Friday, January 28, 2011

Art in the afternoon (or, feeding my soul)

This has been a challenging (aka 'sucky') week. I've let stress at work and sickness at home erode my equanimity. I planned to take today off work, to catch up on other pressing things that were weighing me down, but by late morning I was in the office, putting out fires. Not because my colleagues couldn't or wouldn't cover for me today, but because I was too stressed to let them.

Shovelling down a late lunch while blog-surfing, I was suddenly gob-smacked by this post from Mary Ann Moss. "Lately LA is blooming with light... These are days for walks & drives. To slowly roll by cottages tucked into verdant hillsides, stroll by gardens, and doorways." Um, yeah!! It's totally gorgeous out there! So why am I at work on my day off, with my shoulders up around my ears? Within minutes, I shut down my computer, and got out of there.

I considered a walk on the beach, or a hike in the hills, but the idea that appealed most was ... LACMA. It's been way too long since I was there. So I headed cross town to the LA County Museum of Art.
Sage, La Brea Tar Pits
Pavilion for Japanese Art, LACMA
B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden, LACMA
Urban Light, LACMA
Windy day
Admission is free after 5pm on weekdays. I filled the couple of hours till then by wandering the grounds, browsing the gift store, painting with Korean brushes in the Boone Children's Gallery, and finishing my current book. By 5pm I'd forgotten why I'd felt so burdened earlier. Another hour or so in the galleries and there was a definite perk to my step and smile on my face. This is SO important: I must remember what feeds my soul, and take regular and frequent doses.

Thank you for the nudge, Mary Ann. I owe you one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Show and Tell Monday: Planetary Plate

mannings_plateThis plate is not mine, but I wish it was. It belongs to a friend's boyfriend, and it was shown to me somewhat casually; my incredibly enthusiastic response was greeted with some bemusement.

Look at this thing! (Click to enlarge.) The front is dimensional and hand-painted; the back includes all sorts of 'planetary data'. It was produced in Holland, apparently in 1957, by Frank W. Manning of New Orleans. He includes his belief that "Somewhere out in space is the secret of all life. Even the secret of the soul." How awesome is that?

I immediately checked online to see if I could buy me one of these, and turned up nothing, nada, zilch. As far as I can tell, no-one is selling their Planetary Plates. Who can blame them?

My research turned up a bit of information about Frank Manning. He was quite a colorful figure in New Orleans from the 20s through the 70s. He was born in 1903, and was Chief Investigator for the Louisiana Department of Justice. Prior to that he was Chief Investigator for the Department of Revenue for the State of Louisiana. In the '30s he served as one of Huey Long's bodyguards.

He was also a scientist, inventor, and avid amateur astronomer. He assembled two of the world's largest mobile telescopes, and was the first person to depict the topography of the moon on a sphere (the “Manning Moon Ball”). He also patented and manufactured the Manning Tasty Shrimp Fish Lure.

How cool is that?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the gloaming

My friend Romina emailed me recently, saying, "i miss your face, i miss your accent, i miss your warm hugs and yummy food and i miss looking into your fabulous green eye and light brown eye! maybe we can come over for dinner some time next week or during the weekend?" Yes yes yes. She came tonight, bringing her substitute boyfriend Jason (the real boyfriend was busy); some last minute ring-ins meant there were nine of us around the table. It was so good to have a Sunday Dinner again. We waxed nostalgic about 2009, when nearly every Sunday evening brought guests to our table. Part of me misses them. The other part is glad that I can now spend Sundays somewhere other than the kitchen.

This evening, in the midst of food prep, the magical light through the kitchen window drew me out into the gloaming, camera in hand.
In the gloaming
In the gloaming

I always loved that Girl Guide campfire song:
Fire's burning, fire's burning
Draw nearer, draw nearer
In the gloaming, in the gloaming
Come sing and be merry.

Ah yes. Life is good :-)

Tempura + sushi

Last week Lauren asked if we could have tempura for dinner one night soon. Then she added, "Do you know how to make sushi?" And I wondered why I never had. It was time to learn.

My local supermarket had all the ingredients for California rolls (sticky rice, nori, surimi, avocado and cucumber), but didn't have the bamboo mat. I improvised with a piece of plastic canvas, which was a bit too inflexible, but the rolls didn't turn out too badly.

Making sushi
Veggies prepped for tempura
First attempt at sushi
Sushi + tempura

Amazingly, all four of us were home for dinner. So, with the candles and lovely table setting, it had a bit of a special occasion feel. Josh is not really a fan of Japanese food, but anything deep fried in batter has got to be good, right? Predictably, the tempura was a big hit.

He did ask if next time we could make sushi without the seaweed. So I'm going to look for soy paper. And a bamboo mat. Because I think home made sushi will be appearing on our dinner table, and in our lunchboxes, again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Testing my assumptions

A few weeks ago, Ramit Sethi challenged me to test an assumption that was holding me back. It was easy for me to pick one; I've held it for years and it's caused me to scoff every time someone urges me to sell the stuff I make. It's this: "I can't make any money from crafts. People won't pay for the time it takes. I could never even make minimum wage."

Maybe my assumption is true. But then, maybe it's not. Ramit's challenge was to test the assumption.

So I did two things. I asked my neighbour, who had been the recipient of some of my burp cloths, and who wanted more, how much she thought they were worth. She named a price that was about twice what I had in mind. Okay .... sure, I will sell you more!

Next, I emailed my entire workplace (about 1000 people) and asked for expressions on interest on my custom chair covers, at a price I thought was worth my time. The response was encouraging. Several people placed orders immediately, a dozen more said they would certainly be interested, so I was off and running.

Why chair covers? Well, many of our office chairs are kind of gross. We don't really want to know what made the stains we sit on each day. Plus, it's a simple pattern so not terribly time consuming to make. And, I have a LOT of suitable fabric already. High value to the recipient + low costs to the supplier = sweet spot.

Janet's custom chair cover
Kim's custom chair cover

So far, I've delivered and installed five sets, and I have seven orders to fill this weekend. It's kind of nice to have people come up to me, saying "I LOVE IT! THANK YOU!" and thrusting money into my hand.

I have to say, the buzz is building. I'm making [a good deal] more than minimum wage, and feeling good about it! Next step ... an Etsy store??

Monday, January 17, 2011


Home tonight from a short solo getaway. Using my SIL's place near San Francisco as a base, I did a little exploring around Sacramento and Auburn.

Students of Californian history will be familiar with the name of John Sutter. I had absorbed a little knowledge of the man from the middle school children in my life, so when I saw the sign for Sutter's Fort, I knew I should check it out.

I've visited my share of restored missions and other historic sites, and this one impressed me, with the range of rooms, tools, and artifacts on display. It's nicely done, and well worth a visit.

Next stop: Old Sacramento.


Then it was north-east to the little town of Auburn. Known for its Gold Rush history, Auburn also has a nicely preserved Old Town area.

But my real reason for going there was to visit Auburn State Recreation Area. It was a foggy day, so instead of photographing vistas, I shot minutiae.


Peaceful, restorative, head-clearing ... it was a perfect getaway.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Picasso, by xkcd

xkcdAm I the only nerd in the world who's never heard of xkcd? To my surprise and delight, I received this book in the mail today, from an old friend with whom I have infrequent contact. Lots of the comics have me laughing out loud, but the one above really tickled my funny bone.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Queensland floods

I have spent the last 48 hours glued to the Australian news web sites, devouring coverage of the Queensland floods. Not only do I have friends and relatives in the stricken areas (who are all, thankfully, OK), but it's just so disturbing to see places I visited just a few months ago, now underwater.

Would you like to help? Here's a list of suggestions. I recommend this raffle.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Show and Tell Monday

Muriel BarclayI'm playing along with kt40's Show and Tell Mondays.

I had never heard of Scottish artist Muriel Barclay until my sister sent me the two greeting cards you see here, on separate occasions, several years ago. I loved them, and tucked them into a memorabilia box, only to rediscover them recently.

I love the colours, the composition, and the painterly marks of these pieces, so I decided to learn more about this talented artist. Barclay showed artistic promise while still in school, but was steered towards getting a 'real job'. She painted as a hobby while teaching history and raising three children, until finally the art took over, and, in her forties, began to pursue her passion full time. Now she's in demand throughout Great Britain, exhibits at prestigious galleries, and receives commissions from all over the world.

I hope one day to see an original Barclay, but until then, I need to get a pair of square black frames and hang these lovelies on my wall.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Friday, January 07, 2011

What am I afraid of?

Dinner chez YvetteI shared a meal with some of my closest girlfriends tonight, and they remarked how much they'd liked a recent post of mine, especially the part about accepting that I am not a Meltzer. This appreciation in no way reflected on their feelings for my family, whom they love. It was just that they 'got it'. I had to tell them that my dear husband had been hurt by that post, and my explanation to him next morning may have been clumsy.

Gail Brenner expressed it so much better here. "If you want to be disappointed or frustrated, just expect someone to do or say something, and wait for the fallout. It will come." I have found myself disappointed and frustrated over and over again, not because I am just so different from my new family, but because of the expectations I have held. Expectations that they would learn to love and appreciate the foods and activities I enjoy. That they would adopt my attitudes and values and spending habits. That Josh would share my parenting style, and back me up more. Because, obviously, I am right. Yeah. Right. Since when did I become ruler of the world, and get to dictate that everyone has to be like me?

As Brenner says, "Align yourself with reality. You can’t control what other people say or do. You can’t foretell the future. Stay open and accepting to things as they are." In other words: "This is the way it is. Roll with it."

When I'm upset or mad at someone, when I'm disappointed or frustrated that others aren't acting the way I want them to, I need to keep asking myself, as I did that night, "What am I afraid of?" It's harder to ask that, and listen for the answer, than it is to rail against the world.

But this year, I'm all about the listening. I'll be sharing some of what I hear.

P.S. And then I read this.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

You want a piece of me? Which piece?

This blog is pretty much a personal diary, an eclectic mix of art, photos, recipes, and anecdotes. Which is a fine format ... but probably only interesting to people who know me. In the absence of a Facebook page, it's the main way my family and friends keep up with my life.

I've been thinking of getting more focused, either on this blog or another, on one of my interests. I'd love to get your feedback on what you'd find most useful. Would you mind answering the question below?

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


0105Thinking about ways to earn a few extra bucks ... I don't feel I've come up with anything brilliant so far.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Monday, January 03, 2011


Our six-year old pillow sham gave up the ghost last night ...

... so tonight I whipped up another from a purple sheet in my stash. (Rhea? Remember these sheets, in your secret bedroom at the back of the wardrobe?)

The price of shams always astounds me. Often they cost more than the matching sheets, which doesn't make ANY sense. Especially when they're so quick and easy to make. Even though this was done, go to whoa, in 25 minutes, I wasn't quick enough. When I trotted into the bedroom with it, I found Josh sound asleep on the naked pillow.

Message from the Universe re my one little word

When I am silent, I hear my true self and reach my soul. When I am silent, I hear with a caring heart. -Thomas Merton

Great post today from Paul Overton.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


0101bWe live in a rental with a pretty sad back lawn. We're in the middle of a rainy spell, so yesterday Josh decided to get some rye grass seed and fertilizer and spread it around. Why not? We are not responsible for the garden (the landlord pays gardeners) but a few bucks and a small amount of effort could give us some nice results in a month or two.

As I watched him, it struck me that this typifies Josh's M.O. He's always putting in little (and big) efforts to do a favor, to give friends a leg up, to share his wisdom, to make things tidier or more organized. He notices messes that I glaze over. He takes responsibility, and quietly, without fuss, gets in and does what he can to make things better.

Pretty nice. Pretty nice, this man.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

One Little Word

0101My "one little word" for 2011 is listen. I invite into my life the stillness that precedes listening; the awareness; the quieting of my internal and external chatter. I am listening for truth, for reality, for possibility, and for the love that is in each of us. I don't know what I will hear; I have no expectations. I'm just reminding myself to be open and willing to shut up and listen. I trust that, if I listen honestly and without an agenda, that I will hear what I need to hear, every moment, every day.

Previous words have been move (2010), feed (2009) and learn (2007). Do YOU have one little word for the new year? What is it?