Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reading Challenges for 2011

Kathy of Catching Happiness (isn't that a great name for a blog?) did a search for reading challenges and wrote about it on her blog here.  I visited the blogs she mentioned and found TONS of challenges.  I have enjoyed doing reading challenges the last 2 years, and it's time to think about what challenges I want to do for 2011.  So here are two challenges I've just signed up for:

2nds Challenge 2011:  Have you read a book by an author that you really enjoyed and felt moved to read another of the author's works? Or are you thinking to give an author another try even if you didn't like your first taste of their work? If yes, then this challenge is for you! You're going to go back for seconds of an author that you've only read once. The great thing about this challenge is that it's not just for your second in a series books, but the second time you've read an author as well.  I've signed up at the Just a Spoonful level, which is 3 books.


I Want More Book Challenge 2011:  Have you read a book and at the end said you must read another by this author but haven't?  Then this Challenge is for you, what are you waiting for.  :-)  There are so many amazing authors but sometimes we get caught up in reading all the new we forget about the authors that have already impressed, excited us, gave us what all readers want, a great read, that wow moment, so this Challenge is to show all the authors that have pleased us already how thankful we are by reading more of their literary works.  I've signed up at the Waited Too Long level, which is 2-4 books.

These 2 challenges are very similar, but they seem like a great follow up to my participation in the New Author Challenge 2010.  A few of the authors I want to read more of are Jane Hamilton, Jane Smiley, Rebecca Stott, Dara Horn, Ariana Franklin, and Kathleen Kent (I'm not sure whether all of these authors have written more books, but I know that some have and I have some of these books on my shelf).  And that leads to one more challenge that I'm considering:

Off the Shelf Challenge:  Are your books multiplying like rabbits before you even get a chance to read them? Trying to keep up with them, but can't stop buying new ones?  Maybe this challenge is for you. I know what it's like. There's so many titles and so many beautiful books out there sometimes it's hard to keep that TBR shelf under control, but if you really want to try why not challenge yourself?  Note: This challenge is to read those books you own copies of, but have never got around to reading.

And then I'm sure that I'll sign up for the War Through the Generations Challenge again.  The WWII challenge in 2009 was the first reading challenge I ever participated in.  I read Vietnam War books this year; it looks like I'll be reading Civil War books in 2011 (I've already got my first 2 books selected for this challenge).

So what about you?  Are you signing up for any reading challenges?  There really is something for everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien

Cacciato, a private, goes AWOL in 1968 Vietnam to walk 8,000 miles to Paris.  The rest of his squad goes after him.  The events get more and more absurd as it goes along, until you really wonder what is real and what isn't.  It is told from the point of view of Paul Berlin, one of the soldiers in Cacciato's squad.  I wasn't sure whether I was going to like it at first, but I did.  It probably took me longer to figure out what was really going on than it should have, but it was well written, and I rate it 4 out of 5.  It is my 6th book for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge.  This long quote explained why Paul Berlin let himself go to war, and it really resonated with me:

"Not because of strong convictions, but because he didn't know.  He didn't know who was right. or what was right; he didn't know if it was a war of self-determination or self-destruction, outright aggression or national liberation; he didn't know which speeches to believe, which books, which politicians; he didn't know if nations would topple like dominoes or stand separate like trees; he didn't know who really started the war, or why, or when, or with what motives; he didn't know if it mattered; he saw sense in both sides of the debate, but he did not know where truth lay; he didn't know if communist tyranny would prove worse in the long run than the tyrannies of Ky or Thieu or Khanh -- he simply didn't know.  And who did?   Who really did?  Oh, he had read newspapers and magazines.  He wasn't stupid.  He wasn't uninformed.  He just didn't know if the war was right or wrong or somewhere in the murky middle.  And who did?  Who really knew?  So he went to the war for reasons beyond knowledge.  Because he believed in law, and law told him to go.  Because it was a democracy, after all, and because LBJ and the others had a rightful claim to their offices.  He went to the war because it was expected.  Because not to go was to risk censure, and to bring embarrassment on his father and his town.  Because, not knowing, he saw no reason to distrust those with more experience.  Because he loved his country and, more than that, because he trusted it." (pg. 264)

Broken Ankle


Broken Ankle
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"I broke my ankle 12 years ago, in December of 1998, by stepping in a hole. Today I stepped on a large piece of gravel and turned my ankle. At least we were in our own driveway. Glen had to bring the car around because I couldn't walk on it.  I still had the boot and crutches."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Progression of the Season


Progression of the Season
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

I finished this two page spread in my journal yesterday - I started it on November 1st. It took that long because I've been waiting for the leaves to change color. I knew I wanted to put either 3 or 4 leaves on the page over time. After leaf number 3, I decided the page was finished. So I added my title (which smeared when my pen put down a blob of ink), border, and journaling.

"The leaves on our Bradford Pear change colors slowly. On November 1st, there were a few leaves that had changed color, but most were still green or had just a touch of color. By November 10th there were quite a few more that had turned, but still a lot were green. By November 23rd, most of the leaves had turned and many had dropped, but there were still some green leaves on the tree. It's been interesting to follow the progression of the season."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Portfolio


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Portfolio Front
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

In Jane LaFazio's class, we worked on individual sheets. For the last lesson, she gave us directions to make a portfolio to store all of our sheets in. I decided to change things up a bit and make my porfolio out of fabric instead of paper. This is the front of my portfolio.

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Portfolio Inside 
This is the inside with all my sheets inside.


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Portfolio Back
And this is the back.

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 6 - Machine Made Objects


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 6 - Machine Made Objects
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

Here is my first page for lesson 6. I love balsamic vinegar, but I don't know the difference between different brands, so I bought this bottle because it looked so pretty! Hope it's good!

I used a white gel pen for the writing on the label (but NOT the highlights on the bottle - I remembered them). There is a pale green background that barely shows in the scan.

The writing in the background is just about making my own salad dressing and how I chose this bottle.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Autumn


Autumn
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"Claire, of Claire's Sketchbook Blog, posted this quote a few days ago. I liked it, so I wanted to record it here [in my journal]:
'Autumn is all about letting go. Leaves flutter to the ground. Flowers launch seeda into the wind. Pumpkins loosen ties with mellowed vines. It's time for gardeners to let go, too. Frost reminds us that we're not in charge, after all. How do we let go? Laugh at our failures -- but don't repeat them. Be amused by perennials intent on taking over the world -- then mark them for dividing next spring. You get the idea. Observe. Learn. Let go.'
-Jane McKeon, Senior Associate Editor
-Better Homes and Gardens
-October 2010"

This page is across from my Lunch at Couch Park page which can be seen in the post below or here.

Lunch At Couch Park


Lunch At Couch Park
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"In between appointments, I ate a sandwich at the park. Most of the leaves on the ground were very brown, so I picked this one off a tree (shh!). I'd never noticed the inside of an acorn cap before."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Journaling "Mistakes"

I just read an awesome post on Roz Stendahl's blog, titled Journaling Superstitions #15: You Must Fix or Cover Up a "Mistake".  Basically what she suggests is that your journal should be where you play and experiment and let go of what she calls the "perfect pages myth."  I think every journal artist should read this post; so please go here and read it!  Really - you should read this post!  Then come back and tell me what you thought, if you're so inclined.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Life in Hand - Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman

This was a fast and easy read with some good information; not a lot in depth, but enjoyable.  The first quote that really struck home with me was this one:

Is there an ideal time to begin a journal?  A person at fifty-five may be in the midst of profound life changes, but thinks it's too late to start one, that it wouldn't make any sense because so much of his/her life has elapsed.  But it doesn't work that way.  When you begin a journal, it's like arriving at a mountain pass.  Even though it has taken you days to get there, as you look back, the whole route is open to your inspection.  Facing ahead, you're in a good position to look at the country before you, and choose possible routes from there.  (pg.17-20)
I am not in the midst of profound life changes, but I am fifty-five.   So this must be an ideal time for me to begin a journal (I've actually been keeping a journal off and on for the past 2-3 years, but I want to be more consistent with it).  Another quote that resonated with me:

The habit of keeping a journal changes the way you absorb experience. (pg. 129)
And this one, in a section titled MOMENTS OF TRUE WAKEFULNESS:

By making a record of what you have seen with a note, a phrase, a sketch, or a lengthy, absorbed drawing, you make it your own.  Next time you turn to look again, the world will be a degree richer and more distinct, and you will belong to it more completely. (pg. 144)
She recommends an inclusive journal where you record all kinds of things:  sketches, thoughts, quotes, recipes, lists, addresses, etc.  And that you carry your journal with you everywhere so you would at least use it for practical things.  This was my 20th book for The New Author Challenge 2010, and I rate it 3 out of 5.

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

We had some free time on our last day in Paris, so I decided to spend it painting the Arc de Triomphe on the cover of my journal. It was a wonderful trip - I highly recommend Laure as travel coordinator!

I did a search of flickr for interesting or unusual shots. I found this image by Checco to use as my inspiration.

And no, I'm not really in Paris, although I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 5 - Shoes


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 5 - Shoes
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

One of my favorites. This was a difficult angle to render, but I wanted a challenge - and I certainly got it! I mixed the black - first time I've done that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Sacred Heart


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Sacred Heart
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"Located at the summit of the butte Monmartre, the highest point in the city. So a few of us climbed to the top of the narrow stairway of 234 steps to see a spectacular panorama of Paris. It was a clear day, so we could see almost 20 miles."

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is the second time I've read this book.  The first time was almost 3 years ago.  But because it is my book club's current month's selection, and I really liked the book, I decided to read it again so that I could discuss it intelligently.

The story is set in Germany beginning in 1939 and is narrated by Death (sounds strange, but it works).  A 10-year old girl, Liesel Meminger, is put into foster care with Hans and Rosa Hubermann because her father is a communist and her mother can no longer care for her.  Liesel's younger brother dies on the way to the Hubermann's home.  Liesel picks up (steals) a book at her brother's funeral that was left behind by one of the grave diggers; the book is The Grave Digger's Handbook.  Even though Liesel is 10 years old, she doesn't know how to read.  When Hans discovers the book that Liesel has been hiding, he helps her learn to read.  Liesel's best friend is her next door neighbor, Rudy Steiner.  Liesel's life changes again when the Hubermann's hide Max, a Jewish man in his 20's, in their basement.  My favorite quote in the book is this (Alex Steiner is Rudy's father):

* * *  THE CONTRADICTORY POLITICS  * * *
OF ALEX STEINER
Point One:  He was a member of the Nazi party, but he did not
hate the Jews, or anyone else for that matter.
Point Two:  Secretly, though, he couldn't help feeling a
percentage of relief (or worse -- gladness!) when
Jewish shop owners were put out of business --
propaganda informed him that it was only a matter of
time before a plague of Jewish tailors showed up
and stole his customers.
Point Three:  But did that mean they should be driven
out completely?
Point Four:  His family.  Surely, he had to do whatever he
could to support them.  If that meant being in the party,
it meant being in the party.
Point Five:  Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his
heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it.  He was afraid of
what might come leaking out.

I believe there were many people who felt similarly in Nazi Germany; not evil, but afraid to stand up for what was right.  I rate this book 5 out of 5.

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 5 - Shoes


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Lesson 5 - Shoes
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

My trusty Birkenstock. This was a lot harder to paint than I expected - it's pretty much all brown, so it was hard getting enough color variation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Tulip

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Tulip

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Tulip
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

Lesson 4 is painting flowers. I bought a couple of silk flowers last week to paint.

Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Silk flower


Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style - Silk flower
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

Lesson 4 is painting flowers. I bought a couple of silk flowers last week to paint.

Buddy & Buster


Buddy & Buster
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

Buddy (the dog) licks Buster (the cat) every chance he gets. Buster puts up with a lot of it, but sometimes he gets tired of it. I guess Buddy didn't want Buster to run away again!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Moulin Rouge


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Moulin Rouge
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"Originally little more than a high-class brothel, it became fashionable to see the spectacular cabarets, which have always included the can-can. The dance became less crude, but is still a little risque and somewhat provocative. The dancers have so much energy!"

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Art Everywhere


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Art Everywhere
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"It seems that everywhere we look. all over the city, we see artwork. On overpasses, manhole covers, details of buildings. And statues - not just in galleries, museums, and formal gardens, but tucked into every nook and cranny. This woman fascinated me with the caliper in her hand, and made me wonder why."

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Giverny


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Giverny
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

A visit to where Monet lived and painted. I didn't save any room on the page for writing.

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Dogs Part 2


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Dogs Part 2
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"This little guy was moving so fast, all I could do was a quick gesture sketch while he flopped in the grass to rest for 5 minutes. Then he was back up playing with the other dogs in the park."

This was a gesture sketch using only paint and paintbrush done in 5 minutes.

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Dogs Part 1


Imaginary Trip to Paris - Dogs
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"Dogs are very popular in France, and their owners take them everywhere. We enjoyed an hour in the park on this beautiful fall afternoon. The sun was shining and there was just a slight breeze."

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd love to be. I'm on an imaginary trip with Laure Ferlita.

Buster & Buddy


Buster & Buddy
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

A rare moment of peace between dog and cat. Sorry for the poor quality photo (and the flash in the dog's eye), but I didn't think the pose would last long, and it didn't. I'm just glad I got this one shot!

And yes, in case anyone was wondering, we're keeping them!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Imaginary Trip to Paris - Musee Rodin


Musee Rodin
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

"I didn't know much about Auguste Rodin prior to visiting the museum. While best known as a sculptor (The Thinker and The Kiss), he was a prolific artist. He painted in oils and watercolors. And the museum holds 7000 of his drawings and prints."

And no, I'm not really in Paris, even though I'd like to be. I'm on an Imaginary Trip with Laure Ferlita.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Buddy's First Duck Hunt


Buddy's First Duck Hunt
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Gebhart

Buddy went on his first actual duck hunt today and retrieved each of these 5 ducks. Glen was very happy that he did not show any of the gun shyness that he had exhibited earlier.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I was a little disappointed with this book.  The story had so much promise; it starts in 1986 with Henry Lee standing outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown.  The new owner of the hotel, which has been closed for years, has discovered property that once belonged to Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II.  Henry, a Chinese American, thinks of his childhood friend, Keiko Okabe, and her family, and wonders whether any of their property is there.  It goes back and forth between the present and the past, telling how the two became friends in spite of the prejudice of Henry's father.   It could have been a really great book, but it was predictable and overly sentimental, and not that well written.  I rate it 3 out of 5, because in spite of my comments, I still enjoyed the story enough to finish the book.  It was my 19th book for the New Author Challenge 2010.