It all depends on your point-of-view!

Slide4When deciding what to take a picture of, I often take what is not there. Then sometimes, using Photoshop, I can place someone where they are not. My favorite things to shoot are textures and shadows, and the shapes they form create such contrast and add drama.

Slide1Our job is to break up the space in an interesting way. This is a straight shot looking down from a tall building. Looking up also gives fabulous opportunities for great photos. Cropping can make all the difference because you can choose how much of a shape is needed and where your center of interest is needed.

The usual format for taking pictures is a rectangle, but once I took a photo course, and we had to shoot for a square, a triangle and a circle. We cut out these shapes and placed them in front of the lens before choosing the shots. It is a good excercise and take practice to be able to see it without the croppers.

Slide2But shadows at a certain time of day do something magical. The diagonal ones, especially those that cast lines across items or walls are always exciting. And don’t think normal things cannot be exciting to take. Look at the shadows on these walls, they add texture and make a great composition to boot. Slide3

So whenever you are “oot-n-aboot”, remember it isn’t always there, you have to look for it and make it happen.

So go and shoot something different.


Inspiration is what I need!

Every time I enter an art show and get rejected, (or as the San Diego Slide2Watercolor Society says, declined), I do not want to paint anymore. In fact, the restaurant where my paintings are hanging is going in a new direction, so twenty of my works will be taken down. If that wasn’t enough, now I have to figure out where to store them.

So I am going over my old paintings looking for some inspiration. But of course, I am also working on the three classes I am taking on (Dino 101, Art History for Artists, Animators and Gamers, which I am finding very dull so far and the music they chose to introduce each video is driving me nuts! plus the one on Roman Architecture, which turned me on enough to create the children’s museum exhibit.)  FYI- I emailed it to my teacher at Yale and she loved it. Now I wish she could find a way that we could actually produce it. Wouldn’t that be great? Instead I worked on the paper for it all day today, now that’s depressing too.Slide6

I did think I might get inspired because I went to the Irvine Art Museum yesterday with my Mom’s neighbor and saw the California Impressionists. Wow, I had heard some of the names but to see their work all together was marvelous. Here are the ones I decided to do some more research on: Ken Potter, Franz Bischoff, William Wendt, Robert Wood,Vernon Jay Morse, Edgar Payne, William Jekel, Maurice Logan, George James, Alson Clark, Arthur Matews, Ben Brown, Clarence Kinkle, Colin Campbell Cooper

Now I went on to get some books on this subject and the artists and it said orders over$35 and get free shipping. Right, well I ordered $50 and there is no such thing as what they claim ’cause I am going to get charged for the shipping. Maybe I will wait and order when they really have free shipping. How do they get away with saying that this is the deal? Anyone know?

Hope I get inspired soon I am takking a new art class next week so we shall see.



Roman Wall Painting made easy!

Slide4I am taking a class from (through Yale University), on Roman Architecture which I am finding very enlightening. I always have loved Greek architecture and thought this class would just add to that, I was surprised to have discovered something that was so interesting that I had to figure a way to do something with that new-found knowledge of decoration on walls of fancy villas.Slide19

I have seen gorgeous mosaics on floors and some walls, and fresco wall art in ancient Grecian & Italian sites, but the Romans took it to mathematical heights, and I mean great heights. Look at the height and detail in the wall with the maroon background on the top left and the white one in middle right here. I cannot imagine how long these walls and barreled ceilings took to paint, but read on and you will ask Slide6the same questions I did.

When I learned about the 4 different styles that were used over the years, I decided instead of writing a paper on designing a Roman City, that I would create a Children’s Museum exhibit to expose people to this wonderful art form.

Here are a few of the principles to creating the four different styles. You can see, they divided the walls into sections. (This art was done from around 10 BC to 79 AD). The 1st style is simple, they wanted to show that they had money but couldn’t afford to import marble, so they painted walls to look like it. They added columns and architectural features to look like windows with scenes and vistas behind them in the 2nd style. Slide22In the 3rd style, they finally realized that the walls were flat and painted them so! They added paintings in the center of panels, like a framed painting. The columns were not so massive but became skinny and decorative, they were no longer headed with the Greek capitols (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian). They used still life art and mythical people in the floating paintings. In the 4th style, they used all of the above and then some. They added cages to the top layer and had buildings and scenes within them, not like a panorama, but a painting within a frame.

romanarchexI used four colors to identify each style with a wall mural showing different walls from various villas uncovered in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and well-preserved villas from the Roman Empire. Slide9What I also added was drafting tables so kids can draw buildings using real architect tools and I added a block area so they can build houses. I saw a fabulous paneled digital presentation on a wall at a fair recently and saw they can project multiple images on panels, so I included this (very expensive wall) above the block area so people can see Roman buildings and ancient dig sites.Slide21

I have updated my exhibit design by added the three column capitals to each table and using a slanted one the Romans used for the fourth table. The height will add grandeur to the whole exhibtion and I decided I could not leave out an archeological dig site showing the kids what the ruins looked like. So they will clear away dirt and unveil the ancient city underneath the photo of Mt Vesuvius.mtvesev1

Slide25(Click on any of the collages to enlarge them so you can see the details, then use the upper left arrow to go back to the blog.)

You can see the entire slide show on YouTube if you go to this link. Now I just have to find some museum who might be interested in hiring me to produce this! I think it is very exciting for every age. And if you can draw, it wouldn’t be too difficult to follow their patterns. (FYI: The YouTube version is not as updated as this one. Look at the map above for the changes.)


Old friendships and reuniting with them after 50 years.

Slide2Funny true story. My former neighbor moved to San Diego last month, and happened to come to the JCC for a discount membership early one Sunday morning (that’s her in the purple frame with her two brothers).

She met a woman (my daughter’s boss) who handed her fliers of upcoming classes and events. While standing in line, she read one and realized that she recognized a name from the past, (my sister!) way back to childhood in fact.

Well with the advantage of having a smart phone in hand, she facebooked Slide1my sister and they “talked” and realized the connection and that her niece worked at the J.  My sister facebooked me with a few details and I told my daughter about it. Well, she had a luncheon to go to that afternoon and left. In about a half an hour, I look on facebook and there is my daughter, next to my old neighbor at the same luncheon. Out of a thousand women and a hundred tables, what were the chances of this happening?

Now, I am wondering how the heck they got together. It turns out that my daughter’s boss was the lady who handed her the fliers and she saw her at the next table. She went over and said her friend had told her that her niece worked at the JCC and did she know her? Her boss said that she would be sitting next to her during the luncheon and she would introduce them.

Okay, with me so far? Go forward now, I look at the facebook picture and am bowled over. Within two hours, I see a photo of my daughter and my friend standing together at that luncheon. Well, she came over to meet me the next morning and I told her that my sister (who still has our maiden last name) and I are giving a poetry reading (tomorrow night actually Feb 18). We then made a plan to visit with my Mom and my sister in Laguna the last weekend.

Later that same day, I connected with another former neighbor from our old street as he was online on a facebook chat – so we chatted and I told him the story (he had 3 siblings).  Well somehow since January 12, at 7:30 in the morning, between my sister in Florida, my two old neighbors from childhood and myself, we started looking for all the kids who grew up on our little circle street.

We now have eight families out of the 14 houses on our tiny street (and more on the adjancent street), 25 kids got connected after 50 years. So far who are all remembering riding bikes, and Fourth of July Adventures with my Dad, block parties arranged by my Mom and numerous other journeys. Back then, we walked long ways, (even slugging through snow and sleet and ice) to Belvoir School took public transportation to Wiley Junior HIgh and to Cleveland Heights High School (when we didn’t get a ride from my Dad). Am also learning a bunch of funny things that happened so long ago, and now everyone is of course, all over the US. My Mom is floored at how many Doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists and PHD’s there are from our little corner of University Hts. Ohio.

Yesterday, my friends’ kid brother (pictured above) and his wife came to San Diego and we had brunch with them in Oceanside. How weird is that, the kid was four years old when I last saw him and he towers over me now? We pulled out the old pictures, which was a riot and my Mom was so thrilled to hear all the stories, (and told a few on her own too). My kid sister now has a website with all of our families past and present photos and stories and we are all enjoying this so much. We are begging them all to dig through their old pictures so we can get a good laugh (and a joyful cry too!)

This is a small world so make the most of it.

Photography concepts where shadows add more umph.

Slide1Every once in a while, I take pictures to show depth or repeated shapes for teaching purposes. But if you study these, what is it that draws your attention first? Look them over, do you see color first? The top left one has the blue reflection of the sky in the window, which does add interest. Notice the one beneath it where all the arches are the same.

The sun creates shadows in the crevices and enhances all of the shapes. Without it these would be flat nothings.  I think these show that the importance is the values in the contrast. Maybe we could try to take the same pictures when the sun is not out and see the power of what happens to surfaces.

Arches add a certain dramatic effect, but look, one is looking in and the other looking out, but the depth is there showing the diminishing sizes. These are creating the depth and add interest in breaking up the picture plane. If you took a straight on picture, it would have all the same sized arches (or windows in a building picture). I always try to paint coming from an angle just because it is less repetitive in size.

So my challenge to you is to go out and see what you can shoot thinking all of these concepts;  Repeated shapes, contrast, angle to create depth and do it on different days for comparison purposes. It is nice to not have to worry about not having enough film anymore. Digital cameras allow us so much more freedom.

The key to my childhood dream was to see “locks” in action.

Slide1When my Mom and sister said they wanted to see the Panama Canal, I was excited. Every children’s museum that I ever visited, had me playing with locks for long periods of time. I wanted to understand how they worked. Well, I jumped at the chance to cruise through it with my Mom, my two sisters, and my daughter too.

Other than having to get up at five and get your spot on the upper decks, Slide2the heat was so intense we had to keep going inside, even at that hour. We were the biggest ship so we got in line and would be going in first. We stood in line for a long time and then when the sun came up, we got the nod.


Slide3We saw the tug get us into position, then some guys in a little row-boat, jumped in front of the boat and got wires attached to us. The train cars, or mules (since they used to be real mules) hooked on to the wires and held us securely because the sides were really close. We did hit the sides twice says my sister Norrie. You will also see a photo of us being in our cabin and looking out at the side of the locks while we were in it coming back.Slide4

Our Island Princess cruise went from Long Beach (San Pedro, CA) to five countries and entering the locks from the West, the Pacific Ocean. We turned around and came back through them so we did not fly back like most tours do.


The workers actually can walk across the very heavy doors, they weigh tons. I did not writre down the figures of how much water this all takes, but I am sure you can google that info.

The water spreads out on the side edge. We saw bubbling under a bridge next to us (see the top right of the collage with the mules). I thought the water goes from one side to the other lane but that was not true. Watching the doors open was very exciting. There was a double door on one set.


What’s in the big pot?

Slide1Oh boy, I had to share this with you immediately before I forgot how I made this. Several years ago, my daughter and I went to a special cooking class by the Cancer Institute. They made a sweet potato Moroccan soup that we really enjoyed. Since then, I keep a can of sweet potatoes in the pantry shelves just for cold days.

Well today I finally felt better, after having a case of some kind of flu all week. I wanted something soothing so I made the soup, but added some things and it was so fabulously good that I just had to share it with you. Plus, this way I keep it on record so next time I need the recipe I have it. Reminder, nothing is written in stone here, which means the amounts are
“whatever!” I do not measure anything when cooking, baking is a different story (and I rarely bake except with crescent and Grand rolls!).

                            PENNI’S SWEET POTATO SOUP

SAUTE: (in eveo)-  1/2 diced onion, 2 chopped stalks celery, and 1/4 of a red peppers, chopped. ADD: 1 can chicken broth, 1 Medium can (29 oz)  sweet potatoes (smooshed), 1/2 shredded yellow squash, some roasted butternut squash, 1 C orange juice, 3 squirts mustard, sprinkle of dried garlic, and at the end, add 1 can whole kernel corn

Another one of my favorite soups for a cool day is one I learned at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I went home and tried to cop it but missed the mark. When I went back I asked the chef what I did wrong and he said you need to use cream. Haha, I am at times lactate intolerant so I decided to use evaporated milk and it worked with a dab our sour cream at the end.

                              PENNI’S PEACH BISQUE

1 C chicken stock, 1 can evaporated milk, 1 large can peaches (juice and all) In the Blender, put the peaches and the milk, add to the heated soup. Sprinkle in parsley, garlic powder, sherry, a T butter and 1/2 instant mashed potatoes to thicken. This is good hot or cold. You can reserve a few peaches and rough cut them for garnish, with a dollop of sour cream and voila, your taste buds will thank you!

The other dish pictured above was one I did with 1/4 lb pre-cooked and deveined  shrimp that was on sale.


Shrimp, fresh whole green beans,  sliced yellow squash, and mushrooms. In a frying pan, saute until the squash slices are tender. Add some fresh green beans (I zapped the green beans earlier!) and then add the shrimp and sliced mushrooms. This was a very quick meal for the family while I was not up to cooking!

FYI: Any kind of soup enhanced with sherry, butter and instant mashed potatoes is “S’wonderful”. So do not be shy, go make some soothing soup.

Next time I will give you a quick lesson in what you can do with pre-packaged Pillsbury (or generic brands) dinner rolls.


This is a little “game” for you to play, oh deer!

Slide2Today is my first anniversary of doing this blog so I have a gift for my followers. Have fun!

From PENCIL GAMES Magazine Spring 2008.

Match the song title with the occupation below (it could be a theme song for them to adopt!)

Pictured here is “Oh Deer!”


The Man on the Flying Trapeze

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Knock Three Times

Silly Love Songs

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Roses are Red My Love

King of the Road

Wake Up Little Susie

Mrs. Brown you have a Lovely Daughter

American Pie

Bette Davis Eyes

Stand By Your Man

I Love a Rainy Night



a.   door-to-door salesman

b.    meteorologist

c.    truck driver

d.    circus performer

e.    delivery-room nurse

f.    movie make-up consultant

g.   disc jockey

h.   florist

i.    alarm-clock

j.    square-dance caller

k.   flight attendant

l.    Houston Chamber of Commerce

m.   baker

Can you make up a few more? Sure brings back lots of memories if you are from my generation (old that is!).

Back home is a cold place, enjoying warmth here on my face!

winterEvery time I turn on the news and see the temperatures back East, I feel guilty for about, ummmm, 2 seconds. Cleveland is being snowed upon and I am in California out in the sunshine, taking two courses online (, free classes).

My Roman Architecture class is so interesting (from Yale!). Did you know that the Roman’s invented cement and took Greek Architecture (which I adore) to a whole new dimension because of it. They combined Etruscan and Greek buildings and came up with so many wonders. Problem is, I have visited many ancient places and never realized what I was looking at and would’ve gotten so much more out of the trips. If you want to “see the world”, I highly reccommend you look into this course.

I now am looking at buildings on TV, in magazines, books and all around me and seeing the influences and appreciating so much. When I see columns, I remember their “orders” (e.g. Doric= plain flat tops, Ionic=the bulls horn sort of like spirals on the sides, and the Corinthian= the flowery sculpted tops). But now I know the many ways they can be formed. In Grecian sites, you see many are broken and lying around. Same with Roman sites, but they are not all made of the same materials. I am telling you, go look around and view life in a whole new way.

The second class I am taking is Dinos 101. Having loved dinosaurs for all my life (and working at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History), I know a lot about them, but never had taken any courses. Wow, what a great job the University of Alberta is doing, showing how scientists discover every aspect through the various fossilized bones and pieces.

I love fossils and usually can find them wherever I go. My sister, the geologist, is always surprised that I have this talent. We worked on a kids book (“What’s Under your Feet?”) for several years (1992 it came out) and she would take me to places so I could see some geological events on my own (and not just in books!). I even got to run with the dinosaurs in Culpeper VA. where there were hundreds of footprints all over the quarry. I also had an opportunity to talk to scientists and developed a comprehensive book that makes Earth Science very understandable. In fact, I never used the word evolution or die in the entire book and even adults who have seen it have been impressed that I was able to share the facts very visually.

I just found out that they will be offering a song writing class in the Spring and am looking forward to taking this course again. I took it in Cleveland and wrote loads of songs and poems when I did take it. The nicest thing is that I am giving a recitation, using a few of them in  performance with another sister, in San Diego in February. I always get so creative when I take courses and the free ones online are so nice. The most fun is talking on the discussion forums to people from around the world. Mind-blowing, no?

So, go take a class!

What’s Cookin’?

I decided to have a lazy day with my daughter today (Sunday) and made a potato soup for lunch with whatever I found around in the freezer and frig.  I had a prepared seaweed package from an Asian market in the freezer for a while so I decided to concoct something special. I am known as a cook that doesn’t use recipes, so, any amounts are arbitrary.

I once was asked to cook on a local PBS TV cooking fundraiser and sent them a recipe, last-minute. They called and asked if I would demonstrate it on live TV. I was embarrassed to ask, but had to get the recipe I sent in because i made it up and sent it without recording it anywhere. I did the show and it was great fun. They asked me back three times in fact and I grilled with the Grilling Guy, George Hersh too. Once the stove was not hot enough and I made something with raw turkey meat that never cooked and the hosts had to pretend to eat it!  And BTW- I had designed the dinnerware and they let me plug it on the show! Live TV is interesting. I even forgot an ingredient and as they were tasting it, I ran over and poured my “secret sauce” (Papa John’s Pizza garlic butter) as they were talking about my “shrimp delight” dish with sour cream and lemon juice with sauteed celery and onions.

So here is my recipe for Hot and Spicy Seaweed Soup: a container of homemade turkey soup, with all of these thrown in.

Three pre-cooked white potatoes, chopped baby carrots, diced celery, sautéed onions and mushrooms, bacon bits, one grated yellow squash & fresh ginger, garlic, 1/2 c Greek yogurt, a little orange juice, 1 C Moscato wine, 1/2 C sherry, agave, orange juice, a pat of butter and one packet of commercial sweet and sour (spicy) sauce from a  packaged chicken meal from Trader Joes.

There is only one problem, when my husband was visiting he went through the freezer (because I could never find anything). So he was kind enough and wrote everything down on a big list. I can see and know which shelves everything is on, BUT now I have to go back and cross off everything that I use. What a pain in the neck! I liked my old hide and seek method! Got any bright ideas on this matter?

Anyway- go make soup, start with chicken broth or turkey or beef broth from a can, add instant mashed potatoes to thicken it, saute onions and celery and add butter and sherry and that’s your base. Anything goes when making soup with these basic items. I make a fabulous Peach Bisque using these with a can of peaches with the juice & evaporated milk in a blender, and add a little dried parsley and a little garlic powder. Yummy!