Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Art Class #4 - The Misery Concludes

Ok, before I get to the publishing of horrid painting number 4, I've got to catch you up on some stuff.

First, I saw a comment on my last post, when I went to read it, it disappeared. I deleted it by mistake. This goes back to the fact that technology and me simply do not get along. Any other fool can figure out the difference between "read" and "delete", but not this fool. Yesterday on my way to Key West for art class number 4, I stopped into Radio Shack to get a new phone charger.  When the (about 22 year old) clerk behind the counter saw my phone, it was all he could to do hold in the laughter. Yeah, I'm working on a 9 year old flip phone with a pull out antenna. My last phone died, so I went back to my old phone until I have enough time to finally update that situation. My dead phone was about 5 years old, nothing to write home about anyway.

Another thing that happened, you may already know about if you're on Facebook with us. We had a rehabbed shore bird with us who was being housed temporarily here until she (he?) could be returned to a proper location where he (she?) could join a flock. We took to calling the bird (a masked booby) "Sue" as a hat tip to the great Johnny Cash. Long story short, Sue broke out of her cage and flew away. We had been dragging her cage in and out with the tides for the short time she was here, and the rehabbers were coming regularly to deliver her food. Apparently, the latch on the cage wasn't completely closed.... when you're a large shore bird who is ready to go free, yet trapped in a cage waiting for release, you have a lot of time on your beak. So, with that time, Sue used it to play with the latch and bust out. I made this discovery the night before last at 2:10am. I went outside to check on Sue, and literally my breath was taken away when I saw the door open. At first I thought it was the moonlight playing tricks on the cage, but no such luck. I immediately called Maya and Paul (Florida Keys Wild Bird Rescue) who, not surprisingly, were already up anyway. They were here within minutes. During that time, both the other happy vegan and I walked the shoreline looking for Sue. It was really bright out, it was the night of the full snow moon. We had flashlights, and did our best.  None of us could find Sue. We have decided that she will find a flock and be ok. Yesterday was an emotionally draining, and physically draining day. Despite the fact that I'm an insomniac, being outside overnight looking for Sue was more than I'm accustomed to.

And, with that, I'm up to painting number four. I made it to class on time (I allowed myself 2 hours to get to class, this gave me time to make a few deliveries, and get a Happy Monkey smoothie at Help Yourself--without the sugar). I was so looking forward to a chicken as the subject matter, and I wasn't the only one. When I looked at the easel, I saw fishing boats. Ugh. The subject matter was VanGogh and boats. My painting yesterday makes last weeks' canvas look like a masterpiece. I've got nothing good to say about my painting. The scale is off, the colors aren't right, the blending again gave me troubles, and why in the world is there a blob of ocean on the sand is beyond me. The way Mr. Worth paints is with 5 colors--red, yellow, blue, black & white--and we have to blend our own colors. I'm not sure how he gets the amazing colors he does on his canvases, he seems to be using the same paints as we are, but I'm convinced he's got magic fairy dust sprinkled either on his brush, his paint, or his canvases.  And, of course, being that this is a class, there is the issue of a time limit to complete the project.  When you have a schedule to keep with paint, trust me, this teacher keeps to the schedule. It was a more difficult composition chosen for our last class, and Mr. Worth had high hopes I think. I had to laugh because at one point when I swore out loud under my breath, the very nice and polite woman next to me very softly murmured "I'm about ready for a palm tree now." I couldn't help but laugh, although she probably will never know just how hilarious I found her remark to be at that moment.

Painting #4. My classes are over, the bleeding can stop now.

So, art class number four is over, and my painting misery is over at least for a while. I'm contemplating another round of painting boot camp classes in May or June. By then I would expect my schedule will be a little more forgiving, although Tuesday is always my day to drive Pop, so that means alternate plans will be made for that. By the way, speaking of Pop, his 104th birthday is in just about one month's time.  104! I'm in charge of his birthday cake, and he's got his order in for "chocolate cake, honey" which it shall be.

The other happy vegan has taken my 4 sad little paintings, and has them displayed. He said he likes them. He knows which side his bread is soy-buttered, so what else could he possibly say about all this painting nonsense? Again I'm walking away saying the leavings on the smock make more sense than the leavings on the canvas. I think more than anything I'm coming away from these 4 classes with an even bigger appreciating for artists who paint (come on now, you already know that I'm a huge fan of artists who paint, I'm always so impressed by such incredible talent). I'm also going to buy small cans of  the same paints Mr. Worth uses for himself, and teaches with, and work on my color creating and blending. I think I'm going to spend a little more time on this final painting. I don't think I can allow that blob of blue in the right hand corner to stay (yes, I cracked, ok? I was reaching for the odd brown blob on the palate, and by the time the brush made it to my canvas, it somehow found it's way into my odd blue blob). Also, Mr. Worth wanted a small person painted on one of those background boats. I've decided I'm going to put a dog in there, instead of a person. I can handle that, it's just tiny dots after all. Mr. Worth taught me to be more comfortable with a brush, not be afraid of paint, and that if you make a mistake, you can paint right over it later. Perhaps with that advice in mind, I'll just paint this entire canvas white, and start over. Can't hurt, might help.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Art Class #3 - The Downward Spiral

Upon completion of most of my regular chores, with the addition of scraping the goo out of one of my best pans from burnt oatmeal (mine, not for guests), I went for a run. I was on a deadline, I had art class number three today. I ran down the street as best as possible (I've begun taking silica gel for my knee which has gone full fledged wonky in the last few days), stopping only for a very brief visit to see Pop. Usually I see Pop every day. In the last week I have seen him once, my schedule has been that ridiculous. As soon as I got back from running, I cleaned myself up, grabbed my smock and headed out the door for my art class. It was raining for part of the drive down, and traffic was exceptionally heavy the closer I got to Key West.

Once I got into the city, traffic was dead stopped. I was 20 minutes late for class. By the time I barreled into the class, the teacher had already completed his first lecture part about blending, and the class had the drawing sketched onto their canvases.

This was not going to be good.

I threw my smock on, rotated my canvas, and immediately set out to paint. I caught up as best as I could, but never had that beginning wisdom passed on, so I was once again struggling through the class. Not to mention the subject matter today was tropical fish. He actually said the types of fish they were, but I paid it no mind. I've never seen a tropical fish in real life, nor do I ever have plans to do so. Remember me? Water terror girl? I am surrounded by water, reef and tropical fish, but have never seen said fish. I simply couldn't grasp the subject matter. The subtle flair of the fins. The smokiness of being under water. How light changes to dark and then back to light as you go deeper in the water, or shift this way or that way. Nope. Not for me, and it shows in my painting.

The teacher came over to my painting several times with suggestions, as well as encouragement. I stayed a few minutes later after class ended because I was so frustrated with my painting, I wanted to get the blending better. I couldn't get it, just couldn't. The teacher came over to me and said he realized I was frustrated, and said that coming in late I still did a good job, and stop being so hard on myself. Easy for him to say.... I swear to you, he sticks his brush into the exact same paint pots that I am using, and with one swift stroke across my canvas, changes everything. And he says things like "see the difference  it makes if you just do this?" Well, yes I do see the difference. How does he do that?

Here is my painting. I'm posting it because I've posted the others. I'm not happy with this painting.

The teacher is an artist named Rick Worth, I've said this before. Personally I am a fan. I like his painting style, plus he's a benevolent person giving freely of his time and talent to many charities and persons. He paints typically with bold strokes and vivid colors. I like that. 

Why don't those colors come out of MY paint pots the way they come out of Mr. Worth's paint pots?

After class, I went up to the ladies' room to scrape off the 2.5 hours of paint that seeped through my dad's old shirt onto my arms (yes, I'm still doing the "real" artist technique of cleaning my brush on my clothing). When I looked into the mirror, I saw a giant smear of some odd blue(ish) paint down the side of my face. It was not a good look. Tonight when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I found some even odder shade of blue running through my hair. I'm not sure how that all happened, I am definitely not using my face, nor my hair, to clean brushes. I guess I have bad aim.  Really bad aim.

Next week, I'm allotting 90 minutes for travel time. Astounding. 90 minutes for Big Pine to Key West. Typically the ride takes 40 minutes this time of year, and off season, well, I probably shouldn't even say how fast I can get to city limits from my driveway, but it's good. Really good.  Whoever planned the "little" construction project in Key West obviously isn't anyone who has to live, work or take art classes in Key West, or be on a schedule of any sort, at any point.

And, so there it is. Art lesson #3 down, one more to go. I will not be taking any more classes until things slow down a little around here. I have chosen the busiest month to do these classes, I thought I could handle it, but I don't think I'm getting as much out of it as I could what with my other obligations, and the nightmare travel scenarios I'm encountering.

On the way out, one of the other students asked Mr. Worth to consider a chicken as the subject matter for next week. He said he would indeed take this under consideration. I have to say, if he chooses a chicken, it will make all the travel, all the disappointment, and all the frustration completely disappear. I want to paint a chicken. I know what chickens look like. I think I have a bit more advantage over the subject matter if it is a chicken. Tropical fish? Water terror girl says thanks, but no thanks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Art Class #2 -- Not Quite As Successful

There, I've said it flat out in the header. Class number two was not as successful.  Let's get this over with, shall we?  Here's the photos:

What I started with this week...

What I finished with this week.

Allow me to start by saying I had NO idea painting a still life was so difficult. I am not kidding about that.

The day started with me in a total state of anxiety. The other happy vegan scheduled an appointment for us in Key West for some business before my class, and I had some other stops to make on the way down. Traffic was awful getting into the city, and we were so late for the appointment, we had to reschedule completely. This sudden rescheduling meant we had a little open time between obligations, so off we went to Sugar Apple for the best sandwich in the Universe (come on, you know by now....) their tempeh reuben. We ate outside at their little bistro table, and it was (aside from the car ride down) the first time so far that day I didn't have someone to call, something to write, something to bake, something to package, something to cook, or something to do. I could actually feel my body beginning to just melt, and that was not a bad thing.

After lunch, we picked our way around town, going to and fro, completing errands. There was still a little sliver of time left, so we headed over to the Wyland Wall at the old Waterfront Market. I grabbed my camera, and began to take photos all the way around the wall. Then I just stood there and looked at it. What I found so remarkable is that looking at this beautiful art up close I realized just how awful a surface this must have been to painted upon. It's concrete, as most of his walls are probably painted upon. But, it had cracks, holes, and other blemishes that just seem to vanish when I look at the mural in totality. I have some beautiful photos, but want to devote an entire post to the wall, so for now, let's move on.

After the wall, the other happy vegan dropped me at TSKW for my next class. He went on to continue errands. I took a seat, and looked at the subject for the week.  Still life. Looking at the teacher's board up front, I kind of wondered how the heck I was going to paint that in the allotted time, but after last week I was much more relaxed. I reminded myself I'm here to learn, and I just sat back and had confidence I would do as assigned.

The class began with a little recap of some basics, and then immediately to the paints. I really had a problem this week. I couldn't grasp the light to dark concept, and I couldn't visualize the bowl the fruit was in. I still can't. The focus was on blending colors, light to dark, and shapes this week. Aside from the blending, nothing came easy for me, absolutely nothing.

I was falling behind with virtually every stroke. If you look closely at my painting, you may be able to "find" the plum that I "lost" (I found it as I was getting up from the table to leave, so I hurriedly sat down and put it back in the painting--not shown here), and I lost several of my grapes. That is pretty obvious I think. My grapes look like olives, my smaller of the two oranges looks like something from another planet, and my bowl.... that bowl. It's just not working. At one point in class, I actually had to make myself stop and just breathe. I was missing important lessons the teacher was giving because I was so far behind, I couldn't apply the techniques he was imparting as he was doing them. Then when it got time for me to do what I had missed, it just wasn't the same. I'm not the only one who felt lost at times, those seated by me had similar struggles. But, there were also what seemed like exceptionally accomplished artists in the class as well. As I looked around at some paintings being carried out the door at the end of the day, I said aloud to many "so THAT'S what it was supposed to look like....." No matter that I felt lost, I did laugh and crack jokes to anyone who would listen, just to crack through the frustration that we were all feeling.

Still life is hard. I have looked at this week's painting a lot since I got it home. I see nothing but flaws, and want to continue to work on it. But, I'm not going to to that. I'm using my paintings as somewhat of a visual diary to chart my progress. I don't want to go mucking that up.

Funny thing about still life paintings. They are among my favorite subject matter. I've been drawn to paintings of flowers my whole life (I think that really comes from my mom), but one of the paintings I treasure most is one I found at an antique and junk shop in the Northeast. It's the same shop where my dad spent far too much money to buy me an antique china cabinet after I lost possession of a treasured one many years ago. I was roaming the dusty aisles of this metal warehouse/barn type place and found a chopped up piece of drywall, or something like it, lying against a wall. The edges were all jagged and unfinished, it was not framed. On that crappy piece of trash, someone painted the most beautiful still life I think I've ever seen. I picked it up and took it to the counter. It was $3.00. When I was preparing to move here from up there, I had a lifetime's worth of too much clutter to get rid of. 90% of it went to charity. That painting I refused to part with. I think about it often, and am looking forward to the day when I actually have a wall in my living quarters to display it on, for now I do not. But, I'm not sorry I kept it, and think it was quite the bargain.  I thought about that painting quite a bit as I labored over my sad little still life in yesterday's class. I don't think that artist struggled on that work as I did on mine, but I wonder if they were as critical. I sure hope not, because it's quite a treasure.

I've got more classes on tap. I really want to paint a chicken, and am hoping that's one of the subjects in this series. I'm already planning to take another round of these boot camp painting classes sometime over the summer when things slow down a bit here. I knew February would be tough fitting this in, but this was one of those things that I wanted to do so long, I felt if I didn't go for it now, I might not ever.

So, there you have it.  Art class #2 under my belt. All that and a bag of chips.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Was Thinking About the Keys

Almost an entire week has whizzed by without a post from me. Are you following us on Facebook? If you're not, please do. I manage to get photos and short updates posted more often then here. Plus every Monday, you get recipes from me.

Tonight I had occasion to be on the internet doing some research. I found a bit of a theme from some people who are not from around these parts, people who simply do not understand what the Keys are about, what those of us who live and work here are about. I was reminded that there are people who have a much more cynical view of life and cannot seem to appreciate anything or anybody. Damn shame.

Admittedly I am a cynic. But, when I observe some other people, I think I've really evolved past so much of that. Sometimes I am contacted by people who say they want to come to the Keys, but don't seem to have a sense why, nor do they even know basic location or geography about this incredibly beautiful part of the world.

I live in the Florida Keys. This is considered Southern Florida. The Keys are a string of islands, many of them populated, more of them not, that stretch over 100 miles long. The populated islands are connected by bridges. Some islands are private and do not have bridges connected them. For those residents, they must drive a boat to get to their homes.

"Key" is another word for "island."

The Florida Keys are often referred to as America's Caribbean.  I would agree.

The Keys are not like mainland Florida. We are much less populated. We are island. It is a year round tropical environment here. We don't have sugar sand beaches that some people think about like Daytona. Nope. Here where there are beaches, they typically are small slips of sand. Big waves don't crash on our beaches because we are protected by a living reef... the only living reef in the continental USA. You can swim out at the reef, snorkel out at the reef and dive out at the reef. You cannot fish at the reef or take anything from the reef as it is a protected area (thank goodness). The color of the water out at the reef is unworldly, the colors are so bright and crisp that the sight of it leaves me at a loss for words. That living reef is almost exactly only 3 miles off my beach. Yes, I said beach. We have a beach here. You can see it if you view our live streaming web cam.  Our wild natural beach supports a lot of life. Endangered sea turtles come upon it to nest, endangered Key deer roam the beach sometimes searching through the wrack for little morsels to eat. Sometimes those same Key deer will simply bed down in the wrack line to rest. Scads of shore birds visit our beach. Peri and Elsa constantly patrol our little sandy paradise too. The beach is made of minerals and coral. Our beach is amazing, all Keys beaches are amazing. Well, ok ALL beaches are amazing--I'm all about the sand, the sun and the palm trees. I bought a book called "Florida's Living Beaches" to help me understand our complex beach systems in the Keys. The book was so fantastic, I bought 4 more copies and put one in every room. Keys beaches are a treasure.

We have one main highway through the Keys, US 1. It is also called the Overseas Highway because that was it's original name. The highway stretches over islands and bridges, the biggest bridge down here is the Seven Mile Bridge, it stretches (I think) a little less than 7 miles over completely open water. It is an engineering marvel.

We do not have Walmart down here, and if they come here anytime in my life, I will be crestfallen. I do not support Walmart. We have 2 larger supermarket chains through the Keys, one of which is on Big Pine. I do not shop at that Big Pine store unless it's an emergency. I shop at small grocers like Good Food Conspiracy, Help Yourself, Sugar Apple and Food for Thought. I also shop at Publix in Marathon because the people who work in the produce department of that store are friendly and helpful. I like to shop where I'm appreciated, and where people seem sort of happy to be there.

When I leave the Keys to go anywhere, sometimes I am happy to get off the rock (that's what it's called when you leave the islands) because I think I'm going stir crazy or missing something in the world. But, then I get to where ever I'm going, and I realize I don't belong there after a few days in any one place, so I start to think much more about being back here. When I come home after not being here, I still marvel over the color of the water (America's Caribbean, remember?)  Once I get to about Islamorada is when I feel like I can breathe again. And, I think the most beautiful part of the entire ride down the Keys is from the Seven Mile Bridge to just before Rockland Key. Still, after all this time, I often times pull over on my drives to Key West, just to stop and take photos. I have I think 10,000 photos stored right now. I should do something about that.

Some of us down here are transplanted city folk, others are transplanted country folk. Then there are those who were lucky enough to be born here. No matter who we are, and where we're from, most of us have one thing in common.... we don't want to go back and we will make many sacrifices to insure we stay.

We've all got to find our way in this world, we are all fighting a raging battle for survival. But, I honestly feel very sad for people who come to this absolute treasure trove of land, sky and sea but cannot find any joy in all that it has to offer. No, we're not NYC, Miami, LA, Baltimore, Kansas City or Dallas. We're not Portland (ME or OR), Cleveland, New Hope, or Vermont. We are the beautiful Florida Keys. Sometimes people don't "get" that. I'm happy I just don't fit in that category.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Success! First Art Class!

Yesterday was my first art class.  I survived, and the teacher didn't quit in a rage because I was the worst student he'd ever come across. I mean, maybe I WAS the worst student ever, but if he felt that way, he didn't say that to me.  In all honestly though, it was fun. There's more classes on tap, so it's not over yet.

After digging out the smock that was one of my dad's work shirts from days when he was 1) alive and 2) working for the man in corporate USA, I headed down to Key West. I allowed 1 hour and 12 minutes for drive time thinking I would be exceptionally early. That would've been fine with me since I was wondering how the parking situation would be upon arrival. Parking was not an issue; driving was. It took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to get door to door to where I needed to go. Now, I adore visitors, I really do. I make a good chunk of my living entertaining visitors from around the world, and also I like to travel (not that I've done any traveling since buying this place...), so I too am on the other side of the discussion when people talk about visitors, since I'm a visitor too as soon as I leave my own place. But.... I'm sorry to say every now and again, there is a really bad visitor. One of those really bad visitors was about 20 cars in front of me. I joined the line of traffic at about Ramrod, and the traffic just built up behind me from there... no exaggeration there was a line of conservatively speaking 50 cars, all because one person. Now, I couldn't exactly figure what was going on in that minivan far ahead, but he was not keeping constant speed... faster, slower, faster, slower, unfortunately usually slower. I consoled myself for the better part of the ride with serious B-52 car karaoke, but that only goes so far. By the time I got to Rockland Key where the highway gives 2 sweet merciful lanes, I still couldn't pass.  The offending minivan with out of state plates blocked the left lane, as the slower traffic was in the right lane. It got to be a little dicey as some people were being very impatient, tailgating and so forth. I dug deep and persevered til I finally came bumper to tailpipe with the minivan and made my move to pass. And, what did I see astounded me... an entire car of visitors literally pointing cameras here and there, with one person camcording the entire ride down the Keys. The recorder, and the passenger were hanging half out the window. Oh please, have mercy on some of us. The line of more than 50 cars had a lot of people trying to get from one place to another on lunch hour, or simply do marketing. Others were on vacation too, but trust me no matter how beautiful that ride is, it becomes unpleasant when you have things like this going on.

I made it to class literally with 2 minutes to spare.

I rushed into the building and checked in. It was a full house, and I began scanning for an empty seat. The tables were all set up with paint, brushes, palettes, and blank canvas. People were chatting together and laughing. I was alone, and knew not a soul... or so I thought. I saw a front row corner seat where no one was sitting, rushed up there and sat down upon learning it was unoccupied. I took a deep breath and to the only person next to me said "that was a hell ride down from Big Pine" to which she replied "I live on Big Pine!" Small world, eh? And, next thing we learned is not only do we both live on Big Pine, but we both live on the same street. I've been here 8 years, and it took that long plus a trip to Key West for an art class to meet one of my neighbors from up the street.  I really do need to get out more.

So, yesterday I learned about primary colors, how to mix them to get lots of other colors, and what black and white does to color. I learned how words mean different things in the painting world (like "field," which for me usually means cows or strawberries, but in painting it means something very different!) And, more than anything I learned how to wipe my brush on my sleeve to look like a real painter. And, so I did. My dad's shirt will never be the same. I also learned that my dad's shirt does NOT block the paint, and I spent about 10 minutes after class washing off all the paint that had soaked through the sleeve onto my bare skin.  Fun.

When I saw the pattern on the board up front of what we were going to paint, I was absolutely convinced I would not be able to do it, and I would go home with either an incomplete painting, or something I would consider an abstract because there would be no other explanation for what was about to become of my canvas. I hate to admit this, but when it comes to learning new things I have more difficulties than the average person for a few reasons that I'd rather not get into here. So, I remembered that I was there for fun, that I wanted to learn, and that there wouldn't be a test at the end. I listened to the instructor, and did as he said.  To my astonishment, I came home with a completed project. It's definitely a little wonky here and there, but I painted and finished a canvas!

The other happy vegan said he wants to hang it up. I said no thank you, and for now it's sitting on a table. I'm not sure what to do with it, because as critical as I am of it, I'm proud of it. I cannot believe that teacher, that artist, had it in him to actually teach me in a way I could follow so that I walked out of there with a painting that probably most people can identify what it is (it's a papaya tree... I say that now before I publish the picture here so if you DON'T know what it is, you will now). My interpretation of said papaya tree probably has a touch of Monsanto GMO in it because it is a little wonky, but it's still essentially a papaya.  And, without further delay, here is my very first completed canvas.

My first original

I've got more classes as the month progresses, I'm looking forward to them even more than I was before yesterday. The teacher is Rick Worth, and he has a show I believe opening this Friday at the Lucky Street Gallery in Key West with another artist. If the stars align at all, I will find a way to go. I've been a fan of his for years, although I do not own any of his work... someday I will. And, my fingers are crossed that in this class he somehow works in how to paint animals, since I'm especially challenged when it comes to faces and perspective.  Keep your fingers crossed, ok?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Art Class!

I've got just minutes to write this with my schedule being so busy and all. I woke up so excited today, with something big to look forward to. Today, I have my first real art class ever!  Yes, one of the things on my lifelong personal "to do" list is getting accomplished this month. I've signed up for a series of art classes in Key West, the focus is on acrylic painting. It's being taught by the great Rick Worth, someone I admire greatly as both an artist, and a humanitarian. He's a very charitable man giving of his talent and time. He often focuses on teaching children, he paints for charity, and he has a great sense of humor that comes through in so much of his colorful, vibrant work.

Today I'm going to be blasting through chores, then heading straight down to Key West for my first class.  I've been told all I need to do is "dress appropriately" for the class, which to me means bringing the very old button down work shirt that was my dad's during his career, already splattered with paint. See, the thing is, I'm a closeted artist. When it comes to the arts, I am in complete awe of people who can sing and people who can paint.  Trust me when I say singing is completely off my list, but painting? I believe there's a glimmer of hope on that one. I've always wanted to paint. My mom was actually pretty good for someone with very little formal training, and I still have 1 thing she painted as a young woman. It's a small tile with a country farm scene on it. I do cherish it. I paint, but nothing great. I paint things on trash I collect off the beach, and sell those items to raise money for charity (usually the Turtle Hospital). I'm pretty certain I can do more, do better, and learn.

I want to come away from this class with the ability to paint better. Despite the fact that an exceptionally talented and well known artist is teaching the class, I have set the bar pretty low for myself. Can't help it. My inner artist has never been nurtured, nor have I really made a true effort to do so myself. There's a reason for this, and it goes back decades ago to an art project I did as a very small child. I remember it well, and it was not good. The teacher didn't like the way I had done my work. It was basically ridiculed. I was humiliated. I remember that very well.

I don't think this teacher is going to ridicule me, but I'm still approaching the class with low expectations (not of him, but of me). Despite this one little emotional tug from days gone by, it's all good. I'm going to my first art class and I'm beyond thrilled. The timing could have been better (February is among our busiest times), but when the opportunity came up, I decided this was one of those things that had to be done NOW because it keeps getting pushed by me to the back burner. Carpe Diem!

I'll keep you posted, I promise!  Gotta go, chores await, and then it's off to Key West. The happy vegan is holding down the fort for me today.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

You Never Know...

Valentines Day is coming. I'm not a personal fan of this holiday, although a few times in the past I've succumbed to social pressure to conform and observe the holiday. For the most part these days I personally do not. That is not to say that I don't realize how important the day is to other people, and thus working this bed and breakfast with additional baking as a huge part of my life the last year or so, well, things need to be special for the other people. I spent hours today in the kitchen testing a few recipes modified for the holiday. That means pink and red. I'm beyond frustrated dealing with big food companies trying desperately to figure out what decors are vegan, and which aren't. I cannot get a straight answer from any company I've reached out to. So, for now I'm doing things which don't require sprinkles, jimmies, or nonpareils. I do, however, have the ability to color my own sanding sugar, and so in a pinch I'll get by if I need something. I was working in the kitchen baking when I reached for my salt box and thought about my dad. One of the last gifts my father gave me before he died was a salt box for my birthday. Nothing big, nothing fancy, but I needed a salt box badly, and he gave me one. I've mentioned on here that I broke it shortly after he died. I was very upset when that happened, and I didn't replace it for a long time... years. Then one day a few months ago both of us happy vegans were in Key West and stumbled upon a nice little spice store that had a few types of salt boxes. The other happy vegan encouraged me to buy a new salt box. This certainly is not a frivolous item for someone in my trade at this point, nor is it an expensive item.  So, I bought a salt box.

Today I was coloring sugar cookie dough with organic beet juice (fresh juiced from my Champion--a beast of a juicer!) when I reached for that salt box and was flooded with thoughts of dad. My dad and I spent enough Valentines Days together that it became a bit of a special father/daughter day for us for a long time. My entire adult life, I would always pick out a "I Love You Daddy" children's card to give to dad, make him something special, and we'd have dinner together that I usually prepared. Dad didn't much care for Valentine's Day either, so we were good on that. And, we so loved spending time together, it's not that we needed a holiday excuse to see each other.

So, my red dough and the salt box were the triggers today for a walk down memory lane. You never know what it will be when seemingly you're just cruising along minding your own business, then WHAM thoughts of something you didn't even know you remembered come flying back in technicolor. Today I remembered a Valentine's dinner that my dad and I had together out at an Italian restaurant. We were two misplaced souls wearing black in a sea of red dresses, red ties and red roses. We laughed pretty hard that night. I remembered the wine we drank together, and the beautiful dessert we shared. It was a small, but tall, round cake that was iced in white and covered with red polka dots. I remembered that both of us were sitting at the table--he with his espresso, me with a cappuccino--both so reluctant to destroy the little work of art that sat before us. We did eventually go for the cake forks a flying (it WAS chocolate under that dotty frosting after all!) but I wondered what made me even remember that night, that cake, and those polka dots from so many years ago. I guess it was the salt box, maybe it has magical powers.

I'll be hitting the dough again pretty hard tomorrow. I wonder what other forgotten secrets will be in the batches.