Friday, December 31, 2010

Photos for Friday and the New Year

Today is New Year's Eve. Tomorrow is the first day of a brand new year. Isn't it amazing? How is it that time just flies by so quickly? Before we know it the summer will be here again, and gone. These holidays are so hectic I can't really enjoy what's going on. I'm trying to keep my eyes open rather than cloudy with thoughts and plowing through my days. It's not easy.

And the to-do list keeps growing. I was able to cross off a couple of things I had been wanting to do, so that was a plus. Can you imagine going to IKEA during a Christmas shopping foray, to pick up some much wanted bookshelves? I can't believe I did it either. Somehow my car just drove to that store just before Christmas. I bought what I wanted to buy, brought it home, and put it together. I even placed books and decorative items in them. That was an accomplishment! I guess you have to go with the flow when the mood strikes.

Today will be another busy day. I don't have to worry about tonight because we're going out with family. But later on today I have baking to do. St. Basil's Day is January 1 and in the Greek culture we celebrate the New Year and St. Basil at midnight with a sweet bread that is baked with a coin inside called Vasilopeta. We cut the bread for the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, mother Mary and some people cut a slice for the saints. Then each family member gets a slice and we check to see who won the coin for good luck the whole year. So I am baking the breads today and also a batch of sweet, honey dipped biscuit-like cookies with walnuts on top. Another something sweet for the new year. Need those traditions.

As you can see by my photos, my cookbooks, my stand-by's, are pretty beat up. My mother gave me one book when I was married and it's seen better days. I don't bother getting a new one because I figure some day my granddaughter might want to see how I handled it from my own hands, writing and splotches all. This book is kind of like me: basic and traditional, a little unorthodox, a bit thrown together, with a big rubber band for security. 

This little paper thingy? This is from the back of a Greek calendar that marks each day. They print recipes, jokes, anecdotes, songs, etc. This is a traditional Greek song we sing for St. Basil, the new year and the first day of the month. We Greeks have a saying for everything from the first day of the month, the first day of the week, before you eat your dinner, when you go on vacation, a name day, a birthday, a wedding, before you give birth, you name it- we have something to say about it. And that's another post for another day. Now I having some baking to do.

Kali Hronia! Hronia Polla! Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water."
~Carl Reiner, comedian

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

by Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne 1945
(click the title and hear Dean Martin sing it)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I'll hate going out in the storm!
But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we're still good-bying,
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thoughts on Shopping on Thursday

Finally I believe that my shopping for the holiday is done. There are a few more errands to mark off my to-do list, but basically I am finished. Yes, checked the list twice. If I forgot anything there will be trouble!

While at the mall this week, I was stopped by a number of merchants hawking their goods from these small kiosks that pop up this time of year. New Yorker that I am, I was able to deflect most and keep my eye on the tiger. But this one guy had a good move and some how he was buffing my nails! He was selling Dead Sea Salt facial scrubs and his accent said Israeli. And he's buffing my nails! Oh brother!

He told me his name , but who remembers? He asked my name, my nationality, and my age. Whoa, hold on there mister! All the while buffing my nails, and pitching his wares. I mean really pushing me to buy his facial scrub stuff, discounts and all, but I refused. When I told him my age he eyeballed me intently and said "No way!" He turned to his co-worker and asked her to guess my age. Give me break people. Are they all in on the action or what? Well, this girl guessed a good 15 years younger than I really am and says No way, too.

Ok, fine! So the young guy buffing my nails stops, looks me in the eyes and says,"You know something? You are a gorgeous lady and you look a million bucks. But your nails look 50 cents."

And with that I said thank you and was gone. Oh geez!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time to Shop, Park, Bake..

Between the Christmas shopping, babysitting, decorating, and all the other errands I do around here, painting has taken a back seat.  That should be only for the time being.  Blogging has also had to wait it's turn.

I have been writing here for quite a while and it's a very satisfying activity, but right now it's hit or miss.  Every day that I go out and do my thing, I return home and hit my head that I forgot to take pictures of my surroundings.

New Yorkers rarely turn their heads at anything.  Most craziness is not that interesting to us.  Okay, we do take note of the nuts that exist, but it's not like we make a big deal out of stuff out in the open.  But someone taking photos of nothing is something we might pay some attention to.  Since we had the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 people taking random pics are eyed suspiciously.  A while ago some men were taking photos of one of the bridges leading in and out of Manhattan.  They were suspected of planning some plot.  So yes, I might feel a little weird if people see me stand around and take a picture of nobody.

Anyway, during one of my Christmas shopping jaunts I remembered my camera and peering around that there was no one looking at me I took a couple of photos of the vast, full parking lot at the local mall.  Roosevelt Field was jam packed, but I found a great parking spot.  I mean great because as I pulled into the lot a car was just getting out. Bam! blinkers on and I was in it! Mall parking lots can be cut-throat.

I guess if I thought of it I could have taken a photo of the masses of humanity shopping in the mall too.  You know what?  I had shopping of my own to get done.  My free time is limited so I had to make the best of what time I had.  I must say that yesterday happened to be quite productive. Am I done? I'm not sure. If I have time I will let you know. In the mean time, I have to get back to babysitting now.

I'm coming Baby!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thought for Thursday

“The world would not be in such a snarl,/ had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl.”
~Irving Berlin

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Perfect Tree

The annual quest for the perfect Christmas tree was accomplished this weekend.  I'm sure everyone has their own little rituals around choosing the right tree to bring home and decorate.  Here at our house, we have our own list of criteria.

Firstly, it must be tall, around 8 to 9 feet so I can trim the height without losing too much.  Second, it shouldn't be too cylindrical.  A nice upside down V shape is preferred.  Lastly, I like a certain pine needle, but these days I can't seem to find it unless it's ten feet tall or two feet short.  So I have to compromise on the last item and concentrate on the first two. I would take a tree that was sparse in branches if it was the right needles. I don't have a problem with a real tall 'Charlie Brown' kind either.

We used to visit the local garden shop as a family on the weekend before Christmas.  There would be alot of back and forth about which tree was best.  Everyone needed to add their input.  Once we were all in agreement we made our purchase and took the tree home where we propped it up in a bucket of water until we were ready to bring it inside to decorate.

When I was little my father would buy the biggest tree and put it up as we slept on Christmas Eve. He loved the shock and surprise we had Christmas morning seeing this huge, decorated tree with presents under it.  My sister and I would be in awe. Later in years our parents told us Santa Claus needed help so we'd get the tree together and put it up Christmas Eve. A little less stress for them, different fun for us.

This year I went with my sister for our trees.  The Mr. was working, as was Son #2.  Son #1 has his own tree to buy for his little family.  We were on our own, which was fine because there was just the two of us to discuss the purchases. I asked Son #2 if he wanted to go, but after he said he had to work on Saturday, and Sunday was out because a rain storm was expected, he told us we had better know what we were doing.  Oh, thanks alot!

Most of the trees were short this year. Most of them were not of the V shape I was looking for, and only the twelve foot trees had those pine needles I prefer.  Everyone at the store was eyeing the trees that did have good height so we had to keep saying "We're interested in these." We needed one tree for my house and one for my mom.

With our trees purchased, we move on to the guy who trims the trunk to fit the tree stand.  Thank goodness we had our stand with us or else we'd have to do that job at home, not fun. He trimmed both and left the stand attached to the second tree, hoisted them atop my car and tied them down. The tree stand was hovering over my car windshield, but the garden guy said it would not fall off.  I wasn't so sure about that, however.  No, no, it will be fine, he assured us.  We drove off for home. I forgot all about taking pictures of our adventure tree shopping!  That would have been fun to see in pictures.

While I was driving, the tree stand was bouncing in front of my windshield. So my sister said we should take a picture of it.  I don't know why it struck me as funny, but after she showed me the photo I couldn't stop laughing. We were driving and hysterically laughing. I had tears streaming down my face and we laughed all the way home.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Photos for Friday and the Latest Work

Back at the dining room table again.  This time I decided to use three small rocks as my subjects. I had to laugh because I sent the last still life to the blog of The Twenty Minute Challenge and one commenter thought I could finish that painting with line around the egg.  So I was thinking, what egg?Then I realized that one of the rocks I painted certainly did look like an egg! I had such a good laugh that day.

Here is the beginning of the latest work. I thought I could try to make these rocks look like rocks instead of eggs! I am still laughing, can you tell? Anyway, this is what my start looks like. I am still using too much water on this Arches paper. Rats! I'm not going to get twenty minutes out of this. More like two days!  (Still laughing!)

After a little bit of drying time, I try again. I don't know how I remembered to take photos of this!  Besides, my granddaughter was asleep and I wanted to work quickly so I could be done by the time she woke up.  Not a twenty minute deal. Nope.You can see how I try to sketch out the subjects. When I work, I try to move around the whole surface so that most of the painting is moving together and evolving at the same time. I usually work this way so I'm not surprised by having one element fully developed before the rest comes together. Because if I do that, it never works for me. That one element ends up standing out or floating in space. It's very action oriented even though I'm stationary. My painting arm is moving around alot and sometimes I stand, then I sit. If I do one or the other too long, I lose my focus. But then I lose my perspective, I can't help it.

How did Monet paint the same scene at different times of the day? Did he paint a quick twenty minutes, an hour, and do another one of the same scene a few hours later? Or did he come back the next day, but later, or earlier? If you sit there and paint a landscape on the scene the light and shadows change with the hours. This is what I was pondering as the afternoon slipped away.

By this stage in the painting I had very little natural light left. The whole painting time was maybe about an hour. I began later than I wanted, mainly for the light. Drying takes time and I couldn't move on until it dried. My mantra was 'Less water'. I wouldn't listen.

I must figure out this water thing. The longer I take on my work, the more details I see and want to add. It's my opinion but, I think the paintings lose spontaneity if I go too long. Not good, not bad, I don't know. This is not the finished work.  It looks done, but that's just because it got really dark when I took this photo and I had to edit it to see anything! Do these rocks look like eggs?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thought for Thursday

"Look Charlie, let's face it. We all know Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate you know." ~Lucy Van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas. 1965

In 1965,this little animated feature cartoon by Charles Schultz, A Charlie Brown Christmas, lamented the growing commercialization of the Christmas holiday. Can you imagine what they would say about it today?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time Just Flies

Do you see what happens when you're having fun?  Time just flies right by!  Oh gee, when was the last time I posted here?  I have to take a look to remember what day it was.  One day just flows right into the next and before I know it the week is gone and another begins.  If you're not watching, life turns into one long cup of coffee, my analogy anyway.

I was writing in my Morning Pages just this same thing yesterday.  I can remember adults saying that life goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is just so, so true.  I thought of it while writing at 7A.M. that every day I see my granddaughter she is different.  Literally different.  I am trying to slow down life so I can really see her changing.  Most times when she is delivered to my house she is asleep.  I stop whatever I am doing to look at her sleeping face until she opens those big, brown, beautiful eyes of hers.  I straighten up the house and myself, before she gets here so I can be comfortable in the present moment.

Being present has to be one of the hardest things to do.  To stop and smell the roses, as they used to say, is a difficult thing when life is so demanding.  There is so much to do, lists to cross off, errands, painting, beating myself up for not painting, cooking and cleaning, and on and on.  I have had a good talk with my brain and told it that it must shut up and stop bothering me for the time being.  I am going to sit here and look at this baby for now.  Granted, my off days will be hectic.  Even so, I will try to be present, aware, and awake.

When Son#1 got engaged I jumped up when I remembered I hadn't put his 3 month baby photo in a frame yet!  What an idiot I am!  I can't believe I let that much time go by without doing some of those things.  Don't get my wrong, I do have pictures in albums.  But then again, there's a slew of them in boxes and that's just not right.

So I have made up my mind to slow down, breathe, remember what day it is, where I am, what I am doing, and keep my eyes open.  If I don't, this baby will be 10 years old and I'll be wondering what happened.

OK, gotta go, the baby just woke up!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thought for Thursday

“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”
 Nora Ephron,author

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Time in the Morning

While my granddaughter was fast asleep after her bottle this morning, I headed to my watercolor paints at the dining room table. Like I have mentioned before, the light from the window at this spot is great. Even thought it's a rainy, windy morning the light is still good, north facing light.  The basement studio hasn't seen any action in a while because it's easier to keep an eye on my charge if I paint nearby.  I set up the usual suspects and painted for twenty minutes.

I haven't had the chance to get a smaller block of paper for these quick works so, as suggested by a fellow artist and blogger friend Pat, I cut larger paper down to the size I need. The way I paint, the bigger the paper, the bigger I go so I have to pencil in a dot to limit the area.

The paper I am using is Arches. The small notebook was Canson, and I'm noticing a difference. The Arches paper block stays wet longer, not so the Canson notebook pages.  I'm also finding that I can't paint as fast with the Arches because it's still wet when I want to add color and then it gets muddy.  I have to pay attention.  Learning how to use the tools is part of the process, so it's all good.

This is how the painting looks after twenty minutes. It's not exactly how I'd like it to be so later on, if I get the chance, I will go back to clean it up.

Mid-Morning (c)2010 DST  8x10 Watercolor
On impulse yesterday, I purchased a 10 pack of small stretched canvas for almost no money at, gasp, Michael's Crafts.  I do hope there will be some oil painting in my future, meaning this winter.  How does twenty minutes of oil painting sound? Can it be done with any success?  Can I do it with a modicum of success?  I guess I will have to try it and see.

The Latest Work With Permission

©Dora Sislian Themelis, 11x14 Watercolor, Patmos Sunset Available for purchase The latest work is from another person's photograph...