29 February 2016

day trip to Round Top

On Saturday, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, we drove to Round Top in search of antique lamps. Bill's woodshop, built two years ago with a wrap-around porch, still is lacking outdoor lighting (except for a motion-detected security light). What he really wants is two matching antique train lamps with reflectors that he can convert to electricity. We have been in search for them ever since.

We have also wanted to eat at the well-known Royer's Cafe for two years . . . every time we were in the wee town, they've been closed. With only 10 tables, this gourmet restaurant typically has over an hour wait-time to be seated, and they sit you "cruise ship style", several guests together at each table. They were open Saturday and we got on the waiting list . . . 1 1/2 hour wait as we wondered the various antique and art shops.

We wondered for only an hour, then seating on the old porch opened up so we sat on a vintage glider as I sketched. The oversized chair is "Bud the Pieman's" throne; he's the owner of the cafe.

Walls (and ceilings!) are absolutely covered, inside and out. Bill especially likes this sign so I sketched it for him. The food is delicious and we both ordered pie as well . . . I ordered a slice of this junk berry pie, named for the Junk Gypsies whose shop is nearby.

Oh, and those lamps? Bill DID find them this time and he's as excited as a little kid! They are my next sketching subject.

26 February 2016

garden work

Weather has been gradually warmer and sunnier, though some nights are still a bit cold. But we went ahead and bought our replacement rose shrubs --- we can always throw protection over them if nights get down in the 30's. The roses from the nearby Antique Rose Emporium are always so healthy, many of them grown from roses found on abandoned farmsteads all over Texas, and many still retain the original scents. I hate the newer hybrids that have lost all scent.

I had one overgrown pot of aloe vera also. When we gently pulled the plant out of the container (after a couple of rounds of fire-ant killer as they had taken occupancy) there were enough starts to fill SIX pots, four of which were larger than the original!

The original aloe plant was grown from off the house plant our son-in-law Michael took to college with him in the 1990's. I kept it alive as a house plant but it never grew beyond 6 to 8" high with very thin blades. After moving to Texas, we left the pot outside in the sun (covering during cold snaps) . . . and two years later, it is thriving as a huge, healthy beast!

24 February 2016

Ganoderma lucidum . . . or a good cup of tea

Recently Bill and I have been drinking coffee or tea from Organo Gold. Both have an oriental fungus in them, the Lingzhi mushroom, also called Ganoderma lucidum. Bill has also been taking the spore powder in capsule form when his muscles are especially achy.

This stuff really seems to work to ease sore muscles! It is also supposed to strengthen the immune system. I like the green tea and the red tea, while Bill prefers one of their coffees.

23 February 2016

this and that

I know it's silly but after several weeks using the same palette (in this case, the Whiskey Painter's palette), I tend to switch to a different one. Especially silly because my core colors of choice are all the same. But it keeps my "toys" fresh and new to me . . .

This time I wished to go back to using full-sized pans, at least for the basic triad colors. So I emptied the crayons out of a small Neocolor II watercolor crayon tin and popped in a warm and a cool of red, yellow, and blue, plus burnt sienna. Then added three more neutrals just for convenience. Then added two greens, likewise. a bit of sponge, a pencil, and a couple of travel brushes and I think I'm done. For now.

Last Friday (that date should read 19!), after buying groceries at HEB, we went on an impromptu picnic at Fireman's Park in Brenham. Every Friday during Lent, the grocery chain offers fresh fried fish dinners at the exit --- the fish is very good! So we purchased a two-piece meal to share, as the portions are very generous.

One of the oldest buildings in the park has this interesting stone lintel over the door so I chose to sketch it. One of the few stone buildings of the many around town that does not include petrified wood in the stone work.

21 February 2016

a day in the park

Yesterday, as Bill and our son Matt worked at tiling a new shower, daughter-in-law Misty, grandson Quen, and grand-puppy Scout went to Pflugerville Park. I sketched the vinca blossom first and painted it . . . then began to draw what was in front of me. Drawing the lady in a wheelchair as she watched her grandson play on the equipment was an easy choice --- she didn't move as much as the children! I decided to use a water-soluble ink and keep the background in black & white . . . just to be different.

19 February 2016

an early Texas dandelion . . .

. . . also known as a false dandelion. A full month early, this is actually from a couple of weeks ago; I just took a long time trying to get the colors right. I liked the moss-covered brick and concrete behind the wildflower, but just couldn't get the texture how I wanted it without detracting from the flower being the main subject. I was also fascinated by the dark shadows that did not seem to match the flower or leaves.

Along our farm road, I have noticed the first Indian paintbrushes popping out, also a month early. We have had a very mild winter here in south central Texas.

17 February 2016

recent purchases

My inexpensive JinHao x750 fountain pens arrived while we were gone, ordered after seeing a YouTube video showing how to make these cheap pens into flex nib pens by switching out the regular nib with a Zebra G flex nib (sold in a 10-pack for under $10 at JetPens.com). The red JinHao x750 cost under $4; with the nib costing $1, that makes the modified pen under $5.00 -- and the flex is amazing! The pen also comes with a converter already in it, ready to fill with fountain pen ink.

I've tried Noodler's flex pens but have never been happy with the ink-filling systems. This one fills similar to a Lamy Safari pen and seems to hold a good amount of ink without leakage.

The gold pen, also a JinHao x750, cost a few dollars more because it said it came with a bent nib which I wanted to try out. Unfortunately, the seller sent the wrong item and it has a regular nib. I have been trying to work with them to get the bent nib that was supposed to come with it but nothing yet. The seller is apparently Chinese (though I bought it through Amazon) and communication has been spotty. If I can't get the correct nib, I'll put another of the flex nibs in it.

Yesterday we also bought a dwarf holly shrub to replace a photinia shrub that died in the heavy rains . . . then found out that Bill is apparently allergic to it. So if we trim it, I'll be the one handling the branches. (I prefer a natural growth anyway.) And a huge bag of potting soil --- now I'm off to re-pot a much-overgrown aloe vera plant.

16 February 2016

home to Texas

Finally on the long drive home to Texas, we were surprised at how many wind farms have popped up, often on both sides of Interstate 35 allowing us to see the structures up close. In the big open spaces I have no problem with these behemoths; they even have a fluid grace about them. But they have also taken over the scenic views of the Arbuckle Wilderness in southern Oklahoma! The one place of beauty on the long drive through the state. That sign in the right sketch actually reads "scenic turnout, 1 mile" and the whole view is busy with turning wind generators.

Crossing over the Red River into Texas, I actually felt lifted up inside. How I have come to love this new home state of ours! North of Dallas, the highway splits into east and west; driving either way can get us home and we had decided to take the east route this time. But just north of the fork, we were warned that an 18-wheeler accident had closed that freeway so we took the left through Fort Worth instead. Being tired from the long day of driving, we stopped for the night at Alvarado . . . and we were spoiled rotten! The Super 8 motel was hidden behind a huge RV dealership and was almost missed -- I had once worked at a Super 8 and had no high expectations but we just wanted a bed for the night. What a surprise! During our week we had stayed at three other motels and this last one was one of the least expensive and the very best! They gave us what we would call a suite -- very comfortable with lots of extras.

Then for dinner, we ate at Benny's, an Italian / Mexican restaurant (I know, what an odd combination!) that was sublime! Worth going back to just for a meal. A wonderful time of refreshing; the next morning at breakfast, I enjoyed trading stories with the night auditor, who had the same job I had once had back in Kansas.

I did bring a little bit of Arkansas back with me, in the form of petrified wood and rocks. Bill teased that their weight would tip the truck over the limit --- he had brought back a metal lathe that is easily over 1000 lbs. Forty miles-per-hour winds literally blew us straight south through Kansas, Oklahoma, and as far as Alvarado, making the flag in the second post above stand out very straight. When driving on a southwest portion of I-35, we had some scary side-winds fighting the truck's load. But winds lessened by the next day and we made it home safely.

15 February 2016

I think we're back in Kansas . . .

. . . and without clicking my red shoes together. In fact, I didn't even bring them on this trip.

After helping our friends settle in somewhat (still a mountain of boxes to go through), we drove on to El Dorado and Wichita to visit my mom and friends. Driving through the southern Flint Hills and farmlands, I'm struck at how bleak the color seems after living in so much green. And I miss the many trees of Texas!

13 February 2016

two of my pals

We arrived to our friend's home, one day before the movers were to arrive, with almost nothing packed. So their daughter, Bill, and I worked feverishly at boxing things up. (They own three households-worth of kitchen stuff alone!)

When the movers arrived, we shut their husky-corgi mix dog along with two of their daughter's chihuahuas in a back bedroom (she had two with her and two more at home -- all have sweet personalities!). Then, when they needed to work in that bedroom, I kept Maggie, Baby, and Lucie-Loo on leashes in an out-of-the-way spot. All three determined to be lap puppies, with Baby attempting to be "King of the hill" by climbing above the rest!

Poor Maggie is showing a bit of stress as her owners face various stages of dementia. She loves them dearly and is very protective of them; it's confusing for her to see them scream at each other. Where are the caring, loving people she knows?

12 February 2016

driving Arkansas roads

Driving the Arkansas Ozarks is always lovely. I had never been here in the winter before --- there is less color but it is still beautiful.

Sketching in a moving truck proved a bit too bumpy so I snapped several photos through the windshield to sketch from later. Afterwards, it seemed all I got were shots of roads curving right; I'm sure we must have curved the other way at some point!

I brought back several large rocks / petrified wood from our friends' rock garden. We have a planting bed next to our cabin that gets flooded when it rains, and had decided to put in a rock garden with a few containers there. So now I have large specimen rocks for that area. Bill teased that my rocks were putting the weight limit over the top --- nothing to do with that industrial metal lathe he brought back, right? It only tips the scale somewhere over 1000 lbs. after all.

One of these days, I will sketch a few of the rocks.

09 February 2016

travel essentials ready to go . . .

. . . except that I found no time to actually sketch. We traveled to Arkansas to help a dear friend (actually we adopted her as our sister) move her parents, both dealing with dementia, to Kansas. And that was quite an adventure!

An example of what we walked into: the day before the movers were scheduled to arrive, our friend's dad yelled at her, saying he told her to pack up the kitchen stuff --- every plate she put into a box, her mother took out and placed back in the cupboard, telling her to stop or she'd slap her.

But we eventually got things packed up, with the help of a very gracious team of movers, and helped them get settled in their new house in Kansas. Then a quick trip over to Wichita to see my mom and then visit my dad & step-mom. We even got to spend time with our dearest friends from El Dorado and Bill visited several old work buddies --- we squeezed quite a lot into one day.

All I got sketched was the first pages of my new journal, showing the supplies I packed in my bag. But I took photos to draw in the book now that we are again home, to document the trip. It is a very long drive, made longer when an 18-wheeler crashed with a cement truck north of Dallas, closing a main freeway right as we were coming up to it. 

40-mile-an-hour winds literally blew us home as well, complicating the load in the back of the truck, a small industrial metal lathe that was given to Bill. And 7 petrified wood "rocks" that I kept from Arkansas for a new rock garden I'm putting in. Of course, they are what Bill said was tipping our weight over the maximum allowed in his truck!

02 February 2016

some January roses

Through the month of January I sort of collected some of the local roses that continued to bloom in spite of some actual wintery night temperatures, sketching them on the last 2-page spread of this journal. Our first winter in the area roses all went dormant but this year has been mostly mild with occasional rainfall. Our rose shrubs that died did so more from too much rain.

I usually use the very last end paper pages for random information, quotes, testing colors and inks, and a few random sketches. Rarely is there visible space left --- blame it on my being too busy packing for a road trip. I'm taking a new journal and didn't wish to carry both with me.

01 February 2016

a turquoise day

Lately I seem to be drawn to all things turquoise. Wearing a favorite Mexican peasant skirt at church yesterday (it reached over 80 degrees -- sandal weather!), I then drew the necklace I was wearing . . . then a quick sketch of my new favorite purse that Bill gave me for Christmas . . . . I have even gone back to using an old hand-thrown turquoise tea mug!

I love the John Singer Sargent quote on the upper left page, found recently online: "You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh."
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