Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post Hijacked By Crab Pretzels

You know what's in here?


No, I will not drink Guinness from a styrofoam cup.

Pete and I are in a motel in South Carolina. One that does not have glasses available, only styrofoam cups. 

Christmas is over and we're headed back north from Florida. Tomorrow we hope to make a stop in Hagerstown, Maryland, for some of these:

These are crab pretzels, which I am shocked to see that I haven't yet blogged about. We stopped in Hagerstown on the way down south. Growing up in Maryland I had heard about Hagerstown all my life on the radio for traffic reports and school snow-day closings but I'd never known where it was. We had a chance to stop there this trip so we did.

Hagerstown is great. It was founded in 1762 and has beautiful architecture downtown: colonial and newer brick and stone row houses. There's almost a New Orleans-y feeling to it, though waaaaaaaaay more laid back. Nowhere near as party. Tons of character. It's sandwiched between Pennsylvania and West Virginia but it's still definitely Maryland. Therefore you get crab pretzels. Pretzels from the Germans and fresh crab from the bay.

If, by chance, you are driving through the American Mid-Atlantic region and want to avoid the Beltway around D.C. I would recommend going through Hagerstown. We dined at Bulls & Bears Restaurant. If you hit the link the page will say it has "a New York style atmosphere." I don't know about that, but the crab pretzels are damn good and they have a great beer selection. Most of the beers on tap were of the artisanal variety, high alcohol. Tasty, but watch yourself if you're driving - which most likely you will be. I had the Yeungling's which is local, of normal alcohol content and very fresh on tap. A tasty lager.

That's probably all you need to hear about for this installment. No doubt there's more to come another time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

I'm hoping we have a new Christmas tradition: Christmas Bocce. This was really fun. Pete, Marnee (Pete's mom) and I arrived first at the bocce court. Soon after Marc and their dad rode up on their bikes.

Here's where Marnee explained the rules to us:

Pete got those pants for Christmas. Sort of. Marc got them for Christmas, didn't like them and gave them to Pete.

Christmas Bocce!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

I'm at my in-laws' house in Vero Beach, FL, sitting in a rocking chair on their patio. My father-in-law has come out with his toy train track to see if he can figure out why the track is buckling. Pete is inside setting up his father's new fax machine. He keeps popping his head out of one door or another and saying "hi."

I'm not bored but I feel like I'm in a really boring play. Or maybe a very dull version of "The Nutcracker" with no music or dancing.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Drawing Party Plus Cake

I'm making an apple cake. Wanna see? It smells great.
I haven't tried this recipe before. It's from Smitten Kitchen. It makes a doughy batter into which you stir four eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated. Then the batter becomes pourable. I haven't made a cake with batter like that before either. Ah, yes, I should also mention that the large lumps you see are chopped apples. There are two layers of chopped apples macerated in cinnamon and sugar.

When I looked at the volume of all the ingredients separately I didn't believe they'd all fit in the pan. I wedged 'em in there. I hope it doesn't take two hours of oven time because of all the stuff in that pan.

It's for a party I'm going to on Saturday. I met the hosts once then got invited to this party. I'll only really know two people there but I'm going. This is how I'm branching out and expanding my life. I'm bribing strangers to deal with my social awkwardness with home made cake! Brainy!

So here are photos of some of the drawings I did at our drawing party in chronological order:

Warm up

I liked how the warm up went so I did this guy in a similar fashion

Then I thought I'd go more experimental and use a pen with a nib that you dip in ink. There were a couple of different nibs used here. I've never tried this before. I'll try it again soon though.

At this point one of us had been drawing pictures of our friends incorporating anagrams of the friends' names. He was using an anagram app on his phone but we found the anagram for our friend, Jeff, inadequate. I was trying to figure out a better one because I am WAY smarter than an app, particularly after two Guinnesses. Yeah. That was a big success. See how I tried to use some vowels twice with a crossword technique? That didn't help.

Then I drew this kind of terrifying thing. Creepy blonde lady offering you cookies or something. I'm suspicious.

The last drawing I started on at the party was the kind of thing I had intended to draw when I had the idea for the party in the first place. The original idea (if you don't feel like clicking that link) was to have a party loaded with friends and  some beers to entice me to do the kind of drawing I'm bad at. Looking back I think I did accomplish that goal. I did try to draw in ways with which I am unfamiliar and the results show a distinct willingness to fail.

The next day I did this self-portrait to see if I could still draw at least as well as I did in high school The answer is yes. Slightly better in fact. This drawing is pretty small, about 2"x3". A bit wooden and sad but the likeness isn't horrible. A fairly quick drawing. I think my drawing teachers from art school would be disappointed but they'd be nice about it.

When I'm serious about drawing I don't use a pencil or pen so all of these drawings are a break in tradition for me. When I'm serious I use compressed charcoal and really big paper and a chamois (the kind you get for washing cars), a large eraser and maybe some sandpaper. It makes a huge mess - big piles of black charcoal dust and erasing crumbs on the floor. I really get into it. It's pretty physical. I find sketchbooks limiting. Pencils are too small and fine for if I'm really going to DRAW.

However, if I thought about it and really tried I could probably figure out a way to make a pencil or a pen work. People who are not me manage to make true art with those implements. I could do better than I have done.

I think that we all had a good time at the party. I had such a good time that I was really sad when it was over. I stood on the street corner with Pete and I didn't know what to do. The light had gone out of my life. The party was over.

Fortunately it was just about dinner time and Pete suggested we stay out and get a bite. So we had a nice dinner at Central Kitchen. Thanks, Pete!

Wow, restaurant websites tend to really suck. Too much flash! Too many fancy doo-dahs! People do not want things flashing in their faces when they're trying to find a menu or hours of operation.

Back to the topic at hand. I'm going to make this drawing party a regular thing. I want to do it twice a month. I think it's a great idea for me to practice willing public failure. If you're an artist you should be incorporating failure into every day. I feel that I do that. But I do it in private. It's easy, in private, to fail or to shirk failing. I guess I'm saying that I feel I don't fail well enough. These drawing parties are, for me, a fun place to fail publicly. This is a great habit to develop.

If I do this twice a month I can practice failing and exercise my drawing muscles and socialize. Win, win, win.

I know that if people have an option to come twice a month they're less likely to come at all. They'll figure "oh, I can always go next time." I do stuff like that myself. But damn it, I'm going twice a month.  If too few people show up and I get demoralized and feel far too unpopular then I can always cut it back.

Now here's how the cake came out:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Please

It may be that this year has given me a little taste for upheaval. It was a difficult year but I secretly found it exciting. I have learned SO MUCH this year and it has been fascinating.

I had things I love taken from me but I was also given amazing gifts which I could never have predicted.

I learned that when your heart is broken sometimes the only cure is more heartbreak.

I also learned that the saying "a broken heart lets more light in" is true. I was never more receptive to good things and gifts than when my heart was an oozing pile of crushed and broken flesh. In those times I was desperate for good things. I sought them everywhere and they were readily available to me.

Heartbreak itself has been a gift to me this year.

I might be waking up thanks to this year. I hope so.

I might find life more rewarding when it's unpredictable, when the unexpected happens. Earlier this year things I hadn't looked for happened to me. Now that's slowed and I could go back to the way I was before. I had been playing everything safe and comfortable, doing what others expected of me, letting what I wanted take the back seat. I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE WAY I WAS BEFORE!

Life is more fun when I actively engage it. When I take risks - or at least stop playing it safe.

I know it's crucial to make mistakes and you really do learn the most from screwing up. I don't know if something counts as a mistake if you know something's the wrong thing to do and you do it anyway. I guess the mistake there is choosing to do the wrong thing. But when you're not sure...

When I'm not sure I tend to play it safe. I don't want to play it safe anymore. Playing it safe leads to comfort and it cuts off opportunities. I learned this year that it's better to be uncomfortable. So now when I notice I'm not sure I'm going to choose risk.

I like mess. I like dealing with challenges. I like learning. I like feeling brave. That stuff doesn't happen as much when you play it safe.

I want to leave more room for uncertainty in my life. I want there to be holes to let the light and wind in. I want my papers to blow around.

I am asking for more chaos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I mentioned a "ridiculous mini craft experiment" back on December 3rd. The experiment? I made my own iridescent glitter nail polish top coat. I did this to prove to my friend, Jenn, that you really could see the rainbow effect. Behold, film of the proof:

Okay, it's not really film. Or footage. Bits? I'm not tech savvy enough to know (or care that much) what to call it. But if anyone reading this knows, please inform me in the comments if you don't mind (Because I do care a little bit) I could just call it a movie. It does move.

Now we can all make fun of my crappy housekeeping! 

Another thing I want to share: my new favorite lipstick.

I think it looks darker in real life but pictures never lie, right?

I have scanned the drawings I did the other day, plus one that I did yesterday. I still have to process them though - make them smaller for posting. Maybe later tonight if I get my act together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For No Particular Reason

Here's me and my friend, Jamie, at the Weisstronauts' 14th Annual Holiday Jubilee:

Why? No reason. We took the photo because he thought our friend, Jill, who couldn't be there, would like my earrings. It was a fun night. Jamie travels a lot so I don't get to see him that often. It's always lovely when he appears though.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tree 2012

I'm pleased with it.

I haven't attempted to use the scanner yet. However, I did fix the Christmas tree lights. 

I'm VERY proud of my extremely basic electrical skills, let me tell ya. They didn't have replacement bulbs at the hardware store so I had to buy a whole new string of lights. Boo! The new string came with replacement bulbs! Yay! The little plastic doohickey that holds the glass bulb in the new set was not compatible with the sockets on the old set. Boo! It was close enough to make a temporary circuit though. Yay! I figured out which bulb had burned out on the old string with a light from the new string. The glass bulbs are compatible, so I replaced the bulb in the old doohickey with a spare from the new set. Now I have TWO working sets of lights! Yay! Go me!

Now you can behold the beauty of my confectionary tree! I like it so much that I'd like to have some people over for a drink and to look at it. Not too many people - our place is puny (as it should be) Very unlikely to happen though, at least before New Years.

I miss having parties. The last party we had was this one, in 2008 (with the blow-by-blow here) We could maybe fit a total of eight people in here comfortably but only for cocktails. Two people would have to sit on the floor if we were going to feed them too.

I want to have a blow-out! We used to do that every few years. I want to have a blow-out because I want to go to a blow-out. I can't go to someone else's blow-out because I'm not really a party person and I get to feeling really awkward around a lot of people I don't know. I guess I could go but I wouldn't blow it out there. I'd probably do my best to schmooze then leave early. Defeats the purpose.

If I'm going to have a blow-out it'll have to be at someone else's house. My party, their house.

Well that's enough rambling for one night. NaBloPoMo can get a blogger into some really bad habits.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dreaded Drawing

So I pulled it together and organized a drawing party at a local pub. Pete was there and so was Liz. Our friends Ken and Selena were there too. Our friends Kate, Nate, and Hope couldn't make it this time. I'll show you what I drew once I figure out how to work our scanner.

I hope everyone had enough fun that they'd want to do it again. I'll invite more people next time too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yule Candy

I almost forgot to post these pictures from

Christmas tree candy! If I won the powerball I would be sorely tempted to fill a large room with a multicolor Christmas forest. It could be really fun! Build in little snow covered hills and dales, paths and grottoes. Populate the place with multicolored fantasy animals, a gingerbread house perhaps? I have issues.


Today I made chocolate cupcakes and brownies. The cupcakes are for a friend. I made the brownies so Pete wouldn't be disappointed. Tomorrow I will ice the cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Cupcakes and icing all sinfully vegan from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, which, as we all know by now, produces the best, most delicious cupcakes I've ever eaten. The brownies are not vegan. I am not vegan.
I loaded the brownies up with Guittard Extra Semi Sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. They came out very soft and chocolate IN THE EXTREME!!!! They would border on obscene in a brownie sundae. I might have had them for dinner by accident. 

Here's a scene from my two-day thank you card making exploit:
The mess I made. You can see some of Fay's beds over to the right in the picture. Also, I got some Christmas ornaments at Lord and Taylor. 30% off! They have great Christmas ornaments there.

I'd never experimented with rubber stamping and embossing powders before. Gotta say I had a lot of fun. These were my successes:
Not bad for a first try. Not especially inspired but I think the heartfelt gratitude comes through. I only really need three so I'll have to choose which I like best.

Those embossing powders are really fun. Here you can see the difference between plain gold ink, gold ink with gold embossing powder and gold ink with brown gitter embossing powder. Much fun to be had if you were to go nuts with this stuff - and you think this kind of thing is fun.
Once you start off with large photos it's really hard to go back to small ones in one post.

I did another ridiculous mini craft experiment yesterday and there's a movie that goes with it. I think I'll save that for tomorrow though. This is good enough for one day. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sorry Fellas!

I think the guy on the right looks disappointed with me. The other two can't be bothered. I've been neglecting my tequila. How will I ever make it up to them?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Perfect Day

I would just like to put down for posterity that today I am happy and satisfied. That's correct, I am completely happy with what I have in this moment and I don't wish for anything more or different. I have felt like this for over twenty-four hours.

Clearly I'm having some kind of hormone imbalance. I hope it continues.

Today and yesterday were perfectly ordinary days. Nothing special happened. I've been making thank you cards for the people who wrote me condolence notes about Fay. I've seen several good friends, eaten normally, paid the bills, I got a massage. I've been meditating regularly but I've slacked off on the running since Thanksgiving. I know I'll get back to it in a timely fashion. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do, only, yes I did. I did the things I really wanted to do and the less important things I let slide. I did the things that were really important to me. So now I'm happy and relaxed.

At least I think that's why I'm happy and relaxed.

I had been feeling disconnected and a bit lost and down lately. Last night I realized that right now is a magical time. Right now everything's great. I know I am loved. I have good food to eat. I have fun things to do. I can be with good people. Today I am free. I know everything changes and that it's not always going to be so nice. So I will enjoy what I have now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Boston Can Be Scenic

Park Street Church in the moonlight

Pete, Marc and I had dinner last night with our friend, Paul, at Marliave in downtown Boston last night. Wouldn't it be cool if I had a photo of Paul so you could know who I was talking about? I didn't take a photo of him though. I'm sure I have one somewhere but I don't have time to look right now.

Marliave is on one of those old, beat to hell Boston streets in Beacon Hill, one of the older neighborhoods. The sidewalks are paved with seriously irregular brickwork (impossible to clear completely of ice in bad weather) and lined with dumpsters and gaslights (or else, gasesque-lights - I didn't look that closely, I just let it wash over me in a romanticized haze) There is some decorative ironwork outside the restaurant and a neato little convoluted stone stair that leads down to the next street over. I told Pete it was kind of like New Orleans only it smelled better and the food was not going to be anywhere as good. I LOVE New Orleans.

At Marliave they have a dollar oysters every night before 6 PM. We each got a dozen. New England oysters are very different than the oysters you get in the southern U.S.. They are far brinier and more delicately flavored. These were extremely briny. I'm a salt fan but I found these oysters a bit of a process to get through. They were delicious but they didn't go down quite as fast as the usual, say, Island Creek oyster. Even the familiar Wellfleets were saltier than usual. Not a complaint, just an observation. We also had sliders and garlic truffle fries. The food was fine but nowhere near as good as what you get in New Orleans. I love you Boston but you have to admit, the food in New Orleans is really hard to top.

As you can see, the moon was shining bright when we left the restaurant and headed for the Park Street T station. It looked so beautiful with the Park Street Church steeple I had to take a picture. Okay, the food here is pretty good if you know where to go and they have the moon and scenic church steeples in other places but I like living in New England. It's my speed.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Lovely November Day

I went out seeking adventure today. Not shopping, just adventure. It was a beautiful, warm autumn day. Some things I saw/did:

A frightening number of porta-potties in Davis Square. What does this mean? They reeked of cherry lollipop. You could smell them down the block. Whatever they're there for clearly hasn't happened yet. A horde impends.

I tried on cool shoes at Fluevog's on Newbury Street. The "Fluevologist," Peter, who was helping/enabling me thought these would go well with my tights. As you can see, he was right. I didn't buy them though. Yet.

You don't see abandoned sake bottles on the street every day around here. Exotic!


So, finally, I will tell you what I'm thankful for: my beloved friends. They're the ones who got me through my hardest times. When I was achy and sad they made me food and made me feel like I belonged with them. They made me smile and made me feel like I was important to them and that I could make them smile too.

Many thanks to all of my friends - whether you made me food or not (not everyone had the opportunity and it's not a prerequisite for thanks)

I am thankful for other things as well, like my excellent health and the fact that I can go running if I want to. For the thirteen years, nine months I got to spend with Fay. For the all of the people who helped me take care of her. For this brain of mine that keeps me guessing and entertained. For my family. For my comforts and my trials, for my ability to read, for chocolate, flush toilets, the people who make the amazing things that I love to see...

I could go on. I'm sure you could too.

Oh look - it's after midnight again. Clocks are so persnickety. Well, I'm going to bed. I hope you all had a wonderful Thursday/Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Plans

Oh yeah! Big doings today. I put my laundry away. Kewl!

I also went to Whole Foods today, like a maniac, because I realized that I will, after all, need to make some food for our Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow despite the fact that we are not celebrating at our house. Pete's brother, Marc, has invited us to celebrate at his house. You may remember Marc from other Thanksgivings such as this one, or this one, or this Halloween.

I will be making a side dish of farro, mushrooms, roasted sunchokes, pecans, dried cranberries, parsley and a bunch of other stuff that I figure will taste good (you know, like shallots, salt 'n' pepper, whatevs) While at the Evil Emporium, I mean, Whole Foods (it really is convenient - sorry) I whim-grabbed a frozen brie en croute. I'm pretty psyched about that.

Marc is providing fish he caught himself for dinner. I really appreciate guilt free fish because anxiety about overfishing has been known to keep me up at night. Fish are tasty but I fret about them. He's also making brussels sprouts.

And he mentioned something about football. So I should remember to bring my knitting. In truth, I like watching football from time to time. I love those exciting running plays and interceptions 'n' stuff. As with most sports I don't care much who wins. I just like to see people do things they're really, really good at. I suppose there will be entertaining ads too but if I hear the terms "Black Friday" or "doorbusters" one more time (and we all know I will) I may just have to scream really loud. Or drink. I could make it a drinking game.

And now for the moment of shame: I bought a pumpkin pie. I admit it. I did. And - ugh - whipped cream in a spray can. I didn't want to have to bring my mixer to Marc's house for the whipped cream. We're having a laid back, bacheloresque Thanksgiving. So I bought a pie instead of making one. I may still make a tarte tatin though. I haven't decided how I feel yet about only having one kind of pie on Thanksgiving. We shall see if my inner Martha Stewart kicks in or if I can lull her into passivity with brie en croute.

So! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! If you don't celebrate Thanksgiving then Happy Thursday to you! If I am wise I will remember to post what I am thankful for tomorrow. Best of luck to us all! MWAH! MWAH!

I Blew It Off

I'm not in California anymore and it's 12:27 AM eastern time. I blew off Tuesday's post until now. Yes I did. I guess I was in a cranky mood and felt like shooting myself in the foot. Tonight I'll be sleeping under (or next to) a large pile of clean laundry. I did the laundry, I just haven't put it away yet. More foot shooting. Just one of those days. Tomorrow (or do I mean today?) when I wake up it will be a different day.

While I was not posting I was knitting. I mostly finished this cowl thing.

I think I'm going to take it apart though. It's a bit snug and longer than it needs to be. It was an experiment that I think needs a redesign. This is the cowl made with Madeline Tosh merino that I mentioned back in my Halloween post. At least now I know one skein is enough for a cowl and that the yarn's not itchy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Let It Go

People are driving me completely insane today.

It's my fault. I shouldn't have opinions about how other people want to do things. Guh.


Hey NaBloPoMo people! I'm in CALIFORNIA where it is not 12:35 AM on 11/19/12  but 9:35 PM 11/18/12! I posted today! C'mon! Count me!!!! In fact I posted this for the first time at 9:00 PM pacific time but spent the last half hour trying to correct my time zone. Seriously! Help a gal out!

Okay, whatever. I know what I did.

Cake Toupée

My Brother and Jaguars

This is just obscene

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Know-it-all Bossypottamus

You know that post I wrote the other day about how to paint a portrait? How I think it's a good idea to work over the whole surface as you go and how at times your painting will look great and sometimes it will look crappy and then it'll look great again and be done? Well the process of painting a portrait is an example of the creative process in microcosm.

A painting, a drawing, a story, a film, an artistic concept, the development of your body of work as you make more and more pieces, your artistic career, the events that make up your whole life, all follow the same mysterious ATV ride of a path.

Like I said in the earlier post, you don't start with nothing then get progressively better when you're making a piece. You start with a goal to shoot for. Sometimes you progress smoothly, sometimes you screw up. Sometimes you make a mistake but you step back and notice that your mistake had a pretty cool effect: it suggests a better direction to take your piece in or it adds another layer of meaning to your initial idea. Sometimes part of the piece looks great but it doesn't work at all with the rest of the piece and so you have to get rid of the part you like.

Sometimes you're convinced that everything you're doing is a complete disaster and you'll never get this piece to where you want it to go. You're a crappy excuse for an artist and you'll never do anything right. You put something in and it sucks so you take it out. You do it again, twice. You work on a different area then go back to the tough one and it still won't work.

An hour later or the next day or six months later (after you've gone and done something else for a while) you find that it wasn't all a disaster after all and you can work with some of it and now you know exactly what to do. Or you decide to take the whole canvas (or construction or story etc.) apart and piece it back together in a different order, or make the thing into a different object entirely.

In short, you set off to find your goal, you skip along, you wander blindly for a bit, you skip some more, you fall off a cliff, you get discouraged, you find a different route to take, you see a neighborhood you didn't know existed, get lost again, leap over a fence and find an awesome party, wake up with a hangover and can't do anything right, you wander wander wander wander, find the on-ramp to the freeway and all of a sudden you're there and your piece is done. Usually your goal looks different than you'd expected it to when you get there.

If you took the crazy path where you tried new things, took risks, made mistakes, pulled off amazing feats, failed miserably, worked hard and had fun, your end product encompasses your goal but also includes more content. It's richer with elements you hadn't imagined it would have. Or else you ended up someplace entirely different but better suited to your true needs. That is the artistic process.

It's exciting, it's fun, it's educational, it hurts like hell, you want to beat your head in with a rock, you feel like you're flying, it's amazing and you NEED TO DO IT AGAIN.

So on a bad day I might complain about what a loser I think I am. In the long run, big picture- wise, I know I'm really fine. Life and art are wild rides with some doldrums thrown in. Disasters are good, successes can be deceiving. As long as you're learning you're winning. As long as you keep going you're winning. You only lose if you stop and let the bastards get you down.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Different Things

So I am, as usual, disgruntled with myself. As usual, I feel like I've been "doing it wrong." I am dissatisfied with the results of my past efforts. I need to get over that.

It helps to have noticed how unrealistic my expectations of myself were. I don't feel like I've absolutely wasted the last ten years. I don't think I'm beating the crap out of myself about anything.

Still I want to move on and do things differently. I'm trying to become more comfortable with discomfort. I've begun to do things I usually hesitate to do for lame reasons. For example I'm going by myself to parties where I won't know many people or going out when it would be easier to stay in. I'm trying to do things that are hard for me.

It helps to have moved to another part of town. I probably wrote about this before three years ago when we moved from Brookline to Cambridge. Changing neighborhoods is like getting a whole new city. It's easy to avoid old habits. It's easy and fun to go to new neighborhoods and take different routes around town. Of course you can do those things even if you don't move to a different neighborhood - it just takes more effort.

Consciously doing things differently feels great. It's way more fun that staying in a rut. It's exciting to have new perspective and to try new things. One new, fun thing that Pete and I have been doing lately (thanks to our friend, Liz) is going for shabu shabu in Chinatown:

Shabu shabu is SO FUN! Also tasty. Chinatown is really easy to get to from Cambridge as well. 

The other day I took a walk into Harvard Square. I've lived in the Boston area for twenty-four years and there was a stretch of Mass. Ave. in Harvard Square that I'd never set foot on. I've driven by it many times, I've even walked across the street from it. It blew my mind that someplace so accessible had never been trod on by me until that day. It was a small thing but I relished it. 

Doing things differently makes me feel like I'm improving the odds that more interesting things and new people will come into my life. Life has been all about change lately and while many of the changes have been painful and profound, I'm liking the fresh winds that are blowing. Progress feels good even if it stings sometimes. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Got Nothing For You

It's a race against time!

Will I be able to think of a post topic before Pete gets home in an hour and a half?

Me: Come on brain, think!
Brain: Nothing. Nothing. Nothing...

Me: Maybe if I eat this bag of potato chips?
Brain: Burp! More!

Me: Chocolate?
Brain: More potato chips!

Me: What? But you love chocolate!
Brain: Try meditating.

Me: You know, brain, I have a lot of stuff I need to figure out and you just don't seem to be getting with the program. I need you to pull yourself together and help me out! Come on! What do I have to do? I've been providing you excellent oxygenated blood flow, reasonable, balanced amounts of the hormones you need, I've been sleeping alright. What am I missing?
Brain: Duhhh...

Me: Okay, I'll try meditating.
Brain: Socks, cars, the number 3, it smells like apples in here. 3. 3. Sleeping. Wake up! One, one, two, two, pink, aqua, platform-heeled shoes, threeee, sleeping, three, you're an idiot, three...

Thirty minutes later:
Brain: I got nothing for you.

Sorry folks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some Autumn Highlights

I love when it's persimmon season!


Way to go, Boston Public Garden designers! You did great!

Monday, November 12, 2012


My horoscope for today:

"Try to set out on a new path today. Your initiative is essential for your success and happiness, so do anything you can to avoid inertia. Activity keeps you sane, so run in place if you have to."

I don't believe in horoscopes but I think this is good advice any time. 

So I'm outta here! See ya!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This Is What I Thought I Could Do

Hold on to your hats! "Creative" punctuation ahead - and a lot of gobbledygook. But then this is a blog.

One big thing that happened this year is that Pete and I entertained the idea of selling our place in Vermont and moving to Durham, North Carolina.

This was traumatic for me. It forced me to face the fact that I'd been undervaluing the things that weren't working in the way we'd been living our lives. It showed me that my dreams had turned out to be just that: unrealistic and impractical. I wanted to do too much with too little time and no help. Nuts!

In Vermont I have an artist's dream studio: plenty of square footage, a sink, a deck (! What artist even dreams of having a deck off their studio? For many artists even a sink is a dream) near but not in my house, safely accessible at all hours, very few distractions, surrounded by wildlife and incredible views. It's probably the best studio I'll ever have. How could I think of giving that up?

Because it's frigging lonely up there! We're too far from our friends and family. We keep having to travel so we can fulfill our family duties and charge our social batteries.

Every time I leave it upsets my creative rhythm which takes days to re-establish - a problem I couldn't figure out how to get around. Thanks to list-making I have been able to keep producing work I'm proud of. My dreams were rosier though. I thought that if I had a great studio and dedicated my time to my work that my productivity would take off. Maybe it would have but in all the years we've been there I have rarely been able to devote the unbroken stretches of time to my work that I thought I would.

Ultimately that's life. Nobody can just be an artist. Everybody has family and needs to eat lunch and gets interrupted by the details of life. Everybody knows that life is where art comes from.

But it wasn't just my art-making that got interrupted. I wasn't around enough for my garden either. I had dreams of turning our property into a verdant paradise of multiple garden rooms, fruit trees and a potager.

I also thought I was going to decorate the house beautifully and cook gourmet meals made with vegetables we'd grown ourselves.

What an insane fantasy! Look out - here we go... I'll whip up some pear and ginger scones to have with home made yogurt first thing in the morning for breakfast! After an hour's walk in the woods with Fay, it's off to my studio to paint and sew and sculpt and create installations that are in demand the world over! With Pete's help I'll spend a couple of hours tending to the weeding, pruning dead-heading and other garden maintenance. Then it's back to the sparklingly clean and tidy house with the flowers I've picked for an arrangement to decorate the entry room table (we don't have an entry room table) I'll make us a lovely cucumber and green bean salad with fresh dill from the garden and poached fish for lunch! Then back to the studio for more brilliant creations! Then I'll work out for an hour (gotta keep in shape!) then go to the mailbox to pick up the multi-thousand-dollar checks that arrive there daily and then play with Fay in the yard for another hour. Then it's back to the house to create a delicious gourmet dinner with fresh baked pie for dessert! Satisfied, Pete and I will share a nightcap on the patio by the fire pit, under the stars and I'll knit while we discuss the arts, culture and the latest issue of the "New Yorker." Then we'll retire and spend an hour or so before sleep catching up on reading those "New Yorker"s and about physics, philosophy, history, movements in art and technology etc. Then off  to a peaceful night's sleep full of fascinating, revelatory dreams (G-rated version)

Uhhhh... Smoke much?

In fact, no, that ridiculousness was the product of my own, unaltered mind. I did that all by myself! That's like a month-and-a-half's worth of activity I imagined I could pack into every day, not to mention my plans for Pete's assistance that I didn't consult him about. Not to mention expecting Fay to remain young and healthy. I mean, it took about a week to just read that paragraph, didn't it?

So yeah, that wasn't working out at all and I was FRUSTRATED about it. I was a FAILURE for FAILING to accomplish the IMPOSSIBLE. But I kept trying! It was like I was trying to live in a Thomas Kinkade painting or something - a literal, two-dimensional painting. I clawed into that dream for everything I was worth. It took me traumatic months to begin to release my grip on that baroque tableau.

You know, when I look at it that way I see that I actually accomplished a lot, all things considered. I just was never able to complete even one aspect of that fantasy. We're so backed up on the "New Yorker." I mean I could chip away at things. I did bake and grow things and make art and learn (A LOT) I just don't live in my own wet-dream of aesthetic/intellectual/domestic productivity. I don't have Hermione's time turner. If I did I'd probably use it to nap anyway.

So we may still move down to Durham somewhere down the line. I've been trying to spend more time in one place. I've been in Cambridge for the last couple of weeks trying to catch up with friends and figure out a rational plan for moving forward. That's hard for me. I still don't want to give up any of my activities and I want to get a full time job. Clearly something still has to give. I do think my expectations have changed though.

The number one thing I've come to terms with is that I can't provide myself with enough mental stimulation all on my own. I'll need to be around more people which means I should be based in the city. I'll have to trade the company of the critters for my sanity. I love the critters. And the beauty and the solitude. Something has to give.

So please wish me luck!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Working The Nose

You can learn a lot of useful things in art school if you pay attention. You can learn the same things elsewhere but I learned them in art school.

One thing you learn if you take painting is that it's generally best to work the whole surface of the painting at once rather than concentrate on one area then move to another area.

You're painting a portrait and you really like the model's nose. You want to get that nose just right. DON'T START WITH THE NOSE. If you start with the nose you won't leave room for the chin or the top of the head or something. You're supposed to sketch in the whole composition first so you know from the beginning that everything you want to include will fit in the picture.

Then you put in the large areas of color, work with the large masses of the form. Don't forget the background - that counts too. Now you can work on the nose. BUT DON'T JUST WORK ON THE NOSE. Because while you're working on the nose it will become disconnected from the cheeks and the chin will float off to Hawaii. What are those two small blobs up there? Those are supposed to be eyes? Nuh-uh.

But the nose is really good. But I'm out of nose color so I have to mix more for the forehead. Wait, that color isn't working at all. And I just noticed that the eyes are in slightly the wrong place and I should move them both over a little to the left and shift the angle of their axis a little down. But then the nose will be where the lips are supposed to go! Maybe if I can use the nose as a pivot point I can move the chin a tiny bit over here... But now the temples are all messed up. Fuck! Now what do I do? I'll have to start over!

Yes, you'll have to start over. And that, my friend, is painting.

But the nose was perfect! Are you painting a nose or a face? Do you want a painting of a beautiful nose floating in a sea of mushy chaos? Because if you want that that's fine.

In the olden days popular painters had ateliers full of apprentices who specialized in noses or lace or backgrounds or helmets or whatever. They probably got some kind of room and board for their labors. Maybe. Those days are over. Being the finest painter of noses in the world is a wonderful personal accomplishment but you probably won't be able to eat because of it.

If you want to paint a portrait that looks like a whole human head (or dog head or fish head or whatever your subject is) you're more likely to be successful if you do a dab on the nose, then the cheekbones, then the forehead, then the hair, then the chin, then maybe back to the cheeks for a stroke or two then the light in the background then the chin again... See what I mean? Bring the whole thing along little by little so you know where everything is and they're all developing in relation to each other and you don't get lost.

You're still going to have to start all over again a few times because that's just how it goes. Something will inevitably stand out and look great but it will be too soon so you'll have to get rid of it. If you find an area you want to preserve that's a danger zone. Mess it up - unless you're almost done and the other areas are almost there too.

Paintings go through a lot of stages before they're finished. You don't just start with nothing and then it gets better and better. Sometimes you start and it looks very promising. Then you realize it's not going to get where you need it to go that way and you have to mess it up to make it better. It looks great then it looks like unsalvageable crap then it looks kinda better then it looks pathetic then you figure out what it needs and it's done. Except for that one little part over there...

Screw that part. It's done. If you work on it any more you'll be working on it forever and you'll never finish it. Sometimes you just have to call it done. Let it go. That's a very freeing feeling.

Of course when someone says "you're supposed to..." that means that someone else's opinion of what you're doing matters. The truth is you can do whatever you want. Particularly in art. If you get the result you wanted then you went about it the right way. The ends justify the means in art as long as you're happy.

You don't really have to sketch out the whole composition in the beginning if you don't want to. Messed-up, out of whack portraits can be kind of cool. Sounds like a profitable exhibition if you ask me. Messed-up is very popular in the art world these days. It "reflects the chaotic nature of the times and the artist's disassociation from society" or some shit or other. If you can explain it to somebody you can make it work.

I suppose knowing how to do it "right" is a tool to have in your kit to be used if you need it. You never have to use your tools if you don't want to.

I'm calling this done. Later!

Friday, November 9, 2012


Nine days of blogging and I don't know what to say. Sorry, but this is going to be a filler post. I'll keep it brief.

Pete and I did karaoke tonight with our friends, Spencer and Lisa. Thankfully we had a private room. I think karaoke is a very good thing. Especially when there are lasers.

Every year Pete's band, The Weisstronauts, does a Christmas show and I get up and sing a number. I usually stress about it somewhat. Not enough to practice for the whole week before the gig though. I usually just sing along to my iPod for a couple of hours that day. The words are no problem because I've chosen a song that was on the "Holiday" tape when I worked at The Gap back in the early 90's. I worked three "Holiday"s so I could sing this song in my sleep.

Anyhoo, I'd consider doing some karaoke in the days before the show just to warm up and try and smooth out my performance moves. I usually don't have any performance moves and I feel stilted and awkward.

Oh Practice, will I ever learn to fully appreciate you?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Normalcy

Speaking of normal, we have officially entered the time of year in New England that I like to call "normal," as illustrated below.

Good of the camera to focus on the window screen, huh? I'm too lazy to take another photo. Sorry. You can still see the light coating of snow on the hood of the white pickup near the pink door in the upper right corner of the photo. You can kinda see the slush in the empty parking space to the pickup's left. Also the tiny dusting of snow on the porch roofs and dormers of the houses in the back. The darkness and puddles are pretty clear. This photo was taken today at around 1:00 PM. Windy, 37 degrees Fahrenheit*, drizzly and slushy. Normal conditions.

Some might be inclined to say "How disgusting! How can you endure the dreariness?" I find it comforting because it's normal.

Now is the time of year that most people have to wear clothes if they're going to spend time outdoors. Due to my dearth of melanin and deliciousness to insects I always have to wear clothes when I spend time outdoors, particularly in nice weather. This is the time of year when it's actually comfortable to do so! I love that!

Okay, so as Normal season progresses it will get darker and colder and there will be snow and ice. I'm not in love with the ice. It hurts my be-hind when I wipe out on it. The snow's kind of fun though. As for the cold, whatever. Add another layer. All of this makes indoors cozier and hanging with friends more necessary and fun. Not bad for "normal."

*If you need a mnemonic device to remember how to spell "Fahrenheit," just think, "Oh no! I Fahted!" in your best Boston accent.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not 100% Yawn

So I've been thinking about yesterday's post. I still believe it's true that I'm not a good trouble maker. But I can be good at quietly undermining normal. Sometimes the unsettling element is all it takes to set off a surprise and encourage the unexpected, right?  I don't need to be the tornado of terror, upsetting everyone's plans and turning everything upside-down.

Okay, so I'm not a full-on source of anarchy. I can at least be a gentle reminder that normal isn't everything.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Not Making Trouble

I understand that life is chaotic and that that's a good thing. I just can't bring myself to purposely help the chaos along. I might have mischief in mind but I can never seem to pull the trigger.

Maybe I'll think about this some more later...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Adios, Literally

One of the really hard things that happened recently (a little over a month ago) was that we had to say goodbye to Fay. My girl. I miss her so much.

The week after her fourteenth birthday she developed a problem with her lungs that wouldn't respond to treatment. She felt fine if she was in an oxygen crate at the hospital but she could only breathe for about a minute and a half if she was removed from the crate. She wasn't going to get better.

She gave me thirteen years and nine months of joy. She lifted my heart every time I interacted with her. Every difficult thing I ever did for her was so worth it.

Of course having a pet counts as saying yes to love. Some people say that your pet doesn't really love you, that they're ingratiating themselves to you so you'll give them food and shelter. I don't know if that's true. It doesn't matter if it is. The opportunity to feel and give love is so important, whether or not your love is returned. The love you give is the love you get to keep. 

Love is more than worth its cost in pain.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Crap Drawing

A not 100% shitty drawing

One of the things I need to do for this vast project I'm working on is think up a good name for it. Okay, also I have to do a lot of the kind of drawing that I suck at.

I am a shit cartoonist. I'm pretty good at drawing the things I see. Particularly portraits. I love faces. That's neither here nor there. We're talking about what I suck at.

I suck at trying to draw faces and bodies from my head. But I want to put out a comic.

At first I thought I could take photos of myself in costumes and sets doing the things I want my characters to do and then make drawing from those. That might be cool. I could still do that. I've been thinking about doing that for over a year and still haven't taken one photograph.

I have also been completely unsuccessful at getting myself to buckle the hell down and just do sheaves and sheaves of shitty drawings until I get better at it. Is practice the easy way? I mean, wouldn't it be easier to just draw until I came up with something I could live with?

But is making art about easy? No. Duh. It's about learning, exploring, trying something new. It's about being willing to fail and keep going until you get something you can use.

Failure is so much easier to stomach when you're in good company and maybe over a couple of beers. So I'm thinking I should get a few friends together and have a shitty drawing party. Or maybe meet at a pub and have an informal shitty drawing event.

Brilliant! Problem solved! I wonder if I could get anyone to go?

Painfully horrid and embarrassing
Stiff and awkward but I don't completely hate it 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I hate inspirational posters that boss me the hell around. Do this, do that... "Enjoy life to the fullest!" "Believe in your dreams!" "Breathe!" "Say yes to love!" (oh, wait...) So annoying.

But this one is good:

It's the Holstee manifesto and you can get a copy for yourself here.

Okay, at times it's a little much for me. I get overwhelmed by all that advice. I'm never going to just walk up to someone and demand to know their passion. Also, the "All emotions are beautiful" lettering should be bigger for more impact. Most people don't understand that all emotions are beautiful - or why. 

Whatever my quibbles may be, this poster makes a lot of good points. But I'm on a love jag right now so I'm just going to focus on that part.

It took me forever to realize that "do what you love" really means do everything you love as much as you can. It's a good idea to fill as many moments as possible with as much of the stuff you love as possible.

Eat the food you love, wear the shoes you love, be with the people you love, surround yourself with the colors you love, listen to the music you love, go to the places you love, do the things you love to do no matter what their value seems to be. Don't be ashamed if the things you love seem stupid. You love them. If they bring you joy then that's enough and screw what anybody else thinks. 

It seems to me that this is how you build a life that has value for you. So that's what I'm going to do.