Saturday, November 29, 2014

December wallpaper

December!  Is it going to be a crazy sprint to the end of the year for you?  Do you revel in all the holiday merriment?  Or do you bristle at "mandatory joy"?  Or...  do you keep it low key, picking and choosing the holiday bits you truly love?

Here's a peaceful snow capped mountain top for December's wallpaper.  Click the image size / ratio you want to view the full sized image.  Then right click the full sized copy to download it.

1920x1080 (16:9)

2560x1024 (5:2)

2560x1600 (16:10)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Show me how the piggies eat

Thanksgiving is this week!  Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to pig out.  I'm all about the side dishes.  And the pie.  And some wine and a nap.

the siren song of wine and a nap
This year we're not even making a turkey.  I always eat a piece out of obligation, but don't even like it.  We're going with a ham.  mmmmmm, ham.

Another food I'm excited about?  Brandied cranberries.  Whenever I bring it somewhere, people ask for the recipe.  I honestly don't remember where I originally got the recipe from.  Somewhere on the internet.  There are similar recipes all over.  It's so easy:
  • 4 Cups fresh cranberries  (rinse off and pick out the bad ones)
  • 2 Cups white sugar
  • 1/3 Cup brandy
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. In a baking dish, mix the cranberries and sugar (yes, dry). Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (until the sugar is all liquefied)
 Take out of the oven, splash the brandy over top (it will sizzle). Stir it in and serve warm. It's the bomb.

Since we're not eating turkey, I thought I would paint a turkey. (??)  But then I remembered my pelican painting and thought better of it.  Large birds might not be my forte.  I made up another fall scene instead:
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Clouds, trees, leaves blowing about...  the usual.  Know what you love and stick to it, that's what I say.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More winter strategies for not going stir crazy

'Winter Sunset' 8"x10"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

So what do you do on the days you're snowed in to stave off the cabin fever?  I've been painting snowy landscapes.  Here's one I just finished.  I like all the colors I put on the tree bark, and the colors of the cold pale sky.

Here's some more of my go-to happy winter activities...

De-clutter your house
Lets be honest, there is a good amount of crap that quietly accumulates in our houses that is just junk.  Don't save it up for a spring garage sale.  It's not worth it.  Pitch it and feel the freedom.   Watch an episode of Hoarders if you need motivation.  If something is truly useful and in very good shape, but you never wear or use it, put it out for AmVets to pick up.  Be RUTHLESS.  If it was that awesome, you would have worn it / used it / done it / whatever by now.  When I de-clutter, it usually leads to reorganizing and rearranging, too.  Just yesterday I weeded out some coffee mugs and kitchen stuff we don't need and then reorganized my kitchen cabinets.  Feels so good.

Check e-books out of the library
How do I combine my love of reading with my love of not leaving the house?  E-books.  You can buy them online, or you can check them out for FREE from the library.  The first time is a little confusing, but then it's easy peasy.  
Your library probably has eBooks through OverDrive.   You can go to your library's website and follow their links, or you can go to the OverDrive website directly.    Here is their quick step by step help page.

For my Kindle, I go to the OverDrive site and use their Advanced Search.  I like to get right down to brass tacks and specify exactly what I'm looking for: Kindle format, available now, in English, biographies.
Once I find a book I want, I click "borrow it", and then they ask me to choose my library and enter my library card number.
Then I click to download the Kindle version of the book...

and I'm automatically sent to my Amazon account where I click "get library book".

It shows up in  my Kindle in seconds.  (through the magic of wireless internet)

You don't have to worry about driving to the library or getting them back on time.   They take the book away automatically.  So great for taking tons of books on vacation, too.

Set a spring fitness goal
As soon as the first crocus blooms, I wanna do David Lee Roth high kicks and sprint down the street.  Start training now so you can hit the ground running come spring.
I like to sign up for the Cap City Half Marathon, which is always the first weekend in May.  It feels like a huge victory lap for conquering winter.
my first half mary in 2012

To make it to my goal, I make a spreadsheet laying out the weeks between now and May, and break down the mileage I need to be gaining week by week in order to be ready. It gives me a sense of progressing towards something.
I like Zumba, too

If you don't like running (or the treadmill), then for heaven's sake don't set a running goal.  Walking?  Cycling?  Something you won't dread.   Signing up for an event that's on the edge of your abilities puts the fear in you when you'd otherwise be unmotivated.  Set a big goal!  Why not.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter survival strategies

my latest: "Winter Approaches"  10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Here comes winter. Too bad it comes barging in a month early and hangs around for 5 months.  Too much!  Cold combined with darkness... it can be a struggle to do much more than hibernate on the couch under all the blankets.  Ultimately, I would love to get to where we could "snow bird" (yes, like we're 70, I don't care) or just move south permanently.  In the mean time, here are some of my favorite strategies for keeping my chin up during the season of horrid cold death and darkness.

Pensacola, Florida
Plan a warm getaway for January / February-ish
Big or small, anything will do.   A luxurious week in Mexico,  a quick jaunt to Virginia Beach for President's Day weekend....  The key is to start planning something now so that once the holiday whirlwind is over, there is still something in winter to look forward to.  It won't feel so much like "ugh, now there's nothing but 2+ months of bleakness".

get some sunshine

Learn to ski, ice skate, or snowboard
One year we got season passes to Snow Trails and joined a ski club.    They have sledding with a tow rope, too, if you just want the fun without the falling down.   If you want more of a get-away, you could book a ski weekend at a bigger ski resort. We like Holiday Valley and Seven Springs.  Winter is the time for snow sports, so you might as well give them a try.  If you have fun, it kind of tricks your brain into thinking "oh good, snow!"

snow is your "friend"

Join or start a winter club or league.  
A league working towards a finale or championship gives a sense of the winter progressing.  For many years, we were in a bowling league with our neighbors.  A card club (euchre, poker...) or a roaming dinner thing would be fun, too.  Anything that is automatically on your schedule to get you out of the house and seeing your friends without planning and thinking each time is good.  It has to be easy, because even simple things can seem not worth the effort in the dead of winter.

get together with friends

I have a few more strategies up my sleeve.  Ones that don't involve leaving the house.  Why don't you mull these over, and in a few days, I'll post about library eBooks, spring fitness goal spreadsheets, and Hoarders.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Party Studio - Autumn Walk

Sunday night, my friend Kim and I hit up The Party Studio to paint and share some wine.
Cupcake Red Velvet pairs well with a fall painting.
As usual, the instructing artist led us through step by step.  So easy!   I went rogue with mixing my own colors again.     I think for simplicity's sake, they don't make you mix the colors too much.    You can do whatever you want, though, so I sit there and swirl all my paint together.  A couple other women did an entirely different painting.
at about the halfway point   

For extra fun, they had GLITTER available that you could add to your painting.  I'm pretty sure Van Gogh was into glitter.  No?  Well, whatever, I put some black glitter on a couple of the tree trunks.  
a touch of class
It gives it that fine art vibe.  I seriously love it and now I'm struggling with a strong desire to add sparkle to all of my paintings.  

Voila!  Here's the finished product on our mantel.   I'm liking it up there for fall.  Must cling to every last bit of fall before Winter starts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Holiday Valley

Holiday Valley is a ski resort in Ellicottville, New York.   We've driven up there many times for a long ski weekend.  Gotta break up the long bleak winter somehow.

Ellicottville is a really quaint tiny village.  We always drive downtown at least once for shopping and dinner.   The Barn is a favorite dinner spot.
The Barn
I grew up in upstate New York.  Winter is harsh and beautiful there. The air is so crisp...  I forget a little until we go back.

My favorite ski lift at Holiday Valley is the Tannenbaum.  So peaceful and beautiful.  The trees create an almost magical tunnel of solitude.  Since this picture, they've upgraded the lift to an express quad.  I kinda miss the slow ride through the trees.

Of course, coming back down is the fun part.  I'm happy to putter down the green and blue hills making nice slow S's.    Black diamond is a little beyond my skill and knee comfort zone.

I need to complain about winter less and appreciate it's good parts more.  If I didn't feel trapped by it, that might help.  It can't all be ski weekends and Christmas eve, but sparkly white snowfall is kinda dreamy.  Here's my painting of a snowy night at Holiday Valley
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

TONIGHT!  I'm going to The Party Studio to paint with a friend!  She's bringing snacks, I'm bringing wine, and we're going to paint a tree-lined path.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I love Vegas in the Springtime

Every year or two I get the itch to go to Vegas.   Three days worth in the Spring is perfect.

Ohio likes to mess with your mind in the spring -  throwing you a sunny day and then snatching it away for more gray and snow.  So I like to jump ship, bask in some 80 degree sunshine, wear all my sparkly clothes, and stroll down the street sipping a yard of margarita.

I like to stay at the Mirage.  They are centrally located on the strip, their lobby smells like vanilla and coconuts, and I think their pool area is the best.  
me, my double chin, and some strangers' butts

In the morning, it's actually pretty cool to go running on the strip.  With the time change, I end up getting up stupid early.  Right after dawn is the perfect time for a run; hardly anyone is out.

At some point, we always have to swing by the Bellagio and see the fountains.  So beautiful!  Does anyone else get choked up? Just me?
the fountains at Bellagio

I think the strip is the prettiest at dawn and twilight.  You get the twinkle of the lights, but not full-on brash, and it's not shoulder to shoulder people.
the strip at twilight
I particularly like the lights on Paris' Eiffel Tower  and hot air balloon.  Here's a super quick painting I did of the Paris hotel at twilight.
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas
After I thought I'd call it "done", I reconsidered.  Maybe it's a little too unfinished.  So I did a little more. Now I like the balloon more, but the tower less.  It's hard to know when to quit.
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Maybe I'll take another shot at the tower.  And make it really horrible.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November wallpaper

Brace yourself.  The holiday time warp is coming.  In the blink of an eye it will be 2015.

Click the image size you want to view the full sized image.  Then right click to download a copy to your desktop.

1920x1080 (16:9)

2560x1024 (5:2)