Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Another Illustration Friday prompt. I really had no idea what I was going to do for this prompt but there I was, sitting in the lobby of N's music school surrounded by guitars. Almost as soon as I started drawing a guitar, she came out and was ready to go. When I was home later I had a great idea. I could Zentangle the guitar and it would be perfect for IF!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Does it ever feel like your life is unbalanced because you are focused on the wrong thing? It does to me I guess. Not really the constant connection with people but also the crazy number of things I will put in my calendar simply because they fit.
Then again, can this be a tool for balancing ones life?
It's a double edged sword.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Illustration Friday prompt for October 16th. I asked my daughter what "frozen" reminded her of and without hesitation she said rainbow sherbet as I was thinking of the outdoors and possibly skiing.
This is done on an ATC (2.5"x3.5" watercolor board in watersoluble colored pencil and ink)

Hiking with Girls

A couple of weeks ago I went to Big Basin State Park with the girls. We had rented a cabin for the weekend and I wanted it to be a low key weekend. No pressure to get anything done or finish any particular hike. The park was very quiet first thing in the morning because the campgrounds had been closed the night before. There had been a storm earlier in the week and a lot of branches had fallen from the trees and needed to be cleared up. Nevertheless the weather was wonderful when we were there.

We woke to a sunny and slightly chilly morning and discovered that the campstove was not working. Or course the Redwood forest is so tall that it is not very bright on the forest floor. I needed the flash all day. After warming up in the headquarters and drinking coffee and cocoa, we set off for sempervirens falls with light feet and joyful intention. As it turns out, there are a lot of rootballs, fallen logs, fairy rings and rock formations that have to be climbed on and over and inpected closely.

I think it is easy to guess how far we got... Pretty soon we needed to stop for snacks, and then lunch. I estimate we were a mile and a half up the trail which is not bad for a 5 year old. And since I had no expectations and was willing to enjoy what came to us I was happy to turn back. The hike that had taken us so long really only took a half hour to reverse but then we rested up in the store with cocoa and snacks.

Without the campstove, I had to light a campfire so we could make grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I had two fire starters and I figured we could get them going easily with that but as I was coaxing the fire along I realized that it has been ages since I have set a fire myself. Still I managed and we had inside out pizzas and apple pie toasties on cinnamon bread for dinner.

Before setting off the following morning we explored the Redwood Trail near the headquarters. We heard the Acorn woodpeckers hard at work and we could see their handiwork in the dead treetops through binoculars. Since we live among the Redwoods and these are the trees we see when we go to forests we forget that they are really incredible. Other park visitors exclaimed over the enormity of these trees. Taking a walk alongside tourists from other parts of the country and the world can remind you what a wonderful place you live in and how amazing the nature right around you really is.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Illustration Friday Prompt for October 23rd.
2.5 x 3.5 inches
ink and watersoluble colored pencil

Friday, August 07, 2009

The end of a book

Around the house
Originally uploaded by jjs_37
I am near the end of my sketchbook and this freezes me up. You would think that the first page of a new one would cause me anxiety but I love starting a new book. The trouble with the end of the book is that I want to end on a good note, or drawing rather. I have a standard already of the book as a whole and I want to end with something that sums it up. Books need good endings. How often in bookclub do we rake a book over the coals because it ended weakly. Well, we rake books over the coals for a variety of reasons and usually there is more to a bad book than a bad ending.
And it seems as if the passage of the moments summed up in the book should not simply be closed and put on the shelf after i have carried the book nearly everywhere for the last 3 months. It even feels like it is not the right time to start the new book. It is one I bound myself and I am excited to start it. It is so full of the promise of moments to come. The little things like frogs and beans I did not plant that fill my life with wonder. I can't wait to find the wonder that will cause me to pull it out of my bag so I can savor that moment again and again.
I think it is time to design a book turnover ceremony

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Whooshers and Goshers on Windy Hill

Windy Hill
Originally uploaded by jjs_37
As it turns out, J is a whoosher and N is a Gosher. So A walked ahead with J while N and I stared at flowers which were amazingly still blooming. We saw Lupin and Indian paintbrush in addition to these flowers. Funnily enough we heard A and J exclaiming over the pretty red flowers which were everywhere around the bend. N ran around the corner and said "Oh that! That is Indian paintbrush!" And she was right. And the Cicada? Actually it was powerlines overhead.

Weeding a National Park

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
We had to do a stewardship project as part of the workshop in the Sierra. We were sent out to destroy a patch of Nasty Thistle with big shovels and gloves on. It was incredibly hot that day and it felt like we had to stop before we were ready because of it. Still, I highly reccomend a Stewardship project in a park if you can do one. I learned a lot from the rangers about how they are dealing with invasive species. And it was very satisfying to do something so good. I feel a real sense of ownership over this spot in the park now.

Camp Green Meadows

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
In July I spent two weekends on a teacher training workshop organized by the California institute for biodiversity/ to learn how to incorporate scientific field journaling into a science curriculum. I got some great ideas for journaling exercises that I will try with the classrooms at N's school.
Two of the teachers at the training were John Muir Laws and David Lukas who are both incredibly knowledgeable about the Natural History of the Sierra.
I would highly recommend this workshop if you are interested.
During the second weekend the whole group went hiking in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and I was introduced to the concept of Whooshers and Goshers. Whooshers see an interesting thing in Nature, check it out and are off to the next interesting thing. Goshers on the other hand, see an interesting thing and spend some time watching that thing. Then they find something else, but after two hours they can still see the parking lot. As you can imagine, having kids, I spend my life at their pace and not so much mine. I am often following their interesting things, except perhaps in the grocery store. And A, well, he is frequently well ahead of me no matter what we do. I took an opportunity to be a Gosher that weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A muffin kind of day

If you give a mom a muffin,
She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
So she’ll pour herself some.
The coffee will get spilled by her three year old.
She’ll wipe it up.

Wiping the floor, she will find some dirty socks.
She’ll remember she has to do some laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She’ll trip over some snow boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper for tonight.

She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She’ll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With a Pound of
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill which is due tomorrow.
She will look for the checkbook.

The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two year old.
She’ll smell something funny.
She’ll change the two year old.
While she is changing the two year old the phone will ring. (Of course!)
Her five year old will answer it and hang up.

She remembers that she wants to phone a friend to come over for coffee on
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some.
And chances are,
If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

Written by Kathy Fictorie
Based on If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

And that is where my posts have gone. Into the muffin sphere. But when I look for the checkbook I will find the sketchbook since my kids can take care of their own smells, and I will draw in it. Just the scanning or picture taking part does not happen. But soon, because I have plenty of new sketches.

While the muffin story describes my day pretty well, so does this
the mom song
which is what I sound like after dinner trying to get the kids to bed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An ordinary day

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Cats sleeping. making soup (and drawing the vegetables first) and home made bread. The bread was done late and we ate dinner late. Oh well. The irony in the fact that it was late because I was working in my sketchbook is not lost on me.
We are cat sitting but we all love having animals around so I see a pet in our future.

Filling the sketchbook

Originally uploaded by jjs_37

The paper

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Folded and cut and ready to fold up and insert. A good tutorial of how I did this is at
Then I slipped the first and last page into the tyvek envelopes that are glued to a hard cover. Once I fill this set I can take it out, flip it over and use the other side. Then I can use a new sheet as needed.

A refillable sketchbook

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
With a whole sheet of Arches cold press inside of it.

The inside cover of the sketchbook

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
decorated with spray inks

Sketchbook in reserve

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
I am almost done with my Brenda book so I had to have another exquisite sketchbook lined up. I am still hoping for a new Brenda book for Mother's day but in the meantime I need something so that I don't grind to a complete halt. So I made my own with watercolor paper in it and everything. I collaged a cover piece of paper and then reinforced by ironing it to a piece of fabric. Then I sewed folios of hot press and cold press watercolor paper inside of it. I created a velcro closure to make it fit. I feel very pleased by it and I can't wait to use it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ink that runs!

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
So the strange feature of my new favorite pen is that the ink is very watersoluble. Usually this could be considered a drawback but I have decided to just get into the Zen of that. If you think about it, watercolor does all sorts of things you don't expect and you have to be open to the medium doing it's thing. This is just another parameter for me to let go of.
This is a little birdhouse that I use as a Christmas decoration. I stick it in my house plants. This year it is still out so that it can go with the votive holders.

votive holder

closeup votive holder
Originally uploaded by jjs_37
We got these charming votive holders from an old friend of Adam's mom. They look fabulous with the candle on in them and they are much too cute to put away as Christmas decoration. I think they should be my spring decor.

Friday, January 09, 2009

New tools and some old ones too

One of my Pitt pens ran out of ink and after coaxing it along for a few days I decided that I should get a new pen. Of course I have a box of perfectly good pens in the cabinet in the garage where I hide the shameful bounty of crafty stuff I own. And it has black pens in it. And a backup water brush. The brush I have been using was being weird and was probably getting old after a couple of years of use. So clearly I needed to go to Jetpens and order a new waterbrush (one must have backups) and pens...
I got a Pentel Tradio pen, a Pentel brush pen and refills, a Signo white pen (this is really a good pen for white writing on a dark background). They were out of my favorite waterbrush (pentel!) and the Tradio pen was an impulse buy. But I love it. It is my new favorite pen. It is kind of like a fountain pen but the tip is synthetic and not mental. The line is very smooth and organic with variation in the line thickness. I am having fun using this pen though I have made some discoveries which I will go into in the future.
Meanwhile I also took a picture of the other pens that live in my pen case. The caligraphy writer by Zig and a Koh-I-Noor pen.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Micro Hike

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
This morning I had a plan. I was going to clean the house and then head out to Edgewood park and race around the 3 mile loop stopping exactly once to sketch before I would have to pick up Julia from preschool. As soon as Julia was picked up by my friend with whom I carpool to preschool this morning I implemented phase I of this plan. Then on to phase II but I swung by the coffee shop first. As I am intently driving to the park I realize that the windshield wipers are on and that in fact, if I were to actually go on this hike I would get really wet.
Instead I went to a different entry of the park, thinking I would sketch from the car, but the rain cleared for a bit so I ran up a very muddy trail, did a 1 minute sketch of the foggy view and dashed back to the car. This fog is the most beautiful thing in this area and I love it. One day I hope to capture it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
from the farm.

End of the Season

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Little Poinsettia which survived holiday neglect

Oma's chair

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Without her in it it feels like this chair is levitating.


Originally uploaded by jjs_37
Plants on the vensterbank (window sill) at my Oma's house. She paid attention to those plants every day. This painting would not cooperate in terms of colors and feeling. It has come out very light and foggy as if it is a memory and not so much a concrete place but considering that this was drawn while we were at her house for her funeral it seems appropriate.

Beer is Yummy

Originally uploaded by jjs_37
On Christmas day we tasted several beers head to head with an American lager. The verdict:
Duvel: delicious with a hint of lemon or citrus. A perfect compliment to mussels or fish and chips (actually Pommes Frites!) Barend ranked this beer tops.
Leffe: A good everyday beer with carmel notes that would go well with everything but particularly hearty meat dishes and little smokies. Adams favorite beer was this one.
Chimay: A slightly sweeter beer (but not really sweet like a framboise which I had at a terrific Belgian restaurant) similar to a nut brown Ale. I thought it went really well with Peanuts but then I can't think of a single thing that does not go well with peanuts if it is worth drinking or eating. This is a family trait. Josh and I both preferred the Chimay as an easy drinking beer.
Yuengling: A locally brewed American beer. We all agreed that it is important to drink water and that this sparkling water was a nice change from tap water.