Dec 18

Okay… new plan.

There comes a point in every holiday season where I have a nearly overwhelming urge to declare myself ruler of the universe and do away with the whole Christmas situation. In fact, if I was running for public office, my platform would be:

  • Christmas once every four years (like the Olympics)
  • Eliminate Roman numerals (this is someone else’s wish, but I like it)
  • Each spring people should be given one random day off when the weather “turns” into spring (everyone knows when this is, because no one actually works that day… we all just gaze out the window in longing)

I can’t claim to be in high holiday spirits this year, but I’m doing okay. And I THOUGHT this was going to be an innocent week.


Wednesday I am sitting around work, doing stuff, and my text signal sounds.  It’s my mom, announcing she is coming up a day earlier than planned and she’d tell me the details later.

Okay… new plan.

A little while later I am again working when the text goes off again. This time it is my Aunt Robin. They are in town this week and we had a very vague plan to get together. She suggested some times; I texted back what would work. The next text was this: “Tara. I just fell and fractured the lower part of my femur near my replacement appliances. We are just leaving emergency. Will have to discuss with Darrel when we get home. Maybe Saturday? Will call you.”

Okay… new plan.

I got home that evening and when I talked to my mom, I learned that not only was she coming a day early, she had invited a family friend who has been having some health issues to come stay with “us”.

Okay… new plan.

I spent the rest of the day on Wednesday cleaning and trying to come up with a plan so no one unrelated to me would learn I was a bad housekeeper.

I set up the air mattress in my studio and regressed back to childhood while Mom and Julie were here. I didn’t have a bed, I couldn’t pick the temperature of the house, people kept putting stuff on the counter instead of in the cupboards.

Makes you glad to be an adult, even if you do have to pay taxes and go to work.

It’s Sunday and everyone has returned to their assigned spot in the world. I’m back in my bed. My house is nice and cold. The counter has returned to its stark state.

I’m not calling this the end of the holiday trauma, but frankly… I’m all out of plans.

Wish me luck.

Dec 11

Pelagic Tour (On the Open Sea)

Saturday (December 9, 2017) I went on a 7-hour seabird tour with Oregon Pelagic Tours. I have been following them on Facebook for a while, and they said this December tour was something new they would try. Being winter, I figured it had a pretty good chance of being cancelled, but I decided to try it anyway.

I did not worry about being seasick. I’ve never had a problem with any kind of motion sickness. Like EVER. Turns out, when you get 20 miles out to sea in a boat… almost everyone not on dramamine gets sicks. I feel this is information worth passing on.

I’ll leave you to imagine how I know this. Instead, I will put up lots of the lovely, interesting pictures I took while not hung over the side or concentrating fiercely on the horizon.


We set out in our boat, the 25 of us and our valiant leaders.

The NOAA ships, docked in Newport, were decked out for Christmas.

We left along the jetty, where we saw most of the variety of the 40 birds species I checked.

After we left the jetty, I earnestly looked out for birds. I saw gulls. I learned to identify (at a distance by the way they fly) common murres. I ticked off the guy sitting next to me by accidentally viewing a Cassin’s auklet (no idea…)

About 10:00

Unfortunately, it was about at this point I started to get seasick. I was far from the only one. I was only sick a couple of times, but I spent most of the rest of the time earnestly sipping the ginger ale I had (wisely) brought and gazing at the horizon. There were several people who never did stop being sick until we returned to the harbor.

During this period, while I was unable to get a picture of any of this, we saw a pod of whales doing fluking maneuvers (because this was right along the continental shelf, and because the flukes were SO white, a part of me wonders if these might have been humpback whales), a small pod of dolphins (I don’t know what kind) following the boat, Stellar sea lions coming over to take a look at us, and Northern fur seals basking one side of their body at a time in the sun like mug handles (if you want to see a picture of what this is, go here and search for “floating”).

About 11:00

When we got about 30 miles out (the trip records a total of 84 miles, out and back) we went past some deep sea fisherman, but the birding was not right. So the crew went a little further out to follow a commercial fishing ship (the kind with nets hanging out the side.) There the tour leaders poured popcorn, stale bread, some beef suet, and code liver oil into the ocean to make a (slick.) And we waited.

Now, no matter what you think about these pictures, remember I was seasick and in a boat that was no turned on and was just rolling with the waves. Also, remember, there were abut 25 EXTREMELY EXCITED people with big cameras on the boat who were REALLY intent on getting pictures. Under those conditions, I think these pictures ROCK.

Norther Fulmar

I really liked this bird. Some people called it a “tube nose” because of the way their beaks are designed. But I really liked the way they glided around above the waves.

Black-footed Albatross

This ended up being my favorite bird of the tour. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were, softly gliding above the waves, never flapping their wings.

If you looked out over the water there were dozens of these these lovely gliders appearing over the waves, up and down. After the desert of miles 2-20, it was amazing to see so much activity.

I was trying to overcome my seasickness to get a few good pictures, particularly of the albatross, when the whole boat started shouting.

Short-tailed albatross

A short-tailed albatross was coming in to see what was going on. This bird breeds in Japan and (occasionally) the Hawaiian islands. This was a young bird on his first tour. Everyone was REALLY excited to see him, even those hanging over the side of the boat.

There were two boat crew members, three guides, and the rest of us were bird watchers. And about half of these people were BIRD WATCHERS!!! They had enormous cameras. They had seen 300+ types of birds this year in Oregon alone (I’ve seen 149.) And these people were agog at their good fortune at seeing this S-T-A.

After this excitement, we also saw some black-legged kittiwakes. Apparently something called a shearwater was seen (pink-footed, sooty, and short-tailed were called.) While I did see the kittiwakes,  I never saw any kind of shearwater.

The boat was moved a few miles to the north and another slick was created, but for whatever reason, this one was less successful than the first. Then we started back home.

About 2:00

As soon as we reached the continental shelf (about 10 miles away from shore?) my seasickness went away. I was tired. My stomach was acidic. But I could move around again.

And thus, just a few minutes after 3:00pm, we returned to Newport.

Disclaimer 1: I’m not a terrible blogger; I’ve had a cold and I was sick most of last week.

Disclaimer 2: Pelagic is a real word. It means “relating to the open sea.”

List of birds seen, heard, or generally was in the vicinity of

1 – Greater Scaup

4 – Harlequin Duck

24 – Surf Scoter

2 – White-winged Scoter

1 – Long-tailed duck

3 – Bufflehead

1 – Red-breasted Merganser

3 – Pacific Loon

1 – Common Loon

x – Pied-billed Grebe

1 – Horned Grebe

3 – Red-necked Grebe

x – Horned/Eared Grebe

1 – Laysan Albatross

24 – Black-footed Albatross

1 – Short-tailed Albatross

40 – Northern Fulmar

1 – Pink-footed Shearwater

1 – Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater

12 – Brandt’s Cormorant

16- Pelagic Cormorant

2 – Double-created Cormorant

1 – Bald Eagle

12 – Black Turnstone

88 – Common Murre

3 – murrelet sp.

8 – Cassin’s Auklet

3 – Rhinoceros Auklet

2 – Black-legged Kittiwake

3 – Mew Gull

4 – Western Gull

1 – California Gull

1 – Herring Gull

2 – Thayer’s Gull (Iceland Gull, Thayer’s)

2 – Glaucous-winged Gull

50 – gull sp.

8 – Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)

1 – Peregrine Falcon

2 – American crow

Nov 27

Checklists and near misses

Happy Thanksgiving to all I have not wished these sentiments to in person. I hope your holiday was as enjoyable as mine.

I went to visit my mom, and though I didn’t stay for as long as I originally planned, I had a very good time. Unfortunately, bad planning caught up with me and I had to return home the same day (instead of an overnight trip) because I had overlooked that my elderly cat can no longer eat dry food and I was reluctant to leave him without food for 48 hours. And I wasn’t smart enough to line up a cat sitter…

In spite of the fast turnaround, I enjoyed my visit with my mom and even got in some bird watching. My mom has cornered the market on pine siskins at her feeder.


Friday morning I got up and decided to explore another portion of the Willamette Valley Birding Trail. This time I decided to do the “Santiam Loop.” I am very excited to report I saw a pair of horned larks (a first for me), though my only photos are of this juvenile bald eagle (look at that beak) and an ordinary red tail hawk.

Saturday I got up and did the same thing, though I had a slightly  more defined goal of hitting the E.E. Wilson Wildlife area and the Philomath “Poo Ponds.” E.E. Wilson was nice, but I probably won’t be in a hurry to go back. We visited the Jackson-Frazier Wetland, which was absolutely gorgeous, as well as parts of Finley, but never did find the famous triple P.

Again, my photography skills were sadly lacking. I only dragged out the camera for this handsome egret.

All things considered, I am glad I was around this weekend. I had fun birding, but life at home was filled with a variety of near disasters (most of which were confined to Friday.)

As I said, Friday morning I got up and decided to go birding. I loaded up, including the dog who enjoys any kind of adventure, turned on the car and… my tires were low. Now, I had done some birding on my way to visit my mom at the beach and at one stop I had heard one of my tires fizz, so I checked to make sure no tires were flat and headed to Les Schwab. Les Schwab checked the pressure, added a little air, and assured me all was well. But by Sunday, the light was back on, so that story may be ongoing.

The second miss of the day was when I stopped on the Foster Dam to admire a merlin (dang hard bird to spot, actually the first one I’ve ever been able to positively ID.)  I got back in my car and continued on my way, but when I decided to close my checklist, my phone was NOT IN THE CAR! I ran back to the dam, and there it was in the middle of the road. (On that particular near miss, I also feel lucky I didn’t have a heart attack.)

By now I’m getting low on gas, but I (foolishly) decided to hit one more spot before I worried about that. Mistake. A couple hours later I was on fumes, but I did make it to the gas station.

The final incident of the day came upon my return home. I noticed that my bike helmet was sitting on my steps. Odd, I thought. How did it get there…?

Then I noticed my garden shears were clamped around my bike lock.

Like, really clamped.

That pair of garden shears is probably not any good any  more.

Of course, I called the police, but they are overworked and nothing happened. It was the catalyst for me getting the “real” bike locks I have been procrastinating about getting. I still claim that even with bad locks, people shouldn’t steal.

In other news, my November NaNoWriMo project is at 45,091 words (goal 50,000.) The problem is that I’m “done” telling the story, so I’m having to back and add some stuff to get the word count up. It’s more editing than I really intended to do at this stage, but I’m SO close to “winning.” Just four more days to go and then maybe I’ll have some actual art to show off.

I did take some of my “stealth” paintings to critique group. Critique group agrees they are all but done, so hopefully more interesting things will be coming soon.

I will end this report with a picture of an upset Bob cat and his return to happiness. Bob is very old and has kidney failure. He barfed on his bed, and expressed his unhappiness at having it washed. But it all turned out okay. I guess even cats have near-misses.

Nov 20

Why humans are unlike cars (and other self-evident truths)

This was a tough week for me. It was busy at work (which I like) but there were several high-impact meetings that took their toll.

In addition to that, since I fell on November 6 (Salem sidewalks are deathtraps and a disgrace!) I have been having “Goldilocks issues” in addition to just feeling sore.  (Note: more about “Goldilocks issues” later.)

This all came to a head on Wednesday when I gave an online training for work where we had to fight with the internet for no readily apparent reason while trying to stay connected. After returning to my desk, successful but exhausted, I knew I had to go home.

Sometimes I just don’t understand why our bodies can’t just be like cars. You get in the cars and you go. Except old, beat-up cars. Those are just frustrating. Which is pretty much how I felt Wednesday; like a beater car.

When I get like this, I am always deeply afraid that I will somehow start a change of events that ends with me trying to explain to a judge while in a straight-jacket that my ears were too warm and that’s what I took that little boy’s teddy bear and ate it. I can totally imagine a scenario where all this made sense at the time.

So, I went home. I called my mom. I whined… a lot. And I came to the realization that I needed to suck it up and call a chiropractor.

Before I moved to Salem (two years ago, now) I went to see the chiropractor regularly. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it helped. Since I’ve been in Salem I’ve avoided doctor shopping like the plague. But Wednesday I broke.

As an interesting aside, do you know that 70% of people would rather go car shopping than doctor shopping (it’s possible that the statistic is do more research on a car than a doctor, but you get the point)?

So I called around and made an appointment to see a chiropractor the next day.

Now, before anyone gets anxious, it all turned out fine. But mentally, the whole situation still drives me batty.

I arrived at the office and filled out the million (complete understatement) pieces of paperwork which asked, among other things, how you like to be adjusted. This question confused me because… well… isn’t it there job to  know what works? But I thought about it and put “gentle.”

So I went in and the doctor asked me a bunch of questions that made my efforts on the paperwork seem redundant. When he got to the part about “gentle” he says: “What does that mean?”

Car shopping looks pretty good, but I said, “Well, I don’t really like it when they just grab you and twist you around.”

He left that alone and asked me what my symptoms were. I told him I had tripped about a week before and since then I had been sort and achy and just sort of “Goldilocks” feeling.

He looked confused. “Goldilocks feeling?”

“You know. Like Goldilocks.”

“What did Goldilocks do again?

“You know…. it was too big, it was too small, it was too soft, it was too hard, it was too hot, it was too cold.”

“Oh. I guess I forgot that one.”

“I guess I could go with ‘Princess and the Pea.'”

Starting to look concerned about my mental health, he said, “I’m not familiar with that one either.”

I decided to quit while I was ahead. So he started adjusting me, and to be fair, he was gentle. And while I don’t feel 100%, I am feeling better. He asked me to make another appointment next week because (in his words) I’m pretty banged up. No kidding?

As part of what they ask you, they always ask you to do a pain scale. My personal paint scale is that if I am at a doctor’s office of any kind, I am at least a 5. However, by the end of the session I had to jack that up. I ended up screaming in pain when when he used the adjuster gun thing on what he said was a “bruised trigger point.”

Dude. If you knew it was bruised, why are you using a gun thing on it?

I’ll go back next week, because I do feel overall better. But I’m not convinced at all.

I really just want to get in my car/body and go. I don’t like this maintenance stuff.

Nov 13

Bev Jozwiak Workshop – Day 2

Today was the second day of the Bev Jozwiak workshop. As promised, we started with a step-by-step exercise using Chumlee.

My version of Chumlee

For comparision, here is Bev’s version of the same reference photo.

And here’s a photo of the whole class with their versions.

Between working on Chumlee, I attempted to work on two pieces I had brought on Yupo™. I have done one previous painting with this slick surface, but I didn’t fall in love. I’ve seen a couple of videos since then, and as Bev sometimes uses the this, I thought I would give it a try. You saw my attempts at the peacock yesterday.

And I brought a roller today to use to start a yellow-headed blackbird.

I really think I might hate Yupo™.

Moving onto other topics, I brought some paintings that I thought I could work on between steps.

I worked on them a little, but the thing I REALLY wanted to get out of the workshop was and understand of how Bev gets her amazing darks. So I quickly drew out some flowers and went to work, trying to set them up to use her “thirds” idea: the top really dark, the center in middle values, and the bottom very light and loose.

Obviously, thees are unfinished. And they have potential. But I did not nail it. I asked Bev for some help and we agreed it was probably something best learned by “hours on the brush.”

No magic pill, huh?

Bev’s demo, started Saturday, finished today

Which brings me to my reminder in all this. Workshops are about trying something new, not creating masterpieces. Paintings done in  a workshop shouldn’t be entered in shows, though I think there is a little flexibility in this (Chumlee – NO!; yesterday’s horse – Maybe.)

Taken from the standpoint of trying something new…. I nailed it!

Nov 12

Bev Jozwiak Workshop – Day 1

Today I traveled up to Portland to take a two-day workshop from Bev Jozwiak (pronounced Jaws-wick) at the Oregon Society of Artists. I got into this workshop due to a last-minute cancellation and it worked beautifully into my schedule. I have wanted to take a class from her for quite a while. She paints relatable subjects in a loose, “juicy” style that I really enjoy.

Second of two demos by Bev from today’s class.

She started out with a pretty simple demo of a red-winged blackbird (sorry, no photo, maybe tomorrow…) where she talked a little about color theory and a lot about working dark to light, loosing edges, and color application.

Unlike other classes I have taken, the directions for this class suggested coming with 4-6 paintings prepped for paint. The reason for this is after the demonstration, Bev had just work on our own projects while she walked around the room, proving help as requested.

After lunch, Bev did a second demo (show above) on the figure, as she is primarily known as a figure painter, then we went back to work again.

As I have been reminding myself all day… this is a workshop. The idea is to try new things, not turn out masterpieces.

Not masterpieces. Right.

Nov 06

No more challenges, please!

This week, a Facebook friend nominated me for the “Post seven black and white photos about your life” challenge. Christine, I’m sorry to turn you now, but I’m afraid I’m at max right now!

Stealth projects continue apace. I spent my painting time this weekend prepping for next weekend’s seminar by the estimable Bev Jozwiak. I’ve wanted to take a workshop from her for a while, but I never seem to get my act together. Then, a few weeks ago, she posted that her weekend workshop in Portland had a cancellation and I took a chance, got on the wait list, and actually got in.

The directions to the workshop say:

Bring photos to paint from (Come with drawings done, as I like to dive right in, and focus on painting!) Everything from people (I don’t consider myself a portrait painter, besides faces, think about the figure from the back, and slight profiles too) birds and animals. Feel free to paint flowers, still lives, or whatever you love. I can help. The lessons will be more about design, clean color, color mixing, values, lost and found edges, etc., than it will be about painting an exact subject so feel free to paint your passion.

It goes on to suggest bringing 4-6 starts, depending on how fast you paint. As I am a fast painter, I’m going to try for six and see what happens.

Bev provided one subject:

And I’m prepping the following photos.

That’s a total of five, and I may add another.

In addition to all this, I have taken on another challenge. This week I started the National Novel Writing Month Challenge (NaNoWriMo).

For those that don’t know the idea is to write 1667 words per day so that the end of the month you have a 50,000 word novel completed. The idea is NOT to write well or even coherently so much as it as to get people out the starting box and into the finisher category.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with romance novels and wrote three complete novels (I don’t remember the word count.) But college, then life happened. I’ve started various stories over the years, but they have all gotten stuck on about chapter 3.

I’m taking this challenge for a variety of reasons that I actually don’t want to talk about right now. Let’s just say that while the timing could be better, sometimes you just have to act.

Wish me luck!

I should have some paintings to show you next week.

Oct 30

Something I CAN post

I am still working on stealth projects. Earnestly… never-ending-ly… working on stealth projects.

However, this week I finished this year’s 6×6 painting for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wild Art Festival. For a recap of past projects, go to last year’s post.

Found Treasure (2017) – 6×6 painting for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wild Art Festival

A few months ago I found that cute little feather and it’s been sitting on my desk. When I decided to use a collage I’ve been working on, I got to the point where I liked the background so much I didn’t want to continue. Then I saw the little feather and I knew what to do. I tied the feather on and wrote “Found.”


If it’s still there when I go, I may have to buy it back.

In other news, Saturday I went on a bird walk put on by the Luckiamute Watershed Council at Luckiamute State Park. I learned quite a bit, not the least of which is that “Calapooia” means “People of the tall grass” and exactly what grass that was. We saw 42 species and I was tired by the end of the trip.

Here are some pictures so you can judge the beauty of the day for yourself.

Finally, to end this post on a Halloween note, I’ll show you the 3cm x 3cm drawing I did to enter in the Faber-Castell #fabercastelloween Challenge! I had to learn how to use Instagram to do it, so be VERY impressed.




Oct 23

When you are unprepared for your dream to come true

Artistically, I’m still on stealth projects. I hope to have something to show you soon, but I won’t know if it turns out until a little later in the game.

The big excitement this week was my own stupidity.

Back in September I got word that my painting, “The Turn”, had been accepted into the Northwest Watercolor Society annual Waterworks Exhibition (members only.) This is a BIG DEAL! Getting into Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO) is a big deal. This is REALLY BIG DEAL!

I was on vacation at the time, so I celebrated, but didn’t do much else (Foolish Action #1.) A few days later I got a phone call (still on vacation) asking if I had received the acceptance packet… because the first thing I should have done was not celebrate, but let them know I got it! I apologized and assured the beleaguered show chair that I had indeed received the packet, I was very excited, and my painting would be coming.

Then, Foolish Action #2 happened. I got distracted. Vacation, the WSO show, the Paint the Town show. My attention, never great, just kind of went away. But after the WSO show, I sat down and read over the packet.

I was in trouble.

I had to buy a frame and the shipping time for that is usually about 10 days. That put me beyond the “shipped paintings must be delivered by” date.

Foolish Action #3: I decided to “save” money and drive the painting up to Seattle. This WOULD be a savings because I would be able to get a less expensive frame and would not have to pay for shipping (just shipping coming back.)

There is some possibility that this decision would have been okay, but I forgot another part of the equation. It’s (effectively) monsoon season in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle traffic is ugly, though Portland is getting bad too. Plus, Seattle planners seem to have a moral objection to “through” lanes, so in addition to making the current turns, you have to be very careful about what lane you are in. Add torrential downpour to the equation, and I white-knuckled large portions of the trip.

But my painting go there, and NWWS posted the following montage on Facebook, so I know it’s been hung.

When I dropped off my painting, many of the paintings were out, but not hung. It’s not very good manners to look at a show before it’s been hung, but my quick glimpses shows the paintings were amazing. I’m not being modest when I saw that I wonder if my painting (however sharp it looks in its new frame) was included as some kind of mistake.

But it’s up now and I’m going to go with it.

Anyone wanna play hooky and go back up to Seattle Thursday for the reception?

Oct 16

Stepping back

Wow, I’ve painted two days in a row. And blogged both days. Someone mark the calendar.

Unfortunately, I’m still on “stealth projects” so I don’t have much to show. Instead, I will explain a decision I’ve been coming to for a while as I show you random pictures from my cell phone that I claim one day will be paintings.

As this is from an i-phone, I’m not sure anyone can see how great the shadows were. But they were cool enough that I contemplated doing a landscape with buildings…

The end of pet portrait commissions

The decision to step back from pet commissions has been coming for a while.

While I enjoy painting pictures of animals, having to do it to meet the tastes of other people is sort of dragging me down. All joking aside, this project was a difficult one for me. Another project I have has been ongoing for over two years because I am so stuck. I finally just restarted it, which is something I don’t like doing.

My painting time is limited and I feel like this is something I can take off my plate (after I get done with my current load.) If I was painting for a living, it would be different, but there is really no point in having a job that interferes so much with my painting time if I have to treat painting as something to please someone else.

Also… the deadlines are killing me.

The final straw came recently when I did not get paid for a commission. It was a friend and someone I thought would honor her word. When it became obvious that she had taken the painting and “ran”, it made me wonder if the small amount of monetary reward was really worth it. (Also, I don’t think I have to go into how hard this “friend’s” actions were to deal with personally.)

I can still do gifts or spontaneous paintings, but right now I’m stepping back from commissions.


To detract from the trauma of this announcement (wait, only I’m traumatized…?) here are more photos that I claim might become paintings.



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