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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blue Skies and Clouds

Last Sunday in my painting class we were focused on clouds. At the start of class, we all went outside and looked up; we were observing the blue of the sky - which was actually quite bright that day - and the clouds.

Then we went in and worked on painting the shades of blue, and adding clouds. I was painting without actually being able to see the sky, which is probably not the easiest way to go about it, but sometimes I can get very focused on what I am doing and not stop to think about things like, say, getting up and going out for another look or two or more...




Still, I love the color blue and who doesn't like contemplating fluffy clouds in a blue sky? 

Next, we chose pictures from old National Geographic magazines and tried to paint those skies.



There was more in the picture I was working from - a castle, in fact, I think it may have been Bulgaria? But trying to get that sky took plenty of time. I added the ridge line in at the end, just to give it some sort of definition.

No class this week, because of Easter, but next week will be the last class. I can't believe how fast the weeks have gone by. Despite the fact that it has been so busy, I think I will miss it.

If I had the energy, I would continue by turning the idea of blue skies and clouds into an insightful blog post about ups and downs and silver linings...but I don't really.

The week following my previous post, I did manage to up my game from 0 or 1 to 2 workouts in one week! Then the next week I got 3! but I was kind of exhausted, because busy with all the usual things, plus husband got sick, so I was making him chicken soup and doing all of the chores....And of course the next week I got sick.

I had a cold, which I have gotten over, and I was looking forward to a 3 day weekend to get a bunch of stuff done, and try to jump back into workouts, but I have still not not feeling well. Headaches and a queasy stomach...I can't figure out if it's stress, or what. But it has made me feel like I don't want to do too much.

The weather has been beautiful though, finally. I did get out for some walks, and a couple of yoga sessions - basically things that might help with stress and/or relieve my headache.

I have also been staring at clouds with great fascination since that last painting class, and have spent some time this weekend painting.

From a photo of Peggy's Cove that I took in June of 2014:







There are details that I left out because a) I started it to work on the sky, and b) I was afraid I would mess it up!

It is far from perfect, but if you look at it from a distance, it is not too bad. I think this is a photo that I will work with as I attempt to improve my skills, and hopefully one day I will have a decent painting.

And still in progress, from an iPhone photo that I took in July 2012; pretty sure husband and I were in a restaurant overlooking the Saint John river. I'm mainly looking at the top part of the photo though, so it's all clouds at this point.:



But, it was a nice view:



 I've got a busy week coming up, and still not feeling great, so at this point I feel like I will just be concentrating on keeping my head above water. And hoping that I start to feel better soon.

Monday, March 27, 2017

One foot in front of the other...

I posted a while back about ups and downs,  highs and lows,  and lately I've been in one of the down phases. I suppose some of it can be ascribed to end of winter blues. I have also been stressed over work related things. I am tired. I am sad. I seem to have misplaced my motivation to do a lot of things. 

Which is not to say that it has been all misery all the time.  We've done some fun stuff. I've had some up moments for sure. It's just my overall mood lately, I guess; I'm tired and I just have to keep slogging through.

Just a little ball of sunshine right now,  aren't I?

I am here to say that I need to start feeling better,  and to do that I need to start taking better care of myself. Spring will make its presence felt eventually  (hopefully sooner rather than later), and wouldn't it be great if I could greet it with energy?

So I promised myself that if we got home at a reasonable time today, I would get in a workout. Can't say I really wanted to do it, may not have been on my best form...but I did it. 

I would like to get at least two more workouts in this week...Lately it's been more like one workout per week...Three is better.

We've been sticking to the slow cooker plan, trying to make sure we have plenty of meals in the freezer each week which helps a lot. Work lunches were going pretty well up until a couple of weeks ago when things got busy, so that has been a challenge. I have resorted to cans of Amy's Kitchen chili, that will probably have to do for the next couple of weeks, but will try to add some fruit and/or raw veggies to go along with it. 

What have we been up to....Well, there was Winter Chop Chop, which is restaurant week here in Saint John. We always enjoy checking out the menus and trying new things...This time around there were quite a few menus that interested us, so that pretty much wrote that week off. It was fun, but we were happy to get back to home cooked meals at the end of it.

Saint Patrick's week we did an Irish Whisky tasting on the Thursday night, which was interesting.


Then we went out to dinner on Friday, and the restaurant had a special on a flight of Bushmill's Irish  Whisky, so I basically did whisky tasting two nights in a row.



Fun, but have had enough whisky for a bit.

I am taking a Sunday afternoon painting course. I took some time to debate that with myself, because I know I don't handle it well if I have too much going on and this meant giving up six weeks of Sunday afternoons...Then I thought I wasn't going to get in because the class was full, but at the last minute the added a second class, so I've been doing that - 3 classes done so far. We're spending a lot of time learning to mix colors, which is maybe not the most exciting thing, but something I wanted/needed to learn. 

Our first class, after painting a color wheel, we painted oranges.



Oh, and there have been a couple of Van Vino painting nights in there too. There was another one I would have liked to get to but I had something else going on that night. 

 
Oh, and I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking of doing a painting from a photo I took last summer, which I did do. Lately I haven't found much time to work on any thing else. 

 

This past Saturday we went to a fundraiser lunch for a charity that is friend is involved in, then got groceries on the way home. Then Sunday morning I had to work, and then rush off to my painting class....It was really hard to wake up this morning and realize it was Monday. I've got more busy weekends coming up in the next month...I'm tired just thinking about it.

I know for many people this would not be a lot, but for me it is. I need a certain amount of time where I don't have to be anywhere or do anything, otherwise I get overwhelmed and exhausted.  

We've had a weird winter. Very little snow, a few cold snaps, but mostly mild. One week - in early February maybe? - where we had two snow storms and had a big pile of snow dumped on us. That's still melting. Back the the alternating cold and warm...And this week snow. 

I've had lots of pictures popping up on my Facebook feed the past few weeks from two winters ago - the snowpocalypse winter, where we completely buried. That was a long hard winter, but it made for lots of good photos. This year there hasn't been much to take pictures of, especially without these guys.





I am still sad. I've had people ask when I will get another cat, but I'm just not there yet. I do it to myself too, actually; Maybe now? Am I ready now? And then realize all over again that I'm not. And every time it is hard, and it is a relief.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mid-January Check In


There was a post over on Cranky Fitness to kick off the new year. I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, but when you are facing the end of a relaxing vacation, the start of a new year at work, it's hard not to think in terms of planning ahead. Mainly, I want to make things easy on myself and try to keep my sanity! So I stated my goal as:

Keep doing what I know I can do, but do it better, and be kind to myself.

So two weeks in, how's that looking?

Do some workouts!
I had already started round 2 of Chalean Extreme in Nov/Dec, so I am carrying on. I am into phase two - the Push phase - which is heavier weights, less reps. I still like these workouts. I confess I do adjust the schedule when it comes to the cardio workouts, but I stick to the strength training ones.

I have dumbbells up to 20 lb, and honestly I could probably stand to have some heavier ones, particularly for lower body, but...I find it hard on my hands, holding on to the 15, and especially the 20lb weights if I'm using them a lot. I noticed the same thing when I was doing Pump. I might feel like my muscles can take more weight, but my hands (and with Pump I noticed wrists and forearms) can't take as much. I don't know if I will eventually build up to that if I keep at it? I have small hands, that probably doesn't help?

Healthy eating!
We have been giving our slow cooker a workout. I just get so tired of washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Using the slow cooker once or twice a week, freezing things, having lots of leftovers just makes things so much easier.

I resurrected an old Looney Spoons favourite - Rockin Moroccan Stew - and threw that in the slow cooker as well, to freeze for lunches. Haven't done frozen lunches in a long time; we don't tend to have a lot of room in our freezer, but we're managing it.


Rockin' Moroccan Stew going in the slow cooker.

Exercise your creativity!
Still doing some painting. Over the holidays I did a lot of it, and I feel like it is good for my mental state. I don't know how to explain it exactly - I was chatting with my sister and I said it felt almost therapeutic. I think it takes so much focus and concentration, it gives my brain a break. And I enjoy it - I've always had the urge to do creative things, but it was difficult to make that leap and get started again.

 Time is a factor too of course, I really only have the weekends for painting, though I have been finding time some evenings to practice sketching as well. My middle sister and I used to draw and read all the time when we were in our teens. Drove our mother crazy; she was always wanting us to get up, go out, do other things...Funny how when you are a kid, that stuff can be seen as lazy or a waste of time; when you get older it can be seen a cool thing. Or maybe that's just my experience?


The jug was an online lesson in painting with a limited palette, I then took that lesson and did the chickadee painting.


 In Progress - I am looking at a hummingbird photo that I took last summer and thinking of turning it into a painting, but I am afeard! So I found an example of a hummingbird painting to try out first. No idea why, but working from someone else's painting is less scary than working from my own photograph. I will get there.


Miscellany of daily life
I am continuing with my piano lessons.  My camera gets less use these days - no cats to take photos of. There hasn't even really been much snow...The weather turns cold and it snows....Then it turns warm and rains...Then it turns cold again. The good news is that the last warm spell got rid of a good amount of ice - we can now walk down our driveway without danger of landing on our bums (or breaking bones).


Finches in the snow....


Snow all gone!


Winter is my least favourite time of year, but I am doing my best to get things done that need to be done, and finding enjoyable ways to occupy myself. January is half over, the days are starting - oh so slowly - to get longer. It so far has not been a hard winter here.

I miss my cats, but I'm doing okay.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Counting it Down

It seems to be a commonly held opinion that 2016 kind of sucked.  A lot of beloved celebrities died. Then there is the fiasco that was the US Election. There were plenty of things in the news this year that made me sad, angry, confused, but more personally? My cats.

Husband and I got married on December 31, 2001. We moved into our house in May/June 2002. We got our kittens in August of 2002. Which means those cats had been with us for almost as long as we have been in this house, almost as long as we have been married.  They were 14 years old. It has been a difficult adjustment, and while I know it's not something that everyone understands, I am still grieving.



I've been on vacation since Dec.22. We had no plans to go anywhere this year, since we were home at the beginning of November, and again at the beginning of December. Things have been really busy. November was the worst, since Zappa died on Oct 31 and I had  no time to get used to that at all before we had to get up early the next morning and go to Nova Scotia for 5 days. I feel like I have just been stumbling along, trying to get through what I have to get through. It just hasn't been the best time.

So it's been nice. Having this time at home, not having to go anywhere; nothing we have to do. I mostly have not been doing anything that I don't feel like I want to do. I've been reading my way through a stack of books, working on some paintings, playing the piano, staying up late[er than I normally would which is probably still not late to a lot of people], sleeping in.





I could wish that the weather was a bit nicer; it's not terrible but a lot of flip-flopping between warm and cold, with precipitation, so it's a sheet of ice out there and I don't want to go out and walk on it. But it's been nice, just hanging out at home with Husband. We've been cooking dinners together that we normally wouldn't make because it would be too much time and effort during a work week. Just generally relaxing, de-stressing, enjoying ourselves.



I miss the cats. I still get the feeling, now and then, that I'm forgetting something; I think its an echo of the way I always used to do a mental check; do I know where the cats are? I still look at the doors when I'm walking by, like I'll see a little face sitting there looking in. I still have my moments where I feel so overwhelmingly sad; I think it started happening more after I had a few days at home and I think it's maybe good?

The weirdest thing happened - not sure if it was Saturday or Sunday. I was sitting in the living room on my laptop. My mind had been pretty occupied. I was watching a series of "learn to draw" videos. Then I think I was surfing around maybe, reading some other things? And suddenly I could have sworn that I smelled my cats. If you have cats, you know how they have a scent, if you bury your face in their fur? It's fairly subtle I think. It's pleasant. Anyway, I have no idea where that would have come from, but for a moment it was like it was there. Then I got up and left the room so Husband wouldn't see me burst into tears.

So yeah. Still hard. But good vacation anyway. Still have some time left, though I know it will be over too soon and not seem like it was long enough - vacations never seem long enough, do they?



Reading actual books for a change, instead of the e-reader. 


You can't learn to paint without doing some still life paintings, right? Cause everyone needs to know how to paint fruit...


Winter painting.


Klingon beer. Good stuff. We like our Dunkel.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

I Dream Of Cats

This morning I dreamed that my cats were here, following me around the house as they always used to do. I went into the bedroom to get ready for work, and Zappa jumped up on the window sill behind me; Frank jumped up on the bed and I was petting him. Surrounded by my happy cats. Then I was on the other side of the bed, by the closet, giving them cat treats. Cory came in and asked what I was doing and I said I was giving them cat treats even though I knew they weren't really there.

I started to wake up then, but I didn't want to and tried not too. But I had to, so I got up and let myself cry in the shower.

I'd  say the dream made me  sad, but I haven't really stopped being sad. It just made it hard to ignore again.

Anyway this afternoon at work, I suddenly remembered pictures that I thought were on my phone and had to stop and look for them.

This was pretty much the normal state for those 2 years or so that Cory was traveling to Japan for work. They were the best feline pals a gal could ask for. Don't know what I would have done without them. 




Thanks for visiting my dreams, guys. Wish you were still here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I'm Not Okay

I did indeed finish my last week of Chalene Extreme on time. I really wanted to get in that last workout by the end of October because on Nov 1 we were going away for 5 days, and I just didn't want that one last workout hanging over my head.

I scheduled those workouts, and did them on the day that was scheduled, and I finish the final one on Sunday, Oct. 30.

The weekend was busy with trying to get ready for our trip - last minute errands, laundry, getting things ready for the cat sitters.

Monday, Oct 31 I got up earlier than I wanted, because Zappa seemed to think I should get up and feed him. It was good though, had things to do. Had a good morning; a little relaxation, working on getting packed, tried a new yoga workout, had cuddles with Zappa. After Zappa had his cuddles with me, he went over and jumped up on Husband's chair for cuddles from him. I remember thinking: What am I going to do when I lose him? And then a couple of hours later, he was gone.The vet thinks his heart just stopped.

And then we still had to get up early the next morning to catch the ferry. I didn't want to go, but Husband had an appointment in Halifax, and our families were expecting us for a visit. After the first day, it was maybe a bit easier being away; we were busy and distracted, and in a different place where I wasn't expecting to see Zappa.

Heading home was hard. I was bracing myself for it, and trying not to be too upset, because I know that's hard on Husband. I think I maybe bottled it up too tightly, and ended up feeling a bit remote at first, in a little bit of a daze. I was sad but it was like I didn't quite know what to do, or how to process it. It's starting to hit me now though.

You know how sometimes people say "Hi, how are you?" and you just automatically respond that you're good,  you're fine, you're okay....At least I do that a lot.

Yesterday at work a coworker actually asked "are you okay?" I thought I was doing keeping it together more or less, but the way she asked that question makes me think not. And what came out of my mouth was: "not really."
This morning I got really irritated with Husband over nothing, and then tears just started running down my face and I realized I'm not really okay right now. Turns out it's a relief to acknowledge that, even just to yourself.

I will be okay, eventually. But right now? I'm hurting and just trying to keep myself distracted as much as possible.

I haven't really been taking pictures lately. Not sure why exactly. I've been grieving Frank and I haven't had the heart for a lot of things, I think. And Zappa has always been a little harder to photograph; as soon as he knew you were looking at him, he'd come running, looking for attention. Most of the recent ones I do have are from my phone.


 October 22
Wishing for the rain to stop so he could go out and chase mice.



 October 29
Not really a good photo - I have not mastered the art of the selfie - but this was his favourite thing: to be picked up and carried around, resting on the left shoulder. I would stand/walk around the house until he was ready to get down, which could take a while. But he purred and snuggled and was happy as could be.


October 29
I bought a new cat fountain, had not set it up yet; was planning to do it the next time the old one needed to be cleaned. Cory and I had watched Zappa checking out the box before I opened it and chuckled about how fast he'd be in there once I opened it. Sure enough, I unpacked the new fountain on Saturday and the next thing I know he's in the new box looking really pleased with himself.


He had 14 good years. I know that his last days were happy. If it was going to happen, I'm glad it happened when we were there rather than a day later when he would have been all alone. 
But I miss him and I am not okay.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Eyes On The Finish Line

The weather has also taken a sudden turn; last week we were still seeing temperatures of 18 - 20 degrees Celsius. I  walked to my 7:30 pm piano lesson on Tuesday night and didn't need a jacket. Rainy over the weekend though.

This week the temperatures have been around 10 degrees Celsius, or less.  I walked to my piano lesson on Tuesday night, wearing my nice, thick hoodie, and wished I'd dressed warmer and worn gloves.  And more rain coming t his weekend, apparently.
 
Have still been feeling mostly good. Workouts have been happening, lunches have been packed...Up until this week.

Have been sticking fairly close to my workout schedule, and am in the last week of the last phase...Really wanting to finish by the 31st.

So, as I say, all has been going pretty well until Monday. My workout plan has 3 phases, and each phase is 4 weeks. I'm in the 3rd phase, which I have been finding to be the toughest (not a surprise, I suppose), and Monday was the final workout of Phase 3, Week 3...Well sort of, but I'll save that for another post...What I considered to be the last one anyway...

So third time I've done that workout, but it seriously kicked my butt. I had noted the last time that I should increase my weight for a few of the moves, so maybe that had something to do with it. I guess I had swapped a couple of other workouts during this week, which may have left me more fatigued, I don't know. I will say, I was feeling less energetic last weekend anyway, so maybe it's just a minor downswing.

I finished with jelly-limbs, and dragged myself up the stairs. We had dinner cooking in the oven while I was doing my workout, and the timer went off just as I was coming up. I was seriously a bit worried, taking things out of the oven, that I was going to drop something. Even dishing it up and carrying plates felt like an effort. 

So there were no dishes washed, no lunches packed that night...I really didn't want to move any more. I was tired on Tuesday, but it was an off day on the workout schedule anyway, so I just took it easy.

Started week 4 last night...Today is another off day; I had thought about throwing in a cardio workout today, but decided to stick with the rest that's on the schedule...and then I have until Monday to finish out the last week. I should be able to do it.

Already trying to figure out what I will do next...

Aside from the workout stuff, I have been playing around with painting on my own. It's one of those things that I always wanted to try, but it was hard to figure out how to get started. 

So, after a half-dozen paint & sip nights, I got some paints, etc., and gave it a go. I played around on mixed media paper for a bit, and then finally made the jump to canvas paper and did these two paintings.




I did some research on paint colours, which also led to looking at recommended brands. These are done using Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic - Amazon has a nice starter set of 8 colours, so that seemed like a good way to start.

I'm using canvas paper, rather than using canvas stretched on a frame - that seems wasteful/expensive when you are just learning and trying to figure out what you can do, plus they take up space - what do you do with all of them? 

These are small - I have canvas paper pads in 8x10 and 9x13, and I do kind of wonder if it will be hard to move to larger size if I let myself spend too much time doing small pictures, but we'll see.

What's hard about doing it on my own:
- Figuring out what to paint; I've been google searching for examples I can work from
- Figuring out how to start once I choose a picture; that first touch of brush to canvas is hard

What's easier:
- Being able to take my time; I like to take my time (always feel rushed during the sip & paint nights).
- Being able to walk away and come back; letting the paint dry in between, coming back and looking at it with new eyes.