Friday, December 26, 2008

Free Clothes!


Add ImageJustify FullI workout at Women's Workout World. One day, a very casual and brief, announcement was made stating that they were going to film a commercial for the club. They asked if anyone was interested in being in it. One of the group fitness instructors encouraged me to sign up. So I did.

Realizing that marketing is expensive and my time is valuable, I thought it would be fun to try to get a clothing donation for the commercial shoot. I only had 3 days to get the clothing! Yikes. I called all the big names (Nike, Puma, Adidas, Oprah) explaining that I'm going to be in a commercial to be distributed throughout the Midwest and would they consider sending over a couple outfits: one for me and another for friend, to wear during the shoot. I figured their logos were so commonplace I wouldn't be asked to change clothing.

Let me remind you that my main job is that of Mom for two young kids - kids who don't allow me to talk on the phone! At least not without a whiny, screaming or sobbing interruption. Or my favorite "Mom! Wipe me!".

Getting this donation is a huge stroke of luck for me. And a rare occurrence, indeed. I've learned that my only gift in life is courage (I can also burp the alphabet after a swig of Dr. Pepper). I'm not talented, lucky (like Rob and Roxanne, or Rob's Grandpa Ryan). I'm not gorgeous, naturally thin or charming. I'm not a guy magnet or impressive at parties. But I've got guts. Can't buy that. So I'm learning to use my 'gift'. Trust me I wish there were days when I had a better gift; like being able to draw, speak another language, play an instrument, smoking legs, no cellulite, etc... but I digress. This is a positive post!

There is some sad disappointment in this story which I will spare you - but really just huge doses of humility from celebrity-hungry athletic apparel companies (Puma LA - you are snobby!).

The little guy always gets ignored -- but I'm used to this as a middle child - and a twin to boot.

The happy ending is that our friends over at Turbokick (for which I am a certified instructor) sent over two outfits immediately! They rock! Their workout shorts and capris are really good. Very comfortable, lasting and funky looking. Although not cheap. The tops were kinda tight but nice and lightweight. They feel like they will move with you and not against you. Very important. Oh, and they look good. I'm so proud of Turbowear for stepping up.

I didn't doll up for this photo, nor did I put on my shoes (which will NOT be Puma - uppity west-coasters). The shoot date got rescheduled at the last minute to January. I'll give you a full report after the shoot date (hopefully I'll be able to make it after all this hustling). Next time I'm planning the photo better (spray tan, put on make-up, do hair, do push ups right before the photo and will suck it in! - I'm sucking it in the entire time during the commercial - I've decided right now!).

So what do you all think of the socks? Do they take 10 years off of me - just out of sheer daring?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Viva la Ice Painting!





I love snow! I think if it's going to be cold outside there had better be snow. Otherwise, what's the point? Fortunately for me, we've been getting hit with crazy snow here in Chicago! It's been wonderful. Peace, fresh air, drivers slowing down. Ah.

I like it when my watercolor paintings turn icy. But I like a little more play with the paint itself. Not instant freeze. I especially love painting in snowy weather. Today I had the chance to paint at Gomper's Park in Chicago. Not only is Gomps the park I went to as a kid, it is a lovely wetlands preserve. Everything was blanketed in white.

It was quite cold out there this AM. My watercolor paints froze almost immediately. I did my best to layer paint onto 300 lb paper very quickly to no avail. Here is what I ended up with. Last time I had my paints freeze they did at a slower rate (probably because it was sunny outside). Today there was no sun and I was out of luck. I figured I could put a couple of the hand warmer packets under my palette to keep it from freezing.





Palette of Slush - almost instantaneously.

View I was trying to paint:

Actual painting. After it 'defrosted' it faded even more. I like the granulation effect but the painting looks more like an extremely foggy lake scene. M aybe it's modern art - plein air style. I think I'll keep this one just for fun. Frame it, put it up on my wall and let it be a conversation piece. It's for sale in case anyone wants a painting made from ice and pigment.

After it defrosted :-(

At the top is a quick painting I did with darker values hoping they wouldn't fade after the defrost. See the frost/ice crystal formations in the paints. I painted it in about 30 seconds - really fast. Otherwise I was moving slush around.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mega logged!


My 2 year old is potty training. One thing she likes to do, on her own, is change clothes - all of them. Bless her for putting her one-hour worn clothes into her little clothes hamper. Sometimes the diaper is still stuck in her pants when placed in said hamper.

While transferring clean clothes from the washer to the dryer, I happened upon a disposable diaper. It had gone through the entire wash, rinse and spin cycles. And remained intact, albeit waterlogged to the max. They are Target brand diapers. If they can handle that kind of beating think of how well it will handle a gallon of your kid's pee. :-)

So I think Target should send me a little something-something for this shout out. Here's my letter to them. I'll keep you posted about the results.
Dear Target:
I accidentally washed a Target brand disposable diaper. It was completely intact after all the cycles of washing; to my utter amazement. I am a blogger and have many mommy friends who may give Target diapers a shot after reading about my successful, although happenstance, experiment. I spend a lot of money at your store on diapers and basically everything else. Please consider donating some diapers to me for giving your brand a huge shout out on my blog (www.beckanstee.com). Thank you for your kind consideration.

Sincerely,
Beck

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jingle Away

Thanksgiving is long past. I'm way overdue for a post. It's the crazy-busy Christmas season. A time when people get caught up in the "season" and forget the reason for the season. I'm so glad my impulse-buy holiday toilet paper doesn't have baby Jesus printed on it (Indi's impulse buy with mommy's money).
To cope with the over-marketization of shopping, gift giving, music-about-the-same-subject and overall holiday guilt, I try to keep it real and ignore all that stuff. It's hard. Especially with all those gorgeous red Starbucks cups! I like to exercise. One class I've taken at Women's Workout World (best gym ever - albeit not full of bells and whistles) - is Zumba! It's a class that incorporates different dance with exercises. To keep things interesting and fun at the gym, the instructors who teach it (Chris and Lucia) went out and got shingles to wrap around their waist during the belly-dance segment. It makes a fun exercise routine even more fun! Great for one's waistline. And being able to move my hips about like that makes me feel younger.
I'm late boarding the train of shingle-wearing exercisers. But, darn it, it's time! My girls wanted to get in on the action. They are adorable. All that hip movement. Elvis would be proud! The video of me was taken by 5 year old Indi. Warning: it might cause dizziness.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amaziac: She has two boobs and is not afraid to use them

My twin sister, Sally, recently had identical twins (Aug 08). It's worth mentioning that they were conceived naturally without modern intervention. I think that makes it more of a miracle. The twins are my sister's 4th and 5th children (all under age 4 - yikes). They're all red-heads.

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday my family went to visit her family in, middle-of-nowhere, western Nebraska.

Sally is an amaziac. An amazing maniac. Amazing in that she's capable of doing all the grunt work that she does. A maniac in that she chose to have so many babies at the same time. She is a work horse. She cooks from scratch, cleans, whups ass and - get this - nurses her baby twins at the same time. It has to feel similar to, what the then, modern machines of the Industrial Revolution felt like - if they were anthropomorphized and then actually had feelings. Geez, talk about feeling like you never get to a moment to yourself.

All I can say is that our kids LOVED the trip and had fun trashing the house. We adults enjoyed eating old-school food: pork roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade bread, a pot of coffee, cinnamon rolls and Bruce's nuclear, uppity margaritas (uppity because I can't afford half the liquor in them - I suppose when a pastor has a cocktail he does it right). As for me, I got one of the worst periods ever - early. Thanks hormone-Sally for sharing them with my otherwise oblivious pituitary - the tampon companies thank you as do the toilet paper companies and my favorite - whoever invented Ibuprofen. Sorry to all the boys out there who are squirming - once they figured out what the heck I was talking about.

So Marvel at the Amaziac ... and coo over the adorable twins (Moxie and Lily)
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Robosister

This is so funny and spontaneous. Hold out until the end - it's worth it! (note how Indi plays her role perfectly as robosister)
I asked my 2 year old what she wanted for Christmas. She answered a giraffe! So I ran and got my camera and here is what transpired. It's so pure! Happy Holidays.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Starbucks Rock

I live in a big city - Chicago. I live a nice neighborhood. Residential. The Starbucks I most frequent in Lincoln Square deserves some props.


First off, if the line is long at this Starbucks - no worries. It always moves fast. They always get my coffee right (or correct it happily if they don't).Check Spelling
Most importantly - the other day I ordered a Signature Hot Chocolate (I think there is Crack in it - very addictive - I'm a coffee-girl all the way - get the unadvertised "Short"). At any rate, I didn't have my wallet but didn't realize it until I ordered and had to pay. I told them "I'll come back later". They said, "don't worry just pay us next time you're here". I was like wuh? Huh. So I did. I have yet to be back there but when I do I will definitely pay! Mind you this was an employee, not the manager. Tasha is the manger there and she is Fab! She's donated coffee and pain-in-the-butt-to-make hot cocoa to Artsmart (she's the bomb). AND she let the Amazing Mama Race participants come in and read Dr. Seuss to the public.

They've given me discounts in the past when I've told them I want to get a grande latte but only have $3 --- they do some magic (apply an employee discount or something) and all of sudden I have a Venti latte for $1.47. I'm not complaining.

Oh one more thing. My favorite employee at this Starbucks is a man I've known since he was a kid (about 5). He's a man now, but I still refer to him, adoringly, as "Danny". He's a fine man - and has on many, many occasions - bought my coffee - or comped it. What a guy! He usually does it at the right time too (crazy day, need a boost, etc). Don't worry, he's married - we just have an old, old connection. Danny Leonard Rocks!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Blue Island

Blue Island, IL is not an actual island. At least not to my knowledge. I met my big brother, Scott, there for 'awesome tacos' at Mario's Tacos. I, formally, met my bro for the first time when I was 24. Before that I had no idea he even existed. He was adopted out of our family before birth. We share the same mother and father. I'm shocked that my family could keep such a crazy secret the whole time.


I hadn't seen my brother in 10 years or s
o - although we corresponded between then and now a little. In the time that has passed we both had kid(s). It is extremely interesting, to me, to see photos of him as a kid. And his daughter, my niece, Chloe. She looks like us (and a lot like her Mom)! He, however didn't . I was surprised!


So what is my brother like? He's smart, educated, witty, a tad cynical, helpful, a cautious driver - and has good hair. He has a great sense of humor. But, as he disclosed, rarely laughs aloud, due to his "comedic training". Thing is, he's no longer a comedian - just a schmo like the rest of us. Don't worry he laughs. He has the wrinkles to prove it ;-). Ok, he is my brother after all AND it is fun to be a little snarky toward siblings.

We had a interesting lunch and visit walking and talking around Blue Island. We eventually ended up at a Jamba Juice (he'd never been there). It was kinda like a date. Sharing info about our lives and families. Is it too weird to say that? Who cares.

Raise a low-cal smoothy with shots of immunity and energy for my big bro, Scott.


BTW, he has a blog - and it is "very him" - witty, snarky and funny.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

SOLD!

Hooray! I sold another painting! It's a big deal to me.

I didn't take a photo of the painting but here's a copy of my sketch from my sketchbook. It's an alley in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood.

The Plein Air Painters of Chicago (PAPC) has a show called "The Four Seasons of Old Town" running through the end of the month at the Old Town Art Center.

There is a closing reception with free wine and nosh on Sun. Nov.30 from 1-3 at the Old Town Art Center 1763 N. North Park, Chicago, IL -- All paintings, including the one I sold, will be on display until then. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Simple Pleasures

I admit it. I am culpable in this cupcake craziness. It was my pleasure to deliver the Grand Prize for the Cupcake Race Art Competition to the 5/6 Grade class at Pilgrim Lutheran School. Over 20 students created original works for this contest. The Grand prize winner taking the spoils and earning cupcakes for his/her entire class. Securing positive social standing at least in the short term. That winner was Harper Fox! He is somewhat shy and reserved. However, his depiction of a raging cupcake literally took the cake! Here is some footage of my entering Harper's classroom. Needless to say they were exicted! It was awesome and fun to partake in such positive energy! Way to go Cupcake Race! Thanks Justin for going along with these crazy ideas! You Rock!




Check out the remaining art up for voting at www.cupcakerace.com. Vote on your favorite piece and tell him Beck sent ya!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cupcake Art Contest


Boy, things have been busy around here! One of the things I've been organizing is the Cupcake Race Art Contest. Kids from Pilgrim Lutheran School were asked to create art about cupcakes. The winner wins cupcakes for their entire class!

The grand prize winner has been chosen by Mr. Cupcake himself, my bff (buddy blogger friend) Justin. But you can get out the popular vote! Go to: www.cupcakerace.com and choose your favorite.

Here's mine. But I'm bias! Go Indi! The lines around the cupcake indicate, per Indi, that there is angelic music emanating from around the glorious cupcake (she loves cupcakes!)




Sunday, October 26, 2008

Indi Bails me out!


I don't know why I am still surprised when I experience the creative talent of children - but I am.

I had a kick butt head cold all week long. It knocked me down for two days. The other days of the week I scuttled along (read: dragged my ass) just trying to get thru. I'm, happily, on the mend. During one of the days I was really sick I kept my 5 year old home from school to help me with my 2 year old. They play well together and I knew it would allow me to rest on the couch a little. The older one would sound the alarm if anything unfair or dangerous were to happen. I wasn't sleeping. I do that in bed - not on a couch in the middle of the playland the kids call my house (yes, the entire house). And honestly, I just didn't know how I would make it thru my day without some kind of help. My awesome friend, Laura, was babysitting later in the week so I could teach Artsmart and my Mom and sisters are working women. There wasn't anyone I felt I could call. Not to mention, I don't know a Mom who wants to watch a kid coming from a "sick house". And I bear no ill will for that! Next time I'm calling my mother-in-law. She's always willing to help in a pinch. I just felt bad about calling her very last minute (she lives an hour away with no traffic). OK, you get it, it's tough being a Mom when you're sick. Moving on...

One activity I did with Indi (the 5 y.o) on my "sick day" when her baby sister was napping -was have her take photos around the house with my digital camera. I do this from time to time. It's an interesting way to see how she is viewing the world and what is important to her. She turned the tables on me and video'd me amidst my day (it's usually the other way around!)




I'll spare you the myriad photos of our ceiling lights (all 8 cans indivudually photographed). As well as the spare pics of the individual pages of her School Days book (most are empty as of yet). She took shots of her art, my art, my office, the kitchen, the TV, her foot, herself, and my favorite shot of all, my watercolor paints. Phew, selfishly, I'm so relieved that they look used! I haven't been painting as much as I'd like - only about once a week. But, hey, we all need to recover from a bad cold.

I did get some fresh air (but forewent showering - took too much energy). Indi LOVES to climb (parking signs, the fridge, the swingset - anything). So I let her have a treat and do some climbing. I loved to climb too (I'd still do it if I had the upper body strength - but ya'll we're heavy!) Check out the spooky orange sky in the background.

Here's to Indi who was amply rewarded with treats for helping out her ol' Ma. Enjoy everyone!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bloggers Unite!

There's a blog by a local person that I like. It's called Cupcake Race.


No, the cupcakes do not race or get hurled anywhere. This blogger goes to bakeries in Chicago, rates the cupcake and takes nice photos of it (really nice, I thought he was a pro photographer). I did this in a few of my blog entries - sans photos. (But I don't have a whole blog dedicated to it). One of my favorite Cupcake Race blogisodes (ok, blog entry) is where this cupcake blogger creates an elaborate graph matrix about the cupcakes reviewed. It wasn't a joke, so stop laughing. It was awesome. What a cool way to waste time at work. ;-)

Mr. Cupcake has been very busy lately and approached me about possibly doing a review for www.cupcakerace.com. I'm a big fan of the blog so I jumped at the chance. However, before I participate in anything collaborative, I felt it imperative that we meet in person. Just to make sure things were cool and he wasn't some freak slipping poison into the icing. We all have those odd fears about folks we meet on the Internet; friend or foe? Yikes. Some of you may have made some friends or significant others on the Internet but I'll bet many of you have not. What does it look like? Well today you will get a front row seat. Don't be too underwhelmed.



So there you have it folks - Mr. Cupcake Race in the flesh having coffee with moi. He's a person in the neighborhood. A person that you meet when you're walking down the street; a person that you'd meet each day (well, once a week at the bakery). Despite irrational fears of Internet strangers, Justin was well groomed with good hygiene and authentically cordial. Frankly he is an interesting and neat person and artist. I like him and hope you will join him (and maybe me) in a few cupcake adventures! Stay tuned!

At the Park

I have no idea why I, personally, cross paths with people who have high affinity for crap. Literal crap.

Last year while finishing a 6 mile run on a HOT August day I needed a drink. I cut through Welles Park to stop at a water fountain (this is a nice park - not a ghetto). When I found one, I approached the fountain the same time as a dog walker who had a plastic grocery bag in his hand. Rather than let me go (c'mon I was sweaty, red and breathing harder than he was) - he immediately turned his empty grocery bag inside out and proceeded to wash some brown gunk out of it into the drinking fountain. His dog and woman were off to the side of the path. I gave him a disgusted 'that is gross' and then started running - still thirsty. The man is an imbecile. Even it was chocolate ice cream did he have to wash it out in a drinking fountain? And since he was so intent on washing - why not let me go first, huh?

This past week my kids and I visited one of my favorite parks (Manor Park). It has a nice layout and picnic tables where we have lunch or snacks. I overheard a mom oh-so-sweetly ask her toddler "why didn't you tell me you had a poopie". Normal enough in my world. I don't want my kid sitting in their own feces either. Then the woman, proceeds to change her poopie toddler on the picnic table. No, not on the wide bench, but the tabletop. No changing pad, paper or coat beneath the kid. No barrier between my future picnic and her kid's leftover crap!
What's wrong with people? I didn't say anything but was VERY aggravated.

I think I'll have to start carrying around a pack of bleach wipes. Sometimes it's just cleaner to eat on the grass.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Night Painting


I am a plein air painter. I paint outdoors at my easel. I paint around Chicago. This past Saturday night I painted, for the first time, at night. Yep. I bought a coal-miner-style headlamp from Target and redorkulated and everything.

A small faction of the Plein Air Painters of Chicago (PAPC) headed to scenic Riverside, IL for this night paintout. It was in the hopes of creating some spooky or creepy, yet realistic, paintings for Poefest (a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe - Oct. 26 6PM @ Stars and Cigars in Berwyn).

At any rate, it was an interesting expereience and I wasn't quite sure what color paint I was putting on paper. But it was fun and I had a good time (see my painting above).





Riverside, IL is this crazy cool suburb where little kids can ride their bikes all over town when they're 7. It's that safe. It's like Mayberry. While I was painting some older boys rode up to me to check what the heck I was doing in their town painting with a headlamp. Well, they were out of high school (19) and riding their bikes around town on a Sat night (real achievers). After I explained what I was doing, they continued to hang out. I was finished so I packed up. They're still yapping away to each other and calling some girl on a cell phone. Then one guy asked me for my phone number! What the? I said "no, you can't have it". He said "why?" - I said, because I'm somebody's mamma! "So what" he said. I said "I'm married". Then I said "I'm 37". This, to my great pleasure, was recieved with much surprise. The instigator said "oh, I thought you were 19". His buddy, the smarter of the pair, - said "wow, you don't look older than 27". They made my night!! Sweet 27!

It gets better.

While chewing the fat with a few fellow night painters, at the local corner ice cream shop (it's so picturesque I could barf) - a gal asked me if I was "Becky". It was my old friend from grade school and high school - Halenia! Wow! She just moved to Riverside with her family from Chicago. She looked fab! She was always very cool - very athletic and smart - and from the old neighborhood. She told me I look exactly the same. I interpreted that to mean "same weight". It's not true but I'll take it!! Woohoo! I was no skinny biotch back in HS but I'm 15-20 pounds heavier now. Although I am very fit now. My abs, aside from the mommy trauma, are better than back then.

Ok, now that I'm looking at the photo of my abs - I'm wondering what *!@$ possessed me to put it up there in the first place! It's this - I work hard in the gym and am proud of being fit - even if it doesn't translate into a perfectly flat stomach or perfect body. If I can be proud, so you can you. So don't believe all that media hype gals! We ARE good enough. Oh, and flatness doesn't mean strength. I have strong abs with a layer of fat over it for good measure :-) (I'm crazy)
I digress.
This is what happens when you don't blog for awhile. And, no, I have not been drinking while blogging.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Crazy *^$@ Drivers

While driving down a single lane urban street (Montrose) I almost brought the smack down to the driver in front of me.


We all space out from time to time and are late to accelerate after a red light turns to green. For this we are, usually, given a honk. Not an angry honk - just a "wake up" honk. There are impatient jerks that give the angry honk. Rejects!~ I wait a solid 5 seconds before I honk in a friendly case. And today was no different. But my politeness failed me. Miserably. Driving in front of me was one of the most self absorbed, crazy idiots I've ever encountered on the road. She was driving an early 1990s make deep red mustang. She was late taking off from every light, every stop sign and swerving in her own lane. This wasn't just a one-time, few seconds thing. It went on and on. Even after a few cars behind me honked at her, she continued with the same erratic and unpredictable behavior. She rode the brake continually. What the heck was wrong with this person? She was READING.

Yes, folks. Her eyes were clearly visible to me from her rear view mirror. They were certainly not on the road. And not just when she was at a light. She would accelerate and her glance would not change. She'd swerve, stop 20 feet before a stop sign. It felt endless! I had a construction tractor behind me who was giving her little honks to get moving. Nothing like being in the middle of an idiot driver and large construction vehicle with a claw!

She was driving like there was no one else around. Like her actions affected no one else. If she was reading something juicy or good, then she must have decided to read it twice. After 2 miles of this crap, I decided to stop the denial and take matters into my own hands. I dug deep. In my Mom-mobile, Subaru Forester, I laid on the horn and yelled out my window "YOU'RE GONNA KILL SOMEONE, STOP READING!". To this i was greeted by both her hands (printout attached) waving her fists at me. OOOO bring it on lady, I'd like nothing more than to kick your self centered, crazy butt! I, intentionally, drove out of my way to get away from this crackpot. I'm so glad I did.

Now for all you prudes out there. This was not anger, it was righteous indignation. Seriously, it wasn't emotionally driven, it was logical. This time.

Snaps to Leon Ryan who made this tee design at the top for Threadless.com

Beware the justice-seeking Mom-mobile.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Running in Polyester

Last Thursday I joined a herd of Elvis's in running 3 miles along Chicago's beautiful lakefront. At the end the organizers had peanut butter and banana sandwiches - which I tried for the first time (not bad - taste like childhood - but I've never ate it back then), there were also bagles, mini organic cupcakes (read: which are overpriced and would never buy but delicious and they allowed to have more than 1) and then washed it all down with my free Goose Island 312 Beer. The greatest part, besides running along the lakefront with my friend and fellow Mama, Laura Studee, is that somehow, we were at the very front of all the food lines! Wow we must have had some FAST running times. I'm glad because the tee shirts were crappy this year. White and only "adult sizes" - no girly cuts. Sometimes life just works out that way. It was a gorgeous evening and I rode my bike 7 miles downtown as well as the return trip. I need to get some blinking lights for my self. It's dangerous out there without 'em. I met up with my old friend Jim Madsen whom I've known since church sunday school days at the Northside gospel center and high school (that's us above - I think he secretly wants boobs). We all run in polyester shirts these days as they are "wicking". It makes a difference, but they stink up pretty fast. I wonder if Elvis knew polyester would be the technical, future fabric. Perhaps he was testing it in all his jumpsuits for the Secret Service. hmmm

Monday, August 4, 2008

McGyver at the Tender age of 2


It's August in Chicago. That means that it's hot, really hot - and humid. On days like this the TV goes on in our house and remains permenantly on PBS Kids. It's an outright battle to peel the kids away from the tube for menial things like, food. They argue, cry, etc. I've done what the smart moms have done for eons; turn off the TV to go out or do something fun. They turn it back on. I turn off the power to the entertainment armoir (sounds like a kinky room - "entertainment armoir). But both kids have learned to turn that back on. Finally, I pulled out the armoir, and yanked out the plug entirely. Guess what, a little 5 year old arm learned how to plug it back in. I know this not because I saw her do it but because I, all of a sudden, heard the TV back on. Such a sneak.

Now, my 2 year old hasn't mastered replugging in the TV (thank goodness). But she has mustered all the electronic and electrical knowlege she has. She took out the cables to the Wii and plugged them into the TV thinking it would make the TV go on. Wow, I was impressed. I shouldn't be surprised when she starts stripping cables and hotwiring our car.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hit your Target: a New Use for Cellophane Tape

Stephanie wears glasses. When she shoots her recurve bow, she puts a piece of cellophane tape over one of the lenses. This helps her from getting double vision. Stephanie is a world-class archer. Placed 5th in the Olympic trials.


Did you know there are only 2 women on the U.S. Women's Archery Team? Steph was 5th at the Olympic Trials (if I'm wrong don't shoot me - literally). Sorry girl! Did you further know that Columbia University in NYC is the only college with an archery team? Who do they compete against! (club teams) So sad. So much for encouraging my kids to be good at a cushy sport so they can get an easy college athletic scholarship.




Stephanie uses a recurve bow. A fancier and more expensive version of the one I learned on at Camp Awana. A compound bow has the pulleys and everything - easier to pull . She can use whatever she wants as long as she isn't pointing at me. I don't think she would miss. Watch for her at the 2016 Olympics. Go Stephanie - beat those boyz!


I'd look a lot better if my sunglasses weren't "picked up". (whaaaa good bye polarized lenses)





Strange Fruit Explained





Hey all - I couldn't get the photo of "Strange Fruit" to load in my last post - but here is their weird coolness.




Monday, July 28, 2008

Clash of the Titans



We had a blast at Millennium Park a couple weeks ago. I'm posting this now as the video takes forever to upload and I haven't had time to do it. I intended to edit it but alas - you get the full length version!

After seeing the performing group "Strange Fruit" at Millennium Park - we enjoyed playing in the "face fountain" (I love that you can do this in Chicago - it's even expected- we wore our suits down there). We were ushered out of the Chase Promenade early in the afternoon about 3:30 as the park was being used for a Private Function. The city was hosting Olympic athletes and dignitaries in an effort to gain rank in becoming the site for the 2016 Olympic games. There were demos and mats on the Great Lawn so my girls and I checked it out! There were two, extremely sweaty wrestlers from Northwestern's team (yo, Mike, your coach accidentally packed up my nice, polarized sunglasses!). Indi and I had fun wrestling. We spoke to an archer, gymnasts that are short for their age and a Judo champion.

My oldest chickened out on the judo demo but I was all for it! It was a blast. It was my first Judo lesson ever. Don, my instructor, is a former Olympian from 1988. I thought it only appropriate that I introduce myself before I drape my leg over his. I got to "throw" him. Then he had to go otherwise I'd have done it again! He didn't offer much resistance - nonetheless - easy can be fun too. I felt like going home and donning the Japanese flag bandana style ala Karata Kid.

All these demos on the lawn made me hungry for more. So now I am a HUGE supporter of the Olympics in Chicago! It's really exciting and fun!

Stay tuned, you'll meet Stephanie Miller, world-class archer! She puts scotch tape on one lens of her glasses when she aims. So cool! Wax on, wax off




Sunday, July 13, 2008

CANONBALL

I have two very vivacious, smart and outgoing daughters, albeit very different. My 2 year old, is especially athletic and tests her physical boundaries all the time. She's not fearless, just very curious - there's a difference. I was able to capture one of my favorite things that the kids do - Make a homemade obstacle course and jump off of the couch! Somewhere #2 picked up using the word "cannonball!" The same cannonball one would yell when making a huge splash into a pool.


My oldest (5) is super smart and crafty. She is the mastermind and engineer behind said obstacle course. This time around she insisted a broom be placed in the course. I have yet to determine the reason or function of the broom. It makes sense in her head.


The way I see it, #1 will solve world problems and #2will be the test pilot making sure they work. What a pair! BTW, they are also gorgeous.


I love these girls and am so blessed to have them. "CANONBALL!"



video

Plein Air Painting Workshop Day 3



Above in descending order: Beck w/ Errol Jacobson, Beck w/ Pablo DeLeon, Scott Tallman Powers @ Beck's easel.

Today I headed back to Bunker Hill woods to finish up the painting workshop I've been involved with this weekend. What a beautiful day! I painted in the woods the entire day. I, actually, was less creeped out by all the spiders, spider webs, spiders crawling on me - and my painting, etc. I think I gained a little on my life span just from being outdoors among green life! I found a tadpole nest - *ew* - I had to climb over it to get behind two mammoth trees I used as cover so I could pee in the woods. Oh, puh lease, I was literally a half mile from a bathroom.

I didn't have a great painting day but worked hard and clunked along. I think of the analogy of muscle building. For those of you who don't know, one builds muscle not during the workout but afterwards, during rest. It's a process of tearing down and rebuilding. So today, painting-wise, I was in the "rebuilding stage". It's the process not the product, right?

I had a great experience, met new artists and tackled some difficult subjects. Seriously folks, it's difficult to paint the woods and a muddy green river. Everything is effing green How do you represent it realistically yet still make it interesting? I found a few excellent subjects but had trouble transferring it to paint. In time.

Two snaps up to Scott who delved into my watercolor to show me a few tips. I'm proud of him for not being an oil painter snob! He totally went to town, mixing my watercolor paint furiously. He made me laugh when he'd wipe the brush on a paper towel. It's an oil painter thing to wipe off your brush (oh and I learned why - cleanliness is key - get ANYTHING in white oil paint and it's no longer white - what a pain in booty).
One of the crazy highlights of the day came when I went to my enormous tree to pee. As I was walking back I heard the voice of my friend and fellow painter, Pam Gibson, from across the river. She said "hey, get out of my composition!" She was kidding of course. So I decided it would be fun to give her some "figure drawing" to contend with. Let's just say, she saw the moon! Errol was working near me again today - and said "you'll embarrass me if you do that". I told him to close his eyes. I think he looked anyway.

Here is documentation of Scott working in watercolor - bet you didn't know that huh? We'll I'm breaking the story here, today. Thanks Scott! :-)

You may want to know what the big deal is between watercolor and oil painters. For starters, the process of painting is different. In watercolor, the painter has to establish and then plan for her brightest and lightest colors. Overall, a good painter chooses their lightest lights, darkest darks and strongest color before painting. So both mediums do the same there. But oils painters reverse the process - they establish darks first and paint that. Light oil paint can be painted atop of dark colors. This is NOT the case in watercolors. Transparent watercolorists don't use white or black paints. There are other ways around it. The white of the paper acts as our whites. If you lose them up the whole project is lost. There are minimal ways to reclaim that white space (sanding, and *gasp* God forbid, white paint). There is a trade off of effects and finishes. Overall I find watercolor waaaaaaay more fun than oils so far. Watercolor is faster, cleaner and brighter. This isn't a hard and fast rule, of course. Both mediums, in the hands of a good painter, will be great. But as a young Mom with kids, I prefer having non toxic watercolors around as opposed to turpenoid and hard to remove oil paints. If you want to disagree with me, get your own blog ;-)


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Meet Errol (cool name!)

Errol Jacobson, plein air painter, artist, friendly guy and billiads master (pool actually) was the very first plein air painter I'd ever met. I was at Millenium Park last Labor Day with the Kids enjoying a free Ralph's World Concert. When we had lunch in the shaded grass, I saw Errol painting "Cloudgate". After the kids ogled what he was doing I got a few common questions answered (I asked specifically - are you a plein air painter - uncommon). I went back and asked him a few more questions and he mentioned he was part of a group and gave me his card. I started painting a few weeks from then. Thanks Errol for not being a snob or too busy not to be bothered! You rock. Well, Errol is still painting and better than ever. I own one of his paintings of Lincoln Square, where I live. It's a gem.

I was painting on the same side of the road as he was today and thought you'd all enjoy meeting him!





Plein Air Workshop Day 2

Today we headed out to Bunker Hill Forest Preserve (part of Caldwell Woods). There was a LOT of green (grass, trees, shrubs, etc). In the AM we hung around a picnic shelter with our easels and worked on some abstract designs. Trying to establish "shapes" rather than something real. I painted in oils for this exercise as it was, pretty much, moving paint around as my friend Nancy Albrecht would say. Here is some of my video diary.

In the afternoon we put our abstract shape painting abilities into practice and did some real plein air painting. For this I brought out my good buddy - watercolors. How I've missed them. I was feeling lost and completely incompetent when I began the afternoon. I almost said "screw it!" - but how can I expect to grow if I give up. So I swallowed whatever fear was trying to get hold of me and dove in! It took only a few minutes for me to get into a groove and relax. My painting was 'eh" but the point was to think of everything as abstract shapes - and not a tree or a river, etc. This is harder than you think - plants and trees - all have leaves and a million little pieces to distract you. Resisting the urge to paint them all bit by bit is a challenge to the plein air painter. So this abstraction exercise was a good one for me. Everyone should try painting - at least once in their lives. It's a butt kicker. You'll learn a lot about yourself.

The day was beautiful - skies looked ominous at times but then the sun would come out and make you worried about sunscreen. Here's my video report for the AM.


Plein Air Painting Workshop

While my family continues their summer trip to Michigan I am participating in Plein Air Painting workshop with Scott Tallman Powers. I decided to create a video report for your viewing pleasure. Just my "final thoughts" after an entire (9am to 4pm) day of painting outdoors.

BTW, the other plein air painters are excellent painters and artists. It was great to be in a workshop with them hence my video sarcasm (when will I learn that sarcasm is never a good ice break! ugh). I will report each day of this 3 day workshop - if I survive!!


I usually paint in watercolor paint (which I LOVE). My fellow painters have been encouraging me to begin painting in oils (the dark side - it's an artsy joke). So I dove in this weekend with much trepidation and fear of being pulled into tedium.




Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mountain climber

Ais can now climb out of her pack n Play - much to my surprise and to be honest, enjoyment. Go girl. I hope she will use her new found skill in life - grab it by the horns, throw her leg over it and get the hay outta there!
While enjoying a much needed summer break at the beaches in southwestern Michigan (Harbor Country) I had a unique experience. My 2 year old, Ais, was put down for a nap in her pack n play. Her grandpa was "watching her" - hanging out while she napped. He heard her talking to herself and laughing and all the fun stuff toddlers do to amuse themselves. He didn't enter her room for fear of getting her worked up. When I came home (from the beach) he mentioned that she didn't sleep and "got into my purse". When I looked at her - her lips and the surrounding skin were COVERED in 12 hour lipstick. Hmmm.
Upon inspection of my room , Ais went thru my purse alright. She smeared my red, 12 hour lipstick all over her face (which remained there for a day), ate 12 pieces of gum (I know this because she wadded up each wrapper and put in an empty rigid tote that resembles a trash can *god bless her for this*) The tampons were unwrapped, the credit cards strewn about the room. The cash remained in it's original place - somehow.
Oh, but there's more - somehow she got to the top of that highboy dresser. She grabbed a ziploc bag full of baby medicine, thermometer, etc. She wrangled open a foil-backed Baby Tylenol and ate it (I could tell because it was covered in slobber). Evidence shows she attempted to eat another but gave up the fight. She threw thermometer covers all over the bedroom. A TV was sitting on a low stand. There was a 4 inch corner of the stand available for her little feet to climb. That has to be the only way she could reach the ziploc. What a determined little stinker.
She's OK, I had to laugh and be thankful for such a vivacious little chica. Couldn't find my camera when this happened but hope you enjoy the story.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer is Finally here!


Have any of you Midwesterners caught some of the grand weather we've been having? There have been some nice rainstorms following hot, muggy summer afternoons. Collision of pressure systems and storms! Lightening!

It's been the kind of weather where you're outside all day. Then the wind starts to blow progressively harder and harder. You don't mind because it feels good and fresh (as an urban dweller I forget the freshness of fresh air - but like farts from a pretty girl - you know it when you smell it). I encourage my kids to play in the rain with me (I know it sounds like forced poetic drivel -but it's true). Why be afraid of getting wet? Nothing like splashing in bare feet, getting dirty and gritty calves from said splashing and then trying remove wet clingy clothes. Remember that! Photo above was taken over my neighbor's house, across the street!
I'll be a better blog soon, I promise -

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Busy June



June sprung upon me and now is fleeting! Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been busy throwing kid birthday parties, attending fun art parties and most of all painting and selling my paintings! Woohoo!


My girls both celebrated bdays and each had their own rockin' party. I made the decorations myself because they don't sell the decorations they girls' wanted. Shrinky dink, packaging tape and an ink jet printer did the trick. Oh yeah, as well as flip chart paper and poster paint. Phew! Super Why and Cyberchase themes. Glad I'm done with this these late night activities until next year.



On the fun side of things, I sold my very first painting ever (I don't have a photo!) I donated a plein air painting to The Riverside Arts Center. I set a minimum price and the RAC got any amount over my minimum. I just received the check in the mail yesterday. It's very exciting. I must be on a roll because I sold three others last weekend at a Fundraiser at the Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, MI. See photos above (one was done plein air at beach). The others were two studio paintings I had completed. All watercolor. It was LOT of fun painting in Michigan. I love being outside. I love observing. Painting seems like a natural fit for me -- although I do have to work hard at it - it doesn't come easy.

I had vein surgery on my other leg two weeks ago. I've been wearing a support stocking this whole time even with shorts (hey, it's hot already, I'm not wearing pants just to cover the support stocking). After painting in Michigan for the weekend, I got a nasty contact dermatitis that itched like crazy. My leg was crazy red, itchy and blotchy. I've been on steroids, Benadryl and Zyrtec all week. It's all a haze looking back.

Lots of summer fun with the kids at sprinkler parks, beach, etc. We have a big extended family vacation in Michigan coming up next.

More interersting posts soon, I promise - there's been a lot of hilarious stuff out there.








Thursday, May 29, 2008

10 miles Purple Swingset

No, the title is NOT the name of the hottest rockband or lost memories of a bad drug trip. Although having recently found a band call "Don't Wake Aislin" I should research before I articulate. I digress.

Phew! What a busy Memorial Day weekend it was for me! I met my goal of running in the Soldier Field 10 miler. My goal was to run the race under 1:40:00 (10 minute miles) and not to stop. I ran it in 1:35:00 (9 1/2 minute miles). Woo hoo! It was a looooooong run. But the weather was gorgeous that day in Chicago and made it that much more enjoyable.

Observationally, I'll have to say that every woman in that race was pretty fit. There were no fatties. I mention this because sometimes I really feel like a fatty (I have inherited a genetically big bootay and large calves) - a pear shaped lower body. I'd make a good tight end if I were a guy. At any rate, I notice socially degerate things like what people look like in a 10 mile race. So sue me.

I came away from the deal with two huge, quarter-sized blisters on my arches and some sore leg muscles. So what did I do? Hobbled and rode my new electric razor scooter all over the neighborhood! That scooter saved the day - and did I have a BLAST! It's pretty zippy! Just don't try to carry a latte and a bag and operate the brake and throttle. Backpack required! I am installing a cup holder! :-)

As my kids napped, I hit Home Depot (why? ugh - it was a zoo) and bought some dark puple paint for Indi's room. We (Indi and I) painted one wall very dark purple. She and Aislin both LOVE it! My plan is to stencil something fun on it like graffitie or cartoon characters they like.




There's more folks! Thanks to Gramma B for buying the girls a swingset for their upcoming birhtdays. The excitement level in those kids was thru the roof! It was so sweet to witness. Here is a video of Indi riding her swing for the first time. Of course putting the thing together wasn't finished until dark - but it all got done before bedtime! The video is bad - very dark, but the audio is enough to raise the dead. Unadulteratled blissful joy. Sounds like a good Memorial Day to me!