SIA: “Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray”

My first SIA post of 2018!! You all thought I dropped out, didn’t you? Nope, not at all. I’ve been out of the SIA part of blogging for a couple of reasons; in part, because of my busy schedule and lack of time to take photos and then try to create posts for them. But the main reason for my absence is simply that I’ve just felt too shy and self conscious to take any photos of myself lately. You’d think that after doing this for a while that I would be over my “shyness” and just get right into it, right? But lately, I’ve been feeling like my *ahem* outfits were too boring. I did actually think about dropping out because I felt like I was just presenting the same old stuff over and over.

However, seeing Jen’s SIA choice for this week encouraged me to stick around a little bit longer. For this challenge, she chose the painting, Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, artist unknown. It was once credited to Johann Zoffany, a German painter who worked in England. Though he is not the true painter of this piece, looking at some of his other works that he did sort of leads you to believe that maybe perhaps he was the painter. The style it’s done in is very similar to his. You can view this painting on Jen’s blog here.

So for my first challenge of the year, I decided to do something a little different, sort of. I went to a location that I felt was more fitting for my photos! Check it out!

Dido Elizabeth Belle And Lady Elizabeth Murray SIA 1

Dido Elizabeth Belle And Lady Elizabeth Murray SIA 2

Dido Elizabeth Belle And Lady Elizabeth Murray SIA 3

There is a cluster of bushes not far from my building, which you can see from the top two photos. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to use this particular spot for SIA photos, but have never had the time (or patience) to get out there to take photos. But with a little extra time on my hands lately, I finally decided to give it a go!

As you can see, the pictures didn’t exactly come out as great as I had hoped that they would. The zoom feature on my iPod, though a nice function to have, is not exactly a telephoto lens of that of a real camera. So they came out rather blurry. But despite this flaw, I felt that the location for this particular piece was perfect! There are trees in the painting, which I wanted to include in my pictures. The “black thing” that you see on the ground is my jacket, which I took off for the purpose of taking the photos, matching the green of the trees in the painting with my dark green shirt. However, it was about 37 degrees at the time when I took these pictures so I was freezing without it! The sacrifices that I make for SIA, ha! And you can still see some of the snow that’s left over from the snowstorm we had last week. 😉

So after taking pictures on location, I decided to take a better once in my usual spot, on my balcony. And of course, I had to do my best to mimic Dido’s facial expression and hand gesture, which I thought came out very well. 😛

So that’s it for me. Be sure to check out Jen’s blog this coming Wednesday for the full round-up and see how everyone else went about in interpreting this cute, but gorgeous painting. It should be fun!


February Book Reviews 2018

It’s time for book reviews again. And unfortunately, I only managed to squeeze out one book once again. But in my own defense, I have a few others going right now so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to have more than one to present to you next month.

So with that short introduction out of the way, let’s get to it.

The book I finished this month is called Keeper of Myths by Jasmine Richards.

Keeper Of Myths Cover

Title: Keeper of Myths
Author: Jasmine Richards
Genre: Children’s Fantasy Fiction
Pages: 245 (247 counting the Acknowledgements page)

It’s part of a series from what I can tell, because this is actually the second book written by Richards and I didn’t figure out that there was a book before this one until I started reading it. But figuring that I could get the gist of the story anyway, I kept on reading.

It turns out that I should have just gotten her first book, Secrets of Valhalla, after all, as quite a few events that happened in the first book were referenced in this one and they didn’t make much sense without having read the previous content. But based on what I read here, the story consists of two friends, Buzz and Mary, who are on a mission to save Buzz’s friend, Sam, who becomes a god with the power of fire/combustion. They seem to be able to travel to difference dimensions, or realms, and befriend quite a few talking animals, who are also gods, such a squirrel and a spider. Buzz and Mary’s ultimate goal however, is to locate the keeper of myths, who happens to be closer than they realize and defeat the evil goddess, Berchta. It’s a typical “hero vs. villain” kind of story, with a few elemental plot twists  and fantasy based powers to help keep it interesting. In short, it was okay I guess.

But in truth, I was sort of disappointed with the book. The story was not terribly interesting to me (despite my interest in fantasy) and the characters were pretty one dimensional. I particularly disliked Mary’s character as I found it to be annoying and drab with the way she interacted with Buzz (though he wasn’t that much better either). This certainly wasn’t a 39 Clues or Infinity Ring kind of story (hope to talk about those soon as they’re both really good series) but parts of it did sort of feel like it was. In the end, I have to give this book a 2 out of 5 rank, mostly for the reasons I just listed. In all fairness though, I should probably read the first book in order to get the full story and then read this one again. But for the time being, I think that I will wait a while to do this and just work on finishing the other books that I currently have going. Stay tuned next month to see what else I’ve been reading!

Postcard Posts: Desert Lands

For these latest postcards, I went back to when I first started making them, before I got into the watercolor paints and watercolor postcards, which are designed for the wet medium. These here are done on regular index cards, using colored pencils.

Mesa Postcard

Desert Plain Postcard

The first one, Mesa, I based off of an image I saw online and I tried to recreate it from memory. I think it came out okay but I don’t like how the actual “mesa” came out (mesas are supposed to be flat at the top, right?). But the rest of it isn’t too bad. The plants I placed in the foreground add a nice touch of color, basically balancing out the harsher coloring that the background is displaying. So it’s okay.

The second one, named Desert Plain, I thought came out much better. It’s what I originally envisioned in my mind, before I turned to online images for inspiration (shame on me!). This one is a lot less “cluttered” and the shadows for the rocks and cacti are more accurately portrayed than the ones seen in my first postcard. But one thing that both of these have in common is that I tried to create a “dusk-look”, with the sun just passing beneath the horizon, leaving the sky with a blue, yellow and orange hue, typical for desert skies when they are cloud free.

So overall, not too bad. I felt really inclined to create these more “warm themed” landscapes as it has been so cold where I’m at. Needless to say, I’m ready for some warmer weather to arrive soon, which may be the case for this week (some 60 degree temps in the forecast; whoo-hoo!). Plus, I haven’t done a desert scene since I created Pyramids, way back in 2015, seen here.  These are more realistically portrayed in my opinion.



January Book Reviews 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review on the blog (my last one being September of last year to be exact). It hasn’t exactly been a high priority on my “to do” list lately for several reasons. I keep thinking that I should just stop them all together but then I get the urge to want to write something for the blog and this is one of the first things that I can think of. And I figure that someone is probably reading it so whoever is, this is for you.

Anyway, I just have the one book to report on this time around. It’s called Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar, and it’s a historical fiction children’s novel about India in the 1940s.

Ahimsa Cover

Title: Ahimsa

Author: Supriya Kelkar

Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction

Pages: 289 (307 if you count the acknowledgements, author’s note, the small glossary and the reference page for further reading)

It tells the story of 10 year old Anjali, an Indian girl, who, with her family, works to help free India from British rule, as they occupy the country around this time. And while contentions between the British and the people of India rise high, other such contentions among the natives are also pretty heated. The book describes tensions between Hindus and Muslims as well as the people who fall into the different castes that India has. Caught in the conflict, Anjali risks losing those who are important to her; her best friend, who is Muslim, her mother who gets imprisoned for speaking out for what is right, and her friends and neighbors, many of whom frown down upon her when she makes continued efforts to bring in kids from the lowest caste, into her school. The story really helps bring the reader into Anjali’s world and allows them to see her struggle for freedom, as well as that of her whole country.

Overall, I thought the story was well written and the author really brought to life each character, particularly the main character. You get a sense of what each character is about and see a bit of character development in some of them. For example, one of the antagonists, Captain Brent, a British officer, has several encounters with Anjali. When we first meet him, he is seen as an apathetic, hard nosed kind of man. Anjali strongly dislikes him in the beginning and the feeling is mutual of him towards her. But as you continue to read, Brent seems to have a change of heart. And while still not appearing to “like” Anjali or any of the people of India, towards the end of the book, you see that he begins to respect her, which is quite a rewarding thing to see from the reader’s point of view. And thanks to some basic foreshadowing used by the author, you can see what events led up to this. And this, in turn, sort of helps solidify Anjali’s maturity and growth; earning the respect of someone who initially thought very little of her.

So it is a nice story. I read it fairly quickly and was really drawn into the story. Historical fiction generally does this to me, particularly if it’s about something that I am interested in, which I am in this case. I think the author could have carried it a bit further as I felt that it ended a bit abruptly. Another chapter or two or an epilogue would have been nice. But for a children’s book, it wasn’t bad. I give this one a 4 out of 5.

That’s all I have for now. I’m working on a few other books right now, which I hope to be able to present next month. I hope to do better with my reading record this year so that means a review once a month, at least. Maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in a couple in one month! We’ll see. And be sure to check out Salazar’s blog, 14 Shades of Grey, who is also doing book reviews today and see what she is reading.




Postcard Post: “Along Side The Road”

It’s my first blog post of the year! Yeah, I know. I’m a bit late to be saying this, as we’re already 30 days into the new year. But it’s true; it is my first post of the year. And for this first post, I have a pretty decent postcard to share with you all. Check it out.

Along Side The Road Postcard

I call this Along Side The Road. This came about on one of the days I was at home, recovering from a recent injury. I was sitting on my couch and looking out my patio window and I see two trees. They’re sitting on some patches of grass in the middle of our building’s parking lot and they looked sort of interesting. The trees here didn’t come out to be exact copies of what I saw, but for this painting, they’re good enough.

The rest of the painting came from my own imagination. I kept building upon each element; adding in new details to try and make it more interesting, hence the telephone poles and the double yellow line, creating a more 3 dimensional space. I don’t know why, but somehow, adding these minor details makes it work. Quiz time: what season do you think this postcard represents?

So overall, not bad. Not my best work, but it gave me something to do for about an hour. Better than being bored, right?

I’ll see what I can come up with next!

In the meantime, check out my friend, Salazar’s blog over on 14 Shades of Grey. She has some pretty awesome artwork! I particularly like her beach in Batam, Indonesia. 🙂


A Brief Glance At 2017

It’s hard believe that we’ll be saying “goodbye” to another year and “hello” to a new one in a little more than 24 hours from now. Where did this year go??? Pretty wild in how quickly this year has gone by and 2018 just around the corner.

Anyway, after giving it some thought, I decided that it would be a fun idea to briefly look back at some of my most favorite posts from this year and bring them back to the surface, if you will, before we clock out of 2017. And if I’m not “breaking any rules” for posting over the weekend, then I see this as a nice review for the final day of the year 2017.

With that said, lets take a look at my favorite postcard post, SIA post, and book review post as I take us back in time with this review. Let’s go! We’ll start with postcards.

I was actually torn between two postcards, as I like them both equally. The first one, Through The Autumn Meadow, I painted back in May, and shows a picturesque scene of a trail running through a meadow. You can read more about this painting by clicking here. I’ve actually gotten quite a few comments from people at work, who say how much they like this one and I have to agree. Looking at it makes you want to run through there and play, doesn’t it? Not bad, I’d say.

Trail Through The Autumn Meadow Postcard

I also chose the postcard I call Eclipse, because it was my first experiment I did using black postcards with oil pastels and the results were phenomenal. This one of course was based off of the eclipse that occurred here in the US back in August and took me 2 months to “re-create” it as a postcard. You can read more about this one here.


Okay, so there are my favorite postcards. What about SIA outfits? Let’s find out.


There were quite a few SIA challenges that I participated in this year and I liked them all. But in the end, I decided to go with this one, which is the SIA challenge that Jen hosted on her blog way back in January, which you can see on her blog, Librarian For Life And Style. She chose a lace design by Isabella Catanea Parasole, which entailed black and white intricate patterns. I chose this as my favorite outfit because 1) I’m in all black (my favorite attire!) and 2) in terms of how I was photographed, I thought that I looked the best here, as opposed to some of the other photos in which I’m sporting a similar look.

So there you have it for a favorite SIA post. And now for my favorite book.

Recently, I updated my Goodreads page (I haven’t touched it for about a year; shame on me…) and put all of my current books on the page (those I have read, those that I am currently reading and those that I plan to read in the near future).

And as it turns out, my track record for reading this year kind of sucked as I only managed to read 7 books, as opposed to the 10 that I had originally planned on. I blame my extreme obsession for working all the time for this, ha, ha.

Be that as it may, the 7 books that I did read were pretty awesome and I had a good time trying to write decent reviews for all of them. It was a nice mixture of adult and children’s books, fiction and non fiction and so on. And the book that stood out the most for me this year is…


Yep, I chose Threading My Prayer Rug by Sabeeha Rehman, a book that I read back in March. I chose this book as being my favorite for several reasons. For one thing, it’s a real story about a person’s life, which always fascinates me more than a story about a fictional character. Mrs. Rehman has made quite a wonderful impression on me in how she unfolds her life in this well written book and helped give me a greater understanding of what it means to be a Muslim living in the US.

Another thing that captured my attention is the subtle, witty humor that she puts in her story that sort of makes you stop and think for a moment before continuing to read. To me, that makes a book worthwhile the read; one that makes you think and not just allows you to zip through it like it was nothing. You can read the full review I did on her book here.

Plus, I’ve had the great honor of having a consistent correspondence with Mrs. Rehman since completing her book and she is one of the nicest people that I have ever interacted with. To me, any author who takes the time to reply to their readers is A-Okay in my book. 🙂

So those are a few highlights of 2017 from the blog. My goal by the end of 2018 is to have even better posts up and reader ready so that I can have more to work with if I decide to do this again next year. But still, not too bad I suppose.

Wishing all of my readers a safe and happy New Years. Hope to see you all over in 2018!




SIA: “Roots”

I know, I know. It’s been forever since my last post on the blog. Exactly 1 month and 12 days to be exact.

I apologize for the long pause. Besides always being too busy to even sign on, to be quite frank, I just haven’t had too much motivation or inspiration to write much lately. We seem to be in the age where blogs are almost as common as say, cellphones; nearly everyone has one and no one is reading.

But despite that mini “pity party” that I just had, I continue to press on whenever I feel the need to tap out a few thoughts on my keyboard and post it for everyone to see. 🙂

And I’ll start by posting about my latest SIA idea. Hosted by Salazar over on 14 Shades of Grey, this latest one is called Roots, a photo by Miguel Vallinas.  Apparently, he has done a number of these “flower headed” people in everyday attire, which you can check out the link on Salazar’s blog to see. Looking at them, they sort of have a bit of a creepy, almost eerie look to them, but at the same time, are kind of cool and quaint. Seriously, go check them out. They’re pretty awesome!

So this is what I came up with for this project:

Roots SIA

Pretty self explanatory, right? The figure in the photo that Salazar chose for SIA is sporting jeans, which I have covered. I’m not a jeans person, but they worked out well for this challenge so there you go.

My plaid jacket is obviously to match the plaid shirt the figure is wearing, and my black shirt (I always have to include black in my outfits somehow) is to mimic the black background behind the figure in the photo. I don’t really have anything that’s beige or khaki colored (other than the one pair of khaki pants that I own but I didn’t want to use those for this one), so I had to omit that. But not too bad if I do say so myself.

Two things to note: 1) That trash that you see, in particular the cigarette butt, is NOT ours!!! No one in my family smokes (thank goodness). It came from one of our neighbor’s balconies (probably the one right above us) and is not the first time that I’ve seen it on our terrace. I didn’t think to remove it until after I took the photo and happened to see it there (darn it!).

And 2), my “books” hat is not part of the SIA look. I simply wore it because it was below freezing outside when I took the photo and I wanted to keep my head warm. Yes, winter is here in our lovely state. And it welcomed us with quite a bit of snow, which is okay with me, to a degree. Maybe it will last until Christmas? 😉

That’s all for now. Be sure to check Salazar’s blog this coming Wednesday, the 20th, to see the round-up with everyone’s interpretations!


Kuro The Cat; SIA With A Postcard

My post for this SIA is a bit late because I’m just now writing it! Normally, I try to compose them the night before and schedule them to go live early Monday morning.

But I was so tired yesterday that I probably wouldn’t have been able to write a coherent post, even if I tried. And since I’m off from work today, I felt that it could just wait.

So, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

It’s another SIA challenge and this time, my blogging friend, Salazar, over on 14 Shades of Grey, chose quite a cool piece, with an even cooler name (I think anyway). It’s called Kuroki Neko by Japanese artist, Hishida Shunso. Check out Salazar’s blog in the link above for more details and for an image. It basically depicts a black cat sitting on a tree limb with autumn leaves hanging above it.

I feel that the title is very appropriate for this painting. I did a little searching to see what the literal translation meant and now I understand why it’s named this. I already knew that “kuro” means “black” in Japanese (thanks to me reading the graphic novel series, Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro, an awesome series by the way; check it out!). The suffix, “ki” means “tree” or “wood”. And “neko”, as you’ve probably already guessed, means “cat”. So the title, “Kuroki Neko”, literally says “black wood/tree cat”, which I think is pretty darn cool.

Here’s what I went with as far as an outfit goes.

Kuroki Neko SIA 2

Like I told Salazar when I submitted my photos, I was trying to go for a more “preppy look”, without looking too business-like or too formal. And I got tired of my more “casual looks” all of the time, so I wanted to sharpen things up a little. I brought out my suit jacket and pants, which I think look great together with any Polo-like shirt, which you see in gray here. Without the tie and dress shirt, it’s more of a “business-casual” look, which is what I was going for.

And I know, I know; brown shoes with black dress clothing; a big “no-no”. But this is for SIA, so I can do whatever I want, thank you. Since I don’t have any brown clothing, I brought out my trusty brown shoes to sort of match the brown tones found in the painting. Overall, I think I pulled it off pretty well.

And as an added bonus, I created a postcard (using my newly discovered black postcards) especially for this SIA, which you can see below.

Kuroki Neko SIA 3

Kuroki Neko SIA 1

Black Cat, Dark Night

Since I obviously don’t have any accessories, I went with the next best thing. I had the idea to make a more Halloween-like postcard for some time, using the black postcards. Basically, I was going to put a pumpkin or two in the picture. But since I made this after Halloween was over, I decided to leave the pumpkins out and just have the focus on the cat. I tried to make him semi-creepy looking to mimic the look of the cat in the painting without copying it. I’d say that I succeeded. The perspective of the *ahem*, “wall” that he’s sitting on, is a little off, but I did this rather quickly so it’s understandable. And I’m still trying to familiarize myself with the oil pastels, which is what I used to create this postcard. Overall, not bad.

That’s all for now! Be sure to check back in on Salazar’s blog this Wednesday for the round-up. It should be fun to see how many different interpretations you all come up with!


SIA: “Angel Applicant”

It’s SIA time again and this time it was Erin’s turn to curate. She chose the painting, Angel Applicant by Paul Klee. You can see and read more about it on Erin’s blog over on Loop Looks.

This one is right up my alley because of the grayish/black tones that make up the entire painting. So it was pretty easy for me to put together a simple outfit, which you see below.

Angel Applicant SIA 2

Pretty easy, right? My usual, everyday attire never fails me. 😛

However, since the painting calls for more grayish tones than black, I decided to add something to incorporate that.

Angel Applicant SIA 1

Angel Applicant SIA 3

I think that the bag totally fits, right?! It totally matches the color scheme of the painting, not to mention my own. 😉

One of my friends and co-workers made this for me for my birthday as she noticed that my old bag (the one that I often use to carry all of my books to and from the coffee shop) was falling apart. And for a while, I was using grocery bags to carry my books in; not very attractive looking…

But the bag is rockin’ awesome! It has an extra thick lining inside so it keeps my books dry as a bone on rainy trips out to the coffee shop, or wherever else I go with my “mini-library”. It so totally suits me in terms of color, design and practicality. Triple plus! 😀

So that’s it for my portion of SIA. Be sure to stop by Erin’s blog this Wednesday on the 25th for the round-up and see how everyone else interpreted this piece. And feel free to participate! There’s still time!


Postcard Post: “Eclipse”

If you’re a US reader, then you probably knew all about the hype of the total/partial solar eclipse that occurred here a few months ago. Or even if you live outside of the US, you probably heard about the eclipse happening here back in August.

Being a total astronomy nerd, of course I was all over this. I’ve waited over 20 years to experience a solar eclipse, the last one occurring way back when I was in elementary school back in the early 90s. Ancient history, right?

Well, after all these years of waiting, I finally got to see, or at least experience, this astronomical astonishment, and is one that I will always remember.

I was one of the few who didn’t have the fancy eyewear that everyone was going crazy over from NASA to protect my eyes from the eclipse while viewing it. But that didn’t stop me from viewing it SAFELY. Using a simple technique that was demonstrated by my science teacher way back in the day, I was able to project an image of the eclipse onto a sheet of paper so that I could view it without risking total blindness by actually looking at it. To see how I did this simple but effective technique (it’s really simple to do), look here.

Anyway, I was so stoked about the eclipse happening that a few days before it occurred, I had a dream about it, which was pretty wild when you think about it. Goes to show that I’m a true nerd when it comes to astronomy as how many people can say that they dream about such things and can remember them afterwards? And this is how this first postcard came into being.

Dream Eclipse

To the best of my ability, this is exactly what I saw in my dream; an orange-like sky, parts of my apartment building and railing and of course, the eclipse in the sky. It was a surreal kind of dream on a number of levels, one being why the sky would be orange colored during a solar eclipse? The simple answer: It’s a dream. It’s not suppose to make sense. I just thought that it was really cool to have a dream about such a rare event like this and to be able to recreate it as a postcard. It’s definitely something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my days. 😛

The next postcard is also on the solar eclipse and is the result of a new technique that I’m trying out. I’m using a black postcard instead of a white one. I had this idea several months ago when I thought of doing another nighttime cityscape but didn’t want to take the time to try and paint the whole background black, which uses up a lot of black paint. So then I thought that if the background were already dark, that would save me time and effort. So thus, the black postcard was “born”. And because watercolor paint (my usual medium) would not show up very well on this dark background, I instead used oil pastels to create the image that you see below.


This more closely resembles what I saw using my primitive viewfinder (minus the color) during the eclipse. And the sky of course wasn’t completely black as seen here because we weren’t in direct line for the moon to completely pass in front of the sun, but as I said above, I wanted to experiment with the black postcards and this was a great first experiment I’d say. The only thing that bothers me is the white lines I used to try and show gradation of the sun’s corona. Oil pastels can be somewhat difficult to use and I haven’t used them in a while so this looked a little more sketchy than I wanted it to be. But not bad for my first time on a black postcard. I look forward to using more of them for nighttime scenes in the future.

So there you have it. It’s been a while since I posted any new postcards on the blog so it felt good doing this, particularly on a subject that I’m most interested in. Hope to get more postcards up and running as we get deeper into the fall season. Look for them!

Okay, and I need to add a little something extra here. I just celebrated my 34th birthday last Thursday, and while I’m not into parties and that sort of thing, I did get a cake out of the deal and that’s good enough for me. Take a look. Enjoy!

Birthday Cake 2017 - 2

Birthday Cake 2017 - 3

Birthday Cake 2017 - 4