Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Thanks to everyone who has sent me private comments, and Twitter comments, about my Mom. She hadn't been feeling well for about a week, but seemed to get better while camping this weekend- turns out her appendix burst while camping. She even kayaked with me for 4-5 hours with a burst appendix and didn't even know it! Monday, after returning from camping, she went downhill fast and was admitted to the ER. Because the appendix burst and septicimia, she will be in the hospital for at least a week. Surgery went well but she's on a lot of morphine and antibiotics because of infection. Thank you for all your kind emails and Twitter comments. I appreciate ya'll thinking about my family!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Kayaking in Fair Haven- Memorial Day Sunday

Saturday of Memorial Day weekend was spent at work, first working Commencement in the morning and then scrambling to get odds & ends cleared up for reunion this week all afternoon. I'm in charge of all registration, registration accounting, airport shuttles, vendors, a host of reports to run, and answering the gazillion emails and phone calls that come into our office about reunion. It felt good to get a lot of that squared away, even if it WAS on a Saturday. And a Saturday of a holiday weekend to boot. Hopefully it will make this coming week less crazy??

Sunday (yesterday) my parents invited us up to Fair Haven State Park on Lake Ontario, where they were camping. Dad babysat all the dogs while Mom and I went Kayaking on Sterling Pond and Sterling Creek for several hours. Mom has her own bright yellow kayak, and I borrowed Dad's (a gray color. And his lifejacket which was WAY too big for me and really annoying but my swimming skills are quite poor and I've always had the fear of drowning, so I wore it).

After I walked Lucy and Cliff down the campground road a bit, they got settled in their Ex-pen at the camping site with Dad, and Mom and I drove the kayaks down to the boat launch on Sterling Pond, which is separate from Lake Ontario by a small strip of land. I had only kayaked once before, when I went to Poland back in '02, and it was a 2-person kayak that rode more like a canoe. Needless to say, I got the hang of kayaking pretty quick (Mom gave me some excellent pointers) and I actually ended up liking kayaking more than canoeing. It's easier to steer, and you go faster. You sit rather low in the water though, which made me nervous at first.

We skirted along the edge of the pond, where we saw hundreds and hundreds of turtles!! We couldn't get that close, though, before they jumped off their logs and disappeared. I was able to get a few pictures of "heads" in the water as they watched for us to pass... but they were really wary of us. A little baby turtle sticking his head up, watching us carefully (can you see him?):
I think most of the turtles we saw were little Eastern Painted Turtles. But take a look at this monster sitting on a downed tree!!! I wonder if it was a snapping turtle?? Half Plesiosaur? Holy moly....

We paddled by a muskrat lodge... no sign of muskrats though:

...and some nesting Canadian Geese. We tried to go by as quietly as possible. Mamma Geese can be aggressive and neither Mom or I wanted to get pecked!

We spent hours paddling and coasting the edges of the marsh. We saw lots of Red Winged Blackbirds, heard frogs, and even had some carp jump up in the water beside us. They almost scared me into flipping my kayak--TOTALLY was not expecting something to leap out of the water besides me. Jeesh. But Mom and I were most interested in the turtles. Mom LOVES turtles and so do I. I really wanted to see one up close and personal, and let Mom have a look at one. We saw so many sunning themselves on logs, but whenever we got close they bombed into the water. One, however, jumped into the water and didn't hide himself properly, and I saw his shell sticking up under some flotsam... so I leaned over my kayak and carefully fished him up LOL. Photo op!:

Mom was a bit scared to hold him at first, but I showed her how to hold him by the back so he couldn't nip her. He was a beautiful turtle, I think an Eastern Painted Turtle.

After we examined him a bit, I put him back into the water next to the flotsamI found him in, and we paddled off.
Back at the campground, I hung out with Mom and Dad a bit, and then took a little walk with Cliff. Then I packed the dogs up and we headed a few miles away to the Sterling Nature Center. My plan was to do a little hike with both dogs, put Lucy back in the car, and then do a longer hike with Cliff. Unfortunately Lucy has been having some difficulty the past week or so... not with walking, but her breathing is AWFUL. We get walking (VERY slowly) and she is heaving like she just ran a marathon and smoked 3 packs of cigarettes. It's scary to hear and I'm not sure what is going on. She had her 6-month vet visit last month and checked out fine... is it age? Do I have Radon in my house that is bothering her?? Does she have Lung Cancer somehow?? We can't even get down the street now without her slowing down, heaving and panting so loudly that I'm afraid she'll go into cardiac arrest. So we slowly turn around and go home.
Anyway, we hadn't gotten far down this little dirt side trail at Sterling before Lucy was breathing very, very hard and loud, going quite slow and obviously not enjoying herself. So we turned around and went back to the car, where she got a drink and I put her in bed. Then, Cliff and I went out but the main trail we chose had been coated with large gravel rock. I hate walking on that stuff and Cliff didn't like it either, so we turned around and went back to the car. Disappointing. Guess we won't be going back up to Sterling with that sort of trail surfacing. The side trails were dirt, but to get to the side trails you have to walk on this sharp stuff. Jeesh.
We ended up getting home quite late and I was so tired-! The dogs were, too. Even Cliff. Last year, a day hanging out in the ex-pen, a little walk at a campground and Sterling wouldn't have phased him in the least. Yesterday we got home and he crashed. He will be 11 next week, and I just hate, hate, hate seeing him age. And Lucy too... she will be 13 in September. I am thankful Cliff is still rowdy and loves to hike, but I wonder how much longer he will be able to do it. This morning we took an hour-long walk down into the city to see the Memorial Day Parade (we missed it) but he was dragging on the way back. What? My Cliff? Dragging? Last year a walk like that wouldn't bother him in the least. And Lucy, having difficulty just getting down the street? What the heck is going on here? Sigh.
Well I'll sign off because the dogs and I are going to head to Syracuse today to have a BBQ with Bridge, Trace, their husbands and greyhounds. I would usually plan a hike while we were out in that direction, but I'm worried that Lucy wouldn't be able to go even a quarter mile and I don't want to over-exhert Cliff after his long walk this morning. It is potluck and I am going to make Vegan Potato Salad. I hope it comes out okay, I am a horrible cook.
Hopefully I will have pics to post later!

Sunshine & Dandylions- First 3 Reductions!

It has been a crazy week. Did I mention before that this is the busiest time of the year at my 9-5 job? Oye vey, staying late to get things done, preparing for the largest event of the year (alum reunion, plus it is MY reunion), not getting home till 7 or so every night. The dogs are being patient with me. Cliff has been on "bed rest" the past week, resting his foot (the one he tore the nail out of last week) as it has been very tender. Lucy sleeps and sunbathes in the yard, fitting for a 12 year old sun-worshipper. They've allowed me to get a few reductions of my newest woodcut done, in between working, sleeping, and pampering them LOL.

Here is the first color printed, a mixture of yellow ochre, titanium white and Perfection Palette Process Yellow (from Graphic Chemical). Sorry the color is off a bit in these pieces. I took the pictures late in the day, usually around 8 or 8:30 when the sun was going down or already down:

I then carved away a bit more to outline my sun. It's still a yellow ochre/PPP Yellow mix, but more yellow ochre. I love that Lucy's white face is starting to peep out of the color!!!

And here is the third reduction, where I carved away everything I wanted to stay yellow, and then printed with a mixture of PPP Yellow, a bit of titanium white and GC Block Print Green. The color is off a bit in this photo (I actually printed on bright white Stonehenge paper, and in the pic it is ice blue -sigh) but the green came out a bit darker than I had thought it would. I wanted it more spring-y. Oh well. Maybe I will try to put in highlights? It's so hard to print light-on-dark though.

I hope to get another reduction done this week, but once reunion starts Thursday, I will be at work from 7 am-11 pm through next week. We'll see. I'm sooo hoping I don't ruin this one...


Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunshine & Dandelions- Woodcut

Well, I guess when you fall off the horse you have to get back on, right? Here is my next project fixed on the block.... as I blogged about before... a greyhound (modelled by Lucy) sunbathing in the grass. A perfect beginning-of-summer woodcut!
I'm trying to sort out colors/reductions in my head... light gray, black, yellow/ochre, green... what order should they go in? Light to dark, right? But what colors work well over each other, compared to others-? Ack.
Feeling very scared to get this started. I brought my block and tools to work with me for lunch break, but I am sooo worried about screwing this up so I'm procrastinating. I like all my blocks, but I like this one a LOT. I don't want to muff it up!! And I've really only done one successful woodcut since the fall... my batting average is quite poor... I think 4 muff-ups to every block completed & liked. That's really REALLY bad.
Well on that happy note, it's time to dig into my lunch (chickpeas & noodles with bock choy) and get carving... wish me luck...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And the Weekend

Overall, a crummy weekend. Clifford's paw is really, really sore from ripping out his toenail, so no hike and even going around the block is rather painful for him (he still wants to go- on three legs- but I feel bad). I went to Beaver Lake in Baldwinsville by myself for a walk- no dogs allowed there anyway- but hiking by yourself is no fun!! On Saturday, I was horrified to discover that I had a packed Etsy order in my work bag- I thought I had mailed it like a week ago~!!!! I feel AWFUL. Rushed to the post office and then had to send an apologetic "I'm a forgetful asshole please don't hate me" email to the buyer (God, I can be SUCH an airhead sometimes-!!!). I messed up my coot woodcut (see post below)- 3 weeks of work (should I just give up on printmaking? I feel like such a loser). My house is a disaster, got NO housework done. I hate living in a pigsty.
I am dreading the next 2 weeks at work. Commencement coming up Memorial Day weekend (so I have to work) and then Reunion weekend, which my department coordinates. It is going to be soooo busy. So stressful. So much PRESSURE. Jen doesn't like stress. Jen doesn't like pressure. Jen crumbles under pressure. Crumbles like a stale cookie.
And on top of it all, all of my shows are ending for the season. Survivor finale is on right now. Sniff.
Anyway, thanks for letting me rant.

American Coot Woodcuts- Third and Fourth Reductions

Last week I posted about my newest woodcut, a few American Coots. I was happy at the progress I had made thus far. Welllllll.... things went downhill from there. Third reduction came out rather... ugh:

And the fourth reduction, which I just finished tonight... OUCH:

I almost didn't post this, because it came out soooo bad. But everything is a learning experience, right?
  1. I got a little too anxious towards the end of this, and carved away WAY too much because I was in a hurry, hurry, hurry to get this done.
  2. The water kind of kicked my butt. It was the first time I carved water though, so I can't be too hard on myself.
  3. The coots. Okay, they came out bad. I didn't want them to come out totally, 100% anatomically correct, but in my quest to be... expressionistic... they came out really poorly. They don't look like coots. They don't even look like ducks. The black & gray shading is really bad because I don't know the bone & muscle structure of birds and probably should have studied it a bit before going at my MDF gung-ho with the carving chisel.

So in the end, this woodcut edition will be going in the recycling bin. Better luck on the next one??


Toe Minus Toenail

On Thursday I came home to blood EVERYWHERE... I mean, I walked in the house and the kitchen was floating in it. It was like my own personal version of Forensic Files. The victim was Clifford: Somehow he ripped out one of his nails... right out of the socket!!! It must have hurt like a son of a gun... I mean, his nail at the base is almost as wide as one of my fingers. Can you imagine the force it must have taken to rip that out??

I still can't figure out what happened, but thankfully Cliff has suffered no harm. Other than the toe being a little tender, he is acting like his usual loud, obnoxious self.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Clifford and Amos

Sunday at Mom and Dad's... couldn't resist taking some photos of Clifford playing with their pug Amos! I love the expressions on their faces....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunshine & Dandy Lions- Woodcut

The sketch for my next woodcut. This bugger has been such a PITA and I have re-worked the composition a gazillion times! I'm still working on my coot woodcut, but wanted to start a greyhound... and with the beautiful spring weather here, I am inspired to do a greyhound sunbathing in the yard. Lucy has been my most excellent model for the piece of course- she is the ultimate sun lizard. :o)

I have especially been --mindful-- of two things when planning this piece:
  1. I want it to be fun.
  2. I wonder how other people who draw greyhounds, and landscapes, deal with the "leash issue?" (If you don't have greyhounds, just an FYI that greyhounds cannot be off-lead and most adoption groups require you to sign a contract stating you will NEVER let the dog off leash for the safety of the dog)... so in this case I feel guilty about doing this sketch... should I add a leash in there somewhere?? A fence to show she's in a fenced yard? I mean, I know this probably sounds really funny and/or stupid to non-greyhound people, but I feel strange and GUILTY drawing a greyhound loose because a greyhound off-leash is such a loose cannon- they are sighthounds, taught to chase what moves and ignore distractions (i.e. the race crowds OR a frantically shouting owner- they sound the same lol). I feel like I am endangering the dog in my picture and violating some leash contract. Encouraging off-leashedness, being reckless-! Lord have mercy-!!!! I think, for the sake of my own over-active conscience and paranoia about Lucy In the Picture, I will have to add a fence in there somewhere.
Anyway, after working THAT design glitch out, I hope to transfer to a block and get carving asap... maybe not tonight though. It is gorgeous and I am going to the college stable after work to pick up horse manure. The garden is calling!!!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday with Cliff- Hike at Owasco Flats

After my outing with Lucy, I packed Clifford in the Scion and we headed to the south end of Owasco Lake to walk the Owasco Flats trail outside the village of Moravia. The flats are a marshy area along the end of the lake, and I can only imagine the birding here is fantastic. In fact, I KNOW it is I saw, to my astonishment, a kingfisher! Awesome.

The parking area is right along Route 38, and the trail was amazing. Bugs didn't bother me too much until the last leg of the journey. It was so GREEN and LUSH- of course, this was swamp land along Owasco Creek and through the Flats... really spectacular.

We did get muddy feet. And paws. The trail was very wet.

Can you find the snake in the picture above?? So quick... one minute I was taking his picture, and the next minute he was gone.

Clifford also found the Largest Hole in the county. He was very much interested in it and I wondered briefly if it was home to a little bear? I don't think there are bears in the area, though. And it was pretty close to the river. Maybe a groundhog on steroids? LOL.

The creek was brown, but placid and beautiful.
The trail wound alongside the creek for the first half of the hike, and I have to admit, the nature was beautiful but the humans fishing along the creek gave me odd vibes. Every bubba in the area was out fishing and stared - STARED- at us when we walked by. It was rather disarming. It was like we had two heads, or one eye, or purple skin or something! I said hello to everyone but many didn't say anything back (creepy, can't you return a 'hello'?). They just stared at us. I'm glad I had Clifford with me, or else I would have totally wigged.

Well anyway... not only were we rewarded with spectacular views of the Flats, but we had some great views from the tail end of the lake. This pic is looking north. Just beautiful. I wish I could have captured the stench of rotting fish heads nearby so you could share it with me (there was a huge pile of them... yuck). The smell was the only thing that ruined the view!
Clifford seemed to enjoy the hike, which was great. And besides the creepy looks from most of the fishermen, I did too. We got back to the car just before a huge rainstorm swept in. Perfect!
After exploring this trail, I think it is something Lucy would be able to handle- just a little over a mile, flat, with lots of spots to dip in water to cool off. We will definitely go back soon.


Saturday with Lucy- Hoopes Park

Saturday is, of course, our hiking day. After Dad came with his rider mower to do my lawn (my lawn mower broke! Thanks for coming Dad!!), Lucy and I skipped over to Hoopes Park on the east side of Auburn. This is our old neighborhood- I used to rent an apartment in that area- so it was nice to go back and reminisce a bit. The trees were all flowering and the petals were all over the grass... great for pictures! :)

I just loved the look of Lucy against the fallen petals.... so pretty.
The center of Hoopes Park is a beautiful man-made pond, usually occupied by mallard ducks. This time, I noticed about 6 male ducks and one female swarming around the "overflow" area... where the pond water runs down, down a steep chute and rushes under the street. They were all quacking loudly and I could tell something was going on.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the Mama Duck's brood had all been swept over the dam and were perched precariously on the edge, ready to be swept down the steep chute and under the street. I was panicking for those poor ducklings. They kept jumping at the edge, trying to get over to the main pond, quacking piteously. I have to admit, I considered putting Lucy in a down-stay, taking off her leash, belting myself to the fence with her leash (so I wouldn't be swept over) and balancing over the lip to save the ducklings. I really considered it. But I was too scared to remove Lucy's leash and too scared of scaring the ducklings and sending them plunging over the abyss, under the street. So instead, I just stood on the edge and watched, prayed for those poor things.

Happy Ending: All the ducklings eventually jumped the lip and made it into the main pond!! YEAH. A few were swept back onto the edge, but were able to get back over.

... and, happily, the complete family moves away from the trecherous drainage area! Phew!!

It was a beautiful amble (despite the emotional trauma of watching the duck emergency) and Lucy enjoyed it! So did I, of course. You can't beat a sunny, beautiful day at the park, can you?


Friday at Emerson Park

Some pics from our Friday stroll at Emerson Park in Auburn. Dogs technically aren't allowed from May-October, but we Stuck It To The Man and went anyway. I hate canine discrimination.

So does Lucy, can't you tell?

We saw a pair of snow geese!

... and the trees were blooming with flowers. So pretty.

It was windy and overcast, but nice to be out. The park is about a mile and a half from my house- close enough to walk with Cliff, but that type of hike round-trip is too much for Lucy now. So we drove, parked, and walked. Probably our last trip down until Fall.