Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Return Of Normalcy

One group of my children and grandchildren left yesterday. The other group left early this morning.

The house is quiet - with only the washer and dryer making noises. And that will last for a while yet.

Like all my contemporary friends would say, 
"It is good to have the children here visiting. It is good to see them go back to their own homes."
We oldies are not used to the constant commotion around us. It wears us out.
I will probably sleep for twelve hours tonight.

Don't get me wrong, I was glad to see them.
And I was grateful for them doing all the "Honey-dos."
They racked up and bagged the heaps of leaves in my yard. They fixed up all the things that needed fixing around the house for me - since I am not handy at all. Thank you, kids.

My house is not built to accommodate a number of cooks working simultaneously in the kitchen. So you can imagine the chaos when my one daughter tried to teach her niece, my grand-daughter, how to make an apple pie in the midst of mounts of food, cooked and uncooked on the counter top; not to mention another one or two people trying to do something with the dishes and such, and a dog underfoot . . .
Poor Doby, my grand-daughter's dog, got stepped on many a time. 
He wanted to have a piece of the action nevertheless. He hoped for someone to drop some "goodies" accidentally so he could have a little treat.
May be someone would take pity on him and let him have a piece of bacon or so.
  
For several days, we ate too much. 

We feasted and we no doubt wasted some food. I thought of the hungry children in this world.
We had had enough food in a few days that could have fed a family for a month and more.

The children had far too many toys. They would cast off one to the side when they open another box for another new toy. They did not treasure them like they should, if they had merely a few of them.  May be we need to do a bit of Present-control next year.

Since three of us have birthdays in January, we decided to celebrate them early while we are together. More food, more presents. We did have a good time.

I hope that you and your family did, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Home For The Holidays

I am expecting a great part of my family to be "Home For The Holidays."
There will be five adults, two children, and a dog, at my house for the rest of the week- my two girls and their families. 
It will definitely change the make-up of my household.
I am looking forward to it.

Part of my family will not be with me. My son-in-law, Mark, is having knee surgery today. I hope everything goes well.
I wish you speedy recovery, Mark. 
I will be thinking of you and Melinda.


Being a Blogger has changed my life.  
I thank all of you who are with me on this incredible fun journey.
I will continue to share my story and my thoughts with you in the months to come.

I would like to know something about those of you whom I have not had the chance to know, if you would let me - especially those who do not live in this country - my readers in France, for instance. 

To all of you, I wish you and yours -
Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year.




Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Many Uses Of Shawls

There were many colorful shawls for sale on the street, by street vendors. And they were reasonable in price.

As if by some unspoken agreements, most of the ladies in the group bought some of those beautiful shawls.


But I want to tell you ladies, that is a great way to dress up a bit while traveling.


You see, we have to pack light. Our painting gears take up a lot of space in our luggage, especially for an oil painting workshop. You are on a two-week-long trip and you do need clean clothes. If you are on the move all the time, there was not much chance to do laundry. So, for special occasions, a little black dress with a splash of color of the shawl makes dressing up simple and effective. The shawls take up very little space in the suitcase. Or, black pants and black top would work instead of the little black dress.

Pack a lot of underwear. Old ones that you can wear and throw away. Don't laugh. It works!
This way you have space in your suitcase for souvenirs even!

After traveling a fair number of times overseas, I am pretty good on packing light, believe me.

Here are some other uses for the shawl.
If you have a cashmere one, it would be wonderful. Or a nice acrylic one would work. 
It can keep you warm if there is a change in the weather. 
Roll it up, you have a soft pillow. 
Throw it over your black dress, you are ready to party. A pair of pearl earrings will be icing on the cake!

Always pack a jacket. You never know how the weather would be. One time I went to Hong Kong, thinking that I would not need anything heavy since I was to be in the sub-tropicals. Wrong. The weather turned cold.

Layer. Layer. Layer.

You don't have to have everything matching, matching. But, it helps if you don't have too many wild colors either, unless you are super good at mix and match. Besides, it you are a painter, bright colored clothing is not good for painters - they distort our sense of judging the colors on the canvas because of the reflective lights. Yes, the color of your clothing will reflect onto the canvas, even some on to the palette. Wear dark or medium dark clothing, non-reflective ones, while you are painting.
Trust me. 
Have comfortable walking shoes!
Don't forget you trusted shawl, ladies!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Motel 6"

After being in some luxurious palace-turn-to-hotels for a week, we found ourselves in some place quite different in the Algarve.

We were to spend the next week in a seaside resort. A beautiful place with white sandy beaches, along side some magnificent cliffs. The ocean was wonderfully blue, green, and turquoise. The sky was very clear. The weather was mild, a bit on the warm side during the day. Just right for swimming. And there were lots of sunbathers on the beach. Topless ladies!

From the beach, there were steps leading up to some good restaurants, that perched on top of the cliffs. You could eat your excellent lunch and enjoy the wonderful view.

We did our paintings at the beach a few times. We often would attract a crowd. It seems that people love to see artists perform. 
Somedays, we would visit the nearby towns.
One day, we went to see the Compass in Ponta de Sagres. Impressive!

Rob put us up in some very modest place operated by East Indians. I have nothing against the idea of East Indians being hoteliers. But this one left something to be desired.

This one where we were, was a conversion. Not from a palace, but from some private homes. I could not tell how old the building was - it had zero character to speak of. They probably were low-end apartments or homes at one time. Someone had bought a few of them and made a hotel out of it. 
They had put in an elevator that could hold no more than four people. 
There was no lobby to speak of. 
The breakfast they served us were as colorless as the dining room. Luckily some of us found a bakery nearby. There were freshly baked bread to be had for a reasonable price. Someone would go to the bakery early in the morning and bring back some decent food for the lot of us.

Bev and I shared a room on the third floor. Our room was not much bigger than 12 x 12. Our beds took up most of the room. With our luggage, there was barely room for us to squeeze by. 
Our bathroom was probably not much bigger than someone's powder room in the U.S., with a tiny shower that reminded me of my shower on S.S. Asia (the ship I was on, remember?).

Bev dubbed it Motel 6.

Our saving grace was -
   -we were not in our rooms much (we merely went in there to wash and sleep).
   -we were guests of a Contessa every evening while we were in the Algarve.

The Contessa lived in a nice old home with a lovely yard and a swimming pool.
Every evening, all of us dressed up a bit and went for cocktail. 
We would bring our paintings that we did during the day and gathered for Critique.
Rob was a great critic and he did not baby any one. In other words, he told us frankly what he thought of the work.
One day, he held up a painting and asked who did it. A meek voice from a lady in the back of the group, said that she did.
Rob said, "This is a DOA!" (Dead on arrival.)
Of course, we did not dare laugh. 
Then he did analyze the painting and told us why he said what he said. 
I learned a lot from him.

The Contessa treated us loyally.

Every evening, there were plenty of drinks, wine and other drinks, and plenty of food. One day she had fresh sardines, caught by fishermen that morning. The grilled sardines were delicious! Some of my fellow painters did not like the idea of having the sardines whole, with heads, bones, and all. But I enjoyed them.


With the royal treatment in the evenings, we somehow did not mind so much about our Motel 6.

Bev and I are still very good friends. 

By the way, did I tell you that she is a great painter and teacher? She teaches painting in Ardmore, OK. 

                     
                                      my little art student and his mother

                                          bathers at the Algarve beach


                                        my friends    June    Bev

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Portuguese Doors

I was fascinated by the many, many different Portuguese doors.

I took pictures of them.

After I came home, I started thinking about how I wanted to paint them.

I eventually decided to do small watercolors of them. I did over twenty of them.

Here are a few of them -




Monday, December 15, 2014

The Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve, Portugal, is the southern most region of mainland Portugal.
There are beautiful cliffs, golden beaches, scalloped bays and sandy islands.

It is the third richest region in Portugal, after Lisbon and Madeiron. 

There are plenty of fish and other seafood, and an abundance of fruits including figs.

The bus trip through the picturesque, but winding and twisting mountain roads, was rough on me. I felt pretty bad due to motion sickness, even though I took a motion sickness prevention pill. 
But being in the beautiful Cabo de Vicente was worth it.

We visited Rosa do Ventes Compass in Ponta de Sagres, Algarve. It is the largest compass build in the sand. I believer Vasco da Garma, the 15thC Portuguese explorer, had something to do with it.
Did he invent the compass?
With this invention, Vasco and his men set sail for the East. He was the first European to reach India by sea, thus linking the West and the East - hence the Portuguese colonies in the East.

The compass in the ground is huge and very, very impressive. 

We also visited the Light House, reputed to be the largest light house in the world. We were allowed to go inside to see the massive mirrored panels. It would give out powerful lights for the sailors.
The ocean was rough and cliffs were more than rugged. The sailors' lives depended on the Light House.
The scenery was haunting, but absolutely breathtaking.
And what engineering!

                                          Cabo de Sas Vicente

                                             The Light House

                                           cliffs on the Algarve coast

                        Rosa do Vicente Compass in Porta de Sagres, Algarve

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Trip to Portugal

In the year of 2000, I made a painting trip to Portugal.

I did not know much about Portugal but I was eager to find out.

The man leading the group was a very good watercolor artist, a great teacher, and a seasoned traveler - a wonderful combination. I was excited about the trip.

My friend Bev and I joined a group of painters in Dallas, and made our way to Portugal, via England. The journey was long, but very pleasant. 
Our stop-over in England was very short. We spent a night in a small town near the airport. We were told that if we wished we could ride the train into London for the evening. But all of us were tired. So after a short visit to the nearby little church and the churchyard, we all turned-in early. 
I had one of the best curry chickens for dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening. 

The next day, we flew to Portugal.
Portugal was extremely clean and orderly. The highways were well built and well maintained. 
I saw a lot of cork trees, stripped off their barks. Portugal produces a lot of cork.
The scenery was very nice.
We were in the middle part of Portugal.

Rob, or leader, led us to a beautiful hotel - a former Palace, now turned into a government-owned hotel.
Lovely ancient buildings with modern amenities. What a surprise!
The staff was very helpful.
The food was excellent.

For the first few days, we traveled to surrounding small towns. We painted, we visited museums, and we visited interesting sites. One of the places that stood out in my mind was the Church of Bones. Yes, Bones!
The church interior was made of bones of former monks, nuns, and patrons. Rows of skulls and other bones were used to build the walls. A bit eerie!
We also visited a countryside with Circle of Stones (boulders, really), much like the ones you see in England and Ireland. But there were no stories about them. I guess the site was for ritualistic functions.

I loved the city of Sintra, a former summer palace for the royalty. Sintra sits on a hill, along the coast. It is situated not far north of Lisbon. Sintra reminded me very much of Hong Kong - similar winding roads, similar rock walls. After all, the Portuguese were in Hong Kong in the early days, they must have helped building the streets and walls.
Bev and I rode a horse-drawn-carriage up to the top of the hill where the former summer palace was. The view was spectacular. Bougainvilleas were every where. 
We made a short visit to Lisbon. Lisbon is big and populous. 
The view from the top of the hill was breath-takingly beautiful. We visited the modern museum and saw some very cutting edge artworks. The seaside monuments were awesome.

Then it was time for us to leave. We headed south to the Algarve.

                                         watercolor by Rob Erdle
                          
                                     Cork Trees along the highway

                             more cork trees

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Waffler

What is a Waffler?

Someone who cannot make a decision.

I am not one of them. I sometimes make quick decisions a bit too fast. That is not always a good thing.

However, I cannot understand people who find it so difficult to make simple decisions.

I had a lady associate who worked for me for many years. She was a lovely lady and a pretty good sales person. She functioned well in everyday life, except when she was faced with decision-making.

On occasion, we went out to lunch together, she had a difficult time deciding which item to order. She would decide on something and then change her mind a few times. That usually drove the waiter or waitress crazy. 

It was a wonder that her Waffler characteristic did not affect her clients, since she was in the sales business.

On big ticket items, she could not make up her mind for a long time.

One day she told us in the office that she needed to have some new tires for her car. But she could not decide what kind of tires she should buy and where to buy them. 
She visited the tire companies. She even went out of town for it. This went on for months.

Charlie in the office tried to give her some pointers, but she did not listen.

Since she was a divorcee, she did not have a husband to tell her which tires she should buy and which ones she should not buy.

Her sons knew her too well to offer any suggestions.

We suggested Consumer Reports. 

That did not work either.

So for months, we would have to listen to her agonizing over the dilemma everyday.

It probably took her half a year or so before she finally made the purchase. We were all glad that we did not have to hear about Tires anymore.

She came into the office one day and said,
"I need a new refrigerator . . ."

I soon found that everyone in the office had some work to attend to and I was the only one left . . .




Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Seascape - Waves Coming!

I usually do still life in painting. 
Then I went out of my comfort zone, and did a seascape. 

I took my time and worked on it with a great deal of thought, pondering over many points. 
I did not rush. 
The painting turned out much better than I expected.

I have learned that if I take my time to lay a good foundation for the painting, think before I act in almost every step, and correct my mistakes as soon as I find them, almost immediately, then the overall result becomes much more satisfactory than if I rushed to complete a picture without putting much thought into it.

Like building a house, a solid foundation is a necessity.

I studied with the Russian-American impressionist painter, Ovanes Berberian. I love his works.

He said that laying the foundation should take 85% to 90% of  one's time in painting. Draw. Mass in. Modelling. Do not try to finish the picture too soon. Edit. Change. Make corrections before putting down the finishing touches.

Same idea in building a house. 
Don't decorate too soon. 
Build the house. 
Then decorate it.

Life works the same way, I think.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Me And Free Cell

I have a confession to make. 

I have an addiction. 

I am addicted to playing Free cell on the computer!

When my computer was down, I thought I had withdrawal symptoms.
I kept going to the computer.
I tried to will it to work.
I felt that something was missing.
What was I doing?

We are creatures of habit. Right?
I wanted to play Free Cell.
I was missing my daily dose of Free Cell.

I don't know why is it that I am drawn to playing Free Cell on the computer. I am not even very good at it. But I want to Win! So I keep playing.

I am not really fond of games in general.
I don't watch Footballs. 
Don't Shoot me!

I would watch some Olympic Games.

When I first came to the U.S. My husband took me to a football game - University of Texas Longhorns against Texas A & M Aggies. A Big Deal!
You see, my husband was a die-hard UT graduate, a  Longhorn. 
He did try to explain the game to me. I never did understand the rules. Anyway, when UT made a touchdown, everyone in the stands jumped up and yelled, with their hands waving in the air.
I never saw so many grownups behaving in such a primitive manner. 
In unison no less!

Two of my girls played Tennis when they were young. So I was a Tennis mother. 
They won many trophies.
I went to some of their home games. Being a good mother, I wanted to support the girls.
Well, you know what - the girls would ask me, 
"Mom, do you know what is the score?" 
I did not really, but I would usually know whether they were winning or not, judging by how they and their opponents behaved. Good enough!

I played Bridge many years ago. But my mind would always be wandering while I was at the card game table. I thought of a hundred other things that I could be doing besides.

A friend of mine used to love to play games. She tried to teach me how to play Hand and Foot, and some other card games. None of them appealed to me.

When my children and grandchildren come to visit me, we would play Domino or Skip-Bo. I could take them or leave them, the card games, I mean. 
But, with Free Cell on the computer, that is a different story. 

My Reasoning tells me that I should be doing something else besides trying to Beat this game. 

Alas Free Cell beckons!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Technology vs. Me

Technology won.
Or may be the technician won.

I lost.

Yesterday, I was without my telephone (my land line) and my internet. 
The technician left me high and dry. No one showed up to fix up the problem. The technician did not answer my phone. Thank Goodness for my cell phone so I could still communicate with someone-else, if I had wanted to.

I was quite upset - I could not sleep. 
I almost called the company in the middle of the night to complain. Then, I counted to one hundred and calmed down. No point getting a heart attack over it. Right? 
So, I painted in the middle of the night - Painting calms me down.

I am doing a painting after Van Gogh
You learn a great deal by studying masters - the composition, the values, the colors, and much more.
And the best way to study it, is to copy it. Yes, to copy it!
You look at your copy, and you look at the master's work. You try to find out what is wrong with yours - alas yours is not as good as his!
Eventually, if you ponder long enough, you realize what you have done wrong - your land is not receding. You forget the basics: color fades as the land recedes and it gets bluer, value is lessened, and so on.
Go back to the drawing board! 

I did not realize how I depended on the phone and the internet these days - until I did not have the use of them yesterday. That was a Long day!

We take a lot of things for granted, until we lose it.
The little things, like fresh running water, electricity, clean air, good health . . .

Treasure what we have!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Me vs. Technology

My internet provider kept sending me letters telling me that they have upgraded my neighborhood with their advanced digital network. And they wanted me to have this improved technology.

After receiving the same kind of letter from the company for months, I finally decided to check it out. I was told that I could have unlimited long distance phone call in the U.S. and Canada, and this high speed and new Wi-Fi will -
       turn "my home into a private Wi-Fi hot spot,"
       and help me with improved service. 
The monthly bill will be lower.
I go for the money saving part and the free long-distance phone calls; and I can use improved service - but would it help me with more understanding of this cyber world?

The problem with my relationship with the internet and all these modern technology is not merely a matter of speed. The problem is that I have not yet have the total understanding as how to deal with my computer and the internet. Will I ever?

Speed is not the issue.

Here I am, newly graduated from a tricycle to a bicycle, so to speak. I am barely learning to ride without my training wheels - I am still shaky and I am weaving like crazy. What I need is not a high speed bicycle, but something basic and reliable, so I could get from point A to point B, without having to have help all the time. 

Give me back my training wheels!

Anyway, I called the company, and they were to send me a technician with a new modem and get me set up.
On the day of the appointment, I waited all day and no one showed up to do anything.
I called the following day.
"Our record showed that you now have the use of our new . . . You are all set  up," the man said.  

"I don't think so," I said.

I told the man that no one had come. 

I am still on the old system.

So he went to check and then told me that there was some problem that their engineer had to fix before the technician could set my new system up.
Someone will call me when the problem is solved.

Since it was the weekend, I did not expect anyone to come.

Then Early Sunday morning, the phone rang, the technician announced to me that he would be over to my house shortly. Surprise!

The man came about forty minutes later.
He worked on the connection for an hour or so and then he told me that he could not get it going because there was something that was not connected in the office.

Everything had to wait till Monday.

I am back with my old system.

And I am to call him in the morning. He did not tell me to take two aspirins!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chef Alton Brown

I think you all know who Alton Brown is. The TV chef and Game Show host of the new Cutthroat Kitchen. 

I love Alton's shows.

If you have not seen Alton on the television, I highly recommend him. You will be entertained.

Alton studied film and theater. He worked as a director and cinematographer, and did cinema works. 
He attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After cooking school, he interned with a French chef and found the experience maddening. His boss offered edicts, not explanations. Sounds like some of my art teachers.

He turned up on television in 1999, with Good Eats

Remember Good Eats?

He studied the history and science behind an ingredient or a process and then present what he had learned in a "playful yet punctilious" fashion. He was gentle and urbane. Good Eats became a hit. 

Brown is doing sold-out shows in theaters, touring the country.
You think may be he will come to Ada?

Brown said that he had talked to some anthropologists, and they told him that there were only two activities humans prefer to do in groups, laugh and eat.

So, my friends, during this holiday season when you are with company, laugh and eat.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Some Recipes From La Romita



With holiday season just around the corner, food is on my mind.

I would like to share with you some recipes from La Romita School Cook Book.
Recipes are from our wonderful cook, Tsaura Moretti.

Frittata de Zucchine
Zucchnini Omelet

4 eggs
2 oz. of butter
l med. onion, sliced
2 cups of zucchini, sliced
2 fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced
salt, pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter or margarine

Saute onion in butter and oil in a non-stick skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste, Add 3 Tbs water. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add tomatoes and zucchini, cook for 7 minutes.
Take them out.
Beat eggs in a bowl.
Add tomatoes, zucchini mixture.
Re-oil skillet. Put in mixture. Cook until the bottom is golden. Flip over. Cook the other side until it is golden. Serve.

Here is my take. Since it is a skill to flip the frittata, I would cook the mixture until partly set in a cast-iron skillet. Then bake it in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Serves four to six.


Salsa al Ragu
Ragu sauce

7 oz minced meat (ground meat)
14 oz canned or fresh peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 carrot, 1 celery rib, 1 onion, sliced thin or chopped
salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese to taste
4 oz pasta

Saute meat and vegetables (carrot, celery, onion) in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, and paste. Let it cook for 45 minutes (covered for 30 minutes, and uncovered for 15 minutes)
Cook pasta "al dente". Drain. Mix it with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

This sauce can be used for spaghetti, rigatoni, gnocchi, or polenta.

Boon Appetito!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Drummer And His Wife

They say first impression counts.

They say that you need to give people a good first impression.

What about the people who purposefully want to do the opposite - to give you a first impression that means not to impress you?

One Saturday morning, I was in the office by myself. In walked a couple who wore very low-key looking clothes - the man was in well-washed jeans and a rumpled t-shirt and the woman had on a dark colored skirt and and a black knit top, with no jewelry. However, there was a certain air that they carried, and it made me think that they were not what they appeared to be. But I could not quite figure out what it was that made them different.

They were looking to purchase a piece of property in the country on some small acreage. So I proceeded to work with them as usual and tried my very best to show them what they wanted. By the end of the day, I succeeded in finding them something to their liking. I drew up the contract. By Monday, we made a deal.

When I asked them if they needed a loan, I was told that they would pay cash for the property.

And yes, they could have bought ten times the property that they did - with cash. He was a famous drummer with some internationally known band and had made several gold-records. He was retired and wanted to settle down in a small town like Ada, and to be near their relatives. 
They intentionally dressed down when coming into my office, not wanting to be Taken By Unscrupulous Real Estate people.

They did not know that I would not have treated them any differently if they wore expensive clothing. I had learned a long time ago, not to judge the book by its cover

Treat everyone with the same courtesy whether they wore Brooks Brothers suits or worn jeans.

I had millionaire friends who ran around in t-shirts with holes in them most of the time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunkyung, The Scientist

Sunkyung, my student, came by yesterday and gave me her lovely pastel of "Pear and Grape". A small jewel.

Sunkyung had never touched a pastel stick until last year. 

I gave her some rudimentary lessons on supplies and techniques of pastel painting - she took off running. Yes, she had a few lessons from some other artists in Oklahoma since. But her understanding of color and the workings of pastels amazes me.

This little jewel is not a work of an amateur. Don't you agree?

But it is true that she never did any pastel painting until last year.

She was determined.

She was passionate.

She absorbed any and all information like a sponge.


She was non-stoppable.


Investing in the best materials helped also.


In everyday life, she is an environmental scientist, with a PH.D.

Who says science and art don't mix?



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Rubber Check

In the olden days, as they say, the Broker in the Real Estate office did everything. 

When a piece of property changed hands, the broker did the Closing - wrapping up the deal, so to speak.
On cash transactions, in particular.

Now-a-days, there are professional who specialize in Closing the transactions for a fee, even the bank uses the Closing Agent.
I think the Brokers do not do any Closings at all - a matter of liabilities?

Since my company was a small one, I always did the Closings if there were no loans involved.

We worked on Trust a lot, I believe. 
We accepted checks.

Charlie, my associate sold a piece of property, so I did the closing. I received a check from the buyer and I dispersed the money - paying all the bills, paying Seller and the Realtors. I deposited the check into the House's account.

A couple of days later, I received the returned check in the mail from the bank, marked invalid check - there was no such account. The check the buyer gave me was made out on a non-existing account! 
I immediately called Charlie, telling him to contact the buyer and ask the buyer to come by the office to remedy the situation and to bring Cash to me ASAP.

The buyer came. Instead of apologizing to me, he was irate. He said that I made a mistake. He insisted that his check could not possibly be a bad one, even when I showed the returned check to him. 

"I will not do business with you again," he said, "My check was good."
"Sir, here is the returned check," I said, showing him the returned check.
He was red in the face, but he still insisted that his check was good. He said the Bank made a mistake.
He expected me to apologizing to him.
Did that beat it all?

He did give me the cash. Since it was under ten thousand dollars, it was legal for me to accept the cash.


I wondered, if I were a man, would he have behaved differently? He knew he was in the wrong, yet he would not apologize to me, a woman.

I took his cash and wrote out a receipt for him. Then I bid him farewell, hoping never to see him again.
I was glad that I did not have to do any more business with him.

I ask you, are people really that unreasonable?
My broker, when I first started in the Real Estate business, had told me - rule #1 - Do not trust anyone. 
I forgot?

Live and Learn.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My adopted family, The Mullins

I cannot remember when and how exactly the Mullins befriended me.
Most likely we met when we had some real estate dealings.

It had to be at least thirty some years ago. 

Anyway, Floyd and Bee, an elderly couple, took a liking to me. 

Floyd was tall and lanky, a near six-footer. He stooped a little. Bee was about a foot shorter than Floyd, tiny and slender, with wispy gray hair and a wonderful smile.
Floyd was a retired engineer . 
Bee used to design and make clothes for movie stars in Hollywood back in the forties. 
Sometimes ago, they moved back to Ada to retire. They had a home south of Ada on five acres. Floyd tinkered with whatever he got his hands on. Their backyard was filled with Floyd's finds which he intended to make into something or other. Bee did cooking, sewing, needlework, and gardening.

Somehow they found me. 
With no children of their own, they practically adopted me.

Floyd was handy and he helped me with my rentals. I paid him whatever he billed me, because he was someone I could rely on to get the job done.
Bee was a great cook. She made the best fried chicken and chicken dumplings I ever tasted. I wished that she had given me the recipes.

They would come into my office, insisting on loaning me money to buy rentals. They said that they did not want me to go to the bank for mortgages. Whenever they had some money saved up, they would come by to tell me that they had so much available cash to loan me, for the same interest the bank charged me. We would draw up and sign the proper papers. For them, it was a better interest rate on their money than what the bank paid on savings. And it was cheaper for me. So throughout the years, we had a number of transactions. I usually would pay back the loan before its full terms. They were happy and so was I.

I also helped Floyd purchase some rentals, and helped him with paper-works when he sold them later with owner-financing plans. Oftentimes, I would give him and Bee free advice when they needed some.

One day, Floyd came to my office and asked me if I would be the executrix of his and Bee's estate. He wanted to leave his estate to the University. I thought about it, then I told him that he should have an institution do this for him. Since an institution like the bank would be more permanent than me, an individual. I declined his request. Floyd was a bit disappointed. But I thought it was for the best.
So Floyd and Bee found an attorney who drew up their will and made himself their executor.

Floyd passed away in the early nineties. Bee lived for about ten years as a widow. 
I visited her, but not often enough. 
She said that her attorney and his wife were looking after her and taking care of her affairs.
I did not want to interfere.
Bee passed away in her nineties.

A few years went by. One day I read in the paper, Bee's attorney had mismanaged her estate. He had done the same thing with some other people and was discovered by their heirs.

I wish that I had taken better care of Floyd and Bee.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Head Or Tail?

Near my office, there was a middle aged professional person. He was very friendly and appeared to be quite conservative.
He would come into the office flipping quarters with one of us. It was a game the southerners play sometimes. 
You take a quarter, flip it, cover it with your hand. You ask the other person which side he thinks the coin landed on. Head or tail?
If you guessed correctly you won, you took the quarter; if not, you did not have the quarter.
He did this with us quite often.
Other times, he would just come in for a short visit. I guess that he was taking a break from his work. 
He was self-employed.
We had known him for years.

One day, he came by asking about a property that we had listed. The property was not occupied. He said that he wanted to borrow the key so he could go look at the property by himself. Since we had known him for years, we loaned him the key. 
He brought the key back later, and said that it was not what he wanted.

A few days later, one of the Realtors from another company came and took the key to show the property.
Soon there was a phone call from the Realtor.
"Did you tell me the property was vacant?' she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"There were some people in the house." she said.
"I don't think anyone else is showing it," I replied.
"When I put the key into the lock and try to open the door, there was someone inside pulling on the door, not letting me in . . . "
"That is strange," I said. Wondering who could be in the house. If it was someone else showing the property, there was no reason for the other Realtor to bar the door.

The Realtor came back with the key.
She told me that she was curious and decided to find out who could be in the house.
Long story short, she waited in her car and when the person came out of the house, she tailed him. It turned out, it was our Neighbor!
He was having a rendezvous with someone there. Apparently he had made a copy of my key. 
I was pretty upset. But I decided that I would not confront him.

Of course, he did not dare go into the house again. He knew that we knew about the incident.

It takes all kinds, like we say! 

You cannot trust anyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Weekend.

I wish you and your family Happy Thanksgiving!

When I was in Shanghai, we celebrated Thanksgiving differently. We had to pick a date for the celebration. Astrology was consulted - the right date was picked - the date that was right for the head of the family. 
The date would then be set. Preparations began, food and wine and all the trimmings.

On that day, my father would don his traditional Chinese clothing- a robe of some sort in dark blue silk, a black silk jacket, clothe shoes made by hand. No, he did not wear a hat. Father normally wore Western style clothing, suit and tie. Mother and I will wear something new and festive, mostly in silk. My brothers would be in their new suits. (My sister was not born then, I was the only girl in the family.)

Father was the main person, we were merely there for him.

The two heavy teak wood square tables would be put together, set near the front of the Hall, decorated, and loaded with food. All the doors to the court yard would be open. Incense would be burning, together with fat candles set in tall and heavy copper candle holders. Wine would be heated and poured into fine porcelain cups. Father, facing the court yard, would kneel in front of the loaded tables and offer wine and food to our Ancestors and to Heaven. Kowtowed three times, with three rounds of wine being offered. Thanking God for a Good Year.

Afterwards, the family would sit down for a feast. 
The servants would have theirs in the kitchen later.
Every dish signified good luck, god fortune, and long life - to ensure that the following year would be better than the one before.

We had to scale down those celebrations during Japanese occupation, during the War. After we fled to Hong Kong, we stopped doing it. There was no room for the ceremony, there was not enough money probably. The tradition was lost.

Now, I celebrate Thanksgiving in my small way in the U.S., with turkey and all the trimmings. but I am still thankful for a Good Year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

P.S. I have completed 150 posts. I will be off for a few days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

He was of average height, not fat nor thin - an average person around mid or late thirties.
He looked a little bit rough on the edges, but polite.
He said that he was a teacher, just moved to town.

Dennis came into my office one day that summer, looking for a rental. I did not have any. I did try to refer him to some others in town.
He lingered in the office, asking about job opportunities. 
I told him that I did not have any work for him in the office. He said he would do anything, yard work or house painting, before he started his teaching job. He said that he could use the money.

I told him that I did have a couple of rooms that needed to be painted at home. So we made arrangements for him to do the two rooms at my home. 


Dennis came not really prepared. Luckily, I had paint brushes, paints, drop clothes, and other materials ready. 
My husband had to go to town for something. So I was in the house and I painted along side with Dennis. During the few hours following, Dennis asked  to use my telephone to call his girl friend several times. By the time the two rooms were painted, I had done more work than he did. 
My husband came back. 
Dennis asked him for a ride back to where he was staying. My husband took him.
My husband always said I was a sucker for people who gave me sob stories.
I mere shrugged. I only tried to help.

Time went by.

My husband was reading the paper. He asked me if the guy who painted our room was named Dennis so and so. I said, yes. I asked him why he wanted to know.
"You had a murderer in our house!" he said.

Turned out that there was a terrible murder in town. Dennis and another person were arrested and convicted for murder.

I did not think that Dennis looked dangerous, I told my husband.

Dennis was convicted and was imprisoned for many years. He studied law while he was in prison. For years, he tried to prove to the court that he was innocent. Finally, with the help of a group that fight to prove the wrongfully imprisoned, and with the new technology of DNA, Dennis and the other person were proven innocent and released from prison. 
He wrote a book about his wrongful imprisonment. 
He devoted his time working to help the wrongfully imprisoned to be released. 

John Grisham wrote a book about the event. 
Grisham did not paint a good picture of Ada.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Bye To The Real Estate World

After I sold my business, I stayed with Karen for the year. However, she decided that owning a business was not for her. Instead, she sold the building and went to work for another broker.

I felt a bit sad. 
After all, House of Real Estate was my baby so to speak.

I decided not to let this bother me. 
Life goes on, right?
I kept my license and hung it with another broker. But I did not keep office hours. I was more or less retired, though I did a few transactions during the years when I hung on to my license.

One of my daughters asked me if I ever was to go back into Real Estate full time. I said. No, I don't think so. She thought it was foolish for me to hang on to my license and pay the high yearly dues. I agreed. I finally turned in my license at the end of 2003.

I did not at all regret ever being in the Real Estate Business. As a matter of fact, it was a job I really loved. And the timing was good when it happened. And it was a means for me to obtain my goals.

When you are dealing with people, many things happen.

I would like to recount to you some of them - 
some funny, some sad, some ridiculous, some unbelievable. Tune in.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Micro-aggression

I went to the Ada Writers' meeting yesterday morning. We had a presentation given by one of our members on - 
"Unconscious Ideas In Writing."

The speaker said that we all know words have power. Therefore, we need to make every single word count. True.

She talked about Micro-aggression. A comment, a phrase or a word can appear harmless, yet it can affect us in every way, our thinking, even our health.

She told us to try to be unbiased in writing.
Can we? Really now.
We have been brain-washed far too long to change?

How many times have I heard people say to me, "Oh, you are Chinese!"
I am American.

"Oh, I just love the Chinese."
Oh, you don't.

"I have a niece who married a Chinese . . . "
What can I say?

Love me for I am and not for my heritage.

"You are pretty sprite for an old woman!"
Old? Young? Is being sprite the characterics for the young only?

How many times have you heard people say, "You are pretty smart for a girl!"
Girls are nor supposed to be smart?

We are all biased. We all have prejudices. I don't know if we will ever really change. Do you?
But I will try to be careful about the unconscious ideas in writing. May be you should, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Contradictions And Paradox

Contradictions and Paradox, that is the way of life.

I love traveling. 
I love being home.

I am organized. 
I am messy.

I love shopping. 
I love saving money (I love bargains!)

I am health conscious. 
I binge at times.

I like people. 
I like to be alone.

I love to keep busy. 
I love to loaf (I love doing nothing sometimes.)

I wear a lot of black.
I like color.

I am not a conformist.
I am traditional.

I am detail-oriented.
I look for big pictures instead of details.

I am broad-minded.
I am critical.

That's me.
That's life.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Etruscan Country And More

If you ask me which hilltop town was my favorite, I could not tell you.

It is like asking a mother which child is your favorite, right? 

Each town has its own unique characteristics.
Besides Assisi -
Todi sits on top of a hill that overlooks the Valley of Tiber River, on the border with the ancient Etruscan territory. Surrounded by medieval walls. Sitting at an open-air cafe, overlooking the valley, I saw aqua-ducts across the valley. Marvelous engineering of the ancient Romans. The air was clear. The sky was deep blue. You slow down and "smell the roses."

Perugia is an Etruscan City, with quaint winding lanes and stone arches. As a matter of fact, most of the hitlltop towns have winding lanes and stone aches.  But each with a somewhat different flavor.
I sampled their famous white truffles with delicious pasta at a restaurant near the piazza. It is one of the towns that hosts the famous Umbria Jazz Festivals in the summers.

Orvioto, another Etruscan town, half way between Rome and Florance, is famous with its white wine. I loved the Etruscan artifacts. There was a certain gracefulness with the Etruscans.

Dumo has a Gothic Romanesque Cathedral, with the bronze door sculpted by Emilo Greco. I managed to climb up there to view it. A piece of wonderful art. Very well done.
And a good climb!
It was amazing to see elderly Italians, men and women, walking with ease, up and down those winding lanes. A lot of them with canes. They do not need gyms. They have enough exercises walking.

Carsulae, ruins of a Roman settlement, has some remains of a basilica and an amphitheatre. We walked on the amazingly engineered stone roads built by the Romans years ago, imagining the chariots rushing by.

Labro, on a weekend, the men gathered in front of a restaurant with their young children. While the children were playing, the men visited. Mothers not allowed? 
Bougainvilleas spilled over stone walls. Window boxes flowing with colorful flowers.

AT San Germini, the closest town to Terni, where La Romita is, we went to the Abbey of St. Nicolo. San Germini is a medieval hamlet, with natural mineral springs.

Spoleto, a city with loads of charm, hosts the world famous Festival die Due Mondi, a celebration of art, music and theater, and Jazz Festivals in the summers.
Medieval era shops lined the narrow streets.

Good food, good wine, good companion, wonderful surroundings, and all of us making art. What more can you ask?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hilltop Towns

Throughout the two wonderful weeks, we visited more than a dozen hilltop towns, including San Germini, Labro, Narni, Todi, Orvieto, Perugia, Spoleto, and Assisi.

We were very fortunate that most of the towns were not overran by tourists. 

Assisi was the exception. 

Assisi was a bit further from Terni than the other towns, and it took a good long day for us to go there and return to La Romita.
Assisi, The City of Peace, named after St. Francis Assisi, is an UNESCO Heritage Site. This famous town is a well preserved medieval construction on the slopes of Monte Subiacoin in Umbria.
And what a view!
A few years before, the earthquake damaged part of the Bacilica Di San Francesco. They were doing some repair works in the Upper Basilica when we were there. We did get to see most of the impressive interior. The fresco was breathtakingly beautiful. 
We did not go to the Lower Basilica.
We saw the monks in their San Francesco habits walking in the streets.
This colorful town was filled with pilgrims and tourists. 
There were many artisan shops. 
A Roman Temple sat right there near the main piazza. Much of the architecture was intact. 
The streets were narrow and crowded. 
The temple was quite imposing.

In those hilltop towns, there were times that lugging my gears and climbing those winding lanes became a bit much for me. I resorted to doing some little watercolors.

Here are two of them:




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mistaken Identity

I met Liz in New Mexico at Ann's studio, the year before.
She was also a great admirer of Ann's. When we learned that Ann would be doing a workshop in Italy, we both signed up and arranged to be room-mates.

Liz was quite a bit younger than I was. A gorgeous blonde with a great figure. She was also very sweet and genuine, and she was a great painter.

August in Umbria was pretty warm during the day. Liz worn little short shorts and tank tops. Men whistled when she walked by. Bev said that we should tell her to wear something else, but none of us wanted to hurt her feelings. So no one said anything. After all, Liz was a grown woman.

One day, we went to a nearby hilltop town. Ann found a good spot for us to paint. Some of us stayed on the bridge overlooking a valley. Some of us went to nearby spots that they liked better. I stayed on the bridge with Bev. Liz was some hundred yards from us.

A black car went by, then it turned around, and stopped near Liz. Two men in black suits got out of the car, approached Liz. Then they tried to pull Liz into the car. Liz started screaming and screaming. Many of us ran towards her, wondering what was happening. 
Kidnapping in broad day light?

Turned out, the men were detectives from the local police department. There was a French woman of Liz's description passing bad checks in town that morning. The detectives thought Liz fit the description and they were trying to arrest her. 

Liz did not say anything when they were pulling her into the car.  She did not speak Italian. She merely screamed. Some one in our group did speak Italian and manged to clear up the situation. The detectives apologized. But the damage was done. Liz was badly shaken up.

Enza was angry. She called everyone she knew in town and demanded public apology from the authorities. She was going to the mayor. She was going to call the radio station, the newspaper . . .

After that day, Enza gave each of us a card, saying that we were students at La Romita and so on . . .  We had to carry the card with us all the time.

Liz had a terrible sore throat for the next few days. She became very quite. We did not know what to do to help her. Tea and sympathy?
Liz did not want to call long distance to tell her husband - she did not want to alarm him, since there really was not anything that anyone could do.

A mistaken identity! 

We told her that we were there for her - as if that helped any.

It was not a good experience for her.

To Become A Better Artist

I want to pass on to those of you who are interested -
Tips To Become A Great Artist (or should I say a better artist)

    Look at great art.

    Read.

    Study.  

    Find a place to paint.

    Make small studies.

    View your work in progress- 
        paint on an upright easel from a distance 
    and in every orientation.

    Learn to make good photos for references. 

    Work in more than one genre.

    Enter shows.

    Sell your work.

    Make the time.

    Reward yourself.

Happy painting!

You can probably apply most of this in any endeavor of yours.

I might add - Be passionate about whatever you are pursuing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Portrait Of A Painter?

Oftentimes, at a workshop, the students would paint one another.

I learned that Fellow students make great painting subjects.

One afternoon, I was painting in the courtyard. Without my knowledge, Eleanor, a professional painter from Florida, painted me. She made me looking younger and better. Me, the imposter (I, being an amateur painter). 
When she showed the painting to me, I had to have it, of course. So she let me buy it from her. 
Eleanor is a great painter. I love her style. Needless to say, I treasure her portrait of me painting.
So here it is -


                            me      by Eleanor Blair      oil
 
The courtyard was beautiful, full of flowering shrubs and potted plants. I was painting the building where we had our meals. Some years ago, I had given that painting to a friend. Regretfully, I neglected to keep a photo of it.

Eleanor also gave me a lesson on Plein-aire painting. Thank you, Eleanor.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Under the Umbria Sun

True to what La Romita promised, we were taken by the private bus to one, or sometimes, two of the little hill towns in the surrounding areas every day.

The group consisted of some twenty plus people of all ages and different nationalities, most of us were from the states. Everyone was excited to have the opportunity to paint in this one of the loveliest parts of the world.

The sun seemed brighter than where I came from. The scenery was certainly inspiring. Every where you look, you could visualize a painting or two. You did not even have to take any steps. By merely turning around, a picturesque scene came into view.

However, you soon began to realize that a simple pretty scene does not necessarily make a good painting. Here lies the difference between the greenhorns and the seasoned painters. 

On some mornings or evenings, Ann would lecture to us, giving us pointers and helping us along the way.
Then we had to practice - thus the reason for a number of us painting in the former chapel late into the night, with Jesus, Mary, and the many saints from the fresco looking down upon us. 

There were a number of professionals - painters, sculptors, and illustrators, in the group; and they were generous about sharing their knowledge with some of us.

And the thrill of watching Ann demo was priceless.

Outdoor painting is intimidating to me. There is so much that we see in front of us. 
Where do you begin?
What to paint? 
How do I choose which scene? 
My senses are assaulted by all the shapes and colors, from all directions. 
And dealing with the ever changing light. Help!
  
You are overwhelmed!

After a while, you grit your teeth and forge ahead.
Sometimes you surprise yourself by doing a decent painting, in spite of everything. 

Ann inspired us all.

                           Painting by Ann Templeton        Hill Top Town