Tuesday, September 08, 2015

I love my library


So you all know that I love to read. And that I read a lot. I read on my Kindle Paperwhite. I love that thing. I read hardback and paperback books. I love them, too. I love both formats, actually. The feel of a book in my hands, the smell of the paper, the experience of turning the pages -- yes, great. But the ease of the Kindle! Being able to carry 500 novels at any one time, all in one tiny 5x7" little case! Having a well-lit page in a dark bedroom, outside in the bright sunlight, in a dim car... Being able to hold the kindle and turn pages, all with one hand (I'm an expert at holding with my left hand and flipping pages with my left thumb while doing something else -- like eating -- with my right hand). Being able to highlight a word and get an instant definition. All of those are true, delightful conveniences that make my reading experiences even better. And I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen Fry:

But what I really wanted to say today is that I LOVE my library. Actually, I love all public libraries. The idea that there are shelves and shelves of books available to anyone in the community who wants to come in, get a card, and borrow them -- for FREE -- is downright astonishing when you think about it.


I have my mom to thank for showing us kids the value of the library. As kids, we went every two weeks to check out a stack of books. She gave us the freedom (within wide boundaries, I suppose) to choose whatever we wanted to read. As a result, the local public library has always been an anchor in my life. When I was in college and in law school, I used the local public library (which other student friends thought was weird) because it was a link to "regular life" outside of the insular campus world. When I've moved to a new town, finding the local library and getting a library card was always one of the very first things I did. It's an essential in my life.

I know that at any time I can stroll in, check out the new book shelf to see what's just arrived, check out the novels waiting to be shelved to see what others have been reading most recently -- and funnily enough, it has often happened that I'll pull a book off of that shelf, mention it to my sister, and she'll say that it was on that shelf because she'd just returned it! We have similar taste in books so that shouldn't surprise me any more, but it always delights me.


And here's another way I love using the library. I love that my library's catalog is available online, so I can search for books, request them to be brought from other libraries, and put them on hold when there's a waiting list.

I do try to support my local bookstores. And I can't resist buying from Amazon, especially when Bookbub.com alerts me that a great ebook has just gone on sale for $1.99. But I'd be dead broke if I bought all of the books I read! So, often I'll read about a book somewhere -- a blog, a magazine, a friend -- and I'll go to Amazon and put in on my Amazon wishlist. Then, when I've got time and am sitting in front of the tv with my Ipad, I'll go through my Amazon wishlist, open my library catalog in another window, and see if I can find and reserve any of the wishlist books at the library. I'm usually not in any hurry to read any particular book at any particular time, so whenever it lands at the library and my name works up to the top of the list is fine with me. It's kind of the best of all worlds, really.

But wait! There's more! My library uses a site called Overdrive that allows me to borrow ebooks and download to my kindle! It's astonishing and easy. The library lends the book for 2 weeks, and once that time is done, the book is deactivated. You can electronically return it sooner than that, too, which then allows you to borrow another.

There are just no end to the ways the library makes me happy.


Friday, September 04, 2015

From the bookshelf

Since I'm catching up on blogging, I figured I should catch you up on what I've been reading.  I tend to read lighter fare in the summer -- so I've read a good assortment of cozy mysteries, girlfriends-at-the-beach novels, and thrillers.  But I've read some unexpectedly great novels, so I thought I'd share the ones I especially liked.

"Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee is first on my list.  I have to confess that I was apprehensive, after comments I'd read suggesting that a lot of early readers were surprised at the portrayal of Atticus Finch.  But I didn't expect how much I'd love this.  I listened to this in audiobook format on a roadtrip, and I loved Reese Witherspoon's reading.  The story follows Scout, now grown up Jean Louise, on a trip home from her working life in New York City.  She's seeing her family and town through grown-up eyes, and the contrast between her childhood illusions and the grown-up reality she sees are the focus of the novel.  So Atticus? He came across as a real man of his place and time. Harper Lee's writing was gorgeous, too.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell was a surprise.  I've read other novels by her, and they were good (in an ordinary sort of way.)  This one, though, told a complex family story in a fascinating way.  The story focused on the Bird family, mainly as the oldest daughter and her daughter come home to clean out the family home after their mother's death.  The mother, it develops, became a hoarder as she got older. So the family's story is told moving back and forth in time, to show how a quirky but functional loving family became disfunctional in various ways.  It could have been a grim story, but it wasn't.  It showed the characters as multi-dimensional, likeable - and there were a lot of surprises along the way.  This is definitely an unusual story, but one I enjoyed a lot.

And here's what I'm reading now: The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl. I love books about books, and this one gets good reviews and I was delighted when I found it on the new book shelf at the library.  It uses first-person narration, too, which I especially like.  So far it's a story in a story -- narrator starts, then introduces an acquaintance who begins telling him a story, so narration shifts to the friend's point of view.  And it tells the tale of a mysterious "bookaneer": a thief who, because of the loose copyright laws in the 1800's, could steal an international manuscript and then sell it to a publisher in another country, out from under the author.  So far, it's good and the concept is fascinating.  I'll let you know what I think.

Have you read anything good lately? 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Garden Souvenirs

Yep, I'm still making jumbly journals, and I just finished another one.  I started this in July, but then I went off on vacation, and then had to get some work taken care of when I returned, so I only just finished it this week.  It's on a floral theme, and I really enjoyed using beautiful floral paper.

You can see the whole book here:


The journal, and others, are for sale on my Etsy shop.  And I'm already well into the next one... 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Artistic Inspiration & Appreciation

I was very flattered when I was contacted recently by the folks at Patience Brewster  to ask if I would be interested in participating in a series of artist appreciation posts on their blog. I'm sure you know Patience Brewster's artwork, even if you don't recognize her name. She creates the most whimsical creatures, both on paper and in sculptural form.  You've undoubtedly seen her card, figures, and ornaments -- they are very charming.  Oh, how I love that moose figure!  And the pearl girl mermaid ornament!  And the Christmas black lab!  I've given the ornaments as gifts occasionally and I have several myself, and one is more adorable than the next.

In any event, the fact that Patience Brewster has asked me as an artist about my artistic inspirations brought me up short.  I forget to think about myself as an artist -- I tend to see myself as someone who plays and creates and makes for the love of making and exploring.  I guess that's an artist!  

I have been inspired by a lot of different artists.  But as I was thinking about this post, and thinking about the art I make, I realized that I tend to work in three main areas these days (quilting, sketching, book making).  So I want to highlight several people who have taught me and given me tremendous inspiration in those three areas.  

First, quilting.  I have been deeply influenced by the work of Freddy Moran and Kaffe Fassett.  And yes, they have their similarities, even though their bodies of 
work are quite different. 

When I returned to quilting in the early 1990's, Freddy introduced me to making traditional quilt blocks in very nontraditional ways.  She gave me the freedom to use as much color as I wanted, and then to add even more.  

She gave me (and a lot of others) the freedom to loosen up on precision, and to appreciate the personality of wonky shapes. 

She showed me, in quilt after quilt, how beautifully joy and fun can be expressed in fabric.

Kaffe Fassett, also, taught me a lot about how mixing color and pattern and scale can work to create a riot of color and texture as beautiful as any garden.  As Freddy does, Kaffe uses color and pattern with exuberance.  

I love how his quilts create such complexity even with simple shapes and simple structure. 

The world of sketching and painting is newer to me, but I am soaking up inspiration from all directions and learning a lot as I follow my favorite urban sketchers.  Several stand out.  First is Danny Gregory.  

His books, especially The Creative License, Everyday Matters, and An Illustrated Life, introduced me to sketching as a way of experiencing the world. 

 He's shown me and so many others that sketching and painting aren't about painstaking precision or perfection; they are about seeing and the process of translating what you see through your own artistic process.  It's drawing, and drawing, and drawing more -- even the most ordinary things -- that build skill, that cause you to see the world differently, and that create an artistic habit.

I've been a regular student in his online course, "Sketchbook Skool," which has helped me see that different artists do things differently, and that's okay!

Another sketch artist who inspires me greatly is Liz Steel, from Australia.  I took to Liz's story right away -- she trained and worked as an architect but eventually her passion for sketching and watercolor took her in directions she never imagined.  

I've learned a lot from following Liz's stream of sketches on Flickr, and I am inspired to try to get looser and paint the essence of something, rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Liz's sketches of food, her teacups, and her art supplies have taught me a lot, and I end up sketching food and dishes and art supplies often as well! 

 The other sketch artist whom I admire tremendously and study with intensity is Gay Kraeger.  She was a graphic designer before she began keeping watercolor sketchbooks, and her graphic design training shows in her work. 

She incorporates all of my favorite things in her sketchbook spreads -- beautiful images, a well-composed layout, and attractive typography and text.  I have learned so much from seeing the different ways she sets up a page. 

And in the world of book making, two artists immediately come to mind.  First is the woman who was my teacher and mentor for a number of years, Shereen LaPlantz.  

I'd been enthralled with her book "Cover to Cover," which had inspired me through showing innovative book structures, easy techniques, and so many beautiful photos.

When I moved back to Northern California and discovered that Shereen lived just a few hours a way, I was thrilled. That discovery led me into a 3-year master class on bookmaking with Shereen.  Along the way, I learned so much from Shereen about things beyond book-making -- how to embrace one's creativity, how to move past mistakes, how to be proud of one's own uniqueness, and eventually, even, how to accept a terminal illness with grace and dignity and a zest for living up until the very end.  I treasured my time with her and miss her.

The other artist who has inspired me in the book arena is Mary Ann Moss, of Los Angeles.  I first met Mary Ann through her blog Dispatch from LA, and I was drawn to her humor, her willingness to explore and just be silly with art, her happy and colorful artwork, and her love of reading and learning.  She's a woman after my own heart, she is.  But I was totally excited when I discovered her series of online classes that involve bookmaking -- Remains of the Day, Ticket to Venice (travel journaling), Full Tilt Boogie (visual journaling), and Sketchbookery (sketchbook making and painting).

Mary Ann reminded me that it's okay to sew on paper, and it set me off on a renewed book-making obsession that holds me enthralled even today.  She's inspired me to mix papers and junk mail and old stuff and photos and all sorts of ephemera  -- it's that permission to be free and creative and just bask in color and pattern and texture, with and on paper.  (Are you seeing a theme?  If Freddy Moran made books, I bet she'd make them like this.)

Mary Ann has changed the way I think of book making -- she's brought me back to it, actually, after many years away -- and she's freed me up to have fun making whatever sort of book I want, with whatever bits I have around, and to use them for whatever purpose -- most importantly, just for fun.

So there you have it -- the artists whose inspiration is affecting me most immediately these days.  

Thank you, Freddy, Kaffe, Danny, Liz, Gay, Shereen, and Mary Ann.  The work you've shared has become a part of me, and has affected everything I do. 

I'd love it if you'd share in a comment who inspires you! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

And then the summer got away from me...

Oops, how did that happen? I see the last entry was in early July, and here it is nearing the end of August.  Somehow the summer just slid on by.  I hope yours was fun and that you have some lovely memories.

Me, I did a bit of this and that.  The biggest "This" was a trip up to Washington.  Wanna see some pictures? 

First stop, Rogue River, Oregon.  It's just outside of Grants Pass and is about halfway between my house and Seattle.  So I cruised through Oregon listening to "Go Set A Watchman" read by  Reese Witherspoon. I loved it and it was the perfect accompaniment on a long drive.

Along the way, I stopped in Eugene to stretch my legs -- and stumbled onto Voodoo Doughnuts which I'd always heard of but never visited.  That called for a purchase of doughnuts -- 2 to eat, and a few more to sketch.

Next stop, Seattle where I stayed with my friend Dori.  I didn't take a ton of pictures, but I did do a sketch of her backyard.  Her home is right on Lake Washington with a view across the lake of Mercer Island.

We had a lot of fun while I was there.  We went to a wonderful art show in Bellevue, we went to the Seattle Center to see the Chihuly glass museum which I've been wanting to do FORever, and we saw Snoqualmie Falls and had a lovely lunch at the lodge there.  Oh yeah, we talked the whole time too, as good friends do.

From there, I went up to Whidbey Island which I'd always wanted to see. I drove up the Seattle side, and entered the island at its northern end, via Deception Pass which was stunning.

On Whidbey Island, I'd rented a little cottage via VRBO, and it turned out to be perfect.

 It had one tiny bedroom, a "just right" kitchen for making sandwiches to take to the beach and pouring wine and cleaning crab, and a cozy living room that had just the space I needed to read, gaze at the water, and sit at the little table and paint and stick stuff in my travel journal.

Oh yeah, I sketched that too.

I spent my week there exploring, taking photos, sketching, poking around, driving on backroads, walking on the beach, picking up odd bits of driftwood, seashell, and rock.  

 I fell in love with the charming little towns, and oh, those lush hanging baskets of flowers that I found all over the place!  


My dear friend Paige took the ferry over from Port Townsend one day, and we had a very fun day chatting and poking through thrift stores.
 One afternoon, my landlady texted me to ask if I wanted some fresh caught crab.  Yes, please!  I came home to find an ice chest with two big cooked and cleaned crabs on the front porch.  Dinner for several days! (this wasn't it, but I did take this picture of a crab on the beach.)

And speaking of the beach, I Sketched some of the treasures I found on my travels.

 One evening, as I was perusing my Ipad researching options for the next day, I stumbled onto the Whidbey Island Sketchers' website, which announced that they had a sketching meet-up the following day.  I emailed, asked if they allowed visitors, and was told to come on and sketch!  So next afternoon found me in Freeland at a wonderful home and garden for a peaceful afternoon of sketching with some very friendly sketchers.

At the end of my week, I ferried over to Port Townsend to stay at Paige's and explore around there some more.  After Whidbey Island, PT felt like a bustling city.  But really, it was the same charming, quirky town it always is.  I had a wonderful dinner at a favorite restaurant, Sirens, sitting out on the deck.  I didn't mind the service being slow -- I had time to sketch.

 One of the things I love most about PT is my friend Paige's home, and how she has charming installations everywhere.  This Buddha watches over the favorite shady spot of her sweet departed dog Annie.

So, there you have it.  I drove home by the same route, listening to the 2nd half of Go Set a Watchman, and marveled (in a bad way) at the smoky haze that covered the sky from Portland all the way south to Healdsburg.

Aren't summer trips the best?

Monday, July 06, 2015

Playing Around

Here's my latest journal!  It's on a playful game theme, and I had the best time putting together papers and images and bits from old games to make this.  It brought back so many memories of fun times playing games with my family.  I used vintage game bits, too -- old monopoly money and cards, old playing cards.  I even broke out my Dremel and drilled holes in a few old poker chips and dice and Monopoly hotels.  It's funny what you think about drilling when you're holding a Dremel in your hand...

At any rate, this one makes me happy.  You can see a full video flip-through if you want... and yep, it's up for sale on my Etsy shop but I might have to make another for me.  Oh boy, more drilling!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

A Summer Treasure Hunt

Have you heard of "The Curse of Oak Island?" My sister told me about this tv series on the History Channel, and now I'm obsessed. 

 This reality show follows two brothers, Rick and Marty Lagina, as they search to find possible treasure and the answer to some long-existing mysteries about Oak Island in Nova Scotia.  Rick, the older brother, read about the island, the lore of its treasure, and the history of discoveries there in a Reader's Digest magazine when he was 11 years old, and he became obsessed with the story.  Now, he and his younger brother Marty (an oil engineer) have bought an interest in the private island and have invested millions of dollars in exploring it.  There's a great interview with some of the main guys here that explains how they got involved in the mystery.

There's a great cast of real-life characters, including long-time treasure hunters and Oak Island explorers.  There are experts who come to give advice on discovered coins, old wood, hieroglyphic marks on rock, metal detecting, you name it.  There are stories of discoveries on the island made as early as 1792, and suggestions that the island could be the hidden location of the ark of the covenant, the lost menorah from Solomon's temple, treasure hidden by the Knights Templar, the Rosecrucians, maybe even Spanish pirates. 

So there are the treasure-hunting dreamers, but they're teamed with skeptical scientists who want evidence and scientific reasons to believe that there's reason to keep exploring. It's fascinating to see how they apply the latest technologies to try to find out what's there.

This is really a great adventure show, and it's got me hooked.  I'm part way through season 2. There are two seasons' worth of shows available on Itunes and Amazon Instant Video and it looks like there are some full episodes on Youtube. There'll be a season 3 according to the show's facebook page, but there's no specific air date yet.

It'd be a great family show, I'm thinking -- a great way to combine history and modern science and technology.  If I were still home-schooling Miss C, I'd love using this to link up science and history and geography.  

Anyway, I'm loving this show -- even with the History Channel's style of overly dramatic announcer, and the way they repeat a lot of information which gets tedious if you're binge watching several episodes per sitting (as someone MIGHT be inclined to do.  Ahem.)   It's the perfect summer viewing.  I can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Continuing on our tour of Humboldt County...

There are a lot of victorian buildings in Northern California, and it's a joy to see them still used and in good shape and well cared for.  On the way to Eureka last week, we stopped for a bit in the little town of Ferndale, which calls itself "the Victorian Village."  Perhaps you've seen bits of Ferndale without even knowing it:  it was where "The Majestic" with Jim Carrey and "Outbreak" with Dustin Hoffman were filmed, and its victorian buildings are recreated in Legos in the California Legoland.

But I digress.

 The town is basically a main street about 3 blocks long, and then a lot of homes, some charming and victorian, some more ordinary.  But we strolled up and down Main Street, admired the beautiful architectural details, took a few photos.

Ah, they don't make buildings like they used to, eh?

It's nice to see them occupied.  Here's a shot of the main street.

Immediately after taking this picture, by the way, we made our way to the Ferndale Pie Shop and bought a strawberry rhubarb to take home with us.  It was delicious -- truly tart and rhubarby.

Oops, I'm digressing again.

The next day, we set off to find the most famous victorian house in Eureka, the Carson Mansion.

It was built by lumber magnate William Carson in 1885, and was a private residence until the late 1940's.  It was then bought by a private group whose mission is the restoration and preservation of historical buildings.  From what we could tell, the inside is only accessible to club members for dinners and such.

But my, it is beautiful.  All that detail!

It would be a great sketch subject, if you had a good place to sit and a few hours to do it.

My sister and I both fell in love with the victorian house directly across the street, known as "the Pink Lady."  It's currently for sale, and when we got home we looked up the listing to see if we'd correctly guessed the price.  Any guesses?  You can see the listing here.  (Oh!  I see the listing shows it as "off market" now.  I wonder if the Ingomar Club bought it, too?  It was listed for $1.3 million when we looked.  I'd guessed a million.... so I was only a few hundred thousand off!) 

Anyway, we liked this house a lot.  Carson built it for his daughter when she got married.

Kind of makes you want to sit on the porch and drink sasprilla, huh?  I don't even know what sasparilla is, but this house makes me want some.

I think it was just after this that we wandered off to find lunch.  All that architecture made us hungry.