Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Drawing With My Non-Dominant Hand


This will only be a short post. Last week has been quite crazy due to a rather large order I got in my Etsy shop and many things didn't get done that I have to do this week before it heats up again, especially in the garden.

Back in April (yes, I know, I have a lot of catch-up to do) I took one of the short workshops by Laly Mille. Her style of art work speaks to me and I like her calm and very personal way of teaching. I think this class was called "Flower Flow", but maybe I remember this incorrectly - well, anyway I call it this way. The most surprising 'thing' I learned in this class was that I can actually draw with my non-dominant hand. We were encouraged to use a Stabilo All pencil - if I remember correctly I actually used an aquarellable graphite pencil by Faber-Castell, one of my favorite tools. First, I gessoed some book pages and music sheets, then with my non-dominant hand I drew flowers and leaves on those pages after they had dried. The flowers were then "smudged" with matte medium. It became quite addictive and I created way more than I needed (they will go into some future artwork or in my art journal).

With some bits of scrapbook paper I collaged four pieces of watercolor paper and then arranged my flowers and leaves with the images of Japanese Maple leaves I had found in a German magazine and glued everything down when I was happy with the design. I drew a few more flowers and leaves directly on the collage, used a bit of gesso to mute the colors of the Japanese Maple leaves, a piece of gauze and some subtle watercolor. Done. 

I am quite happy with the results. They aren't master pieces, but it was fun to make them.

Have you created anything recently? Or taken a class that you really liked?

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Where Birds Get Together


Before I tell you about our "big" project we accomplished in May, I want to briefly get back to my last post about the nesting Mourning Doves. Someone asked what happened to the babies after one of the parents was caught by the hawk. Thankfully, the little doves had already left the nest when this happened. The other parent is still on his or her own (I really can't tell whether it's female or male) and sometimes hanging around our backyard.

Now let's get to our May project. We need to go way back more than 25 years when we were still living in Germany and bought a sun umbrella by Ombrelloni di creco, a German company who manufactured their beautiful sun umbrellas in the village near Tübingen where we were living. These umbrellas are of very high quality and the frame is made of wood.

Fast forward more than 20 years and the fabric of this heavily used sun umbrella started to deteriorate. Because of its rectangular shape we weren't able to find a replacement, so the wooden frame went into the shed. And finally we had a brilliant idea - turn it into a bird feeding station.

The Geek started the process by sanding the whole thing down.

After he had completely disassembled it, we varnished it on a warm Sunday - four coats with two hours each of drying time in between. Of course it took the entire day to do this. Kibeau was our supervisor.

After a couple days of drying out, the Geek re-assembled the frame, again under the supervision of Kibeau.

Finally we were able to put it up - here it is in all its glory. 

The hummingbird likes to hang out on the thin rope that stabilizes the "branches" of the new "tree".

So do the House Finches, before they land at the feeders.

The Hooded Orioles are frequent visitors at the little bowl filled with organic grape jelly.

But look at that! The California Scrub Jay likes that jelly, too! Can you see all the red stuff in his beak?

I love to see the Chestnut-Backed Chickadees at the feeders. They buzz in and out and always seem to be busy.

The Oak Titmouse first seems to check things out before settling down for a snack. They also like to nibble the jelly.

And of course it took the squirrel less than 15 minutes to figure out the new feeder opportunities!

With all these sweet faces I'm joining again Nicole's Friday Face Off.

Monday, July 1, 2024

The 366 Project: June


Already July - I almost can't believe it. Somehow I had the illusion that with retirement things would slow down a bit, but so far that hasn't happened.

So here's June:

Beside all the bigger and smaller events to celebrate Pride, we had one wonderful event happening in our garden - to be precise, on top of our solar system box. A couple of Mourning Doves had decided to build their (rather flimsy) nest there and raise their little family, all within three weeks or so. One evening while we had dinner outside the Geek discovered the nest. From that moment on, we observed the doves and learned a lot about them.

This is how it started out:

The parents took turns in sitting on the eggs, and very soon the chicks - called squabs as far as I know - had hatched. They were tiny and very hungry.

This was the day that the Geek took out our scope and mounted his phone on it. This is the setting and all the following photos (with the exception of the last dove picture) were taken this way by the Geek.

The little guys grew quickly.

Family photo:

It was quite astonishing to see how quickly the kiddos grew.

This is the set-up as a whole where they chose their home:

Then they were gone. A couple days later, one of the parents became dinner for a hawk family - sigh. Well, this is nature.

We have the memories of these beautiful short weeks.

Yesterday we had the first day of a heat wave and what better way to end such a day and the month with a refreshing cool Bavarian beer, a Paulaner Hefeweizen. Cheers to Elizabeth and Bleubeard on T Tuesday!

A very happy Canada Day to all my friends in Canada.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Rainbow Hearts and Open Minds


June is Pride Month. Supporting LGBTQ+ people is important to us, not only in June. But June is the month when all the fun events take place and we celebrate life and love in all its colorful shades.

The Geek's company participates in our local Pride Parade every year and of course we joined them. Dressing up for the event is half the fun already. The Geek was standing out with his rainbow wig.

 Next to him I was almost boring with the rainbow flowers I had arranged on my hat.

We were in third position in the parade which meant we could watch almost the entire parade after we had reached the finish. Everybody in our team took up some kind of "job" - the Geek was giving out some colorful necklaces to the people who were watching the parade while I was one of the flag bearers of the rainbow flag. You can see that I had real fun with that!

photo by B.S.

We sang and danced along the streets of downtown. It was such a happy and joyful atmosphere, smiling faces wherever you looked. It was inviting, inclusive and welcoming to everybody. I especially liked that our police department took part in the parade. The entire parade deserves the title "Love wins".

Even the dogs (of our friends M and J) "walked" with us.

When we were done and the team pictures had been taken, the Geek and I walked back along the entire parade. It was so much fun to see the creativity, the joy, the laughter. 

photo by J.M.

A week later we did a Pride Walk "Gays and their Allies" through our neighborhood. We live in a pretty gay neighborhood and have good friends here. We walk with them with pride.

photo by S.C.

There are so many faces in this post that after a long time I finally join Nicole's Friday Face off again.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Auf der Straße nach Mendocino (On the Road to Mendocino)

 Why a German title?, you might ask. "Mendocino", the German adaptation of the song with the same name by the Sir Douglas Quintet, was a German Schlager (hit song) by Michael Holm back in 1969 and the biggest selling single that year. I was nine years old at that time, right before I started high school (high school in Germany starts with 5th grade). At that time I was still listening dominantly to German pop music, which changed a couple years later when I had learned enough English to at least understand a little bit of all the British pop music that was swapping over to the continent. But in 1969 it was German Schlager for me, and "Mendocino" was a real earworm. Of course I had never heard of a place with that name, had no idea whether a place like that actually existed and had no clue where it would be located.

Fast forward 32 years, when we moved to Santa Rosa in Northern California. On the map I saw that up north along the coast on Highway 1 there was a place called Mendocino. My childhood came back visiting - guess where we took one of our first bigger trips that summer of 2001? 

We fell in love with Mendocino right away when we first saw it sitting on the cliffs. It's a quaint little town, often shrouded in low clouds and coastal fog, with cute little shops - a wonderful independent bookshop, a fantastic optics store where many years ago I bought my binoculars and later our scope, and a delicious chocolate "Haus" among them - and a trail out to the Mendocino Headlands. Mendocino has become our annual Mother's Day trip.

You can drive up Highway 1 to get to Mendocino, but we usually opt to take Highway 128 for the trip to Mendocino (and back along 1), and so we did on this year's Mother's Day as well. After a very good breakfast in Cloverdale, we drove up into the mountains on a very winding road, trundled along the vineyards of Anderson Valley and finally dipped down into the Redwoods.

This is a favorite part of the drive for us. Driving through the forest with those towering trees is truly magnificent. See for yourself:

Of course we stopped several times. It's not just what the forest looks like, but the way it smells. I have always loved the scent of a forest.

It's not only the towering trees that capture my attention, but also what happens beneath them, on the forest floor.

But looking up to the canopy is still my favorite thing to do here.

Shortly after leaving the Redwoods we merged with Highway 1 and drove the last short stretch to Mendocino. The moment we hit the coast we experienced the typical Northern California phenomenon - sunshine everywhere, fog at the coast. In the same old fashion Mendocino appeared overcast and gray. No surprise.

What I like most about this little town beside the wonderful gardens people have here, are the many old towers, most of them watertowers. It's just a couple years ago that Mendocino was in a severe water crisis when much of the drinking water needed had to be trucked in daily. Just imagine that, sitting right next to a huge body of water.

Of course we decided to walk the Point Mendocino Trail out to the headlands. It was windy and chilly, but still we enjoyed it. 

Someone left this bouquet at the bench near the start of the trail. 

When we were in Mendocino last year the Headlands were covered with native lupines, but we were hard pressed to find any this year. Instead, the land was covered with these yellow flowers that I haven't succeeded in identifying.

But we did see some native plants like Checker Bloom (Sidalcea malviflora), Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons), Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana), and California Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima californica).

Of course we also saw gulls, but I'm not even attempting to identify this one since I have a hard time in correct gull identification. I leave that to David who travels with birds.

I was never able to find out the story behind the Mendocino Headlands Totem Pole.

The views from anywhere on the Headlands are stunning and even more so when the sun makes an appearance. We didn't have such luck this time.

Afterwards we got our treats at the Chocolate Haus (so so good) and visited the bookshop where I found Rosanna Xia's book "California Against the Sea - Visions for our Vanishing Coastline". Ever since I had heard her talk in a webinar, I wanted to get my hands on this book. Then we slowly drove back via Highway 1, stopping in Gualala at the Seafood Shack for fish and chips as we always do, and just enjoyed this stunning drive, that always takes my breath away, no matter how often I drive here. The sun finally came out as well and let the ocean sparkle.

Here is a very short snippet of the drive, already closer to home just north of Jenner:

If you are interested to read more about Mendocino, you can find posts and photos (some even with sun!) here, here, and here