Thursday, September 20, 2018


I've been spending every free moment studying Zentangle materials for my CZT class at the end of October. I've been practicing the art and method Zentangle for about 8 years now, but I have only been doing what I enjoy so it's time to learn, or at least become familiar with, all of the things I haven't tried. If my company is being so generous with  their money, time, and faith-sending me to class, the least I can do is be prepared!

So, I had seen the term 'Zenbuttons' bantered around but hadn't really investigated them. There is a section in the Zen Primer that talks about reticula and Zenbuttons stem from that, so I thought I ought to at least try it. What I saw online didn't grab me that much but I decided to do at least 5 so I could get the hang of it.

The first one I tried was with purple and black on a tan tile. It went OK but I wasn't thrilled with the process or the outcome. My outside circle was wonky, the highlighting was weak, and it just kind of sat there overall. 

So I went back to the drawing board. (Pun intended.) I looked at the instructions and then at the first tile and decided all of the things I wanted to change with the second one. I used blue and black on a tan tile and put a Zengem in the middle. I like that one a little better but it still didn't pop for me.

For the third one, I decided to make more bands and spaces for the reticula to make it a little less clunky, stayed away from the strictly monochromatic colors and upped my white highlight to make it 'shinier'.

This is what it looked like before shading:

 I was amazed at what a difference a little bit of graphite and white chalk could make. Finally, one I was happy with.

 I guess the thing that I am most happy with is that I can see definite progress with each new button as I get used to the method.
(From left to right).

That and the fact that while the process got a lukewarm reception at first, I really like doing them now and have idea for my last two already! Why is it that my inner three-year-old never learns to stop dragging her feet and just try something before she decide she doesn't like it!? Two more under my belt by the end of the weekend and then it's on to square medallions! Wheeeeee! Loving the ride!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diva Challenge 367-'NZepple

Laura's challenge this week was to use the tangle pattern 'NZepple. 'NZepple is one of my Mac and Cheese tangles. It appears in 90 % of my work. It's so relaxing to do and I love the way that, even though the same design is repeated over and over in a grid, it creates a secondary pattern.

I love to use it as in the background of this tile.

Or make it wonky style and turn it into sea shells like in the bottom left hand corner of this tile. (Kudos to Margaret Bremner who first turned us on to this variation called 'Cockles and Mussels'!)

As long as 'NZepple, Hybrid, Quiltz, Mooka, and Zinger exist, all is right with my world! What are your Mac and Cheese Tangles?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Diva Challenge 365: Back to Basics

Laura's back over at the Zentangle Diva site! I'm so happy to see her! It's been a long, boring summer without her! Her first challenge upon returning is one that gets us back to the basics of Zentangle-dots, frame, string, basic tangles. It's a particularly apropos one for me right now since I will be traveling to Providence in October to attend a class to become certified to teach Zentangle! Since I found out, I have been concentrating on getting back to basics so this challenge is perfect. It uses Hollibaugh, Crescent Moon and Printemps.
Thanks for a great challenge, Laura!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

DaVinci DaVotion and Lunchtime Luck

Although a lot of other groovy stuff happened, the main reason for going to the Mississippi River Museum was to see the traveling DaVinci exhibit they are offering this summer. I'm a huge fan of both his genius and his art so was delighted with the treasures that were available!

They took a lot of the sketches of inventions that he had created on paper and put them together in real life.  This is the uber-creepy underwater breathing system he thought up. I think the white makes it more slimming, no? The backpack mounted on the front covers a multitude of sins! did he really envision that the air bell would be a two ton heavy thing made out of wood? I swear I've seen this guy on Doctor Who!

Some of the exhibits you could touch and some you couldn't. This was DaVinci's armored tank. You could get inside. I did and tried to take a picture but the resulting photo looked very confusing from that angle! I think the shape sort of looks like one of the lunar space capsules! I think I would like it for a She Shed! I'd replace all the metal hardware with a huge soft cushion of course, so it would be a cozy place to nest up and read a good book! I'm pretty sure that's what DaVinci had in mind anyway!

Vitruvian Man is one of my favs! Our company put out a tshirt quite a few years back with him on it.

Of course Mona was there. I love all of the theories! Was she a real person? Was DaVinvi himself the model? Was she pregnant-is that why her hands are that way? Mona just smiles enigmatically...she's not telling!

They also had a reproduction of The Last Supper. It was amazing to see it in its actual size! I've seen it in pictures all my life but I was amazed at all the things I had missed. I sat on a bench and looked at it a long time. I didn't get any great pics though because it was so big I couldn't get far enough away.

Of all the things, this was my favorite. I'm overwhelmed by DaVinci's notebooks. I've read every reproduction and also books about them. For a long time in my 20s, and as a keeper of journals myself, I had an unnatural obsession with them!  The exhibit had 'archival quality reproductions'. I think that means 'really good fakes', but I loved seeing them anyway!

After the exhibit, it was lunchtime so I went down to the in-house cafe only to discover that I would have to put a second mortgage on the house to buy a hot dog. Diamond Jo Casino was across the street and I had noticed on the drive in that there were several restaurants in the complex (including a Subway), so I put $20 and my driver's license in my pocket, threw my purse in the trunk, and headed over.  (This is the part where 'other groovy stuff' happened!)

I planned to buy lunch with the $20 and whatever was left over I would spend playing the penny slots for a few minutes before heading back to the museum to feed the stingrays. I got a lunch in a cafe and had a $10 bill and some change left over. I headed to the casino floor and put the $10 bill in a penny slot machine. Woohoo! That's a lot of pennies! Feeling flush, I opted for the max bet...80 tokens! .80 cents...big spender! I hit the button and as I did, I noticed that the machine allows you choose a denomination, .01, .02, .05 or .10 cents....and someone had left it on .10! Oh no! No! No! No! Undo! Undo!  As I checked the display to confirmed that indeed-I had wasted $8.00 on one spin, the bells and whistles started. I just sat and stared as money started pouring into my account...a penny at a time. But by the time it was done....well....this!

I know right!? I didn't even give it one more go! I punched out, took my voucher to the cashier, got cash and hurried from the casino like I'd robbed the place. I kind of feel like I did! And I think I know why Mona has that look on her face. I had a similar one on my face for the rest of the afternoon!

All in all it was a lucky, lovely day and I had a wonderful time! Mona and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Octopus Hugs and Stingray Kisses

Wanna hug? This is the Pacific Octopus at The Mississippi River Museum. Isn't he a handsome fella? He was doing his morning hot laps when I arrived. He was practically running around the circle of his tank.  He would only stop to investigate that pipe you see in the lower left. At first I thought that it was a piece that had somehow come off the aquarium, but turns out it's his toy. He would stop, stick an arm in it, turn it around a little and put it back down and continue on his way. I must have stood there for 20 minutes watching his antics. Better than the Kardashians any day!

I signed up to help hand feed the rays in the afternoon. This picture was taken from the second floor balcony. The kite-shaped ones are Cow Faces Sting Rays. Their noses look a lot like cow noses.  Their wingspan is probably about 3-3.5 feet. They 'fly' all around the tank, using lots of energy so they get fed twice a day. That smaller, rounder ones are Yellow Rays. They are more sluggish and pretty much sit on the bottom of the tank so they are only fed in the morning. 

I got there early and petted them for a while. They come over to the sides of the tide pool-like tank so you can run your hand down their backs. Some of them stick their faces out of the water to have a look at you. It's pretty neat. Just before they are fed, the staff makes everyone stop petting them until after they have been fed. This is so the rays don't get confused every time a hand is in the water.

The naturalist said that normally they have around 10-15 folks sign up and everyone gets around three pieces of fish to feed the rays, but that afternoon was inexplicably quiet and there were only three of us, so we got to feed them all the fish! It took 15 -20 minutes and was such a blast! Sometimes they are fed shrimp, but today's entree was smelts. You take a smelt and hold it between your fingers like a cigarette, then you slide your palm down the inside of the tank wall, about elbow deep, and they come from below and swim up your hand. When their mouth, which is quite far down on their underside, come in contact with the smelt, they suck it right out of your fingers. It feels like little stingray kisses! The Cow Noses are pretty messy eaters, but that's OK.  The little Yellows zoom around the bottom like Roombas, vacuuming up any random bits that get missed.

It was such an amazing experience and I highly recommend it if you are in the Dubuque area. It might be a bit too intense for little kids, but pre-teens on up could handle it. Like I said, it was a fluke that there was only 3 of us, so sign-up early to be sure sure to be included! You too can add 'Stingray Food Transfer Technician' to your resume!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

This Way To The Egress, Ladies and Gentleman!

As I was out adventuring on Sunday afternoon, I saw a sign on the highway that said 'Scenic Overlook', so I pulled off the road and into the upper parking lot. I am a sucker for 'scenic' anything and also for those markers for historic places you come across sometimes. (In Maine we call them 'rocks with writing on them' because the metal plaques are usually attached to huge, usually granite, boulders, but here in WI, they are usually in the form of an actual wooden sign.  But I digress...).

I knew it had to be something really beautiful because I was in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. The Saint Laurentide Ice Sheet never made it down this far in the last Ice Age. The area wasn't scraped clean by the rampaging berg and rushing waters, so it's all the original Cambrian seabed underneath. Lots hills and vales! I also knew, that if the powers-that-be thought it was important enough to build a groovy, and quite obviously spendy, pedestrian bridge over the highway so the masses could access this wondrous spectacle, it must be pretty. darn. amazing.  

So I set off across the well-maintained parking lot to the fabulous bridge. It was hot and humid and the whole thing was downhill, meaning that after I saw the amazing view, I would have to hike uphill all the way back, but I just knew it would be totally worth it! 

Lovers had locked padlocks on the bridge to signify their eternal adoration for each other. It was sweet to see and I wondered why the bridge wasn't covered with locks in, what must be, a very high traffic area? Hmmm. A mystery to be sure!

Across the parking lot, over the swanky bridge, through another huge, well-mown and paved parking are ( for scenic view enthusiasts coming the other way on the highway) and I encountered this. Pretty, no? Look how well maintained it is-all mowed up nice. It was nice in the shade and there was no one else around which seemed a little odd but my excitement grew.  I just knew that whatever was at the end was going to be SO worth it! I mean why else would they people all the way down here?

The path led to this little observation terrace. All the better to see the scenic view! What a great idea! They've though of everything! I rushed forward to see what I could see!!! And....

View to the left.

View to the right.

Uh...wha???? Is this the point in the horror movie when the crazy park ranger shows up with an ax, having enticed his victim into the wild? The surroundings were such a non-event that even he was a no show!  

Either this was one of those scenic overlooks geared to much, much taller folk than I, or someone forgot to install the scenic view! The only thing around the end of the path was dense vegetation. No one had trimmed the sumac and other assorted growth for years. I couldn't even glimpse a little bit of 'scenic' through the underbrush and tree trunks. And now, I would have to walk uphill through a path, two parking lots and a bridge to get back to my air conditioned car! Doh! Fell for it again! Print the word 'sucker' on my forehead!

 Looking back over my shoulder I could see that there maybe used to be a scenic view but those days, I'm afraid, are looooonnnnngggg gone.

Over the years, I've chuckled at the Scenic View sign on I-95 below Sherman, ME in the winter when it states 'Scenic View Closed'. ( I'm guessing because it's on such a big hill and they don't want to plow it the drive up there.)  I always think, "how can they 'close' the scenic view? Annnndddd, now I know.

To recap:

The ilk of what I expected to see...


 Heavy sigh. I really AM gullible. (I'm a little ashamed to admit that I was taken for a, and I almost didn't write this for fear of ridicule, but if this post can save just one person from heading down that path, it will be worth it! Snicker...)

Now I have to petition the town of Dodgeville to change the sign to include the word 'Ustabeah' in front of 'Scenic View'. Until then, if you're in that neighborhood, don't fall for the shiny, shiny bridge and the promise of paradise....turns out it's just a parking lot!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Governor Dodge State Park

I decided that Sunday looked like a good day for adventuring, so I headed over to Governor Dodge State Park for the afternoon. 

I've only lived in Wisconsin for going on 30 years so I figured it was time. I had heard that there was a waterfall in the park so of course that was my goal. Turns out, it was just down the road a piece from the front gate so it wasn't hard to find. 

The path through the woods was paved, short and very pretty until you get to this part (up at the top):
'Natural Rock Staircase' back pockets!!!

Climbing down was a lot scarier than these pictures make it look. It's all an uneven jumble of rocks to the bottom and pretty steep. Thankfully there is an iron pipe railing to hold on to or I probably wouldn't have attempted it. Some of the 'steps' are pretty far apart for those of us who are short on one end, but I made it to the bottom unscathed! I was rewarded with this bit of loveliness!

Stevens' Falls

Cave next to the falls.

The water is from a spring so it was ice cold and clear. I had to bide my time to take pics because people were wading there. 

That little spring rill has been working on that bedrock a loooooonnnngggg time. 

I made it back up over the scary, scary jaggedy, rocks unscathed! I wasn't even winded. I was so proud of myself...but of course this is my life we're talking about, and it was while I was standing back on the level overlook that I inhaled some kind of a bug and almost died to death from the coughing. It was an exciting few minutes while, thinking I was having some kind of an 'episode', strangers pounded me on the back, tried to get me to drink water, and discussed whether they should call the park rangers or Med Flight. Finally I could suck up enough oxygen to squeak, "I swallowed a bug", and there was a collective "Oh" and everyone went back to their business. Just once, I'd like to have a normal life...just once....

Because this was a family farm back in the day, there was also an old spring house nearby. It sits right over the spring stream and was used to keep things cool before refrigerators were around. I went in  and it was easily 20° or more cooler in there than outside. It was also home to an amazing diversity of spiders but it was too dark to take good pics of them.

All in all, it was a fine afternoon. The only downside was that I wasn't the only one who thought of going adventuring. There were people everywhere! Every natural feature was crowded with folks-both the good and the obnoxious sorts. Made me wish for some of the Maine parks where you can go all day and only see a handful of people. When I'm in the woods or by the water, I like solitude and quiet. Weird for someone who, let's phrase it nicely....'verbally and vocally gifted'...(read *a chatterbox* here). But we know that I am nothing if not an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum, deep fried in paradox oil and smothered in quandary sauce!  Overall it was beautiful but next time I plan to go back either early in the morning, or in the off season when the camping traffic is less. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

For The Birds

My life these days seems to have gone to the birds. Remember last summer when it was all about hawks for a while after I watched that one die on a live wire on Odana Road and took it to the police? For two weeks afterward I was inundated with close encounters with raptors. This new bird thing started when I was in Maine and a hummingbird got trapped in the garage. No amount of cajoling would entice him to fly out on his own, so I went up on a step ladder and plucked him out of the corner and took him outside. I sat with him in my open palm for a couple of minutes while he regained his composure and then he flew off. Gosh, that is the closest thing to magic there is; holding that shiny, emerald in your hand. It's like holding a fairy!

When I got home from Maine, I decided to put up bird feeders for the first time. Don't tell the birds, but I put them out by the front window so the cat would have something to keep him entertained-and they certainly do! I tinkered with it a dozen times, crawling in and out of the Hosta plants and trying to avoid all of the baby bunnies and ground squirrels that live under there. I was kinda thinking that I probably was investing a lot of time and effort on getting the pole straight and the feeders the right height and then the birdies wouldn't visit. I no sooner got in the house when I looked out (after hearing Cooper 'Ack Ack Acking' ) and the feeder was full of purple finches. The next day when I went out to adjust the feeder, a wee Yellow Finch landed right on my shoulder and sat there for 15 seconds or so while I froze in my tracks in disbelief.

Late last week, reports of an 'injured bird outside in the dooryard' started coming in from the kids. I went to look and discovered that it was a Mama Killdeer. She wasn't hurt, but she had made a nest and laid three eggs in the landscaping stones in one of the medians in the middle of the parking lot!
I sent an email to our entire building explaining that she was nesting and not hurt and I threatening the life of anyone who bothered her. Now to wait for the itty bitty babies to arrive and keep them safe from the tons of various rubber and steel that careens around back there as the wee ones learn to totter about!

And the cherry on the bird sundae that is my life happened on Saturday while I was driving home from the library. I was sitting at a four-way stop when a Starling decided to fly in my open sunroof and make himself at home in the back seat. 'Making himself at home' would imply that he was comfortable back there though and he wasn't. He was flapping around panicked, and I was Tippi Hendren-ing in the front seat. I finally got calmed down and got through the stop sign, pulled over and opened the doors. Both back doors, both front doors and the sun roof and he still couldn't find his way out. They don't call them 'bird brains' for nothing! I finally got a gentle hold of him  and released him into the fly into someone else's sunroof.  I'm not an Uber you know! Especially since I was paid with a handful of bird poo! I do intend to petition that their name be changed to 'Startlings' though. Because they certainly are when they are going all Hitchcockian in your Huyndai!

Isn't it weird how occurrences happen one after the other like that? I guess Mother Nature liks a good bundle deal as well as the next gal! 

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Tangle Time

I've been tangling my brains out this spring for stress reduction. I've been ruminating on these new tangle ideas for a while, so last night I took a couple of hours and put them together for my Tangle friends who will be meeting up this Saturday. I'd love it if any of you tanglers out there would be so kind as to try one or both and see what you can do with them!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Tale of Two Kiddies

Often when I am out and about, I am a magnet for old folks, odd folks and small children. For whatever reason, they overlook the curmudgeonly, essence of pure evil that is 'me' and actively seek out conversation.  I don't know why...but I like it. I was at the grocer's recently when a young lad (just turned three according to his mother) who was in the seat of the cart ahead of mine in line said, "Can I tell you something?"

I always say 'yes' even though it's a crap shoot with the little ones as to what will be revealed. It's often something benignly obvious like, 'you have a purse', or embarrassingly obvious 'you have a boogie in your nose'.  Sometimes it's worse...'You're a doody head' is one of my all time favorites. But I steeled myself, said 'sure' and this little guy said, and I quote, "Did you know that tapirs are pachyderms, same as elephants?"

Huh? Thud! That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.  I'm not often speechless, but I was for at least thirty seconds. [I know. You should have been there. It was something to behold.] Here was a (just) 3 year old, with perfect diction, channeling the late Steve Irwin! I was wholly unprepared. I looked at his mum and she just shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes in a 'whatta-ya-gonna-do' way.  When I finally gained my wits, the three year old deep inside (but let's face it, she's not as deep down as I'd like to keep her most days) decided that she would not be bested by a 36 month old...especially in the animal department, and retorted "Yah, but did you know that a Possum is a marsupial like a kangaroo?"

He never paused, never missed a beat, never raised a tiny little eyebrow.  He just said, conversationally, "Yeah, 'cause they both carry their babies in their pockets." OMGosh! I had found my soul mate! We chatted non-stop about amazing animal facts and characteristics until his mother dragged him away to take her groceries to the car. It was surreal! Much to his mothers consternation, she ended up parked next to me in the lot and we chatted more when I came out and before she could get him buckled in his car seat and away from the crazy lady. That mum is doing something WAY right! I want to stake out the grocery store and talk to that wee one lots more!

Conversely, I was in a big box store after that and heard a tot (probably in the 4-5 year old range) running from aisle to aisle chanting something at the top of his lungs. His mum was in hot pursuit.  As he rounded the end cap and passed me, he looked right at me and yelled 'There's a skeeter on my peter, whack it off!" He continued to bellow it over and over, running gleefully, dodging in and around the shopping carts. I'm sure there was an older brother somewhere giggling over the new phrase he'd taught his younger sibling. The mum finally nabbed him down by the Froot Loops and it was only with much wrangling and a firmly placed hand over his mouth, that she got him to quiet down. I could still hear him mumbling it into her palm however. I think she was in for a long afternoon and big brother was in for a whoopin' later!

So, as I said, it's a craps hoot when interacting with the Pampers generation, but I must admit, while the first encounter was absolutely delightful, I was, not equally, but also amused by the wild child on the lam. I don't know what that says about me, and I'd rather not know, I guess. I'll just keep saying 'yes' when tots want to 'tell me something' and file this under 'A Tale of Two Kiddies'.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sun Ain't Nevah Gonna Shine Agin!

Last week...
This week.

Image may contain: bird and outdoor

In an effort to not lose my ever-loving mind, there has been lots of knitting and drawing going on at Chez B for the last several days. Lack of sunshine and Vitamin D deficiency leads one to do many unusual knit wee sweaters that won't fit anyone. 

Then look at it and think..."I can make a smaller one!" 
So you do...just to make sure it really doesn't fit anyone...except maybe a hamster or a gerbil. And you know that if you had one, maybe a gerbil named Stewie, you would try it on him and if it fit, you'd make him a large wardrobe of knitted goods. You contemplate obtaining a gerbil. This is the only time when impassible roads are a good thing. If not for them, you would have 75 Stewies by now. 

Then you think that maybe it's not healthy to knit tiny things that won't fit anyone except maybe a gerbil named Stewie who you can't get to the store to buy, and decide to just doodle instead. You let the pen wander...let your subconscious go where it will. Then when you finish, you look and you have a squid strewing around his Polaroid collection and you realize that maybe this cabin fever problem is a little bigger than it appears on the outside. 

So you tried to batten down the mental hatches, ignore the outside world, and go to your happy place....There are always dragonflies in my happy place. 

And then you try my new tan tiles and markers that you got at the Artist's Coop in Sturgeon Bay. 

Nothing is really working. I'm still akin the the grumpy robin above.  It's a struggle to hang on to the positivity these days!

There one was positive thing I guess. It was Cooper's 5th birthday yesterday.  We celebrated by lavishing treats and snuggles all over him . The treats he appreciated...the snuggles...not so much. He has mellowed a bit in the last couple of years. My other friends with rowdy cats say that they calm down with age.  Another 15-20 years and he's going to be such a lovey!!! Pray for sun, People! For all of our sakes! 


I've been spending every free moment studying Zentangle materials for my CZT class at the end of October. I've been practicing th...