Our token Halloween

Dave sent me an e-mail before he left Everett, to inquire whether we should have a bag of candy, just in case. I had to laugh—every year at the farm, we buy the one token bag of peanut butter cups or Snickers, just in case it’s the year that some brave kid comes up the long private drive and knocks on our door. It hasn’t happened since, oh, about 1987, when our next-door neighbors had young kids. Once they grew and moved away to college, we never got any more visitors on Halloween. Not even from the Gambill family at the end of the road, when Joe’s grandkids got old enough for trick-or-treating (his daughter and her family live with him). Can’t blame the kids… I’m sure they’d rather get a ride to a nice housing development somewhere, and really score some candy!

So after we made some mini-Boboli pizzas for dinner and opened a bottle of red, we each had a couple of mini Snickers bars for dessert, in honor of Halloween.


Sunday drives

I did some research today on the best ways to stretch & mount watercolor paper before painting, and it got me thinking again about Dad, his painting, and exploring the backroads. All those Sunday afternoon drives, three little girls in the back of a light blue station wagon, then a black 1956 Bel Air. A window apiece, kneeling on the bench seat to gaze out the back window. Sunset Highway to Issaquah salmon; Maple Valley Highway and Aqua Barn horses, enormous maples lining the road. It was different then, farms and fields so close to our home, we were in the country before we knew it.

As a horse-crazy girl, these drives were heaven. Dreaming about the house I wished we lived in, one surrounded by green pastures, with a horse in the pasture and a cozy barn in the back.

I have to wonder if my dad drove these back roads with an artist’s eye, looking for the next subject for his brushes and paints…  just as I’m beginning to. Some of his paintings we recognize… we were there when he painted the shore birds and the wind-swept trees at Beachside state park, the Admiralty Head lighthouse at Fort Casey, and the missing mountain at Tipsoo Lake. But where did he paint the rustic red shack by the railroad crossing sign? Or the grey house surrounded by maples in autumn colors? We will never know.

And what about those regular Sunday afternoon drives? Was this the entertainment they could afford, a family of five on an architect’s salary? Or did everyone drive out into the country in those days? There were no stores open on Sunday, no malls, no grocery stores. Just nature… with open arms.


Watercolor books part 2 (or is it 3?)

Reading through about 20 watercolor techniques books has given me a pretty good idea of the basics I need to practice and learn. Now I'm learning that not everyone takes the same approach once they get past the basic techniques—washes, wet-in-wet, wet on dry.

For instance, I only saw the concept of doing an underwash in a few of the books. That’s the best way to color reserved areas of a scene, so when you paint over them, the color shows through. For example, a leaf with light green veins. Instead of masking the veins, then painting the light green, it’s easier to do the light green in a wash, then mask it, then paint the dark areas. And the concept of glazing: very thin washes of color repeated many, many times until the color is built up to the painter's satisfaction.

Then there are the endless discussions of what colors to buy. There's a lot of agreement on certain colors, and much disagreement on what colors should always be blended, never used straight from the tube. Greens, for instance. I've seen fascinating chapters on blending greens from the most unlikely colors, pages of tables that show the slight variations possible. This is one topic I'm itching to explore for myself.

The different approaches to painting skies are fascinating. In one of the last books I read, the painter always uses a sepia wash on the sky before he lays in the blues, and his skies are beautiful. Others reserve areas for white clouds dry and wet around them, to reserve the white. Some paint the entire sky in a blue wash, and use paper towels to blot out the white clouds. I’m anxious to try out all the techniques, and decide what works best for me.

Once I get comfortable with how to paint, I can think more about what to paint. Many of the books have practice material, from brush strokes to using sponges and other tools to get different looks. Quite a few have sketches or templates you can use, and instructions on using different techniques to paint them.

I’m trying to be systematic about this... everyone says that watercolor is the most difficult to master, so until I learn the basics I will ignore the little voice in my head that wants me to jump into the deep end of the pool, and start painting.


Searching for geocaching streaks

No, not streaks in my windows (although there are always plenty of those). I've been bitten by the geocaching streak phenomenon and am on the hunt to find another we can do this year, maybe over the long Christmas break.

A geocaching streak is where someone (or a group) find backroads where they can place a cache every 500 feet (the minimum distance allowed by GC.com). They're fun to find, and if you're trying to build up your numbers, or trying to reach a new milestone, a streak is a great way to accomplish this. So while we watched Bones (these are re-runs for me), I opened up the laptop and took a look. One likely place was just north of Seattle, a ton of caches in little lines, but these turned out to be trails. Bummer. They'll be fun to do next summer, but not what I'm looking for. I spotted a short string between Raymond and the turn to Long Beach, but only 20+ caches. Not worth the drive.

But I hit paydirt when I scrolled east along the Columbia Gorge. Not one series, but 6 of them, all around Hood River. The Cook Underwood trail on the Washington side of the river looks fun; these are some of our favorite roads for the MX-5, and there are 133 caches in the streak. All the caches are on one side of the road, and all are 1.5/1.5 to make them quick.

On the Oregon side, there are five series. The longest are the Westside (100 caches and counting), and the Eastside (another 100 caches). Three shorter streaks have 30, 40, and 25 caches. The group that set up these streaks are adding more caches all the time, so by the time we make it to Hood River, we may need to take vacation to get them all... and we're looking forward to doing jus that!


Choosing wine over oysters

It was a tough choice, but we made it. Shelton Oyster Fest with one group of friends, or take Jim & Ruth to DeLille Cellars with us. We chose the latter. We haven't seen Jim & Ruth for too long, and knew they'd love the wines at DeLille. As part of our wine club membership, once a quarter we get a wine tasting for four, and knew we wanted to share it with them.

It was a fun afternoon. We got all caught up on their house plans, the plans for the house at Benson Lake, and of course, work at “the place.” Ruth is still planning to retire end of January.

Because I-405 is closed in Bellevue (they’re connecting the new SR-520 on-ramps this weekend), we took the back way through Issaquah, Redmond, and came into Woodinville from the south. Perfect, since our first stop is at DeLille Cellars. Jim & Ruth haven’t been here before, and they really enjoyed the wine, especially the reds (we thought they would!). We stayed an hour, talking and sampling, then headed to DiStefano. We have wine to pick up, and ended up staying until after closing. We looked around the cellar room where they have tastings and dinners, admired the riddling rack table on the new patio. I’d love to have one; with a glass top it would make a great coffee table. Either flat or as a wall display, wouldn't it be a great way to display my shell collection?

We spent most of our time sitting around a table on the patio, enjoying the sun (although it’s chilly today) and working through the wines. They’re having a fund-raising event tonight, and were busy getting set up for it. They said we were welcome to stay and enjoy ourselves, but eventually we had to leave. We were getting hungry anyway, and chose an Italian restaurant just east of town. We had a reservation for 7:00,  and were early, so we sat in the bar and kept right on talking until our table was ready. Dinner was excellent, a bit pricey, but the good Italian restaurants always seem to be. We would definitely come back here.