Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More arts

Lately I have kind of rediscovered my ability to draw. Because of this I have been trying to devote at least an hour through out my day to sketching/drawing to improve my skills that I have somewhat abandoned as of late. I have devised little ways to get my groove back.

I first bought a little 3x5 watercolor sketchbook, which makes for fun, fast project that only take a day vs. several. Plus they look so cute and colorful in the little sketch book one right after another. Here's my first one:
I also cracked open my regular sketchbook. I was a bit sad that I started this one in 2008, and here it is over 3 years and I'm only just nearing the end of it. But it is never too late to pick back up, right? So here are just some sketches. I am working on doing more detailed drawings vs. vague sketches.
Coming soon, a digital illustration I have been working on that I am pretty proud of. I have been doing lots of online tutorials to work on my technique, as I kind of feel I have hit a standstill with my illustrations as well. The thing about graphic design is the styles are always changing, and part of being a good designer is keeping up with it. We'll see how well I do...

Until I post that, you can see the cover of a booklet I created for a little commission job for Jeff's work. They are hosting a big conference this week, and one of the speakers needed to amp up his booklet.What do you think? Will it grab attendees' attention?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Actual Painting

While finger-pudding-painting is both fun and delicious, it doesn't quite satisfy my artistic itch. So, I pulled out my paintbox and palette and did my usual doodles, waiting to find some inspiration.

I then remember this picture Emily had hanging in her hallway.
I think it's such a beautiful picture, with the rich blues of the ocean and the crashing waves. But what I mostly love about it, is the reminder of the fun times I had with Emily and Melody. There were times when I was always a little jealous that they were twins and had each other, but that was so far from the truth as I always felt included in everything. Perhaps they will never know the impact of insisting that your silly 14 year old sister come along to Macey's with your friends to get ice cream, or taking time out of your day to help her get a few hours of driving with her permit, or even borrowing a cute shirt or some make up. Indeed, it did leave a lasting impact. I was so lucky to have older sisters who were so loving, and always were looking out for me. I don't think they will ever know how much I looked up to them, and wanted to be just like them and still do (Not to mention all the perks I got at school being the "Graham twins' little sister"). Even today, I am ever learning from all of my sisters, and am so glad that I can consider each of them a best friend. (Can't leave my bros out either! They're amazing!)

Well, that all just kind of came out. Back to the painting... (click to zoooooom)
Now, I haven't painted in a while, so it always takes a little bit to get back into the swing of things, but I think it turned out pretty nicely. I know it is a simple painting, but I am very proud of a few things; The preserved whites, the deep colors, and the finer details.

You see, watercoloring has always been a challenge for me, as it requires extreme patience and detail. Lots of waiting to dry and building up transparent layers. I am a VERY impatient person, especially when it comes to art (which is why I like digital art, as I can whip those babies out all fast like.) I get bored taking time to plan everything then sketch it out, then continuously paint over a series of days or even weeks. I just like to dive in, and see results!

Which is why I think watercoloring is a good exercise for me. It really pushes me beyond my comfort zone, and a lot of the time it is worth the struggle. I would love to take lessons, as I have a very limited training right now, and I have been researching my options in DC, which there are plenty! We'll see if I ever find the time (or want to fork up the dough).

Another special moment that came from my recent painting spree is when Pen-pants abandoned her toys and shows and tippy-toed up to the table to see what her mommy was up to. She tugged on me to pull her up on my lap to see what I was so focused on and sat for a few minutes, just observing my technique (at the time, I was painting a self portrait, and even in its very beginning stages, at her first glance she said, "Mama!" I was very flattered.) and it wasn't long before she started grabbing for the brush.

So I sat her in her high chair, put a fresh paper on her tray and handed her a brush full of paint. She got right to work, trying to copy what she had observed, loudly shouting repeatedly the colors that would flow from the brushstroke. When her brush ran dry, I would fill it up with a new color. Her favorite was "YELLOW!!!!"

So, we sat there painting together for a good half hour. I couldn't help but smile while hearing her giggle and converse with me as we worked, and feel a little burning of happiness in my heart as I shared one of my passions in life with my baby girl.

Perhaps it is just a few lines and blots of paint in the end, but I think just like my painting above, it is what the picture represents that makes it so special. I couldn't be more proud of my Penny.
With that said, we'll start the bidding off at $100,000!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passing the day.

The other day Em and I found leotards at Old Navy in the clearance section. The girls look adorable in their little ballerina costumes.
Of course, they look adorable no matter what, I suppose.
These little girls will be best friends forever!
These two are also best friends. Penny misses him so much while he's at work, she gets SO excited when he comes home.
The other night we were watching a very boring movie (Unstoppable I believe... ) and I noticed how long Jeff's hair has grown, and I decided to try french braiding it. I got a little carried away...So of course, we all know where Penny gets her crazy hair from.
Emily is always on the hunt for things to do to pass the time during these long, one nap days. This time we had the babies do pudding finger painting. Emily just informed me that she found this idea on Sharla's blog.
With their little high chair canvases, they were off.

Penny for some reason has a hard time getting her hands messy. It could be because I am constantly washing them the second they get anything on them.
With a little help from Ruby, she eventually got the hang of it.

Everyone had a fun time, as well as a delicious snack.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Florida Adventures!

Warning: Very long post! For those interested in reading, I tried to make it as interesting as possible for you. For everyone else, there are fun pictures and videos! Enjoy!

It has been a few weeks since we came home from our glorious trip to Florida. We felt it was time we take a vacation, and since KC's parents were offering us a screaming deal on the remaining days on their timeshare (thanks again a million times! We will repay the favor any way we can!) we just couldn't resist! We booked some plane tickets and a rental car, and off we went.

The plane ride was uneventful, and it was nice to have a husband by my side to help manage a fidgety toddler. I think the Orlando airport is funny, as you have to start out by riding the tram to the baggage claim. It's like true theme park form to make everyone ride a monorail first thing. Ha. Anyway, Penny was being an extremely good baby for not having any dinner, and it being 2 hours past her normal bed time. We picked up our car, and took a short ride to the resort.

We stayed at the Marriott Grande Vista Resort, which was simply amazing. From the moment we arrived, I seriously didn't want to leave. The 2 bedroom suite we had was well over 3 times bigger than our apartment, and the resort was full of activities and pools and hot tubs. We enjoyed our suite to the fullest. It was so, so great to be able to put Penny in her own room, and still be able to use the living room and kitchen. There was a great big flat screen TV, a giant dining table, and a full sized kitchen. But perhaps my favorite part was the master suite, complete with a king size bed spilling over with puffy pillows and a oversized whirlpool tub.

I think staying here was enough of a vacation for me.

There were several pools to enjoy, all complete with splash pads and baby pools. Since Penny was up early in the morning, we would take advantage of the nearly deserted pool decks.


This day was not so deserted, as we went mid day.

It was lovely. Jeff only took two days off of work, technically, and worked remotely on Tuesday and Thursday. This was just fine with me, as I would take Penny around the resort while he worked, or lounge in bed, or lay out by the pool during Pen's naps. I would give anything for my whole summer to be spend like that.

On the days that Jeff didn't work, we made our way over (and coughed up a million dollars) to Disneyworld! We thought we would visit the most kid friendly parks, and take it easy, and perhaps a few years from now, revisit with a different mindset. But for now, it was just us and a baby.

We went to the Magic Kingdom on Wednesday. The annoying thing about Disney parks is that no matter what, it always starts and ends with a line. Especially MK, because from the parking lot, you have to ride the tram, which takes you to the ticket office, and from there you either have to squish onto the monorail or wait in a herd of people for the ferry. The whole ordeal takes at least a half hour off your day. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but we were on a schedule with a baby, but whatevs. We tried to take everything as it came. Luckily, we have the best behaved 1 year old in the world when it comes to stressful situations. (It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where they go to Itchy and Scratchy land, and they have to ride in a helicopter to get there. Ha.)
But it was fun to be there, especially after visiting Disneyland 8 or 9 times in recent years. It was interesting to compare all the differences. Penny was a perfect child the whole time. I really felt for all the parents dragging around their fussy, over-tired babies, and I wanted to direct them to the convenient baby care station with dark rooms and rocking chairs, but I know how on edge those mums can be...
We stayed true to our resolve to not wait in a line longer than 15 minutes (I don't think Penny could handle it, and I get really freaked out about germs. Normally I can handle dirt, but I just think of the thousands of people per hour they pump through these rides... ick. Plus, 70 minutes for Winnie the Pooh!?!?! That ride can't be longer than 2 minutes! Thank you, fastpasses!) and we didn't! We worked the fastpass system like a charm, and basically walked on most rides through out the day.

This was such a fun age to bring a child to DW. Predictably, Penny loved all the dark rides, ooing and ahing at the black light effects and animatronics. She said "hi!" to characters as we passed, and would dance along with the songs. She pointed at nearly everything in Small World, with a big grin across her face the whole time. The 3D Philharmagic show was fun, and Penny tried to reach out and touch everything along with all the kids in the audience. It was very surreal to see my own child enjoying Disneyworld just like I did as a child. It was a very strange moment in my life.
Penny enjoyed pirates as well. Though, I was slightly disappointed, as the length of the ride was significantly shorter than the Disneyland ride. This was the same for most rides, such as Splash Mountain and Buzz Lightyear. You would think they would want to improve upon the previous park, but I guess what ever gets people in and out the fastest, eh? At least the Jungle cruise lived up to expectation.
What we did like was single rider lines and stroller switch passes! We didn't even need fastpasses most of the time! Just show them the stroller, and one of us jumps on the ride, do the ol' switcheroo, and just like that we both had done Splash Mountain in less than 30 minutes. We would normally try to do the big rides during Penny's naps.Boy was it H.O.T. I can only remember a few times in my life where I have been so hot, and I have tried to block them from my memory. Between rides, we would try to find some kind of mister or fan or gift shop to duck into and enjoy the waves of cool washing over us. We went to nearly every show as well in both parks just to escape the heat. That was fine, Penny loved it. She clapped and sang along with the Country Bear Jamboree. I think this was her favorite thing in the parks. She laughed and giggled with excitement when seeing the giant mounted animals on the wall come to life and start talking to us. As I never experienced this attraction as a child, I really had no strong connection to it, so I didn't feel too guilty being reminded of Lester's Possum Park the entire time. But I suppose most older rides and shows there are for nostalgia's sake anyway.

Tiki Room was being renovated. Penny would have LOVED it... Maybe next time.
We tried to bring along most of our food so we wouldn't have to give another million dollars to Disney for every meal, but that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy the other snack-like fare available! We enjoyed cinnamon rolls, dole whips and a hot dog. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate a corn dog, our only real craving of the day. Several confused cast members tried in vain to direct us. No such luck.
We enjoyed feeding Penny in the cool, quiet, completely empty baby stations. Disneyworld's best kept secret! They have everything you need! Changing tables, diapers, wipes, baby food, utensils, microwaves, rocking chairs, cold & hot water, binkies, bottles, EVERYTHING! We didn't really need all that stuff, but we were grateful to know that for a small fee anything we needed was available.
The only truly terrible part of the day was trying to leave. We were being directed through the massive crowds watching the Electric Parade, and we decided to beat the rush, and leave. EASIER SAID THAN DONE. Of course, the parade was blocking the exits, and we were funneled and squished into a crowd of over tired kids, and extremely angry parents. At one point, we were stuck for about 10 minutes waiting to cross Main Street, and we were pressed up against everyone getting packed in, and I nearly had a panic attack. Finally, they paused the parade to let the very angry mob loose, and we jumped onto the lovely air conditioned monorail car, and took our lovely, well behaved child home. Except for the last 20 minutes, our day was very productive and enjoyable.

Thursday was spent enjoying the Marriott Resort again. It was so wonderful to have a day to recuperate. Seriously, every Disney vacation I take now will include a relaxation day in between each day.

On Friday we went to Animal Kingdom. We felt this a good choice since Penny is into the animal sounds and what not as most toddlers are. She LOVED this park, since it is basically a big zoo. Plus, there were lots of fans and misters lining the streets. Why don't they have this at every park?!

We bought her a little Dumbo. They have a line of baby disney characters, which is funny because in the movie, Dumbo IS a baby. Perhaps that is why I picked it. There is something weird about having a baby Ariel or Mickey lying around.

Again, we enjoyed the baby care station. This time we had a private room, with a little night light and changing table. We stayed in here to eat lunch. Boy was it nice to get out of the heat.
Penny continued her good baby behavior and took a nap while we rode Expedition Everest. They have a single rider line here, which was a grand total of 5 minutes in line. Take that, 70 minute wait time!
The shows helped us get out of the heat as well. Penny clapped and cheered with the Lion King show. They had a huge animatronic elephant right next to our seat which she was overjoyed over. She makes elephant noises by spitting with her tongue. It is pretty accurate.
The Finding Nemo show was fun, but not my favorite. Penny was a little bit scared during the Bug's Life show, and rightfully so, as I get scared in that one myself. Don't tell.

DINOSAUR!!! Don't worry, it is but a skeleton. This ride is scarier than I remembered! But it was still(They left off a "Fun!" Haven't they heard the song? R.B. will be so upset.)

We got fast passes for the Safari and only waited about 10 minutes. The fans in line were glorious. Here I am dying of hot.
This ride is seriously one of the coolest at DW. They animals are ever so close! Jeff loved it, as did our child. I am always amazed at how crazy and weird animals look.
Since we packed lunches and ate dinner at our hotel most days, we decided to (REALLY) splurge on a fun restaurant. The Tusker House seemed to be the best option, and it had great reviews on yelp. It was an African all you can eat buffet and BOY was it AMAZING!!!! So many curries and meats and couscous and veggies and breads. It was well worth the money.
My favorite of course were the desserts. They had the basics like lemon bars, cookies, brownies, macaroons, BUT then there was banana bread pudding with vanilla sauce! And cherry apple cobbler! And passion fruit tarts! And baklava! And it was all I could eat!! I stuffed my face with mostly these.
Penny liked the mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and delicious fruit salad and green beans.
We wanted to go on the river rapids ride, even though I didn't want to get too wet. Ironically, while I was on there, it started to DOWN POUR. I was sopping wet and then the rain made it even more so. Jeff decided since he was already wet, he would hop on. Unfortunately, he got stuck on the ride, and was left out in the pouring, pouring rain while Penny and I waited in a make shift shelter with a crowd of other patrons. Penny was very squirmy and wanted so badly to run freely through the sheets of water. I would let her run out occasionally, but didn't want her to get too wet.

Fortunately, this all happened about 15 minutes before the park closed. So as soon as they let jeff off the ride, we raced through the rain to the tram and into the car. The rain didn't let up for another few hours.

We sadly couldn't go back to the Marriott resort since our time was up there, but we had booked a room at a Hilton resort down the street. It was just a tiny room, but we made do. We built Penny a make shift room using the closet doors and towels. She fell right to sleep, and we spent the evening enjoying the soft bed and cool air conditioning.

Jeff also laid everything from his wallet out to dry.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel, walked around the Hilton Resort (which was also very nice. HUGE pools with big water falls and play grounds that Penny had a great time playing on.) and then went to Down Town Disney. After browsing the shops there, we ate at the T-Rex restaurant. It reminded me so much of the Larry the Scary Rex ride on Clifford. It was fun, and the baby though the dinos were awesome. After we were done, we looked across the lake and saw about 100 feet away, water was just pouring, and so we ran as fast as we could to an awning just in time to miss another downpour. Jeff fetched the car, and Pen & I ran as fast as we could to meet him. We had some more time to kill before our flight, so we ended up at the Florida mall. It was PACKED with humans, and I was so done with crowds,

so we left shortly and ended our trip to Florida with yet another line at the airport security. The flight home was uneventful, Penny slept through the flight to North Carolina, through the hour lay over, and continued sleeping the whole way home, until we landed. We discovered that our stroller and car seat got lost somewhere, and I was very upset to hear this, but that is another long, boring story. We got it back the next day, phew! But it was a hassle carrying all our luggage and carry ons as well as Penny on the Metro, especially so late at night (it was about 1 am after we sorted every thing out with the stroller.) and the metro OF COURSE was going through "scheduled track maintenance" so that took about 50 minutes rather than the 15 I had expected. But like I said, we had the best behaved 1 year old in the world, who was quiet and snuggly the whole time. Dad kindly picked us up at the Metro station, and boy was it amazing to lie down in our bed and sleeeeeeeep.

So, it was a huge success, and we were SO happy to be there, and enjoyed the week long vacation. It is fun to have a great destination so close to us, especially after losing our proximity to Disneyland. Next time we go, we will surely hit up Harry Potterland... Sigh... so close, yet so far...