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Saturday, July 26, 2014

SHE LIVES! and She's Posting. And there WILL be knitting soon.

Summer always looks so long and carefree, stretching out across the calendar when you hang your new one in January. Alas, when it actually gets here it can zip by in a twinkling, leaving you sitting by the curb in September wondering "What happened?"

We're all busier than a one armed paper hanger at the library in June, July and August. And we had a 4th of July picnic earlier in the month followed immediately by construction on the house. And there has been DRAMA in my life - and TheQueen does not like DRAMA. Even without all the extraneous stuff, it takes a concerted effort on my part to participate in summer as well as to serve the needs of all those others seeking summer enjoyment.  Yesterday I made that effort and what a glorious day it was.

Somewhere on the Internets I saw a photo of a bike, parked along a country road, and I had a lust to go bike riding.  Himself and I have talked, now and then, about biking down one of the old railroad beds that have been turned into bike trails. A little research turned up a Rails to Trails park within an easy drive from home.

High Bridge Trail State Park.

Not owning a bike didn't deter me a whit. I found a wonderful bike rental right in Farmville beside one of the trail entrances.

High Bridge Rails and Trails Bike Rental
The fact that it was still under construction didn't keep the owner from renting us very VERY smooth coaster bikes. They're 3G Beach Cruiser Bicycles and my goodness what delicious bikes to ride. Himself hadn't ridden a bike in a decade and though I use the stationary bikes at the gym - they are just that. stationary. You don't need balance to ride a stationary bike. So we were both a little nervous about riding away from the rental shop, especially on such brand spanking new bikes, for fear we'd topple over. But the adage holds true - once you learn to ride a bike you never forget. Off we pedaled onto the white gravel path.

We'd had a heavy rain the day before and the sky had that washed clean look to it - fresh, cool breezes wafted scents of pine, greenery, moist earth all about us.

The star attraction of this 31 mile trail is the former railroad bridge over the Appomattox River. It's half a mile long and I believe, 120 feet high.

This is the 4th bridge to link Farmville to Prince Edward county. The Civil War era bridge was built on brick pilings and had a double deck - with the train on top and a wagon road below. You can still see some of the brick pilings.

We could hear the river rushing as we got closer to it - and then suddenly there it was, sparkling over some rocks.

There didn't seem to be any other rapids along the river so I wonder if these are artificial ones, created by the rubble of previous structures. Mostly the river was a smooth brown snake weaving through the green treetops.

There are many places where the old railroad crossed highways and country roads so you can pretty much ride the trail in 4 mile chunks. We went about 8 miles from Farmville to Rice - which is a pretty little railroad town of about 30 19th century houses

and a brick church

We took our time. We stopped often to have a snack or sip some water. We peered over the bridge for a bird's eye view of the Virginia countryside. And we had some quiet time of just being where we were, pedaling easily, in no hurry, just soaking up the feeling of summertime and peace, unscheduled, un-driven, and un-organized.

The quiet ride back gave us many treasures, not the least of which was riding up on these two babies, out for an afternoon browse.

It was a perfect afternoon. Just what you dream of having on a golden sunshine summer day.


Monday, June 9, 2014

June, June, June, Just Because it's June

The 9th - to be exact - and zipping by like a comet.  It always does. I always think I'll get So Much Done now that it's summertime but then I wake up one morning and it's September and what do you know - the spare bedroom is still a wreck.

Thank goodness I have girlfriends coming the end of this month. I may not have totally organized that space but I sure will have made a dent in it before they get here. It might be a good idea to apply this sort of carrot and stick motivation to some of my other procrastination projects.

Like organizing/scanning the family photos & letters.

I'm always thinking I need to do a better job of this sort of thing. 

Okay - enough TheQueen bashing. I have been productive and busy and even fulfilling my June Resolutions. The itty bitty bites thing has earned me $23 towards the new camera. It's still something I have to remind myself to do - but it's getting easier. And more fun! Yesterday I took my time with a delicious salad lunch, on the back porch, with birds singing and summery breezes wafting across my skin, with white dogs at my feet, snoring. With peaceful conversations.  It was a wonderful experience, tasting everything in the bowl just one tiny bite at a time. 

So - I will continue to practice till it becomes the new normal.

As for the drawing - ah well. Yes. That is coming along too. I spent a good part of the weekend drawing another face out of the hair-do magazine. This is one of the most fun very hard things I've ever done. And it's sheer delight to watch a face slowly appear on the paper. 

The hardest part is the accurate line drawing. This is what you have to start with and to make it accurate is nigh on to the biggest challenge I've ever faced. (ha ha. punny me)  I use a clear plastic grid to lay on the original and then draw a light pencil grid on the paper and try to recreate the image, one square at a time. So far - I have had only middling success. I'll erase and draw and erase and draw till frustration sets in ... usually after about 2 days ... and then stop fiddling and finish the face I've drawn.

The shading is like putting on makeup - and is deliciously fun, but takes a long time. So here is what I've done so far, this month:

I know - her mouth is too short and her eyes aren't quite right but after a while you just have to move forward. Eventually I will get good at this... at least I'll get more accurate - and when I am perfectly satisfied that I can make copies using the grid system - I'm going to pop the big bucks for this:
So that's how it is - today - at Tara. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Resolve for June (and a little May recap)

Oh la - June already. I want to shout "WAIT! STOP! I'm not done with May yet!"

Only we don't get that chance. Sigh. And it's not that I am not looking forward to June. I just need a little more time to finish May.  June is the last month of the fiscal year and I have to scramble to make sure I spend all my library budget but not spend a penny more than my library budget. And I need to do it, or at least encumber it, this year by some ungodly date like June 9 or 10. With much new paperwork.

Then there is some staffing activity - which also involves new paperwork and new procedures. And the last week of school tours. And the summer reading program. I feel like a cartoon character.

Okay - time for a deep breath. 

It is all going to work out just fine. And the reward at the end will be GIRLFRIENDS VISITING!!!!!! That's not us - but there will be photos. Ha! I should have thought of this first since just thinking about it now is making me happy - and relaxed.

But with a new month it's time for new resolutions. Last month I was supposed to draw for an hour a day. I didn't quite make that but I did put in a goodly amount of time on drawing. The funny part was that - as my drawing got better I became afraid of it. As long as it was amateurish I didn't seem to mind practicing - but once it began to look like someday it would become really good - I quit drawing. I left the project I was working on out on the dining room table, always reminding me that I was supposed to practice - but I backed off of it many days.

Well. Any quest involves some doubt. That's the purpose of a quest. And even if I didn't draw 31 days for 1 hour a day - I did get this much done:

I have no tutor right now - but then - I am a librarian. I believe if it's in a book you can learn it and the book I'm using is by Lee Hammond.  I like her straightforward explanations and solid, simple advice. She says that when she wanted to learn to draw people she bought a hairstyle magazine and drew every face in the book. Brilliant idea! So I bought one too and I picked the back cover photo because it was big and the woman has unusual lines in her face.  

Why, yes. Of course we have her books in the library. 

So. You can see that I am moving in the right direction. This isn't really an art discussion post - it is my June Resolution post so I won't go on about what I've learned - I will only tell you I have two resolutions for this month. 


The first resolution needs no explanations. I want to get better - I need to keep practicing - besides - it's really fun. I learn stuff about myself even on days I don't draw - and eventually I will develop courage. 

The second resolution has to do with a trait I would really like to eradicate - even at this late date in my life. Yes. Of course TheQueen has room for improvement. And a few days ago I decided that I would do something about my bad habit of gobbling my food. I know it stems from letting myself get so thirsty I feel RAVENOUS. EMPTY. ROAR. COOKIE MONSTER HUNGRY.

So I set myself a little goal - to go 5 days - 3 meals and a snack - eating only with itty bitty bites. If I succeeded (I did!) I could put $100 into the New Camera Fund. Alas. My beloved camera has a dog hair underneath the lens. To get it out I have to send the camera to the manufacturer. That costs $200. A new camera as good as this one costs $300. I did the math. I started saving. And on Saturday I had achieved my goal! (see those dark smudges? dog hair)

But 5 days did not a transformation make. It merely showed me that I can eat more daintily. To reinforce the new skill I will do this for every meal and snack for the entire month of June. 4 times a day, 30 days, 120 little check marks in my Daytimer. And each check mark earns one dollar. I think I shall go shopping in July. 

So - there you have it. Coming in July! A New and Improved TheQueen.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Halfway through May

And nothing much to show for it. What a month this has been. The intention was to continue plugging my way through the knee-wall closets, draw every day and, oh, I don't know - lose 10 lbs and contribute to world peace.  The reality is that I have been spinning my wheels, avoiding the drawing pads, (congenital chicken-itis disease), and pretending that I'm not stressing over End Of  Fiscal Year Issues. It comes hard on the heels of Personal Income Tax Wallet Robbery, with nary a moment to catch my financial breath. Anyone who is in charge of a government budget knows the strain of having to spend all your money but not one penny more or There Will Be Consequences. This year there is a new head on the local governmental shoulders and it is riding herd on us Cum Diligentia. He understands what shifty ground we are standing on and he is very patient, but he's also set the bar high. We will not go into the last month of the fiscal year with sloppy budgets. So - unlike my cluttery knee-wall closets - this area of my life will be in good order. Hmmm. Wonder if I can hire him to ride herd on my closet project.
Other angst causing things have contributed to my un-glamorous and un-blogged-about month but some very nice things have filled up the hours as well. My Mother's Day weekend was incredibly sweet. It began with a 90th birthday celebration of a dear friend at the elegant Tides Inn in White Stone.  Stuffed with both crab and birthday cake I didn't feel like making dinner so ThePrince and I just snacked on cheese and crackers up in our exotic, newly air conditioned bedroom. That was so much fun we did the same thing on Saturday, only with even more party food - crudites and shelled walnuts and wine, of course. There was wine both days.

We love lounging upstairs, especially because it feels like we're' in a tree house.
The evening blew in with rain somewhere, creating vivid shadow images in the forest top.  Eventually we were lured outside to watch the last of the daylight dip beneath the cloud banks, illuminated by golden sunrays. It was utter bliss.

Mother's Day itself was another warm one and I was off to visit Mama. Honest and true? I never have felt quite right about Mother's Day. I've always loved giving my own mama attention on that day and remember wheedling and nagging my dad about him doing something special for her. I also remember him saying huffily "She's not MY mother" but we knew he was teasing. Most of the time. But at the same time I always felt creeped out about expecting my own loved ones to make a fuss over me on Mother's Day - sort of like asking for a present. Just - um - well - ick.  Or maybe I just like to keep Mother's Day for me and my mama in a greedy sort of way or maybe it's so I can pretend I'm not turning into an old lady. Who knows? I know this. I was mighty glad I got a card from TheDarlings. But I love anything to do with them.

Here I am showing Mama how to make a selfie. We had 2 beautiful hours together looking at old photos and reading old letters and newspaper articles she'd saved over the decades. And you Richmond folks - how do you like that painting of the railroad bridge over the James! Viewed from the south side of the river. I mean - my mama is just SO cool.

The Cousins J had 4/5ths of their progeny graduating from something this spring so they held a party at my sister's house on Sunday too. I thought I'd be clever and take I64 out to P's place but I didn't have a map so I didn't realize just how far north it would take me. Next time I'll take the 288 exit and then go on west on Rt. 6. It was sweet to see all the graduates, hug all the cousins and siblings and then crank up the Oldies Radio 107.3 to tool on home through the beautiful green Virginia countryside.  Not to be too smug about things, but honestly - there is nowhere on earth so beautiful as Virginia in May. Absolutely Nowhere. Here's proof:

After that tribute - there's really not much more to report except the cool thing I stumbled upon at the last intersection before I got home.Yes. Right at the corner of Lloyds Road and Highway 17 - at Champlain - where MsMac's old store used to be. Purnel Reynolds and his wife were cooking take-away dinners!!!! Now - TheQueen does not cook on Sunday night. Someone can make popcorn or there can be snacking in the kitchen, but there will not be any cooked meals flowing from the royal fingers. What a treat to find potato salad and snaps and bbq chicken or fried fish for sale so close to home it was still hot when I got there. $6.50 each! He says he's going to be doing this twice a month on weekends. I just love it when somebody else cooks my dinner! Treat yourself.

So that's how May is going - here - at TheCastle.