Sunday, April 26, 2015

More Art, More Family, More Projects

It's been a lovely couple of weeks. I don't think I've absorbed this much art in a month ever. 

I've been a member of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for a while, mostly because I really enjoy the special exhibitions at the de Young and Legion of Honor. I've been wanting to see an annual   exhibit, Bouquets to Art, for a number of years, and I finally got the perfect opportunity. I played a bit of hooky on my way to a conference last Sunday morning and spent a few hours at the museum seeing some pieces from the permanent collection interpreted by floral designers.  

It was better than I expected, both the flower arrangements, and the permanent collection, which I felt like I hadn't really spent enough time with before. Some of the arrangements weren't particularly imaginative (I guess there's not much you can do with a painting of cherry blossoms in a ginger jar), but others were. I also took in another well-received show while I was there, "Botticelli to Braque," an exhibit from the National Gallery of Scotland. It was a great way to "fill the well" before the conference. 

View from the Grand Hyatt, San Francisco
The conference went very well. It's one of my favorite - a lot of really nice people. One woman I've known for a few years remarked at lunch that she "needed her Suzanne time" - I thought that was so sweet. The best part was Mark coming for a few days! We had fun hanging out during the show and in the evenings. The last night we met Katrin for dinner, which made it even more special. 

It was a long week, though. It was my own fault, but I had made plans to run early networking events every morning, so I didn't have time get to the gym. Also, sleeping through the night is but an elusive memory for me these days. It took a few days to recover.

But that didn't stop me from enjoying another art-filled day in the City. Felicia and I went to see a costume exhibit from the Brooklyn Museum on view at the Legion of Honor on Saturday. We also wandered through the permanent collection and around the grounds a bit after lunch. It was the first time she'd been there, which was nice. It had rained (yay!) the night before, so when the sky cleared we had beautiful views of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and Land's End. It was great to get my Felicia time in.

I didn't plan for it, which maybe helped, but today was one of the more productive days I've had for a while. I got up early and went to church - I had really been missing it, and it was a lovely, inspiring service.  I made a quick trip to the garden store on my way home, and so was able to finish putting in the starts in the raised bed. M has become quite the drip irrigation master. I'm hoping this will allow us to have lots of veggies without raising our water rates too much.

We've been talking about getting a Japanese maple for months now, to put between the stock tanks on the patio. While I was at the garden store, I saw one I liked. I mentioned that to M when I got home and he decided it was time. Off he went. Waiting for him to return, I weeded the front year, read more of the book I'm enjoying, Helen of Troy by Margaret George and vacuumed my car, which needed it, and did some other cleaning odd and ends.

The transplanted maple looks absolutely fantastic - exactly what the space needed. I hope it thrives. He also got a dwarf orange tree that he planted back by the peach trees. We spent an hour or so sitting on the deck as evening came on, admiring our handiwork while the birds flitted about as they do. 

Another project I haven't had much to do with yet, but I'm very excited about: after a decade of languishing in the garage covered with Costco items and patio storage, M has unearthed the Chevelle for renovation. He's been hard at work pulling out the interior and getting it read for repairs. 

I've volunteered to help with installing the new carpeting, upholstery, and headliner, when it comes time. It may take a while, but he's making great progress. We're both very excited about driving it around again. I remember how fun it was to turn heads as we drove around in barely mufflered style.


Other misc. medical notes - feel free to stop reading now if it's TMI: I have new dental crown.  I've had some low-grade pain in my upper back for a while, so had it Xrayed - it's a compression, so I had my first bone-density test a couple of weeks ago. It felt very Star Trek to lay there fully clothed while the white plastic "arm" with the spotlight scanned me from above. I've also decided to try to deal with the hot flashes that wake me up at night with prescription hormones. They've been playing havoc with my sleep and I'm desperate to make them stop. Ah, aging. Hope to feel rested enough to get to the gym tomorrow, it's been too long.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


A couple of weekends ago I spent a half a day learning a little more about the art of letterpress. I love how this type of printing creates a texture in the paper. I think it's had a bit or a resurgence in popularity, but it's not something that can really scale. Letterpress printers like this aren't made anymore, apparently. 

Furniture holding the printing elements in place.

Workshop leader Eric Johnson of Iota Press pulls the cover off of the press
The finished "book cover."

I didn't get a picture of it, but the last piece of equipment we used was a paper cutter, also purchased from the local museum. We took turns effortlessly slicing 1/8" strips from a phone book. That was surprisingly fun. 


It was Don's birthday last weekend, so we headed up the coast to help celebrate. Lots of good food as always, and the company of good friends in the form of Caitlin, Sean, Mary, and Tom. 

I've had a bee in my creative bonnet to make some buttons and shawl pins for my knitted creations, so Mom helped me get the pieces started. I used some of my cookie and biscuit cutters for the basic shapes as well as some tools that Mom had. It was so nice so be in the studio with her, working on our respective projects. 

M and I took Rex to Alder Creek for a walk. On our way down, we met a guy coming up the road who had been trying to photography a brown shrike, which apparently is extremely rare in these parts. We observed how the road to the beach is becoming even more overgrown. The Velella were on the beach in abundance, in various states of colorful desiccation.

The picture before the official birthday portrait. 

Another creative thing I have been actively pursuing over the last few years: taking macro photos of flora. I've spared my Flickr feed, but I have started an album finally. I may have to start a separate one of Rex's nose and small flora. He hates having his picture taken, but when I point my camera at something on the ground, you can be sure he wants to sniff it.


I've been putting off packing today, though I'm off early tomorrow for a conference in San Francisco which starts on Monday. (Mark will be coming - yay! A fun first for us sibs.) Instead, M and I started a project we had hoped to finish in just one day, a raised garden bed, made mostly of straw bales. We had seen this in a garden last year. Alas, we were thwarted by math - the soil sellers didn't calculate the amount we needed properly, so we weren't able to fill in the bed today. Despite that, we got pretty far along in the project, including getting herb and veggie starts. We'll focus on beans, zucchini, kale, a pepper and a pumpkin. Maybe fill in with some flowers if we have room.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Boston and Back

M and I had a great week in Boston. We flew into town on the 14th, several weeks after "Snowmageddon" thank goodness. The roads were clear and the T was running. Mom and Don made it really easy for us, picking up Rex the night before we left. 

The conference hotel was the Marriott Copley Place - a very convenient location and connected to the convention center and shopping mall by a series of sky bridges. While the snow wasn't really an issue, it was quite cold, so it was great to be able to walk around and get meals without suffering too much. We westerners didn't really have the right shoes. 

On Sunday we met Kamala at the Isabella Gardner Museum for lunch and a chamber music concert, the Aizuri Quartet with a featured second cello performer for the final piece. 

 It was an interesting performance space, a tall square with just one row of seats per side on the top three floors. We had to lean on the railing and peer down to see the performers, so I ended up watching people across the way, the way they listened - so I guess we audience members became part of the performance.

The museum was beautiful and had a very eclectic, almost quirky collection. It was the 25th anniversary of the high art heist at the Gardner, so it was in the local news quite a bit. We were there on a Sunday so it closed a little early. We definitely didn't have enough time to see the rest of the museum.  Sargent's enormous El Jaleo was a highlight for me. 

The conference went well. It was wonderful having M with me. He had historic and snowy adventures during the day, and then we'd get dinner together in the evenings. He did catch a cold, unfortunately, which I also picked up. Luckily, it was slow moving.

The evening that the conference ended, I wandered out into Copley Square before M had returned from his touring that day. Trinity Church was closed, but the Public Library was open. I got there just in time for a tour! I hadn't realized how much art it contained. I've become a fan of tours. I never would have got as much out of just wandering around.

On Saturday, after moving to a different hotel, M and I split up - he went to see the USS Constitution, which I took in on my last visit. I planned to wander around Trinity Church, then do the Museum of Fine Art, which M had already done. But when I got to the church a little after 10am, I saw that there was an organ recital scheduled for 12:15! So hopped on the T, did the MFA for a little more than an hour, then took the T back to Trinity for the concert. I love how his feet danced over the pedals. It's a lovely space, and I had time to take in the church during the music. It smelled good, too.

After the concert, I went back to the MFA for lunch and another tour, highlights of the European art collection that culminated in a room full of Impressionists. The music piled on - during the tour, we took in a Sonic Blossom performance. I really liked how many of the rooms combined different types of art - fine art on the walls and furniture and other applied arts of the time period in the center of the room.

After the museum, I met Kamala and Eliza for a drink near Eliza's new office. We rendezvoused with M for dinner in the Faneuil Hall area.

On our last morning in Boston, I walked around for a little while, hoping to take in a few sights. I did see the place where the Tea Party happened, and wandered along the edge of the Chinatown neighborhood. After about an hour, the snow and chill got to me. And I was a little worried about getting lost. Boston is not the grid that New York is, that's for sure.

We met up with Kamala, Sam, and his new girlfriend Tiffany for lunch at Legal Seafood. It was a lovely way to end our visit. 

It's great mixing family and history and art and music with business. I'm very fortunate. Here's the Flickr album with more photos.

We got home late Saturday night. On Sunday I drove up to Gualala to meet Mom for lunch and pick up Rex. We missed him so much! He was sad to leave Grandma and Grandpa, however. Almost two weeks later we're finally feeling almost healthy. Funny how the cold really hung on.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

More of the Same

Not much excitement to report out this way. Still no rain. I did get a new camera yesterday, a Nikon CoolPix. It was cheap at Costco and seems to be enough camera for my needs. Also, the video part seems easier to figure out - I had a hard time knowing if my last camera was recording or not. It's amazing to me how many features is has for so small a device and price.

M and I have been enjoying the fine weather with the motorcycle, taking a ride to the beach last weekend.

Yesterday we took a much longer ride, five and a half hours, along Dry Creek Road and then along King Ridge. I found out that four hours is really about my limit. I was wiped out for the rest of the day.
We stopped for a picnic on the banks of this creek along Old Skaggs Springs Road

M continues on his home beautification projects. He tried to warn me how much he was going to cut back the oak tree, but I didn't really absorb it and was pretty shocked when I came home one day last week.

Some excitement is ahead however - we're going to Boston next week! I have a conference and M has never been, so he's really looking forward to it. I have an extra day on either end, so hopefully we'll be able to see Kamala and clan a couple of times.

From my Happiness Project notebook, some of the things that have made me happy lately:

Feb 25: M got up with me and made us waffles before work

Feb 28: Laying around and reading a book, The Good Lord Bird

March 1: Going to church then taking a motorcycle ride, smelling juicy grass, manure, salt water, skunk, fresh air along the way

March 4: The huge luminous moon bookending my commute - golden in the morning darkness heading west, white in the east this evening

March 6: Going out to dinner and seeing M suffer from the super spicy Indian food

Sunday, February 22, 2015

San Jose -n- Stuff

I spent much of last week in San Jose for a conference.  I'm relieved to say it was successful overall and that I had a good time to boot. 

I hosted a women's meetup on Wednesday evening. That went well. I also hosted some networking at tables at lunch the following two days that went very well, even better than usual, some interesting discussions. Those kinds of activities are very gratifying for me.

I got up early the next morning and went for a run with some of my colleagues as part of one of the conference activities. I admit, I didn't get very far, but it was mostly the doing that made me happy. That day was my 15th anniversary of being hired at O'Reilly. It's amazing how time flies, and how things change...yet also remain familiar. I don't take my work for granted and am really grateful that the last few years in particular have become so rewarding for me. 

The view from my room at the Hilton.

The Presidents Day weekend was before the San Jose trip and M and I were both pleasantly surprised at how productive we were with our various projects around the house. I think the good weather and lengthening days help.

I got together with friends Rachel and Katrin earlier this month. We had a fine time chatting as usual. Katch had recently been to New Mexico and brought back some lovely hand-spun yarn that she passed on to me. It felts up beautifully.


I'm enjoying having a knitted project. Though I'm done with the knitting part and now have to find a fun lining and zipper. I have most of the blue yarn left so need to think of a new project to start soon.


Another wonderful experience to report thanks to a gift: Mom and Don couldn't use their season tickets, so today M and I went to the City to hear some chamber music at Davies Symphony Hall. It was a beautiful day, crystal blue sky, warm. We had a pleasant lunch at Absinthe then wandered few a few blocks of Hayes Valley before hearing the music.  It was our first time there and we really enjoyed it.


While I was in San Jose I shopped at Muji, a petit, pared down Japanese department store. I bought a couple of notebooks and used one to start a happiness journal - every day I write down one thing that happened that day that made me happy. As I go through the day, it's nice to think about what I'll choose to jot down in the notebook. So far I mostly have a hard time picking just one or two things to record. I think that's a pretty good sign.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All

I've been going to the Center for Spiritual Living for just over a year now, usually a couple of times a month. I started taking notes during the services in June to help me reflect and hopefully take actions for leading a more meaningful life.  

In 2014, the Center's monthly topics focused on a different "Power of..." - Intention, Meditation, You, Humor, Awareness, etc. June's topic was forgiveness. The affirmation, which the congregation recites together near the beginning of each service, was: I live in the spirit of that which I wish to become. I focus on my spiritual heritage. I feel myself to be whole, happy, and well. I'm not really sure what that middle sentence is all about, but I really like this affirmation overall.

These are my notes from June 29 - Removing Obstacles to Forgiveness

We are on our own path and timing for forgiveness, not anyone else's.

The nature of force is to be met with resistance, so how can I create an environment for forgiveness to enter and to exist since it can't be forced? Nurture the inner space so forgiveness can enter.

I am AFRAID that forgiveness will:
- make me seem weak
- mean that it is/was OK and allow the resentful-making activity to continue
- reduce my power over the other < THIS

Remove the fears of forgiving to remove/get at the real problems. Do the "gentle work" to undo blocks and barriers to forgiveness.

Control what is yours to control.

I have a couple areas in my past where I don't feel I possess the power to forgive. But the service gave me some insight. It was good yet also a little uncomfortable and humbling to realize there are a couple of people (notably, my ex...sigh, there's some baggage I should drop, but hey, I'm on my own schedule, right?) whom  I hold a grudge against because I think it somehow gives me power over them. I felt the lack of forgiveness glacier melting a scoche that day.


At the end of January, I went down to the City for our first conference of the year. It was on bitcoin and other crypto currencies. It was quite interesting. Luckily, it was only one day. And a beautiful day it was - thank you, drought.

Our next conference is coming up on the 17th, in San Jose. It's a big one, so I think many of us will be very relieved when it's over. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Weekend + A Yearly Theme!

It's been a good weekend, but as always, there doesn't seem to be enough hours to enjoy, even though M and I stayed up late (til after midnight!) last night, watching TV, reading, and knitting. Well, I was knitting.

We started the weekend with a date night, taking in Fury at the cheap, second run movie house, then going to dinner.

During our date I told M that I was feeling the need for some culture, so he suggested we go to Berkeley. We didn't really have a day over the weekend in mind, but Saturday dawned and that seemed like the thing to do. The Berkeley museum was closed, so we modified the plan for the Oakland Museum of California. We drove around town a little to get the feel, had lunch at a pretty good Mexican place, wandered around the edge of Lake Merritt, then hit the museum.

Like the Mexican place, the museum was also pretty good. A very succinct and well-exhibited history floor, plus some natural history exhibits, as well as Art art, focused around history and California artists: Dorthea Lange and the f/64 group, the WPA murals, some Frida Kahlos, and Beat-era works. We particularly enjoyed the California landscapes. It wasn't overly crowded, which was nice. I had seen some Joan Brown paintings on our visit to the di Rosa Preserve last year, and was happy to see several more of her works at the museum.

Sunday was pleasant. M indulged my desire to have a morning in bed - he fetched us coffee and the New York Times (I still haven't gotten beyond the Arts section), then made pancakes. I roused myself at noon and went out to get some yarn to make a hat for Mom's friend who will be starting chemo soon. It was a quick pattern, so I finished it up in one day. Amazing how when you follow directions to use the right yarn and needles, it turns out better! I usually try to make do from my stash, with mixed results. 

We haven't really done much to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, unfortunately. It's become another holiday that is just a day off for many, including me, a sort of desperate holiday bridge to look forward to that first day back at work after New Year's Day. Still, I appreciate the time away from work to reflect on my life in general.

We couldn't let the weekend go by without a little motorcycle ride, so we met Mom, Don, Caitlin, and Sean for a walk on Sears Point, which the Sonoma County Land Trust is working on.

We had lunch in Novato then went our separate ways.

I'm desperately trying not to have the Sunday-on-Monday blues, but am not very successful just now.


One thing I didn't do much of this long weekend other than the hike today, which was really more of a walk, was exercise. However, I did do the elliptical machine at the gym on Friday, and while I was working out, my Yearly Theme came to me! It's "Cultivate Happiness" which I know sounds a little vague and obvious, but I can make my theme actionable by breaking it down into activities and projects that support my happiness in three main ways - learning and trying new things, creating more stuff, and practicing being present. Making happiness a Theme is also a way of giving myself permission to do things I know will nourish me mentally and physically rather than thinking of them as unimportant or things to do when I have more time (like that ever happens!). For instance, blogging right now, and spending most of the day yesterday knitting Arna's cap, even though I probably "should have" been working. I think I can also arrange some of my work duties into the Yearly Theme, so even work can help fulfill my Yearly Theme, at least occasionally - and if I think of work tasks through the Theme filter, who knows, it might become more than occasionally!

M also wants to be very active about trying new things, which is actually why he suggested going to Berkeley this weekend - we don't really think of that city as a destination. Theme activity achieved! And I tried to incorporate my Theme activities while at the museum: Not only did I examine objects and art, I created a little animation, played a keyboard that made the sounds of various objects from the past, and added to my Life Imitates Art Flickr album.

Even just coming up with a Yearly Theme made me happy, as did writing about it. Voila! Sunday blues tamed a bit.