Friday, November 13, 2015

RIP to the furry dead thing in my yard

peter 'death wish' cottontail
This is Peter 'Death Wish' Cottontail, who came hippity hopping down our front path every day this summer
 to stand in front of our glass door munching on weeds and tormenting our dogs.

It's haiku time! It's been a while since I had to write one of these. This time, Banjo got in on the action. I don't think he killed it. Somehow he was just lucky enough to find a dead thing.

Looked outside to see
Nat Geo in my backyard:
Dog eating carcass.

A furry dead thing!
In Banjo's jaws. Why, dog, why?
He rips off a chunk.

Bloody matted fur
Happy Friday the thirteenth,
Unlucky critter.

Legs dangling from mouth
I screamed and Banjo dropped it
Why mom? It tastes good.

What the f*** is that?
Bunny? Squirrel? Or possum?
Yuck yuck yuck yuck yuck.

Hey momma, would you
Like a kiss from my death lips?
Banjo likes dead things.

Come home soon, Larry
Now you have a job to do
Shovel, bag, trash can.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

the perfect day

sketch - the perfect day
How would you spend the perfect day?

This is a topic I've been meaning to blog about for years. It's something I think about often. Why don't I just take a day off every month and treat myself to the perfect day? How would I spend an entire day if I could do whatever I wanted? But, there's so much pressure to make day completely perfect that I've never come up with the answer. I know that's silly, but I'm a perfectionist. (And the most perfect days are probably unplanned anyway, but bear with me...)

As I was thinking about this topic today, I sat down and started drawing the perfect day in my sketchbook - rough little (imperfect!) symbols painted with a tiny brush dipped in india ink: wake up to sunshine, go for a hike among pine trees, wear stretchy pants, bake bread, eat tacos, nap on the couch, take a hot bath...

(I really didn't mean to paint my day in emojis, but when I went to post an Instagram picture of my sketchbook, I realized that my perfect day could pretty much be summarized in emojis. *thumbs up emoji*)

No big surprise, my perfect day revolves around FOOD. *pig emoji* According to my sketch, I think I'll be able to eat pancakes, strawberries, muffins, cheese, bread, pizza, ice cream, tacos, sandwiches, cake, donuts, and cookies (clearly I have a sweet tooth) all in one day and then wash it down with cocktails, wine, AND beer? My so-called perfect day may be my last day if I keep that up! *crying emoji*

When I think back to the most memorable days in my life, I realize that my most perfect days have been spent on vacation. Larry and I travel well together and get along best when we're traveling. We both enjoy an equal mix of exploring and relaxing. Nothing beats waking up in a cabin, spending the day together hiking and appreciating nature, feasting on delicious foods, and snuggling by a fire with a bottle of wine at night. (Snuggling my husband, not the wine.) But every day can't be a vacation day (unless maybe you're a National Geographic photographer...) So what about the everyday perfect days? The ones where you wake up in your own bed and spend the day in your own town? Why can't those be perfect and memorable, too?

So let's establish some ground rules and say you can't fly to Hawaii/Paris/St. Lucia/Santorini/New Zealand/insert your dream location here. You have to wake up in your own bed and spend the day within driving distance of your home. You didn't become a millionaire overnight either, so let's say you can't buy a Lamborghini on your perfect day. (You can't fly to Mars either, Larry.) *rocket ship emoji*

What would you do? (And what's stopping you from doing it?) *fist bump emoji*

Friday, November 6, 2015

maine | sunrise at cadillac mountain

Maine 2014
Cadillac Mountain is where the sun first rises in the continental U.S. That's cool and all, except for the part where you have to get out of bed when it's still dark to see it. I'm much more likely to see a sunrise because I stayed up all night rather than getting my butt out of bed early in the morning. And honestly, we might have skipped the whole thing if I hadn't seen Veronika's incredible photos of the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain a few months before. Her blog post was pretty good incentive to get out of bed and drive up the mountain.
Maine 2014
Luckily for us, the sun rises in September around 6 am - about an hour and a half later than it did in June when Sly and Veronika were visiting. Unfortunately, in September, the temperature when it's still dark out on the highest point on the eastern seaboard is frigid. Honestly, this was one of the coldest experiences of my life. The biting wind seemed to penetrate every pore in my body. My face was paralyzed from the cold.
Maine 2014
As we walked from the car to try and find a spot to view the sun's first appearance and were nearly knocked over by the icy wind, I thought "F this!" I no longer cared about finding the perfect viewing spot or getting the perfect photo or avoiding the other people - I just wanted to huddle behind a rock. It didn't help. Getting a good photo of a sunrise is extremely challenging under the best conditions (I didn't have a tripod) and on this day, it was really too cold to bother exposing my fingers to the freezing air to press the shutter button to take photos. My fingers were so frozen I could hardly move them anyway.

"CUT! I can't feel my fingers!"
"You need to rub them on a nice warm yuletide log..."
(Name that movie!)

Maine 2014
But there were brave souls who had gotten there even earlier to stake out the perfect photo op:
Maine 2014
Dude is wearing shorts! NOPE!

The sun could not come up fast enough. JUST RISE BEFORE I DIIIIIIEEEEEE! Finally it did. It was not spectacular. (Evidently we don't have the best luck with sunrises and sunsets in Maine!) There were no clouds in the sky to create cool atmospheric effects. The sky did not change from purple to pink to orange. It was simply an orange ball that rose above the horizon. It honestly looked like any old sunrise, except from a spectacular (but freezing) vantage point overlooking Frenchman Bay.
Maine 2014
Maine 2014

We didn't linger after the sun came up.
Maine 2014
As we were walking back to the car, the icy air filled my hood up like a frozen balloon. I could actually feel the flesh on my face flapping around as the wind violated my skin and froze my ears. I pointed my DSLR at my own face and jokingly snapped a photo. I'm fascinated/horrified by the results. Is this not the best/worst selfie ever? My skin looks 100 years old!
Maine 2014
We drove down the mountain and back to Sans Souci camp. Larry couldn't wait to get back to bed. As for me, despite my hatred of mornings, once I'm up I can't go back to sleep. So I sat on the back deck at the cabin and admired the view of the lake in the early hours. It was so calm and reflective - like a mirror:
Maine 2014
After Larry got up later in the morning, we hiked the Gorham Mountain Trail - which was beautiful, but also the worst idea after almost zero hours of sleep. By the end of the hike we were both miserable and cranky, but I insisted that we drive back up Cadillac Mountain so we could see what it looked like in the daylight and when the wind wasn't freezing my eyelids together. Not a bad view:
Maine 2014
Then we hauled our tired asses back to camp. It was our last night in Acadia and we were exhausted.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

maine | sunset at pretty marsh

Maine 2014
After a full day of sailing, climbing on rocks, checking out lighthouses, lunching with a view, and not swimming in an icy lake, we decided to end the day by watching the sun set at Pretty Marsh. I'm so glad we got to check this place out. Pretty Marsh is on the west coast of Mt. Desert Island in a part of Acadia National Park that either no one seems to know about, or no one bothers to visit. It's away from the main part of the park and it was deserted when we were there. I think we must have read about it in a guide book, because otherwise we probably would've skipped stopping at a marsh.

I'm not even sure why this place is called a marsh. From the parking lot, we walked through a magical forest of pine trees and arrived at a set of wooden stairs that took us down to a rocky beach. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest and the beaches in Olympic National Park. I can think of few things I like more than beaches with pine trees. It's the best of everything.
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
We brought blankets and pillows to sit on and cheese and crackers to munch on, and set ourselves up on a rock to watch the sun set over the water. Unfortunately, a thick blanket of fog rolled in over the water, obscuring the horizon. It was neat to watch the sailboats in the distance disappear, but we also missed the sun disappearing. Visibility of the sunset was zero and there were no pretty colors - just a white and gray sky.
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
Maine 2014
But it was still nice having a quiet picnic on a beautiful secluded beach. I'll take it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

maine | bass harbor head lighthouse

maine 2014
After our morning sail, we had the afternoon free to explore. We set off for what is probably Acadia's most-photographed landmark: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
Maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
maine 2014
We climbed on some rocks to get a view of the lighthouse, but realized that the photographers who took the famous pics of this lighthouse had probably risked their lives to get the shot. Or were in a boat. (Or maybe the conditions are better during different tides/seasons?) In September, the vantage point with the best view of the lighthouse could only be reached if you were willing to jump down here:
maine 2014
Choose your own adventure! Jump down to the rocks below and:
a. Break a leg. Or a neck. Your choice!
b. Slip on the wet rocks, hit your head, fall into the water and drown.
c. Not be able to climb back up.

I chose none of the above, so this was the best I could do:
maine 2014
I also had a wide-angle lens on my camera, and despite carrying A BACKPACK FULL OF CAMERA GEAR wherever I go, I am generally too lazy to switch lenses in the field. So I probably could've gotten a better pic of the actual lighthouse had I been able to zoom in. We did take the path from the parking lot up to the actual lighthouse, but it wasn't really that exciting up close. The lighthouse is also the private residence of the commander of the Coast Guard, so it felt a little awkward walking around someone's property. I liked photographing the rocks and natural landscape here better.

After the lighthouse, we headed to Thurston's Lobster Pound for lunch with a view of Bass Harbor.  (We don't eat lobster, but the pie was delicious.)
maine 2014
maine 2014
And then it was back to the cabin. Larry was determined to "swim" in Echo Lake. He changed into his swim trunks and grabbed a beer for courage. As much as I love swimming, I had no desire to dip more than a toe in a 50 degree lake. As you can see, Larry didn't make it very far. His goal was the rock...
maine 2014
...but any deeper and certain sensitive parts would've ended up taking an ice bath. #shrinkage So we relaxed on the shore and then took a drive to Pretty Marsh to watch the sun set...

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

catch-up ketchup

catch-up ketchup
Catch-up Ketchup. I need some!

I'm back to blogging and it's time to catch up!

I've been blogging very infrequently and sporadically over the past two years, but I'm looking forward to dusting this little space off and catching up in the coming weeks. But first of all, where have I been?

ONE | Foiled by technology! My beloved iMac has been broken for the past two years. Ugh! Doing any computer tasks involved transferring data off my semi-broken computer using a thumb drive and then using Larry's laptop if he brought it home from work in the evenings. It was no fun. So I avoided it. I also fell way behind on e-mails because I just can't stay on top of them using my phone. I have 28,000 unread e-mails, so if you've e-mailed me over the past two years and I didn't respond, I'm sorry! I'm just declaring e-mail bankruptcy right now and starting fresh. Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I finally decided it was ridiculous to try to live/run a business with a broken computer, so I bought myself a MacBook Pro (my first laptop!) and now I am doing all the computer things!

TWO |  In 2014 we traveled a ton. It was great, but no time for blogging!

THREE | I spent the beginning of 2015 focused on creating tons of new art, and I launched the new Funnelcloud Studio in June. I used the energy I had for computer time to design a new website. Please check out the new Funnelcloud Studio for original abstract paintings, printsillustrations, and GOLDEN BOOBS!

FOUR | 2015 has been a tough year. Business, career, financial, homeowner, and relationship stress were all happening. That's life and it happens, and I certainly didn't feel like writing about it. Time to crawl out from under my rock, get out of my funk, and make some changes.

Two years of backlog has felt overwhelming, so I wasn't sure how to re-start blogging. But I'm just diving right in. My posts may be out of order and random and confusing, but I've got a lot to catch up on. Some posts will be current happenings and some will be catch-up posts. Here's what to expect in this space in the coming weeks:

+ Travel posts
So many trips that haven't been blogged! I'll be sharing old pics from Maui 2013, Maine 2014, New Mexico 2014, and Florida 2015 in the coming weeks.

+ Art/Funnelcloud/Business posts
I've made so much new art in the past year! My business has changed so much, too. Stay tuned for Funnelcloud Studio updates. (And follow me on Instagram @funnelcoudrach for real-time glimpses as to what's going on in the studio...and my life!)

+ Week in the Life 2015
Week in the Life posts have always been my most popular blog posts. This summer I did WITL in real time on Instagram. But I'd like to summarize the experience here.

+ Current Life
Everyday life posts are my favorite, so I'll share what's been going on in the Smoellke household and what we're into lately. (Hint: books, food, wine, and dogs, as always.)

+ Year in Review
2015 is coming to and end, which means it's time to summarize our favorite things from the year. (And maybe last year, too?)

I've also got tons of old draft posts in the queue that I might dust off if they're still relevant. So my apologies if this space is a bit of a mess as I brain dump two years of material onto the blog.

So let's catch-up! And thank you for following along. Please leave a comment if you're reading - I'd love to reconnect!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

introducing the NEW Funnelcloud Studio

New art, new shop, new website! I'm so thrilled (and a little terrified) to launch the new Funnelcloud Studio. This has been a looong process and I've been so encouraged by everyone on Instagram who has followed along behind the scenes, put up with months of teaser photos and sneak peeks, and commented with their excitement over seeing the new work. It was back in December 2014 that I mentioned that the prints from my Etsy shop would be retired when they sold out and that Funnelcloud Studio would be taking a new direction in the new year. It's finally here:

Two new series of original abstract paintings are now for sale at - The Dive In Collection and The Water's Fine Collection. The 71 new paintings in the shop are all gouache on 100% cotton rag and feature the bright colors and gestural brushstrokes that get me excited about art.

The new work is completely different from the prints and illustrations I sold in my Etsy shop when I first started Funnelcloud Studio in 2010. Abstract is my true love when it comes to art and I had always hoped and planned to sell abstract paintings, but Funnelcloud Studio somehow ended up going in a different direction over the past four years as I experimented with block printing, text-based art, and greeting card design. By the end of 2013, my work was feeling stagnant and Funnelcloud Studio wasn't exciting me any more. I decided to take 2014 off from vending at art markets and spent some time traveling and thinking about the future of Funnelcloud Studio.

By Fall 2014, I began to paint every day. For years I had wanted to create abstract art for the shop, as this is what I made in my studio for fun, but never had the confidence to sell. After years of selling prints of my work on Etsy, I was also interested in selling original paintings. I finally went for it. I experimented with acrylic, gouache, wax pastels, and mixed media. I tried different surfaces and brushes, I painted with my non-dominant hand, I made messes, I celebrated the surprises and unexpected results. By early 2015, I had discovered the media, surfaces, supplies, and techniques that worked for me, and most importantly, I had found my confidence and my style. For the first time in years, my work felt like me and made me excited. By late winter I had entered a painting frenzy, creating dozens of paintings, each one better than the last.

By Spring, I had enough new work that it was finally time to start creating a website to actually sell the art. Which brings us to the present: A fancy new website. Yay! My own original paintings for sale for the first time ever. Terrifying! After I launched the new site I had to jump in the shower to calm myself down because I was practically shaking. Putting new art out into the world feels so scary and personal - like someone reading your diary or seeing you naked. But the butterflies have subsided and now I'm just excited about the big leap I've finally taken.

So what does the future look like for the new Funnelcloud Studio? In the next few months I will launch illustrations, mixed media paintings, paintings on wood panels, and prints for sale in the shop. I hope to paint even bigger pieces. I'll be selling my art at art markets again. I'm more excited about my little business than I've ever been.

Big thanks to friends, family, customers, readers, and followers who have supported and encouraged me throughout the past five years of building an art business! I hope you'll check out my new shop on and follow @funnelcloudrach on Instagram to see my process and progress.