Sunday, July 31, 2016

plein air onema

Along the road on our way up I kept seeing these patches of white and bright pink flowers. Of course there was no place to pull over and take photos of them. I wondered what they were.

In Amanda's back forty I saw the same flowers. She told me they were "sweet peas." Aha. Perhaps I would include one of these in my painting.

Jan and I went to the Tamarack Gallery in Omena Monday afternoon. We saw assemblages and paintings and sculptures and when we left I was ready to paint. I was thinking about the woods I had seen along the road coming up. Much more trunks than in my side yard back home. You could look back and back past rows and rows until it was completely dark. How I wished to stand among that kind of "forest." Hang out, get my bearings, and drink it all in.

Instead, in his yard, I noticed that Dan had a big tree that went up and up. With branches winding like vines, next.

He had shaded trunks in clusters on his property. These beckoned to me when I saw them on the Sunday we arrived.


Their front porch was a haven. Down the hill from where I sat, my eyes fell on a tucked away grove. As I investigated I found a cluster of wire chairs nestled among saplings and a cover of resilient orange leaves on the ground. Like a hide-out or a hidden meeting place.

As I surveyed the grove from within there were many leafy branches reaching up, blocking out the sky, save for a few breaks. Woods enough to satisfy my hunger. Soon there were two or three scenes I had my eye on. Lifted and dragged fallen branches, plotted the angle, sized up the elements I wanted. Then it was up the yard, pulling the heavy backpack from the car, trading summer wear for long sleeves and denim pants and bug spray, and returning to the grove ready.

Laying out the dabs of tube paint from which all colors would be mixed on the glass palette. Titanium white, phthlo blue, viridian hue (green), cadmium yellow light pure, cadminum orange pure, and naphthol red light.

The process of laying in the light blue sky, the dark mauve tree trunks. Silvery blue bark lit by reflected light on the right diagonal log, the branch edges, the trunk edges. The medium blue shadow way back across the road and the lighted yellow green grass across the road. Whatever color my brush was loaded with went more than one place on the painting, many places around in the scene. So the orange of the ground leaves were also on the dark part of trunks and branches. The dark branches up high in the right corner were a solid dark color. I wasn't interested in showcasing those branches. At some point I was satisfied and stopped the process. Double click to enlarge images.

In the lower left corner, my signature and the host couple. "To Amanda Holmes Dan Stewart."

It was a joy to gift them with a plein air acrylic work. As thanks for the research Amanda Holmes had helped me with - to understand about my father in 1948, when he was 26 years old and doing his own watercolors at Fish Town in Leland. Plein air by my hands in Onema, where the couple live, July of 2016. The routine of mapping out colors, misting the palette with a pump spray, evaluating the scene, focusing on select elements -- just like I did back in Carrollton, Missouri. Clocking it was an after thought. I painted from 4:50 to 5:50 pm. Over the years my time has improved. Working with a 140 pound water color block has been new to me.

In preparation for the trip I practiced using the cold press water color block in my yard with two pieces. It worked well. See both of those works, next. 14 by 11 inches.

When loading the car with luggage, I did not have room to bring a wooden easel. The vertical part of the paint kit supported the painting. For ten years I have used the EasyL-Pro by Art Essentials.

Tripod case was held there by the backpack straps. Paint kit went back inside. I no longer carry the pack on my back. Two hands heft the top handle. It's heavy enough.

Dan's mother used to refer to that place among their trees as "the grotto." A sacred place.  I called the finished work "Grotto In The Woods."

After the tripod was collapsed, the palette scraped of paint, brushes cleaned up, palette unit closed and stored in the backpack, along with the brushes roll, water bucket, and everything else -- I trudged back up to the house, and washed up fresh.

Jenks was in the hall, sniffing my paint backpack. He would not let me get close enough to hold him, but we reached a compromise. Dan gave me a metal wire arc with bits of wood attached to its end. Jenks enjoyed battling at the hovering toy as it swayed and returned to him for another swat of his paw. I had the satisfaction of watching his involvement. Our two tabby cats, Henry George and Pookie, were a long way from here.

I will miss being served Scottish oatmeal by Dan, tales of squirrels running back and forth on outstretched arms, laughing and wine from the local Leelanau vineyard and Two Hearted Ale along side Michigan cuisine. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

swallow with water

My swallowing problem continues to be an eating issue. It happens when I am not paying attention to the food I put in my mouth. Jan sez she has seen me put large portions in and then swallow. Shoveling it in.

We called it a night in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our travel loop taking us back towards Missouri. I never did finish the delicious ribs on my plate. I don't know what the condition is called, but I was unable to swallow. I couldn't swallow liquids, and I got this hiccup. It was very awkward and made me feel totally insecure and self-conscious. I excused myself to the restroom and tried to calm down. My glands were making much saliva to spit into the sink. Was able to throw up some of what I ate.

It reminded me of some lunch episodes when I was still working for the Chillicothe School District in 2012. Not being able to swallow stopped my routine and kept me in the bathroom, trying to figure it all out.

Back in the car, Jan prayed for my esophagus muscles to relax. Later, that night I was able to swallow.

A sore throat limited my morning meal to a chocolate shake. That evening my wife coaxed me to eat small bites, chew each bite, and swallow. It worked but I was hesitant.

The next day in Springfield, Illinois I was eating a chunk of hot roast beef for lunch and then I was in trouble again. This time I stopped and waited ---- until it went down ---- all the way. Then I focused on CHEWING my food. Jan recommended I chew small bites.

Then, we were home in Missouri, and four days later in Kansas City, the THROAT THING happened again. None of that meal was finished. I threw up more in the bathroom sink that time.

So --- when I eat -- I am drinking PLENTY OF WATER FIRST and also while I eat. Water helps.
I try to be mindful. SLOW DOWN. Focus on eating only.
STOP WRITING when I eat.
STOP TEXTING when I eat.
CHEW my bites. Pay attention to it, the flavors.
Take SMALL bites.

Some meals go better than others. At sixty-one years of age you would think I automatically followed those steps. Well, no. It is something I will work on each time I eat.


Friday, July 22, 2016


We got to talking after breakfast on the lawn in front of the suite. He was from Cincinatti, Ohio. Been married for 46 years. He was up in Chicago to watch his grandson in a baseball competition and to visit an uncle. Al and I chatted about our lives and the gnarly traffic and martial tensions. Mostly laughing about the circumstances. I met his son-in-law Farley and we parted ways by shaking hands. I felt a whole lot better. Thank you Jesus for bringing the friendship Al and Farley to me this morning.

As my load of laundry spun dry this morning, I sat on the floor with my nose in a book. As a painter myself I enjoyed following the Impressionists, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec,  Edouard Manet, Camile Pisarro, and the new kid on the block, Lucien Lessard. This morning there was something about the blue pigments that made Vincent Van Gogh lose his concentration. There was some thought that the lead in paint poisoned a number of artists. Hmm. Sacre Blue was many things in the book. A puzzle for sure. And the dying artists all had their paths crossed by the colorman. Clever and funny. Good stuff.


The clerks at the Schaumburg gas station said the day had been quite busy for them. As I lingered at the door I shouted to them, "Blessings to you!" To which, one of the clerks said, "Yes, I need that. Thank you, thank you." Pausing at his response I replied, "Double blessings!" Then, walking over to the counter I stretched my hand out to shake his hand. And the fellow said to me, "Do it the Hindu way." He took my hand, leaned his head forward, and placed my hand on top of his head. "Do it the Hindu way." And he received it as A BLESSING. I was humbled and amazed, Jesus. How cool was that.


went as planned - chicago

My wife and I enjoy watching Bizarre America Foods with Andrew Zimmerman. In planning our vacation route, I had us lined up to eat at The Publican Restaurant on 837 West Fulton Market, just off Interstate 90, in DOWN TOWN Chicago. A place featured on an episode we watched before our trip.

For Your Information:
On one of her trips out to visit Betty Larson in Los Angeles, my wife stopped to eat at Pink's hot dog stand. She also has eaten barbecue at Bludso's in Compton, California. Not I. Still I noticed when she brought these places up in conversation, that she had been KEEPING  TRACK  of all the places she had eaten at, especially the ones on the Food Network, or the Travel Channel, like Bizarre America Foods. We both enjoy seeing how other cultures eat and viewing exotic places on the show. Zimmerman seemed at home with foods and substance I would never dream of trying. How fitting it would be to EAT at A PLACE ZIMMERMAN had on TV. That gave me confidence to plan for this!!!!!

Since I was the driver, an important part of this story was our rush toward an UNCERTAIN destination. We had no idea WHEN exactly we could get to the site, the condition of the roads, the time traffic would take - but I did made us a reservation by phone the day before. A step of faith.

When we pulled into our motel in Schaumburg, a north west suburb of Chicago, we had hoped to be able to take a nap or go for a swim before going to our reservation. The desk clerk advised me: if I left in the next 20 minutes we would beat the rush hour traffic. It was 2:30 pm. Our reservation was 5:45 pm. So ----- we dropped our baggage at the room, jumped back in the car and hit the 290 interstate. A route that did not have roadwork being done on it, not like the Interstate 90 we had come in on. The normal traffic seemed a much faster pace than what we were used to in Missouri. We reached the restaurant by 4:00 pm. With no place to park I headed down Lake Street which followed under the elevated "L" train tracks to sight-see. Apparently I didn't count on that being as nerve-racking as it was. At one point we ended up in a dead end behind some big buildings. Soon we parked two blocks from the restaurant on a side street, so I could stretch my tired legs. At 5:25 the valet parked the car. At 5:30 we were seated inside.

The front door was all glass and hidden, until I found a handle and pulled the door open.

People sat at long tables and were served family style.
The waiter brought us "a menu" to look at, then told us that we were waiting on "the day's menu" that was due to come out shortly. Meals change from day to day. Ours was dated July 8, 2016.

Zimmerman encouraged his viewers to try something new. Saying: "If it looks good, try it." With the novelty of that show, the boldness and calmness that Zimmerman displayed, I decided I would eat something new for myself.

With 34 entrees to choose from, we decided which four sounded interesting, and which we were both willing to try. See sample menu at

Instead of ordering the usual chicken or beef entree, we ordered four dishes, which came one plate at a time, from which we both ate. The dishes were made to order from the adjoining building. The Publican Quality Meats prided themselves preparing their own charcuterie. Simply, the preparation and regional seasoning of dressed meats. The way sausage is made depends on who is making it. Not knowing how little we'd be getting, we ordered a half plate portion between us.

Above dish, charcuterie plate, had salam d'la duja, pork pie, head chees, harissa pate, morteau sausage, pickles and mustard. Jan seemed to know more about what were we eating. You'd have to ask her. I enjoyed all the flavors.

No photo of next dish. Listed as "little gem lettuce" was created by the Werp Farms of Buckley, Michigan. With crispy pig ear, basil, radish and buttermilk vinaigrette.

Above dish, summer squash, created by Henry Brockman, of Congerville, Illinois. With walnut ailade, ubriaco rosso and mint.

Above dish, ling cod, created by Dottie of Santa Cruz, California. With mussels, green chile, potato and salsa verde.

I enjoy mussels now.

My wife told me the tab was more than a night's stay at a motel. We paid for the privilege to eat at THIS PLACE. I'm glad it worked. My cousin Steven Kiecker called this: a culinary experience.

Another part of this story came after we got back to the motel. The stress of riding in that kind of traffic had overwhelmed my wife. She objected  and was ready to go HOME. Just three days in on our ten day loop. Asked for prayers to save our marriage. Holding my breath, the next morning, suggesting we take a day off to do nothing, rest, stay in one place. She said she wanted to get on the road to Michigan. And we did. Thank the Lord for hearing the prayers and giving me grace.

Michigan cherry trees
 Fish Town docks, Michigan


The next night we were at Muskigon, Michigan and I wanted to try MUSSELS again. At Red Lobster I ordered that and tried SCALLIONS too and that went well!!!

In Omena, Michigan, Dan and Amanda introduced me to a micro brew called "TWO  HEARTED  ALE." I've since asked a local business to ordered it in, and now it's in stock in Carrollton.

At Bluebird Restaurant in Leland, Michigan I tried walleye fillets. There was this dish with PEAS  AND  BOILED  PEANUTS. Filling and tasty, of course local.

Yes, going to the restaurant in Chicago was a highlight in our trip.