Monday, November 24, 2008

Street Painting 301

Clear, crisp, and chilly best describe the beautiful weather for Via Colori. What a delightful difference from last year's miserable rained out event! The weather's charming personality wooed the gathered crowd and infected us with artistic camaraderie. Houstonians are incredibly charitable with support for the arts and the community. This event showcases both -- local artists and the Center for Hearing and Speech.

Beka and Wendy enthusiastically agreed to help me with this year's 100 square feet. How wonderfully and completely serendipitous that sweet Zoe helped, too. It just so happened that she and her parents came at the exact time we needed help putting in blue sky and turquoise water. (Zoe is the little chickadee in the bottom left corner.)

Shortly after Zoe left, another young family stopped to watch us work. There was still some yellow foreground that needed to be filled in, so Reese recruited sisters Anna and Harper to help. Again, 100 square feet is a large canvas, (so to speak;) we were grateful for the assistance. As seen in the photo, their mom chipped in as well. Bless them.

The image for this year's event is from one of my paintings called "Waimanalo, Hawaii." Besides the obvious natural beauty, it was a great place to hang out with friends when I lived there. Our routine was to take a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly; body surf and boogie board till we were dog tired; play Frisbee and/or football; then make and eat sandy sandwiches. Good times.

Here are my diligent helpers -- Beka (in the overalls) and Wendy. Beka wore the overalls because she had been forewarned about plumber's crack, an occupational hazard of so much bending.

Reese, Hilary, Joy, and I went back on Sunday afternoon for a sadly mediocre lunch. Wanting to tweak some of the details, especially in the shadowy areas, I also brought some old pastels from home to work on it a little bit. It didn't take much to get it just right. The day before, I was so exhausted that it was impossible to see what needed to be done to complete the project.

So here it is, all finished! Today, it's just a fond memory. The city of Houston washes everything away before Monday morning's traffic.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


At some point last summer, Reese and I were outside visiting with some of our socially-comfortable and very energetic neighbors, Jenni and Scotty. We are close in age, and were comparing years of birth. Reese and I both said to Scotty something like, "Yeah, we're both 63," meaning that we were both born in 1963. In context, it made sense. Jenni was distracted by other goings on that day and only mostly overheard this part of the conversation.

A few days later, Jenni's brother Minh came up and marveled at how good Reese and I looked. OK.....thanks? He went on and on about how nicely we've was flattering, if not a little unusual. Minh wasn't the only one -- random people started coming out of the woodwork, incredulous that we have aged so well.

It did cause me to wonder what was happening. (?) Then again, it's not unusual for people, when they discover our age, to tell us that we are just "babies." The norm is for people with kids our daughter's ages to be 10 or more years older than us. Or the complete opposite; people our age have kids who are 10 or more years younger than our daughters. At both ends of this spectrum, people call us "babies."

Turns out that what Jenni heard that day was that we were 63 years old....not that we were born in 1963. Factual or not, the grapevine message spread like wildfire. According to the latest TMZ report, Reese and I are 63! Hmmm, not a bad idea, though -- to tell people that I'm 63. While I might look a tad aged for a (as of today) 45 year old, I look hot for a 63 year old!

Happy my birthday to you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Top Secret

Back in the day, Reese and I hand made Christmas gifts for extended family members. We have made so many things over the years....painted glass ornaments, piecework stockings, cocoa mix, clay angel ornaments, home made vanilla, toffee, decorated frames, letter blocks (as seen in photos -- a big hit with both sets of grandparents,) and who knows what else. A great deal of thoughtful consideration, time, and effort went into these presents. We encouraged our daughters to do the same and make gifts for loved ones. The idea was that something made from hearts and hands would be appreciated more than something store bought. Well, different people have different ideas of what Christmas (and in particular, gift giving) should mean, even within the same family. Everyone doesn't always have high regard for such a contribution; so after a few years of this types of present being largely misunderstood, we stopped doing it and started buying everything.

But last year, when Reese, Erin, Anna, Hilary, and Joy started asking for my Christmas wish list, I realized that what I truly wanted was something home made. So I sent Reese and the daughters an e-mail that said,

I've decided what I really want for Christmas...
something from your hearts/skills/or mind
such as:
a song, sung or played
a poem recited
a painting or drawing
a scripture passage memorized
something knitted
something baked or cooked
or whatever might come from your hands or heart

All of you are talented. Please give me something from your storehouse of talent.
Reese wrote and performed a bluesy love song. Erin drew something in colored pencils on brown paper. Anna knitted a scarf. Joy did a watercolor drawing. And Hilary promised to sing a song when her voice cleared. It was one of the best Christmases ever -- but then again, I say that every year! (Of course, it also meant that, in order to set a good example, I needed to make something for them as well. It had been so long since home made gift season that I felt a bit rusty and out of practice.)
This year, last year's e-mail was sent 'round again. This year, the preparations started a little earlier. And this year, it's really hard to keep such a big secret....from Reese. He's my very best friend and naturally, I want to talk with him about this little (big) Christmas project. The art studio is a wonderful space to create and at the end of the day, close the door. Keep a secret -- no problem, mon. Only the fumes from the oil paint and solvents is overpowering with the door closed! There's no ventilation. So, in order to not suffocate, and get a small amount of air circulating in the studio, this towel got hung in the doorway, with about a 12 inch gap underneath it. The fumes are still fumy, though not nearly as bad as they were the first week. The little sign on the outside (to the left of the blue towel) is to remind Reese not to enter the studio (please) because I'm working on his Christmas gift. The sign also says that I'll happily fetch whatever he might need from inside the studio, such as stored wheat berries for his most excellent bread making, or good beer (also stored in the studio) for the drinking.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pepper and The Beast

It's no surprise that unless something gets written on the calendar, it's most likely completely off the radar for me. This last weekend, even though something was written on the calendar, I had neglected to switch pages from October to November. This is what happens.

It's not unusual for Saturdays to be filled with a plethora of activities. Even though it's not a natural skill, I really try to keep organized. So, last Saturday, when Joy wanted to go to the homecoming football game, there was a statuary and fountain shop in the general area of the stadium that I had been wanting to visit. (The idea that our kiddie wading pool might not be in keeping with the improved patio prompted the visit.) So after we dropped off Joy at the game, Reese and I went shopping for a bona fide pond. I had done some online research, and knew prices, sizes, and types...just wanted to see the product before committing to a permanent backyard fixture. Turns out that the original black plastic/fiberglass pond that I had wanted to buy (online) was ugly. So we next looked at the top of the line cement pond, and boy oh boy was it expensive!

It just so happened that next door to the fountain shop was a hardware/feed store. (That wasn't in my research.) It just so happened that they had galvanized steel cattle troughs on display in front. It also just so happens that a galvanized steel cattle trough looks an awful lot like a garden landscape pond -- only it is significantly less expensive. Guess what we bought and tied on top of the suburban? That's right, a 6' wide by 2' high galvanized steel cattle trough. It is a wonderful container and will be our new fountain pond! It's so huge that so far, it's called The Beast.

Being totally preoccupied with the beast in the back yard, I was confused and surprised to get a phone call at 9pm Saturday night. The phone call was a gentle reminder that I had agreed to feed a home cooked meal to 10-15 college students plus a few extras after church on Sunday.
"What? That's tomorrow?"
The ingredients for homemade spaghetti sauce were (thankfully) in the cupboard. Since this was being served to a crowd, I decided to double the recipe and follow it exactly, well, as exact as I ever get. The recipe calls for one and a half teaspoons of chili powder. Usually, I dump ingredients willy-nilly, but remembering that the sauce has been a little spicy the last few times it's been made, I was very careful to measure everything just so. By 10pm, it was in the crock pot to gently cook overnight. Very pleased, I went to bed confident that all was well prepared for lunch the next day.

When served, the phrase most often overheard was,
"Wow, this sauce is spicy."
In this blog, I've mentioned that I am no stranger to shopping at the 99 cent only store. Over the summer, I bought a jar of chili powder for 99 cents at the 99 cent only store. It is now my firm belief that instead of chili powder in the chili powder jar, the chili powder jar is filled with none other than cayenne pepper. Like the beast, this sauce has it's own personality!

Back to the is so large that it created a new set of problems for the design of the patio. The original plans just would not work. The next couple of days were spent playing around with the placement of the beast in relation to the patio flagstone. When I got the beast in the right place, the stones were all wrong. Finally -- an epiphany! It's not even close to being finished, but in the photo one can see the basic design taking shape. In the top left corner of the photo is the beast. I'll add a bit more to the brick work, and expand the edges a bit...but this is the basic idea. The Amazing Reese volunteered to help dig a hole in the backyard for the beast. I'm having his affidavit notarized this afternoon.