Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Air Freshener For Car

Well, more rodent problems. However, it had a good ending and nobody got hurt. Same goes for deer hunting this year. Nobody got hurt, including the deer. It's a good thing we don't need the meat to survive. I haven't been a good food provider lately. The deer also have a mean sense of humor. Last week I scared off three deer from our front yard when coming home late one night. Salt in the wound.

Sketching this time I used my cell phone camera. I didn't have enough time to sketch the flowers because we were shopping when I found them. Left them in the parking lot. I got chuckles from a passer by. The trap was in use at night so I couldn't easily sketch it. The packrat was just released and paused just long enough for a picture. He was sure cute! He was in no real hurry to leave, either. Once out of the trap he slowly walked away and paused a few times to look around. We're buds.

The co-worker that loaned me the trap couldn't believe I just let it go. Her husband kills them after he catches them. They live in a similar rural area and have packrat problems, too. The irony is not lost on me that I can kill Bambi but I can't kill a rat.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November Sketch Crawl

I made it to this month's sketch crawl! For the longest time there were time conflicts with other things, but the last two crawls have hit the calendar well. It was way too warm by statistical standards, but we really liked being able to sketch outside one more month. The Van Till business has added more landscaping since my last time here. The outside dining area had a fabric enclosure with window so we could still eat outside, too.

I loaded up my Noodler's Ahab pen with Lexington Gray ink. A few months ago I cleaned it up and stored it away, frustrated. Initially it was a great pen, but it was having an ink flow problem, and multiple cleanings didn't solve the problem. Today I decided to put it on probation. It worked! Today the ink just flowed and I was getting a responsive thick/thin controllable width. Fiber tip pens just can't match the joy of using a fountain pen like this Ahab on this day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Straight European

Never too old to learn. I thought there was one way to lace a shoe and one way to tie the bow. These are the way my Mom and Dad taught me. So when I bought these shoes a while back I noticed they were not laced correctly. I asked the sales person about it and he said it's a European lace pattern.

A little web search provides the answer . . . and then some. Check out www.fieggen.com/shoelace!! The web owner, Ian, has the worlds best site with more info than I ever thought possible. This guy knows his laces, and my lacing pattern is the Straight European.

I found that the performance of the new (to me) lacing pattern is different than my traditional way. The bow sits lower over the tongue so it's protected more from things that can undue it, so it's more durable. It's also harder to untie, so it's a mixed blessing. The crossover on top does have a nice look that grows on you. That's why, after I replaced the old laces, I kept the Straight European. I'll be back on Ian's site, too, to play with some other methods. So much to learn on something I thought I know?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Open Mic

I was on business travel the last couple days in Tulsa. There a coffeehouse there that has an open mic on Tuesday nights. That's the night before my meeting so I had free time and took it in. It's a nice way to spend a night on the road.

With all the sketching of food on other blogger's sites I had intended to sketch my cheesecake. My problem is that it tasted too good. It didn't last long enough to sketch. At least the plates don't move fast.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

That Time Again

Time to carve a pumpkin. The kids aren't here anymore but I have the urge to carve one, anyway. I had quite a few years when the kids were teenagers when I didn't carve. Enough of that abstinence! Can't blame it on the kids anymore, either. It's just me.There's still a bit of pyromaniac in me, too, to enjoy just sitting and watching the candle burn. It's soothing. Then, to sketch it while I quietly watch it is just frosting on the cake!

I once taught pumpkin carving when we lived in Great Bend, at the Recreation Commission. Kids loved it! When we moved to Topeka, I offered to teach it at the Recreation Commission here. They turned me down, because they didn't see any reason to offer it. I don't get them not getting it.

So now it's just me, carving for me. And that's good enough.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scare for a Moment

We had a scare. For a short time we thought our favorite Asian food restaurant in Topeka had closed down. It wasn't until that moment that I realized how much we loved it and would miss it. Then I thought of life without Jade Garden. Was it possible? Ah, that's just plain silly . . . or is it? We have a few good Mexican restaurants, and three descent Italian restaurants. Between Topeka and Lawrence we have some good choices, but only one really good Jade Garden. That put me into a funk. You don't know what you have until it's gone.

Then we found it wasn't true . . . and I feel great!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sketch Crawl Oct/2012

Our sketch crawl this month was at The Elms in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. The group has been there many times, but I don't make it as often as I'd like and it was my first trip there. I fell in love with the stone masonry on the front porch. Wish I would have fallen in love with something in the lobby, which had a big fireplace going on this cold day.  I huddled with my warm coat on my three-legged stool and sketched away.

After the masonry I looked inside and it was part of the Kitchen. The wait staff was walking briskly through the room and gave me the eye through the window, but were nice or neutral. A couple came to say hi and see what I was doing. They seemed to like the sketch. One even asked if I needed anything to stay warm! I'm not sure exactly what my options were (a coffee? a bourbon and water? a blanket?), but I declined and thanked them anyway.

Talked to an employee who was cleaning the brass on the luggage cart. He was young and we talked about the Brasso he was using and got into its uses in guns, which I found we both had an interest in. Luckily the guests weren't needing help, because I was sure slowing up their staff. They have a nice coffee shop where I bought an espresso drink to nurse as I sketched. Then we all went to a local restaurant to grab a bite and a talk and pass around sketchbooks. A good day by any measure.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bike & Sketch

These Fall days have been great! The colors make me stare, which can get dangerous when driving. That's why I decided to pull a day's vacation and pedal around Topeka for a day. It's been TOO long since I've sketched (please don't look at the posting date of my last entry) (I told you not to!) so I wanted to merge the two activities into one meandering day sketching through the urban and rural bike trails.

We live southeast of town, and we're lucky to live close to the Landon Trail (a rail-to-trail). I can catch it into town and pick up the Shunga Trail along the Shunganunga Creek to spread out around town. This ended up being a full day's jaunt. I need to do this more often. Temperature was moderate, air was filled with the smell of dropping leaves, and the trails don't have much traffic. Coffee breaks are required and my pace is casual by design. Too bad this isn't a paying gig.

I did the pen sketching and color work on-site and added text once I get home, after I've had time to absorb it all. Like I said, it's been too long. Really miss the sketching routine, so maybe I can motivate myself to get back in the saddle. I've determined that I'll be sketching the rest of my life, but I just don't know how often since other duties call, too. Choices no different than everyone else has.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring 2012

Things around here have been growing like crazy, like most place in the country this year. No long freezes this year. I think the plants were primed and ready to start. This is only my second year in a new herb garden bed, and they're going to town. No basil to plant yet, but we're eating the perennials now. The air is just right now, too. Our summers can be oppressively hot and humid in Kansas, so I'm enjoying the pre-summer temperatures. It's nice to lounge around on the porch listening to the birds, bugs and frogs.

On the sad side, we lost our Shadow this month. His hips just gave out. At 16 he was really 112. He was the last of two dogs we adopted from the Humane Society for our two very young kids. Nikki, the first one, died about four years ago. Both taught our kids a love of animals and confirmed that Wilma and I are both dog people.

Now we sit back, wait for the dandelion poison to work, and curse the frequent mowing required this time of year. But I still smile.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Business Travel

This week I was traveling for meetings again. This isn't a big part of my job, but it is a part of it.The return trip was the challenge. Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a plane from San Antonio to Denver, but not before landing in Dallas and then Amarillo. Denver weather held me up in Amarillo, which started my sketching time. I didn't have my sketch gear so I used my trusty ball point pen and a couple pieces of blank bond paper I happened to have. It did help pass the time, and was calming.

I also brought along "An Illustrated Life" to read. I've been looking at the pictures for many months and finally started reading the text. I find it insightful to read what professional artists do for their illustrated journals, but I wish he would have talked to regular people who don't have the college art degree and don't have the art career. These are the regular folks that this whole every day matters movement was directed toward. Danny Gregory can go in any direction he pleases, and I do admire professional artists, but I want to see how regular people like me use illustrated journals in their day-to-day lives. I don't think I'll ever view a journal like a professional artist does, though I was pleased that I could relate to what several of the artists describe as reasons for journaling. Now that Danny has 'gone pro' in his work and Dan Price is publishing his Moonlight Chronicles only half the year and given up gainful employment for surfing, I feel us regular people are loosing our champions of the every-day illustrated journaling movement. For that I'm sad.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sketch Crawl Feb/2012

Well, it's Sketch Crawl Feb/2012. This time we went to the Bass Pro Shop in Independence, Mo. My first time in this store, and I was impressed. Plenty of decor to sketch. Didn't get too many stares from customers, either. Everyone was too busy shopping to notice us. All the old equipment used for decoration seemed to have a story if only they could talk.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spork Vandal

For Christmas I received a bamboo spork, among other things. Cody thought it would make a nice backpacking accessory, and I agree with him. Light. Strong. Functional. Multi-use. That's the type of item just made for backpacking. I left the spork on the floor in the living room for the night. 

A little more plot development is needed here. Brian and Michelle brought their adorable beagle Moab to stay, too. He's as cute as can be. Doesn't say much. He is a real slave to his nose, being a pure bred hunting dog. He'll trail his masters through the yard or through a city block of concrete and asphalt. A true master of tracking. He's got a run of the house because he's behaved. At least that's the prevailing belief.

We all go to bed and in the morning I find the spork is eaten in half, with the tines nowhere to be found. We ask Moab if he saw anything and he just looks at us with that cute mug. Couldn't have been him. I guess we'll never know.

The spork is made by bambu and marketed as picnic ware. I found where they bought it (a kitchen supply store) and went back and bought two. We'll try them out.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Quilting Run

Had a chance to catch some more rural urban. The wife needed a quilting supply run. We have a choice of Topeka, Lawrence, Eudora, Manhattan, Kansas City, Overbrook and Burlingame. I don't know how she chooses but she has her favorites depending on what she needs at the time. Today it was Burlingame. It's drizzling out and it's cold, but a short road trip is always fun. I stayed in the car to sketch as she shopped. I liked the descending lines looking down the street and it needed to be sketched.

After sketching/shopping, we hit a local restaurant. Aunt B's. They had fresh scratch-made potato soup with a scratch-made dinner roll for me. Wilma had a fresh biorock. I love this place! I talked with the owner couple and they spend a lot of hours in that little shop. We'll need to come back on a Saturday morning for biscuits and gravy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Followup on Biscuits

In my last post, Jane Angell responded and was supportive of my quest to understand the English Biscuit. To help in the dialog, here is the recipe I found on allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cinnamon-Biscuits/Detail.aspx, submitted by Rhonda Warhol, called Cinnamon Biscuits.

Mix these in a large bowl-
   All-purpose flour  2 cups (250 g)
   salt  1/2 tsp (3 g)
   ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons (5 g)
Cut in-
   butter, softened  1/2 cup (115 g)
Mix with a fork until crumbly.
   white sugar  1/2 cup (100 g)
   vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon (5 ml)

Mix to a stiff paste. Mix in one beaten egg. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll out dough thinly and cut into 24 rounds.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly gold in color. Let cool on wire rack.

Comments on the site for this recipe said they missed the milk. I found it too dry, too, so I added some. However, I'm American and the recipe isn't. Do the Brits use milk to form a tacky dough? The recipe said roll out thin. I did, and got closer to 50 biscuits so I went too thin. How thin is thin? And is this really "The basic English biscuit,with a dash of cinnamon." as specified on the recipe? Does anyone have a recipe they could hold up as a prime example to a classic English biscuit?

BTW: Sketching will continue. This blog has NOT been converted to a food network channel. This is a food compulsive tangent that must be satisfied, though.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tea & Biscuits (?)

I just don't know what an English Biscuit is. That's not something we run across in Kansas.We don't have fine china tea cups (Corelle works fine). I don't know what you do in a Tea Room. But I do know I like hot tea. In an effort to drop a few pounds I've tried to cut out late night snacks like cookies or ice cream, but I need something. Recently I've gone to hot tea, but that causes late night bathroom runs. Then I figured out that, in true American fashion, portion size was excessive. I was drinking too much tea with my 12-16 oz cup. Maybe the British have something with their 6 oz. serving. 

Also their biscuit idea may have merit. Low sugar and nice and bland. That would be good before bed. So, a quick Internet search yields a recipe that claims to be a traditional English biscuit. The results were fine by me but I still don't know if they are the "real deal". They'll work just fine.

So, one small cup of hot tea with a little milk, and a couple small biscuits. That beats down the craving for REAL calories. I will continue my quest to understand the Brits cuisine, and to question the American super-size and super-sweet approach.

If anyone has exposure to the British tea and biscuit cuisine, I'd value your observations. Also, what IS a retail tea room and its rituals, as Liz and others talk about? And with that I end my not-so-masculine post.

Process notes: I used my Noodler's Ahab flex nib on this post again, followed by watercolor pencils, waterbrush on Arches Velin text woven. The ink flow tends to be finicky at the start, after not using the pen for a few days, but it does wake up. I still like the responsiveness of the nib. The ink is Noodler's Lexington Gray.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Community Jam

Time for our monthly jam. Our hobby music club, the Kansas Prairie Pickers Association, hosts a monthly jam at the Auburn County Community Center. I don't make it to all of them, but today I made it. It's a nice community gathering of players and listeners.

Auburn is a small town. It seems the small towns understand do-it-yourself music as a community event. Don't need a TV or video games. It's face-to-face networking. Most of our club members are from the smaller towns around Topeka. "T Town" doesn't get it. The small towns make their buildings available for our type of activities, the small cultural non-profits the build community. It's a nice atmosphere.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I guess I needed to start the new year with a piece of equipment failing. At least I get sketching time out of the expense. This time it's our blender. We're not sure how old it is, but it's a nice one. WAS a nice one. I was making a batch of hummus when it spewed some electrical burn/melt smells and slowed down until it stopped. Puff of smoke and all! Luckily no fire.

New appliances don't tend to impress me. Too many stories of people buying kitchen appliances and never using them. Out cupboards were full so we weren't going to get a food processor until the blender died. We had to wait a couple decades, but now is our chance. In a few days we had our food processor.

As soon as we got home I had to make something. We viewed the DVD and the breads looked good. They always look good to me. So I chose one that looked like cinnamon rolls (labelled Breakfast Bread?) and went to town. The mixing goes SO fast in these things. Results came out great. This thing is going to work fine.

As for this sketch, it's using my Noodler's Ahab flex nib pen again, with Lexington Gray ink. I still like it but I'm learning some things. This ink takes much longer to dry than my art marker pens. That would go for any fountain pen that lays down as much ink as this does on wide lines. I need to keep my fingers away or ink smudges everywhere! Also, once in a while a mysterious ink drop comes from nowhere. It just shows up. I can't tell if its from the nib or the feeder under it or from the pen body. Time will tell. I still love the ink feed rate and the ease of changing pen width. It's still a keeper.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Manhattan Meeting

Had a meeting in Manhattan last night. That's Kansas, the "Little Apple". Our State 4-H Venture crew is planning our summer backpack trip with the teens. I've been a volunteer for a few years. This time we met at a coffee house in the little business/beer district near campus we call Aggieville. I decided to get there a little earlier so I could sketch the storefront. It was getting dark but with street lights it would still be sketchable.

I set up my little three-legged stool in a nook along the sidewalk across the street and was sketching away, in my own world, when I heard "Hello, John!" in an unfamiliar voice. Nobody knows me here and I'm invisible! I kept sketching but the voice got closer. It was a cousin of my brother-in-law that we camp with a couple times a year. He hails from the Topeka area like me, 60 miles to the east. K-State basketball is playing tonight so he must be here for the game. We exchange pleasantries and he leaves with a couple others I didn't know. Then I had a vision of a future conversation. He'll go back home and strike a conversation with my brother-in-law - "Say, I saw John huddled in a dark corner in Aggieville secretly doing something by himself, oblivious to the world. Is he OK?"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Pen

This journal entry is just one more combination of pen, ink, journal and coffee house. I'm at Juli's Coffehouse, taking a couple lunch breaks to test a new PEN! Gee, I love to do this. I thought I was happy with my current art supplies. But no, a friend (that's you, Cheryl) mentioned the Noodler's Flex Nib pen (at only $20, gouletpens.com). She knew I use a Namiki (msrp $180). Now I'm not proud of what I paid for the Namiki. I'm not a fountain pen snob. I'm a pen and ink addict with no 10-step program to save me. Anyway, Cheryl wanted to know how these two pens would compare and if I would conclude that the Namiki is worth the money.

Short answer - the Namiki is worth the money from the standpoint of quality material and construction and it's visual presentation. This thing's a piece of art and joy to use. And it PERFORMS. I'll pay for performance. That's probably why I'll never have a $350 fountain pen (which I lust for), because they may be build better yet, but won't perform better.

Back to the Noodler's. I'd like to meet the company CEO. He wanted a fountain pen for the common person, at a reasonable price so that the fountain pen could take its rightful place as a price-viable mode of written communication, and he did it! The features that mean the most to me - nice fit in hand (I like the fuller barrel of the Ahab), impressive ink flow rate (maybe too fast for some when you spring the tip for a wide mark), variable width (easy to shift from fine to broad), massive ink capacity, and colorful bodies.

Now, to get to a $20 product you need to shave some corners. They do that through cheaper parts and design. I don't know about fountain pen design (what you don't see in the pen) but from a performance standpoint the Namiki is not 9 times better. I'd be happy with the Noodler's alone. I love them both. I think I saw on the Goulet website they refer to the Noodler's pen as a "novelty" pen. Not sure what that means. It's a full function pen that does everything I want. I'm hooked. I'll be using both fountain pens.

Spend what you're comfortable spending on a pen. It's how you use it that counts. Both pens will get me to the paradise of pen and ink sketching.