Living in Michigan

Ah yes, living in Michigan can be a challenge at times. You may try to stay off the news (politics, man’s inhumanity to man, COVID, etc.) except to catch the headlines. But life itself occasionally throws a blow that you just weren’t expecting.

Maxy-cat is 18.5 years old. He’s been deaf for awhile. He’s on thyroid medication. His vision has been deteriorating. And this weekend, the deterioration is complete. Maxy is blind. We’ve adjusted his living arrangement to the main floor for safety. We are taking him to the litterbox and to his food and water regularly, and he seems to be able to go from there back to his heated bed. We are hoping that over time, he is able to get around the house himself, and will be able to play with catnip toys and have a good quality of life. There are a few feline ophthalmologists in Michigan, but none are taking patients until January at the earliest and they won’t schedule that far out. He spends a good deal of time sleeping, and as long as he is asleep he doesn’t notice his lack of vision or hearing. I hope his little cat dreams are full of outdoor adventures, chasing squirrels and running. It’s taking all of my focus to not dissolve into hysteria, and that focus is giving me the headache of a lifetime for the third day in a row.

This autumn has been a fantastic time for mushrooms everywhere. There are so many different kinds in the woods behind our home and on the Bark Park trails. I’ve taken a few photos to share. Isn’t nature amazing?

These last two are a form of puffball known as the brain puffball, or Calvatia craniiformis. They are giant…take a look at the size of the leaves around them. We have not had a frost yet, and it has been a lovely mild autumn so far. I wish it could stay like this forever.

In other news, Bob attended in person and I attended virtually the SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival. It featured 13 short environmental films and was quite enjoyable. I love short films. You can still catch some showings by going to the website, linked above. I’m working on a crochet blanket for a dear friend who needs a hug, and I’m obsessed with tiny notebooks. I’m staying busy with journaling as well. Anything to keep the hysteria from becoming consuming. It won’t be long before I’m starting my next bullet journal for the new year. Hard to believe we are nearing the end of October.

Misc. Monday Moodiness

How’s your week starting out? Although Monday didn’t start out poorly, it quickly got there and proceeded to become more troublesome as the day went on. Yes, it’s Misc. Monday Moodiness today. I am very thankful for the small bits of kindness others shared with me, and I’m especially happy to be home with my family at the end of a long day.

The above painting is a quick watercolor study. Some parts of it are nice, but others didn’t work out quite well. Isn’t that often the way it goes? I’m always thankful to have a little time to paint, though. I’ve been busy with a large (5 foot x 5 foot) crochet blanket out of a bulky yarn to go in my hygge basket for the Whisker Mixer silent auction. The basket also includes a bottle of Bailey’s, a mug, a blank journal (a really nice one, too…I have way, way too many unused journals), fairy lights, bath soak and a lotion bar. I’ve also done a mani-pedi jar, a safety first home improvement basket, a cupcake basket, and a Christmas basket. I just hope they bring in some decent money for the shelter pets. This year’s fundraisers have been a struggle for me on several fronts. Virtual events are a ton more work than live events, with a much lower payout. Anyhow, here’s the blanket:

It’s Bernat blanket yarn, HDC with a giant wooden hook, and it’s really soft. I’ve gone back to crocheting my shawl, and I just finished watching the 1992 movie Candyman. I’m not a horror fan, but I really wanted to see the scenes shot in Cabrini Green. I’m trying to get my holiday shopping done well early this year, so I don’t have to worry about it. I need to get started on the holiday greeting cards.

Happy Visit

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
happy visit

We had a very happy visit this month, in that Kirsten came for a few days from Portland. Friday we went up to Lansing to clean up the graves. The lavender is still in bloom on the Thorne/Cleary plot in Mt. Hope, and we did some stone scrubbing. There wasn’t much left on the plots in Evergreen, probably because of the lack of rain through most of the summer. We did try the TikTok cleaning tips and got a bit of moss off the stones. We will do more in the spring.

happy visit

After we got back from Lansing, we spent some time with pastels before Bob joined us for dinner. It was fun to just have that quiet time talking and being creative. Mom and Kirsten worked with the oil pastels, while I used the soft pastels. How do you blend with your finger and not rub a hole in it?

happy visit - soft pastels

I used soft pastels for this spring iris image, photo reference from a picture I took in our garden. It was a very happy visit indeed, and I am looking forward to Kirsten returning. Mom is going to continue working on some oil pastel work. I’ve started up a quick water color and gouache, photo reference from a recent cover of Fine Gardening magazine.

It is nearly October. The weather has been lovely, thankfully. I hope it continues all of next month.

Oil Pastels

Tuesday, September 28, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
oil pastels seascape

I’ve been spending a little time on oil pastels, and I am so pleased with how the one above turned out. I’m using a Sennelier¬†oil pastel set. They blend beautifully, and there’s something nice about just being able to grab them and get to work on the couch without water and brushes. I did a little quartet of pieces below. I am anxious to do some more painting for sure, especially with the oil pastels. I like the soft pastels, but I haven’t figured out how to blend them without rubbing a hole in my finger tip. There seems to never be enough time to do everything I’d like to do.

oil pastels quartet

Our garden is reaching the end. We have some cherry tomatoes that I’m not sure will ripen. And we’ve had these monstrous cucumbers.

Honestly I don’t even like cucumbers. They are slimy. But I did make three jars of refrigerator pickles and I think they turned out ok. It won’t be long before I start cleaning up the gardens. Some of the asters are still in bloom, but everything else is starting to look kind of dead. The temperatures have been in the 70s during the day and it’s been sunny and lovely out. It seems hard to believe that it’s nearly October already.

One Image, Several Mediums

Monday, September 6, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
one image several mediums - soft pastels

As you saw from the August 16 Watercolor post, I took one reference image and used it to paint in watercolor and fountain pen ink. I decided to continue the trend over a few other mediums, hence One Image, Several Mediums. Above is the attempt in soft pastels. I like the boat and I like the overall softness of the image.

one image several mediums - oil pastel

This next image is in oil pastels. This is my first attempt using them. Here’s a hint if you haven’t tried it before: don’t use watercolor paper. Especially cold press. It is too textured and you can’t get the best blending nor can you get color in all of the low areas of the paper. I’ll have to give oil pastels another try on a different paper for sure.

one image several mediums - gouache

This final image, and the best one I think, is in gouache. I’ve had the most practice with gouache, and I’m probably best at it for that reason. I think it’s still not what I would want it to be, but maybe it’s the reference image. I read once that a photograph might not always make the best reference for painting, but I can’t really figure out what makes a good reference and what does not. I don’t feel like I’ve had great successes with painting in the recent batches, which is a bit frustrating. Still, I’ll continue on.

Beam Watercolor Paints

This final image was a watercolor using a very limited palette of Beam Paints. Gosh, these are gorgeous paints. And the kit, when you receive it, makes you feel like you have purchased a very special gift for yourself. I encourage you to check out the link for the company, even if you aren’t a painter. I think it will spark your own creativity and make you consider how you purchase any art or craft supplies. I’m not pleased with how the image turned out, but that’s my fault and not the paint. I just don’t quite get watercolor yet, you know?

It was a lovely, peaceful holiday weekend. I did wind up finishing my last book, so I’ll have a Summer Reads update coming up soon. The summer went much, much too fast but then again doesn’t it always here in Michigan?

Misc. Blatherings

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
misc. blatherings postcards

Time for some misc. blatherings. Can you believe we’re nearing the end of August? I did finish a sewing project, an altar cloth, for Mom. It has some decorative stitching on it. Work is a bit stressful now. I’m trying to chill out, but you know how that goes. Most of the time, I wish I was home painting.

I have been doing a little bit of painting. I’m not counting these, above, in my official paintings, so they don’t have numbers. They are small, postcard sized, trying out some new paper and new techniques. Again, I figure it is fair to show the things that aren’t working out so well and not just the good ones. Cousin Marlene sent me a pack of vintage postcards, including this one of cacti. The piece one on the left is in watercolor on watercolor postcard stock. The one on the right was my first attempt with soft pastels on sanded paper. It’s obviously not good. But, I think maybe I like pastels? Last night I started a bigger one, of the boat on the water images I did with watercolor and ink in the previous post. I don’t quite have all of the right colors but I think it’s coming together anyway. I’ll post it when it is done. It seems you need a bigger size piece for pastels, especially the Terry Ludwig variety as they are chunky.

I belong to a large number of facebook art groups. So many in fact, they are taking up all of my feed and with a lot of crap. So I have taken to hiding a lot of the artists from the groups as if it isn’t inspiring or I just don’t like that kind of art, why look at it? And horse paintings? Automatic hide. I would guess horse paintings are the number one subject for people just starting out in art. Why? I don’t care how good it is, when you’re done with it, it’s still a freaking horse.

Such sweetness of a sleeping beast. I had last Thursday and Friday off work to join an online MSU gardening conference and Maxy sure enjoyed having company on the couch. He really misses Bob during the day.

We’re going through another round of 90 degree days, so summer hasn’t quite given up yet. It’s been humid, too. I’ve had two migraines in the past week, and headaches every other day. At least we did get rain last night so the garden was saved from certain death by dehydration.

Watercolor Painting

Monday, August 16, 2021 0 No tags Permalink

When I started painting, I thought to myself that it’s a process. Some will be ok. Some will not. And to be fair to others starting out, I’m not going to just show the nice ones. Some of them suck and it’s important to share those as well. I’m just starting to play around a bit with watercolor painting, and it’s honestly not going great. I love the tiny tubes or the little cubes of paint. They are so cute! At some point I will need to address if I enjoy watercolor painting, or just the supplies.

The second one is done with fountain pen in, Troublemaker Ink in the color Milky Ocean. That’s all one color, it just breaks out into different spectrums of color when combined with water. I used some bleach for the waves and masking fluid for the sun and reflection. Next I’m going to try this same image in gouache and see if the type of paint makes a difference. This is a reference photo off instagram, and maybe that’s part of the problem? I don’t really know what kind of photo makes for a great reference but I often read when I ask for advice that some photos are just terrible references. Could that be the case with this one?

I’m tired today. Mentally, physically. Just plain exhausted. I can feel the seasons changing, the grind of the turning of the wheel of the year. Not surprisingly, it has me feeling a bit anxious. The Delta variant of COVID is increasing and Calhoun County has moved into the red zone. The US has pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban are again taking over. July was, not surprisingly, the hottest month on record.

Painting #47

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
painting #47

Painting #47 is the final of a trio of cats, painted in gouache. This one was the final painting required for the HSSCM Pet Portrait FUNdraiser. Sage is actually a shelter cat. I think the fur on the back turned out pretty good, and her eyes are good but not quite how they really are in person. Sage has gorgeous eyes. I feel ok with this painting. At a bit of a loss on what to paint now, but whatever it will be will take place in watercolor. I barely had a chance to play around with watercolor before I started the cat trio.

Do you ever get so tired you feel physically ill? Yesterday I lived life in dog years, and today I am suffering. I have yet another headache, but the tiredness is making me sick to my stomach. I feel like I could sleep for days and not catch up.

It’s been hot and humid again. Some of the leaves are changing early. We had a few Cherokee tomatoes out of the garden, and some cherry tomatoes as well. The cucumbers are just starting to come in, and I planted another round of arugula and radishes over the weekend. The flowers are looking pretty good.

Next week I am taking an online three-day course with MSU on gardening. A little bit of continuing education is good for everyone. Normally this would be an in-person thing and I wouldn’t consider going. I really prefer Zoom meetings, and COVID has been good for that. Calhoun County is up to a “substantial” level of COVID again thanks to the Delta variant. I never stopped masking so it’s not a big deal for me, though masks aren’t mandated here in Michigan anyway. Between COVID, the state of climate change and the environment, and political views, the best thing you can do for your mental health is observe and work to protect yourself. It is a scary time for humanity, though.

Painting #46

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
Painting #46

Painting #46, a gift for a friend. It was one thing, doing the painting for the work event. The people who paid and submitted their pet photos were told it wasn’t likely to be a professional-quality painting in return. It was all for fun, and to raise funds for the shelter pets. But when you’re doing something seriously, it’s hard to know if it’s good enough. This is the 46th painting I’d done. It’s in gouache. Is it good enough to be a gift? And a gift that has meaning for the recipient? In some situations, maybe it really is just the thought that counts. I think if you look at it, you can see that I am developing a style. Certainly not photo-realism. Not loose abstraction. Something in the middle. I am full of self-doubt. And self-doubt is the kind of thing that really rolls once it gets started.

After finishing the painting, and trying to fall asleep that night, the questions started. What am I really good at? It seems everything is just stages of passable to mediocre. Even at work, I normally have some successes, but after 13 years I still have trouble with the same interpersonal relations and problems getting suitable responses and participation from some people. How can I allow the same problems to come back with regularity? I wasn’t good enough in music to make it a career. I can crochet blankets, but not follow a pattern. I have an interest in sewing, but nothing ever comes out just so. Physically, I can’t do anything without looking awkward or injuring myself. Diet, can’t lose weight. Sleep, but have nightmares and wind up more tired than before. I am always just on the edge of quitting my hobbies because they aren’t good enough. And I often feel like I’m just on the edge of losing my job, because I’m not able to control some of these interpersonal relationship issues. Thank goodness the one personal relationship I am successful with is the one that matters the most in my life. If you’re going to be successful, your life-partner is the one to be successful with.

I will continue to paint, though. With the exception of the crushing self-doubt, which is made worse in a situation like a gift, I really enjoy the process of painting. I like how I feel when I paint (when it’s just for me). I like who I am when I paint. Painting takes me into another place in my mind. It’s an exploration of something more to existence, almost like what Q was explaining to Picard. My goodness, why would you want to stop that? And maybe that’s the key. Are the things I do for myself, or for others? I know the old saying about not being able to please everyone. And honestly, the people I’m not pleasing…they aren’t pleasing me, either! Anyhow, painting #46 is done, and on to painting #47 which is another cat for another person left over from the work fundraiser. At the end of all of this, maybe I’ll find that my life is painting cats.

Misc. Summer Updates

misc. summer updates - garden tour lily

Garden Tour

Ah, time again for some misc. summer updates. It is a busy time of the year, no? And I actually left the house and did something outside of work! Mom and I went to the Leila Arboretum Society‘s summer garden tour this year. We hadn’t been before. This year’s gardens were on the north side of town, and many were in very small lots. It is amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. If you’re interested in seeing some of the photos, swing over to My Michigan Garden. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad we went. I think, give it another year, Mom’s garden could easily be on the tour. It’s that good.

misc. summer updates - tim madigan's the burning

Summer Reads

I finished Tim Madigan’s The Burning last night. You know how a non-fiction book can be a horrific tale, but it is written so well and is so enlightening you’d call it a really good book? This is that book. I think anyone who reads it would be horrified over the events in Tulsa and how the story was essentially buried for so many years. I think you’d be hard put to read it and not think reparations are due, not just for slavery but for how black people in America have been treated every day since slavery supposedly ended.

Next book up is Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. I told you I was no longer shopping at amazon, so I got the book from New Story Community Books in Marshall. They happened to have a signed copy in stock, but they can order whatever else you need. It is a fantastic store, and I highly recommend locals shop there! A friend recommended the book and I read a sample online, and I can’t wait to start reading it. I think it’s going to be really good. If I finish that and still have time on my summer reads, Tom Cooper’s Florida Man will be the book after that. Originally I only set three books and was concerned I wouldn’t have time to get through them, but all three books so far were very engaging and pretty fast reads. Don’t you think summer reading just hits differently? I love it.

misc. summer updates - gouache cat painting

Painting

We finished the HSSCM Pet Portrait fundraiser (here is the catalog). There is one painting that hasn’t come in, and I will need to paint it myself if it doesn’t make it by the end of the month. Currently, I’m doing a special cat portrait in gouache for a dear friend who lost her handsome panther just recently. You can see I have the colors blocked in, but that’s it. I figure it will take another three hours or so to finish it. I’d like to say it will be done this weekend, but I’m not confident in my time. After I finish this one, and the one that didn’t make it to the HSSCM event, I’ll hopefully get back to watercolor. I find the days are very long and hard, and by the time evening rolls around I’m too mentally tired to paint.

Can you believe we are nearing the end of July? The cicadas are singing on the hot afternoons, and smoke from the wildfires out west are creating hazy sunlight skies. Bob is quite busy at work, and will be attending some events coming up for his job. I’ll be attending the MSU Master Gardener conference virtually in August. My thoughts are already turning to Halloween. With no event, there will be no costume this year. But maybe I can entertain myself with some historybounding? Who knows. There are so many things I’d like to do to entertain myself, and so little time outside of work. And some of the hours (many of the hours) outside of work are still dealing with work issues.

Anyhow, hope your summer is going great.