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 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


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.



    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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Converted Monastery

In the morning, we went to the airport. The bus from La Lomita was there to pick everyone up -  those who were arriving that morning and those who had been in Rome already - and to take us to the school in Terni.

We headed north, leaving Rome. I silently wished that one day I would come back and to really get to know Rome.

We left the city and drove through the country.
There was music in the air.
The fields looked like patchwork quilts.
Olive trees aplenty.

La Romita School of Art sits high on top of a hill. The winding lane going up to the school was lined with olive trees. I learned later that they make their own olive oil. It was very good, because we had the chance of sampling it, almost everyday.
There were sheep grazing along the way. 
There were flowers blooming.

Then we were there, at the converted monastery.
Enza was there to welcome us.

I had one of the ten rooms in the main building. My Friend from Arizona was my roommate. My other friend, Bev, had a room upstairs.
Our room was just big enough for two narrow single beds, black wrought iron, with plain but very crisp and clean white linens. No frills. I strongly believed it was a former monk's cell. 
The bedding was definitely an improvement from years ago.
The room was very simply decorated (if you can say it was decorated at all).  I would not be surprised, if our narrow single beds were used by some of the monks at one time. There was a small night stand, a simple black chest of drawers and a little black desk with a small straight-backed chair. 
Thank goodness, they provided us with two little reading lamps.
A cross was hanging on the wall. No pictures. There was a small mirror, for our benefits, I was sure. 
No curtains, but shutters outside the windows. We kept the shutters closed at night so the bats would not come into the room.
There were two bathrooms on each of the two floors, they had been modernized around mid century.
Apart from the main building, there was a two story stone building, much like some garage apartment, Some of the students stayed there. That building was probably a new addition.
There was a separate charming one story building for dining, with a kitchen attached. A lady came to La Romita every day and cooked for us. She was an excellent cook. During the two weeks I was there, she never repeated any of her dishes, a new one everyday. And delicious every time!
For breakfast, we helped ourselves. There was the usually simple continental fares, tea, coffee, bread, butter, jam, cereal and fruits. 
It was the cook's time off. 

The chapel had been turned into a studio, but the original altar was still there. There was a beautiful fresco on the wall of Jesus, Mary, and saints. Some of the colors were still fairly bright. 
One small area next to the chapel had been turned into a kind of "common room" where we could sit and read; or make a cup of coffee or tea; or have some soft drinks from the little refrigerator. It was very charming and cozy. There was a small library of art books. There were a few things that we could purchase: La Romita cookbooks with menus of the food we were served everyday, local olive oils, a few handmade artworks . . .
Many of us spent a lot of our spare time in the "studio." Some of us would paint into the wee hours of night.

On one side of the studio, there was a large courtyard, paved with stone. On the other side, there was a formal garden. From there, you could see for miles into the valleys and the hills around. The view was awesome.

For the next two weeks, I was surrounded by good food, good company, and good learning opportunities. 

I even enjoyed the wine. There were carafes of them at lunch time as well as at dinners, white ones and red ones, locally made.
The wine was good. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Holy See

The Holy See - The Vatican City.

On a beautiful sunny August morning in 1999, my two friends and I arrived in Rome, Italy.

We checked into our hotel in the Vatican City. A place full of old world charm.

The long journey made us a bit weary. But we were so excited to be in Italy, and we were determined to make the best of our short stay at the Vatican City.

The hotel was located within walking distance of St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican museums. We wanted to visit them all.

We definitely had to visit the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. 
So off we went.

What can I say about the Vatican City that has not been said by millions of people. 

It is awesome! 

Standing in the middle of the piazzas, you feel really small and insignificant. The place was enormous and magnificent. 
On the day we were there, it was near off season, therefore, it was not too crowded.
You viewed the many larger than life statues on the top of the walls. They looked so samll - your eyes can play tricks on you when you are in the midst of such a vast and imposing area. 

Every one of the statues was a master piece.
The Renaissance architecture was amazing.

We saw the colorfully dressed Swiss Guards.

There were treasures in the museum where ever you turn. 

The Sistine Chapel was undergoing some repair work at that time, but it did not take away the beauty of Michelangelo's masterpiece. It was a strange feeling to see the real thing when you had seen many reproductions of parts of this famous work for a long time. You feel that everything was surreal. 
I joined the many visitors, and sat for an extended period along the wall. With our necks cranked, we stared at this awe-inspiring ceiling, speechless. 
How did Michelangelo do it? 

Later, we had some cold drinks at an outdoor cafe just outside the Palace and did some people watching - I enjoyed that. There were people from all over the world, tourists. And there were everyday people who lived and worked in Rome. A sea of interesting human beings.

After a delicious dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, we spent a most pleasant and quiet time in a beautiful garden before we finally called it a day. 

And What a Day!  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

La Romita, School Of Art

In the fall of 1999, I joined my teacher, the conceptual colorist, Ann, again. This time in Italy.

La Romita, School of Art, a converted five-hundred year old monastery, founded by two artist sisters, Paula and Enza Quargnali, who inherited the property from their grandfather. The former church had been turned into a studio.
The school sits on top of a hill in the hill town of Terni, Umbria - about a couple of hours north of Rome by car.

For less than $1,800, you had ground transportation on private bus, accommodations, meals, and art instruction for two weeks. It did no include lunch during full day trips - the better to sample local fares. You just need to get to Rome.

Every year since the seventies, this non-profit school offered nine two-week sessions of workshops.

This is part of what appears in their brochure -
Sample Itinerary
Day 1   Arrival (lunch, a rest, then Terni for shopping)
Day 2   San Gemini (medieval hilltop jewel)
Day 3   Carsulae (ruins of a Roman town)
Day 4   Assisi (mystical home of St. Francis)
Day 5   Orvieto (the incredible Cathedral)
Day 6   Stonecone (classic walled twon)
Day 7   Civita di Bagnoreggio (Rick Steve's favorite)
Day 8   Scheggino (riverside)
Day 9   Todi (a favorite of US artists)
Day 10 Labro ("spills down the hillside like frosting")
Day 11 Villa Lane (the perfect Renaissance garden)
Day 12 Perugis (a capital of Etruscan confederation)
Day 13 Spoleto (home of the Festival of Two Worlds)
Day 14 Valle San Martino (tiny, perched on a hill top)
Day 15 (Morning departure with a lifetime of memories)

I could not pass this opportunity up, could I?

So, in August of l999, Two of my artist friends and I arrived in Rome, a day before going up to Umbria. We wanted to spend a little time in Rome.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Retirement? Or, Another Job?

Did someone say that retirement is paying yourself to work at something you love?

The year after my painting trip to Mexico, I started planning for retirement, or rather, planning for a different Job - being an artist.

No, I was not going to run a business. But I wanted more time to make Art.

I turned seventy in January of 1999. In six months' time, I had to withdraw from my retirement accounts by law. It would not be making any sense for me to be working. Besides, the business of selling real estate had become much more complicated and the whole industry was changing. 

I had always told myself, if I ever felt that I do not look forward to going to my office in the morning, then it is time to do something else.

It was Time!

I sold my business and the building to my associate. I promised to stay with her for one year to help her get established.

At that time, I still had a couple of rent houses left. So I turned one of them into my office/studio. The office part did not really work out, but the studio part did.

I remodeled the property and made it my art studio.

It was a project! Lot of work. Lot of headaches.
But the end result was great.
I had my own studio.

My husband's health had been deteriorating. He had stopped fishing and hunting. He was not able to do much gardening either. He could still go to his Tuesday morning breakfast with his former colleagues. He was good at keeping track of his own medications. And he spent a lot of his waking hours in front of the television - he loved watching sports.
Every once in a while, we would go to Las Vegas for a short visit. It was his outing.

However, no house was big enough for two retired people. 

My studio became my sanctuary. 

And I was planning my next overseas painting trip.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Veterans Day.

Thank you, to all of you, who risk your lives to keep us safe.

I, for one, cannot imagine the real horrors of war though I grew up closely under the shadows of wars.

We are at war now. Yet we can carry on with our lives as usual. There are no rations, or street fights, or riots where I am.  If I do not turn on the TV for any news, I would not know that there is a war going on, for us.

There are always wars going on in the world, however.

Do you know the book, All was Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque? The first book that actually described some of the realistic happenings in a war. I read that many years ago.
Of course, there have been many more stories written about wars, whether they were fought in the fields or on the streets or else where. 

Still, it is not easy for me to imagine the physical and mental sufferings. 
I have not been there. 

So thank you again, veterans.

And thank you to those brave men and women who are protecting us right now.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Cleopatra's Sister"

"Cleopatra's Sister" by Penelope Lively.

I was so engrossed in this page-turner of a book that I could not put it down until I finished it. 

Do you ever do that?

A great read! 

The blurb said that - 

". . . the past has always seemed to haunt the present in Penelope Lively's novels . . . her book explores the role of choice and contingency in human life and in the stories we construct about our lives and the world.
". . . a novel that sparkles with wit, humor, and keen insight into the storytelling faculty of the human mind."

Wish I could have said that.

Sadly, in most of of lives, we are too busy living for the moment, or making a living, we do not stop to think and ponder. 

We normally do not have the insight into the human mind. I certainly do not.

A Pity!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Rains Came

Our two weeks at beautiful Sayulita went by too fast.

The morning we were leaving, the rains came. 

As soon as we had loaded our luggage in the taxis, the weather changed. 
The rains poured down in torrents. Within in minutes, there were signs of mud slides. 
The wind started up.
The maids were screaming as they ran down the wet slippery stone steps.

The taxi had come just in time to take us to the airport.

I did not know how long the rain lasted and how much damage it did to Villa Amor.

We were lucky to have had two weeks of wonderful weather. We had made memories to last us a life time.

                                          my little watercolors

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ginger Iced Tea And Art Lessons

One day we went into town and painted around the town square.

Perfect set up!
The buildings were colorful. So were the people.

There was a little open-air cafe where we could buy something to eat and drink. The cafe was operated by an American expatriate - a lady from California. 
That was where I learned about Ginger Iced Tea.
    Make a large cup of hot tea with one or two black-tea tea bags - one per cup if you don't want it too strong,
    Put a few slices of fresh ginger in it, let it steep for a few minutes,
    Add some sugar, pour over lots of ice in a tall glass. (Careful - use ice made with bottled water in Mexico, no tap water.)
There you are, a refreshing cold drink for a hot day.

There is something about how artists seem to attract people.
You set up your easel, you squeeze out your paints, you pick up the brush - before you know it, you attracted a crowd, young and old.
You will hear them comment on your painting. It was a bit unnerving in the beginning. Then, it became fun. 
The kids all want to try their hands at painting or drawing.
I happened to have some paper and pencils with me. Before long, I had a little group of students, enthusiastically drawing. They all wanted to know when we could do this again. So we worked out some way to meet up with them again.
Our impromptu art lessons.

There were a few tourists in town. One of them loved Ann's work - Ann was doing a demo. The lady asked if Ann would sell her work. Of course, Ann would. But when she learned that Ann's works cost quite a bit, she backed off. 

Ann knew that I had been making little postcards. So she turned to me and said, "Loretta, do you have some of your little watercolors that you would like to sell to this lady?"
What do you know? The lady bought a couple of them, for five dollars a piece. 
Tourists wanted souvenirs. What better ones than original art?

Did that make me a professional?

Paint And Play

   my painting - Don Pedro restaurant  oil

In the mornings, I would do some small watercolors on postcard stocks, at our breakfast bar.
I could not resist the beautiful ocean view from the terrace.

I had seen ocean views in Hong Kong, but it was nothing like the ones in Sayulita. The water was so colorful - the blues, the greens, the aquamarines, even purples, and reds  . . .
And the waves! Coming in non-stop.
In the beginning, the waves kept me awake at night. Then, I finally got used to it.
And, I did not expect it to be so cold. After the sun went down, the wind came up, it was quite chilly.
I had to purchase some warm clothing - a poncho! 

At about 9:30 or 10:00 in the mornings, we gathered at a rooftop terrace across from my Tree House. Our classes began. Ann would give us some lectures, then she would do a demo and we would paint. 
Our workshop was on Oil painting. We had lessons on equipments, paints, composition, color, value, the works . . . I learned in two weeks about oil painting, more than I did in several years in Ada.

Some days, we would go to town to paint.

Late afternoons, we lined up what we produced during the day along the walls and had our Critique sessions. You would be surprised how much work we could produce. Some of us in the group were seasoned painters, they would show some amazing paintings, two or three for each day.
Of course, many of us were painting from dawn to dusk. We were always reluctant to quit in the afternoons. The sunsets were glorious.

In the evenings, all of us would dress up a little and went to Don Pedro's for dinner. Or, sometimes, we would go to the open air restaurant on the beach and had those freshly caught fish. There were a lot of margaritas flowing!
Then we would walk along the beach, back to Villa Amor, or to the casitas, or to where-ever any of us were staying.

We always brought our flashlights. 
There were no street lights.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Winners of Art Shows

                               my win          Blooms      mixed media 

 I thought that I will give you a report on how Sunkyung, Charlotte, and I did at the recent art shows we entered.

We did not do so well in Sulphur, where the judge apparently did not like our works. None of us got any awards.

But in both Madill and Holdenville, all of us did well. Sunkyung especially. One of the ladies there told her that she 'stole the show.' Of course she had to explain what that meant to Sunkyung. Sunkyung won four ribbons and prize money, and sold one piece. With two possible sales pending. In Madill, she got four ribbons and prize money, and sold one painting. 
How is that for a beginner painter? 
Charlotte had four ribbons and some prize money from Madill; and three ribbons and prize money from Holdenville and sold one painting.
I collected five ribbons and prize money from Madill; and four ribbons and prize money from Holdenville. 

We received enough money to cover entry fees, lunches, and travel (we don't really count what we spent on materials), with a little left over. 
Skill and talent? We can't put a value on them now.

You know what they say - Starving artists!

But for us, the most important part is, it made us feel extremely good.

So for those of you who paint or do any handiwork. Enter shows. It is fun!
Don't be discouraged if you don't win. There is always a next time, a next town. A different judge?

Happy art making!

                                           drawing by Charlotte     

                                 Chinese Ink painting by Sunkyung

                                  still life by Sunkyung          oil

                                monotype  by me

P.S. Sunkyung started painting in oil thirteen months ago.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Plein-aire Painting

Painting outdoors was a new experience for me.

It is not for the faint of heart.

I was probably one the greenest painters in the group. It was exciting, but it was really difficult - comparable to my sink or swim experience. Although it was not a matter of life or death, you felt like you could be embarrassed to death in the beginning. But we all learned to have thick skins eventually. 

To have your work constructively critiqued in front of a group was one of the best ways to learn.  

Ann was a wonderful teacher and she taught all of us from the very basics up. It never hurts to hear again and again what we had been told.

Ann was a colorist. She opened my eyes to colors, colors I never saw before.

Most of the students in the group were extremely likable people, upbeat, gregarious, fun-loving, broad minded, and friendly.

What better way to spend two weeks in paradise with a group of like-minded people!

Here are two paintings done by Ann Templeton in Mexico.

P.S. Sadly Ann passed away in 2012.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Tree House

Sayulita, a small fishing village on the coast of Pacific Ocean, was not yet been discovered by tourists in 1998.

Villa Amor sat right on the coast, with ocean front view for every room.
The hotel compound could be reached by a five or ten minutes walk along the beach from town.
It was built by a couple from California.
Part of the hotel was built into the mountain, like the cliff dwellings. My room was in that part, on the second level. I believer there were four levels.
My living room was actually a large open terrace.
There were two bedrooms. One behind the little breakfast bar, with a half wall, no doors - an extra-large niche in fact. You could watch sunset in the evening lying in bed.
The other bedroom did have walls and some louver doors. It was a round room, with a palapa roof. There were three large holes in the wall where a tree branch came into one hole and went out of the other two. That was my room. My painter friends called it my tree house.
There was a fairly large bathroom, with no doors (there was a curtain). There was an open shower, a modern commode, and a painted wash-basin with a sculpture of a head as a faucet. I learned to keep a towel around the curtain when taking a shower so the water would not run all over the terrace - they failed to slant the floor to the drain properly. But it was most interesting and quaint.
There was a heavy carved wooden front door with a lock.
Actually if anyone wanted to come into the suite, they only needed to climb up the mountain, went to the other side of the "building" and climb right down into my terrace living room.
There was no railing on the terrace, merely a slight rise.
One could bend over a little and see the neighbors downstairs. The neighbors on the upper level could do the same, and see me.
But Oh the View! Breathtaking!
Waves pounding, almost nonstop, day and night. There were surfers.
Then, there were fishermen. If you get up early enough, you could see them coming to shore with their catch. We would go down to the open-air restaurant down the beach and have the freshest fish for dinner.

Marge finally came. She was to be my room-mate.
She did not like to climb the steps, so she stayed in another part of the hotel. Instead, I had a wonderful young woman from Montana as my room-mate.

                                       Sayulita. Nayarit, Mexico

                                          View from Villa Amor


                                     Villa Amor    Terrace/living room

P.S. I got these pictures from a Site on Sayulita. Sayulita has been discovered by tourists now. Last time, I went there in 2006. It was getting crowded. But the view was still beautiful.
My terrace did not have such furniture in 1998.

My First Painting Trip

In 1998, I signed up to go to Ann's painting workshop in Sayulita, Mexico, a small fishing village north of Puerto Vallarta.

I was really excited about the trip. I got all my painting equipments and supplies ready and packed a few of my clothes.

I said good-bye to my husband, "See you in two weeks."

I had made arrangements to meet with a lady from Kansas. We were to fly together to Puerto Vallarta, then take a taxi to this small fishing village, about an hour's ride north.

I flew to Houston, met Marge at the airport and we boarded the plane, separately, since she was flying standby.
The plane took off.
Soon the stewardess came by and said to me, "Your friend told me to tell you that she had been bumped off."
I looked at her in disbelief. 
I am on my own!
Ann had given me instructions as how to take a taxi from the airport to Sayulita. I had memorized it. 
I guess I had to do this by myself.

I don't speak Mexican. But I said to myself, I can do this.

As we got closer to Mexico, I started to feel uneasy.
There was a nice young man, apparently from Mexico, sitting across the isle from me. So, I asked him if he knew anything about Sayulita. He said Yes, he did. He was actually from a neighboring region. He said that he had been to Houston for some business and he was going home.
Then, he asked me what was I going to do in Sayalita and how was I going to get there.
I told him that I was going to a Painting workshop. 
I had little knowledge of the place since I could not find much information about this little fishing village at that time. And I was to take a Taxi.
He said that he was going that direction and could possibly give me a ride. But he had to ask his friend, who was sitting in the front some rows ahead of us. 

The plane was approaching the airport. We were descending.

He said for me to meet him inside the airport after we landed and he then would be able to tell me whether he could give me a ride or not. 
So I said, "Good, I will see you on the ground."

He told me his name was Roberto.

Puerto Vallarta had a very simple airport at that time, a steel building with no frills.
I saw Roberto.
"We will give you a lift." he said. 
He helped me with my suitcases.
Then, he and his friend led the way to the parking lot. There was a car waiting for them. There was a husky Mexican. Their friend? 
He was the driver. 
They crammed my luggage, together with theirs in the trunk. And the four of us got into the small car. 

Ann had told me that after I left the airport, I should turn Left.

Roberto's driver turned Right.

Roberto and his friend said that they needed to find an ATM machine.
So, we headed Right, and drove on.
I told myself not to panic. Be Calm.
We drove for quit a while. Finally, there was an ATM machine. So Roberto and his friend got some money from the machine.
Then the car turned around, we were heading Left. 
I heaved a sigh of relief silently.
Roberto and his friends talked in Mexican. I could not understand a word.
I said to myself, at least we were heading in the right direction.

Roberto asked me if I was hungry. Would I like to stop and have something to eat?
"I am fine," I said.
I was hungry, but I wanted to get to Sayulita as soon as possible. I did not want any detours!

So we drove on, through mountains on a winding two lane highway, with very few towns along the way.
There was a roadside restaurant - if you can call it that. It was a shack.
The car stopped. Roberto and his friends said that they were hungry and needed food. So we went into this open air shed. Roberto asked me again if I would like something to eat.
"No, thank you," I said. 
I did not want to be sick the first day in Mexico.
"How about something to drink?" he said.
"A soft drink would be fine," I said. I thought a bottle of coke would be safe.

Robert and his friends had some seafood which looked absolutely delicious. I was hungry, but I kept a poker face.
When my coke came, the bottle looked like it had been around a decade or so. I gingerly wiped the lime around the rim and drank from the bottle.

"You look worried," Roberto said.
I did not know what to say. I tried a smile.
"Don't worry, we will get you to Sayulita," he assured me.
Then he told me that he was an attorney, visiting a University in Houston, and now, returning home.
I smiled at him and told him, "Thank You."

After the meal, we drove and drove and drove. I wanted to shout, "where is Sayulita?"
Finally, there was a sign pointing to the left, 3 kilometers to Sayulita. I was relieved.

So we drove into the town square.
It was a good thing that Roberto and his friends were with me. 
No one at the square spoke English. No one could tell me where this hotel was - the hotel where I was to spend the next two weeks. Finally, we found an office. There was a gringo sitting on the front door step. I asked him if he knew where Villa Amor was. He pointed to the top of the hill and said, "It's up there."
"I can take you there," he said.
Turned out the towns people did not like Villa Amor - American owned, that was why no one would tell me where it was.
So, we left Roberto's friend in town, the gringo got into the car with Roberto and me. The car was not big enough to hold all five of us.
The driver started the car. We went up and up and up - to the top of the hill - a small mountain really.
Yes, I finally got to Villa Amor.
When I asked where my room was to be, the proprietor pointed downward, near the beach.
"There," he said.
I thanked Roberto and his driver and the gringo, said my good-bye to them, and followed a skinny kid who had heaved my suitcases on his back and was swiftly on his way down the hundred some stone steps towards my room.
I made it down those rough stone steps, with no railings. Of course, my little "porter" had to wait for me for a while.

Thus, I began my two weeks' stay in a Tree House in Mexico.

I went to bed hungry that night. I did not dare venture out to town in the dark by myself.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

While I Still Have My Wits With Me

In a couple of days, it will mark my "four-months posting" on my blog.
I want to thank you for being my cheering squad. 
You honor me by reading my posts. I thank you.

The journey has been incredible for me.

You see, I am still new at this game.
Thank you for allowing me to be me.
By now, you have a pretty good idea of what I am like as a person - sincere, honest, straight forward to a fault, but warm and genuine. 

I will try to slow down and smell the roses, make corrections of gross writing mistakes. You know I am careless, particularly when I am in a hurry. 
For instance, yesterday morning, I was rushing off to a workshop in Madill (yes, I still go to workshops to learn), and I posted my work and totally missed the misspelling of the simple word "TO". Sorry! But you know what I meant.

My biggest fear is one day I would not be able to Say What I Mean, and yet knowing that something is wrong.

I was reading a book, Buffalo Lockjaw, about a young man struggling with the problem with his mother who had Alzheimer decease while she was only in her early sixties. It was a beautifully written and compelling fiction (but so true to life). 

I have known a number of friends and their loved ones who were affected by this debilitating decease. Some passed away after a very long and agonizing period of their lives and some are still living with it. It is so difficult for the family to cope.

I don't know which way is better.
The patient knowing what is going on with himself or herself.
Or, the patient oblivious of what is going on - it is definitely harder on the family this way. The patient would be Happy-go-lucky.

Anyway, while I still have most of my wits with me, I want to share with you some more of my escapades.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Learning How To Paint

When I first started to learn how to paint, I wanted to do portraits.

I did not know that I was trying to run before I could walk, or before I could even stand up. 
Wanting to start at the top.
How unreasonable could I be? 
I did not know any better.

When I was little, I loved to copy movie stars' photos. With no one to guide me. No instructions. We did not have art lessons in school. 
I tried to teach myself.
I thought I did a fairly decent job.
I did not understand "hatching" or "cross-hatchig," or "lost and found edges," or "perspective."
What did I know?

My teacher, Maud, told me that I was setting my bar too high. I needed to learn from the bottom up. 
First do drawing, then learn composition and so on. Learn the rules, then may be I could learn to  paint.
Pity that she only gave me a few lessons and stopped for some personal reasons. 

Carolyn was too sweet. She allowed me to struggle.
I could tell that something was not right, but did not know how to make it right.
She would make corrections for me, but she could not tell me Why.
I manged to do a fair job. But because I did not know the real How To, I never truly advanced. 
Wish she would have told me the truth.
May be she did not know how. 
Or, was it because she did not wish to hurt my feelings?

Do you know that the Old-school Teaching did not allow the students to paint until they could really, really draw and understanding drawing? 
Fechin did that. Sargent, too. 
Sergei Bongart definitely did. He is my favorite Russian-American Impressionist.

I finally realized the problem - my unrealistic aim of attaining "instant gratification." Right or Wrong.
By then, I already wasted a number of years. I also had to undo the many bad habits.

Now, I am trying to catch up.

People are complicated subjects to paint. 

That is why I paint a lot of apples. 
Apples have much simpler forms.
Apples do not move.
I can control the lighting.
I can see the different types of shadows.
I can see the reflections.
I can set the stage.

It is said that if you can paint an apple, you can paint anything.

I tell my students that, even if they don't want to paint apples.