Monthly Archives: July 2015

Double Your FUN

man and wife

I now pronounce you man and wife.

In early June our youngest, Lewis, and his lovely Hilarey begin their official life as a couple together. It is a garden wedding in her parents back yard, perfect in every way. But as all, and I’m pretty sure all is accepted here, weddings go there are a few odd turns along the preparation way.

Hilarey’s mom, Valerie, and I made our own fun mark on that odd turn road and here’s the story. I love to shop online and order some dresses for the event that over and over turn out to be all wrong. I am constantly returning dresses and time is ticking away. I finally find a couple that fit and look good, but they’re nothing special. Still I want to be an accessory, it’s Hilarey and Valerie’s day. So either of these dresses will work. I send photos to Val. She sends photos of a couple of cute dresses she has found locally that she and Hilarey like but she is not entirely sold on either. We decide that we should try on each other’s stash and maybe out of the mix find a couple that work.

Somewhere in the thread of our message exchanges we come up with the idea of wearing the same dress. On purpose. It will be fun. And because the bride has enough things to think about we decide not to bother her with the plan. It’s our secret. I like one of Val’s dresses better than mine and on the way back into town from a road trip stop and buy one for me.

We could have wore this sassy number from Foxy Flamingo. Just a tiny bit too casual for mother of the groom and mother of the bride so we passed.

We could have wore this sassy number from Foxy Flamingo. Just a tiny bit too casual for mother of the groom and mother of the bride so we pass on it.

At home I put it on for Donny and he says he likes it but it’s too big. Val and I decide to meet at the shop, Foxy Flamingo, in hopes that they will have a smaller size. If not we’ll try on some others which is what ends up happening. We swear the shop girls to secret. We are constantly looking over our shoulder for Hilarey to pop into Front Porch next door for coffee and possibly discover us shopping in cahoots. As a precaution we park out of the way so if she does happen along she won’t see our vehicles. Miss Betsy has lots of cute dresses but none are right. It will be tricky but I can alter the too big dress and so we keep what we have and move on.

We are willing to try one more shop before giving up. We just have time. Val has carved out a few hours between her store, My Little Sunshine, schedule and a spinning class that she teaches at the Y. We head to the French Door conveniently located just across the highway from the Y. We tell the shop gals we’re on a mission and explain. They start showing us dresses but none fit our need. We’re about to give up when friend and shop owner, Donna Greenlee, has a thought. She heads upstairs where merchandise is stored and returns with two options. One we dismiss immediately. The other has potential. We head into our respective dressing rooms and emerge grinning. It’s perfect. And has pockets, bonus!

matching dresses

The bride sandwiched between her two moms.

Now we need accessories. We need to look completely planned. There are endless stories about showing up at a wedding in the same dress unplanned. My favorite is from a good friend, Jan Watson. She and her husband arrive just as the wedding they are attending at St Andrew’s By-the-Sea chapel in Nags Head is starting. She sees that she is wearing the exact same dress as the mother of the bride. Her husband asks her now what. She says now they are going home so that she can change as she steers him hastily toward the car before anyone can make the connection.

Donna fixes us up with earrings. We select some simple bracelets including a find your balance Lokai. Val buys a Lokai for Hilarey. We are set. All we need now are shoes. We save that for another day. Val is off to spinning. A few days pass in both our busy schedules. I need to finish up this project. Family is coming in early for the wedding and of course Val will have her own last week to do list. I decide to see what Sound Feet has and advise Val. I find the perfect shoe and they have it in my size. It’s a Toms wedge style, just like Hilarey has chosen for her wedding shoes. Disappointedly it is not available in Val’s size, even in their other stores. I leave, get to my car and decide to go back and look again. Maybe Sound Feet has our sizes in another Toms wedge style option. It won’t be our favorite but we’ll match. My sale guy is busy with another customer. I look over the selection, ponder a few options and leave again. I’m just about to start the car when I decide to go back in one more time. There just has to be something for us. I start sending Val photos of what is in stock.

lokai arm wrestling

Grandma Lydia & Hilarey don’t need any Lokai bracelet balance in this face off.

It’s a complicated thread we are trying to negotiate between me sending photo suggestions and her trying to text me around her customer needs. We opt for a real call. I am chatting with her when Lewis and Hilarey walk into the store and saunter over to say hi and see what I am doing. I am surrounded by a selection of Toms shoes and also talking on the phone to Val. I pretend she’s Donny. “Bye honey. I’ll bring you some lunch. I love you.” I tell L&H that I am considering shoes to go with another dress I have shown Hilarey. The clerk who is helping me is trying to tell me about a pair in another store he can have sent over and asks if I want Valerie’s name put on them. L&H are distracted and don’t hear. I nod and shoo him away. They are here shopping for wedding shoes for Lewis and head to the mens’ section. Bean spill averted.

I leave with no shoes but Sound Feet is holding several pairs and importing others from their branch stores. Val and I agree to meet there in a couple of days when all the Toms choices are in to make our final decision. I am a bit late for that date. The sales lady is already helping Val try on the shoes. She dismisses me with a wave of her hand saying that she is helping Val. We finally get her straight that we are together. Val decides that she needs a smaller size than she thought and the now very helpful sales lady finds our favorite shoe in Val’s size in a branch store. I buy mine. Val will get hers when they come in. We are done. Well almost.

we four

The rents

Val is days late picking up her shoes. When she does get there, our new friend has guarded Val’s shoes like a hawk. She would not let anyone put them back in stock. She knows our story and is beyond confident that Val will be in to buy the shoes. Of course she is right.

We ponder how to tell Hilarey what we have been doing. Just showing up wedding day is not the answer. We briefly chat about starting out wearing our decoy dresses and then changing but too much will be going on for that to go well. With strong encouragement from Donny we decide to tell Hilarey a few days prior to the wedding. But pinning her down is tricky. She’s busier than we are. I text Lewis and tell him that we need five minutes of Hilarey’s time. Nothing is wrong, we just need five undivided minutes. They are puzzled but come up with a time when we are all free.

If Hilarey doesn’t like our plan, we naturally will do something else. But she loves it. We knew that she would. Game on. Last thing on our list is matching watches to coordinate with Hilarey’s awesome white tide watch Lewis gives her as a wedding present and she plans to wear. I find the perfect compliment on Amazon and our outfits are complete.

Oh and Val squeezed out time to go on her own shopping adventure finding perfect matching shirts at WRV for our guys. To round out the mix we added Lokai find your balance bracelets for all the family gals (sorry guys we could not get ones in your size in time).


Hey y’all, we’re married!


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It’s A T-Shirt With MY Design

bud hawaii

Bud, a Steve Kaufman acoustic guitar Kamp alumni several times over, playing for us in Hawaii. Yes our humble and perfect cottages were that close to the Pacific Ocean.

I’m not a commercial artist. This is what I tell three time national flatpik champion Steve Kaufman when I enter the design a t-shirt contest for his 2014 annual world renown acoustic guitar Kamp. Friend and father to our awesome daughter in law Terri, Bud Onstad, suggests that I enter this competition for one of his favorite camps.

I’m game. But being a fine artist I’m not at all trained in graphic design. My entry follows the guidelines which ask that Kamp name, location and year be included. I do all the lettering free hand. Real free hand.

My freshman year in college our art class is to design an album cover. I free hand the title with some snappy art and turn my idea in. My professor likes it and suggests that I free hand the final presentation. I do but tidy it up somewhat getting rid of wandering brush strokes. He chastises me asking why didn’t I stick to the free hand like he suggested. In my mind I had but I guess even a bit of tidying up dismisses the free hand aspect.

I email a photo of my entry to Steve and then forget about the contest. At RPI in Richmond studying fine art I am intrigued by the mysteries of the commercial art world. Maybe partly because fine art and commercial art students rarely mix. Each of us think that our world is the better. At a recent RPI reunion a group of curious current art students asks me if the different art department students kept to themselves when we were in school like they do now. I laugh. Some things never change.

guitar kamp

My art is everywhere!

Summer rolls around and the time for Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp. I’ve not heard anything but did not expect to because after all I’m not a commercial artist. Still I have much commercial art student envy while at RPI. So much so that I take a commercial art class my last year. One assignment is to copy a Mondrian abstract as closely as possible. It’s one of those with a white background and various size intersecting black and primary color lines. Upon closer inspection of the photo we are working from I decide that the whites are not all the same tone and spend hours mixing just the right tweak to each white panel, carefully masking each before painting it in so no paint crosses into the wrong area. The project is small, 5×7 so it’s a tiny rendering. I am sure I’ll get an A or at the least a B. C- is crushing especially when my good friend, a commercial art major, who spends no time at all on her piece gets an A.

Now we’re to December 2014 in this story line. I get an email from Steve Kaufman, whom I have actually met when we went with Bud and lovely wife Amy to listen to him play at Cape Hatteras High School a few Januarys back. Steve deserves every accolade he gets and title he wins, his talent is incredible.

me and bud

Me & Bud sporting our shirts

Hi Sandy

I bet you thought I forgot about you. I really liked your design and wanted to hang on to it for the 20th annual. Do you think you can update the design and then send me the original?

20th Annual and 2015 are the only changes.

I don’t know if you still have the design there but I like it’s earthy approach. Let me know if this is possible.

Cheers and happy holidays–

Bye for now, 
Steve Kaufman

I have moved that piece of art around the studio so many times and almost thrown it out a couple of times. Can I even find it? I dig around and it surfaces. I make the changes, mail it off and a few weeks later get a nice surprise check in the mail. Then again I forget all about Steve and his Kamp.

kamp kard

Kamp note card

Imagine my astonishment when I get a post on my FB page from Bud while he is at Steve’s 20th annual Kamp, wearing a t-shirt with my design! And look there I am on Steve’s Kamp website and on Kamp note cards.

A few weeks after Kamp has ended Bud & Amy come to the beach for a visit bearing a t-shirt for me (well actually it arrived in the mail while they were here. Amy has sent it from Kamp). “Didn’t you know about this?” Bud asks. I tell him not really. I say that Steve never specifically says what he is going to do with the art. I figure he will just make posters or flyers. As I am putting this post together I see that Steve does mention saving my entry for his 20th annual acoustic Kamp. In hind sight that is pretty clear.

But still I didn’t expect to be the Kamp art star. Doing alright for not being a commercial artist.

bud finale

Goodbye Bellows Air Force Base. You were the perfect spot for a stellar Hawaiian vacation with Bud, Amy, Terri, Donald & Sebastian.





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Paris is ALWAYS a Celebration


Le quatorze juillet 2010 giphy

Le quatorze Julliet from 58 Tour Eiffel

One of my favorite stories to tell on Donny is how he took me to the City of Lights for my birthday. This is the man who does not like to travel. “But you do,” he says. He gets a great deal offer from Air France and we are off. It is amazing. I have been before on a Wooster Group working trip for Marty where Emily & I get to tag along and play. I know just how amazing it is. Donny is a newbie. He falls completely in love. Our suitcases have not hit the floor back home before he is online looking for the next opportunity to go back.

Over the following years we go again and again. Donny always finds us a pied a terre, often on Île Saint-Louis in the middle of the Seine. This little island is in the heart of the city. Notre Dame is its backdrop.

paris artillustrating parisIn the summer of 2010 I get a last minute unsolicited opportunity to illustrate Donna Deekens children’s book Santaland A Miller & Rhoads Christmas for The History Press. I have three weeks to produce 26-30 full page color illustrations. I am pretty confident that I can do this but never having done so I am not at the 100% level of certainty. Donny offers to take me to Paris to do the work. No distractions. Surrounded by centuries of good karma art.

It’s mid-July. Through no deliberate planning Donny has secured the perfect artist’s flat. A true north light. Huge windows that swing open right beside the coffee table which also raises up to be a dining or, for me, work table. It could not be more perfect. I begin. It’s a huge assignment and I put myself to task everyday before we break for relaxation.

Le quatorze juilletIt is a trip full of wonderful happenstance events at every turn. We have planned nothing and so many amazing things falls into our laps. Two days in I wake to a plethora of planes flying overhead in formation. I snap photos and post them online. Donny’s best friend since grammar school days, Dale Newcomb Ballowe, advises us that we are witnessing Bastille Day. Where can we view the evening fireworks we ponder. The Eiffel Tower of course. Donny decides to try for seating at one of the restaurants. He succeeds. We will have a great meal and a spectacular view. Our cab driver takes us as close as he can get. The tower is blocked off and closed to the public. We get our passes and a ride to the restaurant in the service elevator.

locks newtour de franceWe build incredible memory upon memory every trip and this one is no exception. We see those love locks on Pont de l’Archevêché when the controversy is in its infancy (the tradition migrated to Paris in 2008). Donny realizes that the Tour de France will end a few days after our trip is scheduled to be over. He rebooks our flight and extends our flat dates. We will get to see the final laps! The support vehicles are more entertaining than the cyclists. Miles and miles of endless cars, trucks, buses loaded with equipment. We see the final laps but blink and you miss them, they are so fast.

angelina'sdinner on the seineweddingWe witness a wedding procession down the central street on our tiny mid-Paris island. We take a river dinner cruise and see Paris fade from day into night as we dine on delicacies. The boat takes us farther up river than we have ever walked and we are intrigued by the glimpse of a modern Paris we never see. We have Chocolat L’Africain at Angelina’s a must for us every trip.

paris church 2010We happen upon a rehearsal for a concert which we decide to attend and do. It is Paris awesome. We find a copy shop to make duplicates of all my pen and ink illustrations so that I’ll have backup for coloring. Later back in the states when I need to make a few copies of last minute requested illustrations I realize how lucky we’ve been. The Paris copies are far superior and at that they cost next to nothing.

I finish the last illustrations and lower the table back to coffee sipping level as the sounds of rock band after rock band at Paris Plage drift through the open terrace windows. We wander through this summer fun time where truck loads of sand are brought in and endless outdoor events scheduled to give Parisians the feel of a petite vacation. Yes, Paris always is a celebration.

table back summer paris sand sculpture plage paris


as tall as the pyramid

Impossible to top Paris but I can top the Louvre pyramid!


art finished

And this did happen, 28 total including four double page spreads



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It’ll NEVER Replace Sex

chuck yeager emily and donald

There’s Emily on the left and in the last nanosecond behind the blue arm is Donald. They’re officially a part of history!

“I’ve been waiting all morning to say that.” It’s Chuck Yeager talking about his record setting cross country speed flight of five hours and fifteen minutes from Edwards Air Force Base in California where in 1947 he became the first human to break the sound barrier to our own First Flight Airstrip where the Wright brothers conquered the mysteries of flight in 1903.

clear yeager“We didn’t have nothing to fight,” Yeager said. “We laid down one for them to shoot at…You’ve got two significant places in aviation. We’re going to let someone else shoot at it.” Averaging a speed of 450MPH in a Piper Cheyenne 400LS twin-engine turboprop, Yeager landed at 7:05AM on December 17, 1986 the 83rd anniversary of the first flight and the 50th anniversary of Piper Aircraft.

planeWe know he is coming to town. We figure that we can catch his landing and still make it to school on time. We plan our strategy. I have the three little people to wrangle. We are lucky enough to find a parking place at the airstrip. Emily is in charge of the camera. Donald is her back-up. I stay in the car with the boys. We put the windows down so we can see and hear better.

There are surprisingly few people. It’s crowded but not overwhelming. Mostly professionals looking for their story. The kids elbow their way to the front and get some photos. Chuck answers questions and then states that he is going to get breakfast before the official ceremonies start in a few hours.

auto yeagerWe’re in the car headed to school when I have an inspiration. I tell the kids I’m going to swing by the Ramada where Chuck says that he is headed and see if they can get his autograph. So what if they’re slightly late for school. This is history. I park. We all get out of the car and head into the lobby and upstairs to the restaurant. Only a few people are there. No one has recognized Chuck drinking coffee with his pals. We have nothing to get an autograph on with us. I spy a newspaper rack and buy a paper. Donald takes it over to the table and politely asks for the autograph. Chuck smiles and obliges, glancing over at Emily, me and the three waiting nearby. We’ve done it. We saw history made and got an autograph to prove it.

Imagine my surprise when Mary Dyal Nelson recently posts a video of her lovely and talented mother singing the National Anthem at the First Flight ceremonies and there in the prequel are Emily and Donald with Chuck Yeager and the reporters. They really did become a part of aviation history!


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Filed under family, Flight, flight history