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.

No More Amazon

I’m done with Amazon. Their refusal to pay corporate taxes, the way they treat their staff members, and the horror that is Amazon Prime delivery services has finally ended it for me. So for me, it’s no more amazon. I’ll be paying more to place orders at independent stores and will be supporting hopefully the USPS (even UPS and FedEx are better than Amazon Prime deliveries). Today I ordered a book from The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan. Last week I ordered two from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately we don’t have any great independent art supply stores around here, so I usually order from Blick. My favorite peanut butter is cheaper on Amazon, but I ordered directly from the company. And don’t even get me started on Etsy:

Favorite Soap: Pie Town
Watercolor Paint: Ruby Mountain Paint Co.
Washi Tape: my friend Michele at Goat Girl

Anyhow, in July please consider shopping local or supporting independent sellers online. It can really make a difference in their lives! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite local or online independent retailer.

It’s been raining a crap ton (over four inches in the past week). Everything is wet, inside and outside the house. Ants have moved into my office. But at least we haven’t had to water? Consumer’s Energy gouged electric rates daily from 2:00 – 7:00pm. That’s not an exaggeration. It was literally a 50 percent increase. When it rains forever, it’s pretty humid. And the only way to beat it back is using air conditioning. Which is now much more expensive. At least it’s not as hot as it is in the west right now.

No More Amazon. The rest of my summer reads will be purchased through independent retailers!

I did start the summer reads with Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It’s pretty good so far. Lots going on this week, and at this point I’m not sure how everything is going to shake out. In the meanwhile, try to breathe deep and appreciate the little things.

Summer Painting

summer painting #42 - gouache pet portrait

The painting of Star for the Pet Portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society is done. Or, at least as done as it’s going to get. It’s framed, too, which should help. I hope the owner is pleased with it. This is painting #42 in gouache, and the first summer painting completed. I enjoyed working on it. As I’ve been doing donation letters at work, I’ve had YouTube painting videos on in the background. For whatever reason, I decided maybe I should try watercolor as well.

summer painting #43 watercolor landscape

So here’s painting #43, my first attempt at watercolor. The sky is good, I think. The rest still needs work. It’s an interesting medium and feels a bit more loose than either gouache or acrylic. I think maybe it also is more of a celebration of color over line?

We had more rain and storms last weekend, but fortunately no power loss or damage. We’re due in for rain every day this week, which will give me back time spent watering. I hate to think of the weeds once the sun comes out again! In Portland temperatures are nearing 110 degrees. Once again, the west is so dry. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the wildfires start. Our arugula is pretty much shot. No green beans or tomatoes yet. The flowers look pretty good though.

News is starting to really come up about the danger of the COVID Delta variant. Michigan is now completely open and I doubt very much if it will close again, no matter the numbers or deaths. Right now we are planning in-person events for the shelter in the fall. Hard to know what that will actually look like. I’ve been working on a variant of the Whole 30 diet plan to get rid of inflammation. It might be starting to work? Giving up sugar is a killer, though. Worse than bread, pasta, salt, or alcohol.

Misc. Updates

misc. updates Van Pennen's Flowers

Time for another misc. updates post. How quickly June passes! Since the last post, I did finish my final baby blanket, but forgot to take a picture. Hopefully no more baby blankets for some time. I have a personal crochet project I’m kicking around in my mind, but in the meanwhile I’ll probably just crochet a few cat blankets for the shelter. Last week was super hot and humid, but this week is cooler.

misc. updates family

Last weekend Aunt Suzie, Gail, and Sydney came to visit. We went up to Lansing to water the graves, and the lavender was in bloom on the Thorne/Cleary plot. Drove past Hudda’s house, stopped for lunch. It was a lovely few days, and it’s a reminder of how lucky I am to have family I not only love, but I really like and enjoy spending time with!

misc. updates cemetery flowers

In my last post, I mentioned the pet portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society. In the end, we had 26 people request a portrait, for $520 in total revenue which is really disappointing to me. Some of the completed works have already come in, and they are fantastic. I’ve been slowly working on the one I assigned myself, otherwise known as painting #42 in my collection.

I’ll have to take some photos and a video of the gardens. I’ve had to water a lot as it’s been so hot and we haven’t gotten much rain at all. In fact, Calhoun County is now in a “moderate drought”. The flower beds look good, though we have yet to have a single monarch butterfly or caterpillar. I would guess our group didn’t survive the winter in Mexico. The honey bees and bumble bees are enjoying the flower garden, and we’ve had some moths as well.

Michigan is pretty well open from the pandemic closures, and what isn’t open by state regulation will be released completely July 1st. The shelter is still open by appointment only, mostly for the stress benefit to the animals and staff members. Not sure when that will change. The Field of Flight balloon championship will go on as usual this year, with 20,000 guests expected and only 42% of Calhoun County folks vaccinated.

I’ve started pulling together my list of Summer Reads. With so much going on (gardening, painting, work, worrying) I’m not sure how much time I have to read. I’ve got three books set for sure, then some potentials if I get time. Here’s the list

Will Absolutely Read:
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
How to Stop Time: A Novel by Matt Haig
The Burning [Tulsa Race Riot] by Tim Madigan

Might Read:
Again Again by E Lockhart
Florida Man: A Novel by Tom Cooper
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

What are you reading this summer?

Painting #40

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 0 No tags Permalink

Painting #40 is a postcard-inspired gouache piece. Forty paintings. Am I getting better? I don’t actually think so, though I continue to learn new things. I’ve hit the wall again on what I want to paint, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done any painting. Work has been stressful and I’m just plain tired, so that isn’t helping the old inspiration either. I also haven’t been playing recorder. I think things will get worse before they get better, with the martini event just over two weeks away. And my god, the nightmares I’ve been having. Though I’m sleeping, it’s not good quality and I wake up more tired than before I went to bed. Something’s got to change. I’m starting to feel a bit desperate again, which is never a good feeling.

sleeping Maxy

Bob and I planted trees at the shelter last Sunday, the ones purchased from the Calhoun Conservation District. We still have more trees to plant. When trees are only $1 a piece, it is quite easy to order a lot of trees and not think about the reality of planting them. Next week is National Postcard Week and I’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare for it. Is it too late? Depends on how much pressure I put on myself I guess. I’ve been biking on the spin bike and outside again as well. I’m going to do whatever I can to stop snoring (any tips or advice?), and exercising an hour a day is my current plan. So far, no good. Maxy is the only one in our household getting good sleep on a regular basis (see photo above). He is 18 and is a treasure.

Crabapple trees are blooming. Geese are walking around with their babies. One day will be 82 degrees (yesterday) and two days later it will be in the low 50s (tomorrow). It has been a month of extreme highs and lows, and it still doesn’t feel like spring is settled in for good. Mom’s deck is done, and it looks great. Aside from the tree planting and the new exercise routine, I’m too tired to work on any projects. Maybe after the martini event?

Painting #39, Crochet and Snow

painting #39

As we approach the end of April, we can enjoy weather and hobbies. Or maybe not? Painting #39, crochet and unfortunately snow this late in April. I don’t have in my notes snow after April 9 since 2007, so this year is a bit unusual. It is also snowing where my friend Beverly is, in Kentucky. My thoughts are with her and her family.

Painting #39

Latest gouache painting #39, Twin Palms Court. Need to work on letter painting for sure. I think the brighter colors up front and more faded in the back is helping to show more depth of focus, as suggested to me on a recent Reddit inquiry. The palm tree on the near left might look more like grass, though the ones in the back are a bit better. The best bit is the pole for the sign I think. I’m working on another pink motel now. Perhaps pink motel is the new theme? I’d like to work on something a bit more abstract, but how does one do that and still get the perspective correct without using a ruler? And once you pull out the ruler, it seems not as abstract. Suggestions?

snow

Snow

It’s cold. How cold? Cold enough to snow yesterday and ice up the car this morning. The sun is out and the temperature is supposed to reach 45 so I would guess the snow will be gone this evening, but it’s still supposed to be cold tomorrow. And maybe 80 degrees by Tuesday again. I’m picking up trees from the Calhoun Conservation District tomorrow for planting on Friday. It’s possible I selected too many trees since they were so inexpensive and I felt I was helping a good cause.

Put the hummingbird and oriole jelly feeders up last weekend. This next weekend I’ll be planting radish and arugula seeds. This time of year always goes so fast!

crochet

Crochet

I’m crocheting another baby blanket. It’s Bernat Baby Softee yarn in pink and navy. It’s a HDC waffle stitch on an L sized hook, so it’s super soft and drape-y. The yarn is more likely to split, so you have to keep one eye on it with the other on Rebus on Britbox. After this (weaving in the ends will take forever), it’s back to the shawl and more blankets for the cat room. Staff members are loving the different colors.

Misc. Weather Updates

weather

The average temperature for this upcoming week should be around 47/25 so it looks like we’ll be having nicer weather than what we deserve (or should have). The maple in our backyard popped over the weekend. I’d expect with these upcoming temperatures, we’ll be seeing more signs of spring shortly. I need to get out on the Bark Park trails and see how the pussy willows are coming along. Friday is the first day of spring, and we’re mid-month now. I really need to get my bike out. I’ve done so little exercise this winter I totally expect to not be able to even get in ten miles.

This little image didn’t come out very well. It’s actually not a bad impression of the reference image, but it’s still not great. Still, in the interest of posting successes and failures, here’s painting #35, in gouache on watercolor paper. I have so many reference photos, but this weekend I just couldn’t get enthused about painting any of them. Maybe it had more to do with motivation and mood than potential images. I did manage to play the recorder each day, so at least I have that going for me.

This week is short, but full of dreadful meetings. Planning on doing continued creek cleanup at Mom’s house this Friday, and hopefully this time I won’t fall in the water. Last time I was in the water, but got stuck in the mud and fell over backwards. Then, as I laid there on my back, my hip waders filled with water. I wound up being wet and muddy from toe to neck. I’ll bring an extra pair of pants on Friday just in case.

Painting #34 and Misc. Updates

painting #34 gouache

Ok, I’m fairly pleased with this one, painting #34. I think the tree on the right could use a little more work, but overall, not bad. The reference image was from a Smithsonian magazine, and it’s done in gouache on watercolor paper.

It’s warmer today and tomorrow, but I don’t want to enjoy it because the next few weeks will be back to cold. Close to average for this time of March, but still. I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to spring, as I don’t like people being outdoors making noise. I do however prefer to not be cold. My lungs seem to enjoy warm, moist air. The opposite of Michigan six months out of the year. I should have gotten my bike out for today. I’m not much motivated to do anything except play the recorder. I am motivated to do that. I’ve been also playing a bit of Beat Saber on the Oculus Quest 2. And watching British mysteries in the evenings while I crochet blankets for the cat room at the shelter.

You may be asking yourself…what? The recorder? If you are a certain age and went to school in Michigan, there’s a good chance you were forced to play the recorder in elementary school. And 30 kids playing the recorder at one time is just as horrific as it sounds. Who knows why we did it. I barely remember. But I recently came upon a professional recorder player on youtube and it really is a lovely sounding instrument. As recorders are hella cheap (for the kind you can learn on, not professional quality of course), I picked one up and decided to learn to play it. And it’s really quite nice. I don’t recall picking up another instrument so quickly. Also, whereas with my other instruments I’ll get tired of playing after awhile…aching neck, sore mouth, etc. there is none of that with the recorder. If only my experience in elementary school had been better, maybe I too would be a professional recorder player now. Here’s a nice little bit of recorder playing for reference:

Painting #31 and Weather Blues

painting #31

Painting #31 is an acrylic study of a photo I took some time back. It could use a little more work, but I will likely leave it as is. I’m doing an online class on painting nocturnes now, which is interesting, but I’m having some trouble finding reference photos I like. Am I improving? Who knows. But the time spent painting is time not spent fretting about stressful or unhappy things. It’s impossible to paint and mentally deal with anything else other than paint, brush, and paper. I’ll take it.

The weather is endless gray days and snow. We’ll have a few minutes of sun here and there, and thankfully it’s not been bitterly cold, but I’m feeling the strain just the same. It’s harder to get out of bed and damn near impossible to get off the couch. I did read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which is the first book I’ve been able to finish in some time. Like a year. I don’t know if it’s just my mood or if my new glasses are helping my eyestrain some. I know it’s only 61 days until the official start of spring and we’ll probably have a February thaw and the end of winter will happen. I’m trying to plan on bright things, like a surprise Twin Peaks Day package I’m sending out and Valentine’s gifts for the staff members. Still, it’s a struggle. It’s hard to write letters when I don’t have much to say. It’s hard to take photos when everything is the same color of gray all the time.

Making Waves

There’s no making waves in these parts these days. Everything is cold and gray. The temperatures have hovered around the freeze/thaw cycle since before New Year’s, and we haven’t seen the sun in longer than that. It’s sort of interesting, as the temperatures warm up just enough to start melting the snow which creates fog and then the fog freezes in the air and on all of the surfaces. We had an ice storm over the New Year weekend (and survived it without a working furnace!). It looks like the weather will be more of the same for the ten day forecast, and continued clouds. It is hard to tell between 6am and 11am, 4pm and 8pm. All the same gray. It’s hard to get motivated to get out of bed or to do much of anything.

making waves acrylic

I’m continuing on with the Class 101 painting class. This section was about making waves. I’ve decided that I don’t really enjoy painting waves. It’s hard to find a good reference photo that worked with the assignment. The painting above (#27, for those who are counting) is in acrylic and had several attempts at it. You were supposed to start with a lighter color and go in for the darker tones. These two paintings were supposed to feature light on top of the waves.

making waves gouache

This one is in gouache, and was started with darker and then lighter added in. The shapes are maybe a bit better but it’s still weird. I look forward to moving on to the next lesson and seeing what the assignment is. And I just look forward to painting. Even when it doesn’t turn out how I’d like, I love the process and learn from it. When I’m not painting, I’m often thinking about painting.

I did clean up my office plants a little. Added more soil, fed them. They are looking better. My office itself is a little cleaner, too. I am ready for the January thaw already. 72 days until spring.