Sunday, January 31, 2016

VIVID gallery opening

VIVID gallery opening
2016 started off with a bang for Funnelcloud Studio when one of my paintings was accepted into an art show at a local gallery. While this was not my first gallery show, in the past I've focused on selling art through the Funnelcloud Studio website, Etsy shop, and art markets instead of exhibiting my work in galleries. My goal is to get my work in more galleries in 2016, so it was nice to start the year off with a gallery show.

The show is called VIVID: Abstract Expressions. It is hosted by Falls Church Arts and runs through February 7th at Art Space in Falls Church. The gallery opening was on January 9th and a group of friends (and my mom!) showed up to check out my painting, The Water's Fine #11. The opening night was a lot of fun and the gallery was packed! I was really impressed with the gallery space and the quality of the other pieces on display and I was shocked at how many people came to check out the art. This made taking pictures difficult, so I gave up on photography and enjoyed my wine and the company of my friends instead.
VIVID gallery opening
I had a really good time and was flattered that so many friends came out to support my work. I also had no idea there were so many talented artists in my town and it was fun to feel encouraged about the art scene in Falls Church. My painting is currently available for purchase through the gallery, or you can shop other paintings from The Water's Fine series on my website.

Here are a few pics from opening night:
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
VIVID gallery opening
My painting looked surprisingly small when hung on the gallery walls, so I'm looking forward to going bigger in 2016 and hopefully being able to exhibit my work in more galleries this year. Check out my Upcoming Shows page to see where Funnelcloud Studio will be exhibiting next!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


snowzilla 2016
We were promised a big snowstorm over the weekend, and for once, the meteorologists nailed it. Snowzilla dumped over two feet of snow here in the DC area. The news channels started warning us about this storm almost a week ahead of time, so there was almost too much time to prepare. I went a little crazy stocking up at the grocery store and library. Eat all the things, read all the books!
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
By the artist formerly known as Winter Storm Jonas.

snowzilla 2016
Larry was enraged when he spotted his nemesis, cucumber, in the grocery haul.

As much as I hate winter, I love being snowed in. If only I could spend all winter curled up by the fire with a book, a drink, Netflix, Larry next to me on the sofa and the dogs at my feet, and a house full of delicious food as snowflakes fall outside. Nowhere to go, no responsibilities. (Ok, I always have responsibilities, I just choose to ignore them during a snowstorm! Healthy eating habits are also given the boot when snowbound.)

Larry and I had six days at home together (he worked from home for some of those days) and being shut-off from the real world was glorious! I didn't get amazing pictures like I did during Snowpocalypse 2009 and Snowmaggedon 2010 (still some of the best pics I've ever taken), but we still had a fun weekend. Here's what we did:

+ Finished watching Making a Murderer.
+ Read four books: Snapper, Roller Girl, Relish, H is for Hawk. (Most boring book ever! But I highly recommend both graphic novels.)
+ Cooked up a storm: French Toast, Huevos Rancheros, Carrot Cake Pancakes, Mushroom Lasagna, Banh Mi Pizza, Nachos, Buttermilk Brownies, Banana Bread. Trashed the kitchen in the process.
+ Ate dinner on the sofa every night and stuffed our faces while watching Netflix and OnDemand. (Are there any good movies out there right now? We've watched so many movies lately that have been horrendous. Recommendations needed!)
+ Packed up all the Christmas ornaments and other holiday detritus that had been hanging out on the coffee table.
+ Wasted hours researching airfares and looking at travel websites. We still haven't decided where we'll go to satisfy our wanderlust, but it looks like the Caribbean and South America are out for now due to the CDC warning concerning the Zika virus. No worries though, there are lots of other places we want to go! (I generally don't freak out about these things, but I'm crazy allergic to mosquitos, so why not just go somewhere less mosquito-y and not risk bringing a disease back to the U.S.?)
+ Attempted to play in the snow with the dogs. They love snow, but when Larry and I bundled up to play with them they were over it. Both of them stood on the porch and looked at us like we were fools.
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
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snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
I got so sick of people knocking on our door trying to get us to pay them to shovel our driveway. 
Happens constantly where we live, even while it's still blizzarding outside. No thanks!

After a couple days, we went outside and excavated the car from its frozen tomb. I've never understood why people are so obsessed with shoveling snow immediately? It's the weekend, the government/most businesses are closed, there are two feet of snow on the roads...WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO GO? I prefer to hang out inside and enjoy the time off. (And let the sun do a little melting.)

But we did eventually dig out. That was when I realized that my favorite tool for digging out the car (my SnoBrum that I bought in Syracuse when I was a college student) was in the trunk of the car. Under a six food snow drift. So I dug out with a kickboard instead! Worked perfectly!
snowzilla 2016
snowzilla 2016
Two thumbs up for Snowzilla!*

* We were very fortunate not to lose power, have damage, or have any injuries. Many people along the east coast were not so lucky.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

best of 2015 | best books

Follow what I read and chat with me about books on Instagram: @funnelcloudrach | #booksandbeverages

One of my few successes in 2015 was reading a lot of books. Since we weren't able to travel much, I escaped through reading and found my adventures in the pages of books. I crossed 43 titles off my list this year, but still it never seems like enough. What is it about the desire to read more more more?

While I tend to read books of a variety of subject matters by different types of authors, I also challenged myself with some new genres (science fiction, poetry) this year, thanks to the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. (Stay tuned for a separate blog post on this.)

Here's what I read in 2015:

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Things Fall Apart by China Achebe
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Redeployment by Phil Klay
The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Euphoria by Lily King
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (audiobook)
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum, et al.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Dear Life by Alice Munro

Total number of books: 43
Fiction: 29.5*
Non-Fiction: 13.5*
By Male Authors: 14
By Female Authors: 29

The Opposite of Loneliness included both fiction and non-fiction essays.

I'm having a harder and harder time picking favorite books because I feel like I've been reading a lot of A-minus/B-plus books lately - that is books that I enjoy while reading and am interested in what's going to happen and are well-written, but seem to lack a bit of magic that fully draws me in and leaves a lasting impression. I'm glad I read so many 'good' books this year, but the truly A-plus books are hard to find. I have favorites from this year, but none of them seem to make my all-time list of the best books I've ever read in my life.

My top three books this year were all novels with well-developed plots and characters that really sucked me into the book. (I also seem to gravitate towards colorful abstract covers!) These favorites all had a bit of magic to their stories:

Favorite Books | Euphoria
                             I Know This Much Is True
                             The Interestings
And honorable mention goes to All The Light We Cannot See. This book was beautiful and was well-deserving of the Pulitzer. I also really enjoyed The Book of Unknown Americans.

But there were many others that deserve recognition and made me think about why I read. The answer is always "for entertainment", but some books I read purely for fun (novels) while others I read to challenge myself or learn something (non-fiction, difficult subject matter, classics I should've read in school, genres I'm less familiar with). The novels/memoirs are usually the ones that become my favorites, but there are books in the second category that are also worthy of recognition: Redeployment and Men We Reaped for their difficult subject matter. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? - a graphic novel that was both sad, funny, and most of all, relatable. The Opposite of Loneliness for the incredible writing talent of a young author who's life was tragically cut short at age 22. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed for its thought-provoking, controversial, relatable, and heart-breaking essays, not just about the decision to have or not have kids, but about the human experience and the challenges that life dumps on us throughout every stage of being alive. Good stuff.

And since I love to talk about books, what were your favorites in 2015? Do you have any reading goals for the coming year?

Once again, I'll be working my way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and trying to read more more more in 2016...

+ See what I read in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


travel <3
The thing I love most about January is setting goals and planning out the year. Ok, it's really the only thing I love about January. If I didn't have lists to make and a planner to write in, I'd spend the whole month hibernating.

This year, the thing I'm most excited about planning is travel. After a difficult 2015, Larry and I feel a strong need to travel in 2016. Travel is our love language - it is when our marriage is the strongest, it is when we are happiest and get along the best. The circumstances of 2015 didn't allow us to travel much last year, so there's an extra desire to make up for that this year by exploring the world together. Having a trip to look forward to gets us through the challenging times.
travel <3
The problem is, where? I think this is the first time we've faced a year without travel restrictions. Most of the travel we've done over the past few years (including our wedding in Hawaii and our trip to Wyoming) have been last minute business trips of Larry's that I tagged along on, or trips to visit friends or family.

We've never had the luxury of planning out the year's travel ahead of time without restrictions. We can go anywhere. I'm almost debilitated by that decision. The whole world is wide open to us. (Within reason - we still have a tight budget. Unless we win the $1.4 billion lotto...)

We've been poring over travel books and websites this month, but there are just too many possibilities.
travel <3
Beautiful scenery and being in nature are the most important things when we travel. We're outdoorsy, but not extreme. We like biking, as long as it's not too hilly. We also like good food. (Which can be more difficult to find when we travel now that we no longer eat meat or most animal products.) And wine. We like music and sometimes we travel for concerts. We like experiencing different cultures and exploring towns, art and architecture, though we sometimes find big cities to be too overwhelming if we're in search of relaxation. We prefer to get off the beaten path and away from everyone else if we want to truly relax on vacation.

Check out my travel map here. I'm not necessarily opposed to going back to a country I've already been to (after all, it's been 16 years since I was last in Europe!), but I do prefer to explore new places.
travel planning 2016

We've both been to Europe and Larry's been to central Asia, but other than to a handful of Caribbean islands, we've never traveled internationally together. Time to fix that!

We're considering: Iceland, Greece, Norway/Sweden/Finland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Malta, Argentina.

We're huge fans of the National Parks and have been to 15 of them together. We're hoping to explore another one this year.

+ We're considering: Glacier National Park or Crater Lake National Park (plus a road trip along the Oregon coast and a visit to Portland). These two trips have been on our list forever!

Another huge omission in our exploration of the National Parks is the California parks, especially Yosemite. We've also talked about an RV trip through Texas that would include a stop in Big Bend.

When we got married in Hawaii in March 2013, we vowed to go somewhere warm each year to celebrate our anniversary.

We're considering: The Caribbean! But which island? My initial first choice was St. Lucia, but now I'm considering a lesser-visited and more affordable island like Curacao or Guadeloupe. Or maybe we'll keep it simple and go to Palm Springs instead (I know there's no beach there, but sitting around a pool would be nice!) Or Belize...

In addition to the two big trips, we'd love to squeeze in some weekend trips to local-ish places on the east coast and maybe take some trips with our families if we can convince them to travel. (Hear that, MOM? Where do you want to go?)

We're considering: Dog-friendly cabin getaways and exploring state parks in Virginia and West Virginia, a trip to Savannah (have always wanted to go there and even dream of moving there if it meets my expectations), maybe a trip to New England (Larry wants to cross Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island off our list).

travel <3
DECISIONS, DECISIONS! If this seems like a lot - it is. Hopefully, we'll be able to take a couple of memorable trips this year, but the rest of this is just a pipe dream. It's fun to make lists and dream of all the possibilities, right? And I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that they call our Powerball number! ;)
travel <3
Also, we'd love some input! Have you been to any of these places? What's the best trip you've ever taken? What's your favorite foreign country? Favorite Caribbean island? Favorite national park? A best-kept secret/under-rated location? Where in the world should we go (or avoid)? I'd love to know!