Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Bit of Bubbly for the New Year

Sometimes I just get carried away with the awesome tools at my disposal on the computer. Today I got to fiddling in Photoshop with some brushes of bubble wrap I had made from stamping the wrap itself on glossy paper with Ranger's Archival black ink. So in honor of the New Year and my soon-to-be-consumed champagne, while waiting for midnight and the fireworks on the Space Needle, I thought I would share some of my fun.

Here are three of the sizes of bubble wrap I stamped. I made Photoshop brushes out of them and several others, chose a background, and went to town. I made 31 iterations of bubble paper. I started with a background of Kim Klassen's paper texture, because it was a nice, neutral color. Kim probably had used many many layers to make the texture, and it saved me having to do that myself. Thanks, Kim!

Then I made a base layer of various sizes of bubble brushes, coloring them with the tones my color picker collected from Kim's paper. Normally I would have made many individual layers, one for each color I used, but I was anxious to see what my new brushes would do. So I put them all over my first layer. Then I remembered about putting them on individual layers, so I began to do that. Here is the first paper I made:

I was really happy with what the brushes looked like. I didn't resize them for this project--just used them all at the size I made them.

So here are some more. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

For this one, number 4, I played with the color balance on a couple of the layers, adding the green.

This one is number 8, and I used the Invert command to change the colors. Love the contrast of colors.

This one, number 14, used one of the distort filters, Spherize.

Number 15 uses the Twirl filter.

Now, I am a purple person, so I had to make some purple changes. This is number 22.

For this one, number 25, I added a red base layer and a couple of more layers of bubbles in red.

I altered the color on some of the layers, using the Invert command. This is number 28.

Did I mention I was a purple person? Number 30. There are also some drop shadows added.

Playing with the Twirl filer and the invert command. Latest, (number 31) but probably not last, attempt at bubble paper. I made them all 12 by 12 inches. The next lot will probably include resizing the brushes, and using the hexagonal bubble wrap I used in the virtual art journal awhile back.

Happy New Year! --Nan

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deck the Halls!

Tonight is the first candle of Hanukkah, tomorrow is the Solstice, Sunday is Christmas, Kwaanza starts after that, Las Posadas comes right after New Years, and folks are STILL complaining if you say "Happy Holidays!" Doesn't make any sense.

I am happy to celebrate them all! Each of them is important to some group or other, and some of them are important to several groups. So why the fuss? While I agree that it looks like the "Holi-" part has become more like an excuse to sell stuff than to rejoice in the season for its own sake, I believe one can take it upon oneself to remember what we are celebrating for.

Way back when, the Solstice was THE holiday--it meant the Sun was coming back to make the days longer and the crops grow. This is a holiday worth celebrating. What if the Sun stayed away? Let's not take a chance--light that Yule log, and put all those decorations on the tree! I'll bet there were songs, and an admonition to give alms to the needy. And lots of parties. It was such a good holiday, some Christian got the idea to move the celebration of the birth of Jesus to coincide with it. And adopt all the fun customs, too!

Kwaanza is pretty new, and I don't know much about it; I am willing to celebrate it, though! I think the message of Kwaanza is ecumenical, and I approve.

Las Posadas is celebrated up to the 6th of January. It celebrates the search for lodgings in Bethlehem, the birth of Christ and the journey of the Magi and their gifts. I am all for those Magi--and don't forget, at least since Ahmal and the Night Visitors, one of them was black!

Call me silly, but I still believe in Santa Claus. Not because he brings presents, but because he personifies the spirit of giving, and the reason one wants to give--Love. These days my Santa gets sort of run over by the more commercial Dude, but I still maintain that he is real, and active somewhere.

A couple of weeks ago I started to make an Advent calendar--from a kit, to be sure, but it didn't come with instructions, so I guess that made up for it. Advent is a Big Deal in some Christian churches, because it starts the week before Christmas. Most calendars I've seen feature Santa Claus in one of his many guises, along with some angels, reindeer, and other symbols associated with the season. My kit had 25 chip board pieces to make into open boxes, and several tabbed pieces of heavy bookboard that fit into slots on a 12 by 12-inch hardboard backing. And one mysterious piece of heavy board that seemed not to belong anywhere.

Oh, and it had a sheet of chipboard numbers. The idea is to make a calendar for the first 25 days of December, one that has hidden spaces behind each day for a small toy or piece of candy. I discovered that there were 25 boxes, but only 24 places to put them. That meant the big opening in the center was probably intended to be day 25. As I said--no instructions. So I found a piece of scrapbook paper to use for day 25.

I built a few of the boxes, using tissue tape and gel medium to hold them together. Then I decided I should paint the insides of the boxes, and it would be easier if I did that before I put them together. I also wanted to paint the tabbed pieces, and the back board behind the openings.

I used two colors of Martha Stewart craft paint, a bright green and a medium dark blue, and scumbled them on, mixed on the brush. I painted all the box insides, and the outside and inside of the boxes I had made already. The painting took about three evenings while watching TV.

I thought the number sheet should be gussied up before the numbers were punched out, so I chose several colors of Ranger Distress dye daubers to color the chipboard. Then I gave the chipboard a coat of Golden glossy acrylic medium. When that dried, I sprayed it with Perfect Pearls bronze glitter mist. Then I painted the numbers with Ranger's Rock Candy crackle paint and when that dried and crackled, I went over it with a dark green Distress dye dauber.

Next, I built the rest of the boxes, and painted the outside, and touched up where needed on the inside. I put the frame together, inserted the boxes, laid the scrapbook paper in the center, and sprayed the whole thing lightly with Perfect Pearls bronze glitter spray. I distressed the scrapbook paper with Ranger's seasonal Distress Blue Spruce ink pad, and while I was at it, I distressed some tags and paper that I planned to use for embellishments. The paper was from Graphic 45, last years' Christmas line.

I punched out all the numbers and painted the edges with Twinkling H2O Solar Gold. Finally, I embellished the boxes with the numbers, small motifs from the Graphic 45 paper, and some velvet flowers, attaching everything with Golden gel medium. It was interesting trying to get things to fit without blocking the finger holes in the boxes. I wasn't worried about things hanging over the edges, because the boxes could still be opened in those cases.

I decorated the sides with tags and put a saying on the top.

And then I was done! Except for filling the 24 boxes with toys or candies--maybe next year. While the gel medium was still wet, I took it over to my friend Brooke's store, Urban Scrapbooker, where she planned to display it.

It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. Oh, and I discovered what (I think) that mysterious extra piece of board is for. It is just the right size to put under the calendar to keep it from tipping forward--because of a slight difference between the edge of the tabbed pieces and the backboard.

Well, I just have one more thing to share tonight:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remember Pearl Harbor

December 7 is almost over, but I have been thinking all day that I would have to do a post tonight about Pearl Harbor. It's been 70 years, but some things you just don't forget.

I was eight. When my parents moved to Honolulu because my father's ship was stationed there, I had to stay behind with Bam Bam and Aunt Quail in Berkeley. I had to stay behind for nearly a year, until my orthodontist could safely pass me on to an orthodontist in Honolulu to continue the work already started on my misshapen bite. As soon as my mouth was ready, I was sent off  in style to join my parents, as a first-class passenger on the Matsonia--in those days, a real luxury liner. I was watched over by a rather stern stewardess, but I still managed to make the acquaintance of a young army lieutenant who escorted me to the nightly movies (with the stewardess' permission, of course).

This was November of 1941. I got settled in school (st. Andrews' Academy, an Episcopal school) and met the new orthodontist, and discovered the joys of living near the beach in Honolulu. We lived in a place my mother nicknamed "Dewey Dumps"--it was really Dewey Court--a series of rather modest bungalows sandwiched between the Niu Malu Hotel and an Army fort. I was in the 4th grade, thanks to Miss Olive Ferguson, who had noted my complete boredom in her third-grade class and had me promoted at mid-year, skipping the last half of the third grade. So I had been in the 4th grade for one term already--we called them Low and High back then, so I was in the High 4th. But at St. Andrews, a 4th-grader was expected to know the times table from 1 through 12, and in Berkeley, that had not been a requirement. I would be allowed to stay in the 4th grade only if I learned the times tables over the weekend. Luckily, my father was home evenings and weekends, (though he went to sea soon afterwards) so he drilled me and drilled me until I could do it. So I got to stay in Miss Akai's 4th grade class. For about three weeks.

This is Mr. Lewis' Fourth Grade class at Whittier Elementary School, Berkeley, California,  in 1941. Eight-year-old  Nancy is in the second row from the top. third from the right.

On December 7, a Sunday, I got up to go to Sunday School. Mother and I were all ready, and we were driving a neighbor child, Jane Douglas, as well. Mother picked up the phone to call her family to tell them we were ready to leave, and found it dead. Or deathly silent, anyhow. There was an operator to make the connections in those days, and Mother could her the breathing, so she shouted into the phone that it was an emergency, and was connected right away to Jane Douglas' house. That was how she found out the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor: another neighbor's husband had been called from his bed to return to his ship, and she had run over to tell Jane Douglas' mother. who told my mother. We would never have known, otherwise--we had seen planes bouncing around in the sky, but that had been happening for about six weeks or so, every Sunday, so we thought nothing of it.

Nancy in 1941 in Dewey Court, Honolulu

Other things began to happen in Dewey Court. The policemen who lived across from us had been called to duty, too, so they were dashing off to the station. Nothing was going on in the fort next door, as far as we knew--not a gun went off, there. But some of the women, mostly Navy wives, were gathering at Jane Douglas' house to talk about the situation and what they would do. Jane Douglas' father was at sea, too. We had no idea what, if anything, the Japanese had done about those ships. As the morning wore on, we began to find out more. The radio broadcast some information, and the grapevine provided some, too.

Nancy in early 1942

Some of the women opted to take their children and seek refuge with friends in the hills above Honolulu--my mother wasn't one of them. She opined that if the Japanese invaded, it would only be a matter of time until they got to the hills, so why bother. Jane Douglas' mother wanted to go to the hills, too, but my mother talked her out of it, and as Evie (Jane Douglas' mother) was terrified, we gathered up a few things and went to spend the night at their cottage. By then we had learned that we were not to have any lights on after dark, so Mother and Evie found some cardboard somewhere and used it to cover the windows in the master bedroom, so there could be one room with lights. Later, after supper, everyone gathered on and around the steps at Evie's, to listen to the radio and keep each other company. When it got time for the kids to go to bed, Jane Douglas and I went into the house, and Mother and Evie soon followed.

Around ten o'clock there was a knock on the door. Evie was afraid to answer it, but Mother wasn't, so she went to see who it was. It turned out to be two young Marines, who had been sent to patrol the street, and who were knocking on doors to let people know they were there. They looked terribly dirty and bedraggled, very unlike the Marines we were used to seeing. Marines have always been spit-and-polish proud of their appearance. Mother inquired about this, and was told that the two of them had been on the Arizona, and had swum to shore through burning oil when she was sunk. As they weren't hurt, they were immediately sent off to patrol our street. Mother took the situation in hand: she corralled uniform parts from various husband's wardrobes--Navy officer's khakis were as close as she could come, but at least were clean. She sent the young men to the shower, and gave them the clean uniforms to wear. They didn't fit, exactly, but they were clean, and the young Marines were grateful to be clean and neat once more--except for the shoes. They had to wear their own shoes, as no on else's fit--but they had clean socks. One of them was 17, and had lied about his age to get into the Marines; the other was 19. I think of them every time December 7 rolls around. Even at 8 I understood something terrible had happened to them, and yet they were proud to be able to help keep us safe that night.

Mother insisted they eat something before continuing their patrol, and when she sent them on their way, she asked if they were all right. "Oh, yes, Ma'am," was the reply, "we're Marines!"

Luckily, both Jane Douglas' and my father were in a convoy halfway between Pearl Harbor and Wake Island when the Japanese attacked both places; the convoy escaped the notice of the enemy, and so returned to Pearl Harbor intact.

School had been cancelled while bomb shelters were dug, and didn't reopen until mid-January. Everyone was issued a gas mask, but there were no child-sized ones, so Mother had to make one from a washcloth, a Lucky Strike cigarette can, and some chemicals the cloth was soaked in to make a mask to breathe through. Eventually, we kids got real gas masks.The price of bread jumped from ten cents to twenty-five cents a loaf, and we wondered if there would be Christmas trees. The Sears, Roebuck store had a wonderful display of lighted figures climbing palm trees (of course the lights went out as soon as it got dark). We made a blackout room out of my parents' bedroom, and folks continued to gather around the steps of Evie's house to listen to the radio after dinner. The cops across the street sometimes sat out on their porch and played guitar and sang. The beach was fine, once you got through the barbed wire. Gas was rationed, and meat and sugar and shoes, but we managed to survive. Mother's cousin, a construction worker at Pearl Harbor, was killed in the bombing, and she got his car--a Plymouth coupe. It had 127 bullet holes in it, none of them hitting a vital spot.

Yes, that's a gas mask. Surplus World War I, as it happens, but handy for the beginning of WWII

Mother and I stayed in Honolulu until August of 1942; when my father was re-assigned from Executive Officer of the USS Hopkins, a destroyer, to become Navigator of the USS Salt Lake City, a cruiser whose home port was San Francisco, we came back to live with Bam Bam and Aunt Quail in Berkeley.

Coming home on a troop ship. We had to wear the life vests all the time.

The trip home took 19 days, zig-zagging in a convoy across the Pacific (for comparison, it had taken the Matsonia five days to make the trip to Honolulu). When we landed in San Francisco at last, Mother called Bam Bam from a pay phone on the dock.
"Hello, Hannah," said my mother, "what are you having for dinner?"
"Pork chops," said Bam Bam.
"Can you feed two more?" asked Mother.
"Of course, Dear. Who is it?"

We took the train to Berkeley where Aunt Quail met us and drove us up the hill to her new house, completed just before the war. And there we stayed, for four years, until Father came back to run the Naval Training Center in San Francisco and we bought a house in Berkeley, where we lived until 1946, when we went to Guam.

Nancy in 1943, wearing Dad's cap

But that's a story for another day. Remember Pearl Harbor--Nan

Friday, December 2, 2011

Back to Bam Bam

Yes, that's what Helen Hawkins ended up being called by her grandchildren--and lots of other people, too. I was the oldest, and she required me to call her Grandmother as soon as I could talk. I was able to manage that, although I always called my other grandmother, Susan, "Mimi"--don't ask me why. Anyhow, Grandmother she was, our Helen, until my cousin Mark came along. He is three years younger than I, and he couldn't say Grandmother when he started to talk. What he did say was "Bam Bam," and she found it so charming that it stuck.

Helen, or Hannah, as she was often called, was quite a force of nature in Spokane. As the Society Editor for the Spokesman-Review, she met and interviewed many celebrities--I've already mentioned that. She was a brilliant interviewer, always managing to focus on what were the important things one should know about a person. She was proud of that skill; once, she said, she got Harry Bridges to admit that he liked "throwing a brickbat into things," as she put it.

Helen Lyon Hawkins (aka Hannah Hinsdale) in the late 1920's

She was always up to something in Spokane. She wrote for, edited and published a neighborhood newsletter. She sang in amateur theatricals, plying Yum Yum in the Mikado and Mabel in Pirates of Penzance (the latter costing her her singing voice, as she performed with a cold and strained her vocal chords). She started the Junior League. 

At one point, she took a fling at writing for Hollywood. That didn't last very long, as she had her family of at least five children and a husband to return to.

She lived for awhile in a tent in Yakima, where Harry was involved in brokering fruit. While there, she met Belinda Mulrooney, "Countess of Charbonneau, Queen of the Klondike", a famous, and fascinating, local.  I think she only had three children then; I do know my aunt Quail and my father were two of them.

She wrote for the Seattle Times for awhile, and could have worked for them again after Harry died, but instead she left Washington State to live in California with Aunt Quail, and never went back.

Hannah Hinsdale in a Seattle Times sketch in the late 1920's

Bam Bam told me several times that she had once been allowed to write an editorial (I don't know if it was for the Times or the Spokesman-Review). She never explained what the editorial said, except that it contained the phrase, "On the contrary, the reverse is true." No context. She was sure, she told me, that that sentence was the reason she was never asked to write another editorial.

Right after World War II, Bam Bam was hired as a stringer by the Spokesman-Review to write articles about the forming of the United Nations. She lived in Berkeley, and every day she took the E train to San Francisco to sit in the Press Box and report on the proceedings. I am not sure how she got the stories back to the paper; probably by telephone. In those days there would have been copy editors to take down her reports and turn them into articles for the newspaper

Another time, Bam Bam was a stringer for the paper, this time during the McCarthy era, when there were a great number of trials of accused Communists. A famous San Francisco Lawyer, Vincent Hallinan, was defending one of these hapless souls, and Bam Bam thought it would be a good lesson in history for me to go along one day while she covered the trial. I was living with her and Aunt Quail at the time, and I thought it would be a good idea, too. I was sixteen then, and I have never forgotten that snippet of trial I got to attend. I have no idea who the defendant was; but I will always remember his lawyer. Mr. Hallinan was cross-examining a witness, one who had accused the defendant of being a Communist and living, like all Communists, in a cesspool. 
"You say the defendant is a Communist?"
"And all Communists live in cesspools?"
"Well, it is..."
"Just answer the question, please; yes, or no?
"Well, yes."
"And therefore, the defendant lives in a cesspool?"
"Um, well, yes."
Mr. Hallinan fixed a beady eye on the witness and asked calmly, "And just what is that address?"
The courtroom exploded with laughter, and the red-faced witness just sputtered with indignation. That moment, in my opinion, is what got the defendant a "not guilty" verdict.

Bam Bam was an incurable flirt. Always. She could charm the socks off any male who got within two feet of her. This was somewhat unfortunate for any young ladies (like myself) who happened to be around. It made me think of Kipling's poem about the Wallflower:

"I go to concert, party, ball--
What profit is in these?
I sit alone against the wall
And strive to look at ease.
The incense that is mine by right
They burn before her shrine;
And that's because I'm seventeen, 
And she is forty-nine!"

Forty-nine or eighty-nine, with Bam Bam it made no difference. A male was to be flirted with. And she charmed them all.

Helen Lyon Hawkins in her 80's

I cropped the young man in attendance out of the above picture--but he was there.

I imagine she could have re-married many times, had she chosen to do so. I can't imagine that she wouldn't have had suitors. But she never did date again, and as far as I know, never seriously looked at another man, even after she had been widowed for many years.

She lived into her late 90's--well, if you could call it that. In her late 80's she began to suffer from dementia. She carried around a baby doll, and treated it like a baby, and there were other signs. Eventually Aunt Quail had to put her in a nursing home, because she could no longer be cared for at home. Her body was roughly ten years younger than it should have been for her age, and so she spent her last years in fine health but with no mind to speak of. I made my aunt Quail angry when I refused to visit Bam Bam after she had lost all her mental capacity--I knew she would not recognize me, and I didn't want to remember her as a bed-ridden vegetable. I am glad, too--because my memories of her are of someone full of life and mentally alert. However, like every newspaper person I have ever had close contact with, she was a terrible typist.

Until next time, Nan