Monday, July 21, 2014

About face(s)

I was PMing with Erik Thurman, my agent-mate, about art and I mentioned that my favorite subject was portraiture. I told him I'd share some of my previous work, and here they are.
rough charcoal sketch
pastel piece of hubby's grandmother as a young lady
charcoal of myself in my 30s
watercolor of my friend's two daughters
conte crayon exercise to capture the planes of a face (she sat across from me in the class)
 And then there are rough sketches of portraits I never completed...
a friend and her husband on their wedding day (from 15 years ago)
my MIL and her second grandson; I started this when she was still alive and probably will never finish it
So how does one get good at portraiture? Studying the skull is one of the ways to improve.

Sometimes, it helps to get a feel for the 3D-ness of the head by trying to sculpt it.
my first roma plastilina bust in a class taught by J.P. Darriau
side view of above bust (just wanted to add that the model was very good looking and actually had hair, which we weren't supposed to convey)
I love doing portraits, but I do think that it's one of the hardest things to get right because it's difficult to render a likeness of the individual. You can draw an apple to make it look like an apple though it doesn't have to look like a specific apple, but if you're doing someone's portrait, you can't just draw a face to look like any old face; it has to look like that person who commissioned you.

Don't let that deter you though. The best way to get good at it is to practice...a lot! :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, July 14, 2014

My own personal writing retreat

I know there are many pros to going to a writing retreat, not the least of which is interacting with the faculty. Many writers rave about the Highlights for Children Workshops for the lovely setting and rustic cabins with good food.

This is Highlights' rustic cabin:
I suppose that would hold great appeal if I lived in a cramped apartment, or a boring house in the suburbs, and had to do the cooking myself.

But this is my "rustic cabin":
surrounded by nature:
Plus, hubby grows most of our own veggies and then cooks meals like this for me:
You can probably see why I prefer to take online workshops and classes and stay put in my own little piece of rural heaven...even if I have to clean bathrooms and wash dishes. 

Hmmm, maybe I should offer workshops here? :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, July 07, 2014

What's growing?

It's already summer and I've not done a garden post in a while. In fact, I can't remember when I last did one, but, then again, I can't remember what my kids birth dates are either sometimes.

So, here are some random photos of the garden.
lots of garlic (right) and onions (left) with tree nursery in front

kale in the foreground

alpine strawberries that some people claim are full of flavor, but I think they mealy

various lettuces

trying out a special weed cover made from paper

banana peppers

eggplant in the greenhouse

nopal (that we hope will grow big enough to eat one day)

Asian pears in the orchard

black raspberries
These photos were taken over a couple of weeks of end of spring and beginning of summer, so there's a mix of spring and summer veggies.

And finally, because I've preempted "My Favorite Scene" today, I feel like I should at least have a video, so here's one of the guys and the chickens:
So, how about you? How does your garden grow?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, June 30, 2014

Never be bored again

I hear so many people complain about being bored or about their kids being bored, and I can't understand it. I've never been bored in my life and I don't think hubby had either. Want to know the secret to never being bored again? Read!

Read books, magazines, cereal boxes, blog posts...anything that you enjoy. Life is too short to read things you don't like.

We've shared this secret with kids since they were babies. They have never said the "b" word before. How can anyone be bored when there are books, etc., to be explored?

I'm only being slightly facetious about "the secret." It is true that our kids have never complained that they were bored, and it is true that it's all because of reading. I have photos to prove it.
Son1 around 10 months old; perusing the Sandra Boynton book, "But Not the Hippopotamus". It's a book I read to him from the time he was 2 months old.

Son1 around 1 years old, reading an issue of Babybug Magazine

Son1 around 1.5 years old, reading a Winnie The Pooh book

Son1 a little over 2; Son2 around 5 months old

Son1 about 2.5 years old; Son2 about 9 month old
 I wish I had a taken a photo of Son1 at age 3 when he was reading our "Organic Gardening's Guide to Insect and Disease Control." He was reading everything from board books to guide books for adults.
Son1 close to 3; Son2 around 1 years old

Son1 around 4 years old

Son1, still around 4 years old

Son1 around 5 years old; yes, that is "Socks" by Beverly Cleary
You've probably figured out by now that this was just an excuse to post cute baby photos of the kids. ;)

What about you? Do you, or your kids, complain of being bored?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, June 23, 2014

Research, baby!

Because of my Chinese background, I usually find it hard to brag about myself or my family, but I am very proud of my older son who got into an excellent summer research program for freshman students (IFLE):
Only 20 out of 300 applicants were selected (that's 6.7% for those of you who, like me, can't do math in your head)!

I'm so excited for him. He'll learn much and be independent for the first time ever. He's already conferred with his supervising prof (whom he'll also work with in the other research program he got accepted into for his undergraduate course of study, STARS, which is also an excellent achievement), and will do work on sexual dimorphism in plants.

But what I don't get is, how did 18 years go by so fast? It seems like yesterday that he was a baby...
Son1 at around 3 months
and now he's nearly an adult...
Son1 at 18 with one of his favorite hens
Congratulations, son!

I'm feeling a little verklempt right now...tawk amongst yawselves...

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, June 16, 2014

A tree obsession

We took a nice walk at Donaldson Woods, an old growth forest at Spring Mill State Park last week. For years, Son1 was obsessed with birds, but a couple of summers ago, he suddenly developed an interest in trees, as I think I might have mentioned before. He taught himself all about trees using different guidebooks, e.g.  Sibley's Guide to Trees, and legit internet resources, mostly ones with .edu extensions. He got so good, he was able to identify a tree on campus that stumped a dendrologist colleague of hubby's.

Anyway, the specimens at Donaldson Woods are magnificent. The aforementioned colleague of hubby's recently sampled some (only the already dead ones) that dated back to early-mid 1700s!

I took a couple of photos of some of Son1's favorites:
Some people call Tuliptree "tulip poplar," but they aren't poplars at all.
Northern Hackberry
I find the Hackberry bark both fascinating and creepy. Makes me itch.
Eastern Redcedar
I like the shape of this one. It'd be perfect in a horror movie where giant shrikes pin their prey onto the spiky branches.
This funky thing is a Flowering Dogwood growing through a Chicken-of-the-Woods mushroom (which are delicious). It's like nature ikebana.

Do you have any favorite trees? Have you ever been to an old growth forest or been to Sequoia National Park to visit those incredible and old trees?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, June 09, 2014

A Farewell to Tethys

In memory of our goofy hen, Tethys:
It's not that chickens aren't tough creatures, but that the cost to get a vet to treat them far outweighs the benefits of keeping it alive, especially when their course of treatment is probably like this:
Far Side cartoon by Gary Larsen
When Tethys had a prolapse, hubby and Son1 decided to tackle the situation themselves. "I'm not a veterinarian, but I play one on my own homestead." They put her in a bucket of water and washed her poopy butt, pushing the prolapse back the best they could.

Tethys had lost a lot of weight, but their TLC seemed to buy her some more time. She appeared to recover enough to lumber around the yard like a willow branch through molasses for several more weeks.
Far Side cartoon by Gary Larsen
But, she was no spring chicken (ouch!), and, eventually, the illness and weight loss got to her and, I'm sad to report, she died last week.

We'll miss her, especially Son1 (who was having fun with her in this video).
If you raise chickens, do you have any home treatment success stories - where you brought it back from the brink of death - you'd like to share?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, June 02, 2014

My Favorite Scene - A Home For Bird

Good gravy! Is it June already? If it's My Favorite Scene, it must be Belgium...or the start of a new month. (Anyone know the movie I referred to?)

I really must find a microphone to attach to me so that the sound comes out better. Right now, I'm using the built-in microphone on the laptop and it doesn't capture my voice very well (since I stopped singing 20 or so years ago, I've stopped practicing projecting my voice). But I didn't want to get any closer to the computer to spare you the pain of seeing my face up close and personal. Instead, I've included the transcript (below) of the video so you can actually read it instead of watching me! :) Yes, you may thank me; and, yes, you may thank me in the form of gelato or fried chicken.


Hi, this is June’s My Favorite Scene, and I’m going to talk about a book called A Home for Bird, by the same author of “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” which I happened to be really fond of too; I just think that this book is just a little bit better. And you can tell me what you think!

One of my favorite scenes is actually the opening scene, and I’ll read it to you:

Vernon was out foraging for interesting things when he found bird.
“Are you okay?” asked Vernon.
Bird said nothing.
“Are you lost?”
Bird said nothing.
“You are welcome to join me,” said Vernon.

Vernon introduced Bird to his friends.
“Bird,” said Vernon, “meet Skunk and Porcupine.”
Bird said nothing.
“Bird is shy,” said Vernon, “but also a very good listener.”

Isn’t this a great start to the story? I hope you’ll borrow it from the library or find it at a bookstore, and check out the rest of it. Thanks! 

So there ya have it. Happy Monday and happy June...go forth and fill it with a good book or forty!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, May 26, 2014

Making marmalade: lots of work, small payoff

That sounds like a description for writing books, too, for most authors except the upper echelon. 

My friend, Robin, makes marmalade all the time and never complains, but that's because she's more hard-working than I am, and I'm whinier than she is.

I must have spent a total of about 2 hours on my feet sanitizing the darn jars, lids, equipment, etc,. and zesting...
cooking up the zest
and sectioning + extracting the insides of the oranges and grapefruits...
the fruits, as spent and shriveled as yours truly
Using the recipe in Robin's "A Simple Jar of Jam" ebook, I cooked up the pulp.
yummy pulp
cooking with fruit and pectin, waiting to add sugar
After all that, I canned 6 measly pints of marmalade.
Granted, it's some of the best marmalade money can't buy, but 2 hours?! Really? If hubby, Son2 and I didn't love marmalade so much, I'd just make  super easy strawberry jams instead.
But, it really was all worth it because look who came to partake of the remains of the fruit? No, not Kazuo Ishiguro...
a Little Wood-satyr (Son1 won't let me use "Wood-Satyr," saying world convention dictates I use "Wood-satyr" case anyone else actually cares)
We were really hoping to attract Baltimore Orioles, but this was just as good since we're amateur lepidoptera-philes. :)

What's your favorite jam/jelly to make or to eat?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams