Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Flowers and begrudgingly cooperative dogs

In crafts, decor, Etsy, Uncategorized on February 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm

A carry-over from living in Hawaii is my obsession with wearing flowers in my hair. Chloe and Connor make great, albeit unenthusiastic models for my collection of flower clips and accessories. Interestingly only one of these flowers actually came from Hawaii – the rest were either bought or made in Virginia, and one was a gift from my sister in Malaysia. I imagine our future home in Alaska will still have tropical accents – including faux tropical flowers.

Yes, Connor you get to wear flowers too.

Chloe imagines life with a mom who didn’t spend so much time playing “dress-the-puppy”.

Connor shows his feminine side with a white Phalaenopsis orchid.

Any votes for which picture has the most unhappy-looking puppy face?


Mr. Does-It-All

In jobs, life on February 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Today’s post is inspired by the very handsome, very talented man I married. Here Connor is modeling his typical work accessories of tennis shoes and a baseball cap. In this very modest attire is someone who flies airplanes and helicopters, fixes and restores cars, cooks, goes to college, and always makes it look easy to find a job. That’s another point for today: if you would like to stay gainfully employed, perhaps you should just forget the college degree – go get a marketable skill instead (see here for more ramblings about this point from a few weeks earlier).

Yes, although I am now an independent contractor for three (yes, 3!) different companies, I can’t say it’s helping with the bills all that much, and honestly, my degree has not helped me with finding a job just yet – it all boils down to the “Do you also have x-many years of experience?” question where my resume starts to fall flat.

Back to my Mr. Does-It-All: at this point in the day he is probably making more hours at work than most people make in a week. If it is slow at work, he’ll be working on his helicopter parts for the helicopter he is building in our garage. When it is up and running, I’ll show you how splendid it all looks. In the meantime, I am staring down my esoteric manuscript thinking about all the reasons it’s not worth my time to work on resubmitting it for publication.

So Mr. Does-It-All, thank you for taking good care of us. I will do my best to have dinner ready when you get home.

Malaysian batik art

In crafts, decor, Etsy on February 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

My latest illustrations were inspired by Malaysian batik. Here Chloe tolerates me using her to model my only piece of Malaysian batik in the form of a sarong. A sarong is a long piece of material sewn together in a giant hoop, and typically it is worn around the waist (ala Chloe, below) and is used by both men and women. Note:  men would also wear it around their waist, and not as a head-dress (ala Connor – who was just too lazy to model it the right way). I love the detail and use of colour in the designs. The traditional batik art is a painstakingly long process thanks to the intricate details. It’s really amazing how much detail and colour can be found in the traditional clothes of Asian cultures.

I did not see why batik art wouldn’t look just as beautiful printed on an animal, and these two illustrations below were my whimsical interpretation of batik art and wildlife. However, I admit I cheated and used watercolors to create them which saved me a LOT of time.

An emperor penguin chick with batik details.

 A Sumatran rhino.

No bad cooks

In Food on February 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm

One of the first rules Chloe learned is that she is not allowed into the kitchen. Luckily all the apartments we’ve rented have a clear delineation between the carpet and linoleum that separates the kitchen from the living space . Clearly the dogs should have no question about boundaries. Lately, however, the dogs have become braver and venture into the kitchen just enough to place their front paws into the kitchen space whenever someone is cooking.

Sometimes Chloe will inch into the kitchen, sniffing the air the whole way. This is very flattering behavior because for all intensive purposes, I am not a good cook. A few nights ago I made shrimp and rice with asparagus. Judging  from the picture, it was not bad, but certainly not amazing.

You wouldn’t know I was a mediocre cook based on the dogs though. Occasionally Chloe will give up and walk away, but Connor, ever the optimist will stare at me with a worried, wrinkled brow from the edge of the kitchen floor. Hoping, always hoping that I might allow him to taste something, or drop something edible to pass on to him. If ever I am in need of a captive audience, all it takes is a stove and something to cook.

Could you leave your baby behind?

In life, Uncategorized on February 19, 2012 at 5:21 am

This is Claire, my first foster puppy. I got to love her for a month. The animal shelter I volunteered with asked me to keep her until she got all her puppy vaccinations and could safely return to the shelter to get adopted. Claire had all the love and charm of a happy, well-adjusted puppy. and she never met anyone she didn’t love. However, trying to potty train her from my third floor apartment was difficult, she always woke up barking too early in the morning, and I was constantly cleaning her kennel. It was a rather challenging fostering experience, but I loved her so much. At the time I only had Chloe as a forever dog, and had no idea I could get so attached to another dog over such a short period of time. As a foster mom, I was completely unprepared to say goodbye.

When I brought Claire in for her last round of shots, the shelter happily announced that she could now stay with them again. I put on my brave face, smiled and kissed Claire goodbye, and somehow managed to drive myself home through my tears. Dearest, sweet Claire – how hard it was to leave you behind. The story ends happily – Claire’s forever home family found her the same day I dropped her off. She was adopted almost instantly. I still miss her even though I know she was never really mine.

I now have two dogs, and could not fathom leaving either of them behind. That said, I am appalled at my husband’s ex-wife who is making a choice to leave her kids a continent away.

This mother will soon follow her third husband to Germany with only ONE of her three children instead of staying in the country so that she can raise ALL her children. She has chosen to take her 14 year old daughter with her, and is leaving behind her 9 year old autistic daughter and 16 year old son with their respective fathers.  How do you pick between your children? How do you leave a child behind in another continent for the better part of 4 years? After fighting so hard to keep his daughter in the country, my husband is now dealing with a daughter who is so afraid of being abandoned by her mother that she has allowed her mother to convince her that this move is a good idea – even at the expense of everyone else in this now very broken family.

Shame on this mother for voluntarily abandoning two of her children for another continent. Shame on the judge for thinking a broken family is in anybody’s best interests. If someone can explain to me how a mother can leave her babies behind, please do. I just cannot fathom the idea, and all I have are puppies.

Coastal home wannabe

In crafts, decor, Etsy on February 18, 2012 at 2:13 am

Even though we no longer live by the beach, we pretend we still do by using coastal accents at home.

You can find everything you need to make a coastal wreath on your own from Michael’s, or you can pick one up from Etsy.

Beachy wreaths on sale in Etsy.

A little Hawaiian touch

In crafts, Etsy, wrinkled sea dog on February 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Chloe in her Hawaiian costume

I realize that I am quickly running out of shoes for my dogs to model on the blog. Luckily  my slippers look acceptable with Chloe’s  Hawaiian outfit. Anyway, the theme for this post is related to my artwork. Why on earth are all my animals wearing flowers or leis? Two reasons: 1) I love (and miss) Hawaii; 2) it is a small attempt to broach an environmental concern – namely, climate change.

Living near Washington DC can be a little amusing. The political circus is impossible to escape here, as are the follies of politicians who take offense to any mention of climate change. Likely these same politicians don’t believe in evolution either. Anyhow, polar species stand a lot to lose in a warming earth. In an effort to inspire without the gloom and doom of climate change naysayers, I created the Hawaiian-themed accents for animals typically suited for colder climates – such as this little polar bear cub. The world is changing, might as well start accessorizing appropriately!

Incidentally, I have never seen a wild polar bear even though I’d really like to. Unfortunately, they are having a rough go with this changing environment, and some have even turned to cannibalism (see story here ). It is a sad, sad time for wildlife.

Inspiring Alaska

In crafts, Etsy, travel, wrinkled sea dog on February 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Alaskan field research gear is typically not very flattering. Particularly if you’re only 5′ 1″ and everything is made to fit bigger people. Here’s Connor demonstrating some of my Alaskan gear – although he sure looks a lot cuter in it.Alaska ready dog

After spending three whole summers in a tent in bush-county Alaska, I am now seriously considering living there full-time. True, most of my time in Alaska has been in the summer AND I spent a significant portion of my time there in a boat – but, I think we’re ready for this change.

The greater part of my idyllic Alaskan adventures involved stalking these critters.

Oh sea otter, how incredibly cute you are with your fluffy fur coat. That coat has the most hairs per square inch of any marine mammal, and self-grooming helps to keep air trapped in their coats for insulation. When resting in the water, the hair on their heads and paws dry out – and otters will do their BEST to keep their paws dry until they absolutely have to dive. I have seen many an otter perform  contortionist worthy feats while rolling in the water in order to keep their paws dry in the air. However, that air-trapping ability of their fur is completely lost if an otter’s fur gets oiled. A well-groomed sea otter is perfectly happy in the frigid Alaskan waters, but an oiled otter risks hypothermia.

Another great quality of sea otters is that they are incredibly photogenic, and they inspire countless pieces of art, which now includes this addition to my Etsy shop. Here’s hoping that the increased oil extraction activities off Alaska’s coasts does not leave otters seeking warmth in the future.

Connor smiles for Valentine’s Day

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Mom's Valentines day/ birthday loot from dad

Having a birthday today is not that unusual. I have three friends who were also born on Valentine’s Day. My family in Malaysia were first to wish me a happy birthday, followed by my handsome husband, and then the dogs – but they only figured it was a special day because THEY got presents today too.

Connor is a special dog. He was abused as a puppy, and now is very wary of people. However, Connor loves girls, squirrels and food of any sort, and he will occasionally reward you with a Connor smile. This involves raising his left lip, which looks like a goofy half-snarl. Today his smile was his birthday present to me.

Connor’s dad bought him and Chloe new toys for Valentine’s Day, and Connor rewarded me with his famous smile (which doesn’t quite come through in my pictures, hence the highlight with the arrow). If you are feeling less than loved this Valentine’s Day, and have room in your heart for unconditional affection, then I highly recommend adopting a dog. If nothing else, he’ll make you laugh out loud at least once each day and remind you not to sweat the small stuff.

The Job Hunt Continues

In crafts, Etsy, jobs, Uncategorized, wrinkled sea dog on February 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Picture3 Here’s Chloe doing her impression of me from two weeks ago – going to my 9 to 5 office job, complete with hour-long commute. Now that my fancy fellowship is over, it is back to the drawing board. As many others (exhibit 1, exhibit 2, exhibit 3) have blogged before me, it is tough times for a PhD or any young professional in this job market – much more so when you are still considered a lowly foreign immigrant.

A higher degree certainly puts you out of the market for a lot of jobs, and after years of studying to be an academic, I’m still not sure that is the best path for me. In the meantime, I am working on writing up by dissertation for publication, and keeping my sanity with little art projects.

I think that a lot of scientists get burned out these days. The pot of research funds is shrinking, competition is increasing, and the work-life balance is becoming increasing UN-balanced. I’m slowly becoming more drawn to the idea of owning my own business, and doing small research projects in Alaska.

I miss being out in the field – in addition to being outdoors and doing good science, it inspires me to paint my little cards like this one. Unfortunately, art projects don’t pay the bills and the Washington DC area is a very expensive place to be unemployed. Thank heavens my husband was smart enough to have skills that keep him employed. In the meantime, it’s back to the part-time jobs classifieds for me.