Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Planning where to put what roses in our new yard

My cold/flu bug is hanging on so I'm spending time planning things as I run out of steam too fast if I try to actually do them.  Today, I went for a short walk to the Cornwall Rose Garden where all the roses are blooming quite nicely.  I have had roses in our gardens since we lived in a house in Pasadena that was a test garden and had 75 rose bushes in the front yard, ten along the side of the house and another 5 in the back yard.  Each place we've lived has had a different climate so I've had to investigate which roses were better suited.  And I figured the Rose Garden here would be a good place to start.

Our front yard faces west and has nothing blocking the sun to the south so it will be a fabulous full sun area for roses and herbs.  Right now, there's a lilac bush, another flowering bush with purple blossoms, a yellow leafed bush and some flowering invasive viny things.  So we already have some colors going on.

I'm currently thinking about a yellow/orange multicolor rose and a lavender one to start.  Those are my favorites and Jeff likes the traditional very lush red rose.   Unfortunately, of the 3 roses I picked as possibles at the rose garden, only one had a label with the name.    That one was one of the two multicolors to think about. The other multicolor might be a  hybrid tea...

And the labeled one is a floribunda.  I have mixed feelings about the floribundas because I always end up cutting a whole cluster which means buds that don't always open get cut too.

And the only one that came close to my desire for a lavender rose, was this one which was not doing well yet and was in the heirloom section.

It photographs as more pink than it looked in person.  Clearly, I have more research to do.  Since I have lots of raised beds to put in before I can even think of buying the plants, it's just as well.  But shopping for new plants is almost as much fun as planting them and watching them grow so good times ahead either way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birding photo backlog: bushtit vs Bewick's wren

I'm down with some nasty bug that's going around so when I'm not sleeping, coughing, sneezing or staring into space, I'm doing small things on my computer.  Today's small thing is processing some of my bird photo backlog.

These are from March 28.  Mischa and I were at Squalicum Beach Park and when we spotted this little grey-brown bird,  our first thought was a bushtit.  Breeding season is pretty much the only time you get to see bushtits by themselves as they're usually tumbling through the air in groups of a dozen or more.  So I got my camera up to see if he'd sit still for a pic.  And I got this shot.

Then he decided to really make his presence known, tilted his head back and started singing.  That's when I saw the distinctive big white eyebrow and realized this was a Bewick's Wren.

I've never before considered these 2 birds to look much alike so this was a learning experience.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cedar Waxwings at Tennant Lake Park

On May 31, Mischa and I went birding at Tennant Lake Park in Ferndale.  Unfortunately for us, her gps had the same address for Tennant Lake Park and the wildlife refuge area at the other end of the lake  so we ended up at the wrong place initially.   After driving around to the other end of the lake, we set out to see what birds were still around as we were less than an hour from dusk.

Mischa always gets distracted by the fragrance garden so there was some lingering there before we went out on the boardwalk.  When we came to the fork in the boardwalk, we took the right hand path that was not wheelchair accessible.  And we found a plethora of waxwings.

Since it was getting dark, it was hard to see details and this is the first photo that had enough light to show the yellow tail tip and the black eye band.  I was focusing on the one in the lower left when the second one flew in.  Since waxwings are fairly social and interact frequently, I was looking forward to seeing some fun bird behavior.

The new one decided to edge closer to the original bird.

And then there was an exchange of some tidbit which looks a lot like a kiss.  Waxwings are known to sit in a line on a branch and pass berries up and down the line so I guess this is what they do when there's not so many of them in one spot.

And then a third one flew in to join in.  They decided to relocate after this, so I didn't get more photos but the group followed us as we headed back on the boardwalk so it was definitely a waxwing trip.  I'm looking forward to going back when there's more light.  I'm getting lots of quality photos and great birding moments at this park.  I recommend it as a birding destination for forest and water edge birds.

Monday, May 29, 2017

More studio progress

My studio setup is taking forever or so it seems to my impatient inner creative.  This last week brought some significant progress, however.  Jeff & James set up the upright elfa shelves that I will be using to store finished pieces and my framing supplies last weekend.  And this week, they went to the hardware store and got the exterior plywood for the work table surface.  I also took down the wire shelf on the back wall which clears space to put up even more elfa shelves on that wall.  So now all the hardscape is in place, except for the last bit of walls.  (It's a 9 ft wall so we need to borrow a ladder to install the shelf unit.)  I hope that the next time I talk about it everything will be in place and I'll be working away.

new shelf unit
The picture above shows the forward end of my workspace with the upright shelf unit (right under the garage door opener) acting as a divider from the bicycles.  The 2 sheets of plywood, sized 48" x 78", which have been glued together and are now drying, will be covered with batting and vinyl to give me a good work surface for screenprinting.  And in the back, I've got my white board up above the sewing cabinet so I can keep track of what I want to do next.

At the other end of my work area, the wall is now bare so I can install new shelving and the spot for the sink (lower right corner of the photo) is cleared of the stuff that needed to be moved into the house but was waiting on unpacking to clear its space.

It's starting to look like a functional workspace!  I'm hoping to have it all set up before the next weekend but we'll see how it turns out.  Neither developers or artists are known for being good at meeting deadlines.  I expect it's because we forget to estimate the time for solving the inevitable problems.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Unexpected going away gift

Often we don't know what impact we've had on others.  During my studio sale days before the move, I found out some of it.  One particular person really touched me by making the effort to come and chat.  She'd been in a class with me and we worked together well and enjoyed each other but once I opened the Georgetown studio, and then started having medical problems that just disrupted everything, we drifted apart.  So I was really happy to see her and enjoyed catching up.  Then, she gave me one of her small watercolor pieces as she was leaving.  I just found it during some unpacking in my studio so I'm sharing it here.  

I think it was intended as a bookmark,   so I can either laminate it and use it for that or frame it and add it to my wall of art gifts from other artists.  I'm leaning toward the latter but since I don't yet have my framing supplies or tools unpacked I have some time to think about it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Studio beginning to emerge

Between running off to do some excellent birding and unpacking and organizing in my studio, I have not been very chatty lately.  But today I began to see the studio layout emerging and so I took some pics to share.

You may remember I posted my plan for the studio layout about a month ago.  Today, I finished putting the elfa drawers in their appropriate location and separating the boxes of supplies so they were close to where their drawers are so unpacking should be much easier.  And my sewing table is now where I can actually sit down and sew, assuming I get the power source set up.  The shot of the same space in April had the bicycles in the front.  The bikes are still there, I just cropped them out.  Because the studio is the star, right?

From front to back on the left:  sewing machine table (machine has red cover), elevated ironing and fusing table along the wall, corner cutting table with boxes stacked on top.  The boxes on the right are hiding the main work table from view.  It will be 4 ft wide and 7 feet long once I get the padded & waterproof work surface made.  (Plywood & batting with fusible vinyl).

And below is the view from the door leading to the house.  The cutting table is in the back on the right, the work surface elfa drawers are center/left and that table on the right is the dye table.

Tomorrow, I work on unpacking those boxes, putting the already full drawers in the right stack and setting up the sewing machine.  And if I have the time and energy, putting together a stopgap work table top that will let me work on printing some fabric before I go to the hardware store and make the final work surface top.  I'm at that point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel so I'm getting set to dash for the finish.  How quickly I'll finish totally depends on the weather because if it's sunny, the call of the birding will be very strong.  It feels really wrong to hope for a rainy weekend but there it is, my no lose situation.  Birding or fiber art?  What a choice!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First Bellingham birding day was fabulous

Last Sunday I finally got out and did some birding.  I had looked at a map to see which nearby parks looked best and I decided to check the closest one first.  This was Cornwall Park which turned out to to be not at all birdy so I left after a short walk down one trail and a quick drive through the rest of the park.  It's a very urban park with big open spaces for people to do stuff, no water, mostly one type of trees and lots of dogs playing.  Great for other stuff that people do at parks but not so good for the birding.

Next I went to Squalicum Creek Park which looks like more of an urban park on the map.  While it is true it has a fenced off-leash dog park and a baseball field in the middle, it also has a creek running next to the road.  And it abuts the Bay to Baker Trail which is very birdy indeed.  The water helps bring the birds in and the trail has a variety of trees along it which gives all those birds someplace to go for food and shelter.

Golden-crowned sparrow and fearless Towhee

At first, I was dubious about seeing much so I took some shots of a gull posing on top of a phone pole.  Within a quarter mile, however, I found the spot where a woman drops bird seed every day when she walks her tiny dachshund.  I know these details because while I was standing there admiring the variety of sparrows and the absolutely fearless towhee who decided he wanted to feature in my photos, the lady & dachshund wandered by.  We had a nice chat which was interrupted by a couple of Stellar's Jays wanting to get in on the photos.

I then wandered down a side trail following a small grayish bird (that I never did identify) flitting about and spotted a hummingbird perched up on a branch.  I was expecting an Anna's because that's what I'm familiar with in my yard so I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got the bins on him and saw the wonderful orange glowing in the sun.  This was the second best moment of a very good birding trip. And my first rufous of the year.  Go me!  

King of all he surveys

I thoroughly enjoyed the almost 10 minutes I got to watch him swiveling and preening on his perch.  I really like watching the feisty little hummers and this was a beautiful one.

The best moment of the trip, however, was watching 3 small birds chase each other around.  Two of them were obviously chickadees but the third was flying differently and seemed more warbler like.  This was in part because he kept flitting about and avoiding sitting still long enough for me to get bins on him.  When I finally did get a good view of him, I was gratified to see a clearly identifiable Audubon's Yellow-rumped warbler.  Black and white streaks, yellow throat.  Check off another first of the year.

Overall, it was a wonderful morning spent among the trees, watching the birds and starting to feel connected to our new neighborhood.  I'm really looking forward to going further along the trail next time and seeing what else I can see.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I hate moving or why is my studio all still in boxes?

Okay, I'll just admit it right upfront.  I'm in a cranky mood today so I'm gonna whine a little bit.

The moving trucks came the last week of March and over 3 days the movers finished the packing, loaded all our stuff, drove it from Bellevue to Bellingham, unloaded it all without breaking anything, (altho they lost some bookcase pegs, more about that later) and mostly put it where I told them it should go.  We've spent the 2 weeks since unpacking and moving boxes around so we could get to the ones we wanted to unpack next.  I didn't get the taxes finished before we had to pack my office so that's hanging over my head along with 4 kitchen boxes still to unpack ( and all the cabinets are already full), 8 boxes to unpack in the bedroom so I can have space for the rowing machine and get some cardio in,  all of the bedroom boxes except for the wardrobe ones and this, this picture below is the current state of my studio in the garage.  So I have done no art making or even fabric fondling for over a month now.  Grrrrr.

I hate moving.  I sincerely hope this is the last time.

On the plus side, we are doing lots of short walks because all kinds of places are within a mile of our house.  We've met several of the neighbors.  James is being a big help with things around the house.  I will call out that his 6 years of experience in the Air Force meant he knew how to find the US version of an Ikea assembly instruction so he could find the correct part number (European ones have a different number, or so he tells me) to order the (lost by the movers) pegs that hold the shelves up on our bookcases.  The last time we moved, the movers commented on the large number of white bookcases.  Then when they were loading all the boxes of books & other stuff, the same guy asked where all this stuff was going to go.  "On the white bookcases" was my reply.  Those pegs are absolutely essential.  I had gone to the Ikea webpage and couldn't find it so I sent them some email.  I still haven't heard back from them and it's been at least a week.  James found the part number and a link to them on Amazon in less than half an hour.  My Hero!

And we really like the neighborhood.  My morning walks are giving me a great opportunity to admire all the interesting paint choices on the houses on our street and look at what people are successfully growing in their yards.  It was too windy this morning for me to go the extra 4 blocks to the most eye popping paint job so here's one of the milder ones that also has a very interesting garden.

All in all, we are settling in nicely.  Once the taxes are done and we have a day with enough clear weather to move stuff out of the garage onto the driveway long enough for my studio placement to get done, I will be a very happy artist.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Planning the new studio space

There's lots of packing that goes on while getting ready to move.  And for fun, during those breaks from packing, I go old school and make graph paper layouts of furniture and where it will go in the new space.  I did this for my studio space which is actually a little over half of the garage.  And yes, that means no car in our garage.  But as we just sold the second car today and we have a car canopy for the driveway, that's all good.  And I digress....

Back to the studio space.  It's a 2 car garage which has the water heater and furnace tucked into the corner closest to the interior of the house.  The freezer, scooter, ebike and lawnmower also have to fit in there somewhere altho we are adding a storage shed in the backyard for all the stuff that's normally stored in the garage, like christmas stuff.  Once all that space is allocated, I get the rest.  And we have aspirations to put in a sauna which I added to my graph paper layout in photoshop.

You'll probably have to click on the picture to read my tiny handwriting.  The scale is one square of graph paper is 8" so that I get stuff spread out enough to be sure there's adequate walking space in the work area.  I've decided to make a big screenprinting/dyeing/painting work table and that's the large rectangle floating in the middle of the garage.  Just above that is the freestanding elfa shelving that will act as a divider between the bike/lawnmower area and my workspace.  It's about 7" tall so it will also give me a visual barrier and right now I'm planning on using that area for framing work and storing framing supples.   To the right, up against the outer wall, is my sewing table.  It has 9 drawers which hold all my threads, bobbins, trims, etc and we're planning to install a pegboard between it and the bike area so I will have 2 wall areas to put up inspiring pictures and hang tools that I need handy.

Down the outer rightmost wall, the next table is the ironing surface.  For this I have a Big Board that I put on top of more elfa stacks of baskets.  This gives me a 24x60 surface for ironing and fusing.  (I also have a press for fusing but I'm not exactly sure where it's going yet.)  There's a small rolling cart that is tucked in there and will likely live next to the big work table as I cut the size of the work table from a 4x8ft full sheet of plywood to 4x6ft so I would have enough walking space around the table.  And then we come to the wall closest to the viewer.  In the house, the kitchen is on the other side of this wall so I'm planning to install a really big sink there.  I'm currently looking at the Utilitub which is 24x40 in size and is 16" deep. The top of it is 33" tall and it has a pullout faucet so I'm pretty sure it will be a big improvement over my short little bathroom sink in the current studio. The tub goes next to the water heater on the left, with my dye work table next to it.  And in the corner, a short swivel from the ironing surface, is the fabric cutting table with elfa drawers full of fabric sorted by type and color.

I'm now going to inventory how many elfa stacks I have currently, and how many I think will fit in here.  Then I get to do more downsizing so everything fits.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Gluten free, egg free cheesecake trials

I grew up in Indiana, mostly in Sheridan and Indianapolis, and every potluck and family get together had cheesecake for dessert.  It was my mom's favorite and I really like it too.  Fast forward 40some years and I'm now allergic to wheat and egg yolks.  This makes that traditional cheesecake with a graham cracker crust something that makes me feel crappy for several days.  So I had given up eating cheesecake except for once or twice a year and only at a restaurant.  Which I did when we went to Canada in January.

The restaurant on site at the condo had a Bailey's cheesecake and I tried it the first day we were there. It was delicious but I could taste just a bit of gelatin in it.  And I woke up feeling fine the next day. This started me on a quest for a recipe that I could do at home.

First try, the Knox recipe on the box.  We have a big box of Knox gelatin because I use it to make panna cotta in the summertime when the berries are sweet and plentiful to go on top.  It needs the fruit because it's fairly bland without them.  Since this works so well, I was hoping that the cheesecake recipe on the box would also.  Not so much.  Tastes a lot of gelatin, came out fairly flat, and was easily overwhelmed by the gingersnap cookie crust.  It was so much a failure, I threw away the photos.

The winner on a 6" plate

Second try was a recipe I found online at SimplyRecipes under no-bake-cheesecake.  It uses whipping cream in addition to gelatin and is very fast and easy to put together.  I was declaring it the winner before the cheesecake went into the fridge to chill.  It has the right mouth texture, no taste of gelatin and makes a medium height cheesecake quite nicely.   Setting for a couple of hours was not quite long enough to get the filling to bond to the crust adequately but that was okay, it was still delicious.  The next day, the bonding issue was gone and the only comments I got from Jeff was that the slices should be just a bit smaller because it's so rich.  I mean, who wants to throw away the last few bites of cheesecake because there's no more room, right?  I cut it into 8 pieces like a pie but will make the slices smaller next time.

Third one will be a chocolate one that uses sweetened condensed milk and I'll do that over the weekend or early next week.  But I can absolutely declare my cheesecake yearnings to be satisfied.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring pops on the Greenbelt

Last week, I got back on the greenbelt after a couple weeks of being laid up due to banging up my knee.  It was a sunny day, and the birds were very active so I really enjoyed myself.  Then it got all rainy and snowy again but I digress...

The one that got away was the shot of the 2 red-winged blackbirds engaging in an aerial territorial dispute.  Most of the resident birds have started their spring singing, letting everyone within range know who lives here and is looking for some company.  I tried to get a shot of the blackbirds but they were too far away and too active so I never got a good framing.

However, the blueberry bushes and several other birds were very happy to be more stationary so here's some of the shots from that walk.  The branches on the blueberry bushes turn reddish while they're budding out so it's easy to see which bushes are going to be really loaded with berries later this year.

And there were lots of robins scattered around the grass between the bushes and in the trees nearby.   They haven't yet gotten their new spring feathers yet so they look drabber than they will in a few weeks.

But the way I really know that spring is here is this one:  a towhee up on a high branch, singing to let the world know that he's there and available.  Towhees normally skulk in the bushes and stay pretty close to the ground so the only time I get really good views of them is in the spring when they're being very social.  I'm going to be trying for a shot that shows the red eye if I see one out and close enough to get those details.

Our weather forecast for the next week includes more chilly nights and maybe even some snow so I'll be looking at these photos to remind me that spring is really on the way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chasing the Yellow-billed Loon or why Rosario Head is so wonderful

On January 25th, my crazy birder friend Tina and I sallied forth in pursuit of a rare Yellow-billed Loon visiting from the Arctic.  Reports had been coming in for days so we changed our birding plans and Tina drove us to Rosario Head (near Deception Pass) via some fields in Skagit so we could also look for the wintering swans.  It was a fabulous day of birding despite the park facilities being closed for the winter.  The parking lot was chained off, the restrooms were closed but there were portapotties at the turnoff so we were able to act on Birding Rule #1 - use any restroom you can, because you don't know when you'll find another one.

Rosario Head is part of Deception Pass State Park and the hiking trails are well advertised.  We were looking to go up on top of the Head itself and look down on Northwest Island and Rosario Beach.  From this vantage point, we had excellent views as long as we were using a scope.  The visiting rare loon was frolicking behind Northwest Island and coming out on either end every so often to parade in front of all the visiting birders.  We saw at least a dozen other people and it was a weekday.  Clearly, this was a popular bird.

I was not able to get a photo of the loon, but here's one borrowed from the webpage.

This looks an awful lot like the Common Loon, except the bill is yellow instead of black.  So, once the bird pops out, it's pretty easy to make that id.

Once we'd identified the rare loon, we waited for an opportunity to photograph it while we looked for other birds and watched some dolphins frolicking in the water.  There was also a sea lion, probably, since it was much bigger than a seal would have been.   I was not able to get a photo of the loon but I did get some quality views of some other birds hanging out on the rocks just north of the head.  We were a fair distance up in the air and I don't have one of those honking big lenses for my camera, so I was only able to get a distant shot of the Harlequin Duck posing on the rocks.  I like the strong patterning on this duck and enjoy watching them play in the water.

All in all, it was an excellent day birding.  Like fishing, even a bad day birding is a good day so an excellent day birding is, well, truly excellent.  Here's hoping for many more days like this.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gulls and more gulls in Canada

I've been back from vacation for a week now, and didn't blog right away because of the chores waiting for me.  Then, the flu struck.  *sigh*  I can't even gather enough brain cells to upload my art shots from the camera, photoshop them, and then talk about them.  So instead, you get bird photos.

Part of the reason for going to Parksville on Vancouver Island is the wonderful bay that the condo property sits on.  There are always birds there and depending on the tide, I can see a variety of sea birds that are normally much further out from shore or the kind of birds that like the exposed shoreline when the tide is out.   The additional attraction is if the weather is rainy and windy, the bay is so close that I can grab a quick outing when the weather clears slightly so even the worst weather day can still have some good birds.

And I got to refresh my birding ID skills.  Especially with gulls.  It's not hard to tell that a bird is a gull rather than an eagle or a hawk or a duck.  That part is pretty simple.  But which species of gull?  That part is much, much harder.  Fortunately for me, I remembered what part of the gull to look at to distinguish the species.  And the gulls really like hanging on the rock formations off the point where the hot tub is.  Yes, that too is part of why we go here so I can bird in comfort.

So, what do we look for to tell which gull species is here?  Face it, they are usually white with grey backs and a yellow beak.  What varies?  The size and shape of the bill, the bill markings (the one below has a medium size wide bill with a red dot on the bottom), the leg color (clearly pink here rather than grey or yellow, altho telling the pink and the gray apart can be difficult in less than bright light), and finally whether the wingtips are darker or lighter than the back.  The wingtips look like they should be the tail when a gull poses like this but with this guy, his tail is white, the wingtips are the longer grey with white stripes part.  There's some other things to look for like shape and contrast of white parts on the back, and relative darkness of the grey back, and if you've got a scope the eye color, but legs, bill, and wingtips will get most of the distinctions you need to really narrow it down.  

I'm calling this one a Thayer's Gull, but I'm not experienced enough with gulls to be totally certain as there's some hybrids that look a lot like this.  Part of my reason for wanting to upgrade my camera this year is so I can zoom even closer on some of these birds and do my ID later from the photo.  Which is why I have so many gull photos from Parksville.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dragons and more dragons AKA vacation prep

Today we're packing for a week out of town.  I got a new book, Dragonvale Art, visible at the left edge toward the front of the picture below, and it has inspired me to do some dragon sketching while on vacation.  I also wanted to play with my watercolor paints on actual watercolor paper rather than fabric so those got added to the supplies stack.

I am bringing along watercolor bars, Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils, the Dragonvale book, 2 small ceramic 4 compartment plates, sketching pencils and black markers, two plastic tubs of watercolor paints, lots of brushes, 2 different size sketchpads, 6 pads of watercolor paper of different types and sizes, my current dragon silkscreen and the black ink and the tools to screen with, 2 pieces of fabric with the laughing dragon screened on them, a piece of acrylic that I use to paint the fabric on and the blue tape to hold the fabric to the acrylic. And the fabric medium to add to the watercolor paints so they don't wash out.

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned going for 50 dragon sketches this week.  Since the 50 collages week in my Fiber Arts program, I have gotten very comfortable setting myself impossible goals and seeing how close I get.  I assume I'll fail to make it but set the goal so my reach exceeds my grasp.  The 50 collages in one week assignment taught me that I can do more than I think I can if I just get going and see how far I go.

Speaking of reach, grasp, and the power of just continuing to make progress, I'm 35 page views away from 30,000 unique page views on this blog.   I started this blog in February of 2008 so it's almost 9 years of blogging.   A big thank you to those who have followed along and here's to another adventurous almost decade coming up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reading while healing - Diane Fallon series

I have plans for blogging about what I did in 2016 and what I plan for 2017 but  healing from what should be my last major oral surgery has delayed that, probably until after my upcoming vacation.  Instead, I'm reading lots and lots of not too challenging books.  Partly inspired by a craving for order and happy endings, I've gone back and picked up the Diane Fallon series by Beverly Conner.   The first novel in the series is pictured below.

This series is very close to the spirit of the TV show Bones whereas I don't think the books it was supposedly based on are at all like the series.  Diane Fallon is a forensic anthropologist who is giving up traveling to foreign countries to document mass graves.  Instead, she has taken over running a small museum in Georgia and as the series progresses, there is a crime lab added to the museum and she becomes the local bone analysis person.  And she dates an FBI guy.   I recommend this series over the Temperance Brennan series because I prefer the writing and characters.  If you liked the Bones TV show, you might enjoy these.

I see my dental surgeon later today so here's hoping things are going well.