Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm a Want-To-Be Artist

I did take art in high school. I even won a blue ribbon at the Kiwanis Art Show back in high school (Jackson, CA). Actually, I never entered the art show and didn't know about it until my teacher told me I won. He had entered one of my paintings without telling me. I didn't know what I was doing. Some things turned out well, others stunk..perspective off, colors wrong, etc. I gave it up.

I returned to an adult art class as an escape from my children, an excuse to be by myself and other adults. You have to get away or you get that baby talk accent. My vocabulary had dwindled to just words only young children understand.

I painted an oil landscape in that class that I thought had turned out really pretty. Waterfall, lake, mountains, oaks. Everyone in class was ooohhhing and awing. It felt good! The county fair (San Joaquin) was coming up so I entered it. Nothing, just a participant ribbon. That was a downer, ha. I kept my paintings with me all these years. They are wrapped up in brown paper and taped with duct tape going from move to move and stored in the attic.

I did take a look at that landscape a couple of years ago. You see it in a different light after several years. Ok, something isn't right with that waterfall. I barely had the money to buy the paint and pay for the classes. I bought the cheapest frame I could find and made the mat for it. It looked like it, but at the time I thought it looked good. Time can remove those rose-colored glasses.

Now I'm finding myself wanting to paint again, it makes me happy. I know good artists have spent years studying color theory, perspective, composition and the like. I'm only looking to fill some of my walls with some real paintings, not prints or giclees. Just something with the right colors and subjects.

I have boxes of stencil and craft acrylics but they don't contain enough pigments. I bought a beginners kit of artist acrylics and found out, after reading about acrylics online, that 4 of the tubes were of the toxic nature. I threw those away and went back to the store and bought the safe substitutes for those, 3 books, canvas boards and stretched canvases, palette knife and a bunch more colors and brushes. I was flabbergast at the cost. I think I could have bought a painting at a gallery for that! But it is something I like to do and it would make me feel really good if I could paint something I liked enough to hang on my wall. Maybe it is an escape or maybe an excuse to do something different. My house is never going to get done!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Winter's Over?

I went into the backyard this morning to put in some fresh bird seed and I was surprised to see a beautiful velvety purple pansy poking her head out of the ground thinking maybe winter was over. Gee, should I get the summer clothes back out? I see people everywhere wearing shorts (I think they are being shortsighted). I'm no fool (anymore). If I don't see Mr. Chipmunk raiding my bird feeder (and he isn't), I know we are still in store for some very cold days. The birds know, the chipmunks know. Why is it that people and pansies need a weatherman to figure it out?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Buying Local

I thought I'd try to buy something local. It is out of the ordinary for me as I've really jumped on the Amazon.com bandwagon the last couple of years. I have never been let down. But I figured with the local economy like it is I'd try and find my toaster oven locally. But, really, it was because I didn't want to wait.

I have learned never to buy appliances that looked like the box may have been opened. Especially at the big **mart stores and I've been burned at Lowes and Home Depot a couple of times, too. People get things for Christmas, take some of the parts they want, and return the item and the stores don't check the parts list and stick the item back on the shelf. You need a new 18 V battery to replace the dead one for your drill/driver? Buy an identical drill/driver, take the new battery and make your old one look nice and clean and put it back in the box, return it and let me buy it. I get the pleasure making two trips to the store and the aggravation that goes with it.

I went to just about every store that I thought would carry a good selection of toaster ovens. I did my research, printed out the models that ranked high on the consumer reviews and headed to the stores. I only found one store that had one of the models that I was looking for. Bon Ton. The George Foreman 8 in 1 toaster oven got great reviews and was of the right size. It even had a rotisserie. The sales lady grabbed one of the boxes of the model I had decided on. I told her, "No, not that box because there is a red sold label that was ripped off. I don't want a box that has been opened." She lifted another one but I hesitated, it looked like perhaps it had been opened, the tape a bit wrinkly. She said the paper on the box would have looked ripped and it didn't. Ok, I'll take it.

I carried that big box all the way to the other side of the mall, having to stop and rest several times as my arms were starting to quiver. But I got my toaster oven and was so happy I found one that I liked.

Upon unpacking the box and washing the parts as directed before use I noticed that there were parts in the picture on the box that I didn't get. I did a parts list check and I was missing 4 parts. I can't believe it! I called Bon Ton and they told me to bring it back. The other parts were already in the dishwasher being washed and my arms couldn't carry that box back, they had turned to rubber. Luckily, the Bon Ton representative was nice and allowed me to bring in the list of the missing parts with my receipt and they broke into another box and gave me those. I just hope that other box gets sent back, not put back on the display floor. I really think there should be a law that makes the sellers identify an item that had been returned. Perhaps identify it and put it on a bigger discount to cover the cost of time and fuel to return it if things aren't right.

I just know that I will buy appliances and power tools from Amazon from now on. They have been good to me.

Monday, January 23, 2006

New Web Cams, Weight Loss and Toaster Ovens

On the GoErie.com site I noticed new webcams. Interesting views of the new CyberInk office and of 12th street looking towards the fire station.

I have been trying to cut back on fats, meats and "unhealthy" carbs. I'm eating lots of vegetables except for potatoes, and also have some brown rice and oatmeal (all portion controlled, though). I'm eating lots of popcorn I cook in my microwave popcorn popper. I coat it with buttered-flavored Pam, imitation butter salt mixed with lots of Nutra Sweet. Yummy. My goal is for 2 1/2 pounds per week. After 3 weeks I've lost 8 pounds so I'm right on target. I'm finally using my elliptical machine. When we first got it way last year I could only do about 5 minutes and I was pooped. I looked at it as a torture machine and gave up. But this time I went really slow for 5 minutes a few times a day and am now up to 40 minutes all at once in just 3 weeks without hurting, my legs are tired but not in pain and suddenly I'm full of energy. "I'm sleeping better and getting up earlier. What a difference! I have more to lose but this is easy after the first week. Even the first week wasn't bad. I think it is mainly just adding the exercise and cutting back on fat that makes the biggest difference.

So now I'm trying different recipes and many I come across need baking in the oven. I hate to heat the big oven for just a small dish of food with the current price of natural gas so I'm looking for a toaster oven, broiler, rotiserie combo. I went to Target and Walmart last night but the selection wasn't too good. I found two I would want after reading all the reviews from customers at Amazon.com. I don't really want to wait for it to be shipped so I'll look in the mall today or tomorrow for one of the ones I liked. If not, I'll have to order it. I've always loved my Jet Stream but I have had two and they both broke and it is too much money to spend on something that doesn't last.

I did finish putting up my pot rack but I didn't get the curtains hung over the weekend. I mounted them on the swing-arm rods and held them up and didn't like the over-all look. I'll use them on another window.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I Walk the Line-Johnny Cash

We went to see, I Walk the Line, last night at the dollar theater. When were walking in to buy our tickets I could tell we were in the right place at the right time. The lobby was full of old people. I fit in quite nicely, ha.

Of course we sat next to a couple who talked to each other through the whole movie as if they were in their own living room. The cell phones went off with jazzy songs and blue lights. People, you are in a theater! I'd be upset if I hadn't only spent a dollar to get in.

The movie grabs you from the beginning. There was a brotherly love and bond of the two young Cash brothers that brought tears to my eyes

I always thought that Johnny Cash had spent time in prison, that he "shot a man just to watch him die." The only times he was in Folsom Prison (not all that far from where I used to live) was when he was putting on a concert, though he had gotten into some trouble but didn't serve any real prison time. I got a kick out of one of the Amazon.com reviews of one of the Johnny Cash CDs that said ....people shouldn't reward people incarcerated by buying their albums. This person hopes he stays in prison. Uhhh....Johnny Cash is dead.

I totally got swept up into this movie. We were put into the life of Johnny Cash and it wasn't until toward the end of the movie that I "woke up" to reality because my butt started getting numb from the seats. I looked around and was surprised that a theater that was packed full of old people had not one of them got up to use the bathroom (not even me).

I came away with "wow, I never knew that about Johnny Cash (he was terrible when he was on the pills)." I'm not one to worship a singer, polititian, actor or actress, they are just people, so I never really research their lives. As far as I knew Johnny Cash and June Carter had always been a couple. The cast was excellent, I felt the pain, the love and the sorrow. We didn't get to see much of their happiness later in their lives. That was tied up at the end with words across the screen.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Pictures of Completed Shelfs-Decoupage-Pot Rack

Here are the pictures of what I have completed this week so far. I still have one pot rack to hang up. That was hard to do because I needed a wall stud to hang it. My stud finder gave me so many false readings. That is what happens when you have plaster lathing behind the walls. I had holes every 2 inches for 2 feet trying to find one. Of course that requires fixing all those holes before I could hang it.

I took new brackets and antiqued them with 3 layers of paint (hunter green, colonial red, beige cream) with crackle medium between them and then rubbed a stain (walnut) on them to age them to look vintage.

Here is the completed 6 ft long and 12 inches wide shelf with hinged extension. I have a hinged board that swings out to hold the extension up when I want to use it. The edges of the non-hinged part is curved on the corners. This unit sits over a radiator and gives me a place for small appliances.

Here is on of the pot racks I made. The board is routered with a round-over bit on the top but left straight on the bottom. The shelving unit I made and these pot racks have 1" buttons over the screws as an accent in dark, muted hunter green to try and tie the projects together visually.

Close up of the pot rack. Button looks black but is actually a dark green. The crackle finish has green (paint) and brown (from the stain and shellac) showing through. This is the same finish that is on the shelf and extension in the second picture. I achieved this finish in several steps. Painted hunter green, crackle, colonial red, crackle, water-based fumed oak dye rubbed on, one coat of garnet dewaxed shellac, three coats of water-based polyurethane gloss. I sanded lightly between all the coats except the rubbed on dye.

I used the same exact finish as above for the wall in the built-in unit. then I painted a black border around that and distressed it. I decoupaged vintage coffee ads from magazines and prints on the wall and crackled that and glazed it with the water-based stain and coated it with water-based poly.

Today and this weekend I plan on getting the other pot rack installed and restoring the finish to some antique swing-out curtain rods so I can hang some curtains around the stained-glass window. Then it is back to finishing the other projects that are still pending. This was a fun escape from the tiresome painting and refinishing of the walls and woodwork.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Kitchen Projects (pics)

I finished the shelf and swing-out table-ette? above my radiater in the kitchen. The piece I have on a hinge that locks out the table when I raise it has too much sag in it. I'm working on a solution.

I decoupaged the wall behind the counter area of the built-in cupboards with vintage coffee ads from magazines and prints. I crackled the paint and varnish and then stained it to give it an old antique look. I'm really happy with it. My husband saw my artwork and asked what will I do when we get a smaller microwave because I painted up to the edge of this one. I have been wanting to get a smaller microwave to give me more space. We don't need a full-sized one. Well, good point, I hadn't considered that but I'll just have to add-on and try to make it match.

Today I'm building my pot racks. I had lots of scrap lumber from other projects I can use. We went to the hardware store the other day and I bought the hooks. Most of the time I keep the pots and pans in the oven which prevents me from wanting to use the oven because I'd have to unload them all before cooking. So, hopefully, this will organize them and give me more room and it is all being done on the cheap.

Now, I'd have taken pictures of my accomplishments and post them today but I have all my tools and paints and brushes, cordless drill/driver, hammer, level, square and countless other things stacked on the floor in front of my wonderful new shelf/table. I still need them until my pot racks are painted, crackled, aged and put up. Then I'll take the pictures.

But I do have some pictures of the original floor we discovered when we removed the dishwasher last year. It's linoleum. This antique linoleum is not the same as vinyl. It is made from linseed oil and the color runs all the way through it. This flooring is under a rug, plywood and tiles and that takes up almost an inch in height. I can't wait to tear out these layers and get to the flooring. I can bring back a luster to the old linoleum if it isn't too far worn through. If it is I'm going to pull up some of it and frame it. It would look terrific in my craftsman-furnished room. Under the linoleum is long-leaf heart pine so I'm going to be happy however it turns out. I love vintage and antique stuff.

This first picture is how it looked when we first removed the dishwasher. I could barely make out the color. I got pretty excited when I saw it. The second picture is when I cleaned it up with some ammonia. Some may think this looks awful but I love the vintage designs.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

My Kitchen Stair Mural

Just in case anyone was interested in more pictures of my mural I've included them below.
The comments section in my previous post gives the details of which parts were stencilled and which were freehand.

Above is closeup of the stone patio bricks.

Baby bluebirds and flowers and leaves.

Top of the tree as it goes up the stairs.
Note the oriole.

The color is somewhat off in this picture but
the real color isn't quite as strong as the other pictures.
The view is from the top of the first flight of stairs.

Close up of the pansies.

Finished product. This wall used to be an ugly pale green
with huge cracks of plaster falling out. I replastered in
places and filled the cracks. Good as new!

Trying to be Creative with My Kitchen

I have one of those small "bungalow-style" kitchens from the early 1900s. I'm trying to make it work but the counter space is minimal. I stopped working on the front stairwell landing to attack this project as some days I cry out, "I need counter space and can't take it anymore!!"

I have already built several shelves across the kitchen side by side windows which helps a lot. It lets me keep the shades up and still maintain some privacy as the knick knacks and plants break up the view. I painted a mural on the kitchen stairs (pic) and I restored, painted, stenciled and braced an antique marble-top "work station" that was falling apart that we found at a local antique shop (pic). But I have to have a place for the coffee pot, can opener, toaster, etc. I only have one place I could mount them under a cupboard but that wouldn't give me enough room underneath.

On that beautiful day last Thursday I went to Lowes and bought a 6 ft by 12 inch pine board as well as a 3 ft by 12 inch board and pine brackets. I rounded the ends of the big board with my saber saw and sanded it and painted it a hunter green. Wow, too much green going on. So I put crackle medium on it and red paint on top of that and sanded it to let some of the green come through. Still doesn't work. I put on more crackle and some tan colored paint. I think if I rub some walnut stain on that it will look nice and old which is the effect I'm looking for without it being too dominant a color.

I'm going to mount that above the radiator that is in front of the window to give me a place for my appliances. To that I'm going to hinge the other board with a swing out leg that will be used when I need extra space when company comes over. I may tile that, not sure yet.

I'm really looking forward to having that extra counter space. I'll post pictures when I'm done.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My Late Christmas......Early

I received my late Christmas gifts.....early. They were back ordered and weren't suppose to arrive until almost February. I was thrilled at the brass outdoor thermometer, it has real class.

I've been wanting the CD, "How to Talk Minnesotan" and that came in the same box. I had heard it many years ago and thought it was so funny bringing back early childhood memories. They poke fun at Minnesotans and the funniest part of it is that it is all true. (I wondered where my dad got all these quirks, ha, oh, me too to some degree).

The last couple of days lets you know the winter weather I left behind when I left northern California. It felt so good to get out and shop without a coat on. This warm streak has helped break up the terribly long winter. We also will go to Kissimmee, Florida in March for 6 days. My husband will be working there but I get to go as a tourist and I'm planning on seeing all the art galleries and museums that I didn't get to this past summer when we went to the Orlando area.

Please let this warm weather stay. Maybe tourists will start wanting to come to Erie with this kind of weather.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pictures From Phone to Computer

I'm in love with my picture phone (Motorola E 815), especially the voice recorder. Whenever I think of something I need at the store I record it at that moment. It is as easy as open your phone, press and talk. Handy, as my memory isn't what it used to be.

I learned to take a bunch of pictures and video but how do you get it onto your computer? They don't cover that in the instructions other than tell you to use a Trans T Flash, no product number, where to buy it etc. Leave that to you to figure out. I finally got a straight answer at Best Buy. One way was using a Trans T Flash card and a card reader. Another was a package with several adapter cables that would run from your phone to your USB on your computer. That was pretty expensive for just cables and no added memory and I'm not sure the adapter would fit my particular phone. I decided on the trans T Flash card and card reader. Add $70 to the cost of that phone and that was for the 256 trans T Flash card and a San Disk reader/writer.

The directions for this stuff were terrible. They must assume we first-timers would know this stuff already. But I finally figured it out. (I didn't need to install the card reader software because I use Windows XP) The trans flash comes in a package with two chips, a large one and a small one. I thought I was screwed as the large one wouldn't fit into my phone but fit the card reader and the small one fit my phone but was way too small for the card reader. But alas it came to me. The large one is an adapter to fit the card reader. You put the tiny chip inside the large chip and insert it into the card reader. I leave the large chip in the reader and just add and remove the trans flash card. In this picture I have inserted the adapter into the reader. The little chip goes inside the slot in the larger chip. Then press the button on the reader to transfer the images/music, etc. In Windows Explorer on your computer, you go to the E: drive and can move pictures/music on and off of the trans flash card.

To put the chip into your phone you insert the tiny wafer of a chip like in the picture. Gently push down until it snaps into place. To remove it you push it down further and it releases and pops up. You need a fingernail to do this as this is so small. In the picture below, the chip is inserted but not pushed all the way down to its seated position. It will snap into place.

The directions booklet included with the Verizon/Motorola phone fell apart after just a few page turns. I'm going to scan them into my computer and onto a disk and throw that cheap thing away. The directions from Verizon for transferring pictures didn't work and that was how the phone arrived, I didn't change anything. The menus and modes they use in the booklet aren't set up like my phone is. Can't anything nowadays be as simple as 123? Didn't someone actually try the directions before giving them out to the public? But I kept at it searching the menus until I found the right set up to do it.

But now I can hold about 300 pictures or lots of video and music. You can't use the music for ring tones unless you download from Verizon (what a scam that is) but you can transfer music from your cds to your computer then to your phone like an MP3 player. The music coming from the speakerphone isn't much quality but I haven't tried it with the earphones yet.

The pictures aren't bad. Better than I thought they would be. Below is a picture I took of my cat indoors, no flash. Any picture saved larger starts to get grainy. I'm extremely happy about my phone, just wish the instructions were better.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cats, One Is Nice, Three Are Entertaining

A day doesn't go by that our cats don't do something that creates a laugh.

We have three from the Humane Society, one older male and two young Russian Blue brothers. The oldest male would just like to be left alone to sleep and look out the window and occasionally play with a toy hamster. The two young brothers are like conniving little active children that are constantly "setting up" the old one, Moosie. They hide and pop out and scare the wits out of him. I think he's on his 9th life right now. They follow him everywhere, even to the litter box and both sit there and watch to the dismay of Moosie.

The two brothers wrestle almost exactly like human wrestlers do. First they have a sit off, then one raises a paw and they start wiggling and positioning themselves for the take down. They will do a few face slaps before one makes the big move. The take down involves flailing hind legs of the cat being pinned. The match only ends when the pinned cat gives out a squeal and the top cat releases him as they run through the house, dive through the cat door leading to the basement stairs, down the stairs and back again. This is quite entertaining and we interrupt whatever we are doing to watch this.

One brother is much like a dog as he will play retrieve with a toy mouse. He comes running when you call and the two brothers will sit up and beg for a treat. They are constantly begging for treats. Moosie refuses to lower his standards to beg for anything.

Moosie wiggles door knobs. When I'm home alone it can be quite frightening. In the bathroom I'll see the doorknob jiggling that scares the wits out of me sometimes. He just doesn't like being shut out.

I find toy mice in my potted plants, several times we found them stuffed in shoes and once my husband went to work and was reaching into his briefcase side pocket and pulled out a toy mouse. It's pretty amusing.

Even with the cost of cat food and kitty litter you get a lot of entertainment for the price.