Much to my room mate's chagrin, I've picked up a new hobby... couponing. I've tried couponing years ago, but I gave up on it because I couldn't keep track of the coupons, their expiration dates and I usually left my coupons at home forgetting to bring them with me when I went shopping. It didn't seem to me that the effort was worth the minimal savings, plus I was buying items that we didn't use or need just because I had found a coupon.
So then I spent a few days researching the whole concept of couponing, how and why it works, and how to best apply coupons to save money. I've joined a great website, PracticalSaver.com, and have used it to learn about couponing.
How coupons work and how to get the best deals
What I do:
My First Week of Couponing: I've only just started, but we went shopping this morning and, with the information I've learned plus the few coupons I have so far, we lowered our grocery bill from $80.65 to 41.25. Not bad, but I am pretty sure my numbers will improve as I amass more coupons and build enough of a stockpile to buy only at major sales.
Thanks to Kara at Practicalsaver.com , for all of the information on her website and Youtube video, upon which most of my couponing stragegy is based!
We saw The Avengers the other day. I think the movie runs for two hours and 15 minutes, and the last half of the movie makes the first half worth it (a lot of character development, not usually my favorite part of the movie).
Overall though I really liked the movie. You can totally tell Joss Whedon directed the movie, with the clever lines and spot-on comedy bits.
Stay through the credits, there is an Easter Egg at the end.
My room mate literally forced me to watch the season premiere of America's Got Talent. I had stopped watching the show, especially during last season. I just found the show to become very offensive. I remember Piers Morgan hitting the buzzer "just to see if you'd mess up." He did this during acts where performers could have gotten injured. From that point on, I had judged the show to be too negative for my taste.
Then they announced Howard Stern would be Piers' replacement. I've never been a fan of Stern, and thought the show would take an even more negative turn.
I was in for a pleasant surprise. I found Stern to be an excellent judge. Even when there were horrible acts, he remained respectful and even positive and funny. I get the feeling the producers of the show realized it had become too negative. The difference is noticeable. At any rate, the show is back on my viewing list.
One other thing I noticed with this premiere. There haven't been as many sob stories. Don't get me wrong, everybody cried, and with the tears came vivid stories. But in years past, it seemed the only way to get to the last show was to either have a crippling disease, have a parent with a crippling disease, or had a loved one that passed away due to a crippling disease. Not so much this year.
Yeah maybe I'm jaded. Just sayin'.
I've been reading online reviews of the show. The ratings aren't as good this year, and now folks are suggesting that Stern "may be too nice." So chances are, he may (either on his own or at the instruction of the show's producers) get nastier. Once that happens, I'll stop watching.
I was playing around on Google maps and looked up the house my family lived in from 6th grade until my Junior year in college. My room mate and I have been going through some serious bouts of nostalgia, which, for me, is a totally alien experience. I've never been beholden to the past in any way. I can't imagine going to my high school reunion (or college, or nursing school for that matter). But last night, I wondered what this house looked like and remembered that Google maps has pictures.
One of our neighbors from years ago installed a huge water fountain in their front yard. My god was it an eyesore. I saw in Google maps that it has since been removed. But other than that, most of the old neighborhood is unchanged except for the fact that peach trees I watched my father plant as saplings are twenty feet tall. The two trees in our front yard are huge now. But architecturally, the house is unchanged.
Looking at the house, I remember the window in the upper left corner, and the small window you see on the side, led to my bedroom. The two windows below were to our living room, where I spent many hours practicing classical piano. Looking at the house in google maps and then rendering it in art really brought back some memories:
Oh those were the days.
Here's the same house as above but rendered in Rembrandt soft pastels:
Well that rally didn't last very long. It didn't feel right from the start (April 25 2012). After Investors Business Daily called the beginning of the rally, none of the stocks I was looking at took off, and several fell. I personally think any rally at this point would be suspect unless the market indices take a noticable downturn from here. Cash for now.
I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. I've had a fascination for watching instructional videos about watercolor and painting in general. With our most recently purchased internet-connected television, I'm able to watch YouTube (in full 50" glory) directly from the TiVo screen. I've been watching more of these then I have of regular television.
It reminds me of how much I liked watching episodes of Bob Ross' Joy of Painting on public TV. In an interview, Ross said that his technique was not "fine art" in the academic sense, because what was important was not the final product, but rather the creative experience of the artist.
I really like that.
This painting is my answer to the most recent "watercolor challenge" at Wetcanvas.com. I worked from a reference photograph, taken in a village called Godshill, somewhere in England. I'm particularly happy with it because I am not very skilled in rendering buildings. It's nice to see that all the websites I've read about two-point perspective have actually paid off - the buildings appear to be rendered accurately. I sketched the buildings' edges and roofs with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils, and handbrushed everything else using my usual pan paints.
Random scene... inspired by Fountain Hills AZ
Moleskine watercolor notebook (opened)
I had dinner a week ago with my Brother in Law, Adam, from Maryland. I had worked a night shift the day before, so after an afternoon of sleep, we were off to Fountain Hills to enjoy an evening of tapas at a wonderful restaurant: Sofritas.
It has been a while since my last visit to Fountain Hills, and the evening was so inviting, eating our meal over the course of three hours on their patio, I decided to come back the next morning to do some plein air painting.
I didn't do anything really spectacular, I was sort of freaked out by the number of people walking around, and felt too self-conscious, so just quickly did a watercolor sketch of some trees, and experimented with the mountains to my right. But it's my first attempt to paint "across the fold" in my watercolor, for a more pronounced landscape look.
I have the weekend off, and my recent order from Utrecht's Art Supply had arrived: a set of soft pastels and a pad of pastel paper. I plan on breaking them in soon.
As the weather turns to more Spring-like conditions, my room mate's thoughts once again turn to the cultivation of tomatoes. Last year, he had a couple of plants and he ended up with 3-4 tomatoes the size of small grapes, but they were indeed delicious.
This year, on a trip to our Fry's Grocery Store, he spotted a couple of tomato plants drying out in front of the entrance. Didn't look like anyone had been watering it. So he took them home and he's been watering them. We now have 4-5 green tomatoes about the size small plums. They haven't ripened yet, and thankfully, the weather has not yet turned so hot that they turn into hay. So we're hoping for a good harvest -- or at least a few tomatoes a bit larger than grapes.