnight one night because I didn’t get enough time to get anything done during that day, or by drinking too much caffeine in the afternoon and being up all night, and I break the cycle and have to force myself to start again.

I am also realizing I need more “down time”. Meaning, time when I am not with people or having to worry about house stuff or other people. It feels incredibly selfish, but it’s the truth and I’ve been avoiding it. I just don’t know how to solve this one. Whenever I needed more time in the past, I used to get up way earlier in the morning but now I can’t do that- I need the sleep. So it feels like my days have gotten shorter. And I don’t know how to make up for lost time.

Blargh. I guess you get the idea.

I think it’s a good thing, though, that I realize my health has changed, that the demands of life have changed, and that I need to figure out what’s required of me and then make the necessary adjustments. I’m annoyed about it, but I’m not kicking and screaming and resisting it. So maybe this summer I can work on that, and not feel like I’m scrambling around so much. I guess if you ask me what I’m going to do this summer, it’s that. Figure it out. Make necessary adjustments.

 

Outside my window…
Summer is here. It’s about 75 degrees when I wake up, and in the 90’s during the day. Storms are starting to roll in a lot more regularly. However, I don’t mind them- right now there’s a good balance of sun/rain and as long as the mornings are clear for swimming and gardening, I don’t mind the storms at all. In fact, it’s kinda nice to have a stormy evening/night. It feels cozy and comfortable to be tucked in, listening to the rain. And I love waking up to sunny skies after a night of rain, with the droplets of water in the grass and trees sort of twinkling (and less watering to do in the garden, which is always nice.)

In the garden…
Unfortunately, the glory days of good gardening weather are long gone, so the garden is sort of powering down for the summer. I lost a few plants in the last few weeks from the spike in temperatures, and now most of the geraniums, petunias, and other flowering plants are sort of barely growing and just staying put. Soon I’ll have to move the ones I want to keep for next season into the shade. I have to water pretty much every day to keep things alive. Another reason I am looking forward to summer- less watering.

There are some plants that are flourishing right now- the shrimp plant, the hibiscus, the passiflora, the plumeria, my orchids, and some of the plants in the shade. I think after several years of having this garden, I finally have a good balance of winter plants and summer plants, so there’s something going year round.

I put in an order for a few plants from Harvest Garden Supply last week to fill in some of the empty planters, so I’m looking forward to getting those. For some reason, I’m totally into Lantana right now, which I haven’t had growing in years. They introduced a variety that is smaller and has larger and more abundant flowers, so I ordered a few more of those just to fill in the gaps and add some color to the summer garden.

Reading…
“The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon” by Alexander McCall Smith- I’m almost done re-reading the whole No. One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I’m both happy and sad- happy to move on to other books, but sad because I get a lot of comfort when I’m in the midst of reading a series of books I really, really love.

Hearing…
at this very moment? The sound machine in the bedroom (always set to “rain”) and Tom coughing- he’s got a chest cold of some sort. Other than that, I am SO enjoying the silence. I can’t tell you how much of a difference in every-day-sounds it makes when tourist season ends.

Today I was getting ready to get in the pool and I just sat there and reveled in the silence for a few minutes. It was glorious. Just birds (a lot less of them, but you can really hear them now!) and the palm fronds rustling and that was it. It was amazing. No construction, no leaf blowers, no traffic. Just life.

It’s kind of magical, in a way, early summer… before the weather changes too much and right after the island empties out. I am learning to appreciate it more- despite the hectic nature of the end of the school year and wrapping down of season, there are these quiet moments, still sunny, that I really try to appreciate.

Watching…
Since the last time I updated, we worked our way through several seasons of great TV: Better Call Saul (so good!), The Jinx, Bloodline…  I think there was something else in there I am forgetting.

Right now we’re working our way through “The Affair” on Showtime. It’s very compelling, but sometimes hard to watch. And there’s no humor in it, which I always look to in order to take the edge off the very dark dramas. But it’s a good enough show that it doesn’t need too much “fluff” to keep it interesting. We’re only on episode five, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

On my own, I’m watching “Outlander”. I didn’t read the books so it’s all new to me. Very refreshing after all the “Fifty Shades” nonsense from earlier this year (as you can tell, I’m *not* a fan. Today Gracie asked me what it was all about, which I had been dreading since the first TV commercials started showing. I am frankly surprised it took this long for her to see an ad for it. I hope I explained it in a way that made sense to her nine-year-old self and made her understood why I, personally, am not a fan. I know there are many, many people it appeals to. But as Amy Poehler so geniuse-ly says “Good for them, *not* for me.”)


Crocheting…

A blanket for my dad. I finally finished Tom’s gray cotton blanket, which I had been working on since his birthday back in February. He loves it, and it was made to his specifications (long, narrow, and not “hole-y”, cotton yarn), so he’s super happy, and that makes me happy. Now I’m making one for my dad.


Drinking…

getting ready for bed, so just some decaf iced tea.


Hoping/looking forward to…

getting into bed with my book, hoping for a decent night’s sleep and a good tomorrow.

 

Planning…
a trip to the movies (we still have not seen The Avengers, can you believe that? That’s how busy it has been) and hopefully another day trip to Universal Studios within the next two weeks.

Tom and I surprised Gracie with a day trip to Universal a week ago, and it was SO much fun. We decided right after Easter that we would go as soon as the crowds slowed and the weather was nice, so we just kept an eye on the crowd calendars and the weather for a while and we finally got a good day- clear skies, 0% rain, and temperatures in the low 80’s, and low park attendance.

We woke Gracie up at 6am, told her to get dressed because we were going to Universal, got in the car, and we just went. We were home by 11pm that night- we didn’t realize that the park closed at 6pm, so we only had about seven hours there, but it turned out to be the perfect time frame for a day at the park because it was enough time to do a lot of stuff, but not so much time that we were desperately exhausted when we got in the car for the four hour drive home. I’ll post a trip report soon, I think. I want to remember it.

It was so much fun and it was made 100% better because it was sort of spontaneous and loose and we didn’t plan it too much. No anxiety about it- just a day off from life. I want to do more of that, with everything.

As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing week. <3

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around here…

21 Apr 2015
geranium in the garden

geranium in the garden

What’s going on around here:
I think this might be more of a brain-dump kinda post than my usual “Around Here” posts.

On Blogging/Online Journaling…
I really want to update this blog more, but I always sort of put it off because I feel like the posts have to follow a specific format, or be about *something* rather than me blathering about what’s going on or what I’m thinking about.

However, I recently read an article about the health benefits of journaling- not only for emotional health, but also for PHYSICAL health. Apparently, it has been shown to help alleviate stress, which helps relax the body, especially if there is muscle tension and nerve pain. My pain levels have gone up recently- it’s mostly due to a pinched nerve in my back that makes my arms and hands ache, especially in the middle of the night. I’m pretty good at tolerating pain, but stress definitely exacerbates it, so I have been hurting lately. Because of my spinal stuff (I was born with Spina Bifida, which is a neurological disease that effects the spine, as well as the nerves and muscles and bones throughout the body), whenever I tense up, it makes whatever aches and pains I have worse. If I can keep the stress and anxiety down, I can alleviate some of the pain.

So, if regular journaling can help, I want to give it a try. Which is great.

…but then I get weird about coming here and just letting off steam sometimes, because it feels super negative and usually those feelings pass after a good night’s sleep. But then I try and remember that this journal (which is what this website started out as- an online journal/diary I kept in graduate school, way back in 1997) is ultimately both a place to document my life – the ups and downs- and a place to work stuff out. So while it’s become a forum for art and creativity and quotes and whatever else, it’s still ultimately my outlet. And it’s okay to use it as that.

Winnie
You may know we have three parrots – two tiny parrotlets (smaller than parakeets), and a “normal” sized parrot, a Caique named Winnie. Winnie is amazing and sweet and funny and very, very busy. She spends all day chattering and whistling and playing with pretty much anything and everything in her cage when we’re not around and when we are around, she’s interacting with us. She’s a big cuddler- she loves to sort of get into our hands and nestle against us and attempt to groom us and have us pet and scritch her.

Sunday evening we noticed she was being weird about her cage- instead of climbing all over as she usually does, hopping from her branches to her rope perches and everywhere in between, she was just sort of sticking to climbing up and down the side. I thought something in her cage was spooking her, and tried to figure it out, but couldn’t come up with anything. She was eating and talking and pooping and drinking water, so we just kept an eye on her.

Yesterday morning she was acting strange- just not eating or behaving right and she wouldn’t come to us. So Tom called our avian vet practice (which is in Miami, two plus hour away) and they said to bring her right over. So he got right in the car and drove her over there.

Her exam went well, and they took blood and stool samples, and everything looked okay. The doctor said she felt a bit warm and so he sent her home with some anti-biotics and instructions to keep an eye on her.

So the next few days, we’ll be doing that. After the last few years, with Delilah’s passing and Ginger’s back issues (she’s still in isolation in her own room because of her restricted diet and the fact the other cats stress her out) and Milo eating a string and being hospitalized for it… I was just really happy and relieved that Winnie was able to come back home yesterday and we’re able to keep an eye on her here. I just hope it clears up quickly and she feels better. My heart hurts when this stuff happens, even if it turns out to be no big deal. The pets are a really huge and important part of our life, definitely full-fledged members of our little family. When they get ill, and they can’t tell you what’s wrong and you have to depend on vets to interpret it and then give you good or bad news… well, it takes lot out of you.

But it also reminds you what’s really important. Whenever stuff like this happens, it definitely puts everything else into perspective, and all the “unnecessary” stuff  instantly falls away.

 

… which might be why I have been reconsidering The 100 Days Project.

I did the first two weeks of The 100 Days Project. I spent some time every day working on something related to watercolor, posted my snapshots on Instagram, etc.

This past week was so hectic, though, that I just didn’t *feel* like making myself do anything when Sunday rolled around. When I finally had a chance to get into the studio, which was early evening, I willingly gave myself the day off- when I started the project, one of my personal rules was that the 100 days would not be consecutive, because I knew it would be impossible.

I gotta tell you, that day off from the project felt exquisite. Just coming into my studio in the early evening and not having anything I *had* to do felt amazing. I decided to pull out Gracie’s scrapbook and work on that while I watched Outlander and drank a cup of Mambo tea and had a lovely hour or two just doing that- trimming photos, sticking stickers, looking at pretty paper, and watching my MacBook screen. It felt like a little vacation, almost. I realized I hadn’t felt that relaxed in weeks.

I also realized I want to feel more relaxed in my free time. I don’t want to spend my down time feeling tense, like there is a deadline looming every single day.

Another issue is that I really haven’t done anything creative *but* the 100 Days project in the last two weeks. So while I am super excited about being interested in watercolors again, and not having any hesitation in using them (if I go too long not using a certain medium/material, I sort of forget how to use them and get really hesitant to pull it out because it seems like it requires so much more energy than just taking out something – like acrylic paints – that I am sort of old hat with…) and have already discovered a bunch of new techniques and stuff just from the fourteen days of the project, watercolor isn’t the *only* creative thing I want to be doing.

I haven’t really painted on my canvas or done much of anything else (writing, scrapbooking, even reading blogs or going on Facebook or stuff like that) in the last two weeks. And that aspect of the project made me incredibly grumpy.

As I’ve said a thousand times, as I KNOW this to be true about myself : I am NOT a speedy artist. I take forever and a day to do something that might take another artist a few minutes.

A lot of it is probably due to fine motor control and coding issues – I have a few neurological things because of the Spina Bifida. I got assessed when I was younger and my handwriting wasn’t happening- the tests showed that I see things, process them immediately, but it takes a while for my body to respond to the messages my brain are sending out, such as “write the letter ‘A'”. So often something that might take someone a microsecond takes me a lot longer. Writing (by hand) takes an insanely long time for me. Painting, drawing, etc. So anything that I do with my hands is like it’s on a time-delay, which I am used to, but I’m starting to realize how it might effect the way I make art, and that “quick projects” don’t really ever happen for me.

Also, I am indecisive. I take a long time to make even the smallest decisions. I spend a lot of time considering things- composition, color, shapes, patterns… and that’s just how I am. So while normally this 100 days project stuff might take another artist fifteen minutes, it’s something that takes me an hour or two, even for really simple ideas and “play”.

Since I don’t have much free time to begin with, the fact that this project is taking all that time, plus time away from stuff outside of the art studio, makes it an issue.

I have been agonizing over it a bit, trying to figure out what to do. I want to see the challenge through, and I can see it through. In fact, it would be very easy to just put everything else aside (my acrylic painting, scrapbooking, writing, blogging, etc.) and just focus on that for the next 80 days. (Actually, this would be an excellent summer project. Seriously.) But I don’t want to do that right at this moment- I worked so hard to make acrylic painting a regular part of my life and it brings me a lot of joy. I know if I put it aside for 86 more days, it won’t be easy to start up again.

So I thought about making acrylic painting part of the 100 day project, but it didn’t feel right.

My goal with this project was to get comfortable using some of the supplies I filed away while I was taking Bloom True and then spending months doing acrylic painting on canvas. And that’s happened already, just in 14 days. I got permission to put aside my painting and grab my watercolors and play.

I also thought it would be neat to have a little journal full of smaller, watercolor and water-based art. And that’s started.

So both goals are pretty much in great shape, whether I participate in the project the way it’s designed to go, or not.

I think what I am going to do is this: make the goal to fill the journal (which has 80 total pages) by the end of the year. It will still be about 100 projects, and will take about 100 individual days. I just don’t have to do them consecutively. I can spend two afternoons a week on them, still paint and scrapbook and write. I can post to Instagram when I do a new project. At the end of the project, I will have spent 100 days working on filling that journal.

I think this is a good solution, and it feels really good, but I still kinda feel like a quitter. But feeling like a quitter is a lot less stressful than feeling like I’m running out of time and crushed with pressure. I don’t want art – or the free time I use making it- to feel like that.

The bottom line is that I’m super-excited that I’m using watercolors regularly again. I’m looking forward to learning more as I use them. I really think I need to take a class, so maybe that’s something I can do this summer.

Okay, that’s enough for one post. Hope you are having a good Tuesday. Thanks, as always, for checking in with me!

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Here’s my first week of “The 100 Day Project”. The “100 Day Project”  is basically a 100 day commitment to doing something every day, whether it’s try a new recipe, make a little piece of art (that’s what I am doing), write a little bit, take a photo, etc. Then you share a snap of the day’s progress on Instagram, with the tag “#the100dayproject”.

My project is about making small pieces of art (small enough to fit in an 8″x8″ Kona sketchbook) out of water-based media.

Overall, this first week was pretty amazing. I’m now working with watercolor (and other water-based media: this week it was my tube and pan watercolors, Finetec metallic watercolors, and Gelato watercolor crayons) every day and am feeling so much more comfortable pulling them out and getting them down on paper. For months I have been trying to find a reason and the courage to use them, and now it’s not a big deal at all. For that alone, this project is TOTALLY worthwhile.

The only issue is this: after creating two-three pieces of art the first three days, I now feel like I have to create at least three ATC sized pieces of art per day so that the journal page doesn’t look so barren.

On top of that, I’m spending a lot of time obsessing over every piece. That’s okay for the first week, but it did come at the expense of my painting, and doing a lot of other stuff in my art studio that I have worked hard to create time in my routine for.

So this coming week, I need to give myself permission to make just *one* piece of art per day, if that’s all the time I have. It seems to make the page barren, and doesn’t look as pretty in photographs (*sigh* yes, I care about that- I will admit it) BUT it’s important if I’m going to keep working on this project for the next 93 days.

Anyway, here’s my first week (copied from my Instagram feed, where I post a photo or two of the previous day’s project every morning, hence the hashtags…):

the 100 day project - day 1

the 100 day project – day 1

first day of #the100dayproject – playing with watercolor on some ATC cards with gold acrylic. I didn’t plan it, but I can definitely see the influence of Elspeth McLean’s stones as I look at them now. #100ofChel

 

the 100 day project - day 2

the 100 day project – day 2

second day of #the100dayproject – I decided to try out some Finetec metallic watercolors I had in my stash. I purchased a set of six a few months ago but never got around to using them. Just layered them on some watercolor ATC cards to see how they worked. (I LOVE THEM) #100ofchel

 

the 100 day project - day 3

the 100 day project – day 3

third day of #the100dayproject – a happy accident. Spent yesterday afternoon experimenting with using solvent/pigment inkpads as resist with watercolors, which totally did not work. I ended up with five ATC size paintings I really didn’t like, so I cut them up and made them into a collage I actually *do* like. Collage=addictive. #100ofchel

 

the 100 day project - day 4

the 100 day project – day 4

fourth day of #the100dayproject – After Wednesday’s bout with perfectionism, I decided that I need to force myself to keep it simple, and I did it by limiting the time I work on the project. So I only gave myself 30 minutes – total- to work on the project yesterday, which meant I didn’t have time to screw around and agonize over everything I was doing. I just needed to get my paints out and go for it. I wound up returning to my favorite motif- circles- and experimenting with watercolors, translucency, and layering. I made three tiny paintings on ATC cards. Very relaxing and definitely want to do more of these. #100ofchel

 

the 100 day project - day 5

the 100 day project – day 5

fifth day of #the100dayproject – I made a bunch of color swatches with Faber Castell Gelatos on watercolor paper (just rubbed the Gelato on paper and went over it with a water brush and moved it around) and wound up cutting them up into triangles and making a mosaic out of them. #100ofchel

 

the 100 day project - day 6

the 100 day project – day 6

sixth day of #the100dayproject – watercolor circles on ATC cards, with dots made from white acrylic paint … they remind me of sea urchins. #100ofchel

 

the 100 day project - day 6

the 100 day project – day 7

seventh day of #the100dayproject – The reflection of diffuse morning light on the surface of water. Painted with Gelatos on Strathmore watercolor paper (applied with a brush- so much more delicate and subtle than when directly applied to paper…) . #100ofchel

Thank you SO much for taking a look!

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the 100 day project

09 Apr 2015
my first 100 days project

my first 100 days project

[I wrote this Tuesday and totally forgot to publish it.]

For several weeks, I have been thinking about a new creative project- something to do with watercolors and some of the water-based art supplies I have in my studio but I don’t have a chance to use that often since I’m so focused on larger-scale painting on canvas.

I just didn’t have a spare moment to sit down and make any definite plans- I kept *meaning* to, but then I’d come in my studio and only have an hour or something, and decide I wanted to use that time to work on my painting rather than hash out something on paper.

I just knew I wanted to use watercolors (and a bunch of other supplies related to watercolor – gelatos, inktense pencils and blocks, brusho, inks, stampes, etc.), and keep it small and simple. Use the tiny pieces of watercolor paper and little watercolor pads and journals I’ve collected over the years. I have a weakness for tiny sketchbooks, and when I was doing the whole print thing on Etsy, I bought a bunch of watercolor ATC cards for bookmarks.

So: watercolor/watercolor-esque supplies, small-scale. That’s all I really came up with.

Then yesterday I saw this:

the 100 day project

the 100 day project

I decided instantly that I would do it- the 100 day project. I would (try to) stick to water-based mediums, I would use all the little pieces of watercolor paper I’ve got on my shelf, and I would just *do it*.

Of course, later that afternoon when I finally got into my studio,  I started balking. I wanted to work on my painting and forget the whole idea of a project. But I also knew that this little project might be rewarding, so I made myself sit down, take out some watercolors and some ATC cards, and just mess around.

It was terribly uncomfortable. I had every intention of creating something, some finished piece of work, but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to happen. I haven’t done anything in watercolor OR freeform in months. It felt very foreign to me. Everything I did I really didn’t like.

I kept going until I made something I was okay with, and once again, reconsidered doing the project. Wouldn’t the time be better spent working on the painting or working on the scrapbook or doing something I really felt confident about and comfortable with?

I was just about to throw the two little paintings I made in the trash and wash my hands of the whole project, but then I happened to look up at my wall in front of my desk and saw a quote I have scribbled up there on a piece of washi tape: “HONOR THE BEGINNING.” I sighed (literally) and followed that advice.

So I took the two little ATC cards, glued them into the 8×8″ Kona Classic sketchbook I recently got (it has lovely brown paper inside, made from recycled coffee beans or labels or something…), jotted down a few details of the process, and called it Day One.

At the end of the project, I’m hoping I’ll have a little book full of random pieces of art and maybe more comfort with some of the materials I don’t use that often. As much as I love watercolors, a the moment I won’t *choose* to use them because my comfort zone is working with acrylics on canvas. So to have something that sort of forces me to get the other supplies out is a good thing.

I think most of all, I want to play. Get comfortable with just sitting down and noodling around without having something really concrete to show for it when I’m done.

I think I’ll post my daily bits of work on Instagram, as per the challenge rules, and then post a once-a-week (or every few days) recap here on the blog. One bit of flexibility I am giving myself is that the 100 days don’t need to be super-consecutive, because I know that there are days when I just won’t be able to get in here and make something. Health stuff comes up, we do something as a family, things are chaotic and I need an afternoon to NOT make art, etc. I want to do 100 days, but my 100 days might take 120 days to complete, if that makes any sense. I don’t want this to become anything stressful.

But I did it. I started. I want to see this through, if possible. Just a chance to create freely, keep it simple, and see what I’m drawn to at the specific moment I sit down to create.

Wish me luck! (If you are doing the 100 days project, too, I’d love to hear about it!!)

 

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One of the seven (!) orchids in bloom in our kitchen

one of the five (!) orchids in bloom in our house

peace

I know I haven’t updated in a week or so- I just didn’t have the time (or focus) to sit down and articulate any sort of coherent thought. When I had a few extra moments in the studio, which seemed few and far between this week, I mostly touched up my painting. Did a little bit of scrapbooking when I didn’t have time to paint.

It’s the beginning of April and I kind of want to re-focus my general to-do list and take a second look at a few projects and things that I’m spending energy and time on and just re-evaulate/*refresh* everything. I don’t want to spend the rest of spring in this mindset of just getting through each day, getting as much done as possible. I’m not a fan of being *too* busy, and it seems to be endemic to this particular spring. I know some people thrive on full schedules, but it just makes me lose track of time and lose track of life. I feel like a machine when it gets too busy, just sort of spinning around and checking things off a list but not really doing anything meaningful.

I’m trying to be a bit more mindful, especially when things get really busy.

You know when you find yourself in the midst of a bunch of stuff (usually chore-y stuff or paying bills or whatever) and you can’t help but think about all the stuff you PLANNED on doing but can’t get to until the task you’re working on is finished? And then you get into a bit of an tizzy about it? Well, maybe that last part is just me…

I took a class a few years ago called “Awakening Joy” and one woman told a story about how she was going about her nightly routine, cooking dinner, walking the dog, spending time doing her typical evening stuff, etc. and she kept asking herself “well, what am I going to get done tonight? When am I going to do it?”

She finally realized she WAS getting stuff done- lots of it- it just wasn’t what she expected to be spending her entire evening doing. She finally started telling herself “THIS is what I am doing tonight. THIS is what’s getting done tonight.”

I found that story incredibly helpful. It’s a form of mindfulness- be here now, in a way. Just do what you are doing, don’t worry about the next thing, or what you aren’t doing, or what you *should* be doing.

So, instead of worrying about rushing through morning stuff- laundry, feeding the pets, cleaning the bathroom, whatever…- to get into my studio to do what I *planned* on doing, I have stopped and told myself “well, THIS is what I’m doing this morning. This morning I am doing the laundry. This morning I am cleaning the bird cages. This morning I am _____ (insert task).”

I guess it sort of relaxes me because it takes the other stuff off the list, at least temporarily. I guess it’s like giving myself permission to just focus on the task at hand, and spend the time I need getting it done.

I know this can’t work for everything, but I find it super helpful when I get frustrated by small tasks that never seem to end. And I’ve been relying on it a lot.

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Milo headed into Gracie's new room

Milo headed into Gracie’s new room

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I’m a little in shock that March is almost over. Where did it all go? How is it almost April? I know I said this *last* month, but the weeks are sort of flying by.

As far as the home improvement project, Gracie is now moved up into her new bedroom, so we can cross that off the list. *phew* She’s thrilled. I need to post some pictures.

The floors for the rest of the house are on hold because my dad is in the midst of two cataract surgeries- he had the first last week and will have the second next week. So no sawing floors and installing them with sawdust everywhere for him. In the meantime, Tom is moving himself into his new office (Gracie’s old bedroom), painting the walls, and figuring out the furniture situation.

So things, home-improvement wise, are a little less hectic for right now, but everything is still sort of out-of-place and a little out of sorts. Tom’s working off the dining room table, all the contents of his office are in the sunroom and bedroom closet, and other odds and ends (contents of Gracie’s old room she’s undecided on) are piled about.

I’m pretty tidy and organized, so the piles drive me a little batty. But only a little batty, which means I can stand them. They are mostly tucked away and in the corners. Tom did a great job with that, and I’m grateful for that, since it would have been easier for him to just put them all in one place. But he took the time to try and make it orderly for my benefit, and that was very sweet of him, especially with all he has going on. Every spare second for him counts at the moment.

I’m still a bit stressed out and feeling overwhelmed, but it’s definitely better than it was just a few weeks ago.

I’ve found it really helpful to devote entire afternoons to getting loose ends tied up. For example, last week I took two afternoons to tackle a bunch of things that shouldn’t (in theory) take long, but in reality always take quite a while. Ordering groceries online, signing Gracie up online for spring soccer, looking at school stuff for next year, looking over and paying the bills, clearing off some of the stuff on my desk, etc. Fussy stuff. Stuff that requires forms and routing numbers and running back and forth around the house to check on what we need.

Of course, I WANTED to be painting, but I just sort of surrendered to the stuff that was piling up and decided to give it the time I knew it needed (several hours), rather than the time I *wanted* it to take (15 minutes, which is totally unrealistic). Honestly, it felt so good to get it done and not have to rush through it or put it off some more.

So I want to do more of that, even thought I know I’ll be doing less creative work. I’m always afraid if I don’t paint or create everyday I’ll lose momentum, but I realized that I can skip a day or two and still be able to pick right back up. It’s when I take a long time from a project that it feels like I forgot how to do it. And then I get really hesitant to do it.

So I guess right now I’m focusing on the little things and not worrying about the big picture. One thing at a time.

Outside my window…
(cue the “I live in Southwest Florida” disclaimer here) It’s summer. The temperatures in the daytime are mid-80’s, the sun is very high in the sky- close to scorching, but not quite there yet, and the plants need water daily, which is rare for humid Southwest Florida. But this time of year, when it gets super hot and it’s still fairly dry outside, things get a little crispy and wilty. Including humans, if they stay outside too long.

Gracie has gone back to wearing shorts and t-shirts to school every day. That’s always a good indication of the weather, too. She gets cold pretty easily, so when she’s in t-shirts and shorts, it means it’s hot.

I know it’s technically spring, but since I grew up in NY, I measure the weather against what season it would be in NY. And if I were in NY, and we had this weather, it would be middle of summer. So it’s summer. We’ll have this until about June, and then Hurricane Season. And then… FALL!

But for right now, I am enjoying the sunny weather, the beautiful blue-sky mornings, and the fact that the garden is going crazy in bloom.

In the art studio…
I’ve actually turned a corner with my painting. Meaning, I can see that there might actually be a finishing point on the horizon. That’s pretty exciting for me, even though I think I’ll be working on it for at least another month. I only get to paint in two hour increments a few times a week, and I’m doing super detailed work with a zillion layers, so it is what it is.

I’m still really enjoying working on it, and I’m still taking my sweet time with it, but I have to admit, I’m excited to work with different colors since I’ve sort of locked into the color scheme of teal-aqua-midnight blue-green gold-crimson-white. For instance, orange. Orange thrills me, simply because I haven’t used any orange paint in weeks. The idea of painting something orange and leafy green and a bright sunny yellow… maybe with a splash of PINK, even.

I’m also feeling very drawn to watercolor again. It must be a seasonal thing. Usually when I swim, I contemplate my current painting and kind of work through ideas in my head. But lately, I have been thinking a lot about watercolor. Patterns and watercolor. Resist and watercolor. Abstract watercolor with acrylic painted details on top…. I have a feeling I’ll probably be pulling out my watercolors in the next few weeks (days?) and playing a bit.


Hoping/looking forward to…

Having less on my to-do list? That’s such a stinky, lame answer to that prompt. But right now it feels like I’m in the thick of it and the thing to focus on is just taking things as they come rather than looking ahead weeks in advance.

I’m also looking forward to opening two little boxes of art/craft supplies that are sitting on my desk, unopened. I placed two orders right after the CHA show (Craft and Hobby Association- every year they have a big convention where all the companies preview new art supplies and online stores take pre-orders for the products) back in January, and the products I ordered finally got released and shipped last week. I decided not to open the boxes until later this week after I get a few things done and can spend a few hours playing with the stuff, as sort of a little reward/incentive. I’m kinda psyched about it.

Honestly? I’m kind of looking forward to tourist season being over. Several of the houses on our street are vacation rentals (some illegally), so sometimes it’s a bit like living in the midst of someone else’s Spring Break, and every week it changes. One set of people leave, and the next come right in.

I will say that the vacation renters who have come in recently are nothing compared to the people that rented nearby a few summers ago. There was some serious drama going on with them and it all played out every day in their back yard, so the whole neighborhood was privy to it. Every morning at 10am, they’d bang out the back door and just start in on each other as they hung around the back yard. As the day went on, and they got more intoxicated, the volume would increase.

I’m not a fan of listening to other people talking (it kind of drives me crazy to hear other people’s conversations), so I tried to shut it out, but anyone within a five-house-radius couldn’t help but hear everything that was going on. The worst part was that one of them had a little girl, and I don’t think there was full custody because she wasn’t there all the time, but when she was, they would just carry on with the shouting at each other like she wasn’t..

At the end of the summer, they both disappeared and abandoned the house, and then there were a series of cleaners and repair people that came in afterwards that made no secret of the condition of the house. Then the house got sold for a song and the new owners fixed it up and now they rent off and on.

It was a little insane. Even when I lived in dorms at college, different apartments around Atlanta, and the condo here, I never had neighbors like that. It was like a reality TV show, every day. But you couldn’t turn it off. Even inside the house, you could hear it loud and clear.

Ever since that happened, anytime anyone new pulls up to that house, I get really nervous and cringe-y. I hear the back door slam in the morning and feel myself get anxious. I know it’s stupid, but I like quiet. Don’t get me wrong, my others neighbors definitely make noise (as we do- our cats are very vocal and we do have three parrots!), but I *know* their noise. There’s the Fox News channel guy who likes to talk on the phone outside, the Electric Light Orchestra guy with the boat, the Russian couple who have lots of their friends over and have loud, animated discussions in their native tongue, the people down the street with the dogs that bark at pretty much any moving thing. But those are familiar to me. And everyone keeps it in check, for the most part.

I like a little bit of privacy. I like living in a residential place. It’s just something I really value after years of living in apartments and condos. I feel uncomfortable being exposed to other people’s business, especially when it’s volatile but not quite at the level where anything can be done to make it better. It just makes you a little sad, in a way. Especially when that little girl was there- I really wanted to go through the bushes and just tell her to come and swim in our pool until things got quieter. I hope things are better for her.

Reading…
Still re-reading my way through “Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. I’m almost done with “Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.” This book is much better than the previous few I read in the series so I’m back to loving it all again. One weird thing, though- I changed the font on my Kindle app and for some reason that made the book a lot more enjoyable. I don’t know what *that’s* about, but … weird.

Also, all the new issues of Better Homes & Gardens, O, Islands, Sunset, and Coastal Living- the actual printed versions. I just can’t get on board with reading magazines on my iPad. I love getting fresh copies of magazines in the mailbox. I love the format, love the glossy paper, love the beautiful photos…  I just love magazines. I pretty much hunt Amazon and other magazine subscription sites, and as soon as the price drops on anything I’m interested in, I either start a new subscription or add to my ongoing one.

I’m currently holding off subscribing to Real Simple- I just can’t see myself paying $40 for two years. Every so often a $5 or $10 for a year offer pops up, but I haven’t seen one for Real Simple in a while…

As far as the travel magazines: I’m on this weird Island/Island living kick right now. I’ve always been interested in living by the water, but lately I am really feeling super-connected to my “island” roots, even though those two islands are Long Island and Marco Island and neither are in the Caribbean. Still- they are both real, official islands, and I’ve spent all but seven years of my life living on islands, so that’s 33+ years of island life. I don’t think I would be happy if I didn’t live close to the water.

I found this show on HGTV called “Caribbean Life” which features people house-hunting on all the different Caribbean Islands. Even though it drives me a little bonkers that the people never end up buying the houses they choose, the show fascinates me because it goes to each of the different Caribbean Islands and shows famous parks and beaches.

Turks & Caicos (photo from Fodor's)

Turks & Caicos (photo from Fodor’s)

The blue water in Turks & Caicos… just, wow. That gets me EVERY TIME. The other night poor Tom had to listen to me ask him over and over and over if he was as amazed as I was by it, even though we had already seen a bunch of episodes with the same exact video clips of the water there. The water is brighter than the sky down there. It almost overwhelms me how beautiful it looks. I don’t like to travel, and my health makes it difficult (ever try and sterilize a hotel shower? That’s always super fun.), but I might have to make an exception to go swim in that water. I mean, it’s only a quick plane ride away.

There’s also a show called “Island Life” which features the islands around the US, but that one is rarely on. I almost like that one better because I love seeing the variety of landscape and learning about the different weather around the US.

Watching…
Last night we finished “The Wire”. What a great show. Very complex, and emotional, and definitely the kind of show you carry with you even when you’re not watching it.

Now it’s “House of Cards” and catching up on everything else we’ve been TiVo-ing while working our way through “The Wire”.

We haven’t been to the movies in ages. I feel kinda guilty about it, but it’s been crazy busy, there’s nothing great that we felt like we *had* to make the time to see, and because of tourist season traffic, it takes forever to get into Naples.

However, I want to see “Insurgent” so I hope we’ll be motivated to get to the movies soon. And the spring/summer movie season will start soon, and then it’s go time.

 

Drinking…
I have been cutting my usual tea with decaf in an effort to try and see if it helps my sleep, and it seems to be working. I’m actually sleeping in chunks that last a couple of hours instead of waking up every hour and struggling to get back to sleep.

I used to “de-caf” my tea, and I’m not sure why I stopped. I just get a flavorless decaf from Adagio (usually the decaf ceylon they have) and put a teaspoon of the decaf for every teaspoon of the fully caffeinated teas I drink. The flavors of the caffeinated teas come through just fine with most of the blends, and I feel less jittery.

I should probably do the same thing with my iced tea, and I mostly do, but after 6pm or whatever I should knock out all things caffeinated (well, except chocolate.) Work in progress, I suppose.

Thankful for…
blue skies.
birds outside.
blooming plants.
the sun rising a bit earlier every morning.
orchids.
open-window mornings.
cats and birds and lizards (mine in particular, but I like all of them.)
my family.
cherry italian ices and jelly beans.
reading glasses.
really tiny paintbrushes and Lascaux gold paint.
sleeping in every so often.
good series of books.
happy mail.
pastel colors.

 

As always, thank you for reading all this! Hope you are having an excellent week!

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from the garden

a view of the end of the lanai…

Because the sun is direct and the weather is warm, the garden is very, very happy.

from the garden

white petunias

from the garden

bromeliad

The plants love the direct, hot sun and the ocassional rain. For some reason a good spring shower makes the plants happier than hose water. It’s like they haven’t been watered in 400 years, even though they get a good soaking every other day from the hose.  But after a spring rain? It’s something else. Of course, *too* much rain – that weird green fungus on top of the soil, which is definitely not good.

from the garden

chester, hoping for catnip

Chester also likes being out there. I have a lot of catnip growing so he loves that.

from the garden

chester, helping out

He also likes to hang out while I’m gardening, as long as the hose isn’t on. Then he runs away like crazy.

from the garden

white geraniums

The geranium seeds that I planted in fall have finally grown into full-sized plants and are blooming. The interesting thing is that I forgot which seeds I put in which planters (I’m so bad about using plant markers…) so every day I sort of run out there to see which geranium blossomed and what color it is.

from the garden

red geranium

I know red geraniums are, like, Gardening 101, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a red geranium from seed to seedling and then actually grow and bloom.

from the garden

coleus

from the garden

coleus

The coleus seedlings turned into plants and they are beautiful- I love the colors. The local nurseries carry coleus, but it’s always the same three varieties so this year I just ordered a bunch of seed varieties and hoped they would be as nice as the catalog photos. I really do love coleus… something about them. I just need to remember to keep them trimmed because when they get tall, they get like stalks with leaves only on the tops.

from the garden

succulents

Succulents in the shade. I kept them in the shade all winter and they seem to love it. I don’t understand that, but I think the cooler air might be drier, so they are less moist and that makes them happier than being in the bright sun but being damp all the time. It’s very humid here…

from the garden

petunia

from the garden

more petunias…

from the garden

even more petunias (love these blotched flowers…)

from the garden

petunias, again

from the garden

a lot of petunias

from the garden

purple petunia

Of course, there are the petunias…

from the garden

passiflora

I just placed a few orders with Park, Burpbee, and Garden Harvest for a few new seeds. I got some teddy sunflowers for the summer and some odds and ends flower seeds- more petunia, of course.

I also ordered two different varieties of tomato seeds (Salsa and Juliet), since the tomato plants we got from Home Depot last fall barely produce and the tomatoes are not particularly good.

from the garden

hibiscus

I also ordered a few live plants, which I rarely do anymore. I rarely buy plants at all, to be honest. Anyway, I’m going to give a hydrangea another try, this time in the shade. I also got an Appleblossom Geranium, which I had a few years ago and LOVED LOVED LOVED but it got over-wet during the following summer and perished- now I know to bring them under the roofline as soon as the weather changes. I also got a Lantana (Peach Bandana, I think?) and something else which I can’t remember so I guess it will be a surprise when I get the box.

I’m excited for them to arrive, but as soon as they do I ned to get on my game and get them repotted and in their spots. So I need to get ready for that.

from the garden

double petunia (orchid mist)

Thank you for checking out my little garden :)

 

(This was cross-posted to Sprout, the little gardening blog that Misti and I run. We’ll be updating over there once a week, so please stop by and say “hey!”)

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a clean slate…

18 Mar 2015
buddha in my garden

buddha in my garden

peace

“It was a snowy night, and Robert was recalling the time two springs ago when he was determined to paint the family room. Up early, he was out the door, to the hardware store gathering the gallons of red, the wooden mixing sticks, the drop cloths, and the … brushes. He mixed the paint outside and waddled to the door with a gallon in each hand, the drop cloth under his arm, and a wide brush in his mouth. He teetered there for minutes, trying to open the door, not wanting to put anything down.

He had the door almost open when he lost his grip, stumbled backward, and wound up on the ground, red gallons all over him.

Amazingly, we all do this, whether with groceries or paint or with the stories we feel determined to share. We do this with our love, with our sense of truth, even with our pain. It’s such a simple thing, but we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door. Time and time again, we are offered the chance to truly learn this: We cannot hold on to things and enter. We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.”

– Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

So, it’s no secret I’ve been feeling stressed out these past few weeks, with the home renovation stuff and day-to-day stuff and life just being generally very busy at this time of year.

Because I have a habit of documenting my life (scrapbook, to-do lists, notes on my calendar and planner, journal entires, etc.), I start to notice patterns. This whole late-winter/early-spring crunch seems to come up every year- there’s always a lot going on at this time of year. The sleepy, hibernation mode I go into after the holidays passes and I feel sort of raw and exposed and antsy.

And every year I’ve been determined to outsmart it. To calm it (whatever “it” is) down, to FORCE everything to just stop and settle down. To somehow position myself in such a way that I have power over everything that goes on around me and therefore can somehow force it all into a more neat and organized way of being.

Clearly, that’s an effort in futility. As much as I would like everything to always be on-schedule and come in neat packages, one-thing-at-a-time, life just doesn’t happen that way.

So this year I’m trying to go about it differently. Partly because my previous approaches never work, and partially because I’m focused on the idea of “peace” this year…

Usually I try and adjust my schedule, try and not commit to anything, leave my schedule wide open for hiccups, etc. These little tweaks help, but they are kind of like a Band-Aid, in a way. They just provide a temporary fix. I need to figure out something else.

Today I was sort of obsessing over how stressed I am and I got this sudden feeling like I wanted to DROP EVERYTHING. Like, just say “no”. And just do what I want. (I know, it’s sort of ridiculous…)  And then I remembered the above story in Book of Awakening – one of the very first passages in the book- and it provided a bit of relief.

There’s a lot of cultural stuff about “let it go” and “let go”, but when you think about it, what the heck does it mean? If you’re a responsible adult, you can’t just let everything go. You can’t. Even if you could, most people have ethics that prevent them from doing that. And the emotional aspect of “letting go” is impossible, simply because very few people are able to dial down their emotions and just let stuff go.

But the idea of dropping things and then picking them back up, one by one, makes a lot of sense to me. Creating a clean slate and then deciding what goes on it.

It makes me think of my computer- I have an older MacBook that sometimes struggles when too many things are running at once. Occasionally it will slow to a crawl, then just stop working, and I have to force it to restart.

Basically what I do when that happens is force the computer to drop EVERYTHING, and start fresh. It restarts and I slowly begin re-opening apps and documents as I need them. Of course, it runs much better after I do this, and the screen isn’t clogged with 5000 windows (most unnecessary, just sort of forgotten…), and nothing is open and running that doesn’t need to be.

Life can be like that, I think. When things get to be too much, instead of trying to figure out what the heck is the thing that tips “just about enough” to “way too much”, sometimes it’s better to just drop everything (even for a moment, in your brain) and then add back things as they are necessary. Like I said, forcing a clean slate and then adding stuff to it, mindfully.

For instance, sleep, food, breathing… those are necessary (like the basic operating system of a computer, right?). Okay. My sleep could use some “tweaking”- right now it really feels like life is one LONG day and I punctuate it with a series of naps that happen to take place late at night. I never feel like I get a good night’s sleep or that the next morning is “a new day”.  That’s partly because of my health and partly because choices I make (caffeine, mainly… I drink a whole lot of tea…) I do know if my sleep improves, I will feel better. So that’s on the list, for sure.

I also need to be better about getting to bed. I get to bed fairly early, all things considered, but after we are done hanging out every night and Gracie goes to bed, I usually go back into my art studio and poke around online for a while. I keep the lights low, and I don’t do any projects (too tired, too late), so I wind up doing stuff like researching paint (ie window shopping at the Blick website) or looking at art and design blogs online. I really don’t need to be doing that. I would much rather be in bed, reading. But it always feel like I really NEED that time in my studio, at night. Like I have been doing busy stuff all day and just want some time to slack off. But it never feels good as I’m doing it or after. I just feel like I wasted a bunch of time procrastinating about going to bed.

Family… non-negotiable. Of course.

Health, hygiene, etc…. because I swim, I’m actually ahead of the game with this one. One of the benefits of being obsessed with swimming and having health problems. I need to re-commit to my strength exercises, but I do them *most* days. I just take off the strength part of swimming stuff (last 15 minutes) when I have too much going on. That needs to be non-negotiable, I think. It’s just important.

Stuff around here, activities, family life, etc. Things are a little hectic for all of us- Tom’s got a lot with work and karate and home renovation stuff, Gracie is busy with school and sports (she’s in both basketball and soccer as of next week, plus Girl Scouts, social stuff, twice-a-month allergy shots, and regular 9-year-old stuff.)  I always think I can somehow make our schedules all work together, but schedules for different activities are as they are, and the best I can do is be prepared for them and not stress over the activities that have nothing to do with me. And take care of my own responsibilities quickly and efficiently, which I feel like I already do.

Then adding in the extra stuff- like, gardening. That’s non-negotiable. It’s good for my health, not a terrible crunch on my schedule, and it makes me enormously happy. Same with reading- I only read a little bit every day, while I’m doing 15 minutes of stretching after I swim, and it makes me happy.

Painting and creativity… vital. But I am still trying to figure it all out. I don’t get much time to do it, and when I do, I usually choose to paint. I can’t decide if it’s because it makes me happiest or I’m just in painting mode at the moment (at this point it’s super easy to pull out my brushes and paints and get to work than it is to work on anything else in my studio) or both. I do love it, though. It fulfills me. The other projects I love, too. I enjoy them more. I want to find time for all of them, but not at the sacrifice of painting.

The thing about painting is this- for years I had this voice in my head that wanted to paint. Seriously. But I didn’t. I’d do things related to paint (makes and paint beads, do art journaling with mixed media, etc.) but not just paint. Now that I’m painting, I feel very focused and centered. I wanted to do it for so long and now that I am painting regularly, I don’t want to short change it. So it’s important, maybe the most important creative thing I do.

However, sometimes I get resentful of painting because it feels like it takes me away from other things I want to do. I don’t want to feel that way. So maybe an alternate day system, or painting only for an hour instead of two, and using the second hour to do a different project. It’s just so hard to switch gears creatively, you know? I sit down with my painting and my brushes and my little jars of paint and I never think “oh, I can’t wait until I can stop doing this and pick up the art journal”. Once I start painting, I don’t want to stop.

(This is all me thinking out loud, by the way…)

Anyway.

There’s not much time left for other things. And that’s where the stress comes in. I have my life very ordered to work with all our family stuff and my health stuff, etc., and it’s a lot, so when anything extra gets added to the pile, I get a little pissed off. I know that’s a weird reaction, but it’s honestly how I feel. It annoys me. It feels like a great intrusion.

That’s why I stopped contributing to other projects and sort of pulled away from Etsy and social media in general. I only have a tiny bit of time every day and I want to use that time to create and do the stuff I wasn’t doing six months ago.

Facebook, unfortunately, is sort of out these days. I check in once a day for about five minutes, if that, but then I push the computer aside and go to work. Facebook was my “main” social media/connection thing, but I just have no time for it, and no patience for it. It used to be when I logged on I saw a stream of status updates from my friends. I could read how they were, what was new, interact with them about it, and actually have a meaningful connection. Now, no matter how I adjust my settings, I have to really dig around to find people’s status messages. What Facebook shows me is a lot of linked and shared stories, which are interesting (and a time-suck) but I want to see status messages. How people are doing. What’s up in their world. (First world problem, I know.)

One thing I know is a huge time suck and stressor for me: I spend too much time in indecision. Making choices. Deliberating one choice over the other. That’s a whole ‘nother issue, but I know it’s part of my personality and I try to both work on improving it (it wastes a LOT of time) and honoring it (I’ll never be the kind of person who can make instant decisions, so I need to accept that and build some time into my life for the whole indecision thing.)

I spent too much time in stressball mode these days. Enough is enough. So, the approach of “dropping everything” kinda comes in handy. I just need to remind myself that it’s not just a once-only practice,  but it’s worth doing every single day, just so I get a reminder of what’s important and what matters and what is just extra or not working on that particular point in time.

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hello!
I'm Chel (pronounced "shell", short for "Michele").

I'm a painter, writer, gardener, art historian, long-distance swimmer, crochet addict, movie watcher, animal lover, and avid reader.

Random facts: I grew up in New York (Long Island, to be specific), went to college and grad school in Atlanta, and now I live in Southwest Florida. I'm incredibly shy but I can be very chatty. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years. I swim five miles every day. I have an eight year old daughter and a 40-something year old husband. I'd rather eat kalamata olives than most anything, and I'm an AVID tea drinker. I exist with the steady background noise of meows (three cats), chirps and whistles (three parrots), and silence (an elderly gecko).

If you'd like to know more, click here

contact me at:
lists@gingerblue.com







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bloom true

Bloom True is the painting class with Flora Bowley that I talk about in a lot of my posts :)


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