Category Archives: Creative outbursts

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily

What a spring.

I keep thinking I’ll get on here and write a post catching up all the stuff I’ve done this spring, but every time I think I’m about to catch my breath, something else happens.

March was a little bit busy, but nothing ridiculous; mostly just the usual preliminary garden work, and I started a redecorating project in my dining room that got pushed back a bit when I landed a gig painting a mural at the new juvenile justice center the county is developing. I spent the middle of April working on that. I think it turned out well:

Ignore the white smudges; that's just sealer that hadn't dried yet when I took the pictures.
Ignore the white smudges; the sealer hadn’t dried yet when I took the pictures.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.

I also had three road trips in April: a nice trip to Pontiac, Illinois, on April 9 to help the Illinois Route 66 Association spruce up the museum ahead of tourist season; a pleasant trip to Tulsa for a Judy Collins concert April 24; and a trip to Afton, Oklahoma, for our friend Laurel’s memorial service April 30.

That last trip started out well but turned into a nightmare 70 miles from home, when my Subaru decided to have its second catastrophic breakdown in as many years. When we described all the problems we’ve had with the car since we bought it, Subaru corporate offered us $1,000 off a new one. Uh, no. I already spent $5,000 having the transmission rebuilt in this one — for which I still owe $8,500 — and now it needs a $6,800 engine and radiator replacement. I’ll just cut my losses now and park it until I finish paying it off, thanks.

Of course this happened the week I decided I was going to break my 30-year swearing habit by assigning Weight Watchers-style points to profanities, giving myself a daily quota, and cutting off an inch of my hair for every day I exceeded my points.

When we left for Afton, my hair looked like this:

memarch

After I spent two weeks cussing that bloody Subaru, it looked like this:

memay

I don’t love it, but I hate it less than I expected, for various reasons.

Automotive woes notwithstanding, it’s been a pretty good spring. I’ve been doing a lot of landscaping projects. Here are a few I especially like:

We bought an arbor in April. I’d wanted one for a long time.

To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via that gap between the metal fence and the privacy fence. Just beyond the gate is the new arbor I bought in April to train the wisteria.
April. To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via a gap in the fence.
This is the wisteria a month later. (Notice the parsley to the left of the arbor, too. It grew all winter and got huge this spring, so I'm letting it go to seed.)
This is the wisteria a month later.

I also decided to try my hand at fairy gardening, Whovian-style:

Fairy gardening is all the rage on Pinterest. This is my geeked-out version.
Don’t blink.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling a bit, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.

And, of course, my pride and joy:

March.
March.
April.
April.
The pond as it looked today, with the water irises blooming profusely.
Today. Love those irises.

Finally, here are two views of my front porch since I started adding plants and decorations to it:

Curb appeal. We haz it.
Curb appeal: We haz it.
The view from my front door. Love those ferns.
The view from my front door.

I have several other projects to share, but this post is getting out of hand, so I’ll stop there for now. Hope you’re having a good spring, wherever you are.

Emily

I’ve been busy.

Yes, I’ve subjected this blog to a shameful degree of neglect this summer. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

That’s right, kids. I’m about an eyelash away from being ready to publish Greetings from Coldwater. I’m anticipating a fall release on the Kindle version and — God willing — a paperback edition in time for Christmas. I shot the trailer above on and around Route 66 in New Mexico last spring, and I’ve been dinking with the novel ever since we got back.

frontcoldwatercover

When I started this project, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish, but the publishing industry has changed so much since then that self-publishing now requires less financial risk and far less annoyance than shopping a manuscript. I can go through Amazon to self-publish electronic and paperback editions without spending a dime. All I’m out is time — and less of it than I’d spend writing queries and copying manuscripts and standing in line at the post office to send them to people who may not bother reading them anyway. A big publishing house could probably sell more copies, but I don’t have the patience to read a thousand rejection slips before I find the right publisher. If some big-deal publisher reads it and likes it, we’ll talk.

I’ve spent most of the past 24 hours formatting the manuscript to Amazon’s specs, designing a cover, reskinning TumbleweedMotel.com, printing a proof, and uploading the trailer to YouTube.

I’ve also been busy drawing illustrations for the past couple of weeks:

 

freedsgarageweb

swinneysweb

graveweb

milagromirrorweb

tumbleweedweb

fridgeweb

shrineweb

jackrabbitweb

signsweb

casadejesusweb

Watch this space. I’ll keep you posted on the process and all the stuff I learn as I go.

 

Emily

Weekend projects

I used Valspar instead of Krylon this time, mainly because I couldn't find Krylon. We'll see how it weathers.
I used Valspar instead of Krylon this time, mainly because I couldn’t find Krylon. We’ll see how it weathers.

This weekend was all about clearing projects off my plate. Most of them were little projects (moving the quail, putting bird netting in the garden to protect my tomatoes, and starting a new batch of beer), but the big one I’d been meaning to finish involved the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar.

I’ve been neglecting the car for about two years. Oh, not the mechanical stuff — I take it in to have the oil changed and the tires rotated and various belts and filters and things replaced at all the appropriate times — but what makes the Dreamcar the Dreamcar is its Amazing Technicolor paint job, which becomes decided less amazing and decidedly less technicolor after a few months in the sun. To look its best, it really needs to have its hood and roof repainted about once a year.

Last time I repainted it was a couple of days before we left for vacation in 2012.

After spending the brutal summer of 2012 in the Oklahoma sun, it was pretty faded out, but before I got a chance to repaint it, we moved, and I was too busy to mess with it. I also managed to leave all my leftover spraypaint behind when we moved, and I couldn’t really justify spending the better end of $50 on a glorified craft project while we were paying for two mortgages. By the time we sold the house in Tulsa, it was October, and then the holidays hit, followed by ice storms, a rainy spring and a stormy summer, and … well, yesterday was really the first opportunity I’ve had to do anything with the car, so I took advantage of it.

While I was working, I installed a few of my recent acquisitions on the dashboard:

On a recent trip to Memphis, I picked up some miniature rubber chickens at Schwab's. Because if there was one thing my dashboard needed, it was rubber chickens.
On a recent trip to Memphis, I picked up some miniature rubber chickens at Schwab’s. Because if there was one thing my dashboard needed, it was rubber chickens.
Is there a Doctor in the house? From right, the Seventh, Fourth and Second Doctors, accompanied by a Roman centurion auton.
Is there a Doctor in the house? From right, the Seventh, Fourth and Second Doctors, accompanied by a Roman centurion auton.

I painted a TARDIS on part of the car last night, but the sealer I used on it this afternoon interacted badly with the paint and ran all over the place, so I’ll have to sand that area off and start over as soon as I can shake free.

Emily

Coupon books

I finally finished the kids’ Christmas presents today. Mad props to the guy at Kinko’s who let me use the heavy-duty stapler for free.

Here’s the finished product:

webcover webinside

I love how the marshmallow-pop illustration turned out. Kind of a Mollie Katzen vibe going on there, I think.

I didn’t put every coupon in every kid’s book, but I tried to mix and match the projects to suit the individual kids involved.

Rundown of all the coupons is below the fold. Continue reading Coupon books

Projects and more projects

Here is what I have accomplished in the past two days:

1. Replaced my guitar strings.

2. Did a boatload of grocery shopping.

3. Ran five miles.

4. Put up apples:

apple1

apple4

(Pictured above: Five pints of spiced, unfiltered apple juice and a few jelly jars of apple butter, which was basically the byproduct after I used the Crock-Pot to render the juice.)

5. Raked up half the leaves in the backyard and used them as compost starter so I’d have a place to bury the apple cores. The pile is too carbon-heavy to heat up right now, but I have a lead on a good source of barn litter, so I should be able to balance it out and get those thermophilic bacteria going soon.

sprouts

6. Started four trays of sprouts — two of alfalfa and two of a clover/fenugreek/radish mix I picked up at the health-food store last week.

shelf

7. Bought and assembled this shelf to store my sheet music a little more neatly.

8. Finished all the drawings for the coupon books I am making for my niece, nephews and goddaughter for Christmas. Here are a few samples of the projects I’m plotting:

webdalek

Several of the kids on my Christmas list are Whovians, so we’re going to use Lite-Brite pegs and a styrofoam cup to make a Dalek, which will be illuminated from within by one of those LED tealights.

webinvisibleink

Lemon juice and an incandescent bulb. Simple but cool.

webivorynuke

If you don’t know why this is awesome, Google it.

webpopcorn

Sweet or savory. Or both. I’ll let the kids decide.

webslime

Pretty sure letting them make fake snot qualifies me for Aunt of the Century.

I came up with about 15 or 20 other coupons, which I’ll mix and match to suit the interests of the kids involved, but you get the idea. I’ve scanned all the drawings and Photoshopped them, but I still have to lay out the books, print them and assemble them.

I think I’ll tackle that later. I’m tired, and I hear the piano calling me….

Emily

Back to basics (and feeling awesome)

We closed on the House of the Lifted Lorax on Monday (congratulations to new owner Josh, who is way amped about the solar panels and the woodstove, and whose young niece is way amped about the Lorax mural on the side of the garage), which means we have just enough money in the bank to pay off our moving expenses and put a privacy fence around the backyard.

You can’t fully appreciate the value of a good fence until you’ve spent six months putting out a pair of hyperactive dogs on short cables umpteen times a day. Yeesh.

In addition to affording us the convenience of opening the back door and letting Song and Riggy take themselves out, this fence will free us up to establish a new beehive, adopt some chooks, install a pond, start a compost pile, and — if I’m feeling really ambitious — maybe set up a small warren of rabbits without interference from curious neighbors of either the two- or four-footed variety.

I put in an experimental, totally halfassed garden this spring and learned enough about my new yard to feel pretty confident taking my usual “Darwin Garden” approach: Coddle the tomatoes and leave everything else to natural selection. So far, I’ve determined that California poppies won’t do a damn thing; cucumbers, strawberries, arugula and most herbs will thrive with absolutely no attention; green beans should do well with minimal attention; and tomatoes should perform fairly well if we choose a variety that’s tolerant of partial shade and try to protect it from the local wildlife.

After meeting the new owner of the old house Monday and giving him some pointers on living the eco-hippie life to its fullest, I’m in full-on DIY mode, so this afternoon, I mixed up a batch of homemade laundry detergent and am currently trolling for dishwasher detergent recipes, since I’ve got plenty of washing soda and borax left over.

Also on the to-do list for this afternoon: Get a new set of shelves for the basement, join a gym, stock up on soup and chili ingredients, find the source of the smell coming from the kitchen drain, and work on the coupon books I’m making the kids for Christmas.

Life is good.

Emily

Slacking

OK … I’ve been slacking this week. I had great intentions about blogging, but I was scrambling hell-for-leather to make a deadline at the office this week, and then I had a creative outburst that had to be indulged with canvas and acrylics Friday night, and Riggy had a vet appointment Saturday morning, and there were errands to run, and church this morning, and photos to shoot for work this afternoon, and a trip to the dog park, and in between, I’ve been playing and playing and playing and playing my guitar.

I’m still not very good, but I’m getting better, and I have finally almost gotten the hang of “Diamonds and Rust” and “Love Song to a Stranger.” Today I learned “One Tin Soldier,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “The Marvelous Toy,” and a new arrangement of “Deportee” that sounds better than the other one I’d been dinking around with. I’m also getting pretty good at “Helplessly Hoping.”

I didn’t realize how much I needed this. No wonder I’ve been so tense for so long: My church doesn’t have a choir, I haven’t done karaoke in years, and I gave away my piano before we moved, so I haven’t really had a musical outlet in ages.

Learning to play acoustic guitar is easily the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made. Even if I suck forever — which is unlikely given the speed at which I have been improving lately — it’s way cheaper than therapy.

Emily

Breathing for a minute

I am celebrating this evening. After nearly two years, I have finally finished the second draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 2010. I wrapped up the first draft in February 2011, but before I could get much done in the way of revisions, the story took a wild left turn that struck me as such an improvement over its first incarnation that I just couldn’t turn it down. I’ve spent the past eight months ruminating on the changes, and the story was flowing smoothly until a couple of weeks ago, when a plot element created a lot of logistical issues that bogged down the whole thing, and I just wasn’t sure how to proceed.

The problem finally worked itself out tonight, and I finished the revision a lot faster than I expected. It’s still far from being a finished product — especially in light of the fact that large chunks of it are brand-new and haven’t been through any sort of revision yet — but at least I have a draft in hand, printed out and double-spaced and ready to mark up and sort out in a (hopefully) cohesive manner. It’s not bad, I think, although “good” would probably be a generous description for some of it. A lot of the new passages feel clumsy or a little hackneyed or just don’t flow into each other as smoothly as I’d like. That can all be addressed in the revision process, I think.

I wish I could take off tomorrow and spend the whole day curled up in a coffeehouse with the manuscript and a red pen. It’s hard for me to focus my attention on real people when I’ve got fictional characters waiting for me at home. :/

Emily

New perches

I finally got around to painting and installing the shelves I bought for Walter earlier this summer. He was a little uncertain about them:

Uh-oh. I dropped my cookie.
Can’t you just get it for me, Mom? I don’t want to jump down there.

It has not yet occurred to Walter that if he climbs the shelves, he might be able to reach that still-unfinished tribute to Bob Cassilly hanging from the ceiling. I think once he figures that out, he’ll be all in.

Emily