What is a true eclectic to do when her passions lead her in different directions?
This is a blog for the unfocused, the round pegs in the square holes, the short-attention span types, and all those who just can't bring themselves to join the ranks and adhere to a single category of activities or interests...whether sketches, drawings and comics, fixing an old farmhouse in Oregon, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Work on the Studio Exterior (12-31-10)

In retrospect, the hardest part of the project has been to find reliable contractors; in addition to Gary, this carpenter is the sixth contractor to work on the shed/studio.

Replacing the missing battens

New Year's Eve Party (12-31-10)

We went to the Crawfords' for a while on New Year's Eve. Gary had to leave early because he had to work early on New Year's day.
Merrill W., Gary, Bryan C.
Kelsi W.
Lindsey W.

End of Year Wrap-Up (12-31-10)

While I was working in the yard this morning, I was thinking of the the things that drive me. I am passionate about my little crooked house with the crooked floors. I am passionate about making it just right and cozy for us, our home, a refuge beyond the reach of the world.

A Day of Work (12-31-10)

I spent all morning and most of the afternoon trying to get some yard work done before there is another freeze. Lots of work today: I turned the dirt over in the garden area, to discourage the weeds from settling down for the winter. I stacked up away from the house all the wood logs Gary had split and left near the carport. I carried a lot of the wood debris left behind the studio (aka shed) by previous contractors to the side of the trailer, for a future trip to the dump. Valérie and Julia brought all the trimmed rose branches from the rose garden area and put them in the trailer, with the rest of the yard debris. Then, I went down to the rose garden and trimmed half of the lavender shrubs at the front of the property, and the big hydrangea near the front porch.

One of the pipes at the back of the house behind the laundry room may have burst: there was a long trail of ice along the side of the house, not a good sign...

On a positive note, the outside of the studio is finished, as far as the missing bats are concerned. My friend Julie Olson gave me the phone number of a carpenter who seems to know what he's doing (a nice change, since the last 10 months have been been a wild ride). He worked pretty fast, with no gloves on. Yet, it was so cold in the morning, I couldn't even feel my fingers inside my gloves...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Movie: Bluebeard (12-30-10)

I really like this sketch done done while watching the French movie Bluebeard. There is something about the stunned, vacant look in this character's eyes that I find comical.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bûches de Noël...or Yule Logs? (12-28-10)

Ah...The delicious pastries we make to mark the holidays! Nothing is more portent of Christmas than the Bûche de Noël, a thin sponge cake filled with Chestnut butter cream, rolled into the shape of a log, and covered in Chocolate butter cream. It's a pleasure for the eyes and the mouth...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Forced Inactivity (12-23-10)

I am unable to post anything for the time being, due to unresolved scanner issues. My apologies.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gutter Installation (12-21-10)

After getting estimates from 14 different people, I thought I was going to go mad! In the end, I ended up choosing the... first guy! Happy-go-lucky, with a gentle sense of humor, he gave me the assurance that he wasn't out to take advantage of us, but to do a good job. I was able to get the last 30 ft. box of foamy rain filters Costco carried in the state, and he provided the missing 30 ft. What a difference with the guy who tried to sell me 60 ft for...$410! We may have a few low spots where the water will accumulate, such as the corner of the porch roof, but that remains to be verified when it rains a lot.
The gutter machine molds flat metal into 5" gutters.

The gutter for the upper roof is ready.

A nice change: a straight upper gutter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Choral Singers (12-14-10)

While attending the Conchords Chorale concert at the Old Church, I worked on these goofy-looking doodles (any resemblance to real..., etc. is unintentional; these were just for fun)...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sketchbook Doodles (12-12-10)

Here is page from my sketchbook, with some of the notes as they get written. Although I don't get too focused on written expression, my sketchbooks are like my journal.

I like this portrait.

Mother and Daughter (12-12-10)

A lovely sketch done at Church...
Mary S. and Lizzie S.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Woman's Face (12-07-10)

I like the somewhat ethereal expression in this woman's face drawn from a magazine image.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Lights are Installed! (11-20-10)

I never thought this would ever happen, but we finally got the lights installed in the studio (can't really call it a "shed" anymore).

The big chandelier was in the dining room when we bought the house, and I immediately hated it with a passion; it was too big for the small room. ( It made me think of a monstrous space alien mothership looming in the sky, with tiny people running in panic on the ground.) But in this space, it looks just right.

The light in the foreground is a lovely small 3-light chadelier I got it at Hippo Hardware many years ago. It was on the upstairs landing in our old house, set with flickering flame bulbs (it drove Gary nuts, since it didn't light the staircase at all).

Next in the project is coating the OSB floors with polyurethane, to protect them and give them some sheen.

The New Harry Potter Movie (11-20-10)

We went to see "The Deathly Hallows" at the cinema, and I did these quick sketches while watching the movie.

The Weasely Burrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Front Yard (11-18-10)

I was trying to draw my front yard with a fence on the side (there is none presently).

Ideas for a Fence (11-18-10)

I was trying to draw my front yard with a fence on the side, to try to get a visual idea of what a fence would look like in the lower part of the property. Right now, there is no fence because the old fence erected in the early 1980s was all rotted out and had to be taken out. Unfortunately, for lack of funds, there is just not a way to get a new fence at this time...
Fence idea.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Portrait: Marcie O. (11-14-10)

A simple portrait of a young woman whose beauty reminds me of a 19th century woman, her hair separated in the middle and tied in a bun adorned with fragrant flowers, hands folded in her lap, her radiant, yet mocking smile suggesting words and opinions not said. A perhaps simpler way to describe her would be to say she looks like English actress Kristin Scott-Thomas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rain and Water Update, etc. (11-11-10)

Gary was able to patch and repair the back gutter and downspout. The issue is not totally resolved, but with this temporary fix, we've gained a few days to get a couple more gutter estimates. And at least, I sleep better when it rains.
We live on a hill...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Water Issues (11-06-10)

This freaky weather is just killing me. It's been raining pretty hard for a while, and all I can think of is the missing gutter at the back of the house, with pouring water saturating the ground touching the area where there is a missing segment of concrete foundation wall. I don't know what to do, because none of the gutter contractors I talked to made me feel confident about how this project would evolve; but not dealing with the issue at all is clearly not the right solution either.

An Incredible Find! (11-06-10)

I was browsing at Portico when I came across this superb chaise in the back of the store. It looked absolutely perfect for the studio (if and whenever it gets done...). I hope there won't be any bad surprises with this purchase; I still remember the Toxic Couch of a few months ago...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are there any competent gutter contractors around? (11-03-10)

No kidding! I learned a lot about gutters in the last few weeks: steel is terrible because it rusts; aluminum is terrible because it expands; wedges will work to support the gutters; wedges won't work because of the angle of the upper fascia board; screws are the best; screws are impossible to remove; spikes are the best; spikes damage the wood underneath; corrugated downspouts are in; rectangular downspouts are the best; metal filters can't stop pine needles; fibrous spongy filters will literally save mankind; 5 inch gutters is perfect; no, only 6 inch gutters will do the job...

And, so far, thirteen guys came over to look at the gutters. As already demonstrated, contractors come in every types imaginable.

Here are some highlights:

- The Reconverted Happy-Go-Lucky-Marginal: comes in an old beat-up truck, steps off, takes one looks at the gutters, and exclaims that he knows exactly who did the job! When I ask who that might be, he refuses to tell. There is nothing to replace, he says: it can all be repaired. I am bemused. What about the bowed porch gutter at the front, with waterfalls of rain pouring down the middle? No worries, life is too short; it can all be repaired. What about the upper gutters that look like they're hanging by a thread? All fixable. He hands us a scribbled estimate, with vague descriptions of repairs to be done.

- The Hostile Slavic: acts clearly annoyed to be here, but he can do "everrrrything, everrrrything!" (The accent never ceases to delight me). But I need to commit now, because of the "special prrrice." He leaves several enticing messages over the next three weeks. He wants to come over, to do the work, for the special price. He wants me to call him back, please, "special prrrice." When I finally call back, he is dismissive and hostile; there is no special price. He never left a message. The price is the price.
Yet, the temptation is great: the price is rock bottom low, but with no details about any materials used. A check of his license number on the Contractors' Board website reveals a myriad of business licenses tied together, some of them pulled as a result of disciplinary actions...

- The Old Timer: has been in business for 30 years, and makes his own gutters in his metal shop. He does not need to measure; he looks at the gutters, hem and haws. We got some tricky stuff here, he says, but he can make things right. He can put wedges to secure new gutters on the upper roof, and it'll be fine and dandy in no time.
As would be expected, he is not Internet savvy, and leaves a message on my phone: he'll do the work for $1,800. Not wanting to solely rely on my memory when making a decision, I call his office and request a written estimate. The estimate comes in the nail a few days later, for $2,200. I call again point out to him the apparent discrepancy. He calls me a couple of days later; he says he made a mistake the other times; the estimate is now for $3,100!

- The Mellow Man: is very nice and has an interesting and unusual product to sell: half-round gutters. They look like some of the pretty cool-looking gutters I saw in (Eastern) Europe in September. Unfortunately, these gutters are made of white vinyl (looks suspiciously like PVC to me). I am not sure they will last, and plastic makes it looks kinda slapped together. I don't know how to nicely thank him for coming over.

- The Aggressive Salesman: on the phone, he volunteers that he has been in business for 19 years and had only two complaints during that time. He promises to call back the next day, but does not for several days. When he finally comes by the house, he seems belligerent. He talks down to me, points out that the roof is bowed at the front (Well, duh!). I interject that, yes, it is, but the gutter is also bowed in the opposite direction. Amazingly, he argues with me that I don't see it right: the roof is bowed, he claims, but the gutter is straight! He then suggests that we ought to rebuild the roof, to straighten it! When I ask him about the advantages of aluminum vs. steel, and question another one of his peremptory statements, he answers that he has been in business for 19 years and had only two complaints during that time (feelings of "déja entendu"). I can't put my finger on it, but this guy gets on my nerves, big time. He claims that he can fix the upper gutters. I point out to him that they are pretty twisted. I suspect that his motivation is due to the placement of hanging straps if new gutters are installed. I need, he then adds, to get some expensive spongy filter that sits flush with the opening of the gutters, and nothing will clog the spongy material; wet leaves will be blown off by the wind, as if by magic. This is the only filter material I ought to use. He leaves me with a brochure to read about this revolutionary product (imagine a very thick kitchen scouring pad).

So I am still looking... In the meantime, the coming rain season is an issue because we are missing a section of gutter at the back of the house.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween (10-31-10)

Even though we still aren't settled in, I wanted to make an effort for Halloween.

I got some old lanterns at the Goodwill Outlet, spray painted them matte black, put candles inside them and placed them along the path to the porch. The old skeleton was dusted off and arranged on one of the chairs. The living room and dining room windows were decorated dark wreaths on the outside and with skulls and raggedy stuff on the inside. There were also three or four real garden spider webs within close vicinity to our Halloween decorations. Perfect.
We got over 20 visitors; not bad at all... And it was validating to overhear one kid comment to one of his companions that he got re scared when he first saw the rubber snake on the floor of the porch.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Creepy Creatures Crawling Out (10-25-10)

Tonight, Julia mentioned to me that she had seen a very scary-looking spider inside the window over the kitchen sink when she got up during the night. I tried to get her to give a description of what she saw, but all she could tell me was that it was a really scary-looking spider. I asked her if it perhaps could have been one of the Mondo spiders. No, and it wasn't a sort-of-cutish (!) one, like those we have in the yard (that would be, the huge garden spiders that have been spinning webs all over the front porch). She said the spider climbed back to a hiding place inside the opening for the window weights. As it turns out, shortly telling me about this, she called out urgently. There was the spider, dark, ominous, shiny and hourglass-shaped. All the commotion was too much for the beast; it retreated inside the window frame. I checked the web, and it was crinkly as I expected: a bona fide black widow. Crap. All we need.

Then, a few minutes later, Julia pointed out what seemed to be a small carpenter ant on the kitchen floor. Crap again.

Unrelated, Valérie called and asked if we had seen any Mondo spiders inside the house lately. I answered that we hadn't, and we both agreed that this was very suspicious.

A few hours later still, as Gary and I were sitting on the couch in the family room, checking out some garden lanterns I bought at the Goodwill Bins, which I thought would be perfect for Halloween, as I tried to wipe off one of those cloudy white spider egg sacks, a gazillion tiny eggs fell out and rolled all over the coffee table...


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Peacock Window for the Living Room (10-17-10)

Jennifer Hanson made this beautiful mosaic glass window; a natural spot for it was in the living room, next to the piano.

New Flower Windows for the House (10-17-10)

I got some gorgeous windows from Jennifer Hanson again. I absolutely love them.
Stunning at night when the light is on indoors.
This one is in the staircase.

Gorgeous Windows for the Art Studio (10-17-10)

I liked these windows the minute I saw them on Jennifer Hanson's website. The problem was their horizontal orientation, making less than ideal for the vertical window frames in the dining room or the living room. It turns out that the only place where these windows will fit is the Art Studio...

And Here is the Artist... (10-17-10)

...the amazing Jennifer Hanson, who created the lovely mosaic glass windows I mentioned in previous posts. She came to deliver more windows and very kindly hung them up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lovely Fall Blooms (10-07-10)

Hydrangeas (in French, they're called Hortensias) are so giving and extravagant! They are the jewels of the fall garden.

I wanted to cut a few hydrangea blooms from the huge bush in front of the kitchen window, and I was enjoying myself so much, I got carried away and I cut them all off! (Pretty stupid...)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Master Bedroom Improvement (10-04-10)

I convinced Gary to take down the hideous trellis the previous owner had attached to the ceiling. When lying down in the bed at night, I could imagine armies of spiders nesting behind the trellis, and dropping down on my face during the night... I don't mind the green and lavender wallpaper, but this was too much, you know, "Girly-Woman-has-a-Southern-Plantation-moment."

Christopher started painting the walls a deeper shade of lavender, to match the color in the wallpaper. The original (pallid and drab) color of the wall is visible in the photo above.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Morbid Inspiration (10-02-10)

Yesterday, I went to the First Friday event in Milwaukie. After wandering in and out of businesses, looking at displays for a while, since it was getting dark and cold, I decided to call it a night (haha!).

As I was getting ready to get back in my car, I noticed that the interior decor at Wine:30 was all dark and ghoulish. Closer investigation revealed that it was an art exhibit featuring the Davis Graveyard. Totally freaky, because earlier in the day, as I was driving down from Johnson Creek Road, I caught a glimpse of a front yard replete with realistic-looking tombstones; it reminded me that some people still manage to enjoy themselves at this time of the year... Serendipity of a weird type, one could say.

Anyway, the scene in the wine bar was just too good to pass, and, after ordering an herbal tea (mentioned in case anyone out there wonders what the heck I was doing in a wine bar, not that I care), I set out to draw a few of its elements.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Contractor Update (10-01-10)

Well, it turns out that the genius carpenter was also a flake. So annoying.
After installing the French doors, redoing the ceiling, setting in a large decorative beam supported by two beautiful rustic posts, and laying the floor out in the studio (aka "the shed"), he disappeared, leaving work unfinished on the outside of the structure. Pretty annoying since he left work unfinished.
I could see it coming a while back: he was getting here later every time, yet leaving earlier. There always was an excuse of some sort; he seemed flustered; he "was having personal problems," "was busy at his other job," etc. I almost expected him to say that the dog had eaten his homework.
Now I am in the frustrating position of having to pay someone else yet to finish what he didn't.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rethinking my Attitude (09-27-10)

Now that I am back from a soul-recharging and inspiring trip back to Europe (Amsterdam, and specifically Budapest and Prague), I am going to pick up the pieces of my blogs and start posting again.

It's been said many times, things in Europe are different. Things look old from natural age, not out of artifice. No need for Disney-esque fairy tale-style quaintness, or for grand-looking ephemeral buildings on movie sets to be soon torn down... It's a difference in attitude. The saddest photo exhibit I've ever seen was, if I remember correctly, an exhibit of Minor White's early photos of Portland: it was a great city with great architecture, and it is no more, because it's all been torn down.

It was refreshing to see elegant old buildings in the cities, some gloriously restored, some still showing the heavy scars of wars and time. Give me that any time over the cheap strip malls and box-style stuff passed off as buildings here. We saw more buses and trams running throughout the day in the cities than we would in a month in Portland, and they were heavily used by commuters, no less, appreciated as a necessary element of the infrastructure of a city.

It was refreshing to visit Skanzen, the open-air ethnography museum near Szentendre in Hungary, and to see old farmhouses relocated on-site, decorated and furnished with authentic folk-style furnishing, things that fit the setting they were intended for. Most interesting, it was amazing to see how people lived in these ancestral houses, how some had airy courtyard proving summer shade, or a central room with a wall oven, or how the variations in styles based on the regional setting.

In Cesky Krumlov, we had the amazing opportunity to stay in a hotel built in 1459, and this reset my perspective. The lovely and picturesque buildings in Cesky Krumlov were all of the same vintage; none were straight and plumb according to today's standards, and yet, they were still standing, and still occupied and clearly well-cared for and valued.

An old house like mine, despite the local reaction to its so-called ancient age, construction methods and materials, is in fact a window into the history of its setting (although, a very young history, since the oldest buildings in the area are probably in Canemah and Oregon City and date back to ca. 1861). What is wrong is the approach to this history. My experience has been that on the West Coast, there is a tendency to consider anything over 20 years old to be decrepit, in need of updates or replacement, and, ultimately, worthless. So sad.

This trip was particularly valuable to me in the sense that it allowed me to rethink my reaction to getting bad news about the house (and have I gotten bad news in the six months we've lived here!). Consequently, so what, if the house has settled over the years? So what, if the roof over our house is not straight? So what, if the oak trees drop leaves inside the gutters?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Light to Shine Through the Night (09-24-10)

I've been going to several lighting stores over the last couple of months, hoping to find a light fixture or two for the art studio (previously called "the shed"). There wasn't much that I liked, though. I wanted a distinctive light, but one I could afford (requirement that apparently cancel each other out).
Yet I kept thinking about a chandelier I'd seen at Hippo Hardware as one that would be perfect for the dining room. The looping drapery cord design, the bright gold paint finish struck me as a somewhat charming 1960s gaudy interpretation of a more classic and timeless style. So, after giving myself a generous few weeks of going back to look at it and thinking about it, I finally purchased it. (Who ever said I'm impulsive?) And thanks, once again, to Jim McDonald, for excellent customer service.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Great House Party! (08-22-10)

Days of work and cleaning paid off: many friends came to visit and we had a great, great time visiting with all, even some we hadn't seen for a few years. A head count of all the people present over the course of five hours came to a total of...95 people! Amazing!

The house was clean; I had even managed to cram all the still-unopened boxes in the small family room closet, making it look like we had our act together. The instructions were simple: if you show the house to visitors, no matter what, do NOT open the closet door.
So, after the last visitors were gone, as I was finally about to sit on a chair in the dining room, in a daze, munching on my first bite of the day, leftover chips (wistfully thinking of all the appetizing treats I had seen come and go), commenting on how great everything had looked, and how masterfully I had managed to get all those boxes to fit all piled-up in the closet, and no one had even known, Monica-Sophie commented that she had in fact opened the door to show everyone how we had managed to hide all our stuff away in the small closet!..

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scanner Problems (08-15-10)

My scanner is unresponsive since Gary reinstalled the system software on my computer. I don't know what to do to post images. The easiest solution may be to take photos of my sketches and post them rather than the scanned images.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Coming Soon: House Party (08-14-10)

There is no point in postponing this any further; we are going to go ahead and have a house party in a week or so.
Monica-Sophie is presently in South Korea and will be in town for a couple of days before leaving for Budapest, possibly up to a year; Valérie will also be here 9in fact, she's been here all summer), so this seems like the best time to invite people over, whether the house is messy or not.

A Favorite Place (08-14-10)

When I take a walk down the alley to the front of the property, I like to stop at this small shady paved area.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Buried Treasure Project: Why I draw (07-18-10)

[I am reposting this post from 09-25-08 as part of Seth's Buried Treasure project on his blog The Altered Page.]

[The best way I can think of revisiting the past is to look through my old sketchbooks, so this image came immediately to mind.]

My sketchbooks are a source of comfort and pleasure. Whenever I feel bored or unsure about a situation, or when I plain don't feel like being sociable, I know that, in my purse, a world of escape awaits. They are my memory of events I enjoyed, my record of places visited, my outlet for what can't always quite be said in words.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lavender Dreams (07-12-10)

This is a view of the fragrant lavender growing at the front of the property. I plan to gather it next year and make sachets to sell... Won't that be wonderful?!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Roses from the Garden (07-10-10)

Many red and orange-colored rose bushes were already established in the rose garden at the front of the property, but I brought along my very favorite David Austin roses from Heirloom Roses when we moved: The Prince, Tamora, St Cecilia...
Gorgeous and lovely, fragrant roses never disappoint...