Saturday, March 20, 2021

Caffeine Day

Every week or two there's a magical day at my house, in which I consume caffeine and my housemates are filled with joy. It's not that I'm cranky without caffeine. I gave it up as a daily event a few years ago, and there are no withdrawal symptoms if you're not reliant. The difference is energy


If it's my turn to make supper on Caffeine Day, it will be delicious and served in coordinated fashion, just before everyone is starving and not an hour afterward.  And if it's a haircut day (because yes, scissors and clippers and combs are new creative tools I have been enjoying since last spring) the chances of my co-habitants getting out of the chair looking ready for a Zoom closeup increase dramatically. I can't say they get to 100%, not after the time I cut the front of somebody's hair a whole lot shorter on one side than the other, but it's better than average. 

(okay, I admit it: I've made that mistake twice now. On two different people. And yet every few weeks I'm still asked to turn the kitchen into my my amateur hour hair salon. I don't think ANYbody looks that trustworthy, but here we are.)

On Caffeine Day, it's likely that everybody will get some quantity of clean laundry, neatly presented. Random neglected corners are dusted or tidied or made beautiful and suddenly noticed and admired. Orders get placed for things somebody wants and I put off coordinating. Sometimes, there's even a random act of luxury baking. And because I make progress on my own work as well, coming close in this case to finishing a sock...


... I'm happy all day long. Always infectious!

I don't think it's just the drug, though obviously that has an impact. I think it's just the sheer number of hours I have to work with. On a caffeine day, I get up early so I can finish my morning tea at least 14 hours before I expect to be asleep again, and from there the whole day feels like a never-ending gift.

Also, tea with caffeine in it tastes SO MUCH BETTER. (With the notable exception of Harnet & Sons' wonderful Vanilla Comoro, highly recommended and available in big bags of loose tea as well as sachets.) Who isn't going to be extra cheery with a delicious cup of tea in hand, rather than a sad cup of brownish water?


This week, I timed a Caffeine Day to fall on the first Monday after the time change, a twice-annual event I personally would like to see the back of. I dragged myself downstairs early enough to see sunlight pouring in through our back windows onto the fine spray of crusty-loaf breadcrumbs that covered our kitchen counter, but had been invisible to me before. While the water boiled, I swept them away and wiped down the counters. 

See? Just thinking about imminent caffeine offers a power boost. And as we slog through a pandemic I'm not too (house)proud to consider wiping down a crumbly counter a heroic achievement.

The best piece of that Caffeine Day's magic was figuring out how to solve a problem with my current writing project that has eluded me for weeks. But I also painted a get well card for a friend. These are the rejects and I wish I could say the final choice was an improvement. 


Still, finished!

And I used the leftover paint to set up backgrounds for future doodlings, as I learned watching a video interview with a commercial artist who does this every time she finishes with one palette and begins another.


I have since started The Doodlings. They don't have to be good to be a satisfying break between other mentally taxing things. And somehow, the messy colour at the back and the unskilled drawing on the front usually adds up to something I might see on an actual greeting card. I am now kicking myself for not pursuing this avenue for the get well card I did send.


The trouble with Caffeine Day is that it never seems to end at midnight. That means the day after is always Groggy Day, in which I flail my way forward till bedtime. So I have to ask myself, does one day of super productivity result in enough to cover two days' worth of requirement? And also, does it matter, if I manage to enjoy both days regardless?

I still don't know the answer. I just know it was hard work to free myself of caffeine in the first place, and I sleep better without it. I guess everything in life is a balance. 


Hope you've had a good couple of weeks, with or without a good strong cuppa tea or coffee. And I hope you're not as disappointed as I am that I still cannot paint a plausible flower! Soon. If persistence is enough to make it happen, then maybe next time we meet there will be one at the top of the Hug :^)

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Procrastination by Organization

Hello again! I have dropped in to share my adventures with paint storage, and since that sounds dull even to me, I think it's best if we start with a photo of successful knitting. Plus a box of sort-of matchy pins.

These are socks I've knit and toe-grafted and run in the ends on, but somehow forgot to wash so I could get to wearing them. Mostly they sit in this attractive bowl which was a present from the last friend I got to see in person for lunch before the pandemic. Sandy found it in a dollar store and used it as a vehicle for (amazing) chocolate brownies, but I've appreciated this dish so much and admire it every day, not just for the socks that are in it now. It's like half of a cracked egg: it suggests possibilities. And not just the possibility of a mess on the counter, either.

I've been organizing my art and office supplies for the past few days. Which is much more interesting than, say, paperwork, if only because it's colourful. Just be grateful I'm not here to tell you about all masks I stitched up before treating myself to the organization project because that really was dull and also, hard on my back.

Let's start with a mostly respectable picture of my paint problem, shall we?

Even though I still can't paint a proper, recognizable watercolour flower, I did upgrade to better brushes, and treated myself to a good set of Daniel Smith paints in a tin. That set came with a second, empty tin and it seemed like a wonderful storage solution for my many extra paints, some of which were still in their original tiny sets with no mixing wells or other conveniences. It was such a choppy setup I wasn't using them, and that made me feel even more guilty about having bought so much more than was sensible.


Wait a minnit. Isn't this basically everyone's experience with knitting? Whereby one must buy Every. Pretty. Yarn, even before one can knit with even tension? And then it gets worse from there because you decide to learn to spin, too, and have to buy a spindle and some roving and then a wheel? Plus, naturally, a swift. And maybe a bag of undyed roving straight from the sheep, and dyes, and...


In any case: one thing I finally decided to do was squeeze out a bit of all the paint I bought in tubes, after spotting discounted sets from Schminke and QoR, and never use because it turns out I'm more comfortable with dried up paint in a pan. I had an inexpensive plastic palette, discovered long ago on an Urban Hike with my friend Jan, and it turns out it has just right number of wells on one side for the Schminke paint, and on the other, for the QoR. Yay! 

(except for the cut I got on one hand trying to unscrew a particularly stubborn cap. that was Ow.)

Then it was time to test-swatch all the colours and decide what I want in primary rotation. This job required meticulously cutting up little 1x3" cards and drawing a line on them, precision work I will definitely do again next time I'm stressed and need to calm down:

Incidentally, the whole time I was working on this speckly board I was missing shopping in HomeSense. I bought this and a smaller matching cutting board there and I use the two of them together when painting, to protect my desk. Now I think, Why didn't I buy a second big one?? Seriously, when I think of the first thing I'd like to do once the pandemic is over, it's taking a walk to the nearest HomeSense so look at different dishes than I already own. Three great pleasures in one outing. 

I really need to aim higher.

Completing all of the cards was a satisfying project even though it forced me to acknowledge just how much I have overbought and duplicated my watercolour stash.

Thankfully, this stuff is not going to go bad. I might have reached the point of having more than I can use up in my lifetime (see: yarn references above) but it will definitely last my lifetime.

A sidebar about my idea to use the empty Daniel Smith box to store all my additional paint: 

Even though it has the same dimensions as my brilliant Winsor & Newton metal box, the clips are too close together to allow anything more than a brush to sit between the two primary rows of paint. This is where online shopping is a sad substitute, because I would have noticed that issue in person. And honestly, why waste space like that in the design process? To say nothing of the fact that the second flap full of mixing wells doesn't open sufficiently far enough to be useful. 

However! by filling the middle channel of my Winsor & Newton box, then removing the insert and setting it over the mixing well of the first Daniel Smith box (see photo above), I was able to get a lot more paint out into one compact area. I figure if I can see it, I'll use it. 

Because let me tell you, this mess is not enticing me to paint.


Another project I took on just yesterday was putting together my very first Dot Journal. Holly, who went with me to a pen show a few months before the pandemic started, tipped me off about these things. Almost apologetically, because she assumed I must already be keeping several given my ridiculous stash of coloured pens and markers and notebooks. But she was so wrong! I was using journals with dots in them all the time and hadn't even considered linking up the dots to make personalized charts and planners. It's the perfect hobby for me, in that it gave me an excuse to watch for sales on even more coloured pens and markers and notebooks.

Again... I seem to have overdone it even by my standards.

It's not like I'm tops at decision-making to begin with, and there I was, faced with all these colour options for keeping the journal. I finally decided to do a small palette, like I would for a painting if I ever learn to do a real one, and doubled up a colour or two with a different brush tip.

I was very proud of this achievement and got all the way around the house to show it off before I realized that I wanted to use the yellow book to plan out a novel I'm researching.  I'd picked a green book for the meal planner I wanted to work on first, so I would be prepared, rather than paralysed, at 3pm on days when I'm supposed to make dinner. And I'd already bonded with the healthy-looking green for this purpose. GAH.

I considered using the same pen palette and just getting on with it already, but I know myself too well, and coordinated a new palette with the new cover. It's not like I was running short on pens or anything.

 All of this pen selection nonsense boiled down to me being afraid to put a mark in the book. I'm always wary of 'ruining' a notebook like this, which is why I generally use books with tear-out pages. But I was determined to use all this gear I've been accumulating, and - whoa.

The paper in an Oasis Light notebook is smooth like glass. I already knew I loved writing with LePen markers because I've been using a pair of them over the last few years, but LePen on Oasis paper is amazing.

I even recognized the advantages of having set up a 6-pen palette. It's really nice to have those decisions already made and neatly grouped with the notebook.

Because there are so many pages, I've been able to note down a lot of nutritional information to make grocery planning easier as well. I will regret the hours I've already spent on this after my three-month planner period is done and I have to start a second book for the next three months. But maybe after the first book is through, I can do this job with my eyes closed?

A girl can dream. But first: she's gotta paint the map for the new paint boxes!

Hope you're having a lovely March so far. Stay safe and I'll see you again soon... maybe even with a plausible watercolour flower at the top of the Hug.