Sharks!

My son is OBSESSED with sharks.  No, obsession is a mild way to put it.  From the first words out of his mouth in the morning, to his conversational choices at night, you can bet it will involve sharks.  His almost 4 year old self can name a wide variety of sharks by sight - often better than I can - and relishes a new shark book (which I now ravenously collect) for bedtime and anytime reading. 

His two rivaling favorite sharks are the Great White Shark (of course) and the Whale Shark.  So I had to re-paint the walls in his room which previously featured a pond scene complete with frogs, lilypads, lotuses and fish to accommodate his new preferred subject.

These murals were done with eggshell finish interior house paint with acrylic paint mixed in for the smaller detail work.  The small boy heartily approved!

Mixed feelings

I always have mixed feelings about fall.  On the one hand, I love to put on my favorite jacket and marvel at the electric oranges and reds that leaves morph into.  On the other hand, I know it's just a few short weeks away from full on winter....which stretches on for ever and ever.  Dark afternoons, dark mornings, dark emotions.

This piece was done using india ink on watercolor paper.  I'm experimenting more with brushes instead of pens and I'm liking the effects of these Windsor Newton Series 7 brushes.

AutumnPathSm.jpg


A Week in Scotland

On July 2nd, we packed up our suitcase, car seat and 1.5 year old for a trip to visit my father in Scotland.  He's been living there for about a year, working at the International School of Aberdeen.  After a long layover in Frankfurt, we finally touched down at Aberdeen's tiny airport.  Aberdeen is known for its granite buildings... pretty much every building is made of the stuff!  Its a very, um, grey material... so it gives you the impression that the houses are ancient, massive and solid.  Its a good thing that Aberdeen also has a great tradition of gardening, so the summer months are enhanced by gorgeous blooms of every description.

On our first day there, we went down to the cold north sea at the Aberdeen Esplanade and walked along the windswept boardwalks.  Its July, but you still need a hoodie and several layering options incase it rains.

We walked down to Footdee, a little outcropping of small, carefully decorated houses all set around interior courtyard-style promenades (to avoid the blustery ocean winds, I imagine.)  They all had a lot of character!

The next day we visited the stately Crathes castle, complete with pruned hedges, secret gardens and tapestry-adorned rooms.

Torin very much enjoyed getting galloped around the grounds and chasing bunnies.  And one afternoon we stopped by a roadside farmers stand and he got to run in his first wheat field.  Much fun was had by all.

Another day, another castle!  The light at Dunnottar Castle was spectacular as some leaden clouds moved in from the mainland.

We went for a nice drive down the coast to a small fishing village south of Aberdeen called Stone Haven.  There we enjoyed dark beers overlooking the water, and you could really sense that the locals were taking in as much sun and warmth as they could given the long streches of grey that are common here.

 

In Stone Haven we also

 enjoyed what was named the best fish & chips shop in the whole UK.  It was, infact, delicious. 

We were fed very well throughout the trip, though frequently we inhaled the delicious grub before I could document the dishes...


Clotted cream and scones at the Bridge of Feugh.... mmmmm.

 And the hydrangeas around town were spectacular and varied...

We really enjoyed Scotland.  We will be back... someday.

Costa Rica for a Week

On the first week of January we all packed up our flip flops, swimsuits and t-shirts for a much needed week in a tropical climate.  Here's a taste of what we'd been dealing with in Pennsylvania:

Waking up at 3 AM to dress and dig the car out of the snow, we were running behind even with the best intentions.  It took awhile to dislodge the wheels from the frozen mess and make an expedient run down to Philadelphia International Airport. It was Torin's first time on a plane, and for a 13 month old I think he did exceptionally well.  I only got a few disgusted stares from nearby passengers and I think they were individuals with no personal experience with small children.  10 hours later we touched down in a bright, mountainous landscape.  Coastlines jagged and lined with pale blue bays encrusted in white sand.  Yes.

We were ferried to a nearby car rental pavilion and picked up a white Toyota SUV that we drove about an hour north to our destination in Tamarindo.  Torin enjoyed having shorts on after months and months of my dressing him in 2 and 3 layers to fend off the cold.  Arriving at the villa we had all voted for months before, it definitely lived up to expectations.  With our 8 adults and one toddler, it seemed ready for professional vacationing.  There were frangipane flowers and towels artfully arranged in our room when we got there....and palm trees outside the window.  Double yes.

The pool was awesome, the view was awesome, and I immediately set to creating a signature drink.  Corona mixed half & half with Squirt (fizzy citrus soda), a squeeze of lime.... and you have the Kir-Beer.  Or the Beersten.  Either way, a favorite was born.  Add a lounge chair and this is truly how most of us spent most of the week!

 

The beach was lovely and dotted with unselfconscious Central Americans.  Banana hammocks and muffin tops abound.  Very refreshing coming from the self-shame capital of the world.

Iguanas were everywhere, so much so that the staff often shooed them away from the tables.  There were also many gorgeous birds.  Bright yellow ones, whip-smart looking crow-like birds with beautiful long tails, and the beaches had sand dollars, tons of crabs and live shellfish rolling around in the surf.

Midway through the week, a few of us decided to go for a spa day up in the mountains (including us new mothers who have been working 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for the last year). Triple YES!

 

A staff member came down and picked us up in a van.  He drove us about 40 minutes away and up a dusty, windy gravel road to a little resort in the jungle.  We all got 3 treatments from scrubs to mudwraps to massages and afterwards they fed us an amazing meal with white wine and ceviche.  It was followed by a delicious passionfruit dessert.

While it was a pretty sizeable splurge, this has to be the best spa experience I've ever had.  No question about it.  I left feeling like a cloud.  A well massaged, slightly buzzed cloud. 

Torin, or 'The Bibble' as he is affectionately known, very much enjoyed the surf and had no problems being pummelled by waves as tall as he is.

(Photo credit Alan Allum)

 

And he is a big time water lover... not much fear there at all, which is key. (Photo credit Alan Allum)

Our last delicious meal before flying out the next day.  

 

Oh, and watch out for the ant eaters.

Back from Winter Hibernation

These past several months I've been off the radar since my son was born in December.  After getting used to motherhood and battling a severe case of cabin fever through January & February, it's pretty nice to get back to drawing & to creativity in general.

I got called up at the end of last month to create a piece for Grid Magazine's May edtion. Fittingly, it's about passing local heirloom seeds down to continue living and propigating in this season's gardens.  As I sit and look at my seedlings on the kitchen table unfurling their leaves, and my 4 month old baby figuring out new tricks and outgrowing his first round of baby clothes, growth is a fitting theme for me these days.  

I got the idea to create an illustration in the style of old Pennsylvania Dutch folk art since the heirloom seeds mentioned will be grown this year at Kutztown University as a fully operational 1860's Pennsylvania Dutch kitchen garden.  Also, I enjoy the bold colors and decorative flat pattern-like quality of PA dutch art.  

Read the full article here! (Flip to the last page)

this year's accumulations

I recently tacked up a kind of 2012 retrospective in my art studio. Its a sampling of what I've made for group shows and some recreational art produced this year.  It was nice seeing a lot of works up together, helping to remind me what I need to keep doing what what I should leave behind.  We're expecting a new member of our family in December, so as I wind down my projects in preparation for a few months off, I've been renewing/cleaning/organizing my studio.  The hope is that when I come back next spring, the space will be enticing and ready for new projects, inspiration and clarity.  

 

sooo pretty

On my way to my studio this morning I saw a woman walking down the sidewalk with a sour look on her face. She was an office worker of some type and was proceeding very gingerly, as if on eggshells in the way only a person in pain can.  I looked down and sure enough, she was wearing a very good looking pair of heels, but clearly they were going to ruin her day. 

I've done it many times myself - worn a pair of cute-as-hell-heels only to realize part-way through my day that they were going to severely hinder my desire to move... AT ALL!  My boyfriend calls them 'stupid shoes'.  So my cute-as-hell-heels usually sit, beautiful as they are, at home collecting dust.

 

Winter is Over

Now that winter is really over I can finally reflect on our first (and potentially last) full winter season while living aboard.  It was a feat I wasn't sure was possible for me, given my chronic winter chill and dislike for slippery surfaces!

Surprisingly the boat held quite a lot of heat, and two space heaters running 24 hours a day was enough to keep the inside spaces at about 50 - 55 degrees farenheit.  Add a workhorse of a heated blanket to take the chill off of the sheets and things were surprisingly cozy.  When it came to predicting outside air temperature, a bottle of penut oil in our kitchen cubbord was a good clue.  If it congealed and turned a little more opaque we knew the temperatures inside were a little closer to 40, meaning it might be in the 20 degree range outside.  Either way, socks, slippers, fleece and sweaters were my daily companion upon returning home from work.

One of the wonderful things about winter on a boat is the silence.  Hardly a soul ventures out to the marina since many of the boats are lifted out of the water between October and late November of each year, leaving the whole place looking like a private cove.  The only sounds were of the bubblers placed near our hull to prevent the water around us from freezing and the occasional heron squawking.

The wind was much more feirce during the winter, a few times making me wonder if we would come loose from our docklines - but they held, just like they always do. The rain was more dismal and stark and each morning meant treacherous walk to the car over water-logged docks that had frozen and thawed and re-frozen during the night.  I slipped one morning in January and came down sqarely on my left elbow, leaving it swollen and unusable for several days before range of motion began coming back.

We got a few big snows, mostly in January and February, requiring quite a lot of shoveling to remove the white stuff from the entire length of our dock.  I've always thought that the muffling qualities of snow is profound, but added to the already quiet marina, being alone in a snowstorm on a boat is kind of magical.  

Our projects over the winter involved some plumbing fixes, a new drawer-style refrigerator installation by the very handy Jason, and a sunbrella fabric purchase for a new curtain project that is under way.  We also covered several of our ceiling panels (otherwise known as 'head liners' in boat-speak) with brand new white vynil - a great improvement over the 30-year-old yellowed predecessors.  We then picked out new LED lights for the kitchen and stateroom, with updated brushed stainless steel switches to match soon on their way from the EU.

This old boat is getting a new life, and it makes us happy to see the place look more and more like our home all the time.  So here's to a brand new sailing season!