June 30, 2014

Recent Reads

84. Crown of Shadows (Locke & Key #3)
The imagination of the author and the fantastic art has me flying through this series, and that is too bad because I really want to slow down and savor every frame. And that Crown of Shadows? Stuff of nightmares! Rating: 4 Stars.

85. The Neon Rain (Dave Robicheaux #1)
I've heard this series is a good one for fans of Harry Bosch, so thought I'd give it a try. While Dave Robicheaux is no Bosch, they are both flawed men who have PTSD from the Vietnam War, and a tendency to do things their own way, torpedoes be damned.

The setting is the seedier side of New Orleans, and what I was not expecting is the poetry of some of the prose. Also a lot more political than your average police procedural. I tried to puzzle out the crime along with Dave, who goes a bit too rogue for my tastes, but every time the man ate a po' boy or beignet my mouth watered and I wanted me one too. There are several books in this series, and I liked it enough to give the next one or two a shot. Rating: 3 stars.

86. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)
This is the final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, and while targeted for kids, it is also a fun read for adults. I listened to the multicast audio version, which is wonderful.

There are so many things I love about this series, and this final book in the trilogy is even better than the first two - really unusual for trilogies. The war that has threatened has finally arrived. Good versus evil, religion and dogma versus open minds and kindness. Humans, angels, specters, ghosts, witches, armored bears, and the dead oh my! The metaphysical and philosophical themes explored in this book would lead to interesting discussions for adults, let alone kids. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I will miss spending time with Lyra and Will.

Bravo Philip Pullman. Bravo. Rating: 5 stars.

June 27, 2014

Summer reading

My reading nook on the boat. Hanging with Bill, my fave kickstand. #fridayreads

June 26, 2014

Stephen Colbert: USA @ FIFA 2014

Big day for the USA today. Stephen is hilarious, and explains all the options in which the USA advances.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.25.14

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June 24, 2014

Journal page

While going through my journals, I recently found this page inspired by the cover of a Title 9 catalog. This was created back in March when it was freezing and dark and I was clearly thinking about sunshine and warmth.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Pen and watercolors in my large single signature art journal.

June 23, 2014

Recent Reads

81. A Tale for the Time Being
** spoiler alert ** This book should have gotten 4, maybe even 5 stars, and until about the second half of part three, I thought that it would. And then that dream scene happened, and I threw up my hands in disgust.

I love how the author writes. She is very skilled at capturing people and place and relationships. There are multiple narrators in this story, and I loved the parts where Nao tells her story via diary entries. The relationship between 16 year old Nao and her 104 year old great-grandmother Jiko is heart warming and lovely. I was less impressed with the Ruth parts, though again, the author captures well the people and place. All the characters in this book have distinct voices, and the author fleshes them out really well.

Now let's get to what upset me about this book. I felt cheated by the magical realism and quasi quantum mechanics devices used by the author. Either write a magical realism story ala Isabel Allende, and I would have loved it. Or write a true sci-fi story, and I would have loved it too. Dream travel does not a multi-universe story make! I needed more. Based on all the science infrastructure that is shared in the book, I expected/wanted/hoped that the author would fully leap into parallel universes. But in my opinion, the story fell flat. It was almost like the author started out with a wonderful story, but then did not know how to end it. The themes of suicide, bullying, environmental collapse, etc, were all compelling, but the underlying structure of the story did not hold, and like a badly baked meringue simply fell flat.

My book club discussed this over the weekend, and the general consensus was that although the writing in wonderful, the story was too fragmented and did not hold together. You know that feeling you have when you get a crush on someone and then realize that you were mistaken? That is how I feel after reading this book. Rating: 3 stars.

82. A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4)
Other than the Bible, is there really a book out there with these many characters? 

This is book #4 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and at this point you are either along for the ride, or you have not bothered to start. There are parts of this installment I loved, parts that I did not, and parts that I found downright boring. 

If you are reading these tomes, you already know that GRRM decided to split the story into two books, and this one deals with stuff that happens around Kings Landing, while the next book picks up what happens on the Wall and with the Dragon Mother during the same time frame. Sure, some of my fave characters were missing in this book, but the sheer volume of new characters I was introduced to was breath taking. 

While I did not love this volume, it moves the story along in important (I assume) ways, and I look forward to #5. And then what do I do? Books #6 and #7 are not published yet, so I guess I'll join the masses who pray that the author does not die before completing this series. Rating: 3 stars.

83. Head Games (Locke & Key #2)
I am loving this graphic novel series, and am slowly reading my way through the collection because I do not want it to end. The Locke children are in serious trouble and do not even know it. Another key is found and what it does will blow your mind. This story is such a wonderful exploration of memory and fear, and as in the first book the art is fantastic. Got the next two books on my nightstand, and I look at them the same way I gaze longingly at lovely desserts in brightly lit French cafes. Delish! Rating: 4 stars.

June 22, 2014

Pirate jellyfish

This is what we woke up to this morning!

The invasion of the jellyfish ....

Some of the pirates tried to board the boat via the salt water system. Susan had her work out cut repelling unwanted boarders!

Such a lovely sight on this beautiful morning.

June 21, 2014


We are celebrating the birthday girl, an anniversary and the summer solstice!

It is a Goldilocks kind of day, so we started with a stroll around the neighborhood.

Welcome Summer! 

And there ain't no better way to celebrate summer than on the water.

Hope it is a Goldilocks kind of day wherever you are too.

June 20, 2014

World Cup Fever

With the rest of the world, I've got World Cup fever. So fun that the games are at a reasonable times for those of us on the East coast of the US.

We don't have Cable, so am watching the games on Univision. In Spanish. No I do not speak Spanish, but I just might be able to after the games are done. 

June 19, 2014

Cinemascope: Dallas Buyers Club

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

This is a tough movie to watch, and Matthew McConaughey is disturbingly skinny, but this movie raises so many issues around the AIDS crisis, medical care, the FDA process regarding drugs, etc that it is worth watching. I was a little disturbed that the story is told from the POV of a straight man, a homophobe when we meet him, when there are many incredible and moving stories from the LGBTQ community that are under-represented in the mainstream media. But maybe that is the power of this movie, that people who might not go see And The Band Played On or Milk, might be educated about these issues.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.18.14

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June 17, 2014

Journal pages

Couple of early pages in my new larger journal. Loving all that space to write in.

As you can see from the page above, I simply write out whatever is in my head at the moment. Get it out. If the writing turns out to be private, I just don't share it. Have loads of pages like that. For my eyes only.

But then I have pages like this one that I knew I would share, and I adjust accordingly. Both pages were done on the same day I think, and capture a moment in time. As always, click on images to view larger.

June 16, 2014

Recent Reads

78. Saga, Volume 3
This volume collects Saga issues #13-18.

I know that most new parents worry about simply keeping their wee ones alive, but poor Marko and Alana have actual bad guys trying to kill not just the wee one, but want them dead too. This continues to be a smart, adult story with fabulous art, and while I did not love this one as much as the first volume, the story moves along on various fronts. Oh, and turns out this volume was not the final in a trilogy as I expected. There is more coming, though am not sure when. 

If the last comic book you read was when you still wearing knee socks, give this series a try and see how far the genre as come.

PS. If you know where I can get me a lying cat, please PM me. Rating: 3 stars.

79. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
War is hell, and there are many wonderful books that describe that hell really well. This non-fiction book looks at World War 2 from a different perspective: the preservation of art and culture during times of war. 

There is so much I did not know about the men and women who helped preserve historic buildings and great art during WW2. On my travels through Europe, it never even occurred to me to wonder how all the marvels I was looking at survived wartime. I found this book educational, informative, moving and inspiring, and am so grateful for the courageous men and women who did this work.

The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Jeremy Davidson, but I think this book would work better in print or ebook. The action takes place on several fronts, and there are letters, memos, diary entries, etc, and the audio also has no maps, which would better help set the scene. If you are a history or WW2 buff, or even interested in art, I would highly recommend you give this book a try. Rating: 4 stars.

80. Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
I'm the kind of person who watches scary/horror movies with my hands over my eyes, peeking every now and then to see if the scary part is over. Turns out that is kinda hard to do while reading. 

This fantastic graphic novel is the first in a series that I found creepy and scary and delicious all at the same time. You can tell that the apple does not fall from the tree: Joe Hill is as creepy and awesome a writer as daddy Stephen King. This story of a family that moves into a creepy mansion with doors that open into worlds not on this plane, is classic King-like scary. And while the writing is really good, let me just say that the artwork by Gabriel Rodríguez is amazing. I've got the next book in the series on my nightstand, and if you enjoy creepily good yarns, check this one out. Rating: 4 stars.

June 14, 2014

Journal page

I am back home and catching up on my sleep. In the meanwhile, here is a page that I created using a handmade stencil from a photo of myself. Not great, but for a first pass, I am quite pleased with it.

(Click on image to enlarge)

June 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.11.14

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June 10, 2014

Travel journaling

Taking the time to capture moments, memories, and snippets of conversation as I go along. A little bit every day adds up.

Have along some basic supplies: pen, watercolor pencils, a water brush,  and stencils.

June 9, 2014

Recent Reads

74. The Burgess Boys
I read it for my book club this month, and honestly would not have finished it if not for that.

I really like how the author writes, and this is the third book of hers I have read. It is however my least favorite of the three. The author captures human interpersonal relationships really well, and this book also has a wonderful sense of place, but overall the story did not work for me. 

This is a book about a dysfunctional, damaged family, and with that backdrop I expected more: more depth, more insight, more connection. But the characters in this book are not fleshed out, and I felt remote from all the pain and angst. There are some wonderful insights about humanity that the author shares, but overall, this is not a book I would recommend. However, half of my book club loved it, so maybe you will too. Rating: 2 stars.

75. Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color
Book blurb: A guide that shows painters, drawers, doodlers, and urban sketchers how to bring their drawings to life with colorful, bold, yet accessible painting methods.

This is a colorful and informative introduction to watercolor sketching. Rating: 3 stars.

76. The Abominable
This has been our read-aloud book at home for the past several months, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. 

This story of friendship, mountain climbing, and human endurance reads like a fast paced thriller, and kept me guessing at the twists and turns. Much of the action takes place on Mt. Everest, and if you are fan of climbing stories you gotta read this one. If however you are not a fan, the technical, equipment and scientific details might be too much for you, but I'd advise you to skim those sections and enjoy the ride.

I loved the author's skill at telling a rollicking good yarn, with real bits of history woven in. This is my first book by the author, and it will certainly not be my last. Backlist, here I come! Rating: 4 stars.

77. Art Journal Freedom: How to Journal Creatively with Color & Composition
I am always looking for creative inspiration, and while I did not love this book, did get some good ideas that I will try out in my journal. Rating: 2 stars.

June 8, 2014

Bellagio selfie

My nieces are into selfies, so here is one with my nieces and sis-in-law taken during our traditional visit to the Bellagio today.

Belmont Stakes

Yesterday was a big day California Chrome fans, and being in Vegas I has to place a bet or two on the ponies.

Being from Boston, we were of course rooting for Wicked Strong. It was a fun heart pounding minute or so, but non of my bets paid off, as a matter of fact Cali Chrome tied with Wicked Strong for fourth place. But hey, nothing ventured nothing gained. And those Man-O-War drinks later helped cool my vocal chords that were strained during the race.

June 7, 2014

Art Journaling with kids

I am so loving spending time with my nieces. They are growing up so fast, and it is lovely to check in with who they are right now.

One of our traditions is playing with art supplies when I am in town. I always bring along journals for them as well and suddenly everyone is immersed in the act of creation, which also opens up a space for real conversation and connection. I am one happy Aunt.

June 6, 2014

Viva Las Vegas

Arrived last night with a plane full of bachelor and bachelorette parties. Guess wedding season has arrived.

Window seat with an empty middle seat on a direct flight? Priceless.

June 5, 2014

Cinemascope: W./E.

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2011.

Plot line: It was a love story that amazed and scandalized the world: because royal protocol barred him marrying a divorced commoner (and an American, to boot), Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936 in order to be with "the woman I love." That story is brought to the screen in W./E., along with a parallel 1990s tale of a woman (Abbie Cornish, Bright Star) fascinated by the saga as she walks about the halls of Sotheby's in anticipation of an auction of the royals' stuff. 

What got my attention is that Madonna directed this movie. Yes, that Madonna. Add that to the fact that I'm fascinated by the abdication story, and I was sold. The two story lines play really well against each other, and one can see Madonna's touch in the lighting and how the women are photographed and portrayed. 

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

June 4, 2014

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): Net Neutrality

If you are in the US, this affects you. Yes you.

Cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for internet speeds, but they're doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren't covering it.
John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

June 3, 2014

One Little Word 2014: May

And just like that another month is over.

As you might recall, my word for this year is Cultivate. I am taking a more laid back approach to my word this year. Am picking a theme for each month, and then seeing where I end up.

My focus this month was to cultivate presence

the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.

Who was it that said that  life is constantly planning for disasters that never happen? I know exactly what they mean. 
It is often hard for me to stay in the present moment. In the here and now. I am too often ruminating about the past, or planning the future. And in that I lose the now. 

So for this month, I decided to be here as much as possible. Be. Here. Now. And if you've tried this, you know how hard it can be. My monkey mind wants to scamper into old dusty corners, or to peer and see what is coming around that bend. And then, just as I decided that this was going to be my practice this month, I got the call that my Dad has a 95-97% blocked carotid artery. That is the big one that nourishes the brain. The one that can cause strokes.

And just like that I left the now. I was scared. In tears. Terrified of what this meant. Invasive surgery is always a risk, but more so when one is 75, as my Dad is. And then I realized that this was exactly what I'm talking about. I had jumped onto the Disaster Express to a scenario where he either stroked out, or died on the operating table. 

So I took a deep breath. In and out. Repeat. And took a moment to be gratitude that it was not that call. It was not the call telling me that my Dad had had a stroke. Or that he was dead. He was alive. In this moment he was alive. My eyes fill even as I write this a month later. Gratitude is a powerful tool. I decided to be grateful that his doctors had run tests that showed that he had an issue that needed to be addressed. And more importantly, there was something they could do about it.

See what just happened? It was a scary moment, but in that moment, my Dad was also alive and well. I decided to wait to cross bridges as I came upon them. Not to rush towards one and then another. I will know which one needs to be crossed at the appropriate time. Until then, he was well. 

My Dad had his surgery last week, and everything went as planned. He was back home the next night, and is recovering well. I fly to Las Vegas on Thursday, and am so grateful that I get a chance to see him in a couple of days. 

This month I focused on staying in the present moment, and it has helped me stay grounded within myself. I've had so many opportunities to practice this month, but I've chosen to write about the one that affected me the most. 

Here is what I've learned:
1. Breathe

2. Be. Here. Now
3. Find something in this moment to be grateful for
4. Do not get on the Disaster Express
5. Cross bridges when you need to, and only then

These are some of the ways I cultivated presence this month. How do you do it?

June 2, 2014

Recent Reads

69. The Signature of All Things
I have been immersed in the life of Alma Whittaker for a couple of weeks, and I confess that when the book ended, I was surprised at my sense of loss. It feels like a beloved friend just died.

Most reviews actually give away important plot points, so all I'll say is that this is the story of Alma Whittaker, a smart, large, not very beautiful woman, who has a driving passion for knowledge and making sense of the natural world around her. Spanning the heady scientific 18th and 19th centuries, this saga explores the world of science, botany, and intellect through Alma's eyes. A travelogue of sorts, the story explores both the inner workings of a human heart and mind, as well as far flung places around the globe. The story unfolds slowly, and if you are even remotely familiar with the history of science, you will delight in the ways Alma gets inserted into the landscape. 

I listened to the audiobook, superbly narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and I would highly recommend the audio version of this book. Fans of historical fiction with strong, brainy, flawed, non-bodice-ripping women move this one to the top of your TBR list. Rating: 5 stars.

70. How to Read a Novelist
This fun and informative collection of author interviews hit my sweet spot. John Freeman introduces each author interview with an insightful summary of the author's work to date, and the essays are as diverse as the people being interviewed. The essays are short, but this is not a book to read in one sitting. Dip in and out. Read up on your fave authors first, or start at with authors new to you. This is a book I will certainly dip into again. Most of the authors interviewed were not new to me, but there where several I had not heard of before. Oh and yes, my TBR pile just got longer. Thanks John! Rating: 4 stars.

71. This One Summer
There are families that rent a lake cottage every summer at Awago Beach. Rose and Windy are girls whose parents do just that, and they have developed a long friendship over these summer vacations. This year things at home and in town expose the girls to challenges that they struggle to understand and deal with. This coming of age graphic novel is targeted at teenagers, and while I liked the story, I loved the graphics. Rating: 3 stars.

72. Stencil Girl: Mixed-Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils
I'm on a stencil making jag, so am reading books on the topic. This one has some helpful tips, but the projects are not to my taste. Rating: 2 stars.

73. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
There are some fantastic nuggets and ideas in this book, but I did not find it as meaty as his previous work. There were a bit too many quotes and platitudes for my taste, but it is worth reading this book and mining for those nuggets. Rating: 3 stars.