I paint dogs.

Well, I don’t paint the dogs, I paint pictures of dogs.

I was six or seven when I saw an advertisement for a drawing contest in the back of the TV guide. A cartoon-like sketch of a dog was the subject aspiring artists were encouraged to copy and then mail in for evaluation. The prize-perhaps it was a monetary award and/or the promise of entry into art school or maybe a lifetime supply of bubblegum! I don’t remember, but I was excited to have successfully copied the drawing. I showed my work to my ever encouraging big brother and he said, at the very least, I would receive a certificate. So, we mailed in my drawing.

I never heard from those contest people, not even to get a funky little certificate.

In the years following, whenever I came across a similar advertisement for an art contest I ignored it. Even when the cartoon-like dog was replaced by a horse, I simply turned the page …

Fortunately the contest experience didn’t squash my desire to draw. Drawing came so easily, I thought it was something everyone could do.

I went to school and became a graphic artist. I worked with printers designing custom invitations and business cards. I loved the challenge of creating illustrations that worked best in black and white and believed that the success of a logo design comes before adding color (I still do).

I had secret admiration for painters. Secret, because I didn’t understand the depth of my feelings. When I saw someone’s work or met someone who was a painter I’d think “that’s so cool”, but I never thought of it as something I could do. Graphite was my medium and I was okay with it. I didn’t recognize my own desire to paint until one summer about 15 years ago.

I was in a hotel lobby in St. Louis, Missouri reading an article about a computer graphic artist that grew to hate his career. “The computer robbed me”, he said, and I knew exactly what he meant. He chose to go back to something he once loved, painting. He changed directions, beginning a new career of hand painting signage on business fronts throughout St. Louis.

While reading that article, I was reminded of High School and my Home Economics class where I had to create a household budget based on a made up career. My career of choice was a sign painter.

I was inspired.

When I returned from that trip, I enrolled in a beginner painting class at an art school in Oakland. After a few semesters, I was encouraged by my instructor to join a small group of women who painted together on Friday mornings. I have been painting with these women, ever since.

Friday morning painters. It has been 15 years since I joined the group. A couple of the women have painted together over 25 years, some came after me, and a few (not pictured) have moved on to other adventures. Overall, it’s a solid group of talented ladies, who support, encourage and love each other.

I also paint cats, and people. Well, I don’t paint the cats …

Straight White Male.

PrintPRIDE week. Sitting in a coffee shop, I overheard part of a conversation from the table next to me, “When is MY day? I wanna know, when will there be a day for me, a straight white male. When will there be a day to celebrate me?!!!” Shocked, stunned and disgusted, I gathered my things and removed myself from the situation. At that particular moment, a response from me would not have been pleasant.

One Mother’s Day many years ago, as we were getting ready for church, I asked my mom, ‘’Why isn’t there a Children’s Day?” My mom answered, “Everyday is Children’s Day.” I nodded as if I understood.

Today I nod, because I do understand.

As children we assumed the world would take care of us, and for the most part, it did.  Adults looked after us, fed us, dressed us, protected us and provided a place to lay our heads. Television programs were designed for us. Family vacations were planned with our schedule and our enjoyment in mind. The world revolved around us, and everyday was “Children’s Day”.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days set aside to remind us (children) that someone else (Mom, Dads and other adults) are out there working to make life comfortable, and safe for children.  They are days set aside for children to take a moment and say, Yes, you ARE an important part of my world and you help make me who I am. I honor and respect you as you have honored and respected me.

So… Dear Straight White Male, I say to you, everyday is Straight White Male Day!

Pride Week, Black History Month, Native American Month are special days set aside to acknowledge someone other than the Straight White Male, but they are days created for your benefit, for you to look closely at those who are not like you.

These special non ‘Straight White Male Days’ give you a chance to examine your privilege, your entitlement, your history, your place in this world. It’s a time for you to recognize the role diversity played in making you YOU! You can acknowledge the other people who struggled to make life work in a world that did not value their existence.

Consider the non-‘Straight White Male Days’ a time to renew your spirit and give honor and respect to those who have done the same for you throughout history.

Reflect and give thanks, we all have reason to celebrate.

Happy Pride.

 

caramelized butter, cauliflower and tomato raisins.

brown butter.

I came across  a recipe for “brown butter” that was to be drizzled over mashed potatoes. Directions for the butter were simple; slowly heat butter in a pan, the butter will melt, then separate, creating a white “foam” on top.  The white foam will gradually fade and brown bits will appear at the bottom of the pan.

Once you see the brown bits, remove the pan from heat. The butter will have a hint of caramel to it’s scent as well as it’s taste.

This carmelized butter makes everything extra special. I use in the making of omelettes, on pancakes, veggies, pasta, meat, fish, etc. It makes me feel as though I’ve learned the secret to gourmet cooking.

 

cauliflower.

Something I started this year is substituting mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. I steam the cauliflower in chicken broth (beef broth or vegetable broth). Once tender, I mash it and add bits of sautéed garlic. For those who don’t mind the extra fat, I recommend adding a little cream. This tastes great with the caramelized butter drizzled on top.

 

tomato raisins.

A few articles ago, I wrote about slow roasting tomatoes. I’ve experimented a bit more  with the grape tomatoes by roasting them in an oven set at 200F degrees for 5 hours. The tomatoes will shrivel up looking like red raisins.

After removing them from the oven, the tomatoes can be salted, or sprinkled with parmesan cheese. They are filled with a burst tomato flavor and a the sweet tartness of sun dried tomatoes.

The batch of tomatoes shown in the photo are topped with garlic that was quickly fried in olive oil. This process, gives the garlic a chewy candy-like texture. The olive oil, flavored from the garlic, is poured over the tomatoes and refrigerated. I serve them cold or hot, tossed in pasta or in scrambled eggs or in a sandwich of tomatoes and cheddar cheese on sourdough. Yum!

 

 

Words of Wisdom from Walnut Creek.

rainydayThe owner of the really cool green linen jacket that hung in the lifeless cubicle, finally returned to the office. I noticed the jacket when I began working a few weeks earlier. It was simple in it’s design, however, it was the unique color that attracted my attention. I wondered why the jacket was left to collect dust all those weeks. Perhaps it was meant to be a decoy in case the “boss” walked by, giving illusion that this person was at work, but simply away from his desk?

Brian, the owner of the jacket was an engineer who had been working in Lisbon collecting data that was to be included on a map my department was creating.

While we listened to music from a portable CD player, Brian would list off the longitude and latitude points where cell sites were located. I would find the points on the big gigantic map and stick on little yellow dots to represent the cell sites. For hours that turned into days, I would place yellow dots on the big gigantic map. The map would later be photographed, reduced, and finally used in a presentation that offered cellular phone services to the country of Portugal.

Before moving to the Bay Area from Southern California, I went back to school to hone my  graphic design skills and learn the computer just so I could get a job where I stuck yellow dots on a gigantic map.

groceriesBrian worked for the international side of the company and would travel often, sometimes for weeks at a time. When he was in Rome (having his pocket picked while giving directions to Bocca della Verità), it was his birthday and his mother arranged to have a chocolate cake delivered to his hotel room. I remember thinking how nice it was to have care packages and such while on these assignments. Kinda like being away at summer camp or in the dorm at college and grandparents would write and send the occasional treat to make you feel special.

I agreed to collect Brian’s mail from his apartment and send it to him through the inter office transfer system while he was away. Along with the mail I would include a personal “greeting card” that was printed from the computer. I’d create an illustration with a simple phrase that said hello. My own little Hallmark ; I called them “Words of Wisdom from Walnut Creek”.
trysinging

I remember printing one of the illustrations. It still needed a little tweaking, so I left that first version on the desk of one of the assistants. The next morning, the assistant saw my illustration and asked if I could print another copy because she wanted to give it to a friend. No problem. From that point on, I began making multiple copies of my “Words of Wisdom” which were being pinned up in cubicles throughout the office. I printed them weekly and it became a cheery little way to wish everyone a happy day.

I never considered myself an illustrator, but creating these helped me develop a style by scanning my doodles and tracing them in Adobe Illustrator. I’d thought of starting a line of greeting cards, but… well…. uh….

I’d borrow phrases I read somewhere and create an illustration to go with it or I’d use my own wit and wisdom to come up with a something. Sometimes I’d take a quote from the Bible and the illustration would be used for the cover of our church bulletin.

On the top floor of our building, the Executive Offices, there was a rotating art gallery. It was run by a gallery owner in San Francisco that brought in works from artist sall over the world. At one point the employees were given opportunity to display their own work. I printed a couple of my “Words of Wisdom” in a large format and they were used in that exhibit.

Recently I rearranged furniture, got rid of some “junk” and moved things into what used to be my son’s room to create a nice working space for me and my many projects. In a box I found some old Zip Drives the copies of my “Words of Wisdom”. I decided to update the files and save them into a more current format. A walk down a digital memory lane.

These files are nearly 25 years old. Brian and I have been married 22 years years ago. Time flies.

boatelevatorstripesicecream

Insomnia and Butter.

 

Insomnia.

In the wee small hours of the morning I found myself watching a Jacques Pepin cooking show. He shared a memory of eating toast with homemade butter in his grandmother’s kitchen. Jacques’ own granddaughter, Shorey was on this particular episode helping him in the kitchen. He gave the granddaughter a small jelly jar filled halfway with cream. He put a lid on the jar and told her to shake it continuously. He then went on to show his television audience how to make butter using a food processor.

While demonstrating and giving culinary words of wisdom, he’d check on Shorey to make sure she was still shaking her jar. After about ten minutes, he asked the girl to remove the lid and show us her cream that had now become a small clump of butter sitting in a pool of buttermilk!

Butter.

I made butter! I have a food processor, but I chose the jelly jar method, and it worked. It took about the same amount of time it takes to prepare a pot of tea. I spread some of my homemade butter on a couple of pieces toast and topped it with marmalade. It was delicious! I look forward to sharing this process with my grandniece and nephew the next time they visit.

My dad used to drink buttermilk and as a little girl I’d turn up my nose watching him drink the stuff. I remembered it as tasting sour and yucky, but the by-product of this homemade butter (that I made) was slightly sweet and enjoyable. Who’d da thunk?

 

Directions:
•   Fill a small jar about half full of cream. Put a lid on it and shake continuously 10-15 minutes or until the contents separate.

•  Pour the “buttermilk” into a small glass and drink it, or use it for buttermilk pancakes.

•  Place the ball of butter on a cheese cloth, or paper towel and blot out the excess liquid.

•  Add salt if desired. Refrigerate.

 

 

Lost and Found.

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The Phone.

Hanging out with my sisters and our mother one Thanksgiving weekend, we walked into a casino. I threw $60 dollars at a slot machine, it caught it, and five minutes later, I was ready to go home.  My mom was seated at a machine dropping in nickels one at a time and getting a return in multiples with each push of the button. I hovered around her and grunted until she reached into her fanny pack, pulled out a twenty and said, “bring me back ten.” Okay!!! Somebody else’s money!

Two seconds later, with $400 in my hand, I found my mom again. “What time is it?” she asked. “We’ve been here 5 minutes and 2 seconds, I’m $330, dollars ahead, it’s time to go!” I reached for my phone intending to touch base with my sisters but couldn’t find it. It probably fell from my lap when I got up from that last slot machine! I retraced my steps but the phone wasn’t anywhere in sight.

The remainder of the day circled around the use of the ‘Find My iPhone‘ app. My husband joined us at the casino as the iPhone app was new to me, and it’s capabilities came across with conflicting results through tales from my sisters.

The adventure filled our hours. Like treasure hunters deciphering a map, we ended up at a convenience store near the casino where a grey bearded man dressed in a black Members Only knock-off was holding my beeping phone in his pocket. With noisy slot machines in the background, the police (who just happened to be there) and a mall cop swooped in and confiscated my property. After all was said and done, I heard one officer say, “That was cool, I’m gonna have to get that iPhone app!”

 

The Keys.

A couple of months ago, I unlocked the door, walked in the house, set the keys down, went to my easel and started painting. Less than 10 minutes later, my husband asked for the keys. “Aren’t they on the table? I just put them down.”

They vanished from sight.

I once read a book about the tiny little people that live in houses and borrow things when the big people aren’t looking. Things like keys, pencils, socks and sunglasses will mysteriously disappear. One minute they’re on the table, the next minute they’re gone.  I felt like my keys had been “borrowed” by the little people.

The next morning, I still couldn’t find the keys and things got complicated. I needed to get my daughter to school, but the locked Toyota was in the driveway directly behind the Volvo that was parked in the garage. I was frantically trying to squeeze the Volvo through the ridiculously tight space when a police car patrolling the neighborhood approached the house…. Officer Alan stopped and asked if I needed help. Much to my daughter’s disdain, she arrived to school in a police car. With a wink, he promised not to turn on the lights until he got close to the school.

Three weeks later, I noticed the water in the sink next to my easel was draining a bit slow.  I placed my hand in the garbage disposal, and found my keys.

 

The Purse.

Last Friday after my daughter and I finished shopping at the art store, I opened the rear door of the car and placed our new items inside. We got in and began our drive back to Walnut Creek for lunch.

Once inside the carpark, I realized I didn’t have the small clutch I’d been carrying. I called the art store to ask if I’d left it there. We checked inside the car several times, but we couldn’t find it. I then drove to the bank, cancelled and replaced my cards, and my daughter and I carried on with the rest of our day.

Irritated with myself as I realized I probably placed the purse on the top of my car and drove away. I also imagined I’d left it in the store where someone picked it up. There were several scenarios that could have taken place. I tried not to be upset as I knew things could have been worse. There wasn’t anything of much value in the purse. I’d replaced my bank cards. My phone and my keys were in my jacket pocket. The most annoying thing would be going to the DMV to replace my driver’s license.

My thoughts kept going to the person who picked up my purse and the disappointment I felt towards them. It happens all the time. It’s easy to walk away with something that doesn’t belong to you. Keep the twenty dollar bill. Maybe try to purchase something using the ATM card. As tempting as that might be, it’s just as easy to go up to the clerk and say, I found this in the parking lot. I know what I would do.

I remembered the man that picked up my phone a few years ago in the casino. I remembered him being near the slot machine when I went back to look for it. My sister spoke to him. Not too long after, once I figured out how to use the Find My iPhone app, the phone beeped for hours in his pocket.

I want to believe in good. I want to be good. I want to do good. Spread good. But life gets in the way. Doesn’t it?

Saturday morning, less than twenty four hours later, special delivery. My purse was returned.  There was a note inside.

Hello!

Found this on the road in Oakland today. Your lipstick was smashed by a passing car so I threw it away to avoid further mess. I hope calling American Express so they could let you know it had been found does not cause any complications. Have a nice day!

Dustin

Thank you Dustin. Your kindness brought me to tears.

Remnants.

Coffee and quiche.

Sunday coffee and quiche at a favorite eating place before checking in at the theatre.  A young family choses their late morning delicacy. I make googlie eyes with the little kid. He blushes then covers both ears so he can’t see me. Or maybe I’m not supposed to see him?