Monthly Archives: July 2012

Things That I Love: Walking Home From Work, Edition

  • Watching the sky as clouds rush at top-speed from the ocean to the bay (note: 9 times out of 10, replace ‘clouds’ with ‘dense fog’ for a more accurate depiction).
  • Getting hit with a blast of cold wind at the top of California Street’s sweat-inducing uphill battle. I ask you, is there greater proof of nature’s intelligent design? I think not.
  • Making it to the top of Nob Hill just as the bells of Grace Cathedral chime 6 o’clock.
  • Completely normal neighbors working out in Huntington Square park… by ‘working out’ I mean dancing-like-nobody’s-watching, and by ‘normal’ I mean by SF standards…
  • Beating the cable car home and saving the $6 for tomorrow’s breakfast burrito. Win.
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When Applesauce Tastes Like Apple Pie Filling

…you know you’ve done something right.

I wound down an intense weekend of drawing lessons and inaugural house-hunting in Oakland by washing and chopping four pounds of apples on Sunday night. I had everything on-hand that was needed to make homemade applesauce, something that always makes me feel very big-kid (even when all a recipe calls for is apples, sugar, water, lemon, cinnamon, and a little salt).

30 minutes of simmering later, tada — applesauce!

It was a little tart so I decided to add a little more sugar. Ok, a lot more sugar. Lesson learned: follow the instructions unless you want applesauce that tastes like apple pie filling (which, in all honesty, I do). I also left the skin on for the sake of being lazy and it ended up looking and tasting a bit like rhubarb. Being rewarded for shortcuts? My favorite!

Sharing little jars of my applesauce today with the woman who brought me the apples, my mom, and friend Michelle made my day. This makes me feel big-kid in the bad way… hyper-domestic and slightly lame. But I’m giving myself over to it. My apron is downright adorable and I don’t care who knows it. There, I said it!

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Learning to Draw, Part 1

This morning I drew for the very first time. Ok, maybe not the very first time ever. Definitely since childhood. Definitely. And it was amazing. Here’s how it came to be…

For mother’s day I registered my mom and I for the Reportage Drawing Series workshops at Sharon Art Studio in San Francisco. Reportage is a style of art in which you record what you see as you see it, a fancy way of saying drawing on site. Today was the first of two classes. Capping out at six hours and some change, I was sure that no matter how fantastic the class I would feel every minute of it. I was wrong.

The first hour and half was instruction; the rest of the class was discussion on top of, in between, over, under, and around several practice drawings. I learned so much in such a short amount of time that I’m not sure if I’ve digested enough to really convey it all. Let’s start with the biggest take-away from the day: contour drawing.

The lesson in contour drawing flung the doors wide open to a world of possibility, freedom, and creative flow in my art that I somehow felt I was always after but could never quite catch. In contour drawing, you’re forced to focus on using a single, unbroken line to build an image… meaning, no lifting until the drawing is complete! There is such a stark difference in both the process and product this type of drawing elicits. Judging my first contour drawing against a previous sketch, I realized that I had been using tiny little hatch marks to create images as a way of blurring the lines to hide what I considered mistakes and imperfections. I didn’t see how suffocating this was. Not to trust or believe in what was on the page, how the line could move in a way that created shapes and scene specific to that mood and moment in time.

Combating the negative thoughts, pressures, and standards we hold ourselves hostage with was a huge part of the workshop. The more I learned, the more I was astonished at what I intuitively knew but had buried or forgotten. Another bonus was how easy it was to challenge those thoughts when led through a couple exercises and more than a handful of stories by our fantastic instructor, Dawood Marion. Dawood has a way of capturing the essence of these revelations in such succinct and relatable terms that internalizing and immediately applying them to your work seems oddly natural (check out some of his amazing work here).

The day flew by and at 4:30pm, when the sun finally comes out in San Francisco, I left class with some drawings that I’m really proud of. As someone who used to thinking I didn’t have the technical skill or innate creativity required of a real artist, it’s a huge accomplishment to be legitimately proud of my work. I did not compare it to others. I did not judge it against some preconceived notion of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. When I was able to relax and let go I felt that giddy happiness that comes with creating something from nothing and just enjoying the process. It felt familiar, and my hunch is that it was this same feeling that first started my love for drawing when I was too young for the confines of self-doubt.

I’m looking forward to round two next weekend. My mom and I are signed up for the second workshop in the reportage series, Drawing in the Park, and I should probably go check my closet to make sure I have enough jackets to keep me from freezing!

Random Bag of Kindness

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A woman I ran into on the street earlier this week brought me a gigantic bag of apples today from what I can only imagine is the coolest backyard orchard, ever.

After crossing paths a few blocks away from our office building, we walked together for a couple minutes. In our short conversation she mentioned her commute and, when I asked, said she lived in Sebastopol. I told her that my favorite childhood memories were staying with family friends up in Sebastopol during the summers. That was the end of our conversation. Not a word more.

Today, she hauled a 10lb bag of beautiful little apples all the way into the city to give to me. Just because. And it absolutely made my day.

Will post a follow-up picture of what comes of this bag… I’m thinking applesauce, cobbler, baked apples, or maybe tiny little apple pies baked in my mini cupcake tin!

Redefining Relaxation

Over the last few months I’ve been toying with what I consider ‘relaxation’ after a long day at work. For years this meant coming home and flopping down in front of the t.v. That was soon replaced with surfing shows on the web accompanied by more couch sitting. Doing nothing felt like the only thing I had energy to do. And I could always justify it by telling myself that I just needed to tune out and turn my brain off for a few hours.

The only problem with this sad sequence of laziness was that it was never quite fulfilling. Not at all, really. I often lost track of hours, finding myself dry-eyed and feeling even more drained than before… wondering what time it was (um, usually almost midnight) and slugging off to bed.

Well, no longer. Last Friday my fabulous husband built us a fire in the fireplace, we threw on some jazz, grabbed our respective books (I’m reading Intuitive Eating, he’s running through some old sailor tales), and the amazing release of tension I felt was almost indescribable. It wasn’t tuning out, it was restorative relaxation. I guess I’d never thought of relaxation as restorative before… but now that I’ve turned that corner, I can’t imagine how it took me so long to figure this tricky little secret out!

Yes, it still takes concerted effort to launch myself into post-work activity. Pulling on gym clothes for a quick jog (as much as I try to forget it, 20 minutes around the block is a great way to pay myself back for the damage caused by an 8 hour-plus desk job), turning on the radio instead of the tv or laptop, getting my butt into the kitchen to prep a tasty and healthy dinner… it’s still new enough that I feel like I’m pushing myself beyond the comfortable norm, but all of these things make me feel satisfied in a way that tuning out never did. The other week Alex and I played cards… cards!?

I have no doubt that this sort of thing comes naturally to a lot of people. But it didn’t for me and for that I’m allowing myself to count it as a real accomplishment. I finally feel like I’m living life in between my mid-week work obligations — and can’t believe I’ve cheated myself out of so much by not catching on sooner. I see my friends more, laugh with Alex more, feel better rested, healthier, happier, and more energetic. Just by forcing myself to do something, anything, in those short few hours after work. Who knew!

Tonight I went to the gym after work. It was a long day, and I could feel it all falling away with a little huff and puff and pour of sweat off my back. It’s the difference between the benefit of doing something for myself and the absence of doing. After dinner (which I cooked, btw!), I’ll probably pick up the manual for my new Canon T3i and continue teaching myself all about how to take fancy-pants pictures. All this time for me, and so much to fill it with!

Changing Directions

When I started the Dilly Daily some 1.4 trillion years ago, the goal was to get me writing again and writing often. As you can see by the number of published posts, that didn’t exactly happen.

I got caught up in the crafting, the proofing, and the ‘is this line funny enough?’. While I was busy trying to achieve what I thought I should be creating, rather than getting out there and just building, I lost sight of what was a really important and worthwhile goal. To stretch and push myself out of my normal internal dialogue, the one that can be limiting by virtue of its impossible standards, and get comfortable with enjoying the process of something. The trial, the error, the success… there can’t be success without trial and those of you in my same boat know that there are often too many boxes on the checklist to even get to the trail stage before motivation dwindles.

So this is my new direction, a promise to myself from today forward… to use the Dilly Daily for what it was intended: a space where I can take time out each day and reflect on life. Everyday. Just a little. To say that I don’t have an hour to sit quietly with a glass of coffee in the morning or wine at night and just type is an excuse that does me a disservice.

To support this change in direction, my new mantras will be:

  1. practice, not perfection
  2. wow… ok, looks like number one sums it up.

More might come as I move along in this new project, but for now I think that giving myself permission to just write what flows and not worry about syntax or perfect-pitch hilarity will be enough to get me out of the gate.

Day one: check!

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