Friday, December 28, 2012


Thirty years ago, I traveled to San Diego to participate in a cross country meet at Balboa Park as a member of the University of Hawaii cross country team. It wasn't my best race but that's neither here nor there. The point of telling this is that during our short stay in San Diego, the team went across the border to Tijuana for an afternoon of shopping. 

While at the Tijuana market, the one thing I wanted to find was a brown leather purse.....which I did....which is also incidentally the most perfect small purse ever invented by man. Mine is also 30 years old, and time is taking its toll on my old formerly perfect small purse.

For whatever reason, probably because of being perpetually broke, because I'm a sucker for punishment,  I've made it a practice to make gifts for loved ones, especially at Christmas time. This year the gift was determined by the perfect leather purse and an outgrown pair of black leather pants. With the clock ticking, I cut the patterns out for five purses and straps by closely matching the design of the 30 year old leather purse from Tijuana. But honestly, time kept getting the best of me, and even though I made small baby steps of progress, it wasn't going to be enough to get everything done by Christmas morning. Plus, I couldn't even figure out how to thread the sewing machine and doing everything by hand would have taken  way too long. Enter the Amazing Reese. Reese saw my dilemma and offered to help. First he threaded the machine God bless him which I couldn't figure out for the life of me. Then he threaded the bobbin. Then he proceeded to sew the front, back, and zipper together.

With daughters out of the house on Christmas eve, and grocery shopping and cooking prep for Christmas dinner completed, I had enough time to hand sew the straps to the body of the purse. Whew.

Now, over the years, Reese and I have gotten mixed reviews from our homemade gifts. Not everyone appreciates the thought, time, and effort that goes into something handcrafted.  I guess some of those negative vibes were floating around in my head and therefore I had very low expectations about how they would be received.

To our delight and my surprise, all four daughters love their new purses!

And remember, we made one for me, too, which I also love and which was used today while taking Tilly (the wonder dog) to do her volunteer work at Methodist Hospital. It really is the perfect purse.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Go Coat

The weather was perfect today for putting on the final clear protective coating of the art heart I created for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women.

It has taken over two months to get to this point.  It's a huge honor to be asked to participate as an artist on behalf of heart health in women, but it's also extremely nice to be finished with the project. It's going to a new home tomorrow! Yay!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tilly Goes to School

Tilly is so smart that she was accepted to Rice University! Well, she IS smart, but not that smart. At the request of the school librarian, Tilly went to the library on campus to help students de-stress during finals. Her main "job" is to let everyone pet her, but she also performed almost all of her tricks for the students and faculty who were there.

The librarian gave Tilly an authentic Rice scarf so she's totally legit wherever she goes on campus.

We've gone three times over the past four days and we're leaving soon for one more library visit before Christmas break. It's been a blast.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Peony Leafer

Last week I worked on finishing up this art heart for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement. It's for a particular patron in the Circle of Red Society. She donates money and enthusiasm toward promoting heart health for women, and I donate artistic creativity (and enthusiasm) making this art heart specifically for her, specifically because of her sizable monetary donation. For the edges of the heart, I made my own simple peony leaf design stencil out of thick stiff paper, in this case grocery sacks. Because I wanted to alternate the direction of the leaf without waiting for the oil paint to dry in between painting, I went ahead and made two stencils, orienting them left and right.

It's a conundrum, really, to work on these hearts because all sides of the heart need to be covered in paint and still work together as one piece of art. I had considered painting leaves, trees, and sky the sides, but the issue there was marrying both sides of the heart cohesively. Bringing leaves, trees, and sky to the side wouldn't work in this instance because of the extreme close up of the single peony on the other side of the heart, as seen here. So I made the stencils to tie both paintings together simply, without the whole heart getting bogged down in insignificant detail.

Here's what it looks like with the peony leaf stencils painted around the edge -- not too busy but not too plain, either. I quite like it. It's my first time using stencils in one of my paintings. In his later years, Henri Matisse used paper cut outs and stencils extensively in his work, so I'm in good company using this process. Plus, Matisse is one of the favorite artists of the lady who will eventually get this heart. So there's that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pound Cake

When our daughters were small, one of my favorite things about being their mommy was reading books aloud while they snuggled up to me on the sofa. The Little House books were a family favorite. The books are full of wonderful stories about the beauty and harshness of early American frontier life. They are also chock full of lessons if one is inclined toward that sort of thing. That's how we found the Little House Cookbook, because we were looking for supplemental materials to go along with what we were already reading. The pound cake recipe on page 204 is by far my favorite recipe in the whole book. It's based on the following excerpt from Farmer Boy.

That day they made ice cream again, and ate the last cake. Alice said she knew how to make a pound cake. She said she'd make one, and then she was going to go sit in the parlor.
Almanzo thought that wouldn't be any fun....
That afternoon he came into the kitchen to see if the pound cake was done. Alice was taking it out of the oven. It smelled so good that he broke a little piece off the corner. Then Alice cut a slice to hide the broken place, and then they ate two more slices with the last of the ice cream.
Farmer Boy

Just reading that small bit of Farmer Boy makes me kinda wish I had some little ones to snuggle with on the sofa again. Those years sure were magical, though it's also fun watching our daughters mature into women. Our four grown daughters will be home for Thanksgiving tomorrow - all four! My heart and house will be full.

Pound Cake

1 lb butter (2 cups)
1 lb sugar (2 cups)
1 lb eggs (8 medium eggs)
1 lb flour (4 cups)
grated nutmeg

That's about all there is to it. Cream the butter. Add the sugar. Add eggs one by one. Add flour bit by bit but don't over blend. Mixture will be stiff.

Spoon batter into two bread pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from pan to cool.

The house smells so good when this is baking. It tastes so much better than anything you'd buy at the grocery store.  Sometimes I add a little rum or brandy to the batter (about a cup) but it's quite good without it. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Just One More

Almost every Friday, Tilly gets super groomed so we can go visit folks at Methodist Hospital. She is such a good dog and for the most part loves getting groomed. (The only time she pulls away is when I get to her back paws. I think she's ticklish.) Even though it's exhausting to do all of her grooming myself, the pay off is totally worth it. It's amazing how just seeing a dog walk down a corridor affects people for the better.

The Methodist Hospital staff is great. Therapy dogs have been part of their program for years.  They always encourage us to see just one more patient. Just one more. I love it. So does Tilly. This might be the best volunteer job ever.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Peonies in a Glass Vase

As oft happens (with me), this is the second time I've painted this image, the first being on the art heart in the last post, which, incidentally, is not finished, yet. Per the norm, this one  might or might not be finished, yet, also. (Is that too many commas?) It takes me a while to "see" things that need to be tweaked....if they need tweaking at all. I suppose that sometimes I just need to live with the paintings before deciding if they are properly and completely all the way finished.

For the most part, Peonies in a Glass Vase was really fun to paint. The un-fun part was that the paint dried too quickly to easily manipulate before I had time to get to the whole of it on account of not having large enough chunks of time with which to work. This took hours and hours, too many to count, so I broke it up over several days. It's becoming more and more common for me to take several days working on things....maybe because I'm using larger canvases. (?) Consequently, some parts of this got painted over and over in order to keep blending the oil paints.

This painting is quite large, 29" x 32" give or take a quarter inch. Also, it's painted on wood, which was interesting, too, because the wood grain presented its own challenges with ridges and dips and such. Plus, even though I gessoed the wood (using gesso as a verb), the paint absorbed more into the wood than what usually happens when painting on linen.

Here's something I haven't thought about until this very second. Duh. How on earth am I going to wire this for hanging? Hmm....that could be a problem. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peony For Your Thoughts

This is the beginning of the work for the art heart for the American Heart Association. It's a peony. A peony is a very complicated flower to paint, by the way. It also happens to be the favorite flower for the lady who will receive this heart for her contribution to Go Red for Women.

This is the other side of the heart - peonies in a vase.

Next I get to decide how to complete the background and the sides of the heart, probably with leaves or something. Hopefully I'll dream about it tonight. Solving problems in my dreams is always fun.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Still Got Sole

Even though nothing has been said about this past week, it should come as no surprise that in some regards I made more work for myself than was necessary, and in other regards, got absolutely nothing accomplished. Typical week around here that was full and wonderful, exhausting and refreshing.

The opening reception/retablo extravaganza was last Thursday night at Lawndale Art Center. Daughter Anna and I got there late-ish (on purpose). Here's the requisite artist pose next to my pink chucks retablo while wearing the pink chucks that were the still life for the retablo. Are inanimate objects still a still life if I'm wearing them?

While at the opening, some friends asked me what shoes have to do with Day of the Dead. I told them that I wanted to put extra SOLE in my work. They laughed.

In the spirit of Day of the Dead, the next day I was Anna's model while she painted a skeleton on a black body suit while I was in it. It was a chilly day. The paint went through the fabric to my skin and was wet and cold.  Here I am getting my bone-y @$$ painted, except in real life, my @$$ is not bone-y at all.

After she was finished painting, I had to stay upright and not bend or sit in the skeleton suit until the paint dried. It was really cold and took a long time for the paint to dry.

 This is what the front of the skeleton suit Anna painted looks like. Anna did a great job! The bones suit is for her -- I was just the model -- and even though my bones are shorter than hers, it looks awesome on her when she wears it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sigh Language

Not one of my more brilliant fact, it's quite the opposite. 

First of all, this should not have been a project for indoors though it has been good to be near the bathroom sink. This is way more of a mess and way more trouble than it was supposed to be. The plan was to mix my own colors using house paint instead of oils like I usually do. The only way I could think to economize on the cost of paints for the new big art heart project was to use house paint.

Trying to economize with art supplies has wasted my time, efforts, sanity, and money. Not as much money as if I were using oil paints, but the trade off in the learning curve, time, and confidence might make it worth it to use oils. It's just such an expensive habit to have....being an artist. And then to fail in even a small way is such a waste of valuable resources.

*deep sigh*

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bravery Practice

All of these paint samples are for a big art project, another art heart for the Go Red for Women segment of the local Houston chapter of the American Heart Association. I've been paired with a local patron and will, to the best of my ability, match the style of the heart to her particular likes and tastes which will then be presented to her in gratitude for her financial contribution toward raising awareness for heart health in women.

Before starting on the actual piece, I'm going to paint a similar image (same color scheme) on a piece of plywood just to practice with these paints. The last time I used house paint for an art project I painted the mural on the back of the house. This won't be nearly so large a project as that.

For this project, I bought a basic yellow, red, and blue, then a bunch of neutrals to mix colors. At this point I'm a little intimidated (OK, a lot intimidated) by the project, not only because of the unfamiliarity of working with house paint, but also because the initial drawing for the work is very complicated and detailed with only a slight nuance of color differentiation. It won't be easy. Hopefully the practice painting will help me work through color matching, paint chemistry, paint application, and self confidence issues. Braveness eventually arrives in some form or another when I'm questioning my artistic abilities like this (which happens not infrequently), but certainly not before I actually start the doing of painting. Better get after it. Maybe tomorrow.  :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Self Portrait in Pink....Chucks

This is my retablo for Lawndale Art Center's Dia de los Muertos exhibit. The photo is also a self portrait of sorts. Those are my feet in those pink chucks.

The retablo will be auctioned off at a silent auction on October 25th, though calling it a silent auction seems ridiculous considering how loud and raucous the event is every year. It's a noisy, crowded auction - super fun, but not at all silent. It's Lawndale's annual fund raiser and for the money, one of the best parties in town.

This retablo is 12" x 12" oil on metal on hardboard. Opening bid is $50.

The day is fast approaching when these "dress" shoes will be retired. What a sad day that will be.  I'm getting teary just thinking about it.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Dinner Bell

In my quest to find the best fried chicken in town, and because it came highly recommended, we tried the Dinner Bell Cafeteria last Sunday.We had tried going the week before on a Saturday, but they are closed on Saturday. Duh. How would anyone know that a restaurant would be closed on a Saturday? Apparently it's common knowledge. I've been reluctant to write about our experience because, well, it was less than wonderful.

The Amazing Reese grew up in the east end, and his family would go there every Sunday after church when he was a child. His dad would never order food. He knew that his kids would order more than they could eat, so he waited until they were finished, then he would eat their leftovers. Sounds sensible if you ask me. Apparently the place was hopping in the late 60's early 70's.

We got there between 1:30 and 2 and the place was a like a dark dreary crypt and smelled like the worst part of old, which is incidental considering there's a cemetery just down the road a piece. It was almost groovy, but not quite. Reese did point out the built in ash tray as we walked to the serving line. It wasn't that long ago that restaurants allowed smoking. The decor hasn't changed in decades, if ever. Not that that's a bad thing, but when the vinyl booth seats have duct tape to keep them from splitting further, maybe it's time for a little upgrade. 

Our sole purpose in going there was for the fried chicken. After sitting in the main dungeon of a dining room, we unrolled our silverware. Reese remarked that he was glad that my mother wasn't there. It looked like nothing had been properly cleaned or disinfected in 25 years....maybe more. Still holding out hope that the chicken would be stellar, I bit into a piece. It was properly crunchy...only because it had been sitting under a heat lamp for God knows how long. Underneath the crunch was a layer of chicken jerky and under that, something resembling fried chicken taste. It was really more like they hadn't cleaned the fryer tasted like old fryer grease, not that I've ever tried old fryer grease, but this is what I imagine it would taste like.

Why oh why did we get suckered into sides? Between three of us, we tried the black eyed peas, fried okra, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, and carrots. Nothing was any good. How sad for a cafeteria in the south not to have at least mediocre fried okra and black eyed peas.

It's a flaw in my character (or, depending how one looks at it, really endearing) that I keep expecting something (life, relationships, experiences) to improve when all evidence repeatedly points to the contrary. Hopeful that the bakery would at least redeem our dining experience, I ordered a cookie on the way out. I should have known better. Bleh.

The best thing about the Dinner Bell Cafeteria  was the companionship of the two people who bravely joined me on this quest to find the best fried chicken in town. It's not here. Where next?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Retablo Time

Goodness, can you imagine that I think of what to do with this retablo for a whole year before I work on it? It's true. However, thinking isn't the same as knowing. Even after a whole year, it wasn't until three days ago that I had a clue what to paint on it. It really throws me off when people ask me how long it takes to paint something because sometimes my brain has been ticking and ticking for ever so long that to give an accurate answer seems impossible, believe it or not.

This go around, I marked the tin (steel) with a grid pattern and decided that I wanted to make the retablo a square instead of rectangle. (The retablos are 8" x 10".) So I got out some big @$$ scissors to cut it to a 8" x 8" size. Then I used the same grid, well, not the same because I had to adjust it,  over one of my previous paintings, Pink Chucks,  so basically copied my own painting, which one would think would be simple, but those laces are very complicated, even with the benefit of a grid.

Next, I will cut some wood (or something) to size and mount the painting on that so that the whole thing can be displayed on a wall because this is for Lawndale Art Center for their Dia de los Muertos annual fund raiser. The starting bid for this will probably be $50.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fried Chicken Quest

me: I've been researching fried chicken.
Reese: How to make it?
me: No, where to find the best fried chicken in Houston.

As with all quests, I'm excited to see where this one takes us and super excited to taste my way around town. Our first stop was Frenchy's Chicken on Scott Street, not too far from the University of Houston. It came highly recommended from several sources, word of mouth and the great inter web world.


To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with the taste....with the first piece. For whatever reason, the second piece of chicken was much better. By my third piece, I was a devoted fan. Between the Amazing Reese and me and ten pieces of fried chicken goodness, we managed to eat all but two wings and half a breast.

Of course, who isn't a sucker for sweet potato pie? Having pie with a spork on a picnic blanket under a shade tree is just a bonus.

Where do you think we should go next?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grrrrrreat God

When we got to the Art Car Museum for the "God" exhibit opening reception on Saturday night, Reese stopped outside to grab a bite to eat before coming in, but I was anxious to see the show and so went in without him. The very first thing I saw was Reese's "Hand". I was so excited that I ran outside and hurried Reese in telling him all the while that his "Hand" was the first thing everybody sees!

It's on the glass case to the left of the front door. It really looks groovy in the place. Reese was excited, too.

Also in the entryway, just across from Reese's "Hand" is a delightfully fun piece called "The First Breakfast". It's very clever, with Tony the Tiger sitting in the place of Jesus surrounded by his breakfast cereal character disciples. Honestly, looking at this drawing, I can hear Jesus saying "They’re Grrrrreat!" It makes me smile thinking of Jesus being so enthusiastic. It also makes me hungry for Frankenberry cereal.

And this is little ole goofy me standing in front of "Cottonwood". It sounds silly to put this in writing, it is silly, I mean good grief I'm 48, but last year, I went through a phase where I worked hard to remember to pose in photos like movie stars do in magazines, you know, chin down hand on hip one foot forward whole body at slight angle. Evidently this was not one of those times. Oh, well. And now you know even more about how ridiculous I can be.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cheech and Me

Look who I ran into at the Houston Fine Art Fair! Yep, that's Cheech Marin. When I asked if he'd mind posing with me in a photograph, he readily obliged, then said, "It's $50 or a lap dance - whichever you prefer."  Even though I had the $50, for Cheech Marin to ask this 48 year old lady for a lap dance is, well, that sort of thing just doesn't happen every day. He was a good sport.

Joe's Oleanders by David Bates was my favorite work of art in the whole place. I love everything about it - the colors, the style, the vase, the yellow house, the ocean, the window, the shadows, the clippers, the clouds - it completely and totally fascinates me. If I had an extra $80,000 I would have bought it on the spot.

This was my second favorite piece. It was probably called Yellowstone Pine (?) though I don't actually remember. The artist was represented by Santa Fe Gallery and can be relatively easily researched. (My friend Joan got a pamphlet from the gallery.)

It was so much fun going with an art friend who was excited to see works in person that she had previously only seen in print or online. Joan knew much more than I did about many of the artists we were seeing and her enthusiasm was contagious. Thanks, Joan.

In no particular order, here are some other personal highlights from the fair.

Joan said that I liked this one because it had a blue tree. Maybe. 

Who can resist an adorable bronze miniature horse? So cute.

This was a John Alexander piece. It's bound to be called Waterlilies or something to that effect. (I didn't read the card all that closely.) Recognized it from a ways away, though, probably because the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston had an exhibit of his work not too long ago.

This piece was made from spools of thread. In front of it was a tiny concave glass so that when you looked in the small glass, the image was upright. It was fascinating enough that it was made with spools of thread. I have no idea why the artist would choose to display it upside down like this and add the concave glass. Novelty?

This is a piece made from one inch painted tiles by Nemo Jantzen. The effect he gets from solid color tiles is incredible. It needs space to be appreciated.

This piece was painted on watercolor paper. The blue lines of the "notebook paper" were pieces of thread stretched across the page. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the painted figure is catching drops of blue lines which is making a puddle at his feet. Very clever.

Also, Cheech loves Texas.

Editor's note:  Many of you have commented on Cheech asking me for a lap dance. Yes, he really said that, but considering he started his career as a stoned comedian, it felt like part of his act. I was amused. 

My guess is that it's one of several witty replies in his arsenal for when people ask him for an autograph or photo. It evidently offends some people, which weeds out (so to speak) who actually stays for the photo op. 

Also, when I told the Amazing Reese what Cheech said, he laughed out loud, like the Amazing Reese he is. It didn't bother him a bit.

Cheech is highly regarded as having one of the finest collections of Chicano art in the United States. The way he lives his life as a fully creative person, comedian, actor,  director, writer, musician, and art collector is inspiring. What I'm trying to say is that he's more than the comment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hold His Hand

This is a first. Both the Amazing Reese and I will have a piece in the Art Car Museum's "God" exhibit. The opening reception is this coming Saturday, September 15th from 7-10pm.

It will be curious to see how other artists interpret this very personal theme. Compartmentalizing God in a two dimensional format was almost too much for my brain to process.

The piece of mine that will be exhibited through December 15th is "Cottonwood". It is to symbolize one small facet of the beauty of God's creation.

Reese's piece is called "Hand" and is made from a coat hanger with a brick base. You can see him holding his hand (holding His hand?) standing in the long line at the Art Car Museum to deliver our pieces. Reese has long been a coat hanger artist. He uses coat hangers for everything. Not even kidding.

Besides the opening reception on Saturday night at the Art Car Museum, where, of course, we'd love to see you, we will also be volunteering at Saint Arnold Brewing Company on Saturday morning and afternoon. I'll be in the front handing out glasses and tokens. Reese will be a tank farmer. Taps are open from 11am - 3. Should be a fun Saturday. 

Sunday, September 09, 2012


There are times in my artistic pursuit when I struggle so much over a particular painting that it absolutely and completely blocks ALL forms of creativity. Ugh. What's to be done?

I'll tell you what....better yet, I'll show you. This.

A 50 gallon drum would be better for this sort of thing, but the grill worked just fine. Yes, the garden hose was running for safety reasons. All in all, this was a very worthwhile and satisfying way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Next week, here I come.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Does your list look like this?

1. build boxes for paintings
2. mail paintings
3. check volunteer dates
4. e-mail Lawndale about volunteering
5. e-mail Pam and Valerie about iPub
6. write blog entry about ___?
7. empty dish washer
8. think of something for supper
9. tidy house
10. do something about organizing upstairs bathroom
11. tweet/facebook for old blue jeans
12. donate clothes to goodwill
13. or suffer mild humiliation by "selling" clothes to buffalo
14. make boxes
15. figure out how to do the God art project
16. e-mail lady about website
17. put assorted art deadlines on calendar
18. paint
19. write blog entry....

Two days later....
1. fail
2. obviously fail
3. what does this even mean?
4. check
5. no
6. _______? still nothing
7. yes!
8. yes
9. sort's better than it was
10. nope
11. yes. I should do that again, though....put this on new list
12. not yet
13. definitely no
14. still no
15. kind of....I know what to do just not how to do it, so no
16. nope
17. no
18. yes and no
19. this will have to do

Friday, August 24, 2012

Perchance to Dream

The setting in this painting is part real and part imagination. Believe it or not, I am only just now realizing that this is a trend in my work, to paint partly what's there and not the whole scene. Until now, I've excused it by saying that I only paint what I see.....but maybe it would be more accurate to say that while my paintings are based in reality, there is a healthy dose of imagination thrown in....which pretty much sums up the way I live. 

This is a real live tree here in Houston and I love it. This is what it would look like if it were in a natural setting, which it is, just not this natural setting, which isn't entirely true. It does look like this. But because of its surroundings, it also looks like something else entirely considering that some major identifiers as to its location have been purposefully omitted.

It's 30" x 30" oil on linen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Supper and a Song

Remember that scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" when George and Mary are dancing the Charleston at the high school dance? A crowd clears a space around them while they are dancing and cheers. George looks at Mary and says, "They're cheering us. We must be good!" What George and Mary don't see is that while they are dancing, the floor over the swimming pool is opening, and each time the crowd cheers it's because George and Mary narrowly miss falling in the pool.

A couple of months ago, Reese was asked by someone at church if he would perform for a new event they were trying called Supper and a Song. He replied by saying something to the effect that Sarah plays the ukulele and we'd love to play a few songs. Playing music is one of our favorite things we do together. Even though we've gone busking, normally we just sit in the comfort of our living room with the captive audience of whoever happens to have been invited over for the night.

Reese and I picked three of our favorite songs to perform and amped up the practice. We play these songs ALL the time and in the comfort of our living room, dare I say it, we sound pretty good.

There was a time back in the day when I was a little better than adequate as a singer. In junior high and high school I was in several choirs, and can still remember (and sing) the alto harmony for several 70's era pop songs. Those days are long gone. Reese, on the other hand, has a beautiful voice. When he sings, he gets frequent and regular compliments.

As Reese and I were practicing for the Supper and a Song performance, he would look over at me, smile and say, "Sing, Sarah!" I'd mumble sing, content to let him shine, for he really does have a lovely singing voice. When we got to church for rehearsal 30 minutes before show time, it was the first time I had heard myself mic'd. Perfectly content to stand beside Reese and play, I was completely unprepared for the sound of my voice booming back to me over a PA system. To say I was mortified is an understatement. Reese sweetly whispered to me that if I didn't sing, he was going to announce to the audience that I sing along with him. When I complained to Lance the head sound guy, he told me that he asked Chris the secondary sound guy to turn up my mic on purpose. What? Now, the Amazing Reese loves me. I know that. But why on earth did he insist that I sing along with him when he knows what I sound like? And why did Lance have Chris turn up my mic? It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

To both Reese's and my absolute delight, the first act performed while the crowd was talking and eating. This was great! If we could be background performers with hardly anyone paying attention, all the better. This might not be so bad after all.

After a short intermission, a 16 year old young lady named Grace (even her name is pretty) walked on stage, sat behind a grand piano, started singing and playing her original compositions. She was incredible - beautiful face, beautiful voice, and beautiful spirit. It was so lovely. Wouldn't you know it? The crowd settled in and actually started paying attention. Reese and I were up next.

First of all, whoever put us on after Grace, well, our style couldn't be any more opposite. As Reese aptly explained to the gathered crowd (250 people!), Grace's performance was Jones Hall champagne worthy. The best they were going to get out of us was beer at the Alabama Ice House. We performed  three songs - We're Going to be Friends by the White Stripes,  You've Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story, and That's Amore.  Somehow, it's all a blur, we fumbled through and made it back to our seats. The audience applauded, but I figured they were just being polite - not that there's anything wrong with that! We could all use a little more politeness and courtesy in this world. We had just settled in back at our table (I was trying to make myself smaller and dying a little bit on the inside) when there was a tap on my shoulder.  Turning around, a bouquet of flowers was presented to me by Sam, the dearest of friends. If kindness can slap someone in the face, this is how to do it. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you, Sam (and Mary!)

In the early part of this week, I thought of how unprofessional and goofy we must have seemed, especially when compared to the other, more polished performers that night. (Why, oh why am I comparing us to others? That's never a good thing.) Then yesterday, we actually received a very sweet thank you note (our first fan mail!) for just being who we are - Alabama Ice House kind of people. My head still thinks that any accolades are probably (maybe, maybe not) because we were dancing so close to the edge of the pool, then fell in backwards. But in my heart, like George Bailey, I prefer to think, "They're cheering us. We must be good!" So all in all, in spite of nervousness and (lots of) mistakes, we sure did have fun. *shrugs shoulders* Come on in! The water's fine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Boulevard Oaks

For whatever reason, I keep painting trees. It must be a phase. At this point, I have  two more tree paintings already planned and sketched, just waiting for the time to put into the actual painting part. These are some of the lovely oak trees from a boulevard in a neighborhood in Houston called Boulevard Oaks. Redundant, but a lovely part of town none the less.

Instead of painting this week, daughter Hilary and I have appointments for cake tasting and going for round one of her trying on wedding dresses. For my part, I found my mother of the bride dress last week in a consignment shop. It's a beautiful vintage (late 60's, early 70's) pink silk dress with beading around the collar and sleeve edges. It fits perfectly, was only $24, and is bride to be approved! I'm still on the lookout for shoes, but at least there's time to shop. Silver slippers with a small heel would be ideal.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Let's Be Friends

Backstory, Part 2

With a little bit of island fever, which is what happens when mainlanders feel stuck on an island, I wasn't ready to go back to Hawaii after a month of "nannying" in Aspen. It's been 28 years since this story began, I don't remember all of the details, but from January to May, I traveled, lived, and worked in Oklahoma at a pizza place, in Washington DC at a place called The Cedars accompanied by volunteer work at a soup kitchen on 3rd Street downtown. In the Chicago area I helped cook and clean for a family who lived between Winnetka and Wilmette. I stayed with Stan and Mary in Kansas City. That was my favorite. They graciously assimilated me into their family life. I love them. From there, my time line might be wonky, but basically from there I got a job at a Covenant Heights Camp on the top of the mountain in Estes Park, Colorado. That's another (small) story.

All this time, I had been keeping up with a few friends from the church in Aspen. Letters. We wrote letters back in the day. When these friends invited me to a young adults camp out retreat during spring melt, I hitchhiked to get there. (Did you know that, Dad, that I hitchhiked?) The retreat was just off the road in a clearing up towards Ashcroft. By the time I arrived, everyone was setting up tents and campers, but there were two guys off in the aspens setting up what I came to find out was called a "lean to." It was just a tarp strung between two trees and tied off at an angle. Who sleeps like that? What about bugs and snakes and bears? Ugh. One of these guys came bounding out of the woods across the meadow, all long limbed, wearing overalls with shaggy blond hair  and a huge enthusiastic smile to introduce himself. It was the Amazing Reese, only I didn't know how amazing he was, yet. If I were to draw a super hero character of the Amazing Reese, he would look like he did that first time I met him, only shirtless, which will be explained in the next paragraph.

Now Reese had grown up camping. He joined boy scouts just so he could go camping. He likes to joke that he was the oldest Tenderfoot in the troop. He didn't care at all about badges, but please let him go camping. This, on the other hand, was my very first camping trip EVER. I was so grossed out by the filth factor that I even went into town the next morning to shower. Thankfully, I made it back in time to watch Reese, in his overalls and shirtless, cook scrambled eggs over the camp fire the next morning. Mmm, mmm good. His long and lean muscles had been chiseled from carpentry work the previous  summer and a long winter of cross country skiing. It looked good on him and I wasn't the only female to notice. The eggs were delicious, too.

During some getting to know you chit chat, I asked Reese where he lived in town. Normal enough question, but he was cagey in his reply. He told me where and I asked, "Oh, those apartments on the right?" He said, "No." So I asked, "Then is it that house down on the left?" He said, "No." I said, "Well, I know the area, and there's nothing between those apartments and that house." He reluctantly and rather sheepishly said, "You know that stream that goes under the road? If you follow that stream up about 20 yards, then jump over it, there's a little clearing. In that clearing is a platform I built. And on the platform, is my tent. That's where I live." OK, I thought. This guy really likes camping.

At church retreats, it's usual to have a speaker focus on a particular topic for the weekend. That weekend, the topic was friendship. The speaker discussed different examples of friendships in the Bible, buddy buddy friendships, romantic friendships, and friendships centered on another's spiritual well being. The idea was that we live in a disjointed society with people moving in and out of our lives, and unless we really commit to friendships, we can easily lose our way in this great big world. I went to six different schools growing up, so the idea of  working toward a "staying connected" friendship appealed to me.

There were no big sparks. At the time, I was sort of dating someone else. But I liked Reese well enough. He was enthusiastic, kind, thoughtful, and helpful. Plus, he knew how to scramble eggs over a campfire. That's a skill worth something. He must have liked me at least a little bit, too. By the end of the weekend, with the idea of friendship on our hearts and minds, just before I put my thumb out to hitchhike back to Estes Park, Reese and I looked at each other and said, "Let's be friends." I think we shook hands to seal the deal. So, that's how we met and became almost instant friends. And we've been best friends ever since. But falling in love? That's another story.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Backstory

One of the things I've wanted to do since I was a teenager was write a book. In a few months, I'll be 49, and it's about time some effort got put into this dream. Maybe not like every writer, I don't know, but a big hindrance has been trying to formulate or even think of what to say.

When I tell stories in real life, in the living room over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, there's a give and take, an ebb and flow, especially when the Amazing Reese and I are telling different viewpoints of the same how we met.

It's a simple enough story. This is how it begins. When Reese was growing up his family went snow skiing quite a few times. Because Reese is from a big family, they would drive from Houston to somewhere in New Mexico, like Angel Fire or Taos, and sleep in the pop up camper. It was so cold at night that if Reese left a glass of water by his bedside, it would be frozen solid in the morning. On one of these ski trips, Reese's brother Claude brought a neighborhood friend, Robert Woodson. Turns out it was Robert's first time ever to go skiing. He fell in love with the sport, eventually becoming a ski instructor, traveling the world to ski winters in both hemispheres.

Because Reese grew up in Houston where it hardly ever snows, he was enchanted by the adventurous life Robert was living in perpetual snow. He asked Robert where in the world he could live in snow country and get a job? Robert told him that he could always find a job in Aspen. So one November, just before Thanksgiving, Reese moved to Aspen and within a few days had a job making sandwiches at a butcher shop.

From Hawaii, I came to to the mainland initially for a conference, after which I was invited to spend the month of January with my parent's friends while they vacationed in Aspen. How cool is that? What hadn't been communicated to me was that I was to be the live in nanny for their three small children. Classic bait and switch.

The only social outlet I had during that month was going to church with the family on Sundays and one church sanctioned young adults meeting on a week night. I met some really wonderful people during that month, and even though Reese went to the same church and we had the same friends, Reese and I didn't meet each other that winter.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Trash or Treasure?

I've been cleaning out the studio of things I don't use or need anymore. Is my trash your treasure? If so, come and get it. This lot includes old sketchbooks, house paint, oil paints, books on funding, broken plates and dishes, pastels, a portable box easel, an abstract painting, and a portfolio bag. It's yours for the taking.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Almost every weekend, the Amazing Reese and I walk Tilly to Rice University for some off leash time. They have expansive green spaces and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the students, with very few exceptions, are still sleeping. It's a lovely campus.

Week after week on our walks, we've watched the new James Turrell Skyspace being built. James Turrell designed the coolest tunnel under Main Street between the two buildings of the Museum of Fine Arts. It's exotic. So when this new skyspace was finally opened to the public, of course we wanted to see it.

The deal is, the "light show"for the new skyspace happens at dawn and dusk. I had read that people needed reservations for the show at dusk. Really?

Maybe it was because we were there at 5:20 in the morning after a late, restless night. Maybe it was the heat and brightness of the neon....and the bugs attracted to that.  Maybe it was the long list of don'ts positioned next to each entrance. Maybe it was because we weren't expecting the light show to be SO tediously SLOW.  Whatever it was, our first experience at the James Turrell's Skyspace at Rice University was underwhelming. 

It looks like a spaceship designed by math geeks, which I suppose is appropriate, since Rice is full of Math PhD candidates and Houston is Space City. 

We haven't written the experience off completely. We'll find our Zen and give it another the dusk...after which we'll walk to Valhalla for a pint. That should be more fun.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sticks and Stones

What do y'all do when you find out that someone is trash talking you behind your back? My natural inclination is to let it go and ignore it. But what good does that do? Is it worth correcting the false story and defending oneself?

It stands to reason that the person who is being maligned must apparently be intriguing enough for people to think about them all the time. So, maybe hearing false rumors about oneself is a good thing? Hm, how has it happened that I hadn't thought about that until now? Maybe Oscar Wilde was right when he said,

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Life with Friends

So many dear friends came to the Archway Gallery opening that it has been difficult figuring out how to document the night.

Well, obviously, it is a completely different show than last year - different juror, different art, different artists. 47 works of art were selected for this show out of over 200 (less than 300) works submitted. (I've gotten two numbers for actual submissions - 240something and 280ish.) Either way, I'm absolutely thrilled to have been included.

The juror, Julie Farr wasn't able to make it to the opening reception. Someone else read her remarks about the art and her selections for prizes. First place went to a lovely piece of glass work called "Bee Box Reconfigured." That Julie wasn't there was the only damper on an otherwise very exciting evening. I really wanted to thank her and hopefully glean any bit of wisdom from her about art in general, and my piece in particular. It just so happens that we were both at a different art event last night so I was at least able to thank her for including "Sunset at Hermann Park" in the show.

One of my favorite stories from the night didn't actually happen until the next day.  The next morning, my friend  Tim, who was solo for the night because his wife and kids were out of town, played a piano piece at church inspired by the art in the show. It was, well, inspired, and so lovely. It's such fun when arts collide and such a blessing to have so many talented friends.

As part of Art Houston, an art crawl type event in which over 30 galleries participate, there's a second opening reception of the Fourth Annual Juried Exhibition tomorrow night. If you didn't get a chance to see the show last Saturday, or if it was too crowded to see the actual art in the exhibit, come on by Saturday, the 14th. Give me a shout and I'll meet you there.

Houston is the longest I've lived in any one place and for being the fourth largest city in the United States, (how many times have I said this?), it sure is a small town. In the above picture are dear friends Joni and Chris, who we've known for years yet hardly ever see, who came clear across town to support Team Hazel. Aren't they cute? Reese and I first met them when we were skinny, had two (of four) daughters, and my hair was still black. Imagine that! To give an idea where my painting is in the gallery, to the right of Chris (Chris' left) is the front door. In the background between Joni and Chris on that middle wall, you can recognize the painting. Again, what a blessing friends are!

For your viewing pleasure, here's a link to an album from the opening reception uploaded on facebook. (Archway Gallery Reception)

Also, besides tomorrow night, I'm happy to meet anyone at Archway Gallery to view the show. It's up until August 2nd.