Learning to paint with watercolors & ink

I recently subscribed to Skillshare with a friend, and started watching classes on painting with watercolors. There’s actually a ton of other classes I want to take on all different topics, but I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time! And soon after I started learning and practicing, a coworker started an “art trading card” group at work, where you trade little cards (2.5″ x 3.5″) of handmade art with one other person each month, based on a theme. So I decided to join, because it seemed fun and like perfect timing.

For April, the theme was “rain, puddles, umbrellas, clouds, etc” so I used drab-colored watercolors to make a dreary background and clouds, and ink and gel pens to make rain and a silhouette with an umbrella.

May’s theme is “flowers and butterflies” so I decided to make butterfly wings using a technique I learned in a Skillshare class. It uses masking fluid to create an outline first. This was incredibly frustrating and messy to work with. I couldn’t figure out how to prevent bubbles from forming and the instructions that came with it were useless. But I made multiple versions to give myself room for failures. Fortunately, what I found is that when you get to the painting stage, it’s very forgiving. And the borders from the masking fluid created nice little separations for the paint colors. I added black india ink and sea salt for added effects. Then once everything dried, I peeled off the masking fluid. I love how they turned out! I want to play with masking fluid more in the future.

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Ski Train!

20170304_133313839_iOS_PSI finally got to ride the ski train to Winter Park! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first moved to Denver, but I did’t get a chance before it was shut down for years. It seems to be back to stay, run by Amtrak now. So we jumped at the chance to buy tickets.

It leaves Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:00 AM from Union Station, and returns by 6:00 PM those same days. We chose to leave Saturday morning and come back Sunday evening. The train ride was very comfortable–SO much better than a plane!–and the views were beautiful. It drops you off right at the base of the mountain. We spent two days meandering around the village and trying local eateries. I got a sunburn just from sitting outside and watching all the skiers come down the mountain! It was a fun weekend trip and I’m glad we did it. I wouldn’t mind taking more train trips in the future!


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Cookbooks, Journals, and getting out of the house

20170121_002844978_iOSThis winter is going by rather quickly so far–already out of January! I’ve started working a flex/9-80 schedule at work so I have every other Friday off, and I really like the change. I’ve also been driving in earlier, which means traffic is better and I’m less stressed. We’ve been cooking more often (mostly on the weekends when we have more energy), partly due to receiving 2 new cookbooks for Christmas. I probably should have taken more pictures, but I only have one: herbed goat cheese from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey.

I’ve been enjoying journaling, for the first time in a while. I received a Q&A 5-year diary for Christmas, where you answer a new question for each day of the year, and I find myself looking forward to each new entry, even though some of the questions make me roll my eyes. (Example: Which art movement best describes you today? Surrealism? Modernism? etc) Then I also went online and bought a regular 5-year diary, because I thought it would be fun to track daily happenings year to year. My grandmother used to do this and she could always tell you what the weather was like on any day in the past 20 years.

The Union Station area of downtown Denver is really booming, and we spent a Friday evening down there at the bar and one of the restaurants, and stopped at the Modern Art Museum as well. I love what a great hangout spot Union Station has become; it has such a great atmosphere. And last night, we went to a pizza place we hadn’t tried before, and found out from the owner that he had been featured on Kitchen Nightmares! (Check out the Pantaleone’s episode on Youtube.) We actually really liked the food and thought the owner was really nice. He even invited us back into the kitchen to show us pictures of his dog.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the last few months, and in particular the last few weeks of political news has affected us. It’s not that any of our opinions or views have changed, but I think we’ve both felt more moved to act upon them. We’ve started donating to organizations we believe in and bought a digital subscription to a newspaper so that we weren’t getting most of our news from social media anymore. And for my first time, I attended a rally, which was a really good experience.


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11 days of Christmas break

I’m sad to say that my rather long and enjoyable Christmas break has come to an end. We got to see family and friends, spent time at the beach and the city, ate lots of good food, gave and received fun gifts, and just generally relaxed a lot.

On Christmas Eve day, we flew to the East coast to stay with Sean’s family in Southern Maryland. We got to stay a whole week, which was a welcome change from the typical short long-weekend trips we usually are able to take when visiting either of our families. 20161225_043533637_iosWe had so many good home-cooked meals (including my first ever biscuits with chocolate gravy), cookies, and pie. We watched movies, read books, played video games, celebrated Sean’s sister Erin’s birthday, which is the day after Christmas, and watched our niece Shylee perform a magic show. I had my fill of delicious seafood at various restaurants throughout the week, walked around Lookout Point State Park where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet, and we got to walk through the Annemarie Gardens at night to see all the Christmas lights and listen to a bluegrass band perform.

We spent a day in Baltimore visiting our friends Briana and Barbara, who bought a rowhome there a couple years ago. They took us on a walking tour of the Fells Point neighborhood. We visited specialty shops and restaurants down by the water. We saw the general area where Edgar Allen Poe’s last moments were, as well as the street Billie Holiday on lived as a child, which has an alleyway covered with painted murals of her. It was during our walk that we learned of Carrie Fisher’s death, so afterward we took a break to rewatch The Force Awakens.

We flew home on New Years Eve, and have spent the rest of the weekend cooking and cleaning up Christmas decorations. Sean and I both have projects and things we want to accomplish soon, which will hopefully help get us through these next few months which are always my least favorite of the year. I also recently started reading Kristin Lavransdatter, doing crossword puzzles on the New York Times app, got a new 1000-piece puzzle to work on, and do adult coloring books from time to time. So I should be kept busy this winter 🙂

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Sean and Marie go to the Museum

20161112_221950420_iosWe decided it was time to finally check out the History Colorado Museum, because we both had never been there before and it’s a relatively new museum to Denver. And since the Denver Art Museum currently has special exhibits on Star Wars costumes and Venetian Renaissance art, we decided to go there, too!

The history museum was very interactive. One of my favorite parts was getting to be in a house during a dust storm in the 1930s. There was a travelling exhibit for Awkward Family Photos, which was hilarious and a really fun way to end the day.

The “Glory of Venice” exhibit at the art museum was actually very good, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sean enjoyed it as much as I did. They had pieces by Bellini, Titian, Carpaccio and Giorgione, among others. I’ve enjoyed Italian Renaissance art ever since my college semester in Florence, but Venetian art in particular has always stood out to me as unique and vivid.

The Star Wars exhibit had original costumes from all the movies, including the droids, storyboard drawings and some light sabers. As you might imagine, Queen Amidala’s dresses were the most impressive. There were so many of them, and most were incredibly detailed and unique. I was most struck by how different the costumes look in person compared to on camera.

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Half a day of sightseeing in San Francisco

The company I work for puts on a big annual conference each year, which I staff with my coworkers, and this year it was at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I only had time enough to spend about 5 hours seeing the city–my first time in San Francisco!–so my coworker and I made plans to hit up the top 3 sites (in our opinion): the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

On the way to the bridge, our Uber driver took us down the steepest road I’ve ever been on. One moment I’m on a level street with a stunning view of the bay; however, the road appears to vanish several yards ahead. The next moment I feel like I’ve been plunged vertically as if on a roller coaster. I’d always liked seeing pictures of the streets in San Francisco, but it is quite another thing driving on them!

We lucked out with the weather, so we walked on the bridge. The views were incredible, both of the bridge and from the bridge. We could see the city, Alcatraz, and surfers on the water far below. Afterwards, we had our next Uber driver take us down Lombard Street. We had to wait in bumper to bumper traffic on a steep incline before getting to the top. I don’t know how anyone who lives in the area is able to get in or out of their garage with how narrow, steep and busy the streets are. But the architecture and landscaping certainly are beautiful.

We ended up on Pier 39, where I had clam chowder, sourdough bread and lobster 🙂  It was a great way to end the day. I’m glad I got to see some of the highlights of this city, but I can’t wait to come back some time with Sean and get to appreciate it more fully.

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Boo at the Zoo

20161022_154629969_iosOur good friends Loren and Adam are moving back to Ohio after 8 years in Denver. We got to see them one last time by going to Boo at the Zoo with them and their daughter Maggie (who was dressed as an adorable lady bug). It was such a beautiful day with all the fall leaves and the animals, and the perfect way to say goodbye.

I loved seeing all the different costumes. (I think I got a few good ideas for some of my own Halloween costumes in the future!) And I was most excited when i saw that the hippo, my favorite zoo animal, was out and about and not submerged under water like it usually is!

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Colorado aspens in the fall

Two weekends ago, we took a drive to see the fall colors in the mountains, and it was the most brilliant display of yellow aspen leaves I’ve seen yet! And we didn’t have to go very far from home to find them either. We drove out to Idaho Springs and then turned south on 103 and eventually wound our way to Evergreen. There were plenty of pullover spots to stop and take pictures. We ended our drive by grabbing a late lunch in Morrison on the way home.

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We finally, finally got to take our trip to Norway! It sometimes felt like it would never arrive, since we bought our flights around Christmas time and slowly planned our trip over the next 8 months. We took Iceland Air to Oslo with a stop in Reykjavik. Our hotel in Oslo was a converted section of the rail station, and tried very hard to be hip. I loved the location and our view of the square below. The first day, we wandered around the Opera House, the National Gallery, and strolled down Karl Johan’s Gate. We had supper outside in the square and people-watched for a while before going to bed early. I was exhausted from not being able to sleep on the flight, but of course due to the jet lag, I still woke up at 2 a.m. awake and hungry for dinner, Denver time. That happened the first 2 nights but after that I was able to sleep through the night well.

Our second day in Oslo, we took one of those hop on/hop off double decker sightseeing buses to a bunch of the other sights around the city. First was the sculpture gardens, which was beautiful, then to the outdoor folk museum to see historic buildings like a stave church and farm houses. We walked to the nearby viking ship museum, which was very crowded, but for good reason. The ships and artifacts were very interesting to see in person. We made one last stop at the Akershus fortress, which was a big complex at the top of a hill overlooking a harbor where large cruise ships came in. That evening, since it was a Friday, our friends Harald and Ina came into the city after work from where they live in Hamar, and we went out for pizza. It was great to catch up and just chat for a few hours. Afterwards, they had to catch a short flight to Bergen, where they would meet us after we took the extra long scenic route to get there the next day.

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Day 3, we did Norway in a Nutshell, which is a series of unguided scenic train, bus and ferry routes that you pick depending on where you want to go and can go at your own pace. It took about 13 hours to get from Oslo to Bergen, which is very long if you do it all in one day (which we and most other tourists did), but it also has the most stunning scenery and is well worth it. This was the first time I’ve ever felt moved to tears by seeing something so beautiful. The mountains were so tall and steep, full of cliffs, greenery, and waterfalls–I never knew there were so many waterfalls in Norway, or in any one place in the world. And all along there would be farms halfway up the mountains, with no visible roads to show how they got there. Below I have a short video clip of the Kjossfossen waterfall, which they stopped the train to let us out to view. There was a woman to the right of the waterfall singing in a red dress, pretending to be a “huldra” from Norse mythology who lures men into the mountain to their doom. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I really liked it!

It wasn’t until we got to the ferry that I discovered my favorite thing about Norway: the fjords! I have never seen such large bodies of water be so placid, and then to be lined with mountains, cliffs and waterfalls… it was almost too much for me to take in. The scale was always tricking my eyes, which I would realize anytime I saw a tiny kayaker along the shoreline and realized how large the fjord really was. I wish I could have spent more time on the water. I would love to come back and kayak it myself.

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After a frightening, but amazingly beautiful, bus ride up Stalheimskleiva and a train from Voss, we finally arrived at Bergen. Ina and Harald greeted us at the train station and took us to Harald’s mother’s house, where we stayed for 4 nights. His late father built the house himself (see the beautiful staircase in the photo below). We would find we really loved the Scandinavian design and decor in our friends’ parents’ homes in Bergen, as well as other places in Norway, which led to a big, inspired IKEA trip when we got home. Ina and Harald were great tour guides who drove us everywhere (thank goodness, because Bergen roads were confusing!) We got to attend a Norwegian church service, eat whale at the fish market, tour medieval buildings, hear Star Wars and Indiana Jones music played on the gigantic organ in the Bergen cathedral, take a funicular and cable car to the top of two different mountains, and see a small country church that was moved from North Dakota to Norway. When the typical rainy Bergen weather finally came, we had a board games and movie day. (Trollhunter is hilarious and even better when you watch it with Norwegians!)


On Monday, Ina and Harald were back to work in Hamar, and we traveled to Alesund, a charming art nouveau-styled fishing town. We had amazing fish and chips, and relaxed in our hotel room, which overlooked the harbor. The next day we took a day trip to see the Geirangerfjord, which is considered to be the most scenic of all the fjords in Norway, with its large waterfalls.

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The day after we saw Geiranger, we flew back to Oslo, and spent one last day seeing the the palace and the park that surrounds it. It was probably my favorite of any city park I’ve ever been to, because of all the shade and the greenery, and the smell of all the different varieties of plants and trees they had planted there.

Before we left for Norway, a lot of people would say to me that this is a “once in a lifetime” trip, but I really hope that’s not true. I want to go back and see more of the country, more of my friends, and spend more time on the fjords.


Summer highlights

Just wanted to share a few pictures from this summer. In some ways it feels like we’ve been really busy and yet at the same time it feels like we haven’t gotten out and done as much as we usually do. It’s been a consistently hot summer with little variation, which I cannot say I enjoy! However, we did get out and do some hiking at Mount Falcon Park, which is always beautiful. We went back to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where we got to feed the giraffes. We went on a modern home tour which was fun and inspiring. We’ve spent time at City Park and the Science Museum. One night we got to listen to the Lockheed Martin team that built the Juno spacecraft and are managing the mission to Jupiter. And this weekend we celebrated the anniversary of Sean’s move to Denver–4 years!–by going to a cool seafood grill in Littleton called Smokin’ Fins where we had sushi and gourmet mac & cheese 🙂


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