San Francisco Weather – Summer is Cold.

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I have lived in San Francisco now for about 5 years. For 10 months of that, I lived in the East Bay in the sometimes significantly warmer Berkeley, and have lived in various parts of San Francisco including the Inner Sunset, Outer Sunset, Alamo Square and a short stint in the Mission.

I am also a part of a website called Postcrossing. (It is amazing, I get and send postcards all over the world and have a wonderful time learning about other people’s way of life. )

9 times out of 10 when I receive a card, someone mentions something about ‘staying cool’ or ‘what lovely weather you must have in California!’

Yeah, if I was in LA or San Diego Maybe. But its July and I’m cold.

Northern California – specifically San Francisco has a climate very much unlike the climate of what everyone assumes the climate of all California is -warm and sunny always. Beach bonfires. Ladies in Bikinis. VENICE BEACH! Well those who don’t know anything about the climate of Northern California – I shouldn’t assume.

THIS is California:


But what they don’t realize is that there is a huge difference between Southern CA (seen above) and Northern California – especially when it comes to climate.

San Francisco is very unique in that we have many many Microclimates and even submicroclimates and essentially our year is backward.

So I’m going to get a few things straight.

If it is Late May – Late/Mid August – tell me to bundle up.

Mid August/Early September through early November?  – tell me to stay cool!

December – April? – Tell me to stay dry! and warm!

Like I said, the weather is backward. While the rest of the country has a pretty standard climate, things in San Francisco are San Francisco Standard.

January – April-ish = Historically we, though over the last few years, in case you didn’t know, we’re in a major drought. This year, thankfully, was an El Nino year. It rained! It rained so much! But a lot of rain here is like nothing elsewhere. Between June 2015 and June 2016, we had a whopping 72 days of rain -most of which were in December, January, and March! That is so much rain! Well it isn’t… but it is! From all of those rain days, we only received 23.17 inches of rain. I used this chart. It was also cold. Cold and Rainy.

[As a side note, I grew up in Northwestern PA where summers were just weeks of straight downpours. San Francisco rarely has a day of downpour. usually its a somewhat steady rain for a few hours and then its done]

[Another side note. When I say cold, it does get into the upper 30s F at night in the winter and even in the summer it can still go down to the upper 40s (last night the low was 48). But the highs can be in the upper 40s in the winter and 60s in the ‘summer’. 60 in SF is colder than 60 elsewhere. There is wind and a bone chilling cold in the air. We’ve had friends leave their 60 degree weather in Boulder in a T-shirt and pants and arrive in SF’s 60 degree weather and need a coat. It’s weird. I don’t get it, but its true.

We’re still in this massive drought.

So staying dry, never an issue. It is ridiculously dry here.

May – mid August-ish = Winter.  Late June, we had a 9:30 PM softball game out by the Golden Gate Bridge. My outfit: Thick work out pants (which weren’t thick enough), a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, hoodie, coat, a hat and gloves.

You might just be saying that I lost my ability to handle cold weather. And while that might partially be true, it was also just plain cold. And the wind. Oh the wind.

Wind is an essential part of SF summer.23-25 mph winds are normal. Sometimes it gusts to 30-35. Sometimes we get a reprieve and it is only 15-20 mph. And the wind itself is cold. It is whipping off of the ocean full of water that flows straight from the arctic area!

Here is a screenshot of the morning temperatures using the SF Climate app from last week:


Late August – Mid November (usually) = Summer time! This is the time where we get our warm days. Usually mid to upper 70s to mid 80s. When I first moved here we had few 85+ days but since then they have become more prevalent and so have 90+ degree days. Though it still cools off quickly after around 3pm.

This is the most wonderful time to visit San Francisco. Before the rain falls (hopefully) and after the summer chill has burned away and the fog hangs out elsewhere.

Not all of SF is frigid in the summer. Because of the many microclimates, the temperature can change from neighborhood to neighborhood. For example, I live in Alamo Square. It is a central neighborhood in SF and when I left my house last Friday, it was warm. I could walk outside with a t-shirt and pants and be comfortable. But when I got off the bus near my job – 3 miles toward the ocean in the inner sunset, it  was 12 degrees cooler, foggy, and windy. I didn’t take a heavy enough sweater. Great neighborhoods to thaw out are the Mission, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, and SOMA.

Again, around 3-5pm this changes and the fog and wind really move in and cover the rest of San Francisco with its chilly blanket.

The SF Chronicle actually wrote a good article on the microclimates (and why we have them) of the San Francisco Bay Area – definitely read it. It’s important.

July, probably       Credit –  Dima Barsky

Also the fog is named Karl.






Did you even read it?

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With my Fulbright application submitted (I was not recommended past stage one) and a less stressful job, I now have more free time for me things. I love that I have this free time and can use it to be creative and to do things that make me happy and don’t just add stress to my life.

I decided that since I have this free time, I would actually follow through with completing a course on either Coursera or I chose a writing course on called English Grammar and Essay Writing through Berkeley. I know that it is geared more toward ESL speakers and writers, but knew that it would at least ensure I was started writing more frequently.

But something happened today that made me rethink following through with the homework portion of this class. This week’s prompt was the following:

“Write a paragraph that describes your favorite place to visit in your home village, town, or city. Try to make your grammar as correct as you can.”

Not too difficult – I can do that even with boring old Townville as the subject since that is what was asked – writing about my favorite place to visit in my home village, town or city.

This was my response:

“Townville, Pennsylvania is not an exciting hometown to visit. With a population of only 300 it certainly lacks typical activities that most would consider a favorite place to visit. My favorite thing to do when I visit my home? Nothing. I love taking long walks in the woods, or if it is snowing going cross country skiing, taking in the silence of the middle of nowhere. I don’t need to go visit a million people and do a million things. I just need a warm coat, boots or skis, and my two little dogs to keep me company in our quiet corner of northwestern Pennsylvania.”

As I re-read it after submitting, I did notice my grammatical errors, but the content, to me, seemed to meet the criteria of the prompt –  I wrote about my favorite thing to do in my tiny home village. I did use the word visit WAY too much.

After submitting, you then had to peer review 5 other students. Fine. I understand that – everyone wants and needs feedback. I read 5 submissions that were a bit all over the place, but 3 of them stood out as strong and covered the topic required.

The others went on a complete tangent about their travel style or a vacation they just went on – completely ignoring the question and one of which had terrible grammar (though I think it may have been because it was submitted on a phone or some device that doesn’t allow capitalization or spaces between sentences).

Guess what? That was my number one feedback, too. I didn’t cover the topic in the prompt.

And this, my friends, is where the frustration and anger began and where my desire to complete the ‘homework’ went out the window. Yes I will write, but no I don’t want someone peer editing my work if they aren’t giving constructive feedback.

One of the reviewers graded me “fair” and wrote the following:

“If Pennsilvania is not exciting why didn´t you write something from a place you like. I think you write very fluently and well”

1. You can copy and paste Pennsylvania from my paragraph. 2. I didn’t write about another place because I was told to write about my hometown… which I did. Sorry if you think it is a made-up town. I assure you it is very real if very small. 3. I didn’t say I didn’t like it, I just said it wasn’t exciting. Places don’t have to be exciting for someone to like them. 4. Yes I am fluent. English is my native language. Thank you for giving me constructive feedback on the commas I was missing or changing vocabulary. If I wrote so well, why did you just give me “fair”? Is it because I offended you with my boring hometown? Or again, do you not think it exists?

Another person flat out said I didn’t cover what the prompt asked. That was the only thing they said. I also think I threw them off with the question in the middle of the paragraph, which isn’t a mistake.

Did you even READ what I wrote? I’m going to say no, no you did not.

I’m just a bit frustrated and amused that I’m actually receiving a grade based on this peer review (I got a 5/10 because two of my 4 reviews were ‘fair’). If I was paying for the actual certificate, I would be even more angered that my final grade incorporates the feedback of peers who apparently don’t understand the prompts or how to give constructive feedback.

I guess we’ll see what happens after next week’s homework assignment. If I even do it.

It’s a new dawn, It’s a new day, It’s a … new year

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I’m not making promises this time. I keep doing that and then not living up to them on here, so no promises unless its a promise to post something and then not post something again for a few months. I could keep that promise. I have historical proof!

It’s a new year and with that usually comes a laundry list of “resolutions” which I throw out after a month and never stick to.

This year I’m following in the footsteps of Rachael Caringella who is an amazing artist that I’ve been following for about 4 years now. You can find her here at Tree Talker Art. She has been choosing a word of the year for a few years now instead of creating lists of resolutions. She talks about her 2016 word of the year here.

After reading her post, I felt really inspired by that idea. Instead of creating that list of things to accomplish and then not living up to it and becoming disappointed in myself, I wanted to choose a word that would inspire my actions in 2016.

My word of 2016 is CREATE.

IMG_1950 (2)

Enter high-school graduation speech quote here:

“Webster’s dictionary defines create :

Create (v):
a. To make or produce something from imaginative skill
b. To cause something to happen as a result of one’s actions ”

yada yada yada…

I chose this word because it can be used in many facets of my life.

I can create new artwork both for myself and for the Etsy shop that I want to create.

I can create a healthier lifestyle by my actions. Those actions being getting active more often, taking walks at work, exercising, eating healthier, etc. Instead of starring at a piece of paper that says that I want to “Work out 5 days a week” or “lost 10 lbs in 2 months”, I’m looking at getting healthy as a new lifestyle. Integrating MORE activity, better foods, and a good work life balance into my every day self.

I’m pushing myself to create art, but not putting a number on it. I’m terrible at numbers and forced creation. For example, I tried doing a 31 day drawing challenge in October. It was really fun and I got some practice in, but some days I wasn’t feeling it and it was forced and fast and I didn’t spend enough time on them. Saying I want to paint at least 3 landscapes a month just won’t happen and I know that because I’ve tried setting similar goals. And then inevitably feel bad about not even getting one thing done or focusing on a different art project.

This year, I will just create. Whatever comes to mind. Whatever I feel inspired to do that day – I’ll do just that. No forced topics, no to-do lists. No feeling bad for spending 48-55 hours scrapbooking and binge watching Nurse Jackie and 0 hours painting. I was creating and that’s what matters (this is how I spent my first 3 days of 2016).

The year is young and I am excited to see how using a word of the year to replace my resolutions will go. I have a good feeling about this.


On painting

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I’m sitting here watching paint dry. Literally. Just watching paint dry.

I haven’t painted much over the last year. My creativity and drive to paint comes and goes – mostly it just goes. Lately I’ve been trying to spend more and more time drawing and painting. I tried taking a drawing class, but it was less structured than what I wanted and needed, so I didn’t do much and skipped more classes than I went to. I hated spending the first hour of class drawing the same slideshow of animals over and over and over and over and you get the idea. I have a larger scale painting (16×20) of Hawaii just sitting around waiting to be finished. I just cant get the greens and the Na Pali coast to appear the way I want it to, so again its just been sitting.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to force my way out of these ruts and stop just watching TV (other things have helped  not just wanting to lay around… again more on that later.. so mysterious…). I can’t quite place exactly what happened or why, but I  started drawing Mandalas. Oh! now I remember. I bought a coloring book last October in Portland that is more of an adult coloring book. There are more lines and the drawings are more complicated. There are no boobs. It is not that kind of adult coloring book.

I started running out of pages and so headed to the internet to search for more coloring books like it and then found a book on drawing mandalas. I was going to buy the book and then I remembered my job doesn’t pay that much and I live in San Francisco and I have the whole internet at my fingertips. I have the perfect square smooth watercolor paper for creating mandalas. They have helped me get back into drawing and art and also are a major stress reliever. I’ve loved doing them so much that today I decided that I wanted to paint a larger one in acrylics, so that is the paint that I’m waiting for to dry.

When I started this particular mandala, it didn’t look perfect. I almost gave up.  I thought to myself – why am I painting this? I paint landscapes and flowers -something tangible that people can see and know what it is. Why am I painting this abstract thing? And why am I not making it perfect and intricate? Why am I just making it simple and letting my lines go wonky and not measuring my circles out perfectly. I almost stopped.

Then I realized what my issue has been with art all along. I’ve never done it just for me. I’ve always done it for the final product. I’ve always wanted to make sure that I created for an audience. That someone else was meant to enjoy my painting so it needed to be perfect.

Why was I doing this? Isn’t the purpose of art really and truly for the artist them self above anyone else? I mean, I know that not every work of art was created solely for the artist – there are commissions and jobs that involve art and all that jazz,  but really the work that started it all and that someone goes home and does to relax, isn’t that just for them? If someone else walks along and likes it, then great,  but it should ultimately be for you.

I went back to work on my painting after this realization. I’m going to finish it and I’m going to keep it and its going to remind me of where I have been and and to compare later when I’ve done a few more and want to see what strengths I’ve developed.

I feel freer. I feel like my little creative soul has been caged and scared all this time to just do things. Just draw shit and paint shit and do whatever I want to do without thinking about anyone else and how they feel about it. So onward and upward to using all of these blank canvases I have to create things!

Its not every day you have a life altering moment. I’m glad I had one today and that my Friday night is being spent watching paint dry and listening to music (I might stop the music and watch the Netflix series remake of Wet Hot American Summer because its funny and Paul Rudd). When my painting is done, I’ll post a final picture and some progress pictures and you all can look at it and like it or not like it, I don’t care. You’re not paying me for it. Unless you really like it and you want to.

In the meantime, here are the terrible (and awesome) mandalas that I’ve done over the past few months for fun.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen +Tombow markers + Faber-Castell Artists Pens with brush tips
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen +Tombow markers + Faber-Castell Artists Pens with brush tips on Fluid watercolor paper – hot press finish 140 lb.
Mandala 2
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen + Watercolor on Fluid watercolor paper – hot press finish 140 lb.
Mandala 3
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Ink (Black) using a quill with watercolor on Fluid watercolor paper – hot press finish 140 lb.
Mandala 4
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen +Tombow markers + Faber-Castell Artists Pens with brush tips on Fluid watercolor paper – hot press finish 140 lb.

I’m back! For real this time.

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Remember that time around a year and a half ago when I promised to write more and then didn’t? I remember that too.

I’m going to make that promise again and this time I actually mean it.

I’ve been thinking about writing again for a few months now. About 2 months ago, I even had a new post written. When I went to publish it, it was deleted accidentally and I didn’t have the motivation or heart to write the entire thing again and so I went back into hiding.

I was finally pushed over the edge when I was attempting to write a personal and project statement for a grant application. I quickly realized my writing is terrible. I’m forgetting words. I’m forgetting how to form coherent sentences and have them move together in a fluid collection of thoughts. Again, I’m forgetting words.

Other factors include actually having things to write about and finally having the energy to actually do things again – even just sitting at a computer writing. More on this fun topic to come.

I guess I always say that too – more on this to come! And then never follow through. Another promise that this time I actually will do that.

I’m also in the middle of doing a lot of things – my job is intense due to team members maternity leave, I’m in the middle of applying for a prestigious grant to go live in another country for 9 months, and job hunting. Always on the prowl for that. There are few more enjoyable ways of procrastinating and getting other non-related topics out of my head than writing.

And so, I shall try and write at LEAST once a week? Maybe at least once every 2 weeks. With that said, so long for now!

Still Life

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I’m sorry this is late.

I’m not sorry that my first post of this new year is about art. Hopefully there will be many more this year focusing on my art.

In my second to last art class, we walked in to see tables set up around a massive still life scene.

I’ve never really painted a still life before. I chose my seat and used a full size easel for the first time. I’m addicted to using one now.

Anyway, after moving things around a bit, I came up with this set up to paint:

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For the background, I wanted a nice natural blueish color. What I came up with was a little darker than intended, but I still liked it enough to not take the time to paint over it. I wanted to use a natural lighter tan for the base before putting in the objects.

After the background and base colors were established, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about starting the actual objects. We were told the best approach is to slowly add layers so that each object was in the same state of completeness.

Following these instructions, I blocked out the objects in white, off white, light blue, light yellow, and light green.

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After blocking out everything, I then added shading using matte medium and black much like the landscape we did previously. I don’t have a picture of this middle step, sorry! After the shading, I started detailing the taller bottle and the lemons and limes.

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Sorry the lighting is a little off on this one.

Our last class we were given the opportunity to finish any of our paintings and I chose to work on this still life.

I started by detailing the objects. My instructor and I both agreed that the background was too flat and didn’t fit in with the rest of the painting. I noticed that there was a black smudge on the top left of the painting, so to add some pizzazz and texture, I used a really watered down white, tan, and sometimes black and smudged it down with my finger and more water. I really loved the effect and it transformed the painting.

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At home, I made some updates and added the cloth on the table.

I hate those flowers, so I tried to create the background color again. It took a few attempts to recreate it, but I added the slightly later shades to the background. I really dislike the colors I used for the table, so I’m going to make it significantly lighter and give it more of a natural fold look. I might add a bit of yellow too. I also need to go in and add the background texturing over the newly changed background areas.

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Almost there!





One happy little tree

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I had my art class last night. This week we did landscapes. If you’ve checked out my work that I have posted on this blog previously, then you should gather that I love painting landscapes.

This week I learned a new technique to create landscape pieces. We were instructed  to use a tonal under painting or grisaille effect to build layers and create a richer looking painting.

First, we chose photos that we wanted to recreate. I borrowed mine from the internet:

Photo by Herbert Johan

We then sketched out the basic shapes onto our canvas. After sketching, I took black paint and mixed it with matte medium (one of my new favorite paint additives) to create a greyish watered down black to begin shading in the darker areas for the first layer.

Here is my underpainting!

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My shapes are a bit off as far as the landscape, deal with it.

After that was dry, I put another thin layer of matte medium on top and then used a hair dryer to quickly dry the paint.

The next step was to determine what my basic color blocks should be and apply those colors transparently so the gray underpainting shows through a bit and not to focus on the details of the painting.

I used a very light blueish purple for the sky and brought it down into the farther hills. I then took a darker blueish tealish green and formed the farther hills and brought it down into the closer hills. Finally I used a more natural bright green/yellow to build the foreground and pulled it into the closer hills to blend with the darker green/blue. In words, this makes very little sense. So here:

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Finally, you are to go in and start adding the details to the painting and other layers of paint to create the scene keeping in mind the light source in the painting and the mood. My picture felt serene and calm to me, so I wanted to focus  on creating that feeling for the audience.

We ran out of time for me to get very far into this final process. Last night, I managed to complete the sky/clouds and part of the tree.

I took some color liberty with the sky to give it a sunset affect and as if the sun was striking the clouds.

Here you go:

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More updates to come as I finish the rest of the painting. The last photo looks darker than it actually is. My phone camera isn’t the best.