Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wilma's Obsession

Ahh! The smell of a busy oven in the holidays. Food is such a part of it all. Watching Wilma cook up a series of confections gives me the idea for a sketch, so I get my gear out and sketch to the smells that only fresh baking can produce.

As the journal says, she has a love/hate relationship with the baking tradition. It's stressful and rewarding. She has trimmed down the quantity from a few years ago. Back then she did candies, too, like chocolate covered cherries. Very talented. Very addicted to creating confections. The whole extended family knows it, too, and has come to expect tasty treats when Christmas rolls around. They even put in a word for their favorites in the hopes she'll keep making them. We'll end up freezing some, too, so we can extend the good times.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Late Present

I wanted to get a camping stove for my daughter and her husband. They're just starting out and don't have much in the way of camping gear. Unfortunately my normal retailers were all out of them. So, I decided to sketch it and give them an IOU. I don't think my daughter ever gets out to my blog so I'm safe in posting it before Christmas.

As for the stove, it's a model I've had for many many years. It's still produced, and still gets great reviews and hasn't been replaced by anything that impresses me. I'm prejudiced.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Enough Already

We had two events this year to make it the worst weather damage year we've ever had. We've been dealing with replacing and fixing things ever since a hail storm in April and a lightning hit in July. I had these telephones and electronic gear ready to throw out but wanted to sketch them first. They are now in the garbage can. The TV was fixable, which required replacing 2/3 of the electronic boards. Unfortunately the damage from the lightning wasn't enough to exceed our deductible so repair and replace was on our dime.

As for the vehicles, we had to junk two of them and we bought one back from insurance. We fixed the Suburban. Local body shops were inundated with jobs and will take a year to get back to normal.

Just had our roof replaced. The local contractors have enough repair work from that one 10 minutes storm to work through next Spring. We were in the house when the hail hit, and we could tell from the low rumble sound that we were in trouble. Some more car damage needs to be fixed, but we're basically through it all. Dealing with insurance for hail damage was a protracted effort but I can't complain. They paid out as they said they would in our policies.

As for the sketching, this is the first time for using Noodler's Lexington Gray in my flexible fine nib fountain pen. For journaling I have always used my Pitt Artist marker pens but this time I used my Namiki pen and used varying pressure to get the variety of widths I needed. I think it worked well. The Lexington Gray didn't bleed like the Noodler's Black does. The pen gets carried to work, too, for day-to-day writing. If I need a quick pick-me-up I'll secretly do some warm-up calligraphy exercises with it just to watch the flexible nib do it's thing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Cold House

Just one more thing that needed to be fixed, which gave me something to sketch. Our furnace stopped working this morning. It's not freezing out yet, so it's not dire straits, but it's a very cool rainy dreary day. The bones get cold faster that way. I call a service guy. While we wait, I decide to bring in some wood from our wood pile so we can fire up our small wood-burning stove. But wait, it's been raining all night and is raining now, so the wood is soggy. With a rain jacket on I dig for drier wood and build a pile in the cold and wet weather. Seems like I wait for the worst weather to stock the wood pile. Doesn't take long for the repairman to arrive. He diagnoses the problem and changes out the ignitor and we're all fixed. I start up a fire anyway and brew up some coffee so I'm quite cozy as I sketch. Not a bad day after all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Coffee Shop

Well, Thanksgiving came and went. Now it's the day after. We don't do crazy shopping for Black Friday but sometimes we'll hit a store or two. This time Wilma wanted to go to a sewing store and I remembered this coffee shop next door. We both get something out of this deal. We had a nice time and I got a sketch out of the deal. I was able to do the whole thing before leaving the coffee shop. Those always feel good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Tech (I'd Make A Good Wife)

This just isn't what a guy should be saying, but I love my new iron! I know what you're thinking - why does this guy have an iron and why does he enjoy it? It starts with a story.

Over 30 years ago when Wilma and I were dating, we'd talk about many things. In that process she declared that she would not iron, make my lunch or get up early just to cook my breakfast. In pondering all the things to decide if she was "the one", these seemed small. Since she did marry me, these could be considered a verbal prenuptial agreement, so I'll honor them.

Therefore, I iron those shirts of mine that aren't wrinkle-free. These are the shirts that feel softer and the ones I prefer to wear, since the wrinkle-free treatment produces a harsher texture. But I still tend to be lazy so I have both.

In the course of our 30 year marriage we have not upgraded irons. The old iron still worked and I thought it was fine until I used a newer one at a motel while on business travel. The extra steam it produced made a world of difference. Gotta have a new one!

Last weekend we bought this one and I'm in heaven. It has a wide stance to hold it upright, automatic shut-offs for time-out and falling over, and a swiveling power cord. There's a neat little clip on the cord so it can be wrapped up and secured. This all appeals to me as an engineer. Great design and attention to detail. Part of the steam control can even be taken out for cleaning, so there's attention to maintenance, too. So I tried it out on this weeks shirts. It glides with ease and has a nice slow steady stream of steam. Then the burst of steam when you push the button. Wow! I've been missing a lot these last few decades. This is the right tool for the job.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sketch Crawl Nov. '11

This was a windy cool day in Excelsior Springs so we spent it indoors. Kate arranged for us to spend time at Raymond's, which is a home furnishings place in the old down town. This was our first time there. As with all the buildings in this part of town, the architecture is old and elegant. This place has been kept up, too.

I had a chance to talk with those running the store. That's how I learned about the money transfer gear. They asked about our sketching so I explained the whole sketch crawl and illustrated journaling thing.

Then off for a bite to eat and compare notes and chat with Kate and Vicky and assorted spouses. Christiana had to leave early. This was a shot in the arm to get back into sketching. As my lack of recent posts indicate, I've been off my game lately. I'm hoping to fix that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Bike Tour

Well, calling it a tour may be a stretch, but it was an over-niter for both of us and we used my pannier bags for our luggage. We hit the Prairie Spirit Trail in eastern Kansas. I've been wanting to try a rail-to-trail bike ride with motel so that Wilma and I could do it together. She doesn't sleep on the ground anymore so my loaded touring method with camping gear doesn't work with her. That will just be my solo thing.

All went well, and Wilma would almost agree with that assessment. It was a bit warm Saturday. I wanted to be off the trail by the time the day's heat arrived but we were running a little late. We hit 95F and there wasn't as much shade on the trail as I was hoping for. It took the wind out of our sails. But we made it fine and recouped in an air-conditioned motel room. We just waited for the sun to go down a little before we hit Ottawa for eating and seeing the sites.

I love cruising small town Kansas on a bicycle to see the sites. I learned that on my two trips with Biking Across Kansas (organized ride), where we'd cruise the cities each night where we stayed. Sunday we got up early to beat the heat and the going was better. We watched the sun rise as we were pedaling South, back to Garnett. We gave a dozen farmers having coffee at the local dive pit-stop something to talk about with our biking attire as we came in for a bite. I had a nice chat and ear-scratching with a blue healer in a pickup in the parking lot as we left, waiting for his gossipy master inside.

That all made for a 58 mile two-day outing, which was the most Wilma has ever done. I'm proud of her! Also, we're still married . . . so far . . . I think.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some Scenery on Business Travel

I spent a day inspecting some utility construction of one of our member coops. Coming back I drove through my Alma matter, K-State. I love to visit Manhattan, with it's coffee shops, grab a bite, and visit either the K-State Union bookstore or its rival, Varney's bookstore. This time it was Varney's and I picked up a new product for me - Art Alternative's "Pen & Ink" fountain pen and their 3.5"x5.5" sketch book that copies the Moleskine style. Then, while driving out of town I stopped at a scenic overview of the Kansas River Valley at sundown to try it all out. They built this neat stop after I graduated. So, here's the first sketch with that pen and that sketch book. The pen is $16, a bottle of ink was $6 and the book was cheaper, too. Seems to be entry level stuff, but it seems to work good so far. Next I'll check the claim that the ink is waterproof for using watercolors.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Omaha on Business

Well, time for our quarterly SPP TWG meeting. This time in Omaha. Our hotel is down by the restored Old Market area, so we can walk around after the meeting and check out their neat restaurants, bars and shops. Meeting with my peers is great but I like to get away from it, too. I knew there would probably be a big chain coffee store somewhere, but I like the small independents and if they were here, they'd be on the outside fringe area of the high rent district. Wednesday night I was in the mood for a decaf latte. I found Scooters in the high rent district, but they had no decaf. He recommended a competitor, and it was an independent! It's a neat little shop on the fringe of the developed area and they had my decaf. I decided to stop by the next day after our meeting disbanded at lunchtime and do a sketch and, since I'm there, have another cup of joe as I write the text. Sometimes I love business travel.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sketch Crawls

I've made it to the last two Sketch Crawls in Excelsior Springs. That's just northeast out of Kansas City. They're organized by Kate Johnson. The June crawl was at Van Till Farms, just outside of town. It's an interesting blend of winery, restaurant, green houses to supply the restaurant, and part time pizzeria. Never been there before, but I cruised their website in advance. Their old-style masonry wood-fired oven is a slap the the face of technology. The work tools caught my eye initially, so I sat out in the sunny heat to sketch and sweat. Then I moved around for the other views. We would then sit and chat and eat. This is only my third crawl so I'm still getting into the swing of it.

Then the July Sketch Crawl was in the town at their City Hall. The building name is Hall of Waters, and hails back to their heyday as a resort town using their mineral waters. This place is build with interesting architecture and materials. I don't know the name of the style, but it has plenty of sketch potential. I started outside in the heat but came in after an hour.

My next sketch will be about our recent lightning strike that wiped out a bunch of electronics. This is added onto a hail storm in April. Bunches of insurance claims. The sketch is in my mind.

On the good side of life, my herb garden has proved to be very delicious. It's fun to cook with them. The smell is heavenly. I'll need a sketch of that, too. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Berry Patch Prep

Everything is waking up around here. I love Spring! The hummingbirds are back. Flowers are up. Wilma's flower and veggi gardens are planted. We're starting to eat fresh veggies.

I can't put off clipping off the dead growth in the blackberry patch, so last night I got busy. I can't seem to get used to Kansas humidity, even though I've been here most of my life. When you don't move around it's fine, but work a little and it gets sticky. Oh well.

Wheat is starting to turn, so harvest isn't far away. When your are a major wheat State, that a significant event, at least in eastern Kansas. Western Kansas has already lost most of the Winter-planted wheat. That's a bad thing.

This is my second year of growing herbs. I plan to sketch later about them. They're not growing very fast but smell great.

Monday, June 13, 2011

High Pressure Fun

I had our deck and porch railing all cleaned and stained for our wedding festivities and visitors, but I didn't get the sketch done right away. Had the pen work finished but I had to clean up the place and store the equipment away before I got the color done. So, I drug out the sprayer last night to finish it and here it is.

That high pressure sprayer is one heavy piece of gear. I'm glad I have a brother to borrow it from. It's fun to use because you can see progress while you're working. There's also something primal about working with water that's fun. Think about it. When you walk by a puddle of water, doesn't an inner voice say "Step In It!". It's the learned cultural side of us that says adults don't do such thing (when other people are around). When you're out in a canoe or kayak or raft you have to smile and splash. Of course swimming is all about fun, even as an adult. With the exception of flooding, water is just plain fun. I also just remembered that human skin is not like that of other typical mammals, but like that of our dolphin friends. We are made for water . . . so step in that puddle!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Time's a Changin'

Amy's wedding was Saturday. Wilma and I have been busy (mainly the women) getting ready. Saturday morning Amy and Wilma were getting their hair done etc. etc. and I was left at home, alone, until my first duty, which was to take her dress (which was in a plastic bag I couldn't see into . . . drats!) to the church and pick up a platter of sandwiches for the bridal party. Then show time. So as I set, passing the time of day and listening to music, cup of coffee, I see this champagne cork Amy used for a spiked punch for the girls. I was fiddling with it and, of course, it called out to me to be sketched. Had it done before I went to town for my assigned father duties.

The wedding went fine (other than the sandwich shop didn't see our order and had to do a mad rush to fill it). Words just don't describe it all. It's special (and that sounds so lame). I once thought watching weddings was OK but not THAT mushy. Then our kids got married. Wow!

Note: The purplish color is close to the official event color.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring Break

It's a little late, but here's my journaling for our Spring Break this year. Went to see our son at his new job, and it's in Seattle.

For this trip I didn't get to sketch much at all. Too busy and now time to myself. So, I took plenty of pictures for sketching after we got home. It's not my preferred way, mainly because I take too long to post-process everything (witness the slow posting). When I sketch in the moment, it's finished when the moment passes and not several weeks later. But, it's still fun to sketch it at home.

Seattle was fun to explore. Our son had the itinerary set, and all we needed to do was keep up. I've got sketching locations figured out for our next visit(s). We now have a feel for what Seattle is. Experienced some typical cloudy/rainy time and some partly sunny time. This Kansas boy wants to do some big boat sketching, and I want to research the different types of deep sea fishing and crabbing boats so I can understand the equipment differences.

I think it would take a lot of visits before I'd get bored of Seattle.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Invitations close to done

Well, I've been busy lately. Instead of sketching my creative time has been spent on wedding invitations for our daughter. My calligraphy originals went to the printers for the invitation, RSVP card, Reception card and Map card, and we like the results. Now it's time to address the envelopes. The finished product is shown at the left. I used some watercolor pencil to add a splash of color on the owls. At a bit over 100 invitations, that is 200 owls! That took me a while. The folder is creased (got to buy more gear!) and folded. The map card is creased and folded. Then I used transfer tape to glue the invitation to the backing to the folder. And, because of all the paper being cut (the invitation backing sheet plus misc.), I bought a nice table top rotary paper cutter.

As for addressing the envelopes, my corner of the basement is shown below. It's nothing fancy or expensive, but I like it. I have my hot tea and nice music and my quaint little domain. It's a slow process but it's worth it.

I'll be getting back to sketching after we get these in the mail. We had a quick trip for Spring Break to Seattle where our son just got a job. No time to sketch live, but I took pictures so I could work up the sketches later. That's in the work. Just not enough time.

More later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Criminal Rat

I wouldn't know what to do without critters getting into trouble around here. This Winter we had our first pack rat in the garage. He sure caused mischief! Expensive mischief. I ended up having to kill him, and I sure don't like doing that.

We all have our place on this planet, but our garage is not the place for his home. He sure was a cute rascal, though. One tough rodent, too. Mouse traps and poisons had no lethal affect on him. He could crawled up all shelving. He could chew everything but metal into shreds. The whole garage was his kingdom, and he laughed at me freely. . . until I corned him with an old broom handle. May he R.I.P.

On another note, last weekend I noticed a dead vole in the tiger pit (egress window well) and mentioned it to Wilma. She HATES voles because we think they are the ones eating all her flower bulbs. I thought she'd be happy. WRONG! She says they're cute and was sad to lose one. . . go figure.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

To The Printers

Our girl's getting married and I'm taking on the invitations! I've dabbled in calligraphy for years and love it. My first big project was twenty nine years ago when I addressed envelopes for our wedding. I have a standing offer to my nieces and nephews that Uncle John will address their envelopes as a gift. Some have taken me up on it, and they were rewarding to do. Being of German descent I really enjoy writing out some of the traditional names. They look sharp in calligraphy.

For Amy I wanted to do it all from scratched. I pitched the idea after coming up with comparative costs to commercially available offerings, and they "gave me the job". Amy went with a pocket fold format, with individual cards for RSVP, Reception and Map. With invitation they are folded together in a pocket fold envelope. She had the idea of the owls, so I came up with a simple sketch after looking over the Internet for sample owl sketches. I needed to find out what "makes an owl" with minimum line work. All my work is done large scale and scaled down by the printer. I've gone with an off-set printer (good stuff) because my dad was an off-set pressman and I wanted it done in a way he would be proud of, since he's not here to see the event.

The last picture also has a mock-up I made to illustrate the concept. I'll have more pictures later of the finished product.

PS: I finished the roto-tilling this weekend and didn't blow my cool once!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be Patient, Doofus!

Sometimes things happen that seem bad initially, but have some merit in the long run. For example, this bruised fingernail. It will take months to heal, and is a constant reminder that patients is a nice virtue. Every year, before the snows come, we like to till the garden with organic matter so it can rest the Winter. I had problems with the roto-tiller (again) and I worked myself into a frenzy. Slamming that nail between a flying strap buckle and the utility trailer rail came along to refocus my attention.

Tomorrow I'll rent the roto-tiller again to start the new growing year. The weather is going to be nice and Wilma says it's time. Not even going to try the old roto-tiller. I'll see if I learned anything from a few months ago.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Broken Borders

Wish I could say my absence was because I was abducted by a space alien and I was just returned home after months of human experiments. But nothing so grandeur. I just fell out of the habit due to a splash of activity and never got back in the saddle. There is probably a deep seated psychological explanation, but I'm not smart enough to figure that out. I do know that even though I wasn't sketching, I was viewing the world in terms of what would make a good sketch. I'm addicted. So here I am again.

Border's Book Store is going under. That's old news to anyone not living under a rock. As a family we like to shop book stores. Each of us may have a favorite but we like them all. In most towns in Kansas we don't have multiple choices in each city of the BIG book stores. Take out a BIG store and it changes things like family traditions. When we visit Lawrence, we usually hit Border's. Guess now we won't. We'll still have our independent book stores, but things will be different.