the pile o’ work atop my desk (virtual and otherwise) continues to teeter dangerously, but mercifully, I can feel the icy clench of winter unfurling digit by digit. We’ve had a succssion of almost blindingly bright days this week so far and that has helped immeasurably. i’m feeling lighter, more creative, more cheerful. It’s going to be awhile yet before I can commit to writing anything good or lengthy here, but I had an idea this weekend that I think will help fill some space here without taking up too much time and may actually be helpful for me to boot. While I’ve been wittering away at the work that is currently keeping me stocked in muffins, I’ve also been trying to grow ideas for updating my portfolio. My goal for this year is to completely revamp my illustration style, move it in a direction that is more editorial/adult and yet natural to me. I’m not there yet and I’m not really ready to show any personal work (indeed I haven’t had time for personal work, though I’ve been trying to carve out an hour or two a week to spend with my sketchbook), I have been compiling things that intrique me, spark creative ideas. Some of these things are more tangible than others and they are eclectic to say the least.
On Saturday, I spent the afternoon cleaning out and organizing my studio. I had to… I was getting lost in the debris and stuff kept falling on my dog, startling her out of her skin, every time she ventured in here for some loveies or to remind me that it was lunchtime. And I was losing stuff left right and center… important stuff. Anyway, as I was sorting thru the piles, I realised I really need to find some way of archiving this stuff, cataloging it. And maybe thru doing that, I’ll find some kind of common, binding thread. So I set aside some things I wanted to scan into my computer. And then I had the brilliant Idea of creating personal storyboards to support the evolutionary process going on in my head, especially given that I am innately visual. And then I thought there is no reason why I can’t post those storyboards here, why my blog can’t be a sort of virtual inspiration board. like so many of the incredible blogs I’ve been haunting these days are.
So here you go… my first “inspiro” board. I shall post these little exercises as I do them and we shall see what evolves. Maybe they’ll inspire you a wee bit too.
O, and P.S. If you’re here as a result of the shiny Penny’s self-assignment thing-a-ma-bob and are wondering where my week o’ daily vignettes are, you can either scroll to the bottom of this page or better yet click on January 2007 over there —-> in the right hand bar (up top under “navigate”) and that will take you directly too ‘em.
oh man. we got dumped on but good on wednesday… over 50 centimeters. Being snowed in was sort of lovely at first… it was a sweet slow valentine of a day. I was overcome by the warm nesting feeling of being snowed in and having Johnny Commuter home all day, unexpectedly, was kinda delightful . In the afternoon, the sun came out and the light slanting into the house was all vanilla infused, warm and golden. like something you pour atop pancakes. I ignored my staggering workload and we just sort of lolled around.
But now, the plows have long since been thru the streets and snow is piled over my head around the neighborhood yards, making everyone look like they spent all week building fortresses. Part of me wants to go out and tunnel thru the ones in our yard like I did when I was a kid, carving out little niches to store emergency snowballs to fire at the other neighborhood kids, hunkered down in their own forts. And the rest of me just wishes it to be gone already.
sigh. As a December baby, I sort of feel this burdensome obligation to love winter, but the thing is… I don’t. Had this dump of snow come before Christmas like it was suppose to, I would have embraced it. I would have done that mad cavorting thing, made snow angels and snow critters aplenty. But by the end of January? I have had it up to here with winter and I’m all battle weary and worn. I think I suffer moderately from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and though this year hasn’t been that bad in the grand scheme of things, I’m feeling it big time this month. **
But worry not… I will waddle on and come out the other side. Need to soon start weening myself off all things carbilicious though… I’ve been packing away the chocolate and the muffins and the everything yum in an effort to stave off the winter blues and while my clothes still fit, they’re beginning to have that tight, fresh from the dryer feeling. I’ve implemented a new coping strategy… firing myself up with relentlessly upbeat, sorta embarrassing, super cheesy anthems like (and I’m so not kidding) Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini, The Banana Boat Song by Harry Belafonte and Soul Bossa Nova by Quincy Jones and His Orchestra. Yeah… I know! Scary!
Please, please… I beg you! Please share your favorite coping strategies. I need all the ammunition I can get!
** Despite the photo above, Finny J. does not share my loathing of the winterness. She thinks it’s all fun and frolic, though I must say the minute the temperature plunges below zero, she becomes the most ravenous of creatures, scarfing down everything in sight and behaving like she hasn’t been fed in months. She’s packed on five pounds in the last month… eekkk. We’re both gonna have to start South Beaching it again like pronto.
the other day i was standing in front of my bedroom mirror applying deliciously pink lipstick from a silvery tube, thinking pretty make-up thoughts, when I experienced a sudden and strange memory having to do with homemade headcheese. I have no idea how I arrived there, which in and of itself is kind of odd. With a little determination and thought, I can usually track back and map out how I arrive at the startling thoughts I sometimes have and the monster leaps I make to get from say oranges to the mating habits of Abominable Snowmen.
For example: Oranges leads to thoughts of other tropical fruit, such as pineapple. Pineapple leads to thoughts of ham and golden juicy rings. Rings leads to images of Saturn which prompts consideration of planetary ring composition. Saturn’s rings, as I understand it, are comprised primarily of ice crystals. Ice crystals equals ice storms, great gale-ing blizzards of ice out of which emerges the fearsomely shaggy shapes of Yeti aka Abominable Snowmen. Which makes me think that shouldn’t it be Abominable SnowPEOPLE as surely some of them must be of the female persuasion? Or mayhaps not. Mayhaps this is why they are so excruciatingly scarce.
It also makes me think about how dearly I would love to call someone “Abominable” in a fit of pique. Say the next time someone cuts me off in traffic or runs over my toes in the supermarket. But sadly, I probably never will. Number one, I can never think of any words more substantial than the four letter variety when I am side swiped by rage. And number two, I just can’t pronounce that word for some reason. Really. I just can’t. I’ve even practiced along with the online Merriam-Webster pronuciation thingie, and I just can’t get it out right. It gets all muddled around my tongue and extra Bs come out from behind my molars and insist on being put in line there somewhere and it’s just really really sad. Know what else is sad (really, really sad)? Head cheese.
Do you know what head cheese is? It’s completely gross. Prepare yourself: (from Answers.com) Head Cheese is not a cheese at all, but a sausage made from the meaty bits of the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow) that are seasoned, combined with a gelatinous meat broth and cooked in a mold. When cool, the sausage is unmolded and thinly sliced. It’s usually eaten at room temperature. Head cheese can be purchased in delicatessens and many supermarkets. In England this sausage is referred to as brawn, and in France it’s called fromage de tête–”cheese of head.”
Isn’t that revolting? Did your stomach just flip and start staggering toward the bathroom? Mine did.
Okay, so before you are forced to turn away, gulping into your palm, this is my memory: It begins with my Granny Malakoff’s Siamese cat, Claude. Claude loathed children. All my Gran’s cats did. One, a big white Persian tom named Mosche with chewed off ears and a particular hate for ALL-things-not-Granny, used to hide under the television and run out and bite my brother and me in the face as we sat watching Sesame Street. A big mean unprovoked blur of white darting out like an angry fork of lightening to chomp our cheeks whilst we blithely sang along with Grover.
Now, I have no memory of Claude (Mosche’s successor) biting us, but he did hiss and arch over with disgust whenever we attempted to pet him or walk any where in his line of sight. Still, Claude fascinated me. He was sleek and carmel colored with lovely gray tips and a cunning black mask framing his almond shaped blue eyes and he moved low to the ground, making hardly a sound. His pointed little face conveyed such disdain, but such intelligence. And he loved to hang out in the basement storage space, curled atop the wheezing old freezer unit, purring his sleek, luxurious, imperious, mercurial contentment.
The basement storage area was dark and narrow and most certainly haunted. Only the sleek temptation of Claude could lure me down there. In the basement, giant dusty jars of canned peaches and plums peeled and flaked with bland malevolence, dull gold and burgundy globes bobbing in the squalor light of a single swinging bulb like freak specimens in formaldehyde. In the basement, old vinyl Hot Wheels tracks flopped out of boxes like dead orange snakes and broken, alien-looking appliances menaced from every corner. In the basement, you had to move carefully between the towering boxes of junk, lest you start some kind of carnivorous avalanche that would swallow you whole. The place smelled of rotting onions and the dust motes shifted and lifted in clouds that took on startling shapes in the dim, shapes with screaming maws and clenching claws.
But if you could brave all that, if you could brave it all quietly without disturbing Claude atop his electric perch, and catch him up there, blissed out and sedated from the heat emanating off the freezer unit, he would actually let you pet him a little, stroke two fingers between his ears, tickle under his chin. And if you were really lucky, he might even let you pick him up. He might even continue to purr and knead his little pink padded paws against your shoulder. He might let the whole length of him be cradled in your arms like a baby, his almond eyes squeezed shut, slanting up like he was smiling.
The trick was getting him down from atop the freezer without jostling him too much. The best way was to climb onto the low bench pressed against the matching wooden table with its worn turquoise paint job, then step onto the table, pressing as close to the neighbouring freezer as possible and gently scoop him toward you softly murmuring “pretty kitty, pretty kitty” until you managed to slide him into your lap. Then you sat still, crosslegged, crooning “pretty kitty, pretty kitty”, cradling Claude carefully, listening for any interruption in the purring which would signal an abrupt shift in temperament and a sure sign that he was about to spring away from you, legs pinwheeling wildly, claws exposed and slicing.
So this is the memory I had whilst applying my lipstick, so vivid I had to blink several times to make sure it was not actually happening right then: I’m in my grandmother’s basement, standing on the table with Claude draped over my shoulder having successfully managed to slide him off the freezer. I am stroking him while I stare out the tiny frost blasted window (one of those that almost butt against the ceiling), admiring the thick paisley shapes and stars that have developed. I am wearing my snowpants, the overall bib undone and falling over my knees. It crinkles and swishes every time I move. I’m also wearing a burnt orange turtleneck under a brown zip front jacket with a wide matching orange zipper. It has a large orange rounded flower appliqued over the half of it, one of those simple bubbled up 70’s style flowers, very Brady Bunch. It is one of my favourite outfits. I have a matching skirt and pants that go with it. The skirt also has a flower patch. The pants, sadly, do not.
Upstairs, I can just make out the sound of Coronation Street on the television. My grandma and my brother are up there watching, Scott half-dressed for his hockey practice which he has in a bit. It is a teacher in service day. My mom is a teacher so we spent the day at Grandma’s. I am waiting for my mother to arrive, any minute. And suddenly she does… a shadow crosses the window and our old Ford pulls into the driveway. I can hear the tires as they make that particular heavy squeak across the snow and stop. My mom leaves the car running, and big plumes of exhaust make soft shapes just beyond the frosted glass, filling the window well.
Claude freaks when he hears the car door slam, twists sharply on my shoulder and shoots away, mad and scrambling. It startles me, though I suppose I should have anticipated it, and I let out a scream. I step back on the table and my foot bangs against the corner of a low, flat, tea cloth covered silver pan which promptly collides with its twin right next to it. The twin immediately topples over the edge of the table, rapping smartly on the bench tucked partly underneath before clattering to the concrete floor. The sound is alarming. The sight I see when I peer down is even more alarming.
Everything is splattered with some kind of horrific, jiggling gore, the floor, the bench. Meaty pinkish globules glisten amongst thick greyed chunks of… of… something! Everything is thickly coated with some awful oozing jelly, lumpen and gross. A smear of it shines on my snow pants.
I have no idea what it is… I thought the tea cloth covered pans were full of rising cinnamon buns. This is what the tea cloth covered pans usually contain in my grandma’s house, yeasty bubbles of cinnamon buns, though admittedly I usually see these pans sitting on the kitchen table. My mind reels as I stare at the gore and the disturbing but improbable thought that the gore is squashed cat shouts in my head though I distinctly saw Claude shoot through the dim and up the stairs. And I scream. I scream bloody murder, I scream the house down, I scream for all the cats that have ever been squashed by tea cloth covered pans. I scream for every little girl that has ever been splattered with squashed cat horror. I scream good and loud and long.
What happens next, I don’t remember exactly. I do remember my mother standing there, looking up at me on the table, her long hair like glossy auburn wings around her face. There is still snow on the fox fur collar of her rust colored coat. It cinches neatly at her tiny waist and I know she is wearing her knee high brown leather boots with the cunning little brass buckles and top stitching.
And I hear her in my head saying “It’s not the cat! It’s grandpa’s head cheese ” in that pinched way she has when I’ve done something irritating and stupid.
This news is bewildering and more terrifying yet. Grandpa’s head cheese?!! I am completely aghast, staring at the smear of my leg, convinced I am wearing my grandfather’s brain matter and I think I might just faint dead away. Because I have never heard of head cheese before and the image I have in my head is of my grandfather seated at the kitchen table, the cap of his skull sliced clean off and placed on the table next to him, his thick black framed glasses still perched on his nose, while my grandmother ladles the gelatinous contents of his cauldron-like head into a silver pan and covers it carefully with a laundry-worn tea towel.
I’m sure at some point later, the concept of head cheese was explained to me. Not that the reality of head cheese is that much more comforting than my imaginings of head cheese, or that it will ever eclipse the awful image I had of the ladle dipping into my grandpa’s soupy head. You can rest assured I will never ever, ever NEVER partake of the stuff myself. The thought of it sends me gagging (you have no idea how hard this last bit has been to write. I am battling the urge to embrace the porcelain prince right now, in fact).
But I haven’t thought about that in years and years and I have no idea what triggered it. Now, that i’ve shared it all with you, I’m hoping it will vanish again… swiftly. ‘Cuz I think it’s like one of those ear worms someone willfully plants in your ear… you have to pass it on to someone else before you can escape the circling misery of it yourself. Copacabana is the absolute worst… her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down to there….
P.S. On the off chance that this post has left you yearning for head cheese, I offer you this incredible chance to possess a great and gruesome slice of virtual head cheese and use it as your desktop pattern: Lunchmeat Backgrounds
P.P.S. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I really, really am. On all fronts. Truly. Forgive me?
I know, I know. Another picture of frosty berries and it’s not even a recent one. But it is all too apt, my friends. It is so so c-c-c-c-cold out there! Holy penguins! Wrapping up for the waddle round the park with the wolf requires hours and many, many, many layers. I’m beginning to feel like Randy in A Christmas Story (you know, Ralphie’s little brother), unable to bend my limbs for all the stuffage or put my arms down. If I tip over out there, I’m done for. I’ll be stranded on my back like a turtle forever.
Finn, on the other hand, thinks it’s all delightful and frolic worthy. She LOVES the cold and can’t understand why I insist on keeping our walks to under 30 minutes these days. But she WILL NOT wear a doggie coat or doggie boots (just rips them off within seconds) and I’m afraid she’s gonna get frostbite out there. So 30 minutes maximum until it warms up some. Which is just as well lately as omigawd PEOPLE!!! I am just swamped with work lately! Swamped! Oy vey. I actually have a great and wordy post with great wordy words and mention of cats and head cheese that I have been composing in my spare time for over 6 days now, but the spare time? Turns out there’s not enough of it to complete a major post. And I’m a speedy writer, people. SPEEDY!!! I think I might get a little time this evening and hope I can post it then.
Until then, stay warm and admire my frosty berries!