joanna irl, society of dabblers

Tiny Things and Fairy Wings

DSC_7779On Monday we got a surprise snowing here in Chicago. At first when I was up at 4:30 with J to bid him goodbye for the day (and goodnight because I certainly don’t actually get up that early) I was irritated. Then when I got up for the day finally I wasn’t sure how I felt about it anymore and spent a good chunk of the morning staring out the window. This was how my day kind of went.

8:00am: Get up. Stare out window at stupid snow.
8:13am: Walk into kitchen to feed cats. Stare out window at stupid snow.
8:17am: Make tea. Stare out window at stupid snow while tea brews.
8:24am: Eat breakfast. Stare out window across the room from me where I can still see the stupid snow.

DSC_7789And so the morning progressed. The snow started again, and fell thicker and thicker, to the point where it looked like we might even get completely buried.

10:29am: Huddle by fireplace. Stare out window at stupid snow.
12:34pm: Eat lunch. Stare out window at stupid snow.
1:23pm: Suddenly remember I have a macro lens. Dig parka out of closet where I stuffed it on the first day of spring because I’m done participating in winter, pull on snowboots, run outside like a weirdo and start flailing around taking pictures of snowflakes.

snowflake 8
1:58pm: Remember I have a box of fairy doors that would also be fun to photograph in snow. Run back upstairs and pack up a waterproof bag of Tiny Things including the little doors and run back outside.

fairy door 03
3:43pm: Realize I’ve been outside over two hours total. Figure it’s time to go back inside.
4:00pm: Make tea. There’s always reason for more tea.

I took a lot of snowflake pictures. I mean, a lot of snowflake pictures.

snowflake 17I’m only putting a handful of them here, but they are a general representation. I tried a few different methods, too, including catching them on a plastic bag, which you can see above. The flakes themselves were fairly huge but melted quickly because of the warm air.

snowflake 19
This one was one of my favorites, by far. Another plastic bag catch, and didn’t last long, but I liked the way the edges looked.

snowflake 7 (flake cluster)You can see how light and fluffy the snow was in this one, just lots of little flakes piling up in a geometric sort of way. Much less solid than I expected.

DSC_7853This shows you how big the flakes really were. You can see an individual one on my glove!

snowflake 15 (flake cluster)This one reminded me of those little magnetic building pieces kids use. I forget what they’re called, but the snowflakes built themselves up just like that.

So there’s a tiny peek at some tiny frozen water bits. I will post fairy door pictures another day, because they were fun to photograph, too. As of today most of the snow is melted (much to my relief) so I’m glad I grabbed the opportunity when I had it.



society of dabblers

Feeling artsy: dragons and owls

Dragon sketch postcard

I was going to do a wrap-up of my week, but I really didn’t do much this week that would make a post (that I haven’t already written, anyway), so here. Have a dragon postcard.

The postcard came from a scrapbooking store and I drew the dragon myself. I haven’t really drawn anything much in several years, so I decided to see how rusty my skills were. They weren’t too bad, but I found that I haven’t progressed at all for the obvious reason that I haven’t practiced at all. I did find that I’m a lot more confident with cartoon type sketches, though, and doodled some owls the other day.

Owl with cake

So there you go. I like that he looks a bit worried and also fat, like this isn’t an unusual snack. There were a lot of less-cute looking owls before this one that I won’t show you, but I’ve found a nice little “template” that I can reproduce, which is cool. No use for them at the moment, but maybe at some point I’ll think of something other than simply filling my sketch book.

joanna irl

Winter in a red ball gown– my Traveling Red Dress story

So, I mentioned in passing (in my last blog entry, actually) that some of the photos from my trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks were taken while I was wearing a red ball gown. I said I’d come back to that. This is me coming back to that.


There is a movement called the Traveling Red Dress. It’s about supporting people, sending encouragement to people who need it, whether you know them or not. The Red Dress can be anything (although usually it is an actual red dress) that represents all the times we say no to ourselves because something isn’t sensible. And I’ve said no to non-sensible things a lot in the last few years. I call it my “Grown-up Brain” and it drives me a little nuts, because really I want to wear a hat with ears and eat rainbow cupcakes and watch My Little Pony. And I may do all of those things (when I’m at home, and don’t usually admit such things) but really I mostly talk myself out of things with: “You’re thirty. People who are thirty don’t do that.” Or “You don’t need that right now, it can wait.” Or “Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting to people that I really do like My Little Pony.” You know, all the usual things people my age have to logic their way through in daily life.

And then comes the dress.

Last year, when J was deployed, I had a lot on my plate. I was stressed beyond belief. And I wound up making a much needed trip to North Carolina to visit friends and family.

And when I got home again, I found that someone, a stranger I didn’t know from Oregon, had mailed me a Red Dress. I’d been sponsored for one.

The whole point of the Red Dress is to have it, be fabulous in it, have your picture taken, and then send it to the next person who needs it. You’re not supposed to keep it.

I’ve had mine for a year.

It came to Hawaii and between the end of deployment and the start of the move and everything in between, I never got my Red Dress photos in Hawaii. Not to worry, I told myself. I’ll take them in California before J has to deploy. I was sure there would be an opportunity!

And then it took us much longer to find a place to live than expected, and he left sooner than expected, and I never got my Red Dress photos in California. No problem, I thought. I’ll be in New York this fall and I’ll take my photos there!

Then Hurricane Sandy came. No New York trip. I was, however, back in North Carolina for another visit.

So as I approached my two months in North Carolina marker, I started to wonder if I shouldn’t just send the dress on its way again. It had done its job, after all; it had made me feel special when it arrived, and I had fun trying it on and getting it fitted, and it was a RED BALL GOWN, which is something completely not sensible that I’d never have bought for myself. So I was done with it, right?


A friend of mine got in touch, wanting to get out of town for a weekend to go chasing wild horses. She also happens to take photos. I asked if she’d like taking photos of the Red Dress. She said ABSOLUTELY.

And here they are.

It was bitterly cold, the Outer Banks were getting a winter storm with high winds that cut through the fabric, and I could barely take off my wool coat, but we stood on the beach and took photos anyway.

So that was my Red Dress story. It’s ready to go traveling again. If you know anyone somewhat close to my size (I had the dress taken in, but the fabric wasn’t cut so it can be let out again– or taken in more), let me know. I’m looking for the next person who needs it.

The Red Dress was claimed and has gone traveling again. ^_^

joanna irl

Flowers and Dancing Sea Creatures

Today was a nice day and I wanted to be outside so I went to the garden store and bought potting soil and some annuals (okay, a lot of annuals) and I remade all of my container gardens. The pots are now in groupings on the front porch (where I am better about watering, and they don’t get baked by the afternoon sun). There will be photos eventually, I’m sure, but none for today because as I was finishing, my friend pulled up to take me to dinner and a play…

…which I’d forgotten we were leaving at THAT time to attend. Well, I remembered, but I really thought it was earlier in the day than it turned out to be. So she waited the 15 minutes it took me to shower and change and get back downstairs and out the door.

The show was put on by the local university’s theater and dance department and involved Polynesian dance, ballet, and puppetry arts. The first half was made of short dance pieces. The second half had plot and puppet characters that went down into the ocean. My favorite part involved the jellyfish, but I think I was most excited by the pair of dancing anglerfish. Wouldn’t you be? The fish and other sea creatures were done similarly to the Lion King in that the people were blended with the puppets, costumes, etc. Very cool.

But yeah. Dancing anglerfish. Pretty awesome.

joanna irl, society of dabblers

Finding Art in the Everyday: week 15 of 2012 in pictures

4/9/2012 best portrait of alien family ever

This week has been filled with art in surprising places. This first picture from Monday was hanging in a “gallery” at one of the local frozen yogurt shops, where about 25 drawings by 4 and 5 year old kids were featured. This one was far and away the best, as it depicts an alien family in so much detail. I couldn’t stop looking at this drawing! I mean, a bird-mom, a kid with another kid growing out of his head and a bunny with eye-stalks coming out of its ears? What’s not to love? (Not kidding, I really like this drawing!)

Continue reading “Finding Art in the Everyday: week 15 of 2012 in pictures”

joanna irl

Sometimes settling in takes a minute

And sometimes settling in takes, oh, almost two and a half years.

Today I finally found the last piece I wanted to go in the weird wall space above the stairs. It’s been bothering me ever since we moved into the house in October 2009. During the holidays, it’s all right because I can put garland there, like so:

But during the rest of the year, well… It’s an awkward spot. But it needed something. About six months ago I found these really great wall sconces that worked well there, but they needed something between them. I tried hanging scrolls (cheap ones I’d had hanging there at one point in an attempt to decorate that spot) and I tried an expensive hanging scroll (wound up fitting in the bedroom better) and tried not hanging anything at all, but none of that worked. And then, lo and behold, I found the perfect piece. It’s a piece I’d considered before (from Pier 1)  but it was always out of my price range (again, it’s from Pier 1), but today as I was strolling through their clearance section, I found that piece for about 40% less than the regular price.

And now my awkward wall is properly decorated! ^_^ For the last 8ish months we’ll live in this house. Heh. Ta da!

(This photo isn’t the greatest, but the colors of the sconces and the piece match very well, especially the greenish-blue part. And they all have a hint of floral pattern. It looks much better in person, trust me.)

joanna irl

Year 29

Well, my 29th birthday has come and gone.

Bird of Paradise

It’s been a lovely weekend (week, really) of celebrating with friends and enjoying time together.

On Wednesday, I was treated to barbeque and macaroni and cornbread (at my request!) for dinner, followed by cupcakes. Friday I had dinner with a couple of friends, then we headed to the north shore and stayed at Turtle Bay Resort for the night. We had a beautiful ocean-view room and I had the bed by the balcony; we fell asleep listening to the ocean crashing against the rocks and sand. Saturday morning I woke up early (as has become my custom) and rolled over… and saw this:

Turtle Bay sunrise

I blearily reached for my camera and stumbled out onto the balcony and my camera and I watched the sun rise. It was gorgeous.

Turtle Bay pedi

After that, we had a brunch (including a spinach, crab, and brie omelet!) and then another friend joined us and we hung out by the pool for a couple of hours. We got pedicures at the spa there, spent more time at the pool, and then drove down to Haleiwa for a late lunch and some window shopping. I went into the art gallery I like up there and discovered the Heather Brown piece I love is completely sold out (they only do 100 per run) so I picked a new one to daydream about putting in my living room. Maybe before we leave the island I’ll really get one.

Saturday night I went to a 50th birthday party and had a good time relaxing and chatting with some new people. Tonight (Sunday), I had dinner with a bunch of my friends and it was nice to have so many people come out to spend the evening with me. I’ve got a great group of friends in my life right now. One is leaving tomorrow to go to their next duty station and it was sad to say goodbye tonight… but not as sad as other goodbyes have been. I’m at the point where I just say, “See you soon!” and I really mean it; goodbye isn’t forever, especially in the military community.

Turtle Bay surfer

October is looking like it will be a good month. ^_^

joanna irl

On Math Class

I’m not a math person. You can probably tell that from reading most of this blog, but I think my frustration with math was largely due to a lack of life application that I could really see. Why do I need to solve this formula? What is the purpose? What is so interesting about it and why do I have to memorize it and why can’t the computer just do it for me and why do I need to learn it anyway?

The math classes that I enjoyed the most were geometry (which involved problem solving and creative solutions, at which I am very good) and statistics (which involved problem solving and creative solutions… I’m sensing a pattern…) and the classes that gave me the most stress were usually various forms of algebra. What is the purpose of algebra? No teacher was ever able to explain that, beyond saying “you have to learn this math so you can learn more math later,” which is incredibly circular logic to someone who didn’t want to learn this math in the first place.If I don’t like this math, then why on earth would I want to learn it and then be subjected to more of it later?

I do like to draw, though, and I love to color geometric patterns and even made some very intricate circular doodles during my school years (being a frequently bored-in-school child) and if someone had ever told me that there was a connection between the beauty of the patterns on the paper and the formula on the board, I suspect I would have then seen a purpose to that formula (I can make my art more beautiful!), then I would have wanted not only to learn this math, but also more math and then complex math beyond that.

All of that being said, I have discovered a mathematician who also likes to draw. This is one of my favorite videos that she made.

Why isn’t math class interesting? And why can’t we have an explanation for learning things like math, and science? It might help motivate kids like me to learn why  a^2 + b^2 = c^2 and what is so interesting about that formula.

society of dabblers

Painting Therapy: Complete!

I finished painting the last of the pots today. Well, I finished the ones I was able to prime (so, 11 of the 13); two are stuck together and I’m afraid I’ll break them, so I’m hoping that as the weather changes, they’ll change size and I’ll be able to unstick them. Anyway, I like the butterfly one the best, but the red monkeys were fun to paint. The tree frogs were harder than I thought they’d be and didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted, but they don’t look awful. All I’ve got left is to put a clear coat over them to make them weather proof and I’m done.

I also found out today that you can buy Starbucks’ coffee flavors (well, some of them), so I got myself a bottle of the cinnamon dolce one. It’s a very large bottle, and it’s not just how they make the cinnamon lattes, but it’s the “spice” in their caramel apple spice drink, which is my favorite non-caffeinated drink of theirs. ^_^ I made one tonight.

society of dabblers

Painting: cheaper than therapy

Not that I need therapy, but painting is very relaxing.

The current project is to decorate about a dozen terra-cotta pots to take to the zoo. They’re various sizes and all need to have some sort of “animal” theme, but really I’ve got a lot of leeway with them. I’ve got half of them finished and just need to add the clear coat over the top that will (I hope) make them weatherproof to go in the browse garden.

Browse garden? Well, zoos are always on tight budgets and one way to cut costs (as well as give animals added enrichment) is to grow your own browse, or produce for the animals. Browse can be sweet potato vine, edible hibiscus, flowers, herbs, and regular veggies, too. The garden by the tiger exhibit has catnip, lavender, eggplant, corn, sunflowers, bell peppers, and had collards but the plant finished its growth cycle already.

Anyway, it gives extra food (i.e. the corn can be part of the primates’ diet) or can be enrichment (i.e. extra stimuli) and also makes an otherwise unused area of the zoo look a lot nicer.

So I’m painting pots to go in the garden.

Okay, so the one with the swirlies isn’t exactly animal themed, but it looks nice anyway, don’t you think? The waterfall is the other side of the tiger-laying-down pot in the first photo. I tried to make it look like some Asian paintings I’ve seen recently. They don’t have to be amazing or anything, but it’s kind of fun to think up a new design for each one. Maybe I’ll do geckos on the next one.