Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 22: First Day's Work

Yesterday was day one of a three day workshop with Jeanne Carbonetti in Sedona, AZ.  A masterful teacher, Mrs. Carbonetti gave a lecture/demonstration in the morning sharing her approach to watercolor painting.  In the afternoon we were invited to copy her demonstration painting or do one using the principles she was teaching.  The five elements of a painting are:  Focus, Composition, Value, Color and Texture.  The five techniques of watercolor used to bring these to life are:  Washes, Ruffling (going back into the paint with water), Blended Wet, Glazing and Splatter.

Her own paintings are alive with color and life.  Grand inspirations. Here are two painting I did on that first day, in the spirit of Jeanne Carbonetti.

It was an inspired day of painting and play. What Joy!

Day 21: Paintbrushes for my lessons . . .

So the everyday object that I revere today is the humble paintbrush.  I have more than I need, as you can see with this collection.  I do all of my painting with a single brush, a round #12 that I carry in my travel satchel.  However, I am hopeful that my new teacher, Ms. Jeanne Carbonetti, will teach me some uses for this collection of watercolor brushes.  I apologize for this display of overconsumption.  If I showed you my collection of paints I would be shamefaced.  Another day.

Off today to paint in a class happily titled: "Watercolor Big and Bold"  Oh, and you can make a handy brush carrier with a bamboo placemat. Run some 3/4 in elastic through the middle.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 20: Sedona Scenes

On route to Sedona, AZ yesterday we stopped at a rest stop along route 40. This orange triangular sign gave us warning of the local rattlesnake scare.  Ooooo, be careful.  Didn't see any.

We arrived last night in windy Sedona and checked in to our Sedona Village Lodge.  The photo below is from our balcony.  I'm here to do a watercolor workshop for three days with Jeanne Carbonetti. More to come as our travel unfolds.  Off to breakfast.

Lots of bru ha ha over the recent Arizona Governor's new immigration law.  I don't approve.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 19: Peanut Butter Sauce

I received a wonderful email from an old friend, Claire Kelm, who wanted to thank me for posting a recipe for Meyer Lemon Poppyseed cake on Facebook a while back.  Apparently she made one for a party and it was a hit!

This got me to thinking about the value of posting favorite recipes.  And since I'm "on the road" right now, traveling to Sedona, AZ this seemed like a good time to do this.  So, for your dining pleasure I offer my all time favorite recipe for Spicy Peanut Sauce.  This can be used over virtually anything, but makes a particularly good meal with chicken, rice and vegetables.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
 One cup of peanut butter
One cup of hot water
½ cup of cider vinegar
4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.  Add more water if you'd like it thinner.  You can store this in the refrigerator in a jar and pour out a half cup or so to use as a sauce over nearly anything.  It is especially good over rice and brocolli and tofu or grilled chicken.  I make a Rice Bowl with veggies and either chicken, tofu or even leftover flank steak.   Heat the sauce in the microwave or slowly on the stovetop.  Pour a little or a lot over any leftover and smile.
My husband swears that peanut sauce would make cardboard taste divine!
This recipe makes two cups which is a lot.  The original recipe is half of everything, but I love it so much and eat it so often that I might as well make a lot and keep it.  It stores well and can be thinned if it gets thick.  Oh, and you can use any kind of peanut butter you like.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 18: Susan Landor's Art and Heart

This remarkable oil painting and the commentary below is by my friend Susan Landor Keegan.  Her website: A Little Painting Every Day is a jewel.  With her permission I am reposting this.  Ah, what beauty! Besides her eye for composition and mastery of color Susan has a deep appreciation of life. Her tiny paintings are precious studies of the world she encounters.   Her mother, Josephine, was a mentor and second mom to me when I moved to California in the late 1970's.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010

Single Flower in the Meadow

Single Flower in the Meadow
Oil on Wood
I woke up Saturday to the unlikely brilliance of this single flower blooming in the meadow. Defying the deer (how do they know to resist?), rabbits, birds, gophers, not to mention wind and rainfall. So far. So much life coming and going lately it feels like emotional whiplash. The only option is to celebrate everyday, weep with abandon, and spread the love.

And so I take Susan's advice today to celebrate everyday life.  This morning I begin a road trip to Sedona, AZ.  Posts coming from those magical red rocks.  Stay tuned.  And, thank you Susan for your inspiration today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 17 Stone Circle

Our village of El Granada is within a stone's throw of the Mavericks, surfer beach heaven.  On a clear weekend day the greater Bay Area beats a path to our door.  This weekend was a yearly event dubbed "The Dream Machines."  A mish mash of vintage cars, airplanes, tractors and army tanks converge to attract a large number of thrill seekers.  This quadruples the traffic and adds to the sense of something happening on the coast.

Usually on Dream Machine weekend it is safest not to go out at all to brave the Highway 1 traffic snarl.  But, I needed a walk, and so I drove to the parking lot nearest the Mavericks beach and took the trail around to the Pillar Point outpost.  Rounding the curve I came upon a newly formed stone circle.  Someone had built a small Labyrinth on a bluff overlooking the harbor.  What a pleasure to stop and quietly walk the serpentine path as it folds in upon itself.

The idea of a Labyrinth is sensible.  Pay attention to the path as you walk.  Make it a meditation.  I walked it twice.  My mind needed this today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 16: A Movie - Departures

Winner of this year's Academy Award for "Best Foreign Language Film"  this remarkable  film is a poem, a Haiku of great beauty.
Perhaps you've heard the odd story line:  an out of work cellist returns to a small town in Japan and falls into an unusual job of being an "encoffiner" . . . one who prepares the dead for burial.  This profession that is shunned by many becomes a laboratory for understanding the meaning and dignity of life.  You will weep.  You will be very glad you've taken the trouble to find this under distributed gem.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 15: Glue Sticks and my cards

Someone smart invented purple glue sticks.  I make my own greeting cards by affixing a 4 x 6 photograph of one of my watercolors onto a blank greeting card.  It is a very simple process, thanks to the bonding help of the purple glue stick.  The purple allows you to see where the glue has been put.  And, in some miracle of science, in a short time the purple color disappears and the thing sticks where it needs to be.  

It's handy for stamps that have lost their umph . .  and for making impromptu collage.  I appreciate the convenience of these snappy tools.  Always carry one in my little art tote.  

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 14: Day-Glo 3 X 5 cards

I'm a nut about 3X5 cards.  I use them for everything.  A few years ago I discovered these psychedelic fluorescent colored cards.  I turn the cards into a little note pad by stacking a group of the colors I like and then using padding compound to seal one edge, making it a PAD of index cards.  You can buy Padding Compound to turn scratch paper into pads of paper.  I can pull one off and stick it in a pocket or wallet as a shopping list or DON"T FORGET card.

I use the cards when I teach.  I stuff it in a pocket.  A two hour class lesson can be found on a single card.  It may have a series of bullet points with cryptic phrases like: `Word Ball   ~Leave the Room for the Same Reason  ~Hat Game   ~Three Word Sentences . . .  ~CROW   .  .  .

There is something helpful about the bright colors.  I may forget where I put a note, but I often remember that it is on a lime green card.   Sometimes I give one of these little day-glo pads as gifts.  Folks like them.  I think there is a business opportunity here.  

Let us say Hurrah for the 3 x 5 card!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 13: The Windowsill

My husband is fond of pointing out that I like "little things" meaning tiny objects.  I have a collection of  small vases (one to four inches tall). A favorite daily task is putting a single flower or two into a thumb-sized vase and placing it on a windowsill or in an unexpected location.  I'm fond of daisies of all kinds because they stay fresh for surprisingly long periods, I've observed.

The collection of odd items next to the mini flower arrangement includes a two inch Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion.  She sits presiding over a menagerie of a glass cat, a stone horse, a topaz cougar, a wooden mouse, an iron frog and a wooden curled cat figure.
Some of these were gifts, some were souvenirs of travel.  It has struck me as sensible if one is going to buy tchotchke then it might as well be small stuff.

(Tchotchke (originally from Yiddish טשאַטשקע tshatshke [often spelled in a variety of other ways (such as tshotshketshatshketchatchkechachke, orchochke) because there is no standardized transliteration] trinket), ultimately from a Slavic word for "toys" (Polish: cacka, Russian: цацки) are trinkets, small toys, knickknacks, baubles, or kitsch. The term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness. The term was long used in the Jewish-American community and in the regional speech of New York City.)

I admit that I needed to look up the spelling of this fine word, and since the definition, et al, was pleasing I hope you don't mind that I included it here.  I don't attach the attribute of tackiness to my use of the word tchotchke.  But to me they are little things. 

Beauty can be found everywhere.  It can be celebrated by taking a single flower and giving it attention.  I once told my sister that if she picked a dandelion from her back yard and placed it in a shot glass on her counter it would have the same purpose.  Looking at a living flower can remind us of the whole world.  Wasn't it the Buddha who, when asked about the meaning of life, simply held up a single flower? 

It is so easy to bring beauty into our lives, onto our windowsills and desks.  Something living, a flower that won't last long, is a reminder to appreciate the natural world and treasure our fleeting time on earth.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 12: The Laminator

I am a laminating fool.  If it ain't nailed down I may run it through one of my little machines to give it a permanent glossy case.  My friends know that I will turn almost anything into a bookmark.  An inspirational quote, a life lesson idea, a poem + something of art: a watercolor image, a paint sample chart, a postcard from a trip--these become encased in laminate for safe keeping.

What is it in your life that you would like to laminate today?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 11: "Mash Notes"

Recently I received an out of the blue request.  Someone doing research on a gentleman wanted to know if I had a Playbill from the 1963 production of Unto These Hills.  I had spent a summer in Cherokee, NC, playing the heroine of this outdoor drama.  It is an epic historical representation of the persecution of the Cherokee Indians under President Andrew Jackson.  The play tells the tragic tale of what has been called, "the trail of tears" when thousands of the Cherokee died on the long walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma.  
After a few hours of rummaging in our storage loft and battling lots of cobwebs I located a cardboard box containing memorabilia from my past.  I found the program from Unto These Hills, but it turns out I was in the cast in 1964 and not 1963.  This was a disappointment to the researcher who started all this.  Finding the scrapbook with this program led to a treasure trove of memories. The box included scrapbooks of faded theatrical reviews from the 1960's and photographs of me in all manner of costumes.  Perhaps someday I'll make a montage of these images.  My acting days were interesting times albeit distant now.

Tucked into a corner of this box was a file folder titled "Mash Notes".  Who here knows what a "mash note" is?  According to Merriam-Webste Onliner:   mash note  Function: noun  Date: 1890 "a usually sentimental or effusive note or letter expressing affection for the recipient."   

During the years of my teaching life I kept a file folder in my bulky metal file cabinet in the office titled: Mash Notes. I recommend, by the way, they you start such a folder. In it file away thank you letters and notes received over the years. Include also letters that say kind and encouraging things about what you have done, etc.

And, then, every ten years of so, OR when you are having a day when you are feeling "less than" . . . pull out the folder and read these notes. Reading aloud is also a nice touch. I think we all long for appreciation, to be recognized, to be loved and admired. Of course we do. And, no matter how much we are praised, it may never seem enough. So, my advice is SAVE your MASH NOTES!

And you might even want to laminate the really good ones and make them into bookmarks. This reminds me I must show off my laminator machine as one of the tools of everyday life.

The photograph is a pile of a few of the letters I've received as a teacher. I treasure these. A teacher's life has meaning if her students found value in the classroom. And how do we know this? From time to time a thoughtful, kind student stops and writes a note of thanks and leaves in on the office desk or better yet mails it.

What teacher changed your life? You may be able to track them down these days with Facebook and all. Find that address and write a mash note. Make someone's day. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 10: Spatula

If I had to name my favorite kitchen utensil it would be this plastic spatula.  It is the "go to" item I always pull from the drawer when I cook.  It spreads butter or jam or peanut butter or even tapenade easily.  It cleans up in an instant.  I use it to stir things or scrape up the last twiddle-dee bits of cookie dough or pancake batter.  It scrapes, it scoops, it spreads and it is easy on the eye and the pocketbook.  You can hang it on a hook or a nail.  It cost under one dollar at a fancy cooking store.  I love this spatula.  

Al hail the simple tool.  I'll bet there are tools in your life that serve many uses.  When was the last time you thanked your spatula?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 9: My paintbox

A decade ago a friend who is a talented watercolor artist, Susan Kahn, gave me a tip about a way to make a handy portable paintbox.  Use a plastic traveling soap box.  Inside you can stack two trays of small refillable pans or half pans.  These little plastic rectangles are available empty.  You can fill them from tubes of watercolor and arrange them to suit your use.  You can get up to 20 half pans on a single tray or 10 whole pans.  These trays pull out.  I glue the little pans onto a small square of plastic.  You can pull both the trays out and use the soap box as a mixing palate.

I like being about the carry all of my paint supplies in a 5" X 7" zipper bag.  I can paint anywhere.  I've always loved an open paintbox.  Seeing the colors lined up in a rainbow line seems to fill the world with possibilities.  All hail art supplies.

They are wonderful gifts for children.  Give a child a set of colors: paints, pencils, crayons, chalk.  Color opens the imagination.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 8: Ring the bell . . .

"Ring the bells that still can ring.    
Forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen's songAnthem  

A dear friend, Carol Anne 
Bickerstaff got married in Vancouver, BC two weeks ago.  I was invited to be the "ring mistress of the ceremony."  As a wedding gift I gave her a Tibetan temple bell.  (not the one pictured here which is Japanese).  I quoted the Leonard Cohen lyric above.   There is something haunting and useful about that sentiment.  Our flaws, our cracks create the world of possibility.  Light, change all that moves does so because of the cracks, the open spaces, the flaws.  

Today let us celebrate the cracks in our lives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 7: Irises at Allied Arts

I belong to a friendly plein air painting group that meets on Wednesday mornings to paint local scenes.  This week we took a road trip to Palo Alto to visit the beautiful Allied Arts gardens.  It's a remarkable place tucked back in a residential section on the west side of El Camino Real.  The public is welcome and they have a first rate cafe for ladies' lunch.  

I spent most of the morning on a complicated scene.  I'm afraid I fell into a poor habit of overworking the piece.  Watercolor is best when used simply and carefully, not placed ploddingly or heavily.  While I know this as an artist something in me forgets and I paint and paint and fix and add when I know better.  We need to do a lot of "less than perfect" paintings to allow for those tiny miracles to happen on the paper.

At the end of the morning I set aside my disappointment in the earlier piece and vowed to do a five minute painting.  I just stared closely at these extraordinary lavender/blue irises.  The result which I post here proves my point that "less is often more."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 6: The Magical Table

In 1998 an amazing thing happened to me at Stanford.  I was given the Lloyd W. Dinkelspeil award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.  As a career teacher this single event was the highlight of my professional life.  Since the award is given as a result of letters written by former students it means more than if it was simply a nod from the academy itself.  If students remember your efforts . . . well what could be better?
Along with the prestige came a handsome monetary prize.  At the time I thought, "Patricia, you should buy something with this that you would not have purchased otherwise."  And, so I ordered a hand-painted table from an amazing company called Sticks.  They offer one of a kind hand painted furniture pieces.  I was able to be part of the design decision making by giving them the text of words that ring the outer rim of the table.  Here are quotes that run around the edge:  In order of importance, but not necessarily order of placement next to each other:
Notice the gifts        
Cherish family
Plant flowers
Help neighbors
Live constructively
Make mistakes
Give yourself away
Be a friend
Read books
Fix things
Run a marathon
Eat good food and share
Laugh at yourself
Give foot rubs
Accept change
Wash hands
Say thanks a lot
Treasure today
Sleep securely
Try new things
Smile a lot
Paint stuff
Play games
Take naps
Plant trees
Bake cookies
Listen to the birds 
Keep moving
Eat veggies
Clean up your mess

Ron and I love sitting at this table looking out at the world, eating our oatmeal, being reminded of our values and celebrating our luck in life.  I owe this table to an amazing young women:  Nancy Stone.  Nancy was an undergraduate at Stanford who paid a lot of attention to life.  It was Nancy who quietly  waged a letter writing campaign to Stanford that resulted in my winning the Dinkelspiel Award.  And, so every time I look at this beautiful table I think of Nancy.  Thank you, Nancy.And, if you want a real treat, Nancy has launched a podcast storydive  with an amazing story of making amends.  You'll be impressed with her storytelling style.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 5: My Sharpies

Homage to the pen.  I am addicted to the Sharpie Ultra Fine Retractable pen.  These handy disposable pens are the perfect tool for me as a watercolor artist. I can draw and doodle and then wash over with watercolor and the lines are clear and unsmudged.  Since I am always misplacing pen caps I was very pleased when Sharpie has the sense to design these with a retractable casing.  No more dried out pens and no more lost caps.  
This is the preferred tool when I autograph my books.  It writes smoothly and never smears.  All hail the Sharpie of today.  And now that I have an entire mug-full I have no excuse not to be working on the next book.  I love this pen.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 4: My Chair

  • A few years ago I found myself struggling with back pain. Many of the chairs and sofas in our house can most kindly be described as soft. Doing some research I found that IKEA made a sensible reading chair that supported the lower back while holding everything else in a comfortable way. We positioned the chair with the window light behind and the gas fireplace nearby for cold or rainy mornings. Sitting in this chair and having a cup of tea is one of life's deep pleasures. Currently I am preparing for a trip to Sedona, Arizona to study watercolor with Jeanne Carbonetti. Her style is wildly colorful. I look forward to learning how to play with color in an expansive way

    Sitting in this chair returns me to my true self.

    Well, perhaps that is something of an overstatement. But, I do like sitting here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 3: What are you grateful for?

This sturdy yellow bowl is today's object of respect. It comes from the San Francisco CAFE GRATITUDE. Rimming the interior of the bowl are the words: "What are you grateful for?" I uncover this query whenever I get to the bottom of a hearty bowl of miso soup or a rice bowl drenched in peanut sauce. (My husband contends that cardboard would taste good covered in peanut sauce.)

But I don't need to be at the bottom of a one dish meal to ask and answer this question. If you attend to life carefully it is hard not to be virtually overwhelmed with appreciation for the people and things of this world that serve us and make our own daily life possible and often, easy.

I've written about this in my book, Improv Wisdom in the chapter titled: "Wake Up to the Gifts." When we fail to notice the gifts it is likely that we are in the grip of our natural self-centeredness. When it occurs to me that "it is not about me" I am able to see how densely Reality is supporting me all the time. Cultivating an eye that looks at the world gratefully may be the single most potent vitamin for the happy and satisfied life. Even the stuff that drives us crazy can be torqued to reveal a gift.

I am grateful for so much. I am grateful for this moment when my eyes can see, when my limbs allow me to type, when my mind seems to be functioning normally and I can parse sentences. I am grateful to Google for the technology of the Blogger that allows me to put these ideas together easily and post them "out there" for anyone to see. I am grateful for the rain today which is helping the plants to grow and is washing off the needles of the pine outside my window. I am grateful for problems to solve, for laundry to do, for the time I have to reflect upon my life.

And, by the way, the Cafe Gratitude has wonderful food if you are in the San Francisco area. Stop in for a meal or to buy a bowl with the words: "What are you grateful for?" in the bottom. Or simply etch these words in your heart and let them appear when you look at anything carefully.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 2 The Volunteer Mimosa

The window directly next to my bed faces our neighbor's house. I usually sleep with the wooden blinds closed, opening them to let in the morning light. Recently I've been keeping both the blinds and the window open to celebrate my new friend, the Mimosa tree. The volunteer Mimosa tree.

The sliver of land between our house and the neighbor's house is only about twelve feet. We have a raised planter box along the wall next to our house. We garden in these boxes, although we aren't always attentive gardeners. The box below this window has been tended sporadically by Ron's sister, Joan. Two years ago we noticed a tiny Mimosa tree that had sprung up on its own. It was a happy little plant and both Joan and I remarked that we "should pull it out before it gets too big." Well, we never did and now, two years later, the tree is over twenty five feet tall. This is a second story window, by the way. And, as you can see from this photo it is a healthy, happy tree. Today we have high winds and rain, so our Mimosa friend sways and tosses itself. The trunk is extremely flexible and dances in the wind seemingly unstressed by the violent gusts of spring wind.

This tree made me think about the "volunteer" attributes/things of our lives that appear. I did not plant this tree. I contributed nothing to nourish it. Nature was at work "doing its thing" and this tree grew and grew. Now it stands outside my window to delight me and to provide a reminder of nature in the narrow corridor between properties.

How much of our lives are served by "volunteers"? I marvel at the tenacity of plants, weeds especially, as they break through a sidewalk to reach toward the sun. We try to control so much of life, forgetting that life may have its own ideas of what is needed, of what will grow well in a given spot.

Thank you, Mimosa tree, for your labor in growing tall outside my window.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 1 My Teacup

“Everyday life is the way.”

A wonderful PBS program on “The Life of the Buddha” reminded me of this central tenet of Buddhist thought: The path to wisdom is found in our ordinary activities, in the way we make our meals and fold the laundry, sweep the steps and feed the cat. I know this, and I forget. I want to live this truth and also to reflect upon it. Starting today I vow to spend some time each day to consider this.

I plan to choose an everyday object to start the conversation.

On this “Day 1” of my project I picked my favorite teacup. This cup was made by the potter, Sandy Kreyer . It is beautifully made, exceedingly strong. The enamel finish is thick and shiny. It is not prone to chip or crack and feels good as I hold it. It is a sturdy cup and deep. The hand painted design is lovely. Each time I use it filled with Earl Grey tea with milk and sweetener I can't help but smile. Such beauty arouses my pleasure. Form, color and function join to bring me a happy moment not only while drinking the tea and holding the cup, but also when washing it or hanging it on a hook in the kitchen.

There are so many objects in my world that stand ready to serve me and to delight my senses. I've never noticed the teacup complaining when I leave it dirty on the side table. It "lives" (if you will) to serve me. So it is fitting that I treat it with respect and consideration. It even makes sense to me to thank it. "Thank you, teacup, you are always there for me." And, thank you, Sandy Kreyer, for sitting at your wheel to make this cup.

Begin to look around and notice the objects that are "there" for you.