Happy Halloween!

30 10 2018

I’m still alive – it’s just been a year of insanity + procrastination. So trying to get back into the art thing. Here’s a lil’ cat and ghosty creature surprised by each other on Halloween night.  Hand drawn ink with digital color.

Halloween 2018 color

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Silver Springs – Kayak Adventure

16 03 2016

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Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida used to be a roadside attraction/theme park. No coasters, no Mickey Mouse, but plenty of flowers, animals, and attractions (famous glass bottom boats that originated in the 1800s). You bought tickets and spent the day. There used to be a lot of things like it in Florida; few are left still operating. I remember going on a field trip once in 5th grade and seeing giraffes.

Well, a few years ago Silver Springs was sold to the state, so now it’s a state park. They left a lot of the structures, and the restaurant and glass bottom boats are still there. Took a day off work and visited to go kayak!

First we wandered around trying to find the kayak area, past the “shop” with the restaurant:

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And the treat place that still makes fudge:

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Which is right by the dock for the glass bottom boats with pretty glass windows:

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The boat area is right by the head springs..

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…and you can circle around that and walk down the river, admiring the flowers, like azaleas just starting to bloom (a couple weeks ago)…

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….and whatever this pretty thing is:

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But we were there for the kayaking. I had never kayaked before, and Silver Springs seemed like a great option for a beginner. You can rent from the park directly kayaks, canoes, and tandem kayaks at reasonable prices, and can choose between a 2+ mile loop course or a longer 5 mile one that goes down the river. We choose the shorter one and made our way to the kayak area. Currently the path from the park to it is under construction, so you walk back into the parking lot and can get to it there.

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It’s a small but serviceable launch area. Behind us in the above pic were the guys you rent from. They provide you with life vests, a whistle, and a laminated course map. It was a cold morning, so they had a fire going:

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But we were ready! We opted for a tandem kayak:

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The guys pull your kayak to the launch ramp and push you off when you get set up, so you don’t even have to get your feet wet. And we’re off!

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You make a right at the tiny little bridge in the pic above to follow the Fort King Paddle Trail:

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And it’s pretty much smooth sailing the first half of the loop. Even at midday (around noon), there was plenty of wildlife to see.

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And interestingly, plenty of ruins too from its “roadside attraction” days. Maybe some would find them an eye sore amid all the trees and water, but I’ve always liked ruins.

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Soon, we approached one of the highlights of the trip: a gator sighting! Thought it was fake at first.

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But it was definitely real. And look at all those turtles! Immediately after, we caught a glimpse of what I’d really been looking for the whole trip:

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Monkeys! The land in the middle of the loop is sometimes called “Monkey Island” because of all the wild monkeys running around. I need to research their origin (either escapees from the original park or descendants of former pets of a guy that lived near there decades ago).

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They’re pretty used to people, but we were warned not to feed them, or they might jump in the boat!

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We didn’t get that long with the monkeys… they had some kind of argument/commotion and rambled off. Shortly after that, we reached the turning point: a left turn would take you around the loop and up to the head springs; a right takes you down the river. We went left – most everyone else went right:

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Paddling this way took more effort. You’re going against current and against a lot of wind, at least that day. But we had cormorants to keep us company:

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And a glass bottom boat:

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You have to give way to the boats, which made me nervous, because with all the wind I couldn’t paddle anywhere quickly. But the boats do their own thing; it wasn’t a problem..

The next picture was taken after the kayaking, looking down into the headspring, but I thought it sums up the water nicely: crystal clear and gorgeous!

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At the head spring, you turn left down a small canal to head back to the launch:

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We got photobombed by a cormorant! You can see the little bridge thing up ahead. Once you cross under it, it’s a short bit back to the launch, where the guys pull up your boat and help you out.

It took a couple of hours, so there was still plenty of time to wander the park. We walked in a museum-like area near the restaurant. It’s crazy to think how busy this place would have been in the past:

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It’s a little sad to see these places go underappreciated these days in favor of more commercialized things, but as a state park you can still enjoy it if you take the time to drive out. A Florida classic!

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Shell Candles

12 01 2016

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I’d love to call this a DIY, but I was so amateur that this may be more helpful as a “what not to do.” Anyway, last Christmas I made soap; this Christmas my DIY was shell candles!

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These beauts were collected on my last trip to Cumberland Island, and I’d wanted to do something with them ever since. Making soap was so easy, I decided making candles would be too. It starts out easy enough:

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Supplies, above, left to right: candle thermometer (which I ended up not using), soy wax shavings, blue dye, candle scent, and wicks.

Online “how to” guides weren’t as comprehensive as soap guides… but it seemed the “real” way to make candles was by melting wax in a double boiler over a stove and using the thermometer to ensure it reaches the exact right temp. That’s too exacting for me! Turns out that soy wax does pretty well in a microwave, and you can even bypass the thermometer.

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I used my giant Pyrex measuring cup (make sure it’s not also used for food), and dumped in a bunch of soy shavings. I attempted to crack one of the blue dye chips in half, not wanting too much blue.

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I melted in intervals; search online for ideas of how long to go at first. Maybe a few minutes, then stir and break it down into much shorter periods until mixed. It starts to turn a gross flaky yellow as it melts. And just when I was worried the dye wouldn’t melt…

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Well, the dye certainly did its job! So much for a “light blue” tint. So lesson #1, use a hell of a lot less of the dye than you think.

I added in some scent, stirred, and let it sit. It’s not good (especially for certain container types) to pour freshly melted wax – too hot. Better to let it sit for several minutes. Here’s where you could still use your candle thermometer. I had a hardware heat gun that mostly gave me an idea just by pointing it at the wax. Think it took about 12 minutes.

While waiting for the wax to cool, assemble your candles. I arranged my shells over a bed of gravel to prop up their ends, because if left to their natural standing state, the liquid wax would drain out of the ends of them.

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Some guides say to glue the wicks in with hot glue; others say the wax will melt that, so use wax itself. I dunno. I went with Epoxy and it worked fine. My wicks had those metal ends to them that you can make lie flat, which was helpful.

Then, pour!

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Well, it works….

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But it was definitely TOO blue. I mean, it kind of looks like that dark blue toilet cleaner stuff:

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So I had the brilliant idea of adding a thin non-dyed layer of wax on top to dilute the blue. Perfect, right?

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Just a bit, no dye this time. It poured in well…

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But as it started drying, it dried so opaque that it became basically white with little bits of dark blue peeking out.

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Still, not the worst effect, just not what I was going for. Once they dried (over a few hours), I used a metal scraper to clean some of the edges where the dark blue rose above the white. Next, I trimmed the wicks so just a small amount rose above the wax.

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Not perfect, but not too bad!

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I noticed the wax sinks a bit right around the wick on some of them. On a couple  I noticed it before drying and tried to add more melty wax to fill it in, but it still collapses. Still don’t know why it does that.

Anyway, the final test remained: would they burn properly, or combust?

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I am pleased to report, they DO burn properly! So it’s a success, though a messily done one.

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Yay! So, lessons learned:
1) Try to find shells that won’t spill wax everywhere when lit.
2) Use much, much less dye than you think you’ll need.
3) Soy wax DOES melt well in a microwave, but that candle thermometer may still come in handy.
4) Even the thinnest layers of wax dry really opaque.

Cheers. 🙂

 





DIY Soap

5 11 2014

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I wanted to go DIY this year for holiday gifts, because it seems like everyone’s at that point where they “don’t know” when you ask what they want or, if they do want something, they buy it for themselves. Guess we’re truly boring old adults now! Anyway, soap sounds like a good idea because it’s both useful AND pretty. Win. Apparently, serious soap making is straight up dangerous. Like, it can burn your skin off. But anyone can do melt and pour! I’m experimenting with it now to perfect everything before X-mas. The soaps above are melt and pour goat’s milk with coffee (the brown ones) and half rosemary/half coffee for the other.

Here’s what you do:

glycerin soap base

glycerin soap base

Stop by your Michaels or Hobby Lobby with a weekly 40% off coupon and get a soap base for around $6.50, $7, something like that. The one above is clear glycerin. Some others are white/opaque like goat’s milk and shea butter.

soap mold

soap mold

You’ll need some molds. I got this one for around $3. It’s pretty basic so it could be versatile, but they make them with all kinds of patterns.

additives - dye and scents

additives – dye and scents

Then buy whatever additives you might want. Craft stores will sell various colorants, soap scents, and essential oils. The oils are pretty expensive, so I went with the soap scents (most are around $5 at Michaels and $3 at Hobby Lobby). I’m not sure if there’s a benefit to using these over perfumes and other colorings – I figured it’s best to be safe since this is going on skin.

Pyrex mixing cup

Pyrex mixing cup

You’ll need a mixing cup or bowl to melt the soap base in that’s microwave safe. People recommended Pyrex, so I bought an enormous 4 cup Pyrex mixer. You will also need something to stir it with. I use popsicle sticks for my resin, and they work fine here too.

more additives - tea!

more additives – tea!

I like the idea of putting random things in the soap. Some people recommended tea, herbs, coffee, oatmeal. Those can function as exfoliants and possibly smell good. I’m trying to experiment by adding scents to some and leaving others without. So far the tea smell seems to come through if you put a lot in. I also used very strong smelling tea (some kind of jasmine fruit thing).

making the soap - part 1!

making the soap – part 1!

So – to make the soap: first, cut up some of your soap base. It cuts really easy, like a butter knife can do it. I do a few squares at a time; it’s pretty easy to add more. Drop them in the mixing cup and microwave them, 20 – 30 seconds depending on how much, stir, and continue on 10 second intervals until it’s all melted.

freshly poured

freshly poured

Depending on what you want, you can add your coloring/scents/other random things into the mixing up or into the individual molds and mix. I find it easier/more mixable in the mixing cup, but I don’t want all of the same kind, so above I did them one by one. I found that you can mix up a clear soap base with an opaque one, if you add only very little opaque and mix only a little, really just swirl it. The opaque will mostly take over, but it still makes some cool cloudy effects. The two at the top are oatmeal/goat’s milk and tea/goat’s milk.

more soap cooling down

more soap cooling down

Here I tried tea – a LOT of tea – in the top right in a clear base. Clear is a nice idea, because then you can really see what’s inside, but tea tends to make everything a mucky brown color. At the bottom I added fresh herbs. Feeling like they might turn black (fresh = moisture in the leaves = mold over time), but I’ll wait and see. Anyway, let everything cool. I leave it out for 3 or 4 hours then pop in the freezer for 15 minutes or so (makes it easier to pop them out). I left some in the freezer overnight and they had all this gross condensation on them – so maybe don’t do that.

Ta da!

Ta da!

The finished herb and tea soaps. More experimenting to do. But I like that it’s pretty easy and cheap. Wrapped up with a ribbon/string around them, these could make cute gifts!





Le Michel

22 08 2014

french street

Latest tablet experiment  – blocking in color/shadow without line work AND a scene vs. portrait. Lots of improvement needed, but I like it. 🙂 Based on a photo I took in Strasbourg, France last year.





Chiseled

13 08 2014

greek guy

I am loving this tablet! Still learning – attempted for the first time here to block in colors and shadows first before linework. Added the linear definition at the end. This guy is based on a photo I took in France at the Palais Rohan.





…And Also, Gravity

24 07 2014

defy hair





Blueberry Picking

15 05 2014

It was my birthday this week, so naturally I took a small chunk of time off work and had a B-day Extravaganza weekend, part of which included blueberry picking. I’ve wanted to try it for 4 or 5 years now and always miss the season. Well!

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Harriet’s Bluff Farm is only about an hour north of Jacksonville (just past the St. Mary’s exit – where you turn for the Cumberland Island ferry), and they have tons and tons of organic blueberries. I could not have had a better experience. The people were friendly, everything was marked and clear, and the blueberries were delicious!

This sign marks the road to the farm...

This sign marks the road to the farm…

There's plenty of room for parking as well as porter potties and a lunch area.

There’s plenty of room for parking as well as porter potties and a lunch area.

Any row marked with an orange ribbon can be picked from.

Any row marked with an orange ribbon can be picked from.

...walking past many rows of blueberries toward the ripe ones near the far end

…walking past many rows of blueberries toward the ripe ones near the far end

Yum!

Yum!

Look at the size of it! Much bigger than you see at the store, and for a much better price.

Look at the size of it! Much bigger than you see at the store, and for a much better price.

Each row shows what variety it is. A lot of rebels are ripe now, as well as emeralds. All are tasty.

Each row shows what variety it is. A lot of rebels are ripe now, as well as emeralds. All are tasty.

Huge! You could wander here for hours.

Huge! You could wander here for hours.

Surprisingly, there weren’t many, if any, mosquitos. There were a bunch (a bunch!) of lovebugs, but those are harmless. They don’t bite or itch or anything. I suppose you should bring bug spray just in case though.

the final haul...about 5 pounds!

the final haul…about 5 pounds!

Cute blueberry picking tips

Cute blueberry picking tips

Approaching the check-out area to weigh and pay for berries.

Approaching the check-out area to weigh and pay for berries.

It was so much fun, and I’d recommend to anyone that they visit Harriett’s! Of course I got a little carried away with the berry picking, so immense baking activity had to be undertaken – see below:

Yummy baked goods made from our blueberry loot - blueberry muffins, blueberry oat bar, and mini blueberry pie (underneath the muffins)

Yummy baked goods made from our blueberry loot – blueberry muffins, blueberry oat bar, and mini blueberry pie (underneath the muffins)





Cumberland Revisited

8 04 2014
the beach forest

the beach forest

Oh yes, another trip to Cumberland Island! It’s been a few years since I’d been; I wrote about that trip here:
link.

This time it was early March, which in north Florida and south Georgia should be warm enough. Just our luck it was in the 40s that morning! I shed off my hat and gloves throughout the day, but never did take off my coat or scarf, so I ended up with some bizarre sunburns on my hand and like 1/2 my neck.

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Mysterious. Never found out what this was even after inspecting it for a good 10 minutes.

Mysterious. Never found out what this was even after inspecting it for a good 10 minutes.

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Above are the ruins of what I think was the Rec Center. It’s sad and surprising how much it’s decayed in the few years since my last trip. In fact, the old car graveyard was completely missing. It makes me think, what ruins of Dungeness will be left for tourists 100 years from now, if any?

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There are 100+ wild horses that roam over the island. This one was grazing right in front of Dungeness with a friend.

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Overlooking the salt marsh, Dungeness at our backs

Overlooking the salt marsh, Dungeness at our backs

Dungeness itself

Dungeness itself

Of course, you still can’t go inside Dungeness, and there’s not much there to be seen:

reinforcements for the inner walls

reinforcements for the inner walls

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I did discover the Duck Pond this time, which I strangely missed last time. Its off the main path to the right if you get off at the first dock upon arrival (Ice House Dock).

Duck Pond remnants

Duck Pond remnants

...and said main path

…and said main path

We tried to eat our PB&J lunch at some shady picnic tables across from the graveyard area. Unfortunately, someone else wanted to eat our PB&J too. A little raccoon appeared at the edge of the forest and started meandering over. At first, we thought we was cute, but then it became apparent that he was coming right for us at increasing speed, and might possibly have rabies. We yelled at him and flailed our arms to no avail. I stood up on the bench, and then the table itself – and he was right behind me! With his razor sharp teeth. Considering that he wasn’t frothing at the mouth, he probably didn’t have rabies, but I still got the feeling there’d be no appeasing him unless he got all the food…or us.
We were forced to run away and eat on the beach.

Awww... you're too cute to have rabies!

Awww… you’re too cute to have rabies!

He looks so betrayed!

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Speaking of the beach – they have amazing shells here. On Jax Beach you typically only find broken ones. We also spotted more horses:

man vs. wild

man vs. wild

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Plenty of jellyfish and horse shoe crabs were washed ashore. They make me feel a bit sad for them.

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To be difficult, I insisted we trek to the jetties (doable but far – hence the sunburn) which I hadn’t seen since childhood. I remember it feeling sort of magical, with little pools of water with tiny crabs and shells and strangely colored sea life.

Jetties

Jetties

Not so magical now. Either my childhood perception was way off, or they’ve gone in with bigger rocks that are much harder to climb on (mainly because they’re really jagged). But I like seeing the difference in the ocean on either side of it.

I like the look of this pool of water for some reason. There's something space-ish about it.

I like the look of this pool of water for some reason. There’s something space-ish about it.

Pelican!

Pelican!

Jetties are the pelican hang out spot.

Jetties are the pelican hang out spot.

Here’s how cold it was:

Awkward-looking pic of me, but you can see how cold it was - 3 layers of shirts/jacket on even on the beach.

Awkward-looking pic of me, but you can see how cold it was – 3 layers of shirts/jacket on even on the beach.

We got to the second dock (Sea Camp) early, so walked a trail back to the Ice House for pick up. There were tons of these gorgeous yellow wild vine flowers (below) that smelled delicious. Like starfruit, and candy, and a million types of flowers combined.

like Starburst!

like Starburst!

I think Starburst candy is the best comparison.

Anyway, Cumberland Island is awesome. Go if you can. Remember: there is no food and water on the island; bring your own. No trash cans either, so keep it with you. And look out for gators!





TV Night

25 03 2014

not sharing popcorn
Ugggh….legs….and this cat, I don’t even know








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