Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homage to Van Gogh

I'm working on this month's Corel Painter article that the editor asked me to do. It's short but really fun, talking about painting with broken colour. I'm almost finished and thought I would post this quickie li'l illustration for one of the brushes. I would like to post the whole tutorial, but of course, once I agree to write an article, the magazine owns my work. This one, which will be in the September issue, was done using the Artists Van Gogh brush with Color Expression set to Direction. I love doing the articles, but posting here is waaay easier! I don't have to keep count of my words..............

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2 Movie Reviews

Spirituality is an important part of my life; I'll discuss religion with you, but if you start to argue, excuse me while I run for the hills. Living here in the Bible Belt, some of my beliefs could get me tarred and feathered, or at the very least some stern sermons and disapproving looks. Raised Methodist, I've studied religions, tried several of them on for size, like Goldilocks trying different beds, including Christian Science (just didn't feel comfortable), Jehova's Witness (Where shall I start? No church windows; I won't go door to door; arranged mariages, etc., etc.,) Catholicism (I think you'd have to be born and raised in it), Full Gospel Pentecostal (truly felt the Spirit of God there), Baptist (Don't get me started; I have issues.), Baha'i (warmed-over Christianity that thinks it's new), Presbyterian (even more frozen than Methodists), and Apostolic (where clean-faced women in their drab dresses and hair up in buns clustered together and stared at me, in my short, pouffy hair, make-up and spaghetti strap heels, with pity and a little fear that I might decide to stay), and so on.........

Last night on NetFlix I watched The Last Temptation of Christ, which came out in 1988, when I was busy being divorced and surviving, so I didn't get around to seeing it, but I remember the controversy and that it was banned in some places, which usually only makes people more curious about what they're not being allowed to see. As I watched it, I was reminded of The Passion of the Christ, which I did see at the theater in 2004 and which was also controversial for other reasons. I'll talk about it first.

I wasn't excited about seeing The Passion of the Christ because I figured it was just another account of the life of Jesus. I grew up with the stories, know them by heart, took Bible courses, have read the Amplified Bible through, Genesis to Revelation. I usually don't watch the Easter movies. But we went to see it when it came to the dollar flick on a Sunday afternoon.

It opens in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I began crying in the first 10 minutes, (gut-wrenching sobs, not just a few random tears) and cried till we walked out of the theater. People have complained that it's not in English and has no sub-titles. That's part of the power of this movie. I knew what they were saying, and hearing it in the original languages transported me. I wasn't prepared for my emotional reaction to it. I felt changed by the movie; it exhausted me, and I never want to see it again. Every Christian should see it at least once. *****

And then there's The Last Temptation of Christ. I almost clicked it off in the first 10 minutes. I was offended. What sort of blasphemous, Hollywood porn were they handing me? But I kept watching, and I'm glad I did. We know relatively little about Christ's daily life, just some random moments in time that made good allegories. He stirred up a lot of social unrest, intentionally; he was human, and may have had many doubts and temptations, other than the ones we know, as he followed what he saw as the will of God. My core belief is that Jesus existed, and then modern churches took possession of his teachings and turned them into a profitable business. (There, I've said it. Get out the rail!) This movie explores "what if", and leads us inward where we question our own beliefs. I shed a few tears in this movie as well, moments when I thought, "Yes! I never thought of that." I recommend this movie, too, if you commit to watching the whole thing before you cast judgment. It even has a surprise ending, which always boosts my movie ratings. ****

Bill Maher's Religulous, which came out last year, is next on my NetFlix queue. Bill Maher is a basically a snarky, mean spirited little man, but I watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO because I agree with some of what he and his guests have to say as I'll probably agree with some of the views in this rebellious documentary. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


This is Zoie.
We met last summer at a neighborhood garage sale. Actually, I saw her first, as she lay sprawled unlady-like in a cardboard box, amid Power Rangers, View Masters, Sponge Bobs and Happy Meal figures, 25 cents each, but don't tell Zo; her memory isn't all that reliable, and she thinks we're BFFs from childhood. For me, it was love at first sight, though I don't usually buy dolls; there was just something about her that struck a cord in my heart. I picked her up and couldn't put her back down into that hodge podge of unwanted toys. Maybe she's my alter ego, my familiar, or possibly a kindred spirit. She's about 22" high, made of cloth, a rag doll, if you will. I've never had hair that's red and wild and free like hers, but I've wished for it, always. And though she still had a Delton collectible tag on her hand (we like being collected), she has a missing shoe button, one of her fluffy wristlets has been de-fluffed, and her wings are a bit curly and rumpled. Time has a way of rumpling and defluffing the best of us. I'm pretty sure the starry, sparkly blue halo isn't original, but she wanted to keep it. You know how we girls like our sparklies.

I couldn't find her online, but one of her sister ballerinas is on Ebay right now for $22.49 + $4.90 postage, and I thought about buying her, but once you've bought that second doll, I mean seriously, is there really any stopping place? I can see me in 10 years, as that eccentric old lady with a houseful of creepy, dusty dolls, still frantically grabbing them off Ebay and QVC in the wee hours of the morning and then waiting with breathless anticipation for the UPS guy to stop in front of my house.

Zo is a sweet, undemanding companion who agrees with absolutely everything I say, LOVES my art, and doesn't mind when Jim's gone and we spend the evening watching old movies and eating bowls of fresh pineapple with Cool Whip and sunflower seeds instead of cooking a meal. She travels well, after we got over the first hurdle of her not wanting to wear her seatbelt, but when you only weigh 6 ounces and have long, dangly limbs, a trip across town can be a harrowing ride if you're not fastened down! I've already promised her that she can go with us to Florida in August, and I'll share pics of her there, or just any time she wants to let you see what she's been up to. We're both sort of hams in that way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Self Portrait quick tutorial

(Click on the image to zoom in)
Here's a quickie self-portrait I did in PhotoShop this afternoon.....well, yes, it began with a photo of me, and yes, I took some liberties. I've told online friends that I'll never grow old to them as long as I can still manage PhotoShop. No, you may not see the original photo......It would spoil the illusion. I like this technique, and I'll try some more, maybe not so stern looking portraits. Actually, it looks more like my Aunt Lee, but my mom has always gotten us mixed up, so I guess it's okay.

Open a photo in PhotoShop, desaturate it, and you may need to raise the contrast a bit in order to bring out the shadow areas. If you also own Corel Painter, you may not use the brushes in PhotoShop very often, but there are some pretty nifty ones in there. Create you first transparent layer above the canvas and begin tracing in gestural strokes. Just try for the essence of the image; leave something to the imagination. Most of the outlining I did with a small Retouch brush, working in a total of 18 layers. I like to work like that because it allows a lot of freedom for changing Opacity and Blending Modes. The painterly looking strokes in shading and in the hair were done using various David Nagel brushes, which are some of my absolute favorites. Google Nagel brushes to find them for free download.

When it's looking like you want it, add a layer of painted texture, maybe a painting you've done earlier, or one you downloaded from a stock photo site. Then begin to play with Blending Modes. I used Softlight. You may also need to move the painted texture layer around to position the colours where they look best. Finally, I added Sandstone texture twice at 50% and 65% consecutively, fading both to 49%. It just looks better that way. That's a really abbreviated tutorial. If you have questions, just ask. You know I love to talk. See ya later!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A peek inside my kitchen

I want to thank those of you who have signed up to follow my blog, especially since I don't know where we're going yet. I guess that's the problem with having so many interests; I like to take photos, do crafts, decorate my home, read, paint with traditional paints and with digital brushes, grow things, write, study any number of things like psychology and Taoism, collect things (sort of), etc., etc. So, I've decided to dabble in lots of topics here at the beginning till something "feels" right and then take that path.

Today I wanted to show you one little corner of my kitchen where the baker's rack stands. I would like to have a larger one, but the kitchen has so many windows that there's not much wall space. I'm in the process of making some decorating changes; I'll share those with you as they evolve.

My nephew, Shawn, once told me that I have so many cool things in my house, but that I need to come up with better stories than saying they came from garage sales; just between you and me, though, that wire chicken & eggs, the tassels, and most of the rolling pins were bought at garage sales for next to nothing. The idea of putting twinkle lights in the glass canisters was shamelessly borrowed from my friend, Sybil, who used to be a buyer for M.M. Cohn and has lots of good decorating ideas.

I've got some Fiestaware dishes there as well. My whole kitchen is filled with Fiesta. I don't collect it, but I have a hard time not buying it when I see it. Does that mean I'm collecting? I have 3 cabinets full of it, one in cool shades of blues and greens, another with warm colors like red, yellow & orange, and a third where some dramatic colours are gathering, like black, chocolate and lilac. Mine is mostly contemporary; I got interested late in the game, and the vintage pieces are astronomical. We saw a chipped vintage lilac dinner plate at Canton for $300.

Most silk flowers that I see around are too chintzy to decorate with, but Hobby Lobby has some fairly good ones, (of course I wait till they're 50% off) and I go with Sybil to wholesale houses where they have the really good stuff, which is where I got the ceramic vase that looks like horns and the flowers I arranged in it. And that's a little peek at some of my decorating.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Divining Rods

I haven't counseled in 15 years, but I still keep my LPC current, just in case, by taking classes and paying bi-yearly fees. Often, the workshops just aren't that interesting, but today I lucked out. From 9 AM to 4 PM, 12 other counselors and I were kept thoroughly entertained by Randy Jo Nielson; her topic was Anger Management, and she has some unorthodox counseling techniques. I'm always drawn to unorthodox, even though I didn't agree with everything she put forth.

The most intriguing idea she shared with us has its beginnings in antiquity, but she has cast a new light on it. She uses homemade divining rods to asses her clients' personal boundaries. Your boundary is the space around you where you feel comfortable, like an invisible fence that protects your physical, emotional and social space. Without being aware of it, we're constantly making judgments about how closely we're willing to let others approach. For example, your significant other, your mom or your best friend may be welcome to walk right up to you and put an arm around you while a stranger approaching you will cause you to start backing up if he or she gets closer than about 12 inches.

Randy showed us how to use them, and I have to admit I've always been skeptical of divining rods, but this works! She demonstrated them first with one of the counselors, and when he walked toward her, the rods held in her hands swung around to close the space when he was about a foot away. That's the limit where she felt comfortable with him approaching her. I had spoken to a lady as we went into the classroom, and she sat down beside me, so when we paired off, she and I got together. You know how occasionally you "click" with a stranger? Well, Sherry and I did, and it showed in the way our rods reacted. When either of us approached the other, the rods stayed open, not what anyone expected, but when we decided to take each other's photos, the rods closed because neither of us liked having our pictures taken.

Even though I'm no longer counseling, I'm planning to make my own divining rods to play with. They'd be fun at a family gathering, to see who feels comfortable in whose space. They will also measure the changes in people's emotions and the energy in the room. Cool stuff!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Skin Care Tip

I didn't invent this one, but I've tweaked it some, and they've been talking about it in the skin care forums for quite a while. If you missed it, I promise it's well worth trying. It's called OCM (Oil Cleansing Method); it's simple and inexpensive, especially compared with some of those $200 cleansing potions they're also touting in the forums. I've been using it for about a year, and I'll never go back to store bought cleansers.

As the name suggests, it's made from oils. Of course, the better the oil, the purer the cleanser, and I buy organic extra virgin olive oil for the base and organic Castor Oil to add. I've also tried some exotic oils, like grape seed oil, but I can't really see a difference. Just to get started, though, use whatever you've got around the house. I also tried adding a drop of rose essential oil, but I'm too sensitive to smells, and I ended up dumping the whole batch, which is wasteful, and I'm anything but wasteful.

I make mine up in a glass pump bottle that I got at Pier 1, but any sort of bottle will do for starters. Fill it 3/4 full of the olive oil and finish up with the Castor Oil. I only use it at night. In the morning, I either just splash my face with water or use an Oil of Olay disposable cleansing cloth. For best results you'll also need some micro-fiber cloths. They'll tell you in the forums that you need the expensive ones, but that's just not true. I've bought those and ended up putting them in my kitchen drawer for dish cloths. The ones I like came from Wal-Mart, a big bag over in the auto cleaning supplies, and they're bright yellow. You've probably seen them. I took about half of them and use those for hand towels on my side of the bathroom, and the others I cut into quarters for cleansing cloths. It makes quite a nice supply, and I keep them separate from other bath linens, washing them together on sanitize.

Here's how to cleanse: I put a couple of pumps of the mixed oil into my palm and begin stroking it over my dry face; I do this while I'm watching TV so I don't rush through it, and it's relaxing. The oils will slough off the makeup and dry skin as you gently massage it in. As our skin ages, it stops sloughing off, and the cells get glued together, and when those layers accumulate, we've got skin that looks old and weathered. As I massage, I begin to feel flakes of dry skin, makeup, all the accumulations on my skin coming off. After 15 minutes or so, I'm ready to remove the oil with a micro-fiber cloth that has been wet and squeezed about half dry. Fold it so you can wipe in sweeping strokes. I follow with more of my routine that I may get around to talking about later, but for now, your skin will be clean, dewy and soft, and with regular use, you'll start to see a more youthful appearance, and skin flaws like blackheads will disappear.
Comments are welcome; let me know if you try it and like it, or if you don't. Also, ask questions or talk about your own skin care tips.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finding happiness

We spent the day with our granddaughter, Rani. Actually, she's Jim's granddaughter, but I've been there since the day she was born, and we love each other, and I'm her Mimi. She lives in Tennessee with her divorced parents. At breakfast she asked me, "Did you know Papa used to be married to Grammy?" I said yes, that I knew it. She'll be 10 in a couple of months and is beginning to notice relationships.

We had such a fun day, went to the park and to see Ice Age at the Rave Theater where she and I giggled and chatted too loudly through the whole thing and got disapproving looks from Papa. When we took her back to her Grammy where she's staying, we were invited in. I haven't spent much time with her, but she seems like a sweet, very intelligent lady, and I think we could be friends. Looking around the living room of the house my Jim built, I thought about what might have been and about endings. I love him, and I love our life together, but lives get so complicated with divorce. I remembered to send Rani's half-sister a birthday gift, and I missed a gathering with my two half-sisters. We lived with their father, not mine. I would like to sit and have coffee with my ex-husband and talk about the years that have passed. We fell madly in love at 14, as in love as you can fall at 14. My son's step-children try to include me in their lives, but it's hard, seeing as how I met them so late.

I'm not exactly sad about any of this, and I wouldn't change things, but I looked up the divorce rate in the US, and it's around 48% for first marriages. Does divorce mean we failed? Or are we a society who has learned to cut our losses and go on? I guess I'd like to have it all, for first loves to go on forever but for people to have the freedom to grow. "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys; there's only you and me, and we just disagree." Maybe the bigamists in Utah have tried to do this, but from what I've seen, it's done from a patriarchal perspective that gives all the freedom to men and makes women into concubines. And so, the rest of us continue to try to find lasting happiness, each in our own way, without making too many others too unhappy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crawfish Cornbread

I'm not as good a cook as I used to be when Dave was little, back when we fried half the things we ate and put real butter or tons of sugar in everything else, but I do have a few favorite recipes like this one. Jim's cousin asked for it on the 4th; actually, I haven't served it to many people who didn't ask for the recipe. I got it off a TV show called Good Morning Ark-La-Miss when we lived in Louisiana. We learned to love the food down there! Those folks know how to cook, and eating is always a celebration.

Crawfish Cornbread

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

6 whole eggs

1 cup sliced jalapeno peppers

1 cup chopped bell peppers

2 medium onions

16 oz. grated cheddar cheese

2/3 cup oil

2 large cans cream style corn

2 lbs. crawfish tails

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, beat eggs thoroughly. Add other ingredients to eggs. Add egg mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir well.

Bake in a 12x14 inch, well greased pan for 55 minutes at 375 degrees or until top is brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I always half the recipe and bake it in a pre-heated iron skillet. This cuts the cooking time to around 30-45 minutes, and we like how the sides come out crusty. This makes about 8 hefty servings, and it's one of those foods that's just as good warmed over for supper the next night. I use low fat shredded cheese. You can buy frozen crawfish tails (already shelled) in most supermarkets. Let them thaw, and I like to rinse mine and let them sit in a sieve in the sink to drain. We're not very spicy people, so I usually leave out the jalapeno peppers. If you try to take the bread out of the pan as soon as it comes from the oven, it will most likely tear to pieces, but I let mine sit for about 20 minutes, and then it pops right out onto a plate. It's wonderful with Red Beans & Rice. If you've never made them, here's how I make 'em.

Red Beans & Rice

I soak the beans for 24 hours in cool water. I have a friend, named Barbara Dee Deville, who's an honest-to-God-Cajun, who soaks hers for a week, changing the water daily. Place them into a pot with fresh water, a diced onion and a couple of bay leaves. You can add diced ham, and that's what I use these days, but if you happen to run across some Tasso, that's even better. Season with oil and Cajun Spice Mix, or make up your own with these spices: salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, black pepper, and garlic powder. Let 'em boil and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I got word today that the mural is hung, but when I was painting the panels on my computer, I envisioned it being hung in the entrance to the Rainbow Casino in Vicksburg, MS, and that someone involved with it would send me photos of the finished piece. Turns out, it was hung in the gaming area, which operates 24/7, and no photos are allowed there. So, I'll post some of the 12 panels here, and Jim & I are headed down to Vicksburg Thursday, just want to see it for myself.

They had a certain look in mind, but otherwise I was given fairly free rein, using the reference photos (taken by renowned photographer Jack Robinson) of vintage roadside scenes along the highway heading into Vicksburg. At one point, though, I thought that it needed some cotton bolls and cotton fields, which to me represent the rural South back in the day. I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that there would be no cotton in any of these images! I guess cotton means different things to different folks............. I worked on it, off and on, for about 6 months, and now that it's done, I would like to start over and do some things differently, but that's how I feel about most everything I paint. The mural is said to be 96 feet long and 8 feet high. Each of the files is huge, the largest one being 250 MB, which is bigger than the hard drive on my first computer, but I've whacked 'em way down to post here, and for now they'll have to do, until I can figure out a way to get photos of the mural.................

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Migraine: "A neurological syndrome characterized by altered bodily perceptions, headaches, and nausea. The typical migraine headache is unilateral and pulsating, lasting from 4 to 72 hours; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to bright light), and hyperacusis (increased sensitivity to sound...."

This is part of Wikipedia's definition of migraine..........72 hours? I wish that had been my longest one. Back in the day, when I was going to specialists right and left, trying everything I could research to find the cure for my blinding, marathon headaches, the longest one lasted 3 weeks, that's day and night, taking meds, no relief. During that chapter of my life, I came to know why some people take their own lives out of desperation. My migraine journal shows I had one 70% of the time; that's the close the blinds, keep all the noises down, ice pack on my head in bed, and crawling to the toilet to barf variety. We couldn't make plans because I'd probably be unable to go, and I wouldn't let Jim tell the neighbors I was in bed with a migraine when they asked where I was because I didn't want to be known as that poor woman who always has a migraine.

And I didn't make a very good guinea pig for my doctor at the Arkansas Headache Clinic who was more interested in gathering statistics for her medical journal articles than she was in curing patients. I still have tubs full of meds that didn't work, just to remind me in case I ever am tempted to try them again. Most of them put me into a zombified state, so I didn't stick with them, telling her that on the rare day when I didn't have a migraine, I would like to spend it in my right mind. But it's my cynical view of medicine that in most instances it's more in the medical profession's interest to keep us alive and ailing than it is to cure any disease.

Ok, so today's topic isn't uplifting, and I should add that along the way, I've gained partial control of my migraines, beginning when I discovered (with the help of a book called The Maker's Diet by Dr. Jordan Rubin) that my addiction and my trigger were one and the same: sugar. Well, actually all junk food because I also can't do white flour, MSG, added chemicals that I can't pronounce, etc. Basically, if it tastes wickedly delicious, I should spit it out. But at one time, I was so addicted to Coca Colas that I had a little fridge beside my bed so I could have my first one of the day before I got out of bed. These days, I rely on Perrier for my fizz fix. In our society it's soooo much easier, less expensive, and basically more fun, to eat like a junkfood junkie.

So, how did I get the migraine that knocked me for a loop last night and has me woozy from the Maxalt today? Like a child who keeps thinking she'll get away with it this time, I relapsed at the cookout yesterday and ate forbidden food.......not copious quantities, just 2 or 3 slices of grilled boudin sausage, a brownie, stuff like that, as I grazed with everyone else over the tables of holiday food. And yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself today........ I envy people who don't have to worry about living it up occasionally, but I'll get over it. Hopefully I'll be back Monday, working out at the fitness center, and I'll make better food choices.........maybe forever.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tomato Crop

This is my 2009 tomato crop. Well, actually, we've had 5 tomatoes so far, the largest one being about the size of a golf ball, but the birds ate some of that one. I thought I would share my master gardening tips with those of you who are inspired by my success.

Last spring, my fitness center friend, Sybil, told me she had bought some Topsy Turvy planters, and I thought I should try them, too. She even told me the type of plants to buy, Marglobe, a heritage tomato that's supposed to be hardy, great tasting, and disease resistant. I bought plants, 2 planters, and a bag of Miracle Grow potting soil at Home Depot for about $35. That might seem like a lot, but when you're getting a whole summer of luscious, fresh tomatoes for salads and BLT sandwiches, it's actually pretty reasonable.

An artist friend, Ann, cautioned that she didn't have any luck last year with the upside-down planters but wished me luck. Heck, I had seen how they grow on TV, lush plants hanging with bushels of gorgeous tomatoes. Maybe Ann just lives in the wrong part of the country. The plants grew and looked healthy till the rains started, and they turned yellow. Then when the dry season set in, they looked parched, and the leaves shriveled up and dropped off, though I was watering them once a day; another artist friend, Sandi, told me about freezing water in plastic bottles, and letting them melt into the pots to keep them watered all day; it works, if you remember to replace them with more ice around noon. I feel like I'm raising puppies.

And has all this TLC been worth it? I think my picture speaks for itself. We're going to visit relatives in Pine Bluff tomorrow for the 4th, but I've decided not to share my home grown tomatoes with them. I'm saving these beauties just for us!

Must be gremlins, I posted this on the third, and it disappeared, so we'll try posting again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I got a nice surprise this afternoon, a visit from Ian and my sister Nan. Ian is my nephew and the son of my other sister, Tressa. Most of my friends know about Ian. I'm sure they say, "Don't get Cat started talking about Ian!" But he is our family's miracle child, and I mean really, shouldn't we talk about miracles?

Tres has never married, but she has always wanted a child. She tried being a foster parent, and that turned out badly when the little girl was put back into the sexually abusive situation and pretty much traumatized us all, so when she began hinting that she might adopt, we weren't supportive at all, but she didn't care; when she sets her sights on something, she usually does it. Guess it runs in the family.

A lady who worked with her had a pregnant, unmarried, teenage daughter who was about to have an abortion. As badly as Tres wanted a baby, she couldn't live with this idea, so she gently convinced them to let her adopt the baby instead. Long story short, she got a lawyer, steered through the months of legalities and unwed parents who waivered and then decided it was for the best. Tres was at the hospital the day Ian was born and brought him home. Finally, she had a son!

I drove up a couple of days later, full of misgivings, determined that come what may, I would love this tiny stranger because Tressa did. Ha! I walked in, bent over the bassinet, picked him up, and held him against me.......and I was a goner. Blood-kin or not, he was ours, and from that moment on, I would have gone into attack mode for him as quickly as for my own son or my other nephews.

And what kind of little boy did we get? I told you, a miracle child. His bio-parents are borderline mentally challenged, so we were prepared to cope with learning problems. Having been a school counselor, I've known hundreds, no thousands, of kids, and he is one of the most intelligent children I've known, and he's funny, and he's so gorgeous strangers go out of their way just to speak to him. Yeah, we got a winner. We say it's a God Thing.