July 3rd – “ Give yourself a break — maybe even a whole night off.”

The great thing about not comparing myself to others is that I don’t measure my success or failures based on anyone else’s. The bad thing is that I can be hard on myself.  

Lately, I have been feeling lazy and very underachieving.  When given the choice to get more sleep or stay up to work on something, I choose sleep.

This weekend I had a small gathering in my little town. We went for a hike among the redwoods,

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ate a ton of food,

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and painted.

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I had plans to make fancy wine country inspired meals from scratch, but I ended up substituting half the recipes with store bought stuff. I was feeding 5 people a late breakfast and dinner and took shortcuts. We had frozen tater tots instead of hand cut fried potatoes, bbq sauce out of a jar instead of a homemade concoction, and veggie burgers that came out of a box instead of my food processor. The strawberry rhubarb pie was made with freshly picked ingredients from my garden, but the pie crust was ugly and I didn’t churn any vanilla ice cream for it. It was not the extravagant meal I planned.

I didn’t feel very accomplished until one of my guests remarked, “You do a lot.”

I paused for a moment. She was right. I don’t know too many people who would take time to organize outings for friends, all while working on creative projects, managing a garden, teaching, and clocking in hours at a day job. 

That’s a lot. I took a night off.

May 5th – “The gold and olive tones of your lines and furniture will be highlighted by a long panel picture of trees with golden leaves. A real green plant, as long as your water it, is a good fit too.”

I just acquired a piece of new furniture. It was the perfect time to move a few things around.

I took this pathiphyllum (Peace Lily) from my office to my bedroom. It brightened everything up. It’s amazing what a little plant can do!

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It goes well this painting of trees with golden leaves that I already had on my wall.

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Thanks for the easy one, horoscope!

November 22nd – “Be aware that your research concerning your past or future lives will not help you close your monthly finances gracefully.”

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Breaking news: I received my birth reading today!

Yes, I’m taking this astrology thing to a whole new level!

My 60+ page reports (there were 2 of them) gave me an overview of what the stars have in store for me based on the date, time, and place of my birth. I read both reports in one sitting, and I have to say, I think it’s pretty accurate!

How did my prediction know that I would be getting research concerning my past and future lives today?  This is the first reading I’ve EVER had, so it has to be more than just a coincidence. I’m calling it a SURE SIGN!

It’s too bad that I can’t rely on my latest discoveries, which say that I can have/did have good fortune, to pay the bills this month. Oh well! I guess I can’t quit my day job just yet.

I know very well that while the past and future can provide valuable insights into my world, it’s not the here and now. I’m trying to live in the present, so I’m not going to dwell too much on the past or future. What’s done is done, and what’s not yet done, may never be done.

My past can give me knowledge, my future can give me hope, but only I can make today happen!

 

November 11th – “Create more harmony and calmness…to improve how you feel when you’re at home.”

My bedroom has been filled with a mish mash of landscapes and cats since September. When I put them up months ago, I left space for the new paintings I would make. That didn’t happen, so the canvases have been hanging on my wall looking pretty awkward.

The obvious lesson here is that when you spend too much time thinking about the future, it’s easy to lose sight of today. In planning ahead for future paintings that I didn’t make, I didn’t get to enjoy my work in the present. The empty space was not harmonious and annoyed me! I kept the paintings there because I thought it wouldn’t be long before I would add new ones. I was so wrong!

Last night, I decided to end my suffering and took them all down.

This morning, I sorted the paintings, took out the ones that I didn’t really like, and rearranged them on the wall. Immediately, I felt better!

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It’s amazing what a difference a small change can make. My horoscope also said that my home redesign “doesn’t have to be a major project,” which I found to be a great tip. Sometimes it just takes a little effort and attention.

I would still like to improve my painting skills, so instead of saving empty space on my walls, I sketched out a couple of cat paintings.

I’m leaving these on my desk until they’re done. If I don’t post the completed paintings in the next couple of weeks, please send me a message or comment!

October 15th and 16th (Part 2) – “Better plan to work this weekend.”

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Picture books are not just for kids. Last night, I started reading Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters by Barbara Ehrlich White. This oversized book made me feel like a kid again. My little hands could barely hold the heavy 1 x 2 foot hardcover and I needed a couple of pillows to prop it up. There were pages and pages of glossy illustrations sandwiched between the meticulously researched narrative of Renoir’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading words and seeing a story with my own imagination, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little help.

Renoir isn’t a picture book in the traditional sense (i.e. The Cat in the Hat), and the pictures alone didn’t tell the entire story. The book was much more complex than that. The writing provided the facts, names, and dates, and the images helped set the mood.  The rest was up to my imagination.

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In 1800s France, young penniless Renoir was supported by wealthy patrons. They bought him painting supplies, commissioned portraits, and provided room and board at their extravagant properties. Here are some samples of his portraits. I particularly like the red head one. She has attitude!

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I let myself pretend that I was Renoir for a while. How wonderful it would be to paint all day, indulge in meals garnished with truffles, drink other people’s wine, and wake up whenever I pleased. Then again, I would probably have to hang out with those fancy patrons all day, and I didn’t like them that much. One is tone deaf and likes to sing until 3 in the morning. Another thinks his foie gras joke is so funny that he has to tell it every night. Maybe it’s not the kind of life I want after all!

Renoir made me think about artists today. The artists I know have far less glamourous lives, but there are probably people who do live like Renoir. If you need help imagining what the former is like, check out the film Inside Llewyn Davis. It is a clever and dark depiction of the life of a struggling musician. Despite the vast differences between Renoir and poor artists like Llewyn Davis, they do share something in common. Like all artists, they both rely on the love, kindness, and support of others to practice their craft.

October 1st – Is an auspicious time for “decorating the home”

Today I tackled my cabinet project. Over a month ago, I purchase an old painted cabinet from Goodwill to repurpose for my bathroom. I’m a fan of Flea Market Flip and have fantasized about doing my own upcycle projects for a while. This was the perfect opportunity!  Of course, TV makes these makeovers look so fast and easy. With the help of professionals and access to any tools they need, viewers are able to see the competitors turn antique barn hooks into a rustic chandelier in the course of 10 minutes. Obviously, my project took much longer.

I didn’t have a team of professionals, but my significant other is Mr. Handy Dandy. He gave me the tools I needed and detailed instructions. All I had to do was pick up red paint and put in a few hours of labor. This was my first time repurposing any type of furniture, so I had a lot to learn.

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First, I sanded off the old paint. I had different degrees of sandpaper and was instructed to start with the lowest number first. After the first sanding, I moved up to the higher numbers. If you don’t sand off the old paint, the paint doesn’t have a rough surface to stick on, and it will peel off! I’m glad I didn’t have to learn that the hard way!

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Next, I vacuumed and wiped the surface off with a cloth. There were lots of little bits and pieces of paint leftover from sanding and I didn’t want these particles to get trapped in the new paint.

After that, I taped off the knobs and the areas I didn’t want paint on. I didn’t have painting tape and just used masking tape.

dsc06851Then it was time to paint!  I did one coat, let it dry, and SANDED AGAIN before putting on the second coat. This gets the imperfections out and helps the second layer of paint stick. I was too lazy to paint the inside so I left it brown. This matched my color scheme, so I didn’t mind.

Finally, I screwed the door back on and was done!

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I think it looks great with my crazy cat lady shower curtain.

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dsc06856My tips for first time painters:

  1. Buy the right type of paint for your project. My cabinet needed to be waterproof so I got semi-gloss.
  2. Sand your piece well before painting.
  3. Start with the coarsest (lower number) sandpaper, then move up to finer (high number) grades.
  4. Make sure you sand the edges of the doors/openings really well. It will be difficult to open if you don’t! The person who painted before me painted the drawer without sanding, so it was closed shut. It was useless to me, so I painted over it
  5. Clean off the paint particles with a vacuum or cloth
  6. Tape down anything you don’t want to get paint on.
  7. Paint at least 2 layers.
  8. Sand in between layers to get an even finish.

September 30th – “Align yourself with an intellectual today.”

Cats fascinate me. They sleep in awkward positions, stare at open doors at length, and are experts at training humans to bring them food and clean up after them. When I look into their eyes, I often wonder what cat thoughts they’re thinking. Are these cat thoughts any different than my human thoughts?

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I think it’s probably yes and no.

Cats definitely have consciousness and can communicate their needs and desires to people. Actually, I’m not sure that they would distinguish a difference between needs and desires. That’s totally a human thing!

My theory is that while cats do have thoughts, their thoughts are not driven by ulterior motives or objectives. Yes, cats do express feelings like happiness, anger, jealousy, frustration, etc. However, that’s all there is. If a cat is angry, it’s angry. Cats don’t hold grudges against you for throwing out its favorite catnip toy 2 years ago, or ask you to feed it when it’s not hungry just to interrupt your Netflix marathon. When fluffy says “meow” in the morning, it wants food!

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While there are some who might interpret this type of consciousness as part of a hierarchy (i.e. humans have a “higher level” of consciousness than animals), I think there’s a lot I can learn from cats. Perhaps my unique ability to experience life at a “higher level” of consciousness is also to my weakness.

My mind spends a lot of energy struggling to judge what’s right and wrong, and sometimes that keeps me from experiencing the world. Why I am so concerned with finding a job with “meaning”? Why do I spend so much time worrying about the future?

Cats live in the here and now. They enjoy each moment in the moment, not before or after. That seems pretty intellectual to me.

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September 25th – is good day for “decorating the home,” and “completing unfinished work early in the day.”

Today’s horoscope is taken from a Chinese zodiac reading. If you’re unfamiliar with zodiacs, you are not alone!

Zodiacs and horoscopes are similar in that they are both determined by when you were born. There are many differences between the two forms, but one of the key traits is that zodiacs are defined by your BIRTH YEAR (of the lunar calendar), whereas horoscopes are based on your BIRTH MONTH (of the Gregorian/Solar/American calendar). If you want to learn more, I found this website useful.

What I like about zodiac readings is that there is often a good time to clean/decorate your house. Today was such a day! Lucky me! Well…it could have been, had I started earlier in the day as it instructed me to!

I TRIED to finish a cabinet project for my bathroom. I bought a used cabinet from Goodwill about a month ago in hopes to transform it from a dull brown to a vibrant red I would love. I started sanding it a few weeks again, but haven’t touched it since. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up early enough and by the time I was ready to get to work, it was already a 97 degrees, way too hot to do anything but eat ice cream on the couch.

Instead, I cleaned and rearranged my workspace, both of which were long overdue. The before and after might not look very impressive, but I sure feel different in this space!

For me, decorating also means putting up some new paintings. I worked on these two bulldogs tonight. They still need more work, but I think it’s a good start!

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I plan on sending these to a friend who lives a couple of states over. The paintings are inspired by his two French bulldogs, so I think he’ll appreciate them.  Meanwhile, I can enjoy them in my space for another few days.