Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Basics with the Dollar Bike

With its lack of gears or suspension, the Dollar Bike radiates a quiet simplicity. No clicking of shifters, no drivetrain clatter or "squoosh" of suspension. Only the soft rumble of knobby tires on dirt trail. There are no gear decisions to be made - either you're in the correct one or, well you're in the correct one. It's been a long time since my bike of choice was one with no gears and no suspension, but it felt like coming home to ride one again. Since my biking has been a bit sporadic over the past few years, we started out with a relatively easy gear on this 29er at 33x20.
I found, despite my current lack of fitness, with this gearing ratio I could handle the lesser climbs seated in the saddle without too much difficulty,
but stood when the terrain turned steeper. The bike held momentum remarkably well, even on the climbs thank goodness!
Returning to an unsuspended singlespeed after so many years, I was very pleasantly surprised to find my sense of bike "center" came back quickly and naturally, and I managed to suffer no tire slips on any of today's climbs.
Even Fry was impressed that I actually made that climb. LOL
 Re-adapting to a rigid fork took a little getting used to though, especially on the rocky and rooty descents!
This bike really showed my weaknesses - and my strengths - clearly. So I think putting some miles on it will help me become a better balanced and well rounded mountain biker since I can quickly see where I need more improvement. I discovered today that my lower body strength is not as poor as I thought since the longer steady climbs were easier than I expected and in some cases even easier than they are on my suspended and geared bikes. However, I definitely have a lot of work to do with "burst" power and upper body strength as the areas that gave me the most difficulty today were steep climbs that immediately followed speed-scrubbing turns and needing "burst" strength to lift the bike over the bigger uphill roots and rocks. All in all, the Dollar Bike is a lot of fun though and I look forward to re-exploring many more trails on it in the coming months.
Sometimes all it takes to make an old trail feel new is a change of bike. :-)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays Y'all!

The Holiday week started out as a last gasp of summer on Saturday and Sunday with highs in the 70s and 80s! So of course, we had to get the mountain bikes out and take Fry to the trail - which he naturally thought was just awesome.
It was quite pleasant to be able to ride through the creek without the water being freezing cold when it splashed up. And look - short sleeves in December!
The weather was so nice on Sunday that after our ride, I did a little sketching outside on the back deck,
while Fry played in the yard with Daddy.
Happiest. Doggy. Ever.
Today the weather was decidedly colder and definitely felt more like December. But since Steve finished putting my extra special birthday present together last evening and the rain finally stopped this morning, we took the new full rigid singlespeed "Dollar Bike" (thanks Kelly and Vanessa!) out for a test ride.
The "Dollar Bike"
What fun! I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy the carefree ease of riding my previous FR-SS (no gears or suspension or drivetrain to worry with) and it's so nice to have one again.
Frylie and Me with the "Dollar Bike"
Happy Holidays y'all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Very Special Birthday

What a fabulous day! Not only is it my birthday, but it's also the six-month anniversary since I first started painting and drawing. I got to spend the entire day (including the pre-birthday weekend!) painting. I pulled out all the stops and played around with a whole variety of media, making being in my fifties feel much more like being a very happy and carefree child.

On this, my six-month anniversary of art, I'm hopeful that there has been some growth and improvement over these past few months from first dipping my toe into the art world this past June.

I've very much enjoyed learning and painting over these past six months, and I'm looking forward to what the next six months brings!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Awesome article

This morning I read something that made such a wondrous and profound impression on me that I feel compelled to share it. Drew at Skinny Artist has written an article that has seriously made my day as a newbie "artist". So let me just say Thank You Drew!

The article is talking about amateur artists in general and their place in the world, and is linked here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spice of Life

If variety is the spice of life, then this weekend is starting out quite spicy indeed. I worked all last evening and pretty much the entire day today adding to my sketchbooks, using all types of media and combinations. I obviously have very, very much to learn and I am currently actively looking for a basic drawing class. But hopefully art is somewhat like biking where no time spent on the bike is wasted, and I trust that any time spent working in my sketchbooks is worthwhile. At the very least, it brings me tremendous joy, so I'm going to call it a win. :-)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Nitty Gritty

Not generally one to back down from a challenge, I've been working on figuring out how to handle pastels on slightly "grittier" sanded paper. My first attempts were ragged and I gave up perhaps a bit too quickly. Part of it was probably related to my failure to use blending tools and ending up with very sore fingers! So this week I've revisited the coarser grit papers to try some different techniques, with a combination of finger blending, applying barrier cream to my hands and/or wearing gloves, and the use of tools such as blending stumps. Smoothly and thoroughly blending a background color seems to make an easier surface for painting (at least for me!), but the coarse grit still holds the pastels nicely, I've found. This method also seems to help me work a little bit more loosely with the top layers, which is something I've struggled with and I'm really trying to improve on that.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - Pioneers - soft pastels on 500 sandpaper 4.5" x 5.5"
I've been using a combination of semi-hard pastels for earlier layers and finer details, and soft pastels for the looser top layers. I'm finding that I like the textured appearance the rougher sandpaper provides to grasses, trees and even clouds when I apply the top layers of pastels very lightly.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - Prime Time - soft pastels on Uart 240 sanded paper 6" x 6"
I also decided to try a couple of practice sessions using a monochromatic color palette on my sandpapers. First, I used only blues, leaving the dark charcoal grey of the sandpaper as the background color.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - Tangled Up In Blue - soft pastels on 500 sandpaper 4.5" x 5.5"
Next up was greys, again on the darker background. These pastels are all grey tones but interestingly I noticed just how strikingly different monochromatic colors can look depending on the shades placed next to them.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - Selene's Joy - soft pastels on 1000 sandpaper 4.5" x 5.5"
I'm continuing to enjoy learning pastels and am finding that sanded surfaces are incredibly versatile, offering a very nice range of effects, and experimenting with them is a lot of fun - I feel like a kid in a candy store!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Things Are Getting Sketchy!

Since picking up a couple of nice watercolor sketchbooks at Art of the Carolinas, I've been really trying to make a dedicated effort to sketching almost every day with at least one goal being to improve my painting. At some point I plan to take an actual class on drawing to make sure I'm doing the correct things, but for now, I'm certainly enjoying just trying the various media to do quick sketches, both from life and from my own imagination. I most often use pen markers with either fiber or brush tips and occasionally will sketch with watercolors or pencils. However, tonight I decided to give India ink a try, using watercolor washes along with it. I'm really enjoying this new medium and am excited to discover all the things I can do with it. :-)

I've also been working a lot with pen markers in my sketchbooks to try and teach myself to draw more quickly and hopefully with better looseness and free expression. The wider chisel-tipped and brush markers make it easier to cover larger sections of the page. But I try to use the smaller tipped markers as well, to make me think more about my mark-making and color choices. One thing I am definitely becoming quickly aware of is that I need to find some classes on color theory asap!

Friday, November 29, 2013

A New Day

Today dawned brightly sunny and crisp, setting the perfect mood for celebrating the one-year anniversary in our new home. Sitting in our living room, flooded with natural sunlight, while sipping my early morning coffee, I was inspired to finally christen the little Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I picked up at Art of the Carolinas using a mini portable watercolor pan paintset. I hope you enjoy this little landscape as much as I enjoyed painting it!
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - A New Day - watercolors on paper 5.5" x 8.5"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Enjoying the Journey

Having been involved in competitive ventures of some sort for most of the past 20 to 30 or so years of my life, whether in horsemanship, bicycling, tennis or other sports, I had grown to believe that success was determined solely by how well I scored, as judged by other people or a timer or some other such external measure. Not being very athletic by nature, this generally did not end well for me, as I never measured up to the others in my field, and I've spent far too much of my life feeling "less than" or inadequate. Never would I have believed something as simple as picking up a brush, pencil or pastel stick and putting it to canvas or paper would have had such a profound impact on me and how I view my world and existence. Nor would I have ever considered that being an absolute unskilled beginner at something with no real aspirations toward ever trying to measure up to anyone else's idea of "success" would have given me so much joy within myself.
I've only been painting for about five months now, but through the world of art, I feel like my mind's-eyes are already opening, allowing me to truly see for what feels like the very first time, every time I paint. For once, I'm not concerned with whether I'm "good enough" or "successful enough", or what anyone else thinks I should be or do to be "enough". When I paint, I am myself and that is, simply put, enough for me, right here, right now and it feels like home. There's a special kind of magic I feel when painting my own personal visions, whether from my dreams, the beauty of Mother Nature all around me, or even the quirky personality and lively spark of a precocious dog.

My artistic clumsiness is rivaled only by my enthusiasm for painting, but surprisingly enough for someone who has spent decades trying unsuccessfully to "measure up", I find an incredible sense of childlike abandon when I paint, no matter how the results turn out. And I feel like I truly am standing on the shoulders of giants when painting the magically wondrous natural world as I see it. Reveling in the pure joy of my oblivious beginner naivete, unfettered by worries about whether I'm "doing it right" or not, one thing I am learning firsthand when I paint is that the journey really IS the destination.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - On the Shoulders of Giants - soft pastels on 1000 sandpaper 4.5" x 5.5"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In My Dreams

I often find inspiration to paint from the hidden sanctuaries visited in my dreams. It is intriguing to me that these frequently have water elements in them which I find very calming during my dreams, yet in reality I have somewhat of a fear of large bodies of water. Color is another prominent component of many of my dreams. Sometimes they are soft and muted.  In other dreams, colors are abundant and vivid, almost to the point of harshness. Sometimes I dream of calm and serene locations, and other times of chaotic and visually noisy areas. And then other times, the scenes contain both chaos and calm. One common thread I find with most of the places I see in my dreams, though, is a tendency toward symmetry - perhaps a nod to obsessive-compulsive tendencies? Whatever my dreams may - or may not - mean on a deeper level, it's still always a joy to try to capture those flights of imagination by painting them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Dog is Awesome

My dog is awesome. He's paws-down the absolute best, most encouraging cycling coach ever. When I go too slow up the hills, he gives me that "hurry UP" look and sticks his tongue out at me..
He's happy to play in the creek when I want to take a short break from climbing...
Fry truly IS my "Cycle Dog".

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

True Grit

I've been trying out some of the Uart sanded pastel papers I got at Art of the Carolinas, and have really been enjoying them. I've also happily found that blending stumps perform quite nicely to easily work the pastels into the sandpaper, as does just a simple foam brush, with the added bonus of sparing my fingertips from the grit. On a whim, I've additionally been trying the pastels on plain sandpaper, which works well in a very, very fine grit, although it is not quite as sturdy as the Uart. Regular sandpaper is probably not pH-neutral and acid-free like the Uart paper, either, but for the little thumbnails I've been creating, it's not that big a deal. And it's been a lot of fun experimenting with all varieties of surfaces.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gimme Shelter?

Today's post is just a link because, frankly, if I think too hard about it, my heart will break and I'll start crying - again. And besides that, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. But I hope you'll visit Shannon Johnstone's site, take your time and look around it and really think about what these photos represent...

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Mom and I spent all day yesterday at the Art of the Carolinas expo, followed by a tour of several of the local art galleries at Art After Hours here in town. It was like a dream come true - entire days of painting, shopping for art supplies and visiting art galleries.  But it gets even better! While touring one of my favorite local galleries, Sunflower Studio, the owner asked Mom, Steve and me if we would be interested in being featured artists at a show there next fall! I nearly fainted because Linda's artists are truly talented, and doing a show at her gallery would be such an unbelievable honor. Luckily, my Mom (who is a lifelong professional artist) patiently went through all 150+ of my paintings today and helped pick out several that she considered "show-worthy" now, and also gave me some honest and helpful critique and tips to use in creating more work that will hopefully be even better by the time our show date is set.

In light of the potential show next fall, I'm really glad I made a few purchases at the expo - some more pastels, pastel surfaces, a drawing board and blending tools, and Mom even got me a fabulous tabletop easel box which will be perfect for classes and workshops! While at the expo, we also had a blast visiting the various vendor booths where we were able to try all kinds of media and surfaces, and were kindly given several samples of products including Prismacolor pens, Strathmore papers, Cretacolor pencils, and Sennelier watercolor paints, among others. I got so inspired with days of art immersion that I decided tonight to try my Mungyo Gallery Artist Soft Oil Pastels on the Strathmore Paper mixed media samples.

The oil pastels seemed to glide surprisingly easily onto the mixed media paper. But I am thrilled I decided to go ahead and buy the set of size 0 firm Colourshapers, as these were invaluable in blending the very small areas. They made easy work of precisely blending the pastels, especially on these small surfaces.

I still have so much to learn and a long way to go to feel really ready for a show, but fortunately my artist/musician mother and my photographer/framer husband will be the obvious Lead Artists, letting me share just a bit of the limelight. LOL. And hopefully by the time next fall rolls around, I'll be able to look back to where I am today and see tremendous improvement between now and then.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Out of My Comfort Zone and a Word of Thanks

So far most of my painting has focused more or less on landscape type subjects since my home is surrounded by many lovely natural spaces which afford an endless supply of spectacular scenery. And although my skill level is clearly not yet up to the task of doing the local landscapes justice, it is certainly fun to practice trying.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, another reason I've tended to focus on landscapes is because I've been a bit afraid of attempting to paint animals. It's scary thinking about trying to capture the personality of a living, breathing, sentient being, and up until now I've avoided trying to tackle such a difficult subject. However, there is no time like the present, so I decided to just go ahead and give it a try. Expressive, beautiful and mysterious, cats are also, I believe, an extremely difficult subject to paint. My own kitty, Venus, watched over me while I painted today (as she always does), and being able to watch her while I worked and catch the nuances of her expressions and movements was a huge help to me. I'm very excited to continue practicing sketching and painting animals, and hopefully eventually gaining the ability to truly capture the expressiveness and spirit of these wondrous beings.

As for the Word of Thanks - It was pure serendipity that I discovered the website of an author and artist located thousands of miles away. I have never met Robert Sloan and likely never will, but his kindness and willingness to help a struggling beginner artist has given me so much. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support, providing useful and compassionate critique along with expert advice and suggestions. His reviews on art supplies have helped me figure out the best and most cost effective materials for my current skill level, and his kind but honest feedback is invaluable in helping me grow as an artist. I'm sure I also speak for countless other thousands of artists who have benefited from his willingness to share his knowledge, both through his website and on the Wet Canvas forums when I offer Robert a tremendous and heartfelt Thank You!

Now in my fifth month of drawing and painting, I've found both the art community and especially creating art itself to be such a source of joy. My only regret is missing out for over 50 years! Now that I've discovered the world of art and how wonderfully therapeutic it is, I can't imagine letting a week go by without drawing or painting. And even if everyone in the entire universe should feel that I'm the worst artist ever, that is totally okay with me - yes, I'm having that much fun!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


The past couple of weeks have been more or less a blur, as I've been painting like a woman possessed. It's been so liberating to just let my imagination loose, with permission to be the total clumsy beginner that I am, having no expectations of creating a "masterpiece" and thus no disappointments. Slowly I've been adding to my pastel collections as I've discovered they are a beautifully expressive medium - I only wish I could afford all the colors! Of course, I've continued also to work with acrylics, watercolors and the various watercolor, pastel and colored pencils. I've even been working on learning how to create Notans using brush pens, and sat on the front porch swing sketching in between visits by trick-or-treaters on Halloween since it was such a nice evening to be outside.

Skill - or lack thereof - aside, drawing and painting have given me a whole new appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me everyday. I'm fortunate to live in an area abundant with preserved natural spaces, and I have such a sense of wonder and awe when I see what a master artist Nature herself is. My very limited talent clearly is no match for the glorious natural world, but there is so much joy in continuing to try to give my own clumsy interpretation of her raw beauty.

Perhaps someday I'll learn enough and develop sufficient skill to be considered a "real" artist, but in the meantime I'm enjoying being a total amateur beginner with no current aspirations toward becoming a professional or creating gallery-worthy works. I'd certainly love to find a local art instructor, however, especially for pastels, just to help refine my technique so I could create artwork a little more worthy of the beauty I see.

But in the end, drawing and painting currently, and probably always will, serve primarily as a peaceful retreat for my own soul no matter how amateurish and technically lacking the resulting works may turn out. And that's okay by me. :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Years

It seems like only yesterday when, still grieving from the loss of my precious Spyder, I learned of a cute little hound who had been rescued from a starvation/ abandonment situation and was in desperate need of a permanent home. I really thought I'd be able to take some time to process both my loss and my readiness for a new dog, but barely managed to survive a week in a dogless house. So on November 4, 2010 Steve and I drove to the foster's home to meet Fry, and it was love at first sight. That sweet face and gentle nature! Something in my heart softly said "yes" and I knew adopting Fry was what Spyder would have wanted me to do.
It's been three years now, and Fry has solidly wedged himself into my life, his little pawprints permanently etched on my heart right next to Spyder's. For me, a home without a dog is just a house and I don't ever want to live in just a house. Fry has settled into our little family as snugly as can be, and his whole-body-wag greeting at the end of a long day at work makes my entire spirit smile.
He's my companion, my guardian and my friend, happily accompanying me everywhere from the hiking trail to the lake to the bike trail and back again.
Just like Spyder before him, Fry makes our family complete. 
Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Always With Me

My Dearest Spyder,

It was three years ago that you transitioned across the Rainbow Bridge, but your loving and sweet spirit is, as always, here with me. I miss you and think of you often, and know that someday we will be together again on the Other Side.
 I trust you are resting peacefully, held tenderly in Love and Puppy Kisses.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Following My Heart

I was seriously considering racing the 6 Hours of Briar Chapel in a couple of weeks - and even had a teammate lined up - but after much thought, I've had a change of heart and believe at this point in my life I'd stand to benefit much more from taking an art workshop instead. This was confirmed by a conversation with my potential teammate today who, unbeknownst to me prior, is an artist! While she and I both love to mountain bike and enjoy endurance racing, neither one of us has been training at all nor really even riding much in general lately. Combining that with the fact that this race does not offer a female duo category, we'd have to compete against the men, so this would just end up being a largely recreational ride for us. With all that in mind, we both agreed that since we'd effectively be entering the race merely in order to casually ride the trail, we could do that anytime (with the added bonus of not having to pay an entry fee to basically ride for fun only).

She also mentioned to me that she had taken several art workshops in the past herself, and found they offered immeasurable rewards for anyone looking to hone their skills in drawing and painting. I realize I only began dabbling in art barely four months ago, so my artwork is obviously still very much at the total beginner amateur end of the scale. But true to my impatient nature, I've been feeling like I desperately need some guidance to help me progress. As such, I think the chance to get some hands-on instruction from professionals is something I really can't and shouldn't pass up. And as luck would have it, several art class and workshop opportunities with accomplished artists are coming available here locally in the coming weeks (some coinciding with the timing of the previously mentioned race), so it seems pretty clear to me where my heart is leading.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Return to Brunswick

The Brunswick Brawl Mountain Bike Race was today, and I once again entered the 3-Hour class. I didn't make the cutoff time for a fourth lap so had to settle for three laps again this year on the 9-mile course, just like the 2012 event. However, I did manage to cut a half-hour off my last year's time and still got a third podium spot (out of five entries with some incredible female riders) including cash payout! Also, the weather and trail were just perfect, so all in all I'd call it a very good day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pushing Myself - Just a Little

The weather was lovely for mountain biking today and somehow I managed to scrape up just a tad of courage to try and see if I still remembered how to jump my bike. I'm surprised - and pleased! - to say I still do, at least a little.
Yes, that is air under the wheels of this old lady's bike!
I think the most pleasant surprise for me was the fact that I actually felt comfortable doing this little jump. And yes, I know the jump is teency-tiny, but I don't care. I did it, I had fun doing it, and I'm proud of my normally very hesitant self for trying it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Branching Out

I've been having so much fun drawing and painting with my ever-expanding collection of various art media -- watercolor, Gouache and acrylic paint; graphite and colored pencils; charcoal; and pastel pencils -- I figured why not give pastels a try as well, and decided to go ahead and pick up some small sets of those. After serendipitously finding a very encouraging website authored by Robert Sloan, and then another site he recommended by Karen Margulis,I'm looking forward to putting my new acquisitions to paper this weekend!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Soapbox Time

I think if I hear one more person refer to a mountain bike race - endurance or otherwise - as a "sufferfest", I may just snap and smack somebody across the head.

To those of you who think racing your mountain bike is "suffering", let me explain a few things to you. Having the opportunity to spend a few hours (or a day or two) just riding your bike is not suffering. That is a privilege. It's something you chose (and most likely paid) to do. The simple fact that you are fortunate enough to have the time, money and physical ability to do it is something you should be grateful for, not disparage.

There are plenty of people in this world who truly are suffering (many of whom could only dream of having the chance or ability to spend a whole day, or even an hour, riding a bicycle) and you call something fun like a bike race suffering?

Worse, if you're calling these events "sufferfests" just so you'll seem all badass for doing them, well in my humble opinion, that's a pitifully sad testament to your self-image and I hope in time you'll learn that you're perfect just as you are, and there is no need to thump your chest in false bravado as a feeble attempt to try to impress the rest of us.

Maybe I'm just getting old and senile, but as the years go by, I realize how fortunate I am to still be able to ride and even race a little, and it hurts my heart to think about how much time I wasted in my youth not being grateful for what I had. So I would hope that you'd appreciate the treasure before you when you head out to the trail to ride or race your bike and be thankful for the wondrous gift you've been given and to realize what a remarkable individual you are simply by being you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


As I had noted in a previous post, my artwork is a very personal thing for me and I paint and draw primarily because it makes me happy. However, I'm honored and humbled to have discovered over the past couple of weeks that apparently my creations bring joy to others as well since I've sold a few pieces! I put the money to very good use by replenishing some of my supplies and I've been happily painting and drawing all week, mixing things up as the mood strikes me with acrylics, soft pastels and pastel pencils, colored pencils, and even a touch of pen.

I cannot offer enough thanks to all the very wonderful experienced and extremely talented artists out there who so generously offer their expertise in a multitude of ways: posting free tutorial videos, kindly responding to questions about their craft, and generating helpful newsletter articles - their advice, inspiration and knowledge have been a veritable treasure trove of knowledge and I am forever in their debt.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

6 Hours of Tanglewood

Today was the 6 Hours of Tanglewood mountain bike race. I was originally going to sign up solo since I couldn't find any local ladies interested in partnering up for a duo. However, luckily I found an awesome teammate on the biketriad forum (my teammate's hubby has some amazing photos and video of the race posted there as well). I had never met Laura in person prior to this race, although we had emailed a couple of times over the past year. Turns out I could not have asked for a better female duo partner, and we had a terrific race, taking second place only a lap behind the first place team (who I heard were pros!), and a lap ahead of third and fourth place.
The trails at Tanglewood were a lot of fun - tight and twisty, with some very fast sections, a few log crossings, smatterings of rocks, some offbeat bridges and short steep climbs throughout, with a nice flat finishing stretch.
I had an incredible time, and hopefully Laura and I will be teaming up again soon!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


If I do say so myself, Steve and I make a pretty good team. While I've been busy painting, he's been honing his talents at hand-making wood frames (he has also become quite skilled at cutting mats, I might add). He does some very impressive work - taking raw wood and turning it into gorgeous fully finished handcrafted frames. In my humble opinion, his beautiful handiwork gives a delightfully clean and finished look to my canvases and I'm thrilled with the results.

Below is a close-up look at the acrylic-on-canvas Fairytale Forest Series in their new custom handmade wooden frames that Steve built, stained, varnished and attached all backing and hanging hardware himself. How lucky am I to have such a talented husband who makes my works look so nicely finished?!
Fairytale Forest Series Closeup ©2014 Tammy Kaufman
Here they are hanging on the wall:
Fairytale Forest Series ©2014 Tammy Kaufman
I hope to have more of our handiwork posted soon!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Thing

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying "Do one thing every day that scares you", so to follow her advice, I'm working on setting up an online gallery of my paintings which I plan to link to from this blog. This is a really scary thing to me, putting my heart and soul out there like that (sort of like the awkward old nightmare where you show up at work or school only to discover you forgot to get dressed first!), so I hope anyone reading this blog and eventually seeing the gallery once it's up will be kind, at least at first. I don't know that I'm ready just yet for actual true constructive criticism since painting has thus far actually been more of a sort of "healing" activity for me. And let's be honest, at this point I think I'd almost prefer to be lied to and told I'm not a terrible artist (I still cringe and feel so undeservedly arrogant even calling myself that). But I'm going to give it a go anyway, thanks to the motivation to do so from some very supportive established online artists - a tremendous thank you for the encouragement goes out to,, et al. Hopefully before too long I'll feel like I've developed enough experience and confidence to handle true critiquing, both positive and negative. Heck, depending on how long it winds up taking me to get the artwork photographed and uploaded, maybe even by the time the gallery is up and running.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Washing Away the Dust of Everyday Life

While fully realizing I am a Beginner - with a capital B - I finally managed to summon the courage to share my elementary attempts at painting and drawing with a handful of friends and coworkers. And I was surprised to find that they apparently did like some of my creations. As these are people I trust to be honest with me, I believe they were actually giving me their genuine opinions and not just trying to avoid hurting my feelings.

I'm still discovering my own style, so many of my drawings and paintings are kind of all over the place, from realism to impressionism and everything in between and beyond, but I'm having a lot of fun "finding myself" in the world of art. During this journey, I am forever grateful to all the artists out there who have so kindly published free online video tutorials. I've learned so incredibly much watching and following along with them, and the tips and techniques they've shared have been invaluable.
I've been jokingly called "Grandma Moses" because I discovered art at an older age, and have already done more than 50 drawings and paintings in less than two months, but I can only hope to end up being as prolific - and talented - as she was! I have, however, been finding this activity to be a freeing and relaxing experience that somehow seems to make every day better. Pablo Picasso once said "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life", and I am certainly finding that to be true for me.

Obviously, I'm still very much a beginner, but I don't recall any activity I've ever attempted where being a novice was so incredibly much fun. Even if I never, ever develop any real talent or skill for drawing and painting, that's okay. This is my own personal haven; my creations are really just for me and don't have to please anyone else or meet anyone else's expectations. Art has become such a wonderful refuge from the everyday that I can no longer imagine my life without it, no matter where my skill level - or lack thereof - may lie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's a Bird...

It's a plane. It's a...


Yes, that's right. We have a flying squirrel taking up residence in our previously unused bluebird house. It's adorable and we hope to get a photo of it soon.


“Why don’t you believe you deserve to be happy?”

It was a simple, logical question, but one I at first didn’t understand. So I just sat there, not sure how to reply to my well-meaning friend’s very open and honest query as to why I seemed to consistently sabotage my opportunities for joy and fulfillment. And then suddenly, one memory from a childhood I barely recall came to the surface. I saw myself as a small child of perhaps five years, so proud of my stuffed teddy bear and wanting to show it off on a home movie. But instead, I was relegated to the background so my family could instead video my vibrantly flamboyant and outgoing three-year-old sister dancing while I was laughed at and minimized for not being comfortable trying to dance myself. I adored my sister then, as I do now and always will, but as a small child I couldn’t understand why not being like her seemed to mean I wasn’t as good?

This brief and painful memory was soon followed by more.

Being ridiculed publicly when I was unable to “hold it” longer than I was capable of while out shopping and had an accident, again as a small child, and my shame of having the attention of strangers brought to me for losing bladder control. Especially since I had been asking to go to the restroom for hours previously, but kept being told “after we look at one more rack of clothes”.

Being the only kid at school who made the Honor Society who had not one single family member show up to the induction ceremony. The parents of one of the other kids were kind enough to invite me to join them when they saw me sitting all alone, but I still vividly recall the feelings of being embarrassed, emotionally naked and abandoned.

Having my family and their friends mimic me when I mispronounced their friend’s nickname. They may have thought they were laughing “with” me, but as a young child, it most definitely left me feeling that I was being laughed “at” and held up for ridicule – I never recalled hearing the word “cute” associated with the laughter.

And the uncomfortable, twisting in my chair, memories continued on briefly until thankfully they began to subside and I was able to give a little more thought to my friend’s original question. I realize now as a middle aged woman that my family surely loved me and never intended to make me feel insignificant or not good enough. And I would venture that the embarrassing, belittling experiences I had as a child were merely extensions of what those adult family members themselves had been subjected to during their childhood, a sort of perpetuation of a sad emotional downward spiral passed from generation to generation. So I don’t blame my family – I do, however, feel sympathy for them because I know how hurtful those experiences were for me when I was young and it had to be the same for them as well when they were children.

As painful as recalling those memories has been, though, I’m glad some of them resurfaced after all these years. Because now I’m beginning to understand a little bit more about myself. What I began to comprehend was that a childhood filled with feelings of being insignificant, minimized, inadequate and unable to compete apparently has transcended into my adult life and in some weird way has caused me to believe that I have to always feel that way and that success, achievement and accomplishment are not options available to me. I think by realizing that, I'm hopefully now going to be able to take the first steps toward resolution and understanding that what I perceived as a child is not necessarily the reality, and that those perceptions are not set in stone as to how they have to continue. 

More importantly, recalling those memories is helping me learn to have more compassion toward myself. For the first time, I was actually able to see myself as a child – a small, helpless, bewildered, embarrassed child who felt minimized and insignificant. And I wanted to take my younger self into my arms and hold her and tell her everything was going to be okay. And that she is important, she does matter, and she is just right the way she is, precious imperfections and all.

I wanted to tell my younger self – and my current self too – to always remember the Buddha’s wise and beautiful words:

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fun with Frylie

What could be better than an amazing trail dog? Fry offers encouragement...
You can do it Mom!
This is the line
Yep, our boy has it all!

Life's a Beech

So while I was lounging around at home being lazy this weekend (other than a quick ride at San Lee, some housecleaning and a little painting), Steve was up at Beech Mountain for the downhill race. Below is the GoPro footage of his practice run Sunday morning. Of particular note is that his actual race run was about a minute faster than practice, and no trees were harmed during his race run...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nature's Bounty

I'm not sure if it was the fantastic mulch we bought from The Mulch Masters, the ratio of sun and shade our back yard receives, the quality of plants we purchased, plain old good luck, or more likely some combination of all the above, but our tomato harvest this season has been nothing short of astounding.

We've lost virtually no produce to disease or pests this year even with the excessive rain we've experienced recently, and our cherry tomato plants have soared to well over 10 feet in height!
Pretty much every single day we bring in plenty not only for ourselves, but enough to share with our neighbors as well. The cherry plants are exceptionally high producers, but we particularly enjoy those so more often than not they get consumed as soon as they are rinsed; that's the reason that bowl looks so sparse in the photo.
Looking forward to what this fall's harvest holds in store and hoping for similar success with the autumn plants.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I'm really enjoying the Air9 - this bike simply rocks.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Despite not having a natural talent for it, I'm surprisingly finding painting, sketching and drawing more and more to be my salvation. It's peace during times of chaos, courage standing up to fear, and comfort in the face of loneliness. Just picking up a brush, pencil or charcoal and applying it to a blank awaiting page or canvas is simultaneously terrifying and yet liberating in some strange and wonderful way. But each time I face the challenge, regardless of how amateurish the outcome, my spirit seems to reawaken.
I continue to - and likely always will - keep my sketches and paintings reserved for my eyes only, but their purpose right now is to soothe my own soul. And putting my creations out into the universe for judgment and criticism is not, at this time, what my spirit needs or wants. There may be a day when I reach that level of courage, but today is not that day. My little studio itself has undergone some minor arrangement and organizational adjustments as I'm discovering what is more convenient, comfortable and conducive to the creative process by way of trial and error, but is now truly becoming an art sanctuary for me.

Monday, July 8, 2013


I don’t like feeling inadequate. I don’t like perpetually feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my many, MANY shortcomings and failings. I don’t like being trapped in an endless cycle of discouragement and disappointment and being unable to see any way out. And I really don’t like crying when others can see me, especially about stupid pointless things, and particularly in front of people who don’t really even know anything about me. I don’t like feeling the overwhelming pain screaming I’m not good enough, I will never be good enough, that the hurting is all purely my fault and there is nothing I can do about it. But the door appears closed tight and I can't find any way to open it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

First Impressions

I've had the opportunity to take the new Air9 out for a couple of "get-to-know-you" trail rides over the past few days and as much as I hate to sound like an advertisement, the truth is Niner really knows their stuff when it comes to nailing mountain bike geometry. At least as far as when it comes to what I am looking for in a bike. Steve did an excellent job of matching my bike fit to the Rip, and we only had to make a couple of tiny saddle position adjustments to get my knee and hip correctly aligned. We set up the Air9 with the G2 fork I already had and bumped up the travel to 100 mm and the bike just rocks with that setup, plain and simple, and is seriously fun to ride! Once I got back into the zone of riding a hardtail again, i.e. standing up a bit more and letting my legs provide more of the suspension work, I didn't really even notice the rocks or roots.
This bike handled like an absolute dream just as I have come to expect from a Niner, equally as nice as my Rip9 - and that is saying something because I LOVE my Rip. Fast, responsive, incredibly confidence-inspiring, quick yet stable, and a pure climbing machine, the Air also rails the corners with tight crisp handling, even for me with my substantial lack of biking skills. As with the Rip9, I can only imagine what this Air9 could do in truly capable hands...

Sunday, June 30, 2013


I asked Fry how much fun he had running with us on the bike trail...
 Time for a nap now?
Or would you rather just hang out in the recliner?
Who's my gorgeous boy?