The Blizzard of 2015 Champagne-O-Meter

(This is ONE of TWO posts today — immediately following is a post all about My First Ever DoG — I don’t want you to miss it.)P1000070The Blizzard of the Century, they said it was — a doomsday storm heading our way with the mighty wrath of  a really vengeful supernatural being that was really, really pissed off by Long Island vocal fry.

But I could be projecting, just a teeny bit.

In the ten years I have lived on Long Island we’ve had, oh, ten Blizzards of the Century. I didn’t get all het up about this one, but the Gummint did, and how. Roads, trains, public transport — all shut down. The New York State Thruway’s closed, man.

On Sunday night we had overnight snowfall, which looked like this, Champagne-O-meter-wise:

P1000099

Monday afternoon was the worst, with lots of fast-falling snow and white-out winds. In one powerful gust I heard the walls of the den creak in unison, which did not please me. Top Cat came home from work in Manhattan early and we hunkered down with cats, cocktails, and made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese and we watched The Interview. Two thumbs UP UP UP. Who knew Eminem could be so hilarious?

Most of the snow fell and fell overnight, and on Tuesday morning the C-O-M looked like this:

P1000108

Tuesday was a SNOW DAY.

And then it was Wednesday and everyone back to their lives, but on a Sunday schedule.

So, basically, it’s been Sunday since Wednesday and Sunday is not my favorite day of the week.

So last night I popped the C-O-M and poured like it was Saturday.

Now I wish every Thursday could be Saturday.

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

It was a Sign.  No doubt about it.

Sunday morning, 8:10AM, October 27, 2013.  It was THE Sign.

I turn on the Channel 2 (WCBS in NYC) for the weather forecast but I get the anchorwoman talking about “senior citizen” dogs from the Manhattan ASPCA who need homes. I see two little doggies squirming in the bright TV lights. They do not look happy to be there.

Then the TV shows the mug shot of one of the dogs, a cocker spaniel called Boogie Girl …

P1200248

“She was called Boogie Girl by her old owner, but you can change it,” the ASPCA told me. First of all, I would NOT change a name that a dog’s had for 17 years. Second, I thought “Boogie Girl” was a FANTASTIC name.

…I know immediately. This is a Sign, from the Universe, that Boogie Girl is meant for me.

To back up a bit: I have been a proud Crazy Cat Lady all my adult life. But ever since I married Top Cat and went to live in the suburbs of Long Island in a house with a beautiful back yard, I’ve had a hankering to broaden the scope and endeepen the depths of my human existence by getting a DoG.  But deciding what kind of DoG person I was — that was impossible. The DoG world has too many variables: small lap-size cuddler? Big goofy labrador or retriever? Mid-size pit bull? Super-smart poodle or shepherd? Really dumb bull dog? I had no idea.

But as soon as I see Boogie Girl on the TV I know that I am, without a doubt, a Boogie Girl kind of DoG person.

The following Wednesday, I am at the Manhattan ASPCA, meeting Boogie Girl in person:

P1200237

That’s the Adoption Counselor, above, walking Boogie Girl through the Cat Room to prove that she has nothing against cats. Done deal. I make an application, give references (including a vet reference), pay the $250 adoption fee, and on November 6, 2013, I am back at the ASPCA to bring Boogie Girl home!

P1200415

Front passenger seat, Toyota Camry hybrid, about 11 o’clock in the morning, Nov. 6, 2013.

I took this picture (above) after I pulled the car out of traffic on First Avenue, to settle Boogie down so she wouldn’t get us killed by crawling all over the driver’s side  — she was supposed to have stayed in the back seat, curled up on a blankie I’d brought for her, but I hadn’t been warned that she had probably never ridden in a car before and did not understand the protocols.

I took this picture to commemorate the very moment that I dedicated my life to her: There she is, looking at me, and in her eyes I see that she is dreading/pondering  what new shit has happened to  her now.

And I look back at her, ashamed that I don’t even know how to take a dog for a car ride, and I promise her, “Baby DoG, (when I don’t call her Boogie Girl I call her my Baby DoG), I may not know what I’m doing, yet, but I want you to know that I will protect you, and love you, and we’ll figure it out together in your forever home.”

P1200547

How CUTE is she in her Winter coat????

Boogie Girl had already been through a lot. She was one of 4 dogs rescued from a deplorable living situation in a hotel, from an old lady who had long gone senile, and finally been evicted, so the state had come in and removed her to an assisted living facility and called the ASPCA to come get the animals.  Boogie Girl had been at the ASPCA shelter for 6 months and was the third (of the 4 dogs) to be adopted.

When I met her, Boogie Girl was 17 years old. She was hard of hearing, and also a bit hard of seeing (inoperable cataracts — her heart couldn’t withstand anesthesia). In other words, she was perfect.

P1200868

Top Cat filling in on dog-walking duty. It was snowing and I just could not go back out there to go on a sniffing expedition to the neighbor’s garbage cans for the third time that day.

Boogie was 18 pounds when I got her — she was thin. Later, I figured out that if it took 6 months to get her well enough for adoption, the poor thing must have been in very bad condition when she arrived at the shelter. I figured it out because, at home with me, she was so frantic and greedy every time she ate (I think that’s called “food insecurity”) that I had to save her from herself or else she’d puke from over-eating. So that’s how I begin to  parcel out her feedings to three times a day, and make her scrambled eggs, eggs over easy, and gravy; and give her spoon fulls of cat food to delicio-tize  her kibble, and let’s not even start with the wet food catering (all veterinarian-approved). By the end of the Winter she had put on about five pounds and couldn’t fit into her cute little coat any more.

P1200511

She only used her meshy harness for a week. It irritated patches of her skin that were bald. She only wore a collar when I put her on the leash — my Boogie Girl was going to have as free-range a retirement as possible.

The ASPCA did not tell me that Boogie Girl  wet her bed most nights. See that spiffy $100 bed (above) I got for her? It lasted a week. It was so big that I had to go to the laundromat in town to use the triple loader to wash it every time she, uh, piddled in her sleep, and as I was not capable of spending hours of my life going to the town laundromat three-four times a week, I knew I needed to come up with a home-based bed-washing/keep Boogie in clean beds system. Voila:

P1200835

Don’t judge me for putting her in a cardboard box — I’ll explain in a minute.

The cats got Boogie’s $100 old bed. She now has four different little beds (on rotation; she goes through two a day) that fit nicely in my home  washing machine. A friend advised me to get an indoor pen for her boudoir, so we pulled up the rug on our slate-floored den, put down two shower curtains, and circled them with a light-weight pen. The pen was never locked, and it was very flexible. It was more of a suggestion of boundaries than a hard core kennel.

We laid down newspaper on top of the shower curtains, and every night we carpeted her pen with nice clean Wee Wee pads  (see above).

And after her long night’s sleep, THIS is what I have to clean up (see below)  every morning:

P1210037

Now, about the cardboard box: Everything I know about taking care of Boogie Girl, I learned through trial and error, and one thing I learned about Boogie is that she is a sloppy sleeper:

P1210213

 

P1000129

P1210750

P1000125

So, if I want to save her from sleeping head-first in her own night soil, I have to contain her in her bed somehow.  And that’s why we started ordering really big stuff from Amazon just to get the box:

P1210751

See that butt? She doesn’t have a tail, so every time she’s happy her whole back end wiggles, like at 100 mph. And we wiggle together, to a song I call ” Happy Boogie Butt! Happy Boogie Butt!”

It works. It isn’t pretty, but it works.

Boogie Girl and I spend most of our days together in the den, but Boogie Girl’s den is a big room. It’s 350 square feet. It has 7 regular windows and one big picture window. It has two sofas, a stuffed chair, various end- and coffee-tables, and my desk. This is a picture of her, hogging up the whole left side of my office space, while I’m trying to type the Damn Garden Book:

P1210754

Here’s another picture of my working conditions:P1210043

And another:

P1210038

She also comes with me upstairs when I work on stuff in my painting workroom. This is a picture of her in my work room, snoozing in a bed that was not meant for dogs:

IMG_0143

Here’s another picture of her in amanuensis  mode, in my workroom:

P1210074

One thing that the ASPCA didn’t tell me, kind of an important thing, was that Boogie Girl had never been house broken. I figured it out myself after our first five days together, but I wasn’t going to traumatize her with training at this point in her life.  This is her happy retirement. So I try to manage her tendency to answer the call of nature inside the house by walking her four or five times a day —  Dear Readers, I must confess: having to trot her to the same neighbors’ trash cans four or five times a day so she can sniff every last bit of discarded rotten food gets tiring. Crazy tiring. And gross. But who am I to deprive Boogie of such pleasure?

P1210554

Spring sunshine — and Boogie Girl at her shaggiest, right before her Day of Beauty at the groomer’s.

Once upon a time, Boogie Girl found a chicken bone in the middle of a street around the corner. I took it away from her, of course, because it was disgusting, and for WEEKS afterwards, we had to make a detour to go to that same exact spot, and sniff around for a chicken bone that might have magically re-appeared. WEEKS. And yes, to make up for my guilty conscience about that chicken bone, I  put baked chicken on her dinner rotation.

P1210639

The Boogie after her Day of Beauty at the Groomer’s. I can’t believe how small she looks, because her place in my life is HUGE. BTW, Boogie is not a cuddly dog, so this is as much huggy-time as I could ever get from her, altho she does let me kiss her on the nose every time I want to.

Boogie Girl is, in short, needy, picky, and a  handful. She’s also a bit smelly, but she is dignified, brave, and gentle.

Because Boogie Girl had so many care-taking requirements, Top Cat and I had to stop traveling to week-end get-away destinations. And every place else.

P1210681

That’s Dudley, checking out the intruder to his back yard territory. Yes, that’s an empty pizza-box in the flower bed to the right. It’s DUDLEY’S pizza box.

I cart Boogie Girl off to the vet as frequently as I take her to the groomer  — at least every six weeks. New dog mom, old dog, nutty amount of love … I panic about her health a lot, and I am happy to hand over a couple of two to seven hundred dollars just to be re-assured that she’s not going anywhere, no matter how heavenly, any time soon.

P1000179

Dudley LOVES to nap on his pizza box in the flower bed. Who am I to care if it makes our place look trashy? Dudley likes it, end of story.

Even with me watching over her, Boogie Girl has managed to crap in every room of the house. TWICE. Every room. Rooms that have carpet, rooms that have oriental rugs, rooms that have hardwood, and rooms that have tile floors.

I have stepped in it, in bare feet, only once. And once in stocking feet.

P1210063

How does Boogie get along with the cats, you ask? She gets along like this — she sniffs, determines that they are not food, and ignores them. This seems to only annoy Taffy (seen here, trying very hard to get her attention).

I’m telling you all this so you will know that Boogie Girl thoroughly up-ended my cat-lady life and household. I’m telling you all this so you’ll know that from the first day we were together, my life had to be all about Boogie Girl, and I’m absolutely fine with it, and I’m telling you all this because from Day One my heart was Boogie’s  and will always be hers. I’m telling you this because I only had her for nine months, two weeks, and a day, and I miss every time consuming, exhausting, totally boring dog walking, garbage can sniffing, laundry doing, cleaning up-aftering, sloppy sleeping, wolf eating, dinner-making, bed-making, panic-making, never-off-my-mind second.

P1210633

Notice that she is not hugging me back.

Boogie Girl was not a cuddly dog, but she and I had a deal. When her time came, she would be at home, with me,  Top Cat, and a kind, soft-spoken vet. I would make her a feast of her favorite people-food treat (baked broccoli casserole with bread crumbs and garlic), she would scarf it down, and she would let me carry her to the den. She would finally let me hold her in my lap, and wrap my arms around her, and tell her what a beautiful wonderful lovable DoG she was, and keep smooching her silly head, while the vet put her worn out little soul gently to sleep.

P1210671

And that’s exactly what happened.  Boogie Girl died of congestive heart failure on the night of August 26, 2014.

I could’nt sleep that night: The vet had taken Boogie to Westchester, to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, to be cremated, and the house was suffocating me with her absence. I was haunting myself for not having done every thing perfectly for her. Mostly, I couldn’t sleep that night because I never wanted to  wake up in the morning and not have a Boogie Butt wiggling with happiness to see me.

But I was too exhausted to resist a few hours’ sleep, and then it was the next day. First thing,  I made a frantic call to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester to say I had to see my Boogie Girl one last time, could they give me a one last viewing, please please please? They said Of course. I went limp with relief.

Then I gathered up Boogie’s cans of wet food and big bag of dry, and her purple harness that she used for 7 days, and I took them to the local county animal shelter. Seeing a stranger hold Boogie’s old harness made me cry. So I went home and drank tea and passed a very numb day.

(I held onto her beds until October, literally held onto them. I held and inhaled and said my Boogie’s name, until it got cold and I thought of the little dogs who might not have cozy beds of their own and I made another trip back to the county animal shelter.)

And the next day, there I was driving up and down Central Park Avenue, hyperventilating and still to able to breathe, in heart-attack mode, seeing black spots in front of my eyes, because I was lost in goddam Westchester.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.57.59 AM

Imagine that you are a 40-ish guy, sitting at your desk at Scarsdale Ford, on a perfectly average, normal Thursday morning. Suddenly, a wild-eyed lady storms into your showroom, clutches her head, and says, “I’m  lost and I’m going to faint.” She’s talking kind of loud and can’t catch her breath. She drops herself down in the seat front of your desk and, hands trembling, she hands you a sweaty, crumpled piece of paper with the address of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery on it, and she before she bursts into tears she  says, “I have to see my dog one last time and I can’t find her.”

She keeps saying, “I have to see her, I have to see her. And I’m lost!!”

You take a moment to figure out that what’s happening isn’t a prank. Then you dial the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. You tell them that there’s a woman having a nervous breakdown in your office because she’s worried that they are going to go ahead with the scheduled cremation because she hasn’t arrived on time and you think she’s a no-show but the truth is that she’s going crazy from  being lost [in goddam Westchester] for the last 40 minutes. You write down directions, you hang up the phone, you turn to the weeping lady, and very calmly and slowly, you say:

“You’re only half a mile away. The entrance is hidden on a side street. Go here, turn left here, turn the corner there.  You’ll be at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in ten minutes. Don’t worry. They’ve still got your dog and they won’t start without you.” The woman still looks bat-shit crazy, but her crying is quieter now and she lifts herself up from the chair in front of your desk. She says, “Thank you so much. I was so afraid I’d never get to see her again, and I have to see her one last time.”

Then you say, “Can I give you a hug? I’ve been through it too and I know what you’re feeling.” So you give the lady a hug, and she starts crying again, and she sobs, “I miss her so much!”

The lady turns, and leaves the building. Two days later you get a card in the mail, addressed to “Kind Person Who Helped Me Find the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery”. The crazy lady tells you her name, tells you that Boogie Girl was the name of her dog, apologizes for barging in on your work day, assures you that she is not usually that much of a nut job, and thanks you profoundly and humbly for your humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 12.34.55 PM

And that’s how I finally arrived at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 12.35.04 PM

I sat with Boogie for a quarter hour. She was laying in a little bed with white satin sheets and her head was on a white satin pillow. I clipped some locks of hair from her silly little head.

I saw her all the way to the door of the crematorium, and then I turned away. I walked around the cemetery for an hour. The cemetery is a beautiful place.

l

l-4

then I collected her ashes, and drove home without incident.

Every time I sit at this desk, Boogie Girl is right in front of me, in a flowered tin box.

People ask me if there’s a big difference between cats and DoGs, and I say, “And how.”

People ask me if it was kind of stupid to adopt a senior citizen dog to be my first DoG ever, and I say, “I was probably in a little over my head.” And I also say, “I hope I made her happy.”

People have asked me if it was worth the effort and expense and heartbreak  to care for an old DoG that you only know for such a short time, and I say, “I don’t know any other way of having a DoG.”

People ask me if I’ll ever get another DoG, and  I say, “I’m on the lookout.”

All I need is a Sign.

I Could Straighten Everything Out If People Would Only Let Me Be the Boss of Everybody.

Someone has to say it, so it might as well be me: Jeeze. I go away for a year and LOOK at the mess  the world gets itself into. So I’m very happy to be baaaaaaack: Voice of Reason, thy name is Vivian.

Thank you all, Dear Readers, for all your notes last week, welcoming me back to the inter webs.

As per your requests, I will be catching you all up on What I Did on My Year Off, starting today.

One of the things that kept me very, very aggravated busy in 2014 was writing and illustrating the Damn Garden Book. Although I am contractually forbidden from publishing any more than 10% of the content of what is, at this point, the paid-for intellectual property of BloomsburyUSA (YES — they put that in my contract!) I know I’m not flouting my legal obligations to show you these few pages of The Damn Garden Book.

This is Exhibit # 1:

P1000062

This book, like my first two, is another  Traveler’s Journal, this one on the Meaning of Life and Gardens.  In it, I travel to thought-provoking gardens far and near; FAR — Rio de Janeiro, Marrakech, Edinburgh, London, Key West, and New Orleans. NEAR —  a Japanese folly garden and a dead poet’s orchard here on my own home turf in Great Gatsby territory on the Isle of Long.

But I start the garden tour in the city were  I have done some of the best gardening in my life. I mean , of course, Paris, The Gardening Capital of the World.

Exhibit #2  is a self portrait, which I call  This is how I do my best “gardening” in Paris:

P1000063

Obviously, I’m “gardening” metaphorically. And it’s a rainy day.

 

Both Exhibit #1 and Exhibit #2 are rescues. If you look carefully at Exhibit #1 , you’ll see that the edges of the trees’ foliage casts a shadow. (You can scroll up now. I’ll be still be here when you get back.)

Here’s the story: My big idea for the Damn Garden Book was to immerse my Dear Readers  in the various garden experiences. In order to do that, I had to — cripes — paint full-page pictures, which I am not very good at. In fact, I stink.

I’m a miniaturist for DoG’s sake, but hey, why try to live an artful life if you’re just going to keep on doing what you’ve always been doing? So I tried something new, and painted a lot of full page-size pix, and was extremely impressed by my derring-do. I was much less impressed by the results.

About half of the pix turned out OK.  But the other half looked as if I’d  painted them blindfolded. Or drunk.  I wish!

Most times, I re-paint the pic until I get it right. But sometimes I don’t. Like with Exhibit #1.

Painting those background apartment buildings was sooooo tedious that there was no way I was going to re-paint all those dastardly Juliet balconies. So I just painted new trees on a separate sheet of paper, cut them out, and glued them right on top of the offending verdure. I know! It’s amazing what you can get away with!

Exhibit #2 is also a clever run-around. I compensated for my lack of painting-a-window-that-looks-like-a-window skill by cutting out the window panes of the cafe and pasting  in a separate illustration of a Paris street scene. ***That white goop on the right edge is hiding a mistake I made in painting my shadow.  Computer-machine magic will get rid of the noticeable surface texture when it goes in for production.

In Exhibit #3 we arrive at the gorgeous Paris garden that I think was worth writing 14 pages about:

P1000065

Do you recognize it? Here’s a hint: the garden actually is in the shape of a triangle.

Yes, it’s the Square du Vert-Galant on the tip of the Ile de la  Cite!:

P1000069

*-*-*-*-

Changing subjects, please consider Exhibit #4, a photo I took on my last visit to the City of Light, in 2013:

P1150816

Nice garden!

Here is something that I haven’t  told my editor yet but I’m telling you: I want to  include 6-8 watercolor prints that can be removed from the Damn Garden Book… in other words,  pages that are suitable for framing.  Like, as my gift to my Dear Readers.

One of the subjects I can envision as a suitable for framing is Exhibit #4.

I think the idea of rip-out-able pages is a good one, and I think that if I can pull off painting this charming scene (with enhanced greenery, artistic license, etc.) it could be a collector’s piece. Yes, I said it: Collector’s Piece.

Thoughts? (I enabled Comments!!)

Meanwhile, let’s move on to the Author Photo: As you’ve seen in my previous book jackets, I like to have fun with my Author Photo. No itty bitty postage-stamp size mug shot for me! I want to send a message with my Author Photo, mostly something about how I’m kind of cute.

I was thinking that this photo, taken last September in my favorite cosmo patch along the Garden State Parkway, in New Jersey, near Atlantic City, might do:

IMG_0238

My plan was to photoshop this pic heavily. Add many more cosmos to this field,  swap out my frizzy hair for the hair in this pic (below) (of me on a Good Hair Day):

P1210633

But last week, I cut my hair:

P1000008

I do not know why I had to show both hands in this selfie.

So back to the drawing table.

By the way, were you wondering, in that Good Hair Day photo,  What’s with the cocker spaniel?

Well, that’s my cocker spaniel, my very own, the one and only Boogie Girl:

P1210671

Because another one of the things that I did in my year off that kept me on my toes and put a whammy on my love of sitting around and never leaving the house was I got a DoG. The DoG of my heart, the best damn DoG anyone ever had. She was really something.

Next week: all about the wonderfulness of the Boogie Girl and the havoc her ilk causes in a previously cat-only household.

And when I say “havoc”, I mean it in the most awesome sense of the word.

 

 

Life is Like a Blue Birthday Cake

Since I only bake one cake a year I insist on making it the time-honored olde-fashioned way, same way my ancestors did back in the Olde Country, when we lived in harmony with nature down on the  Olde Estate, down the road from the 7-11 just off Pennsylvania Turnpike exit 8. Here’s how I do it:P1000028

Life is like a bowl of cake batter, and blue food coloring is Science:

P1000030

Behold :

P1000032

I leave you to come to your own conclusions:

P1000035

Pour batter into cake pans, put pans in oven.

Remove pans from oven when batter has finished reincarnating as solid food:

P1000037

Yes, Dear Readers, I use a colander as my cake pan cooler because one day I will have reached the Nirvana of Ultimate De-Clutter when I own only 100 pieces of stuff and everything I has to do double-duty.  In the case of the colander, it triples as holy headgear, for Lo, I am a member of the world’s fastest growing carbohydrate based religion, Pastafarianism.

Cooking Tip Most Likely to Make You Go Doh!: The fastest way to bring a stick of frozen butter to “room temperature” is to grate it:

P1000048

Life is a like a bowl of butter cream icing, and blue food coloring is all our wishes that eating butter cream icing would be one third of the food pyramid:

P1000052

Now, that’s what I call Magical Thinking:

P1000054

Pre-cake plate:

P1000055

Bottom layer of icing:

P1000056

This is the first year that I completely gave up trying to make a decent cake, given that all the blue cakes in my past have turned out hideously. So of course, this happens:

P1000058

I know there’s a Life Lesson in there somewhere.  But don’t ask me for it — do I look like Oprah?

P1000059

And the champagne wasn’t the least bit like a Slurpee:

P1000061Je suis Charlie.

 

Please Don’t Spoil My Day, I’m Miles Away

Here it is,  your 2015 Champagne-O-Meter!

P1000001

Yeah, I know; you expected a bang and all you got was this whimper. And the total re-design of my blog isn’t ready, either. Sorry, but we have to put up with sans-serif font for just a little while longer.

Luckily, after a week of 20 degree weather here on the shores of the Long Island Sound, you know our bubbly will be nice and popsicle-y for when we pop it open for our annual Ugly Cake Contest later today.

IMG_0469

In the meantime, I want to welcome myself back to the interwebworld! I’ve missed you!  And I want to thank all youse who have stopped by to pay a visit! I could use some cheering up!

IMG_0389

I’ve had a terrible, terrible streak of everything-should-revolve-around-me-level of bad luck this year so yesterday, when the Customer Service guy at Staples (His name tag said “Awesome”. Really, it did. ) replied to my customer serve issue with a smile, and says, as if to gladden my day,

“C’est la vie”

something in me snapped.

P1000142

Being mistaken for the kind of emotionally well-balanced and friendly person who finds it endearing when some self-appointed Buddha decides that the Customer Service Desk at Staples is the perfect place to be the beacon that shines a little light on my path to enlightenment, well, that does NOT bring out the best in me.

P1000016

And After All, I’m Only Sleeping.

One of the things I did, on my year off from blogging, was get a solid “C” in my Anger Management course so, no, the…uh… conversation did not end up the way it usually does, with the guy from Staples threatening to call the cops. But I made sure that the next time he tells a customer “C’est le vie”,  he better be prepared for an ear beating in very loud, at least 70% correctly conjugated, don’t-fuck-with-me French.

Yesterday, the day I wanted to make something special for this Re-Boot Post, things got so bad that I ate cake batter for lunch.

But then, later that evening, when I saw the carrier of the Last Straw heading my way, I made the conscious decision that at that point, all I could do was laugh. That’s how I ended up, doubled over in my driveway at 7:30 PM in the sub-freezing cold, laughing and laughing and laughing about how I had just spent a half hour in the dark and freezing cold FOR NO REASON AT ALL (long story, the LIRR was running late, that kind of thing), laughing and laughing. Seriously. I could not keep a straight face at that point.

Then I went into the house, poured me a glass of wine, and laughed and laughed and laughed some more. That was dinner.

Upshot is: Give me until cocktail hour tea time to do today what I tried, oh, how I tried, to do for you yesterday.

And then we will get the party started!

P.S. HA ha ha ha hahahahahahaha.  The Comments on this post are CLOSED (I closed them when the blog went floringe in 2013) and I can’t OPEN them!!!  Don’t ask me why/how, but whacking the side of my computer doesn’t help.  I would love to hear from you — I’m at vivianswift at yahoo dot com.

 

 

Paws Up!

 

BookScanCenterboogs 1_3

 

I wish you happy holidays, Dear Readers,

and a joyful new year!

Meet me back here on

January 16, 2015

when this blog re-boots  for further mountain-making from the molehills of life and art here on the shores of the Long Island Sound.

The thing I’m most looking forward to about my new blog is getting serifs. Oh, how I have missed my serifs on this lousy Atahualpa theme. In 2015 it will be Times New Roman all the way. You have no idea how happy this will make me. Happier than playing Twister with Ryan Gosling, that’s how happy my new serifs will make me.

Here It Is: Your 2014 Champagne-O-Meter

Dear Readers, it’s Tuesday, a day of the week that is worth celebrating. Because if you are like me and see no reason to celebrate End-of-Weekend Sunday or Back-To-The-Grind Monday, then you know how very ready you are to praise the Wine Gods by Tuesday.

Dang. I forgot to put the bubbly in the fridge last night. “Whatever shall I do for a quick chill to ease my desperate  thirst?” I ask myself, since I like my gratification to be as immediate as possible…

This is the snow in my backyard:

P1210075

***

This is my Tuesday happiness:

P1210076

***

 This is my Tuesday happiness fixing to make me much, much happier, in the snow in my backyard:

P1210077

Yeah. It’s been a long, long Winter.

Thank you, Dear Readers one and all, for stopping by my hibernating blog. We’re closing up shop this year, but keep tuning in for a fabulous upcoming announcement!

 

My Favorite Breakfast of the Year

If it’s January 17, it must be left-over birthday cake:

P1200978

As you Dear Readers may know, every January 16 I make a blue cake, which I wrote about last year in the post called

Blue in a Good Way:

b-day-1

This is my winning entry in the Ugly Cake Contest of 2013.

And I wrote about in 2011 in the post called

Born at the Right Time:

P1130303-e1358426512410

If you want, you can click onto the links which are highlighted in *blue* to read the entire posts of which I speak.

And in 2010 I put in the post called

The Breakfast of Champions:

P1020074-225x300

This year I made my bluest cake ever…

P1200980

…thanks to the vat of precious blue food coloring that my dear Top Cat found on the inter webs. And, thanks to Dear Readers Maryanne and Jeanie, this year I also got a shot of my all-important Vitamin C[hampagne] in blue. (People, this stuff came all the way from Reims, France!) BTW, Penelope wants to thank you, Maryanne and Jeanie, too, for her collateral gift:

P1200945

P1200972

That is, she thanks you for the box that the champagne came in.

P1200966

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes.

Yes, me and this blog are still in hibernation, but please feel free to hang out and browse the archives.

How to Paint an Entire Fall Landscape in One Single Leaf

P1200338

My criteria for the Perfect Fall Leaf is that it contain every color of the season in one feuille. Obviously, as soon as I laid eyes on this beauty I knew I’d found perfection for this year’s Annual Fall Leaf Painting Tutorial (2013).

P1200339

If in previous years you’ve followed my Annual Fall Leaf Painting Tutorial, you already know that after I’ve laid my leaf on 90-pound Canson watercolor paper and traced its entire outer edge, I divide the leaf into its “cells”. The secret to painting a Fall leaf is to paint it cell-by-cell.

P1200340

I am using size 0 and 00 brushes and my cute little set of Windsor Newton watercolors here — the colors are very bright and rich. Let the watercolor dry throughly before you start a new cell.

P1200341

This way, you can let the paint colors bleed into each other within each cell (see below, I’m letting my yellow paint bleed into the green)…

P1200342

…and still keep all the other cells clean and bright and not muddied-up as you add to the leaf (cell by cell):

P1200343

 

I’ll just let you watch for the next few frames as I paint in details, cell by cell:

P1200344

P1200346

P1200347

P1200352

P1200356

P1200361

I have to say that I find Fall Leaf Painting to be very relaxing, especially when I add the tiniest details.

P1200363

P1200365

P1200368

The great thing about Fall Leaf Painting…

P1200369

…is that in the end, you have a leaf that will never fade or crumble or get disgusting looking (tea bag included for scale):

P1200731

This is what happens to your Fall Leaf the day after you finish painting it, poor thing.

This is especially true with oak leaves! Hoo boy, nothing dies faster and uglier than an oak leaf. That’s why I was overjoyed when I found an unusually ripe oak leaf this year and was able to paint it before the poor thing went the way of all fallen leaves.

P1200732

For more Fall Leaf Painting Tutorials, please check the Archives of this blog under Watercolor Tutorials. Sure, you might have to wade through some Cat Painting  and a lot of Garden Painting  and loads of Watercolor Failures that I’ve posted from time to time…but enjoy the browse and if you care to send me a note you can always reach me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com.

 

 

Nothing Rhymes With Orange

We love Pumpkin Time here on the shores of the Long Island Sound.

P1200097

P1200034

P1200032

P1200159

I detect a slight flaw in the Pumpkin Placement Plan here.

P1200162

P1200164

P1200174

P1200170

Pumpkin Time is a good time to remember the most lonely word in the English language: Orange. The color gets a bad rap for being garish and unfriendly but some of my favorite things in the world are orange.

P1200163

P1200165

P1200115

Here are some pictures of City Orange from my outing yesterday:

P1200189

Upper West Side brownstone.

P1200190

Yes! I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday! The bridge is undergoing loads of restoration so it is u-g-l-y at the moment, but as you can see, the City of New York spares no expense in making tourists feel welcome!

P1190135

Saki basement bar in the East Village.

And what Secret Garden would be complete without a touch of orange?

P1200028

Which reminds me, we are painting a Secret Garden today:

P1110587

Of course, it all starts with a pencil sketch and masking fluid:P1190993

I use folded sheets of scrap paper to cover up bits of the picture before I begin to paint the gravel:

P1190995

When the base paint is dry, I put my toothbrush to good use (which, in between the three times a day I use it for dental hygiene, lays around doing absolutely nothing). I load it up with a mix of grey and black watercolor and then I flick it at the illustration:

P1190996

This is not really my Dental Hygine Toothbrush. This is my Dedicated Paint Flicking Toothbrush.

Let dry, and voila:

P1190997

Here’s a painting tip: I save the bottle caps of Top Cat’s favorite GatorAid to use as mixing pans.

P1190998

To get the many shades of green I need for a garden illustration I mix three different hues of green with two different hues of yellow and/or three different hues of blue. BUT to get the pure yellow that I prefer for my painting I mix two different yellows — Cadmium Yellow and Lemon Yellow. (Alone, Cadmium Yellow is too orange and Lemon Yellow is too bright). And I keep my pure yellow isolated in a GatorAid bottle cap because I can’t be trusted to keep them clean if I put them in a palette-thingy.

P1190999

P1200001

P1200002

Here is where I add some detail to the background wash:

P1200003

For this illustration I wanted to try out an idea I had, about using some blue in the foliage, maybe to get a more dream-like effect:

P1200005

I am still using my chalky Grumbacher paints mixed with the tubes of Windsor Newtons, mostly because I love what the chalky paints do when they dry. They leave an interesting residue on the paper, interesting textures that are purely accidental that I really like:

P1200006

I am thinking that for this picture I want to leave the foliage looking very watercolory, like this:

P1200007

So far, I am quite happy with the way this picture is going. So now I start to add plants:

P1200009

I’m being careful not to over-do it:P1200010

But here is where I ruined it all:

P1200011

I tried to paint tree trunks in ochre, which was bad enough, but then I made the mistake of painting them with straight lines. I knew it was wrong immediately. I was instantly unhappy with these wimpy, ugly tree trunks. But still, I thought I could soldier on, finesse the picture with other distracting details:

P1200020

But those tree trunks just kept bothering me. So, i finally had to ditch the whole picture, having admitted what I knew all along: There is no rescuing a picutre that has a fatal flaw:

P1200082 2

Several days later, I went back and had another go at it. The steps were exactly the same as above, but the end was this:

P1200083

You can compare for yourself:

P1200082

Yes, the sad fact is that whenever you try something new, there’s a 80% chance that you will blow it. But hey: it’s only a bit of paper and paint. That doesn’t stop me from taking a whack at something new. And, for those times when making a crappy illustration feels too much like failure, there’s always champagne.

One of these days I hope to work up the nerve to paint my favorite time of day:

P1200136

Twilight in Pumpkin Time.

I love the low light of a Fall evening:

P1200140

I have to learn how to paint this most beautiful shade of orange. In fact, I think that when we finally invent a word that rhymes with orange, and it must have something to do with this quality of light:

P1200137

P1200122

P1200144

I’m thinking that “floringe” might be the word, to describe the look of artificial lights glowing in a Fall evening. Floringe would be used especially in the case of the lights that shine from the inside out:

P1200158

The lights that are seen from a distance:P1200145

To extrapolate, then, floringe, as the wisp of illumination that almost holds its own against the night, floringe could also be the word used when a blog goes dark.

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time.

I have been blogging for six years. My blog has evolved from a really crappy stream-of-concisouness diary into a weekly presentation of what I hope is interesting and useful  and honest information and about the trials and errors of living a creative life. I take a lot of pride in making my blog live up to the intelligence and humanity of my community of readers, dear readers, many whose stories and names and cats I have come to know and treasure, as friends and inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And in the same way that I know when my painting lacks necessary oomph, I know when my blog is running out of steam. As both painter and blogger, sometimes I have to get away and be more of a person living in the world than a person who observes it.

So. I will not be here next Friday, or the next. Or the next. I will be writing my Damn Garden Book full time, and showing up as a Commentor on my favorite blogs — if you are not reading The Miserable Gardener you are missing the best gardening blog written by a pure bred border collie ever — and herding my cats. Doing what I can to gather steam.

I do plan on being back in the blogosphere, someday, and I might even post something here from time to time, so please drop by. I’ll have to post updates about theDamn Garden Book, of course — I’m under contract to finish it sometime in 2014. And you can always reach me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com, because I do want more garden photos. We’ll stay in touch. Because when a blog goes dark, it doesn’t go away forever. It only goes floringe.

Meaning, there’s always a light left on. You’ll always be able to find your way to my door.

P1200133