Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's not quite 2014 here, but it is mere minutes away (well, about 60 of them.) Still, this year I am finding myself a bit sleepy and happy to see 2013 go.

I put together a painting quilt of my work from 2013:

In some ways, I am happy with that. In others, I see so much more room for improvement. More focus on the big, complicated and detailed paintings will be a priority for 2014. The minis were good, and will come back around here and there, but my goal is to reign in the ADD artist personality and start a more serious push through the bigger pieces like my Queen of Hearts, and Red Riding Hood is definitely coming your way!

One of my resolutions is to open up a little more on here. So, I plan on doing that. More about me and the art, not just art.

So, on that note this year I will also be focusing on my health as well as working on trying to make things better for my family and I. It was a tough 2013, with many things out of my control and sad or scary. I'm hoping for a much better 2014! But no matter what happens, I know I'll have paint brush in hand and paint splatters on just about everything I own... which is just about perfect!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Post-Holiday Hello!

Boy, I sure haven't checked in for a while! I thought I had! Sorry about that! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday?

We went on a cruise, which turned out to be a bad cruise (I'll briefly explain below.) However, there were some nice highlights to my trip and I thought I'd share!

First, we drove into NYC to stay the night and get on the ship in the morning. Our plan was to play around in NYC and show the kids Time's Square (and my daughter had her sights set on Forever 21, because that's her favorite store... one of mine too!)

She's so happy, I wish we could get this store in Vermont!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was busy stirring up one heck of a storm! We beat it into the city, though! NO traffic coming in, I couldn't believe it! However, by the time we were wandering around it was cold. Cold-cold. Bone-chilling cold. By the time we walked back to the hotel we were frozen and beaten down by the storm. Still, I had fun! My son decided we were specifically torturing him, but the rest of us were happy!

We saw the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (I took a 4 second video of it):

Hubby and I at the Rockefeller Christmas tree, FREEEEEZING!
No, I didn't pack gloves, we were going on a cruise!

These were just ridiculously cool. I wanted to play on them.
The next morning the storm had passed and we were off to the boat!

We cruised on the Norwegian Breakaway. I'm going to stop here to make something very clear: I am VERY angry at Norwegian Cruise Lines. This was a bad cruise. The crew on the ship were absolutely miserable, and it was evident from the moment we got on the ship. When people are going on a cruise to get away from it all, to be surrounded by an angry and miserable crew just makes everything worse. When we were all disembarking at the end, strangers were asking one another if they had a bad cruise too. This was not unique to us, and NO ONE said they had a good time. A good example would be that when they canceled the stop at Stirrup Cay (one of the islands we were so looking forward to), we personally witnessed crew members celebrating with high-fives over the decision. That was one of the only times I saw any smiling from them.

Norwegian's policy on board was that the guest is always wrong. I'm not exaggerating, and we had direct experience with it that was just sickening when we simply asked a question about something that wasn't clear to us and they immediately went on the attack. I was completely flabbergasted by this attitude, I've never seen anything like it anywhere - but most especially never in a vacation company.

I'm always polite, I never get angry unless the situation truly calls for it with the person directly responsible. I am not that awful traveler you see on videos. I wait my turn, I'm respectful, and I'm patient. Being mean or rude accomplishes nothing, so I don't go there even if I'm having a problem. Not ever. It's unfortunate that the staff didn't have a similar perspective (I witnessed one yelling at a little old lady who was just trying to understand... oh it was just awful on that boat!)

The beds were horribly uncomfortable, they charged for anything they could think of, were completely disorganized, and on the last night they endangered my daughter's safety. My daughter loved the teen center on board, and on the last night a group of teens showed up drunk at 1AM (when they were closing.) Rather than call those teens' parents or security, my daughter (who had been in the teen center safe all night) was asked to walk some of them back to their staterooms.

So, my 15 year old was walking drunk teens back to their rooms at 1AM by herself.  The top of my head blew off when I found out. The things that could have happened, what could have gone wrong. She came back to our room late (we were waiting up for her, panicking and my husband had been out trying to find her but the center was shut down when he got there and there was no one to ask) crying and told us what happened. My daughter is the good girl. I mean that, I'm not just being a silly parent here. She is on the honor roll, student council, cheerleader, soccer goalie, charity volunteer, helps anyone and cares about everyone, respectful of authority - she is the poster child for the good girl. (I know, that she is related to me is one of life's great mysteries.) So, when an authority figure - the teen center counselor - asked her to walk those teens back to their rooms, she did.

She was wrong to have done as they asked. We had to have a long talk about doing the wrong thing when the authority figure asks you to. What a bizarre conversation that was, but in the end I suppose it was a good teaching moment. Just because someone is supposed to be trusted and in control, it doesn't mean that their direction or requests will be the right thing to do. We talked about how she should have high-tailed it back to our room and told us what was going on. We would have gotten involved, believe me. After the fact, there was simply nothing we could do. She learned a lesson, and I learned that Norwegian is a company to NEVER cruise with again.

They called me yesterday to ask if I would like to book another cruise with them. You can imagine my (polite, if angry) response. Their response? "Uh... sorry." And that was it. I've written a comment and review to them, but I don't expect to hear anything because they simply do NOT care. So, I'm putting this out there: avoid Norwegian, they're awful.

(I've really enjoyed other cruise companies though! If this had been my only cruise, I would never cruise again. Fortunately, it was not. I love cruising, and we plan on doing lots of it in the future - hopefully with a company that respects and cares for their guests. My favorite so far? Disney. You wouldn't think of them for cruising, but I've never experienced such wonderful service, kindness, and organization from a cruise line. Even without children, they offer adult only options and I would pick them without a doubt. The cost difference when compared with their service is worth it.)

OK, enough about my anger. I'm working on letting that go. *sigh*

What saved parts of the trip were the stops. We only got two, because they cancelled one of the islands, but we stopped in Port Canaveral, FL and Nassau, Bahamas. In Florida, we booked an excursion to see the manatees. Alas, they weren't there (too cold), but we loved kayaking! I was in a boat with my son and we saw some wild dolphins and fish that tried to jump in our boat! It was a lovely day.

In the Bahamas, we booked an excursion with Dolphin Encounters on the Blue Lagoon island. We chose them over the Atlantis option because we heard they were better - and I think they really were!

My girl and I on the boat going to the Blue Lagoon Island!

Oh, you have no idea what it was like to swim with dolphins! I have always wanted to, but it was always a sort of bucket list type of thing. Well, I've done it!

I have more pictures and video coming... but the video is not here yet. We swam with them for over 30 minutes, and at the end they pushed us across the water by our feet! (I'm hoping to have that video to share when it arrives.)

Here are the two professional pictures we have from the swim:

My girl, doesn't she look like this should be on the brochure cover?
OK, I'm biased, but even so!

This is my family! I didn't catch that my son was wearing his hat and shades until later
*face-palm* He also refused the wetsuit, but the water was CHILLY, so it was a good thing to be wearing!

I also have a few I took on my phone after we were done swimming:

Saying hello!


The beach on the Blue Lagoon Island

Those two shore excursions were wonderful. That's what I'm trying to look back on, and what great companies those two were! Swimming with the dolphins was amazing. Kayaking was fun. Warm weather (not hot, just warm) was such a nice break. It made Christmas seem a million miles away. I don't think I could live in a warm climate year round if I didn't go somewhere cold for Christmas. It's so pretty there, a perpetual summer of a sort (compared to Vermont, anyway.) But I would miss my snow!

So, not great trip, but some excellent moments. And in the end? We needed a break, even if it was a bad one. I sincerely wish it had been good, and the money we spent for what happened makes me want to cry, but at least it was a break of some sort. And hey, no food poisoning, plague, or loss of life or limb, so it's a win, right? *wink*

I now have the desire to paint some dolphins... I wonder why?

We got back and I braved the mall and big stores to finish my shopping (in a dead-on panic, yes I was that woman.) Then finally the day was here and we made our once a year cinnamon rolls and enjoyed a quiet day. It was very nice, although I learned that in the future I'll be scheduling any winter vacations for January or February, because there is too much to do in December and not enough in those months!

That's how I've been, how have you been?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wrapping Up

I just finished a double commission of two holiday chinchilla paintings. I actually had chinchillas for a little while, so I have a special place in my heart for them:

The gap in his ear was actually the customer's request because the chinchilla in question had an injury when he was just a wee little fellow. 

We couldn't have him eating candy, that wouldn't be healthy for a chinchilla (actually, I'm not sure they can have popcorn either... but the cranberries are probably OK.)

I'm running so far behind this year. I haven't even finished the painting I had meant to be released for my official Christmas Card for 2013. *head*desk*

As I've said before, my studio is so stuffed full of things now (organized, but there is simply no room for me anymore) that I have been working at the kitchen table. In the middle of that though, we were supposed to do gingerbread houses. So, half the table is covered with my paints and things, and the other half looks like this:

Since I finished the commissions, I'll actually be piecing together the houses tonight so my kids can decorate them. Everything feels so rushed, but I'm hoping that will change starting today. There are only a few hours left that my online store, www.KWilsonStudio.com, will be open (I couldn't close it down when I expected to because I was notified that the cart hadn't been working all this time. Eeek! So until midnight tonight I have a 10% off sale going with the code SORRY, and everything will ship out on Friday.) I'm going to paint and ship and what have you for the rest of the day along with constructing the gingerbread houses, but I think the biggest hurdles are out of the way.

This year, I'm closing down things a bit earlier than I normally would. In general, my business would be open and I would be painting away commissions and mailing prints and other items right up until the last minute for folks. But this year is different. We're going on an early vacation! We're going on a cruise! (Did you know that cruises leave out of New York year round? Yeah, neither did I!)

My parents are going to house-sit and take care of the animals and probably polish off whatever cookies are left from the holiday baking that I didn't snarf down (let's just say that my swimsuit experience on this cruise won't be pretty.) I'm glad that my parents will be taking care of things, even if I know my cat won't be speaking to me until New Year's because of it.

Now, this was all very exciting when we first booked it. We're supposed to be going kayaking with the manatees and swimming with the dolphins - two things I have always wanted to do. How cool is that? However, I now realize that going away for a week right smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season means I just shortened my shopping and decorating days by a third. Cue the panic.

Upside about the cruise; not too much shopping to do because this is kind of it for my husband and I, and we have main gifts purchased for the kids already (we don't do huge Christmases,) but there are still lots of little things to do. The in-laws, cards, neighbors, teachers, etc. It's amazing how big that list is, and how much harder it gets when you cut out a week. But I can push through! I can!

We need this vacation so badly. Our family is so burned out. I am so burned out. My eye has even developed a tic. It's actually been a very hard year for us on multiple fronts from personal and professional issues to things like us having to put Cosmo to sleep a few weeks ago. We're hoping a nice vacation for the family will help us just sort of... reset.

We're staying overnight in Times Square before the cruise. I'm planning on seeing that Rockefeller tree all lit up in person, something I always wanted to do too! Maybe go ice skating if it's possible as well? Anyway, it's an early holiday for me, and I'm hoping it'll kick the season off the right way for us and that we can finish 2013 on a high note and set up 2014 to be a fabulous year. That's the goal!

Now... I wonder if I can get that kitten/mouse/stocking painting finished while doing laundry and trying to pack?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Little Bits of Progress

First, I want to thank everyone for your thoughtful comments about Cosmo, and us having to put him to sleep.

Things seem to be moving along a little better in the household, and we had an uneventful Thanksgiving (with way too much food.) I hid out from the Black Friday shopping, and protested the day by staying in my pajamas instead! Honestly, it was a little odd. I felt a little left out, and it was just so quiet. Maybe that's why Black Friday has become so big? After the cacophony of the holiday, the day after is so silent! I knew people were out shopping, in the hustle and bustle... and I was in my pajamas.

I did work, however. I've actually been working on lots of new little things (and all of these are available either in my shop (I'm having a 10% off sale until midnight tonight, it's been going all week. Code HOLIDAY2013), or on Etsy:

"Making Friends" 4x6 acrylic on hard canvas panel

"Snow Day" 3x5 acrylic on hard canvas panel

"Mini-Snow" ultra mini, 2x2 acrylic on stretched canvas

"Snowy I" 4x4 acrylic on stretched canvas

"Pepper" 3x3 acrylic on stretched canvas

And I also finally, finally drew out my official holiday painting for 2013:

This is an 8x10, I believe - hard canvas panel.

I don't know WHY it took me so long to do. I knew what I sort of wanted in my head, but I danced around the issue. Finally, I just did it. I built it as I went, not really having a clear picture, but just a vague idea. I rather like how it turned out, actually!

I started painting the fireplace, and I spent HOURS on the bricks to make it look like embers were burning low. I really don't understand why it takes me so long, but it does. I need to look up tips or techniques on how to speed things up. I only got the back wall finished last night. I'm very frustrated with myself, even though I like how the back wall looks.

Still working on the side walls, obviously.
I'll be working on that after I finish this post, actually!
I have a couple of commissions I'm working on, and a few other things, but I'm really feeling tired lately. We have a family trip coming up in two weeks, and I really hope that and the holidays in general give me a new kick in the pants to get things rolling again!

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with a picture from my son's rabbit's modeling session. My mother wanted to have an ornament made for my son, and Smoke (the rabbit) had to put up with modeling in a Santa suit:

Smoke spent the whole time modeling, not bothered at all. Is that a fabulous rabbit, or what?