31 March 2016

ordering tea & other tea tales

I have not found a local source to purchase one of my favorite teas, Earl Grey Green. The absolute best of this blend is the loose leaf variety made by Taylors of Harrogate! In Kansas, the "local" source was actually about a 3-hour drive to Kansas City, but we were passing through on our way to sketchcrawls with Cathy "Kate" Johnson anyway.

In the Kansas City Plaza there was a cheese shop called The Better Cheddar which carried a large assortment of Taylors teas, both loose leaf and tea bags.

While tea bags are handy to pop in my purse and go, the full flavor of the tea is usually better when brewing loose leaves. I have amassed several infusers for the purpose.

 (An exception would be those tea bags generally shaped like pyramids, like this tea bag from T2 that Australian artist Liz Steel gave me. She was on an extended visit to the United States and made a stopover in Kansas City for a quick sketchcrawl with Kate and me.)

I used to steep loose leaves of tea in this spoon-shaped infuser, but Liz taught me that it is too "cramped", not allowing the leaves to expand for the best flavor.

 So I now own several infusers that allow leaves to expand. Including the glass infuser that fits in its own glass teapot that my daughter gave me for my birthday.

Anyway, I began ordering tea on Amazon, being unable to find what I want in local stores. I was specifically looking for Taylors loose-leaf Earl Grey Green but could only find it offered in teabags. So I also tried a loose leaf of the same flavor from The English Tea Store. After sampling both, with and without a bit of milk added, I've come to the conclusion that Taylors, even in a teabag, is way better than English Tea Store in loose leaf!

 Even wee Jeremiah enjoys a good cuppa as he sits on my kitchen shelf.

30 March 2016

eating out with friends

After meeting together for our regular prayer meeting on Monday, some of us went out to eat lunch at the local Mexican ("Tex-Mex", that is) restaurant. I would like to lose some weight so instead of mindlessly nibbling on tortilla chips and salsa, I started drawing the colorful birds hanging from the ceiling.

29 March 2016

sketches from Resurrection Sunday

Each of ladies attending church this week received an Easter lily . . .  and hiding inside was a sugary Peeps chick! Ms. B.J. is very clever at putting things like this together. Men were given a wee bag of "Scripture seeds" (like candy corn) and children were given lambs on a stick made of marshmallows.

Following the church service, we all drove to Lake Somerville for baptisms. Among those being baptized was the Pastor's youngest grandson Blake -- brought a huge grin to the Pastor! Our eldest granddaughter Mikala was also baptized on this special day, following sunrise service at her home church in Houston. Seems a great way to celebrate the Resurrection!

26 March 2016

a couple of sketches from this week

I only managed to do two sketches this past week, being Very Distracted by itchy bug bites. We had such a mild winter that fleas, chiggers, and other wee bitey-things never died off. It seems every time I go outside, they find me to feast on!

I drew the above sketch during church last Sunday . . . just my purse, a fountain pen, and my iPod containing my Bibles. Years ago I signed up for Olive Tree's Bible Study app, back when it was on a PDA. The app transfers to each new device I get; I have many versions on my iPod, so whichever version is used at church (changes from week-to-week), I can follow along.

Then on Thursday we drove out to the Pastor's place, where I met these sweet beasts, Cheese and Crackers. Fell in Love with Cheesey! He loves snuggling up to people, then leaning his head up for kisses on his nose. Also loves his ears rubbed! Crackers is a bit more timid.

23 March 2016

a cheap journal, just for fun

While shopping at Hobby Lobby with a granddaughter recently, I saw this burlap-covered journal on sale for half-price (only $4.00). Even though the burlap is only glued to a cardboard cover, I thought it might make a fun cover for my handbound books.

Expecting the paper to be cheap, unusable for watercolor and ink, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually acceptable paper! On the thin side, but without bleed-through and with very little wrinkling when using watercolor.

So, just for fun, I've decided to use this as my next art journal, using the existing paper. Because of the thinness, I plan to use only one side for sketching and the reverse side for text only.

First I used the last page in the book to test various pens, pencils, watercolor crayons, and watercolor. The only thing that did not pass the test was pencil -- the paper appears too soft for pencil or eraser.

This is using the watercolor on the dry side; I don't expect to try using really wet, juicy washes on this thin paper.

The ring-bound paper is held in by a simple strap sewn to the back of the cover --- makes it easy to switch if I wanted to replace the paper with my own book block.

And, as per my normal habit, the first page includes my current working palette of colors. I will later add "if lost" contact info on this page. As seen in the photo below, there is no bleed-through of paint or ink on the second page.

On the third page, I drew what just came in the mail: a couple of standard cartridge converter from Goulet Pens, to replace the cheaply made plastic converter that came with my cheap Jinhao fountain pen that I converted to a flex-nib pen.

Now I have this $4 journal to go with my $4.50 Jinhao fountain pen ($3.50 plus $1 for the flex nib) --- and a cherry lollypop from Goulet Pens as a bonus!

22 March 2016

beginning of spring, end of journal

I found these bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush while walking Ceilidh around our neighborhood yesterday. The paintbrushes have been blooming for a couple of weeks and the bluebonnets are just beginning their glorious season. Everywhere we drive lately, there is the beginning of blue pastures with spots of orange-red, sometimes a bit of pink or yellow added. If you look hard enough, you can find wildflowers in central Texas any month of the year, but springtime is the best!

This is also the end of this handbound journal. As usual, the back pages were used for random testing of materials and verses or quotes that 'spoke' to me in a special way at the time. Here, I was testing gray and black pens for 'bleed', as well as testing white pens. BTW, the Uniball Signo white gel pen came out the absolute winner for smoothness and opacity of line!

These pages also reveal my messiness in binding my own journals! The final white page's lower edge was torn badly __ I typically tear down full sheets of watercolor paper for the uneven edges __ and the outer spine binding had to be glued after the endpapers were glued in place due to my clumsy forgetfulness. But it is what it is and I use them anyway. 'Not perfect' is a good place to be.

21 March 2016

Sunday sketches

A bit of doodling and sketching from yesterday . . . and a bit more after a day of driving, fetching our Scottish terrier, Ceilidh, home from college. She has been on an extended stay with our youngest son who is finishing his courses at Stephen F. Austin university in Nacogdoches.

(I call it doodling if drawn more from my mind, sketching if from on site or from photos.)

19 March 2016

spur-of-the-moment trip to Houston

After dealing with a frustrating, badly written blueprint for a woodworking project, Bill needed to get away. So we drove to our daughter's, where they had just cut down a small tree (Michael was asked to remove it when it popped up as a small weed 5 years ago) --- we can use the wood for campfires on a future family camping trip.

Mikala normally runs and hides if I try to sketch her (same reaction with photographs), so I know she wasn't feeling too good. I don't think she even knew I was drawing her. Fingers taped together due to a volleyball injury (she still played with them taped together) and apparently very tired from a spring break sleepover with friends.

18 March 2016

a bit of Beasley, TX

Judah and I were kept busy during my recent days of being a granny-nanny --- an active four-year-old is not really interested in sitting somewhere outside, sketching. But I managed to take a few photos to draw from later. As we drive towards Jason and Carrie's new home, we pass a couple of old grain elevators, the largest one shown here. Near a smaller group of buildings nearby were these two rusty fuel tanks on stilts. My eyes got lost trying to figure out which "legs" belonged to which tank.

17 March 2016

an eagle for Eagle Week

Fort Bend Christian Academy, where our son Jason teaches, has an eagle for their mascot. So how cool that during Eagle Week last week, when the high school students are involved in various mission trips and community service projects, the Alaska team was able to take a photograph of an eagle perched on the top of a tree! The Alaska team was there to help with set-up and parking for the Iditarod dog sled race, as well as work with the boys and girls club in the area.

As I was writing the text in the right hand column, I noticed that my current favorite fountain pen, a Jinhao pen with the nib changed to a flex nib, was scratchy and skipping ink. I thought it was because it had not been used in over a week. Then it finally dawned on me: it was out of ink! I refilled it, then wrote the bottom line . . . with a very wet ink that smeared because I was not being careful.

15 March 2016

brush pen without a net

My playing around with drawing in an etegami manner, even though the paper was not one with "bleed", has freed me up a bit in using brush pens . . . without the ever-present underlying pencil guidelines. Yesterday I even did so In Public! While someone was watching me, no less.

14 March 2016

Jayna's tea pot

Last month Jayna had a tea party to celebrate both her birthday (a couple weeks after the date) and Valentine's day. I think this tea pot was borrowed from her other grandma. It was so pretty, I took a photo of it to sketch. At her party, Jayna used my own grandmother's china which I had given her . . . she was so careful to use cotton gloves when taking them out of their protective wrappings!

12 March 2016

last of this journal

Beasley, where our son and daughter-in-law have recently moved, is a very small town but has many interesting things to sketch --- such as this free-standing church bell tower. And yes, that bird really was on the top of the upper cross!

Someday, I will do proper sketches of the old mills, barns, and an older church with a copper steeple. Or simply a watercolor painting of the hay field in our kids' back yard.
Jason and Carrie's plane full of teenagers arrived safely back in Houston on Thursday, just in time to pick Jayna and Josiah up from school.

They brought each of the kids a souvenir key chain to remember this year's trip by; Josiah's moose was unavailable at the time of this drawing. He had actually gotten angry at his sister and threw it --- they were still searching for it when I left to drive home.

And so ends another granny-nanny journal. I drove home to find this year's bluebonnets already beginning to bloom, a month early. And yes, the faked red initial stamp blurred . . . but then, etegami is supposed to be clumsy, right?

10 March 2016

still playing with etegami-like quick sketches

Yesterday, after Jayna and Josiah were at school, we took Judah out for breakfast. Actually, brunch or "second-breakfast", as he had already downed a small pancake and some eggs. He then proceeded to eat a full-sized pancake, a yogurt cup with berries and granola, and a bit of a bran muffin. Growing boy!

The threatening rain showers began just as we entered the restaurant, where we saw this froggy garden ornament. Seemed a fitting sketch to begin with.

Judah has an inventive imagination and amuses himself easily. He gathered all his wee creatures and an old security blanket, spread it out on the floor, then began tucking them all in for a sleep.

I haven't been able to do much Jayna-related sketching. She has been very busy, first with a 4-H clown skit --- her team won their division, due to no other entries, and now advance to the next level --- then continued work on a science fair presentation, trying to create her own litmus paper from various substances. These are some of her supplies left on the table where she works.

And what would caring for 3 active children be without doing lots of laundry? Thankfully, not in this old tub. Upon moving into their new home, Jason and Carrie purchased a large-capacity Samsung washer and dryer, so technical I swear it will tell me if I dare leave an extra speck of lint in the lint trap.

09 March 2016

and yet more granny-nanny silliness

Normally, 4-year-old Judah is in daycare and he loves attending his "school". But I keep him home with me during Eagle Week for some grandma-time. Sometimes he feels sad that brother and sister get to go to school but he doesn't --- so we usually plan to take him out somewhere special during the week.

Yesterday we took him to Five Guys hamburger shop where he loves eating all the peanuts he can shell while waiting for his cheesy hot dog.

He brought me this wee doggy of his to draw . . . not much color to little "No Name" but he sits in what seemed a praying / supplication stance. So I added some text I once saw on a Facebook post.

Doing these fast etegami-like sketches is fun! They seem to loosen me up from my normally tight, detailed drawing. And they are fast enough to do in bits and bobs as I keep busy with household and childcare stuff.

I drew this potted plant sitting on the fireplace mantel ---I think it is a poinsettia left from Christmas. There are reddish-purple leaves or petals dropped off all around it and new green leaves are sprouting.

The sample papers in this hand-bound journal, while alright for use with watercolor, aren't really anything special . . . except this India paper from Legion Paper online. It has a slight woven texture to it and is made of 100% cotton rag. I think I will definitely bind some journals of this paper in the future!

07 March 2016

more playing . . .

The grandkids are bringing me items to sketch into my granny-nanny book this week; this horse is from Josiah. All three of them stood around me like vultures as I drew this one but none of them wished to draw in my book themselves.

Upon arriving, the house was still decorated with leftover bits of Valentine's Day, including classroom treats and art brought home and forgotten. All of the decorations were put away over the weekend except these hearts in one window.

The entire quote from Yankel is:
"When you warm other people's hearts, you remain warm yourself. When you seek to support, encourage, and inspire others, then you discover support, encouragement, and inspiration in your own life as well. That, my friends, is Judeism 101."

And I chose to sketch Josiah's boots as they lay . . . he often puts his right shoe on his left foot and the left one on his right. Seems to me that it would make walking uncomfortable but he doesn't seem to mind.

I wonder if it's because he is left-handed? Maybe he thinks he is left-footed?

05 March 2016

a bit more etegami-style

Continuing to play around with an Etagami-style of drawing, with very simple illustrations loosely drawn directly with a brush pen and ink, then a splash of watercolor --- these efforts show how I am still too tightly detailed but I'm having fun! Grandchildren are influencing what I choose to draw each day . . . this wee lamb and a matching white mouse belong to Josiah and Judah.

This itty-bitty lion was supposed to be sewn by Jayna . . . but when her mommy, Carrie, began to teach her how to make it, Carrie got carried away and finished it herself. Having way too much fun!! I drew my shoe to go with the quote from Facebook contact and artist, Jennifer Edwards, because they just seemed to go together good.

04 March 2016

a granny-nanny journal

Once again our son Jason and his wife Carrie are participating in Fort Bend Christian Academy's Eagle Week. Every year during the week before spring break, the school sponsors mission events for their high school students, both in Sugar Land, TX and all over the US . . . some groups even go to other countries.

Jason's team heads for Alaska where the kids work behind the scene for the Iditarod dog sled race, then do various community service projects.

And I stay with the grandkids as "granny-nanny". During their last Alaska trip, I kept a dedicated journal just for that week and I decided to do so again this time.

After removing the bug-eaten pages of this vintage children's dot-to-dot book, I replaced them with various sample papers that, folded, were a perfect fit. I left the labels on the papers just for fun. Only 7 full sheets in all,  which filled the cover perfectly.

As usual, the first page is my palette --- a limited travel palette in a wee mint tin for this book. And just for fun, I'm trying to stick to just brush pens (without pencil guidelines), a squirrel brush (less control), and a fountain pen for most of the text. I don't think I've ever done a color chart at the start of a book before.

Artist Ros Jenke has inspired me with her "etegami-like" sketches lately, as has the work of Debbie Davidson. After a bit of on-line research to learn more about this Japanese folk art, I decided I'd try the style in this journal. Not at all traditional: this paper has no "bleed", I'm not using postcards, and I'm not using traditional tools --- I don't have a "hanko" stamp (name stamp / chop) but I have a red watercolor pencil! Anyway, I'm going to try working a bit looser with line and color. These first two sketches are still too controlled!!

02 March 2016

Bill's "new" woodshop porch lamps

After looking for over a year, Bill finally has the outdoor lights he wants for his woodshop! At least he has them in his possession --- He needs to clean them up, electrify them, and hang them on the shop's wrap-around porch.

He has often found one single antique lamp he liked, but never two. Then, on Saturday, we took a spur-of-the-moment drive to Round Top and wandered through several antique shops . . . where he found these two railroad lamps. Both still contain the original reflectors inside and both still have the filters that change from clear to blue to red. After electrifying them, he plans to use flame-type bulbs in them to maintain the antique feel.
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