Sunday, November 11, 2012

That was sudden

I forgot to say what I was thankful for yesterday. It was the uncharacteristic weather. It was in the 70s during the day. Even after dark, I was outside in short sleeves and sandals.

Pity that I didn't mention it then. Today was very, very different - rainy, windy, and cold. "Where the heck are my gloves?" cold. Fifty-some degrees colder than yesterday. "I can't believe it's not snowing" cold.

That made it a perfect day, though, to go hang out in a coffee shop with some girlfriends I haven't seen for awhile. It was great visiting and catching up, and I'm thankful we had that time together. I took some knitting, and that always seems to go faster when we are all chatting.

Is there any better song when you are feeling warm and fuzzy about your friends than this one? I think not.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making book(s)

Without further ado, here are the results of my initial foray into bookbinding. Yeah, you heard me. Bookbinding.

Little books

These little books are as simple as can be. The covers are advertisements that I gessoed and painted with super-cheap acrylics. The book on the left has a few pages of watercolor paper, and the one on the right has plain old copier paper. The binding string is waxed dental floss.

I found the instructions (The Three-Minute Pamphlet) in The Complete Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn. She enticed me by calling the chapter "The Reluctant Bookbinder". Bookbinding strikes me as one of those hobbies that is fraught with the need to accumulate a whole new set of tools and ephemera and dedicated space, but I was able to make these books with things I had on hand. In addition to the elements in the finished books, I needed paperclips, a phone book, and a pushpin to use as an awl. I imagine the paint would be optional if your covers were something prettier than an Office Depot ad.

Now someone tell me to use them, okay?

Here's a song you probably haven't heard unless you are a real Broadway aficionado. It's from 1974's "Mack and Mabel", about silent screen personalities Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. It was a flop for many reasons, but not for the quality of the songs (by Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman) nor the inate talent of the leads (Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters). Fortunately, we got a cast album before the show closed.

(Want to see more? See highlights from the first West End Production here and here, and Miss Peters showstopper o' heartbreak song here.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012


We're having a slight warm up this week. 50s today, 60s Friday, 70s Saturday. If that materializes, it will be a good reason to be thankful. Then there is a chance of snow next week. That's November for you.

T assembled a desk chair for my writing desk. I'm thankful for that, too. Style-wise, it's completely wrong for the pretty little desk, but the dining chair I was using had been glued back together several times, and was not going to last forever.

One of my friends commented on Facebook about the last post. She said she had never heard the un-bowdlerized version of BB&B, and this from someone whose arcane song knowledge equals or exceeds my own. When I can enlighten others in such important ways, it makes me feel that all my hard work ain't been in vain for nothing.

Here's another gem you may not know. Before Kander and Ebb wrote Cabaret, their first collaboration was Flora the Red Menace. The star of the show was a still-teenaged Liza Minnelli. The cast album recording is very belty, because, duh, Liza. I like this tender version, though, and of course, her co-star is ne plus ultra.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Not totally refreshed

Thanks to the early call of the election, I got a decent night's sleep. I woke up at 2:00 AM, though, a little thirsty and a little congested. After getting a drink and blowing my nose, I took a quick peek at the intrawebz via the cell phone, just to make sure that no one had said, "Psych! Take back!" They hadn't, so I went back to sleep.

Then this morning, I made a pot of coffee, and filled my travel mug with the elixir of life... and forgot to take it to work. D'oh! I drank a little of the office swill coffee, which made me quite thankful that I have the means to enjoy something a little better most of the time. I hope T enjoyed his coffee, at least.

I did a little knitting AND a little spinning, to make up for Artless Tuesday.

Today's nightcap is a regular in the Great American Songbook. There are two sets of lyrics, though. You can spot the AM radio version in the line, "Couldn't sleep, and wouldn't sleep, 'til love came and told me I shouldn't sleep." Umm, what? This version has the PG lyrics, which do a much better job of expressing bewitchment and bother. You may want to have a cigarette ready for after.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

No all-nighter

One of the advantages of getting older is finding that it is not necessary to stay up late watching election returns. I did my thing, and if I have to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, to find out what everyone else did, so be it.

Aside from being thankful that the campaign ads have ended, I am thankful that I got my butt in gear and cooked a tasty dinner tonight, rather than ordering pizza, which was my first instinct. That was mighty big of me.

Did I do anything arty today? Not much to speak of. I'll make it up, I promise.

Here's another political song about days gone by, from Fiorello!, a musical about Fiorello La Guardia, that had the misfortune of opening in the same season as The Sound of Music.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The end is near!

The end of the politcal campaign season, that is. As a second-tier battleground state, we get an abundance of television ads, robocalls, and mailers. As an early caucus state, we've been receiving them for more than a year. In mere hours, they will all go away, and for what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. (I can't imagine that we wouldn't be.) Then we get a reprieve of a few weeks before the 2016 hopefuls start dropping by to test the frigid Iowa waters, and it starts all over again.

Today, I continued knitting on the timely project, and got my art on with the whiteboard at the office, drawing a stars-and-stripey reminder to VOTE!

 Today's musical selection is educational AND entertaining, not to mention being from T's favorite musical ever. The opening statement about useless men is one of his go-to quotations.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Today's thankfulness report is easy. I am thankful for the safe arrival of Morgan and Olivia, my two new grandnieces. I've seen a couple of pictures, and I approve of them.

I knit on a project that really needs to get done, and some tidying up in the Girl Cave. My desk attracts arts and crafts doodads of all sorts, and some of them need to be moved to a holding facility. No photos for either one. You will just have to trust me.

I heard today that Han Suyin died. She wrote the book that became the movie, "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing". Remember that one? And if you are about my age, you may have had to sing the title song in your school choir. I know I did, and I can still belt out the second soprano part to it if called upon.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Double up

I was tired last night, and not especially in the mood to report on my November challenges. Let's double up today, shall we?

Friday: I am thankful for modern medicine, without which I would now be blind several times over, and dead.

I did as little art as I could get away with, and still have it count as art. I put some gesso on an Office Depot mailer, with the goal of eventually using it as a cover for a handmade sketchbook.

Saturday: I haven't done any spinning for weeks. This morning, I started the coffee, and then dug out my little spindle of silk. Here it is from this summer. It's the one in the front, and it does not look appreciably different now.

/Tour de Fleece /

I thought I would spin for a few minutes, and it ended up being about 45 minutes. It was fun. I don't know why I get out of the habit.

I'm thankful that my life is settled enough that I can spend 45 minutes twisting silk into thread just because it is enjoyable, and beautiful.

When we listen to classical music in the car, we occasionally hear  Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor, and I always pound away on the air piano. Why? Because of this. Rach starts at about 2:30.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Also Thankful

Another November challenge I've heard about is telling one thing you are thankful for every day. That should be easy, right?

Today, on Dia de los Muertos, I especially remember my parents. I am thankful to have been brought up by people whose love I never questioned, who offered a helping hand if I needed it, and who stayed on the sidelines when I had to find my own way.

As for Art Every Day - today turned out to be a little busier than I expected. I did go to tai chi class, though. We are learning Single Fan, and I'm going to say that counts toward art.

Here's a video of the Single Fan style we do. It's only the first half of the set, but that's all I know so far, and I use the word "know" loosely. What do you think? Art? or at least Art Training?


If you are writing a book in November, or knitting a sweater, or blogging every day, or engaging in any other creative endeavor (Hello, Art Every Day Month!), do it with conviction, with gusto, and with a sense of fun.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The October Precipice

I stopped doing NaNoWriMo a few years ago, but I still can't shake the idea that November is the time to do something a little crazy. When late October arrives, I find myself looking for a project or challenge with which to make myself a little bonkers, but in that totally good way.

To be honest, this year I do not need to add another thing to my plate. I'm up to my eyeballs with things that need to be done, ought to be done, want to be done, and aren't getting done. I also know that it's times like these when it is necessary to carve out some time for  not-work. I've started going to tai chi and qigong class again, and it has been great to have an excuse for saying, "Time out - I need to do this for Me."

I've been reading about the importance of using habit, as opposed to discipline, to encourage creativity. Nano does that, to an extent, but for me and my slow-typing fingers, it goes beyond habit into punishment. By the end of the month, I only want to stop the madness, not continue on.

Over at the Creative Every Day blog (a philosophy I heartily support in principle, if not actually in practice), November is Art Every Day Month. That sounds doable, right? Especially when the extremely loose "rules" say, "I mean art in the sense of anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making or whatever!" Add spinning in there, and you've got all of my creative bases covered. Yeah, I think I can give this a shot.

 Did you see the beautiful, almost-full moon tonight? And on Halloween, no less. Here's a highly suitable song for both occasions. It's also good for slow dancing, or just snuggling up with someone under a cozy blanket.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Old dog learns new trick

I went to my first presidential election when I was 3 1/2 years old. My mother took me with her to the grade school gymnasium, and I remember standing in the little booth with her while she marked her ballot with one penciled X after another. Even as a tot, I somehow understood that this was An Important Thing that grownups did.

When I grew old enough to vote, I was always engrossed by the whole voting experience - the locations, the people, the changing technology. I'm so fascinated by it, in fact, that I never had any desire to vote by absentee ballot, even when they relaxed the restrictions so that you didn't need a reason to ask for one. Voting at the dining table, in my jammies, would not feel like real voting to me.

This year, though, we have early voting - live, in-person, early voting - and one of the polling sites is just a couple of miles from our house. T voted there, since he has a long shift on election day, and voting would be inconvenient for him. Yesterday, I decided I had pretty much made up my mind about everyone, so I voted, too.

The polling location was in a strip mall, next to a grocery store. Two young people stood outside with "Vote Here Today" signs. When I got out of my car, they yelled across the road, "Have you voted yet?" I pointed and said, "That's where I'm headed." "Good" they yelled back. The actual voting had all of the things I expect, including a wait in line with a variety of citizenry, which did my heart great good. The volunteer workers seemed very professional and by-the-book. There was even an infant there with her young parents, experiencing her own first election.

Early voting: Glad I tried it, would do it again.

You're going to vote, too - right? RIGHT? Don't make me come over there!

I was going to sing us out with the song from Grease about Sandy, in honor of my friends who are waiting for the hurricane. Then I remembered that I don't like that song. Luckily, YouTube offered me some other Travolta songs, and this one is perfect. Plus, Chris Walken singing! He was on CBS Sunday Morning today. Did you know he has been married to the same woman since 1969? No wonder he could be so convincing with these lyrics.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gingerbread Day

Today was chilly and rainy. I wore a sweater today, and made gingerbread tonight. By my standards, that means it is now officially autumn.

This year, I passed by the usual Pillsbury/Duncan Hines/Betty Crocker gingerbread mixes, and went to the health food section. There I found Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Gingerbread Mix. It was dark and moist and pleasantly dense. I liked it, and even T, who is gingerbread-neutral, sneaked back into the kitchen for a second piece. Thumbs up.

Yesterday's video was so energetic, I thought something more mellow might be in order.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


When I was a kid, we had the World Book Encyclopedia, and it was my favorite book. I loved how at the end of articles, it would suggest other articles on related topics. I could spend hours jumping from one topic to the next, sometimes following a logical thread, and sometimes just reading everything on a page until something caught my attention.

In some ways, the internet offers that same experience (although not so kid-friendly.) Get me set up with IMDB, Wikipedia, and Youtube, and I can entertain myself for hours. That's exactly how I came up with today's video. I had to poke under a few rocks before I found what I was looking for.

In this number, the late, and brilliantly talented, Michael Jeter, plays a terminally ill man who is treating himself to a fancy vacation on his way to the grave. This number opened the Tony Awards show, in 1990, I believe. I was blown away then, and I still am.

I also clearly remember the acceptance speech he gave a few minutes later when he won the Tony. You can see that here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn art

Leaf rubbings by chaimann
Leaf rubbings, a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
Autumn has been working its way toward us a little earlier than usual. I think the trees were just worn out from the drought, and at the first sign of cool weather, they said, "That's it, we're done." We've had some gloriously beautiful fall colors, but the end is clearly near.

I found this mostly perfect leaf by the door this afternoon. It was still soft, and felt like a cross between leather and paper. Like the colors, a leaf does not last forever, either, so I made a leaf rubbing.

Do you remember leaf rubbings? I didn't, and had to look up how to do them when an artist friend mentioned them. It's pretty darned easy. Put a piece of paper over the leaf, and rub the paper with the side of a crayon. I didn't have any normal kid-crayons, so I used Conte crayons, and they were fine.

Here are a couple of outstanding artists, both of whom I had the honor of seeing perform live, with their own tribute to Autumn Leaves.

(Want a more traditional treatment of the song? Famous Iowan Roger Williams plays his well-known version here.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Word or pictures?

Before it was even October, and before I was reminded about blogging challenges, I heard about 30 Days of Get Your Art On. This one is just an artist challenging herself, and inviting others along for the ride.

I've also been following the book release party/blog hop over at Snowball Journals. I took the Imaginary Animals class online last year, and it's fun to see other artists' animals. That lead me to Cranky Birds. What would you call the cross between Art and Fanfic? That is what I want to do with the Cranky Birds. Their creator, Dar Hosta, even provided a tutorial on how to make them.

Let's have a little musical nightcap, shall we? It's a couple of days late for September, but the leaves are golden here, just like the man says. And if you know the song from its many, many popular interpretations, I bet this isn't the version you know.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Wait, what happened to summer?

A lot of things, that's what, most of which don't bear repeating on a public forum. Things have been better, but things have been worse.

It was May, and now all of a sudden it's October, the traditional month [n.b. traditions happen fast in internet time] for posting on your blog every day.

Honestly, I don't know if that will happen, but just in case it does, I don't want it to be ruined because I couldn't be bothered to write anything on 10/1.

There are also some art challenges going on, but, as interesting as they sound, I won't pretend that they are going to happen. I still noodle around with art supplies for fun, and when I can figure out what is wrong with the scanner, I may show off a thing or two.

Anyway, I will try to crawl out of my own head occasionally this month, and say Hey.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Paper dolls

Paper dolls by chaimann
Paper dolls, a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
Granola bar box, gesso, water-soluble oil pastels and crayons, pencil, pen, pastel - I think that's it.

Little sketches

Little sketches by chaimann
Little sketches, a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
This week has been art-challenged. Real life, don't ya know? But last week, I made some little sketches for my daily art.

I am off work next week, with no plans to speak of, so I hope to indulge myself in some more fun projects.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May 1 (Every Day in May)

100_3054 by chaimann
100_3054, a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
I sketched a little bit. I spun the silk on the tiny spindle a little bit. Then I sketched the spindle sitting on the sketches.

That's an 8.5" by 5.5" sketchbook. by the way, to give you some scale of how small the spindle is.

It's May!

How do YOU plan to go astray?

A few years ago there was a thing called Every Day In May, where the idea was to create something (wait for it) every day in May. Sand and I talked about doing something similar this year, but unaffiliated with any groups or rules.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


With Roy P. and Roy E. by chaimann
With Roy P. and Roy E., a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
I was born long before fathers were welcomed into the delivery room. That didn't stop this big guy, though. At six feet, six inches tall, he was able to peek over the transom and see his baby daughter's arrival. He wanted to make sure the doctor was doing it right.

When mom and I were still in the hospital, she heard the phone ring at the nurse's station one evening. Shortly after that, a nurse breezed into the room and opened some windows. "She said it was to let some fresh air in," mom told me, "but I knew your dad had called." Sure enough, there had been a tornado warning, and the one thing every Kansan knew to do in tornado weather was to open their windows (to reduce the risk of damage from sudden air pressure changes.)

And look at those hands! You would think a huge man with a gravelly voice would scare little kids, but they loved it when he scooped them up with those big hands and let them touch the ceiling.

My brother and I still have conversations that include declarations like, "Dad would have like that." He's been gone ten years today, but we never forget that he is a big part of who we are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Katie x 2

Katie x 2 by chaimann
Katie x 2, a photo by chaimann on Flickr.
I showed this little painting to T, and he recognized who it was,, so I rate this one "good enough".

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Snack time

Snack time

I wanted a snack, and I decided to draw it first, and then touch it up with some paint. I usually do pen sketches in a sketch book, where they stay monochromatic, so it took some courage to do one in a watercolor book. I would like to point out for the record that part on the right, where it looks like I lost track of the perspective? That IS what it looked like.

My needs for courage are rather mundane, unlike this guy. [Edited to removed embedded video. Man, I hate it when they start playing on their own.]

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Learning to swim

In my ongoing quest to incorporate more art - creativity - fun into my life, I signed up for a class on Watercolor Sketching. Aser signed up for it, too, AND called me out on her blog, so now I can't weenie out of doing the lessons.

I spent the first week painting color samples and whatnot in a tiny notebook, which is a nice reference, but hardly sketching. The other night, I told Aser I was afraid that if I combined my marginal drawing skills with my marginal painting skills, it would bring out the worst of BOTH skills.

Of course, I instantly realized the problem with that idea. My mother told me that when she was a child and they went to a lake, she was not allowed to go in the water because she did not how to swim. Because I was young when she told me this, she also stated the logical hiccup in this idea - "How are you supposed to learn to swim if you don't go in the water?"

Indeed. If you want to learn how to do something, you have to do, and be willing to screw it up, and be willing to try it again tomorrow. And let's face it - screwing up art is not nearly as scary as screwing up swimming.

This is all a long-winded way of saying, "Look what I just did!"


It's not perfect, but I think you would be able to pick this item out of a line-up. I am especially pleased at how the yellow background makes the candle stand out.

I tried to find a video of "Candle In The Wind" for our musical nightcap, but I didn't see one that especially turned me on. I found another Elton song, though, that I had not heard in ages.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Lucky Seven?

It's March 5, and it's my big brother's birthday. Cute little scamp, wasn't he? And dig that wallpaper! Don't blame our mom. It was a rental house.

It's also the seventh anniversary of starting this blog. How about that? I realized with some embarrassment that I did not post at all last month. Since I try to steer clear of work and politics, and the winter weather has been remarkably unremarkable, I guess I just haven't had much to say.

Here's some random dude with a birthday wish for my brother.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bread time

I stopped by the grocery store today to get some chicken for dinner. Of course, I had to go to the back of the store for the chicken, and I returned to the front via the baking aisle.

Bernie and Sand have been carrying on for awhile now about Bernie's new-found bread baking skills, and that, plus the drizzly, foggy weather today, gave me a hankering for home-baked bread. I haven't seen the magazine that is fanning B's bakerman flames, but I was a 4-H-er, and I know a few things about bread.
  1. You can make bread with just yeast, sugar, flour, and water.
  2. And heat.
  3. Yeast packets have recipes on the back.
  4. Each box of yeast packets will have a variety of recipes, not the same one on every packet.
So since I was already in the baking aisle, I started flipping over packets, and  before long I found Whole Wheat Batter Bread. It uses whole wheat flour only, and T and I both like our whole grain bread on the chewy side. It is completely prepared in a mixing bowl - no need for kneading, which I usually find tedious. It sounded easy to prepare, and indeed it was.

I ended up with a nice, dense loaf. I think a little kneading might have lightened it up a bit, but it is good and edible just the way it is. I can't wait to slap some butter and jam on it tomorrow morning.

Also at the grocery store, I saw Girl Scouts selling cookies. Girl Scout cookies in January. What is the world coming to?

Off the top of my head, I don't know any songs about baking, but I do know one about someone named Bernie. The video doesn't really have anything to do with the song. Just close your eyes and enjoy the genius that is Dave Frishberg.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The best kind of Saturday

T and I were both off work today, and we had no particular plans. It warmed up enough that I could chip the icy gunk off the steps. And yes, today, January 14, is the first time I've had the snow shovel out this winter. I used it for about two minutes, and put it back in the garage. Weird winter we're having.

I messed around with some artsy stuff, including these two pastel faces. No great shakes, but I have another class coming up next week, and I may as well refresh myself on the "outside of your comfort zone" feeling.

Two faces

Our chanson du jour was brought to mind by tonight's Lawrence Welk Show on my local PBS station. (Yes, I sometimes watch Lawrence Welk. Shut up.) The theme was songs from Broadway, and Norma sang "Till There Was You" from The Music Man. Considering how much I love old movie musicals, I did not manage to see this one until I was grown. I was surprised to learn that this lovely song was from a musical, because as far as I knew, it was just one of the filler songs on my brother's Beatles album.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This week in faces

This week, I took Carla Sonheim's online art class, Faces 101. Carla is the author of Drawing Lab, and the class utilized several of the projects from the book, with the goal of getting you to draw 101 faces during the week, using different media and techniques, before you realized that you had done something you were sure you could not do. (That's my interpretation of the goal, not her words. She says it is about trying lots of things and discovering your own personal style. But chacun son goût, and YMMV.)

On the Tuesday, I was tooling around the web, looking for interesting portraits I could used as inspiration for that day's project, and ran across a lovely picture of Sarah Bernhardt. From that, I created this:


When I saw that finished picture, I was completely hooked. I'm still sort of stunned to realize, "I did that myself!" I've been drawing and painting and pastel-ing every spare moment since then. Some stuff came out well, some not so much, but it has been fun trying new things. You can see more of my creations here.

I've already signed up for the Imaginary Creatures class, coming up in a couple of weeks. Until then, faces, faces, and more faces.

Speaking of being amazed with myself, and of faces... Anyone remember the group that Rod Stewart was with in the early 70s, before he went solo? Here are the Faces, covering "Maybe I'm Amazed". (See what I did there? Oh, yeah.)