Wednesday, February 21, 2018

HAPPY SKETCHING

I'm just having waaaay too much fun with this sketch-a-day journal Hubby found for Alexis/Me. In fact, it reminds me a lot of that crazy-fun illustration class I took with Becky Dawson at Lucky Star Art Camp last November. Here is a sampling of what it has instructed me to draw so far.











Draw something hot.
My Sofa Table
If you, like me, wish to shed your perfection-obsession, this is a great way to develop the ability to be quick and concise in your sketching. Just don't spend too much time on any of the sketches (I spend about a minute on each) and don't use a pencil -- too much temptation to keep erasing and improving. After a bit of trial and error, I landed on the PaperMate Flair felt tip, which doesn't bleed through to the other side of the page.

Happy Sketching!
 

Monday, February 19, 2018

COLOR-MAD MONDAY: MIAMI AIRPORT

Although all of our travel troubles occurred here, there are a couple of things I actually loved about the Miami airport. First were these super-comfy rocking chairs they had scattered about -- the perfect spot to read, relax, and people watch, when your flight gets delayed over and over again.


Then, there was this awesome fiber arts display I stumbled upon when I got tired of sitting and started pacing.





And then there was this, which made me laugh.


I mean, someone had to have a great sense of humor, to hang this in an airport, of all places!


Friday, February 16, 2018

CHOO-CHOO!

I got a call from our daughter this week, saying "I think it's time to pull out the box of Brio stuff." Apparently they let little Goober watch a few episodes of Thomas the Train and, just like that, he's caught the infamous train bug, and runs around the house yelling "Choo-Choo!"

The next day she called to say they were headed our way for a visit, so I scurried up to the attic to grab the train box. Only then did I discover that, although we have plenty of track, we have almost no "train" at all -- just two tiny flat cars, with no engine or caboose. Tragic! So, I suggested we all have lunch at The Leaning Pear, then head to our wonderful new toy store that recently went in next to them. We hit the jackpot, for they had one of those great little Melissa & Doug play rugs with a train theme, which actually came with a set of train cars which were Brio-track-compatible. Woo-hoo!


I also dug through my book stash and found, not only The Polar Express, but also a great little book called Steam Train, Dream Train, that I didn't even remember having!


Usually, when here, our Goobs hops from one activity to the next, never spending too long on any one thing. But not this time. This time he was focused. In fact, he loved it so, so much that Hubby insisted that he take the new trains and rug home to his house.

So now we're back to having tracks, no train. But, no worry. In the time it took me to text my BFF, saying "He probably sent them home with Calvin so he'd have an excuse to do some online shopping.", that man of mine had already been to the computer and placed orders for "a few little things"!  Well, we all know what that means, right?

Oh, by the way. One funny thing we discovered, while pulling out the track pieces, was that some of them had writing on them. When pieced together, it said this:


Do you think my son was trying to hint that he needed more train stuff? 

Obviously, I never got the message!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

THE VALENTINE MYSTERY AT CYPRESS CREEK CAFE

Valentine's Day always makes me think of Miss Bobby now -- the little old lady we used to see holding court in her special booth, every time we had breakfast at Cypress Creek Cafe -- and our best Valentine's escapade ever. You can read all about it here.

I feel kinda bad now, that she went to her grave without ever solving that mystery. On the other hand, I'm awfully glad she didn't live to see what happened to her beloved cafe after a recent kitchen fire. I'm pretty sure it would have broken her heart.




It's under new ownership now, coming back into a family that owned it many years ago. The fire debris has been cleared away, and all that remains is the original stone facade. Not sure what the new owners' plans are, but I'm really, really hoping for a good breakfast menu and a cozy booth where I can hold court each morning -- maybe even a windowsill in my booth that I can decorate according to the seasons, just like Miss Bobby always did.

Monday, February 12, 2018

AN EARLY VALENTINE, SHELDON AND AMY STYLE

A month or more ago, Adventure Boy told me to block out February 10th on my calendar. "We've got big plans!" he said. After a bit of pestering on my part, he burst out with "We're goin' on a train ride!" Alas, that was all I could get out of him until just a few days ago, when he finally admitted that we'd be driving up to Cedar Park, northwest of Austin, to Austin Steam Train. The only downside was that we needed to be there by 9:30 AM, and it was a pretty long drive at a time when the deer on the road are most active. And, if that weren't bad enough, we woke up to pea soup fog that morning!


Fortunately, we made it there safe and sound, and with time to spare, so we were able to wander around their little gift shop/museum, where most of the employees are volunteers who are just mad about trains -- like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory.



ALL ABOARD!


There are several different price ranges, and you are placed in certain cars accordingly. Our first class lounge ticket in the Maurice Beckham section got us tea, water, and mini muffins, but hard-backed chairs to sit in. Next time we will probably opt for traditional, well-cushioned seats, and bring our own beverages.



Is he adorable, or what?
Our destination? Burnet, the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas, via Leander and Bagdad, Short Creek Canyon, Liberty Hill, Bertram and Oatmeal, and the Summit quarry.


We knew a strong cold front was due in later that night, but the weather report that morning said high-60s throughout the day, so we dressed accordingly. Big mistake! By the time we reached Burnet (pronounced Burn It, Durn It!) an icy cold wind was blowing through town, and they had cancelled our staged gunfight due to poor weather conditions. What a bunch of sissy cowboys, right? They had given us a map of downtown, showing all the shops and restaurants, and there were even a couple of shuttles waiting to whisk people to restaurants not on the square, plus a food truck right next to the depot. We usually enjoy wandering around aimlessly, scoping out all the options, but it was just way too cold for that. So, I told John to text his old high school buddy Mark, who lives in that area, to ask what his favorite place is. Next thing we knew, he had pulled up to the curb in front of us, ready to whisk us away to his favorite joint out on the highway, the Bar-B-Q Shak.

Pretty Tasty!
The Courthouse
There aren't just a whole lot of things to see and do around the square, but we did find one shop on Main, called The Napping Mouse -- sort of a gift shop/scrapbooking store -- that got me pretty excited. The whole time we were in Cuba, I kept looking for interesting papers, receipts, ticket stubs -- anything I could use in my art journals and collages -- and never found a thing. Well, I walk into this store, and there is an entire wall of gorgeous papers, draped over dowels -- the kind you could use as gift wrap, to frame, or in art projects. I'm kind of kicking myself for stopping at just these three.


Would love to know the story behind this unusual house near the station.
Although we probably won't be doing this same exact trip again, I'm fairly certain we will be taking a certain little boy on one of the other options, such as the Day with Thomas the Train, the Super Hero Train, or the Polar Express-style Christmas Train, seeing as how "CHOO-CHOO!" is his favorite new thing to say!

P.S. Despite the hard-backed chairs, Hubby managed to snooze pretty much the whole way home!

Friday, February 9, 2018

THE BEST FOR LAST

On our last full day in Cuba, the first thing we did was visit a cigar factory -- a "factory" with no machines, where every single thing was done by hand, from sorting the tobacco leaves by size and color to assembling the boxes, and everything had to be perfect. It was really quite fascinating. Our guide warned us that if we wanted to take photos we must be very discreet, which I am not good at, so I didn't even try. John was able to get a few good ones though and, hopefully, I can share those with you later. One of his favorites is a woman rolling cigars, wearing a San Francisco baseball cap, a baseball t-shirt with a ruffled collar, and with her glove and cleats tucked into a cubbyhole on her work table. In case you haven't heard, baseball is very big in Cuba! So big, in fact, that there is an area in their central park known as Hot Corner -- slang for third base -- where hordes of people gather every single day, just to argue about baseball!

The triumph will be in the sum of the effort of all.
From there it was a short trip down the street to Estadio Latinoamericano, the main baseball stadium. Unfortunately, the Industriales had just recently lost out of the finals, so there was no game to attend. Hubby's disappointment was assuaged by getting them to open up the stadium's gift shop for us, so he could buy a few souvenirs.

From there it was off to the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, to try what our guide Mandy declared to be the best Mojito in all the world!


The secret is that dark layer floating on top, which must be stirred in before drinking. Bitters, perhaps?


We liked it!

Then came a big surprise -- one that wasn't on our itinerary. Welcome to Fusterlandia! You can read all about it here.




Does this scream Becky T. Lane, or what? It was like Antoni Gaudi on steroids! And, since we had gone off script to get there, Mandy thought of a great little place nearby where we could have lunch. He had us at "Hello", when we had to walk through their impressive herb and veggie garden to get to our seating area on the water. Welcome to El Laurel.



But wait, there's more! Coming from one who hates coffee, cigars and most alcohol, you would probably never guess what was my favorite thing we did throughout the entire trip. This!


We got to have lessons on the right way to do all three! First you sip your tiny cup of the best Cuban coffee. Then you take a swig of good, seven year old rum and swish it around in your mouth a bit before finally swallowing it. Then, if you are me, you spend several minutes coughing yourself silly and, according to everyone else, making some pretty bizarre faces. But, then we were taught how to light thin strips of cedar from the candle on our table, holding it to the tip of our cigar, rolling it around until it's evenly lit, and how to take several puffs and hold the smoke in your mouth, never inhaling. We were also taught that the way the cigar is held in one's hand says a lot about a person. Are you a Churchill? A Groucho? A Frida? A Fidel? The Most Interesting Person in the World?


I'm sad to say that, after growing up with a father who smoked cigars in the car on all of our road trips, and coming to associate the smell with carsickness, I just couldn't make myself put it in my mouth. I regret that. For, then he told us to take another swig of the rum, comparing the taste to the  first one. Apparently the cigar smoke affected everyone's tastebuds in such a way that the rum now tasted so velvety smooth and delicious that, before long, it led to this!


Our last dinner was at yet another wonderful paladar, called Ivan Chef Justo, whose specialty was roast suckling pig - a specially bred mini pig that fits on a plate. Tasted great, but don't order if you are the type that doesn't like to be reminded that your meal was once alive. And, for sure, don't sit next to my hubby, who kept waving its poor little limbs at us!


And thus, our adventure came to an end.