My Photography

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A work in progress...

Wanting to start a new project I recently organized my painting materials and had to laugh about how many paintbrushes I somehow ended up with... at least they're useful!

I was prompted to organize my painting stuff because I was looking for a protractor I had bought recently, which was nowhere to be found. I did end up finding it and definitely made use of it as I designed this mandala. Designing it was fun— I didn't have a clear goal in mind when I started making it, but just went with what felt right. I love the result.

I'm painting on a hard-backed canvas given to me by my sister Isabel this summer. I've been waiting to feel ready to tackle a big project before using it. Generally I just paint on acrylic paper and it's nice to have something more substantial!

I've been deliberating on color schemes for this mandala, since that's the next step. I haven't figured out what I want for it yet, but I'm excited to continue! Maybe I need to start a new audio book for inspiration!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Books in my ears

Though I've mentioned my recent obsession with audiobooks a few times on this blog, I haven't yet dedicated an entire post to the topic, though I've been meaning to for a while. So here goes!

When I was a kid, from the age of 8 or 9 to about 16 my dad would read books aloud to us kids in the evening. If my memory can be trusted we began with The Hobbit, and afterwards worked through multiple volumes of Jules Verne, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and much more. I loved sitting on the living room floor or on my parents' big king-sized bed and tracing the carpet patterns with my eyes as my mind wandered far away, following my dad's voice. Those evenings are some of my favorite memories from my childhood, and set the scene for a growing love of hearing books read aloud as an adult.

My daddy, the reader.

My new-found love for having books piped through my headphones had humble beginnings last spring, when I decided to tackle George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. In March I posted a top ten TV show list here and linked to it on my Facebook. In the post I mentioned that I hadn't read the books behind HBO's A Game of Thrones yet, and a comment I got on my Facebook was that if I had a hard time finding them here (which was true) I could try finding audio versions online. I quickly got on that and for the next few months the combo of my old ipod and headphones was a faithful chores/painting/taxi ride companion. 

Once I finished all six books in that series in a ridiculously short amount of time I downloaded a few more audio booksJane Austen's Emma and Orwell's 1984 among themfrom LibriVox, which is a great project. On my annual summer trip to the US I got through 1984 before even hitting the American continent, but absolutely couldn't get through more than a few chapters of Emma, due to the distracting (read: terrible) narrators, and the fact that they were different with every chapter. So much for that.

But then during that summer vacation my lovely little sister Isa got an upgraded iPhone and had an old one lying around the house, which she gave to me. (I love all the hand-me-down electronics I getmy laptop is another, from big bro via my mom. Thanks family!) In a conversation at some point with my mom, she mentioned I could download the Audible app and probably get linked to the family account, thus having access to their entire library of audio books. At that point I was excited, but not nearly as much as I should have been!

Since July I've listened to so many books on Audiblefrom classics like Edith Wharton's An Age of Innocence and lots and lots of Austen (as mentioned in this post, and I was very happy to listen to a high quality reading of Emma!), to nonfiction like A Little History of the World by E. Gombrich, or lighter reading like some of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster and an Agatha Christie. I've also gotten through some around-the-world fiction like Anna Karenina, A Good Earth by Pearl Buck, and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and even a lecture course called The Story of the Human Language by Professor John McWhorter! That's not even the full extent but it gives you a good idea of the breadth of choice I have, and there's still so much more I'm excited to dig into. The beauty of it is not only do I have access to all this literature in English in a country where it's hard to get, but also that technology has given me a way to pick books off my parent's American bookshelves while I live in Africa! 

The particular occasion that prompted the timing of this blog post is that today I finished the final chapter of Tolkien's The Return of the King, after having gone through the entire trilogy. No, I didn't hear my dad's voice in the narrator's elderly timbre and British accent, but I was often reminded of those nights of tracing the flowers on living room's rug with my little finger, listening to daddy with my brothers around me, all of us transported to a different world.  

Thanks daddy-dear for a beautiful gift!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Three Mandalas

As a follow up to yesterday's arty post, here's some of my own art. In November and December I was on a bit of a painting kick, but although I meant to, I never shared what I made here.

This one started me off on the painting spreeI got together with a good friend one afternoon to paint, and began this. It ended up very different from how it started, but I enjoyed the process of making it. (I only have this bad quality iPhone picture because I gave it to Othman for his birthday, and it has been at his office since!)

This one appeared next, and came about after a particularly stressful and unpleasant day at work. The background was started and finished that day, and I designed the mandala a few days later. I really enjoyed making this one and being a little less restricted than usual in the techniques I used.

My last project was this one, and it by far took the longest. The very straight lines and solid-color geometric shapes take a long time to paint! I was listening to Anna Karenina on Audible during the time I was painting this, and can't look at it without thinking of the book now. Maybe she's why I chose so much blue? Who knows.

I often just make things up as I go along when I paint (which I did in the first two paintings), but with this one I designed the mandala on another paper (very precisely with rulers and a compass), coloring it in with colored pencils as I went along, to help me decide on what to do next. I often find the "what next?" question to be the most challenging part of painting, and in my next project I think I'll plan the whole thing out beforehand, and see how I like the process in that order. Othman gifted me quite a few painting things for Christmas, and now that I'm getting settled into my new routine I hope to start a few more projects soon!

I love painting mandalas because not only is it soothing and therapeutic, but it's also structured enough for me to feel like I'm capable of doing it, seeing as I don't have quite the artistic flair of my sisters (see previous post). What's also amazing is how unique each mandala isI've never made two that look anything alike!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My lil sisters arting it up

I've been rather quiet here in the blogosphere lately, not only because I'm adapting to new classes and work duties and so on, but also because, well, not much happens in January. I didn't forget about the blog, I just haven't done much worth relating here. It's gotten to the point that it's January 22nd and I only have two blog posts for the month, which is pretty shameful, so I decided to go look back at January 2014 and see what I wrote about then to get ideas! I quickly realized most of the posts were simply looking back at our Christmas vacation, which gave me a few ideas. So without further ado...

The night before my flight out of the US I plopped lil sis number 3, Tessie, down with my phone and this picture opened on it. She had been promising me for ages to draw a picture of Othman and I for us, and still hadn't done it, so I decided to put an end to her procrastination. 

About 12 minutes later this was the scene...

And less than 10 minutes after that the drawing was complete. That lil sis of mine is pretty good.

On that same night, lil sis number 1, Isabel, was making herself a very cool graphic-designed, sharpie-drawn quote. Yes that explanation was bizarrely incoherent, but what do you call this:


Anyway that's the one she offered to make for me after I stood all googly-eyed over the one she had made for herself for maybe a bit too long. 

There is so much art that goes on in our family's house all the time, and I absolutely love it. From paintings to doodles to piano concertos, it never seems to stop! Needless to say, I have some pretty talented and very kind siblings. Thank you both for the gifts, love you sisterlies!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy 21st Thomas!

This lil guy is turning 21 today!

Here he is in 2003 during our trip to Brazil with his godparents, Tia Camila and Tio Joao. The fact that he was wearing a shirt that has to do with science is no accident, because this kid was always a science and geography whiz.

This was August 2013, when he was breaking down the dancefloor with little flowergirl MM at my wedding (with few a jealous onlookers!).

You can be as skeptical as you want today Thomas, but it's still your birthday and I hope it's a happy one! Remember that beer I told you to order at Scubby's a few weeks ago? Well now you're legal, and can get it for real! Enjoy.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

15 for '15

So far...

1: very happy New Year's Day, mostly spent on a day-trip to Sioux Falls, seeing the third installation of the Hunger games (and being pleasantly surprised!) with Tessie and Isabel, lunching, shopping at Barnes & Noble and Target, and finally ending the day with a lovely get-together of many families at our friends the Gerdes' house.

Probably the only movie I've seen yet that beats its book.

2: new jobsI'm back at British Council and will be starting on Monday with my friend Carrie's company, Locus English. I really truly loved teaching Kindergarten, but things didn't work out with the school. Hopefully I'll get another chance to teach little ones again in the future though, because it was so fulfilling and energizing. But for now I'm happy to be back at BC and to be starting something new!

3: times eating Dominos gluten-free pizza while at home over the holidays! A bit overkill maybe, but after never eating pizza for years and then this summer discovering their gluten-free crust and white sauce didn't upset my body too much, I couldn't get enough.

4: working days since I've gotten back from the US. After my Odyssey of a trip (see #7 below) they've been pretty rough. It's not that I'm suffering from jetlag, it's more like I'm suffering from my-body-has-no-idea-what-time-it-is.

5: seasons of Dr. Who that Othman has already powered through since lil sister Tessie turned him onto it during the last days of 2014 while I was in the US. Countless headshakes from myself since.

He likes these lil guys a bit too much and has taken to saying that a bit too much.

6: little five-year-old faces that I've been missing. Also 6 movies that I watched on my flights back to Casablanca, the highlights being a BBC miniseries of Death Comes to Pemberley (loved it) and this movie, recommended by my mother, and now that I've seen it, by me too! I loved all the different languages in it especially. It was light hearted and cute, and good family viewing.

7ty two: hours getting back to Casablanca from home. I'll let my Facebook status recap:

The 2 airlines I flew with got some nice long complaint emails.

8: family members I got to be with during the holidays, who I was so overjoyed to see and spend time with! It was truly the best of Christmases. I also got to spend time with one future family member, which brings me to:

9: months until lil brother Gus and the lovely Emily tie the knot!

10: days into January so far and I haven't had the time to take down the Christmas tree yet. Guess that's what happens when you arrive a day and half later than you were supposed to, after Christmas break.

11+: hours of Lord of the Ringsan extended edition marathon with sister Maria on New Years Eve (it counts as 2015 because we finished the five endings of the Return of the King in the new year). I had never watched them all back to back before, and it was absolutely fabulous reliving my teenage dorkdom. But our marathon probably wasn't the full 11 hours, since we fast forwarded most of the battle scenes....

12 cents plus one dollar: how much we paid for a beautiful, ripe pineapple earlier today, and then enjoyed for dessert. It was absolutely delicious, and oh so wonderfully cheap. Thanks Morocco.

13- 14: the ages of my students who absolutely astounded me today with their knowledge of world events as we brainstormed about 2014 in review (they got basically every big world eventif you haven't checked out an article about what an important year it was yet take a look at this one, and its top comment. This map is pretty cool too.) and made predictions for 2015. The predictions were all positive and uplifting, many were realistic, and they showed deep humanity and insight. From finding a vaccine for Ebola, to the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and its survivors being found on an island, to new scientific breakthroughs about the Big Bang thanks to information received from Philae, to an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty, to the completion of the periodic table of elements, their predictions made me feel better than I have in a long time about the up-and-coming generation.

15: pictures taken so far on my new smartphone that hubby gifted me for Christmas. I guess I've joined the ranks. But I do have to admit... it's been useful.

Here's hoping the rest of the year is as good as the highlights of these past 10 days, and that the lows don't stoop quite as low as that plane trip!