Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fair Maiden Voyage

After all the Christmas hoo-ha, hopefully, painting will start again tomorrow.

In the meantime, just to inform the readers of this blog, there is a new member in our family. The vision of beauty in the photo is a YELLOW 1973 Schwinn Breeze 3 speed. Remember that Reese and I went to Workshop Houston to fine tune our old bikes last summer? Well, Reese is now a regular volunteer. Workshop Houston has a program called Earn-a-Bike. The way the program works is that one first tears down an old junker bike that is not worth restoring. The second step is to fix a flat. Third, the participant has to re-cycle a wheel. And fourth, the volunteer/participant re-furbishes a bike for charity. And lastly, one can re-furbish a bike for oneself.

Reese has been volunteering just because he likes being there and learning about bikes. One day, according to Reese, a lady pulled up in front of the bike workshop with a whole truckload of bikes to donate. As Reese and Matt were unloading the bikes, one particular bike caught Reese's eye. It was grimy, covered in filth and rust, but Reese knew that this was the bike for me. So, instead of working towards a bike for himself, the Amazing Reese worked the Earn-a-Bike program as a gift to me.

This is what I saw when I walked down the stairs on Christmas morning.

I came downstairs because I had heard Erin and Hilary opening their stockings, and didn't want to miss the Christmas fun. Reese's bathrobe just happened to the nearby, so I grabbed it and on it went. The bike was such an unexpected and delightful surprise that I rode it through the house...from living to dining room and back....several times.

Then I hurried to get dressed and took it outside for a spin. It's the best bike ever.

Oh, and by the way, in case the reader has forgotten, yellow is my favorite color.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Zuzu's Petals

If I ever owned an antique-shabby-chic-art-coffee-book-wine-bar-live-music-café type store, the name of it would be Zuzu's Petals.

"Remember no man is a failure who has friends."

Thanks, reader friends. It's a wonderful life, thanks, largely in part, to all of you.

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Week's Worth

A gorilla sitting on the throne. A laughing daughter. And the pet in the bathtub. So many unanswered questions.

Here is the Amazing Reese and the fellas enjoying some tasty cigars from "nowhere." Reese's younger brother sent the cigars to Reese for safekeeping. Then, quite unexpectedly, his brother passed away, so in honor of his brother's generous gift, Reese wanted to share, too. It was a very cold night, and as smooth and good as the cigars were, the guys were all glad to finish them and retire to the warmth of the living room.

Aw, look at the poor fallen angel. Don't worry, Reese fixed her. This angel was a gift (years ago) from my mother-in-law who bought it from Aunt Cathy's gift and antique shop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It's probably the best gift my mother-in-law ever gave me.

However, the most incredible part of the photo is the fact that the Christmas tree is already up. It is usually much later in the season before that task gets tackled, much less completed.

Turns out that I made an abundance of limoncello. There wasn't a large enough container in this house to mix it all. (And yes, I remembered to double the simple syrup.) This photo shows the work in process.

The first pour...

The first toast -- yum! It's absolutely delicious.

Perhaps it would have been a good idea to find matching containers for the limoncello. Does it really matter? We used what was on hand and then some. The last bit went into Mason jars...fitting, considering that limoncello is one giant leap (small step?) above making ones own moonshine.

Can't wait to see what's in store for next week....

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Make Limoncello!

My love affair with limoncello began on my 40th birthday, when a dear friend shared some of the traditional Italian lemon liqueur as a gift. In the spirit of home-made Christmas gifts, this photo depicts the beginning of my first attempt at making the delectable digestif.

After extensive Google research, the recipe I've decided to use is this:

1 bottle 750 ml Everclear (190 proof)

12 lemons

4 1/4 cups of water

3 1/2 cups of sugar

Carefully zest lemons. Place the peels in a container and add Everclear. Let sit for seven days shaking container occasionally.

On the eighth day, make a simple syrup with the water and sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Strain out zest, and then filter the lemon infused alcohol through coffee filters to remove impurities.

Mix in the cooled simple syrup and transfer to a bottle.

When I poured the Everclear into the Mason jar with the lemon peel, some of the alcohol accidentally spilled. And yes, due to the extremely high alcohol content, it took the some of the finish off the table -- strong stuff. Within a few minutes of steeping, the grain alcohol was already becoming infused with the lemon taste! (Attention, Sarah: This is a personal reminder that the recipe is doubled. Please, remember to double the simple syrup when completing the project.)

The lemons in this batch of limoncello were generously donated by two neighbors with abundant lemon crops in their respective yards. Many thanks to our good friends, the Wagners and Cooners. Some of the finished product will be coming your way. :)

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello!

Friday, December 04, 2009

It's Snow, Man!

People almost anywhere north of Houston must think we are ridiculous for going gaga over a little snow. I can count on one hand the number of times it has snowed in Houston in the 25 years that I've lived here....OK, maybe 6 times...but I think it's just five times total.

It snowed the week Hilary was born, 20 years ago this month.

There was an ice storm once, the weekend of the marathon in January one year...but no snow. Joy was five or six at the time, and she's 18 now.

There were slight snow flurries one afternoon when our daughters were in elementary school.

It snowed on or around Christmas day a few years ago when we went to see Mimi and Papa for Christmas....so we missed that one.

It snowed one year ago for an hour or two on December 10th.

And today....that's it. It's been snowing since we woke up this morning. So, we're pretty excited, to say the least.

The snowman is courtesy of Hilary. Thanks, sweetie.

Monday, November 30, 2009


The broken cherub fountain legs
in need of true repair,
and as the JB Weld is used,
replacement starts with care.

But broken legs and broken dreams
of broken people see
that band-aids, rods, and JB Weld
can only ever be...

A fix for body visible...
what happens to the heart?
For heart and soul get broken, too,
how does that healing start?

When arrows pierce a wounded heart
and worded barbs cut deep --
who holds a man accountable,
who is his brother's keep?

And when more slander spreads around,
the lies disguised as truth,
who will defend the downtrod man,
or widow in her youth?

For sometimes life and death collide
and disappointment churns,
beside still waters souls restore
at least, that's what I learned

In youth. My shepherd is the Lord
who guides in righteousness
and though I walk through shadows deep
I dwell in His goodness.

In close, the statue legs are fixed;
they won't fall off again,
though outwardly there is a scar --
the cherub feels no pain.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Year Four -- Check

Achy knees -- check
Sore thighs -- check
Hurting hiney -- check
Lower back pain -- check
Tender shoulder muscles -- check
Painful fingertips -- check
Complete satisfaction of a job well done -- check

For the fourth year in a row, yesterday, I participated as an artist in a street painting festival, Via Colori, to raise money for the Center for Hearing and Speech. It was an exhausting day of art WORK, and will include, as an added bonus, a few days of sore muscle recovery....all for a good cause.

Some new friends dropped by the festival, little suspecting that they would be recruited to help fill in some background color. (Thanks Julie and Mike!) Notice the reflective stripe of the street running through the painting under the ukulele, and a small portion of the grid pattern is still visible.

The Amazing Reese helps before the event by editing a photo of a painting and super-imposing a 10" x 10" grid pattern over it, which we then take to Kinko's and laminate. When we get to the street, we mark off a 10 foot by 10 foot square (also known as 100 square feet) and use the gridded painting as a guide for the day's work. That's how it's possible to get proportions mostly correct on such a large scale.

A couple of young neighborhood friends came to help. These young girls were very good at following directions and helped fill in the background for the table top, and some of the draped blue sheet. A passing comment was made, and randomly enough, these two 7 year olds (and I) were discussing, of all things, fame. One of the girls said, "What do you want? Do you want to be famous?" How would YOU, gentle reader, answer that question? My reply is marked by an asterisk at the end of this entry.

By mid-afternoon, the nagging thought occurred that I was literally starving from hunger. What better way to enjoy the festival atmosphere and replenish sapping strength than to devour a turkey leg? Mmmmm.

My blog buddy Joyce and her sweet family came to visit, too. Young David was quietly studying every aspect of the technique of the process of applying a pastel chalk drawing to the canvas of an asphalt street. Maybe his future includes street painting. Notice also, that I'm getting filthier as the day progresses.

And here is the finished product. By this time, Reese and I were among the last participants to leave the festival. Technically, it should be called Still Life With Ukulele -- 4.

Here's a link to an article that has already been written and very graciously mentions me alongside other Houston artists.

It was great to see the article's slide show, too -- working so hard all day I missed the opportunity to fully enjoy my fellow artists' work. And by the way, that's me in image #8 of the slide show!

If new readers would like to see past Via Colori participation, click on Nov 2006, Nov 2007, and Nov 2008 in the right hand column of this blog.

On a more personal note, the Friday before Via Colori was my 46th birthday. Imagine my surprise when I opened a gift at the restaurant only to find an enormously huge goldfish inside a plastic bag filled with water. Want to help think of a name besides Gigantor for the fish?

*Thoughtfully and carefully, the reply seemed to come from deep within, " I want to do good and be kind." Young Mary (name changed to protect the innocent) seemed satisfied with the response.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sheer Delight

45 miles north of Comstock, Texas is this spot on the Devil's River. Some dear friends invited us out to their ranch one summer shortly after Reese's little brother had died. He died after jumping off a rope swing into the Guadalupe River.

When my mother in law saw the original photo I used for this painting, she had a very strong (negative) reaction. She was extremely upset that we allowed Anna to play on a rope swing when her son had just died jumping off a similar swing on a similar river.

But that rope swing and being surrounded by loving friends turned out to be a very positive healing experience for us. The rope swing wasn't evil. What happened to Reese's little brother was nothing more than a horrible tragic accident. Besides, what better way to honor "Uncle Brian's" memory than enjoying the same activity he did with his final breath?

Consequently, one of the things I love so much about this painting is the look of sheer delight on Anna's face; sheer delight and fun returning after an unexpected time of grief.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Little People

Some of our friends came over last night. Joyce and I originally met via the Internet, which, I guess, is becoming more common this day and age. To my delight, because we live rather close to one another, we actually get to visit in person sometimes. The whole family arrived just in time to see the mural on the back of the house before the sun went down. We fed the fish in the pond for a few minutes, then the mosquitoes got hungry so in we went.

Parents and children alike enjoyed playing with the little people. A few pieces have broken or gone missing over the years, but the little people toys are always a hit, and an easy way to show hospitality to the little people who play with them....it's a win win.

Maybe next time we can go to the playground, too. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ode to Hats

This is a story of a life --
a simple one at that,
and yet sometimes I complicate
by wearing lots of hats.

One hat for when I clean the house
another when I cook,
a hat to wear in outside fair,
and one for reading books,

A hat to wear when paying bills,
a hat to be a friend,
a hat when I was Sarah Mills
a hat for who I've been,

The hat as wife of big man Reese,
the hat of daughter, too,
the hat of nurture -- motherhood,
a hat for playing blues,

A hat for mind, a hat for soul,
a hat for healthy eats,
a hat to wear when digging holes
to plant a garden neat.

It's hard to keep on all these hats
for ev'ry little thing,
to write, to paint and live a life
in glory to the King.

Because I want to be my best
in everything I do,
but more than not my life's a mess...
I haven't got a clue.

So, here's the deal, I like to paint,
I'm thinking this is good,
if I could wear an artist's hat
forever, then I would.

But that's not all that life's about...
we all wear many hats,
but just today I want to paint
God, grant me time for that.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Summer Street Warehouse

To match the sky all clear and blue
and mix the colors till they're true
I squeeze the paint from tiny tubes
and on my palette goes the hue.

Earnestly beginning mixing
palette knife the color fixing
soon a building comes in focus
it's fun work, not hocus pocus.

The city is so bright and fair
a simple warehouse clean and bare
shows off in quiet elegance
it's beauty for the ages hence.

A shadow here, a highlight there,
a vision that I want to share
and so one sees what I have done
the work has now become the fun.

I took artistic license, sure...
The colors? not exactly pure,
but as a whole the painting works
just call it an artistic perk.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Off Again

Last Friday, I submitted an art proposal, and even though it's not conclusive whether (or not) I've gotten the job, the project is so exciting (to me) that I've started working on it anyway. Part of the project includes scoping out locations in Houston where I ride my bike to use as inspiration for artwork. And even though I've ridden the ole cruiser past one particular location, in the interest of time yesterday, I drove the suburban there for an informal traffic study, and to take some reference photos. Traffic in the area is robust, full of large service vehicles. A polite bystander, named Louis, who was sitting in an area I had previously thought might make a good vantage point for painting, offered the suggestion that on Sundays, the traffic is almost non-existent. It would be nice to not die from being hit by a truck while painting on the side of the road. I thanked him for the tip.

Louis and I also discussed the book he was reading whereupon he said he would leave the book for me there when he had finished reading it if I wanted to read it next. Is that common street etiquette? Do I bring a book for him, too, and leave it on that street corner in Houston, with his name on it?

After leaving the conversation with Louis, I drove toward home really excited to start work in the studio, and silently congratulated myself for good time management. Approximately two miles from home, the suburban stuttered, sputtered, and let out a deep sigh before passing out. It was out of gas. All that brilliant time management was for naught. (Ha!) After walking home, glad to be wearing comfortable shoes (Chuck Taylor Converse All Star Low Tops Slip-Ons,) I tried to work in the studio but the inspirational momentum was gone.

So, it ended up being one of those days where I paint, wipe it off, paint again, wipe it off again, and then clean my brushes in stoic frustration, if that makes sense. Even though I have nothing to show yesterday's efforts, perhaps it's better to work and see no visible results than not work at all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Three in Won

Last Friday, I entered the Houston Civic Art Association's Greater Houston Open Show. Each artist was allowed to submit up to three paintings. Turns out that all three paintings I submitted won awards; one first place and two honorable mentions, all for portraiture. Because of facebook updates, many of you already know this, and have asked that I include photos of the winning paintings. Thank you all for your kind words and congratulations.

This particular art show was judged from the actual work. On Friday, the artists were asked to submit their work. And then at 5pm on Saturday, we were to come pick up the pieces that weren't selected for the show. Since I never received a phone call saying that my work was selected, I naturally assumed that none of the paintings were selected. I thought that I would be going to the HCAA Gallery to collect my three entries. What a delightful surprise to see ribbons on all three paintings!

The fella who did the judging was still there, and was summoned to critique my work in front of me (and a small crowd of folks who gathered around us.) He gushed over "Symphony in Flesh Tones and Pink" which won first place. He especially liked the eyes in the painting, which was interesting because he said that when he teaches portraiture, he tells his students to never draw or paint the eyes the way I did in that painting. He then looked back and forth from my eyes to the painting's eyes and was further convinced that the reason the eyes were so wonderful in the painting was because I had copied my own eyes. (It's not true.) Then he talked about the brush strokes, and color placement, and the this and the that....such technicalities. A lot of what he was saying was going over my head, even though I was trying really hard to concentrate. Heavens, this was a well regarded professional giving me one on one advice and attention! It started sounding (to me) like the teacher on Charlie Brown cartoons, "wah wah wah wah wah wah." (Focus Sarah. Focus.) At one point he cautioned me to be careful about not letting art instructors influence my style. Well, that one's easy. I don't take lessons.

He critiqued the two honorable mentions in much the same way, though he preferred "First Time at the Rodeo" over "Hilary Holding the Baby." He admitted that he would have given the second place to "First Time at the Rodeo" but felt it only fair to spread out the awards. Even though it was a blind judging, (all artists' signatures were covered,) he could tell that all three paintings were done by the same artist.

The artist reception for the winners is this upcoming Thursday, October 29th from 6 - 8pm at HCAA Art Gallery, 5202 Bissonet. The gallery is located in the Bermuda, I mean, Bellaire Triangle area. For whatever reason I had no trouble finding the gallery on Friday when I dropped off the work, but by the time I went back on Saturday, the gallery seemed to have magically disappeared. What is it with the Bellaire Triangle? Does anyone else have trouble finding things and places in that little triangle of streets?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fiesta Forever

Lawndale Art Center knows how to throw a good party, and last night's Dia de los Muertos Gala was a festive event. It was noisy, lively, and crowded like a good party should be. Houstonians were out in full force to support Team Lawndale. (My retablo is not visible in this photo. It's actually just left of the last retablo on the top left wall....)

One of my artist friends graciously offered to take this photo (of me) standing in front of "Still Life Goes On." Just as Cynthia was about to snap the pic, an unknown gentleman walked behind her and volunteered a very lovely compliment on my appearance, hence the "aw shucks thank you very much" smile, after which he asked if I would please e-mail him a copy of the photo. Well, here it is mister.

After the Lawndale shindig last night, I joined Reese at our friend and neighbor's 60th birthday fiesta. Ah, more good times. Just see....my big amazing man Reese is singing Cielito Lindo with the mariachis, after which he spun me in his arms as we waltzed around an improvised dance floor.

Dear God, I love that man.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time Crunch

Yesterday, I spent the entire day moving my art studio from downstairs to upstairs, and the guest room from upstairs to downstairs. It was as exhausting and as menial as it sounds. However, I am quite looking forward to painting in the upstairs studio. The room is a little more spacious and has much much very much better light.

While moving everything, I realized that there is some old "inventory" that should be removed forever from this house. It might be time for another bonfire in the back yard to burn all those old paintings.

When I burned a bunch of stuff last time, I regretted not saving one part of one painting. Therefore, on this rampage, I'll take scissors to my work (and cut out parts to keep) before the torch destroys everything.

The Dia de los Muertos Gala at Lawndale Art Center is tonight. Typically, I can't decide what to wear. The weather has turned quite chilly, so that limits the ole wardrobe a bit. Not only that, but the event starts in an hour and a half, and Skipper just rolled in poo. UGH! I have to bathe the stupid dog, right NOW. Gross.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Once, when we were very new newlyweds, we found out that some friends of ours were celebrating their tenth anniversary. We looked at them excitedly and practically shouted, "Isn't it great?! Don't you just LOVE being married?!!!" The husband looked at his wife with a look of defeat and said, "Every year's been rough." She nodded her head in agreement and dejectedly chimed in, "Yep. Every year's been rough." Had they not been looking at each other so wise and knowingly at that very moment, they would have seen us physically deflate. We honestly couldn't believe it.

When we made it to year ten, Reese and I looked at each other and said, "Yep. Every year's been rough."

Sure, there are rough days, weeks, months....but there are great ones, too.

This is what 25 years (for us) looks like. (Our wedding anniversary is tomorrow.) The photo was taken a couple of days ago at the Angel Store opening at Betz Gallery. It reminds me of this:

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don't break it
Love was made for me and you

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My friend, Lynn

This is Lynn. Lynn is an incredible gentleman. One of Lynn's defining characteristics is that he thoroughly enjoys helping others, of which I have been a beneficiary more than once.

Lynn likes to share. Lynn shares his laughter, his time, his good company and conversation, his strength, his engineering know-how, and his tools. Lynn has more kindness in his pinkie finger than some people have in their entire souls.

Last week, Lynn and I spent an entire afternoon working side by side in his workshop. It was an exceptionally hot muggy Houston day, especially for October. It was exhausting and delightful at the same time.

Without Lynn's generosity of spirit, "Still Life Goes On" wouldn't have been finished in time to submit to Lawndale Art Center's Gala and Retablo Silent Auction on Friday, October 23, 2009 7-9 PM. (Tickets available by calling 713 528 5858) Thanks, Lynn.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Still Life Goes On

The title and piece, Still Life Goes On has multiple meanings. It can be interpreted numerous ways:
1.) Still Life Goes On...meaning that the flowers represent a still life.
2.) Still Life Goes On....when a loved one dies, life for those left here on earth still continues forward.
3.) Still Life Goes On....can also mean when someone dies, the body (as many believe) transmogrifies from bodily form into spirit form.
4.) The flowers are, in the piece, coming out of the faucet, as if when the faucet is turned on, life springs forth.
5.) The working clock represents time and the concept of eternity.
6.) The blue background is the exact color of the Texas sky on September 14th of this year, which represents both the what we see while here on earth and the heavens above the earth.
7.) The saw blade (clock face) represents the harshness and suffering we all "face" at some point in our lives, yet Still Life Goes On.

It was created for Dia de los Muertos at Lawndale Art Center as a contemporary interpretation of traditional, devotional art. Starting bid $150, a bargain at four times the price.

Gala and Retablo Silent Auction
Friday, October 23, 2009 7-9 PM
Admission: $40 per person
$30 for Lawndale Members
Available at the door, by calling 713.528.5858
or email askus@lawndaleartcenter.org

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Ole Cruiser

The ole cruiser (the bike, not me) is still able to ride the streets of Houston, though with quite a few creaks and groans (both me and the bike.) This photo was taken before the start of Critical Mass, an organized chaos of a bike riding event. During the ride, the gears started clacking and changing at will, which led us back to the Third Ward Bike Shop to fine tune the ole cruiser (the bike, not me.) All this to say that the ole cruiser (the bike...and consequently me) was the "pseudo-star" of a story that was finally published in the Houston Chronicle last week.

Last week, I delivered the Angel Oak Tree painting to Betz Gallery for the Angel Exhibit; the opening is October 17th.

Another painting (called Reese and Hilary in Galveston) was delivered last week to Rice University to be part of an art exhibit in conjunction with the Shell Center for Sustainability Houston Water Conference. The exhibit is in Farnsworth Pavilion in the Ley Student Center and is open to the public now through October 29th, during regular hours.

Though not ready, the retablo is due this week at Lawndale Art Center for their Dia de los Muertos Exhibit. (*Deep sigh* and shaking my head); I just don't see from where the time will come to finish and deliver it. (Another deep sigh and shake of the head); it just doesn't seem possible. Good grief! The ole cruiser (me, not the bike) is feeling slightly desperate for more time. Argh!

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Concept

This pathetic little critter is our pet. He's guarding his favorite toy, a stuffed monkey. His pedigree in the dog world equals Prince Charles in the people world. He has taken it upon himself to roll in poo twice in the last three days.

The concept art isn't going so well...mainly because we aren't concept art types around here. At this point, anything I paint won't have time to dry before it's due for installation at Lawndale Art Center, so it's this concept idea, or nothing at all. The vote around here is nothing is preferable to the concept.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Beautiful Concept

Funny how recurring threads of conversation keep popping up, no matter the situation or crowd. At two separate parties, including the Post-Diversionist dinner (photo above), with two completely different sets of folks, the conversational theme centered around Art with regards to Beauty versus Concept. Had I been up to date on philosophical readings, I would have deferred to Kant and his view of aesthetics. The following paragraph is quoted from a wikipedia article on aesthetics.

Viewer interpretations of beauty possess two concepts of value: aesthetics and taste. Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of education and awareness of elite cultural values; therefore taste can be learned. Taste varies according to class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone.

Quoting wikipedia again...
Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.

My own artist statement reflects my personal belief that without beauty, art is undefined. A concept, while often thought provoking (yet sometimes just plain baffling,) is, in my humble opinion, not necessarily art. That said, I'm working on a concept for a piece to be in Lawndale Art Center's upcoming Dia de los Muertos exhibit. I hope that, even though it is a concept, it will be recognized as beautiful, and therefore, art in it's own right.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Life is never short of misadventures. To say that the week has been unusual would be an understatement. Without going into details, suffice it to say that life, at the moment, is abundantly full.

One thing that I'm actually looking forward to and have been preparing for all week is a gathering of the Houston area Post-Diversionists for supper at our house this Friday evening. The Post-Diversionists are a collective of various artists from the Houston area who, for whatever reason, have all done individual portraits of Martin DeVore. Martin is an endlessly enthusiastic supporter of working artists in the Houston area and one of the founding members of the Post-Diversionists.

It will be my first time to meet several of the artists in the group. It will be their first time to try Sarah's Spaghetti Sauce. And yes, this time I'll remember to go easy on the cayenne pepper.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Angel Oak Tree

Almost all week I've been working on a painting for Angel Store, an exhibition featuring angels and benefiting the Justice for Children Foundation. Normally, I wouldn't even enter this type of exhibit, because painting angels isn't really my thing. But the cause is a good one, and a dear friend was incessantly persistent that I enter.

It must be fairly obvious by now (for regular readers) that I paint what I see. Honestly, I haven't seen any angels floating around the studio lately. So then, what to paint? After an extensive amount of Google-ing, I finally found something of interest. Instead of a traditional biblical angel, which are all artist renderings anyway, I decided to paint the Angel Oak Tree which incidentally is located in the Charleston, South Carolina area, not too far from where my little brother lives.

This painting is purposefully more lively and colorful that the norm (for me.) The look and feel I was intending to portray is other worldly...like an angel.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Some Influences

As mentioned in a previous post, the weather has been unseasonably HOT in Houston this summer. So when some cooler dryer air blew in earlier this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to paint en plein air.

In the photo at right, I am putting some finishing touches on a painting of the lilies in our pond. Using water lilies as subject matter is undoubtedly influenced by the late great Claude Monet.

The next day I started this. It's meant to be in the style of Picasso's Self-portrait with a palette, 1906.

In our pseudo-library is a decent collection of art books, the numbers of which grow on a fairly regular basis. On the cover of one of the Picasso books is a close up of the Picasso self portrait. Generally, I'm not a fan of Picasso, but there's no doubt of his influence on the art world.

At a little more than 100 years later, I guess this one should be called Self-portrait, 2009. This is my offering of a smidgen of respect for Picasso's universal appeal, and my own intrigue at some of his more realistic works.

A note of observation: It was too muggy to paint outside when the self portrait was started, or I probably would have painted the lilies again. One can see how my hair got more frizzy as the day progressed. In the beginning, it was straight. By the end of the day, it was back to it's more normal puffy disheveled-ness.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I have a confession to make.

When I was in college lo these many years ago, I was complicit in a not so nice trick played on a friend's house mate. The housemate (we'll call him Jim) was quite full of himself. Jim was certain he was the best ____ (fill in the blank) at everything he did. Jim made sure everyone within earshot knew about his many accomplishments. Jim was convinced that he was the best looking fella on campus. Jim knew that all "the babes" were in love with him, a topic of which he spoke with great frequency. (They weren't.) Jim would leave home every day at the same time and go for an hour bike ride. Jim would return, go to the pantry and take out a can of tuna. Jim would then open his tuna can with great flourish as he expounded on the numerous virtues of tuna. Jim would then fix a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Jim was absolutely convinced that his tuna fish diet would turn him into a lean mean fighting machine (which it didn't.) This bike ride/tuna routine happened every day...like clock work.

Well, my friend and I got a little (OK, a lot) annoyed at Jim's constant narcissism.

Back then, I don't know if it's the same today or not, I haven't checked lately, but back then, cat food cans looked remarkably similar to tuna fish cans.

One day during Jim's daily bike ride, my friend and I went to Star Market and bought a few cans of cat food. We then went home and with an X-Acto knife, carefully peeled the labels off the tuna fish cans and applied them to the cans of cat food...and put the cat food back exactly where the tuna had been before in the cupboard. Jim came home from his ride, and predictably, went to the pantry. Jim opened the can of cat food (with a tuna fish label) and fixed himself a sandwich, all the while delivering a sermon on the glory of all things Jim....and of course, the virtuous attributes of tuna.

Jim never noticed that he was eating cat food.

The reason for the confession is this: somewhere somehow, the universe remembered what I had done to Jim all those years ago. The universe decided that I needed a taste of my own medicine, so to speak. The universe played a trick on me.

What is undetectable in this photo is the spiciness of this particular batch of spaghetti sauce. My grave mistake in this batch of sauce was inadvertently adding cayenne pepper instead of chili powder. The jar was mislabeled. Even after adding more tomato sauce to the pot, it was still quite spicy. It's not the first time this has happened...though I do hope it's the last.

Sarah's Spaghetti Sauce

* 2 cans tomatoes
* 1 can tomato paste + 1 can red wine (with a little splash for the cook)
* 1 onion (grated or chopped)
* a few garlic cloves
* 2 t paprika (or a little more)
* 3 T olive oil
* 3 T brown sugar
* 2 t chili powder (NOT cayenne pepper)
* 1 T Worcestershire sauce
* 2 T ketchup

Combine all and simmer several hours. This, when prepared properly, (without cayenne pepper) is a family favorite.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Art Surfing

Normally high energy, my little sister was exhausted last night. In town for two days, she had requested an art tour of things art/big sister related in Houston. That's a mighty task to accomplish. Originally, a one day tour was planned, but even with two days worth of time, we barely accomplished everything on the list. She said that if I had gone to San Diego and surfed (her specialty) for two days straight that I would be as exhausted as she was seeing art (my specialty) for two days straight. She said it was as if we had been catching the big waves and art surfing for two days.

The spaces we actually walked in and around included the Byzantine Chapel, the Rothko Chapel, the Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection, the MFAH, The MFAH Sculpture Garden, The MFAH Glassell School of Art, the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Beer Can House, Xnihilo Gallery, the Japanese Garden, Lawndale Art Center, Block 7 Wine Company, and the Guild Shop.

Drive by's included the Pioneer Log House Museum, Winter Street Studios, David Adickes Sculptureworx Studio, Elder Street Gallery, the former Earth Gallery, the Art Car Museum, the Rose Garden, Bering and James Gallery, and the location where Reese and I go busking. :)

We also enjoyed the food at La Guadalupana Bakery, Tacos a Go Go, and the Chocolate Bar.

Yes, there were good times, big laughs, and tired feet in the Hazel house with my sister and her husband, and the art surfing in Houston was swell.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is it?

Is it kind? Is it true? Is it timely? Is it necessary? Life is so much more pleasant when I remember to ask myself these four questions before speaking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Inside Outside Upside Down

There's a children's book that we used to read to our daughters in the Berenstain Bears phase of childhood. It's called Inside Outside Upside Down. It's about Brother Bear playing in a cardboard box....which is an insignificant fact in and of itself. The book's simplicity and repetition is what keeps going through my head as I work at the computer. For directly above my head is this candelabra.
It is inside.
Inside the study.
On an outside wall.
Inside the study on an outside wall.
It is uncommonly hot.
In Houston.
Uncommonly hot in Houston.
The weather is overwhelmingly and uncommonly HOT in Houston this summer.
It is even hot inside my house.
It is hot inside my house in Houston this summer.
Upside down.
The candles are upside down.
It is so hot inside my house that the candles have melted.
The candles inside the study on an outside wall of our house are upside down because of the uncommonly hot Houston summer weather.
Inside outside upside down.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Little Life

As mentioned in my last post, the Western Appliance Meets Wine Warehouse art exhibit opening was last Friday afternoon. The opening was scheduled from 4 - 7pm. At 2:30, Reese called to say that his car was overheating. Less than an hour later, he had called to say that he hoped his car would make it to the new St. Arnold Brewery location downtown, where he could park it for a few hours without fear of being towed, and which so happens to be within a 5 mile radius of Block 7, and if so, would I please come retrieve him from there? (Reese had been stopping at various intervals between Baytown and downtown on account of his car overheating and to use the payphone.)

By the time Reese and I hooked up on the feeder road at I-10 and San Jacinto, it was about 5 minutes til 4. Normally, I wouldn't fret over being "late" to an event such as this, but several people had specifically communicated that they were determined to make it to the opening on my behalf, and were definitely going to be there at FOUR. So naturally, I felt an amount of pressure to arrive in a timely fashion. At 4:05, Reese and I arrived at Block 7's opening reception and were relieved to discover that we were the first humans in attendance. Sigh.

Again, it bears repeating that the owners of Block 7 are super nice, at least the ones I've met. The above photo was taken in a moment of relative tranquility opening night. Standing with me are fellow artists, Aime Krebbs and Jeanne Haner.

Many times throughout the night, as I explained the story of how the art was created, the response most often repeated was that the ukulele was George Harrison's favorite instrument. Even though I was previously unaware of this fact, apparently it's fairly common knowledge.

Little life distractions during the opening were:

1. Reese and work -- he was in the middle of delivering a bond to the downtown jail when his car overheated. He left the opening for two hours to get his innocent-until-proven-guilty client out of jail.

2. Joy driving to Austin and checking in a couple of times asking questions about speeding and tickets. Joy asked, "For instance, are both the driver and the owner of the car responsible if the driver gets a speeding ticket?"

3. Hilary flying in from Bozeman, Montana, after working in Yellowstone National Park all summer, and missing her connecting flight in Denver due to Air Force One's priority on the runway and airspace. Turns out that Obama was due in Bozeman the day and hour Hilary and James left.

4. The curating of the Ukulele Still Life series -- the three pieces are displayed in the hallway outside the restrooms. After being my own docent for three hours, and explaining the series to more people than otherwise would have seen it in the retail area, it wasn't an altogether bad thing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The Block 7 Wine Company grand opening will be this Friday night, August 14th.

The art series I created in conjunction with the wine bar opening was started way back in the first week of January. The first opening date was supposed to be in March, then it was rescheduled for April, and then the schedule suggested that perhaps sometime in mid-May would be the opening. Honestly, I was beginning to think that all my work was for naught, so yesterday, I was delighted to get an e-mail extending an invitation to the Grand Opening. (there was much rejoicing....yaaaay.) Apparently, the art work created using the previous warehouse leftovers will actually be shown (!) and will kick off the weekend with a special exhibit reception on Friday, Aug 14th from 4-7pm. Events are free to the public all weekend, so please come enjoy wine tastings, food and live music if you are in the Houston area.

The exhibit is called Western Appliance Meets Wine Warehouse and features works (mine included) created from salvaged materials from Block 7's warehouse. According to the e-mail I received, Block 7 will have a special display set up for Friday, and the pieces will all be up at least until the end of the month.

Reese and I will be at Block 7 (720 Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77007) from 4-7 on Friday. Y'all come see us. (Call them for directions if you get lost on the way. :) 713 572 2565.)

Also, earlier this week a reporter with the Houston Chronicle came over to complete an interview and take a few photos. If the article is published, it will be in the Thursday's This Week section. If it's published, it will be about my cruiser bike lamp story. (We met the reporter at the bike workshop in the Third Ward a couple of months ago.) The photo at left is not the best quality, but at least there's proof that a super nice reporter named Tom Behrens was in our home. If nothing else comes of it, we had a nice little visit.

Lastly, a mother's pride swells my heart as I watch the below posted video. This is a glorious performance by my youngest, now 18 year old daughter Joy, eating a McDonald's hamburger in two bites. Such skill! Such talent! Such delight!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Skipper and the Three Hour Tour

On the way home from Mississippi, we stopped for a few days at The Antlers. The Antlers is a log cabin on Lake Cherokee that was built by Reese's great grandfather, Ewart Hoyt Lightfoot in 1948. Descendants of his son, Reese's grandfather Thomas Ewart Lightfoot have had use of the cabin in the six decades since. For a few more years, before the Antlers changes ownership, Reese and I have limited use of the cabin, and consequently the lake.

As mentioned in the last blog entry, Skipper, the petite pedigreed poodle pet of ours follows me with great devotion. He, at least with regards to me, truly is an always faithful dog as his middle names imply; Semper (always) Fido (faithful dog.) No question about it, Skipper adores me. In fact, it's fairly common knowledge that if Skipper had the strength to force Reese to walk the plank, he would, just so that he (Skipper) could have his mistress (moi) to himself.

Skipper, poor dear, is getting old. His teeth are falling out, his hair is so thin that one can see all his liver spots on his pink skin, undeniably, he has cataracts, and it appears that he may actually be blind in one eye. We had newly arrived at the Antlers, and were already on our second journey to pier's end to enjoy the view. Skipper is not new to the lake house. Skipper has walked on the pier many times. As I mentioned, he follows me everywhere, so back and forth on the pier is no exception. We heard his little clickety paws trailing behind us as we walked; and then.....the tiniest of splashes. Skipper, bless his teeny fast beating heart, pranced stage right off the pier and into the lake. Accidentally, of course. Thank God that Reese has long arms. He prostrated himself and rescued the poor pooch just before he swam out of reach. Reese gallantly took off his shirt, wrapped the pitiful sorrowful waterlogged pet in it, held him until his body heat transferred to Skipper and the shivering stopped. We were naturally distraught for Skipper and yet extremely tickled at the same time. Honestly, at random intervals throughout the evening, one or the other of us would laugh, and in the next breath say, "Oh, the poor dear."

The lake house is in possession, thanks years ago to Reese's dad, of a 1970's small fiberglass Sunfish sailboat. Some of Reese's fondest memories have been out on the lake in that little sailboat. This trip was no exception. After repairing the rudder, and re-attaching the sail, we harnessed what little wind there was and headed for a small island several miles away. Reese tacked back and forth and about 45 minutes later, we had sailed around, what is commonly referred to as Bikini Island. We paused, took a dip in the lake to cool off, refilled our water bottles, pointed north, and set sail for the cabin. Only now, there was no wind. In the space of a few minutes at the island, the lake surface had literally become as smooth as glass. It would have been perfect for water skiing had we the use of a ski boat, but it was not so great for sailing. Without wind to fill the sail, we were so still that we actually had time to become friends with a family on shore. It took us so long to "sail" past their pier that we watched a young teenage girl walk to the end of a pier, start fishing, catch a fish, the grandparents come out to congratulate the young fisherman, and us all discuss how proud we were of this young lady's accomplishment. [The fish was this big, as I hold my hands apart to demonstrate.]

Still no wind. Reese paddled. Reese jumped in the lake to push and pull us. Reese paddled some more. Every now and then I would shout, "I feel a breeze!" We would catch a wisp of air that would take us about twenty feet, and then perfect stillness again. It was a good thing that before our journey began, Reese encouraged me to bring a book and snacks. I have borderline hypoglycemic tendencies, which means that it's best for the environment at large that I eat on a regular basis. The book was Jane Eyre, which is so wordy and antiquated, that, being well fed, I was therefore quite distracted with reading. Hours passed, but many thanks to Reese's valiant efforts, by the grace of God above, we safely made it back to the Antlers. In my humble opinion, not sailing that afternoon made for an absolutely wonderfully charming memory with the most amazing Reese. And of course, our little pet couldn't have been more content. He was with me on the sailboat and he spent the entire time imagining that he was finally my Skipper, (and naturally Reese would have been his Gilligan) on our slightly more than three hour tour. Oh, the poor dear; Skipper still doesn't win.....I have always had a preference for Gilligan. :)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Amazing Grace

Last week Wednesday was another one of those days. In between cleaning and preparing to leave for a little vacation, it occurred to me that there might be a few hours that could be devoted exclusively to painting. So, I painted. But for various reasons, even after starting with brushes, I finished by using my fingers. Honestly, it's probably a cancer invoking health hazard to use one's flesh with lead based paints. If I grow a third ear, or cut off one of the ones already attached on either side of my head because of lead paint based insanity, I'll be sure to let my gentle readers know.

There was barely enough time to clean fingers and brushes before Reese and I were due at a neighbor's house to play bridge. The neighbor had knocked on the door to fetch us, but wanting to photograph the painting in good light, and knowing that we wouldn't be home before dark, and thinking there would be time to write about finger painting after bridge, I carefully yet hurriedly put the painting on the ground outside the back door to photograph it.

We have a pet. We have a five pound neurotic pedigreed out the wazoo toy poodle named Skipper Semper Fido. Skipper, with great devotion, follows me everywhere all day long. If I take three steps to the left, Skipper also travels the same distance in the same direction with the nails of his little paws clicking on the wood floors like a tap dancing lady in high heels. Add his identification tags which are a miniature version of a cow bell all day long, and please understand my immense dismay when I heard the clicking tinkling tiny cow bell at my heals. Skipper saw me in the doorway and was desperate not to be left behind. He launched himself into a stag's leap out the back door. Mid Skipper flight, it slowly began to dawn on me what was happening. That very wet painting was positioned exactly in the way of his landing. That dog must have somehow re-calculated and adjusted his flight pattern, or more accurately the landing based on the physics of everything, because those tap dancing high heeled paws of his just missed, by God's amazing grace, the wet painting on the sidewalk outside the back door by a hair's breadth. The neighbor was at the door waiting to play bridge, the dog almost gave me a freaking heart attack, and the excessively wet paint of the painting produced a big glare, as is evident in the accompanying photo.

And then, because of last minute preparations to drive to Mississippi for a Heidelberg family reunion, there still wasn't time to write a blog entry until now, now being one year exactly from our last visit here.

One year ago to the day, we were all in Jackson to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. One year ago today, we went to church with my parents. One year ago today, I lost my glasses after leaving them in a pew at church...in Mississippi. Today, exactly one year later to the millisecond, after church, Reese and I were pointed in the direction of the lost and found. The lost and found is in a desk drawer of the church receptionist's office. The receptionist's desk and the drawer were behind a locked door. Providentially, someone with a set of keys to the office was near by, and knew which desk drawer hosted the lost and found. Slowly, Mr. Set of Keys opened the drawer. There appeared a surprising number of lost glasses. We looked through the ones in the front. None of those were mine. What about those glasses in the back? Mr. Set of Keys said that those were the glasses that had been there the longest. Then I said that that's where we should look, as my glasses had been lost one year ago today. As I looked in the back dark corner of that office drawer, the heavens opened and the angels started to sing. What amazing grace! Exactly one year later, in the deep dusty dark bottom of a desk drawer in a church receptionist's office in Jackson, Mississippi, were my glasses. Like the old hymn Amazing Grace says, they once were lost and now are found. I was blind, but now I see.