Misc. Updates – Painting, Crochet and Weather

It seems we are ready for some misc. updates. I’ve been doing better keeping this updated in general this year, but I am lacking on the postcards. I’ll have to work on that.

We’ve had our first major frost, and it’s been colder than average the past week or so. It is supposed to warm up in the next two days before dropping down again so maybe I will get two final bike rides in. I sure hope so.

Mom and I went up to clean up the cemeteries on the 13th, and took the back way home to take some photos for later painting inspiration. I think this has been the most beautiful autumn I ever remember. It’s so lovely, it fuels my neuroses and makes me wonder if the beauty is to make up for a horror that will arrive soon. Do you ever feel that way? Anyhow, I pulled over at Goldies Motel to snap #10. This photo has not been retouched. The colors were that amazing.

Goldies Motel

I’ve been doing website updates at work. The shelter is closed to the public through the end of the year, except by appointment. It’s more peaceful this way, and we’ve still been doing fine with adoptions. I do miss the Trail of Terror though, and dressing up for Halloween, even though it is a ton of work. Donna and Jerry Castleberry died from COVID-19 this past weekend. Cases are climbing in Calhoun County.

crochet blanket

I’ve been watching streaming and crocheting in the evenings. This blanket is for a relative. The colors reminded me of water…that of the ocean and of the great lakes. It’s Lion Brand Mandala which is self striping, and I’m doing my old trusty repeating HDC using an L hook. I watched The Trial of the Chicago 7 which was quite good. And the Haunting of Bly Manor. Just started Deadwater Fell.

When I am not painting, it seems I am always thinking of painting. I’m taking an online class to build my skills now. I’ve been working on color swatches which is helping me to pick colors I guess. So I have learned something new from the class. It is cool we live in a time when we can take classes and learn so much online. This is my latest piece, which was inspired by a photo in an old Sunset magazine. It’s in gouache and is piece #22. It serves as a reminder that you absolutely need a ruler to draw your horizon line. But I think the rocks are pretty good.

painting #22

I got my flu vaccine and have been having nightmares and bad headaches again. Not because of the vaccine, but just because. I’m finding it somewhat hard to concentrate on writing snail mail letters and impossible to read.

Crocheting and Biking

crochet

I finished the third of three baby blankets. This was a really soft, fuzzy yarn that was hard to work with, but the nursery color needed is coral and it fit that perfectly. It’s my standard, continuous rows of half double crochet. On this one, I did a border of rows of half double crochet as well because the yarn is so thick and fuzzy you’d never be able to see a scallop pattern. My friend liked it, and I’ve moved on to another blanket, this one using mandala yarn. Expect an update.

As I’ve been crocheting, I’ve also continued watching documentaries. A Secret Love on Netflix was excellent. Such a heartwarming love story. Athlete A on Netflix was a horrific look in to Larry Nassar and the US Women’s Gymnastics program. A good watch just the same. I started watching Dick Johnson is Dead and honestly I couldn’t get past about 12 minutes of it. Life is too short to watch uninspiring tv or movies. Anyhow, I’m making pretty good progress on the available likely nominees for 2021 Best Documentary Oscars. I have also started the next season of Great British Baking Show, which is balm for my sore and aching heart, and the Haunting of Bly Manor which I am enjoying. We’ll watch the West Wing reunion this week, and have one more episode to go of Raised by Wolves.

I’ve put on 954 miles on the bike this year. Over the weekend I pulled my back gardening and it is supposed to get quite cold this week. I’d like to think I can still get out a few more rides and break 1,000 miles. It’s easier to do it on a sunny day, because at least the sun is warming. Coming up with a replacement exercise plan for winter is going to be challenging.

Misc. Summer Updates

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

I had a little bike accident that involved a flat tire, sore shoulder and nasty road rash. When I stood up, I apparently had tiny liquor bottles stuck to my leg (yay, Battle Creek!). And since my tires were old and shredded, I had to order new tires. In the meanwhile, as I wait for the new tires to arrive, I’ve been walking at lunch hour. It’s a very small tour of Battle Creek. And very hot for walking. If you’ve seen a sweaty, scowling individual walking around, it could be me. Photos from recent walks:

We are reaping the rewards of our garden, with adult monarch butterflies and a second round of monarch caterpillars.

We’ve pulled a few cucumbers, green beans and cherry tomatoes, plus romaine and parsley from the garden. And the monarch beds are really filling in. I’m pleased with how it turned out this year for sure.

Haven’t had a ton of time for reading or painting or sewing or crocheting lately. When I do seem to have time, I’m way too tired to attempt any of it. I did manage to read this Barbara Delinsky book, which was a fun summer read. I have another fun read sitting on the table waiting. And I do have a sewing project on tap! It is amazing how fast the summer is going already. What are you working on this summer?

Chonky Caterpillars

Monday, July 6, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The monarch beds are doing well, and these chonky caterpillars are eating the milkweed leaves like crazy. Soon they will be off to begin their metamorphosis.

It’s been crazy hot and we haven’t had rain in well over a week I think. But it’s a lovely Michigan summer just the same. You have to get in your activity in the morning before it gets too hot, and then stay in the air conditioning during the rest of the day. I don’t mind it at all. Much better than the cold.

Fat, Pretentious Bicyclist

Thursday, June 25, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

How I became a fat, pretentious cyclist…and why you shouldn’t hate me.

I know you hate me. You yell things out your window at me. You wait until you get up right behind me and lay on your horn. Thankfully, so far, I have yet to have anything thrown at me but I know the more miles I put on, the more likely I’ll be hit with a projectile. Probably you are mumbling to yourself about how my padded bike shorts make my legs look like sausages in casings. To you, I’m just another fat, pretentious bike f*ck. But let me tell you how I came to be this way.

I got my Trek Navigator 300 bike sometime between 2001 and 2003. I’m sure I have the paperwork somewhere. It was around $400. And with that, I got a helmet because safety is important and I don’t want a closed-head injury. That’s all I had. I didn’t ride very often at all. I didn’t especially even like to ride. I wore shorts and a t-shirt.

Time marches on. I aged, like one does. I had a tragic skateboarding injury. That led to pursuing other kinds of exercise. I have a Y membership and swim. I occasionally stand up paddleboard. And last summer, I dragged out the old bike. To my surprise, I liked biking better this time around. I’m biking in the neighborhoods of my childhood. It’s generally peaceful and relaxing. And as I am on a diet and trying again to lose weight, it should theoretically be helping that. But as I’ve put on the miles, I’ve had to add some things to my bike. Believe me, I don’t like adding all of the accoutrements as every bit takes more time and makes the activity less of a childhood pick-up-and-go free feeling. The more hassle, the less I want to do the activity. That’s why I don’t paddleboard as much as I’d like.

The first addition was SPF rated shirts. I don’t want to prematurely age. To that I added gloves to keep the sun off my hands, and a neck gaiter, because I don’t want a wrinkly neck. Simple changes.

Then I added a rear-view mirror for my handlebar. As I am riding local roads, I want to know what’s coming up behind me. I also started using hand signals – even though I almost NEVER see motor vehicles using them during my travels. I want people in cars to know my plans. I also added a bike bell (cute and kitty-themed), mostly for when I’m on linear park as I don’t want to come up on a blind curve and be hit or hit someone.

Now, although I am putting in some good miles, I am fat and on a low-carb, low-calorie diet so I don’t have a lot of extra ooomph to make me go fast. I am a slow rider. I am also rather uncoordinated. For those of you on a low-carb diet, you’ll know that one needs to drink a lot of water. I could get my little water bottle OUT of the cage while riding, but do not have the coordination to put it BACK. And when I would try, I’d drop it in the road and have to circle back around, get off my bike, put it in the cage, get back on and start up again. So this year, I bought an Osprey hydration pack, one of the little backpacks with a water bladder that you wear and drink through a tube. And you know what? If I keep hydrated on my ride, I don’t wind up with a blinding headache all afternoon. But this addition I fear has pushed me from looking like a fat middle aged woman on a bike to a fat pretentious cyclist.

The final step in the process happened last Monday. It was hot. In fact, the last week of rides were all rather hot. And you know what happens when you put on so many miles and it’s extra hot? You are required to take a few days off biking, avoid sitting, and start looking for padded bike shorts. This itself is a challenge. Bike shorts are not made for fat people. And if you get a size that actually you can wear, it’s not pretty. I warn others to avert their eyes lest they turn to stone.

I believe my final step will be getting a flashing head and tail light. When I see other bikers with them, you can really see them coming and it might make it just a little easier to be seen. And with that, my transformation will be complete. Born out of both the need for safety – especially with people in large vehicles who hate me for simply biking – and for my own comfort.

I did not add these items to belong to some elitist club of bikeholes. I’m just trying to get a little exercise on my lunch hour. I try to represent the bicycling world in a positive way. If the sidewalks are clear of pedestrians, I hop on there because I don’t want to be in your way either. If there are people on the sidewalk, I ride in the bike lane or on the extreme side of the road. I use my hand signals. I probably see you before you even notice me. I double and triple check for traffic before I enter intersections and while I am going through. So far this summer (since the end of May), I’ve put on 265 miles. Last year I hit just over 600 May – October. I average 12 mph and normally ride an average of 15.5 miles, all on my lunch hour. I’m not worthy of your hate.

Misc. Updates

Monday, June 8, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

It is feeling much more like summer these days. I did finish the monarch garden, with the exception of edging as I am still waiting for that to ship. With COVID-19, everything is taking forever to ship. The governor opened the State of Michigan today, and everyone is walking around like there never was a virus. I’m kind of surprised that there are still shipping delays at this point. Mom is also working really hard on her garden and it’s looking great. We haven’t had much rain, so we are having to water nearly every day. I’ve also been biking regularly, and have put in 125 miles so far.

This is my latest gouache painting and reference photo from an old Sunset Magazine. Again, I wouldn’t say I’m showing improvement, but I am enjoying the process so that is something.

This old abandoned house has been catching my eye. I expect it will be torn down this summer. It was built in 1911. All of the windows are gone, and it’s owned by the Land Bank. J. Charles Lee, superintendent of the Battle Creek Box Company, resided in the home up until his death in 1931. Mr. and Mrs. John Swainston were listed as owning the home in 1937, Mr. and Mrs, David Stebleton in 1939, and Mr. and Mrs. Victor Soules were listed as living in the home in 1942. The home was owned by the Fox/Black family (Jessie Fox (mother), Viola (daughter) – died 1990, Gerald (1973) and later Lillian Black) from 1946 until it was lost to the county treasurer in 2019. It looks like Lillian had been living on Highland Blvd from 2016 – 2018, when she passed away. It is likely this house, 466 Capital Avenue NE, has been empty since 2016.

Ocqueoc Painting & Bird Updates

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

I continue on with my gouache odyssey with this latest painting. The reference image is a photo I took of the field from my Grandparents’ place back to the woods, taken when Mom and Kirsten and I were last up north. I am pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had more time to paint.

I have also been spending some time with bird photography. Above is the female oriole, and below is a cheeky robin. We had our first hummingbird on May 21, quite late this year. Next update should be the garden expansion. We are putting in a monarch butterfly way station.

New Paintings & Misc. Updates

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The weather has been odd this May. The past few days have been incredibly cold, 20 degrees below average with freeze warnings. I have yet to plant anything at all. They are predicting a week from now it will be 84 degrees. So much for spring, right? In happier news, the orioles have returned. We have at least two couples and the males seem a bit territorial. The hummingbird feeder has been up the same amount of time, but no hummingbirds spotted yet. Everything is still shut down until the end of the month due to COVID-19.

This latest painting is a very small study in casein. A friend on Instagram had posted the photo of her cat and suggested it was worthy of a painting. It seemed to me to be a good opportunity to try out a new medium.

I painted this gouache from a photo I took last year of our garden for Mom for Mother’s Day.

Spring Birds

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The spring birds are here, doing their thing. Above is a yellow-rumped warbler at the suet feeder in our backyard. I’ve not seen one of these before.

The bluebirds are already nesting at the shelter, with eggs in the nestbox.

So are the tree swallows. They are really pretty birds, and they are lovely in their flight patterns. They’re not shy of dive-bombing you if you get too close to the box, though.

Temperatures have been consistently colder than normal last week and this week, and predicted into next week as well. Today’s high should be 62, and we will top out around 42 instead. It looks like we will be tracking closer to normal the beginning of May. Things are still in lockdown for COVID-19, but we’re unsure when that will end. There is pressure on Governor Whitmer to open things back up here in Michigan. Not sure what will happen with the greenhouses at this point. Everything feels rather up in the air.

Painting Update

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

I am continuing along with my painting, and really enjoying it. Above is a piece I repainted over like three times. Still only happy with some of it; the boats, reflections in the water and pier poles turned out as I had hoped. The buildings, not so much. It is another opportunity to determine what I enjoy painting and what I probably won’t do again (buildings).

I follow a lot of artists on social media, and became interested in gouache. I decided to try a few little fast pieces with gouache. Here is the first.

It is really different to work with than acrylic, but I enjoyed the process and think I may do a gouache in between each acrylic study.

Here is my last work, a still life.

Making some kind of progress, I guess. Again, I really enjoy painting and probably so far prefer acrylic. I think I will do another gouache next, but with a very busy week in store I’m not sure when I will have time. Soon, I hope. I find I am having to train myself to really look at things, especially shadows. If I do what I normally do and just get a quick look and move on, I miss all kinds of subtlety just by thinking I know it already. That’s a good metaphor for all of life’s interactions, I think.

In weather news, the past few days have been a bit warmer and we’ve had some snow melt. Mom has seen robins, but I haven’t yet. My Christmas cactus is blooming for the second time in just a few months. We’ve done some projects at Mom’s house, including painting the bathroom in preparation for new tile and replacing the light in the eating area. Today is Maxy’s 17th birthday.