Sunday, February 27, 2011

What I'm Reading

Faithful Place by Tana French. It's on a few best lists for 2010. It's a murder mystery set in Dublin over a span of 20 years. My brother tells me it is the third in this author's books about a cop in Dublin, Ireland.

Gilead. Started it twice, determined to finish it. I hate to dis a Pulitzer prize winner, but besides from some beautiful prose, the novel went nowhere. She did quote the fourth verse from a beautiful Isaac Watts hymn, O God Our Help in Ages Past.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Country Driving by Peter Hessler--Hessler lived in China when he was a Peace Corps volunteer right out of college. After teaching in a town on the Yangtze River for two years he became the Beijing correspondent for the New Yorker magazine. His first book River Town was about his Peace Corps experience. It was a book I enjoyed. Country Driving may be even better. It is an account of the monumental changes sweeping across China as they move from farm to factory. The first section is about a road trip he takes paralleling the Great Wall. Before taking off hefirst he had to pass a Chinese driving exam. Here are a couple of excerpts from the study book.

After passing another vehicle, you should
a) wait until there is a safe distance between the two vehicles, make a right turn signal, and return to the original lane.
b) cut in front of the other car as quickly as possible.
c) cut in front of the other car and then slow down.

When overtaking another car, a driver should pass
a) on the left
b) on the right
c) wherever, depending on the situation

There are 429 multiple choice questions in the study book and 256 true/false questions, i.e.
In a taxi, it's fine to carry a small amount of explosive material

The conversations with the car rental company he uses are hilarious. It was a very well written book, recommend.

I got pulled in to another Ken Follett novel, Fall of Giants, when my brother loaned it to me a a few weeks ago. It is amazing how fast 985 pages can go. I do have to say that I considered buying some kind of reader after holding this 4 pound book. The book covers the build up to WW1 and the changes that happened in Europe after the war. It was an interesting period, but I didn't like it as much as Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Fall of Giants is the first in his century trilogy. I'll likely read the others too. I have an idea he will use some of the same characters.

Factory Girls by Lesley Chang. The author, Peter Hessler's wife, takes a look at the young women in China who leave their homes in small villages to come to factory towns in southern China. The book was fascinating from a social science perspective. China is experiencing a huge wave of migration as well as an industrial revolution. I think the author tried to cover too much territory. I would have preferred that she write solely about the women who "go out" rather than weaving her own family's narritive into the book.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. This is a very different book, really a collection of vignettes about the staff of an English language newspaper in Rome. It is very cleverly written, and many of the stories have an unexpected twist. It's the best fiction book in the bunch.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clayton Valentines 2011 Edition

Well here it is, photos of our family’s annual valentine exchange. Over 20 years ago, our daughters who were then in grade school wanted to purchase valentines to give to the family. Tom and I suggested that we each make a valentine and the idea caught on. Through the years, the valentines have had many messages, heartfelt, poignant, silly, corny, political, cultural, and of course those involving sports. Although not photographed, I heard there was a Justin Bieber themed card this year. Here are some of this year’s editions.

laurel biden

Love the pun and the 3D effect of the Biden figure. It had to come in a special box

patricia sponge

Like I said, every theme, even the kitchen sink

orange you glad

My valentines usually show the techniques I am practicing in my studio

NJ outside

I had to alter the front of the card to avoid copywrite infringement

inside NJ

Now the inside, definitely a homemade appeal

love berry much

More corniness

patricia apple

From our daughter who works with iPads in the classroom

perfect pear

sketchbook practice

silly bands outside

front of card

silly bands inside
and inside. Those are silly bands attached to the card.

I don’t know how many more years we will do this, but we are still having fun.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pop-up Valentine card

A friend showed me how to make a pop-up valentine last year, and when I got a call to teach children’s Sunday school last night, I knew I had to use her idea. The children were amazed at how the valentines popped out, and I have to admit, I was too. I was so amazed that I came home and made a Valentine thank you card for the friend who taught me how to make them.

Here’s how

Take an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper (cardstock is good), and fold in half both lengthwise and widthwise.


Fold in half lengthwise and position a half-heart template on the bottom half of the card.


Making sure the center of the heart template is on the fold, you will cut your heart shape from the top and from the bottom to the x’s on the template. Don’t cut all the way around, or your heart will just fall out. It needs to stay attached to the sheet of cardstock.

Open the card flat again


Then fold the top half to the back along the widthwise fold line, and gently pull the heart out away from the body of the card as you close it. When you re-open it, the heart pops out.


I cut my cardstock in pink and glued one of my zentangle hearts to the pop out heart

pink card with zentangle

and wrote a simple message on the front, to thank my friend for the idea.

thank you

Tarpon sculpture dedication

It’s done! The city held a lovely dedication ceremony yesterday. it was a beautiful day, and everything went well. The local paper had published a nice article the day before.







Many friends and family were present, the artist spoke about his vision for the artwork, and we had an opportunity to express gratitude to our parents and the community that was important to our formative years.



Here are the four siblings.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentines ala Alisa Burke

After reading the talented Alisa Burke’s blog post on Friday, I decided I had to make some of her valentines. I’ve already made my valentines and they are in the mail, these were just for fun.

valentines ala alissa burke

I cut the valentines out of construction paper, then drew on them with a fine Pitt artist pen, colored them with Derwent watercolor pencils, then to finish, painted them with water. when the water hit the pencil marks, they became much more vibrant and intense. They were fun to do, almost like a Zentangle valentine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Art of Paul Baliker part2

Installation day. The tarpon arrived on a truck, tied down and lying on a pillow. The artist, Paul Baliker is in the blue jacket.


Straps were attached and the fish was lifted off the truck and driven 50 yards to the site.

walking the fish

It took teamwork to get it in place

down the hill

fish wrangling1

Just add water and let the fountain play. 

in position

The city workers were very efficient. While one crew installed the tarpon, another crew was laying down new sod. The whole process took less than two hours. When we left for the day it was only going to be a few hours before the tide came in and filled the pond again.  It should be completed by Saturday.