Sunday, April 29, 2012

Home Sweet Home

So. A few weeks ago I mentioned here that I have some big news to tell you. Honestly, I couldn't wait to tell you!

We bought a house. Now for many of you buying a house might be something quite normal. It is not for us. We grew up in a culture where the majority of people rent the place they live in, mostly apartments. For us, owning a home never was a priority, we were quite happy with our rental situation.

Over the years here in the States (yesterday exactly 11 years ago we made the big move from Germany to California) we looked for a home on and off. Our wish was to stay in our neighborhood because it meant that the Geek could walk to work and we only needed one car. This, of course, always limited our search. Finally, house prices were so incredibly high that we could never commit to such a big investment and change to our life. We were happy with renting.

Last November, however, this changed. On a Sunday afternoon we were on our way to the park when we saw an "Open House" sign on a street close by. As we usually do, we just went out of curiosity and, I suspect, because the thought of owning a home was lingering somewhere in the depth of our hearts. The house we looked at that afternoon was a gem. It looked like nothing from the outside, and inside it was bright and colorful (an artist had owned the house) with a gourmet kitchen and a huge beautiful garden.

We didn't get that house. But it had sparked something within us that led us to contacting a realtor and start a serious house hunt.

Oh my!!! At the end of our first outing with our realtor we already found THE house. At that time, however, we shied away from the price. A week later, however, the price was considerably lowered and we took Kaefer there (we couldn't buy a home that she wouldn't like). Just like her parents, she fell in love with it at first sight. So we made an offer, right before Thanksgiving. And waited.

Well, the house was pulled of the market... There went our offer, our hopes. It was a huge disappointment, although we told ourselves that there certainly is another home out there. Somewhere, there is the place that is meant for us.

Winter really is not a great time to look for a home. Inventory was low, most of them were short sales or foreclosures, a few regular sales. Nothing came even close to the home we fell in love with. It was depressing and frustrating. An emotional roller coaster. In the end, all of us were waiting for "our" house to come back on the market.

In March, we got notice from our realtor (who had stayed in close contact with the representative of the bank which by now owned the house) that the house would come back on the market very very soon. We decided not to go on vacation over spring break - you see, we really wanted this house. It came back on the market right during spring break. I won't tell you of the hectic few weeks that followed, the entire process - but, since last Wednesday, when we got the keys, it is ours.

Our home.

It is an older neighborhood with houses mainly from the 40's and 50's. The homes in this neighborhood are all very individual, no cookie cutter, and there are all sizes of them. It seems to be very mixed, and that is exactly what I like. It has lots of mature trees - right next to our home is a huge live oak that is about 250 years old as one of my new neighbors told me. He also told me that the wild turkeys often hang out in the redwood trees right across the street. Oh what fun - I love wildlife (as long as these turkeys don't come into my yard and rip everything up!). I already met some of my future neighbors. They seem to be very sweet.

The window and the open door downstairs to the left belong to my studio - yes, I'll finally get my own studio!

The kitchen - this was our compromise since I had dreamed of a big open kitchen. Well, I didn't get that, but I am fully happy with this one.

The family / dining room

The master bedroom. There is a second smaller master bedroom which will become Kaefer's room of course. She is super happy to have her own bath and walk-in closet (and I'm happy, too, because she has to clean it as well!)

The view from our bedroom

 And this, my friends, will be my studio. It has excellent light and a door to the garden. Eventually we will probably put a glass door in or cut a window in the existing door.

 The garden. I'm planning to get rid of most of the lawn (at the front as well) and have flowers and perhaps a cherry tree there. This, of course, is a big project and will take some time. Yesterday I already planted some veggies in the raised beds that are there.

I cannot finish this post without a few words about our realtor, Toni D'Angelo. Honestly, she is the BEST realtor in the world. Quite frankly, without her expertise, knowledge,  negotiation skills and feeling for people we wouldn't have gotten this home. She was always there with advice and encouragement when we (well, I) felt depressed or frustrated about the entire house hunt. It helped that she has a good sense of humor and we just clicked. She had listened to what we were looking for and she never ever showed us a house in a neighborhood we didn't like. When we had questions - she was there to answer them. Simply put, she is an amazing woman.

When we entered our home first time as its owners, we found this in the kitchen - left for us by our realtor. Sometime soon, there will be a pink dogwood in front of our house.

Now comes the fun part of de-cluttering and cleaning, and eventually moving. There is some work that needs to be done at our new home before we finally move in. Slowly slowly we're occupying our home.

By the way - we still will be a one-car-family. The home is further away from work, but the Geek has decided to bike every day. That will be an excellent workout!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The most beautiful gift

My daughter is 14 years old today. How did this happen? Wasn't it just yesterday that she was that precious little baby?

It's amazing how fast time slips by when you see your children grow up. When they're newborns you think you have all the time in the world, and then you turn around and they start school and suddenly they are teenagers!!

Kaefer has been the biggest and most beautiful gift I ever received in my life. I still see her coming into my life as a miracle.

I am what you call a "late mom" - I was 37 when I got pregnant with Kaefer. And up to the 25th week, the pregnancy was pretty normal. I never felt terribly nauseous, I didn't have particular cravings (only once) and I had a lot of heartburn. Then, at the end of the 24th week, I started labor - I remember going to the hospital late in the evening of that Friday. We had thought that I would come home that night again - but that didn't happen. They kept me in the hospital for almost nine weeks, strict bed rest (I was only allowed to go to the bathroom) with a constant IV full of labor stopping medication. Every ten days I got a special 24 hour treatment for the baby to develop her lungs in case nothing helped and she was born prematurely.

Thank God - that never happened. In hindsight I am forever grateful that I was so naive. I decided to make the best of the situation and be optimistic. Every now and then the nurses told me how much they admire my good spirits. I remember I prayed a lot during that time (and I'm anything but a religious person; however, I do have my faith). No idea where I got my strength from, but it was there and it carried me through the entire time in the hospital. Yes, I had my dark moments, when I cried and had wild nightmares. It was in those moments that the baby kicked like mad as if she wanted to tell me that everything would be alright.

The Geek came every day to visit. Most times we played - we both became masters in "Trivial Pursuit". At the end of February we got married - the midwives and nurses had organized and decorated, and it was a wonderful wedding - although very different from what we had planned. I was allowed to go home over two weekends, and after that I could leave the hospital. Four weeks later, Kaefer made her way into this world.

Here are a few pictures from her first year.

She spent a good time on this polar bear baby blanket - she still has that blanket in her room, although the head has lost its fluff by now and is just flat.

Her way of sleeping - always with her feet hanging out of the crib.

We took long walks almost every day.

Our first Christmas as a family

I am blessed that she was a very easy baby. She has been a pretty easy child so far - I remember four as a very wild and difficult year and don't remind me of seven! That was probably the toughest year with her. Of course she has teenage attitude that can drive me up the wall (especially when I have a bad day), but all in all she's a wonderful daughter. Our life definitely is so much richer because of her.

So, fourteen today. She's almost done with middle school. She's getting more and more independent. She does what she wants and doesn't care what's popular (she probably is the only teenager who still is not on Facebook - good for her). She's a bit nerdy and has a great sense of humor. She's creative (remember those clay owls she made for me?), loves to sing and ice-skate and wants to become some kind of environmental scientist later. She already knows that she wants to live in Canada.

Whatever she decides to do - we will always love her.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stages of a Painting

After painting owls for the e-course "How to Paint an Owl" I felt I needed to paint something else - so I started a new painting. First I just laid down some pages torn from a German paperback and added acrylic paint in red and purple on top of it. I love to spread out the paint with my fingers.

After the paint was dry, I adhered some scrapbook papers and used a brand new stencil for creating this circle shape in the lower left hand corner. I mixed molding paste with some yellow acrylic ink and smeared it onto the stencil. When the molding paste was dry, I partly stamped on top of it. I also penciled in the shape of the head and shoulders of a woman and marked with black acrylic paint where the facial features should be. It looks pretty scary this way, rather Halloweenish.

Using several acrylic paints and water (and a brush this time) I started to paint the face and the shoulders. You can't see it here, but there are many many layers until I decided it was time to add facial features.

Eyes, eyebrows, mouth and hair were added - but I didn't like the mouth at all (she looked like she was constantly sulking), so I painted it over again. I also didn't like that the top of her head was rather flat. Her eyes were too big and too blue as well.

So I added more volume to her hair, she got a new mouth and her eyes changed as well. I began to like her.

This is the final painting - a daisy on her shoulder, a pattern on her shirt, some added words, more worked-on hair. I tried to put more expression on her eyes, but am not quite sure whether I was very successful. Anyway, I'm happy with her.

"She saw beauty in everything" 8 x 10 canvas, available in my Etsy store

Although a day late, I'm still linking this to Paint Party Friday. It's way too much fun to miss it.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All Things Are Connected

Teach your children
what we have taught our children –
that the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
If men spit upon the ground,
they spit upon themselves.
This we know.
The earth does not belong to us;
we belong to the earth.
This we know.
All things are connected
like the blood which unites one family.
All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
We did not weave the web of life;
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web,
we do to ourselves…
                                    Chief Seattle

Cross-posted over a Vision and Verb, where a coolaborative group of like-minded women from all over the world share their passion for photography and the written word

Friday, April 13, 2012

Owl Paintings

Almost two weeks ago, I started another e-course, "How to Paint an Owl" by the talented Juliette Crane. I have long admired Juliette's beautiful owls, her use of color, her backgrounds and composition. And since I was missing taking a class, I thought "why not?" and jumped in.

In the first week we painted different backgrounds, one of which I showed you last Friday. The one on top turned out to be my favorite one.

This week we added the owls. It was fun and messy, I enjoyed playing with color and getting those owls down, even though I am not quite happy with the result.

I still think the background of this one is way too busy. I need to tone it down because I don't like it this way.

I kind of like the purple painting, seeing the owl from the side. I hope to give her lots of character when I'll paint her face.

This is the one I like the most. It's going to be a "Southwestern owl". I've already outlined the feathers on his (her?) head with white pastel. BTW, I don't really like the pastels I have, they are very hard and break easily (I found them on a yard sale a couple years ago). Fortunately, one of our art supplies store has a sale this month and there are some good soft pastels that I am interested in.

However, I am not completely happy with these paintings. I was wondering why, and I guess it's because this is not my style. Creating these paintings I feel like I'm copying Juliette (very badly) and not listening to my own voice. My "signature" is missing. I realized that when I sat down yesterday evening and started another mixed media painting by just following my intuition. It felt wonderful.

Eventually, I think I will get my "personal touch" on those owls. I will go through these phases and just enjoy the class (I love it!) and see where it will take me. One day, these will be "my" owls - I hope.

I'm linking again to Paint Party Friday and look forward to visiting all these talented artists.
Happy PPF!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The clever Easter Bunny

On a rainy day like this I remember last Sunday, Easter. It was sunny and pleasant, and yes, the Easter Bunny, clever little chap that he is, knew that even almost-14-year-old girls still love to go on an egg hunt. So he had hidden some chocolate eggs, chicks and bunnies in our garden for the girl to search for.

As I said, he was pretty clever and thought of some good hiding spots. There were eggs hanging from the pear tree...

a bunny hiding in the cat mint...

a chick hanging from the birdhouse...

and a bunny enjoying the view from the clothesline.

The girl found them all

and even got some help from the cat.

How was your Easter?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Paintings

As I mentioned in my last post, I painted quite a bit during my break from blogging. It felt really good to either feel the paint on my fingers or the paintbrush in my hand. I enjoyed playing around and trying new techniques.

This painting was created as a result of Jeanne Oliver's "Creatively made" ecourse that I enjoyed thoroughly and where I learned so many new fun techniques. This class gave my confidence a big boost and for the first time I dared to paint faces and people and stick to them even if they looked anything but perfect or beautiful. It was freeing and I happily played around.

In the following painting I again tried a new technique painting the face after I had watched a video by Mystele (actually three videos) that had inspired me to no end. To my big surprise, this painting got sold within 24 hours after I had listed it in my Etsy shop

Now, who doesn't love mermaids? In my imagination mermaids always have red hair and there's something melancholy about them.

And, of course, I couldn't stay away from the owls. Here's a 4 x 12 canvas featuring the entire family. I have heard that the owls are nesting again, but since I haven't been at the lake recently I still don't know where the nest is.

I've started a new painting, or better say the background of a painting. I'm doing another ecourse, Juliette Crane's "How to Paint an Owl" and so far I'm loving it. However, I don't really like this background, it is far too busy for me and I'll probably paint it over again or at least parts of it.

Since it is Friday and I have missed so many weeks of it, I'm linking this to Paint Party Friday - so good to be back.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm Back!

Geeda having her "wild five minutes"

A month has gone by since I last posted here - a rather long break, but much needed. However, I really missed blogland, and I am glad to be finally back.

First of all, I want to thank all of you who left such encouraging and understanding comments on my last post - you are such wonderful people, and I really missed you. It feels so good to connect again and I hope I'll catch up with your blogs soon. Many of you I visited during my breaks, not always leaving comments, though. I still felt connected with those of you who are also on Facebook, so I was not completely "out".

A lot has been going on here in my little corner of the world. I discovered sure signs of springs

and captured little bits with my camera that made me happy.

The Geek built a new computer for me,

it's super fast, but I had to say good-bye to Windows XP and embrace Windows 7 which I am not so fond of, but oh well. It's okay, and by now I'm used to it.

I also painted a lot

and made a bunch of journals and mini-journals which are available in my Etsy store.

So. There is one BIG thing going on in our life that I cannot tell you about right now. Hopefully in another three weeks or so, although I can't wait to share this with you. It consumes quite a bit of my time, which means I might not be in blogland on a regular basis - but I will be there.

For the time being, I'm enjoying the awakening spring. My garden certainly is in full spring mood, the French lilac is already blooming and sending out its lovely scent. I'm pulling weeds, cutting back, removing plants that didn't make it. The purple clematis is climbing up the pear tree, it was really early this year. Fortunately, we got a lot of rain in March (while the entire winter was VERY dry) - just the right thing urgently needed by all the plants. Everything is exploding right now - beautiful.

What does it look like in your corner of the world? Are you excited about spring? Enjoying autumn? Please tell me.