Covid confessions

The end of Summer is here. This is my last week of Summer holiday. I kept working these weeks, but only three days a week. The rest of the week we spent as a family doing fun stuff. This week will end with a few days at a campground with extended family. We do this every year, but this year will be a little bit different. Some family members stay at home, the traditional Saturday meal will not be a collective effort and we will keep our physical distance. The weather will be cold and wet. I don’t particularly look forward to being outside in the cold, but we rented a comfortable tent this time (instead of pitching our own) so it will be less of a hassle. I do look forward to seeing my family again. I can’t wait to hear their stories on how they coped with covid lifestyle, and meet the new baby that was born in the midst of it all. It’s also a perfect environment to celebrate my birthday on Sunday, amidst those I love most.

In the previous confessions I wrote about my increased fear for infections. All over Europe the number of infected people is increasing. The Netherlands is no exception. In February infections were mostly in the (rural) south (carnival probably played a big part), now big cities are mostly worrying about rising numbers. Amsterdam is even contemplating closing the city for tourists. I wasn’t wrong in worrying about countries opening up too soon on too big a scale.

While it is raining outside at the moment and storm Francis will visit us tonight and tomorrow, I realize how lucky we have been the past few months to spend so much time outside. The coming months, which will become colder and wetter will be a new challenge for everyone. Visiting friends and family is a different game when not being able to sit in the garden. Going out requires more planning than ever. While many restaurants had plenty of space outside, seating indoors is very limited.

Next week Daughter will return to school. A new class, new teachers, new rhythm. I long for a steady rhythm during the week. Ever since mid-March I had to readjust my rhythm constantly. From not being able to work to take care of Daughter, back to regular daycare rhythm, then daycare plus school, then back to daycare only for the Summer holiday and next week a new rhythm with five days school and two afternoons daycare for Daughter. Every adjustment takes time for me to get used to. I hope the next change will be a long lasting one, that it will not be interrupted buy school closures and lots of stay-at-home coughs (though testing is now an option).

The past few weeks have been fun mini-breaks, but they were not a great substitute for the three week break from regular life I’m used to during the Summer. My background stress is still there and it’s taking its toll on my neck and mood. I realize I have to prioritize reducing my stress level. I still have a Headspace subscription to help me meditate. I also need to move my body more. Even when it’s raining. That requires a bit more self-encouragement. Hopefully the rain will stay away in September. That would help me find a new rhythm for work, physical activity and motherhood. But that’s for the future, when I’m fourty-two.

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Gel pen replacement next level (237)

As it turned out the Tombow pen I bought last week is great for covering large surfaces, but its flexible point makes it hard to draw circular patterns with evenly thick lines. Peter’s enthusiasm for fountain pens starts to creep into my life and I started searching wether a fountain pen could serve as a drawing alternative. I clearly remember assignments in art class which required using indian ink and pens. Those are a hassle to work with on the road, but could a fountain pen work as well for drawing? I discovered websites that showed you can indeed. Not by using indian ink, since that will clogg it’s flow mechanism, but plenty of other inks will do. I went back to the shop and bought a pen with thinnest point available and a pot of the cheapest ink available. I tested it and the point is still thicker than I’d like, but using the point upside down helps when in need of very thin lines. This pen is not suitable for covering large areas, but that’s where the Tombow can work its magic. The ink I bought is rather watery. That may also cause the lines to become thicker than I want. So my guess is to first look for better ink for drawing. Any recommendations, Peter?

Drawn with Lamy Safari EF
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A day without internet at home is annoying

Yesterday, we spent a working day without internet at home. We decided to switch providers and get an internet only subscription (without TV, which we now have a NLziet subscription for). This saves us about €50 a month. Serious money. The old provider cut us off during the morning, but the new provided would install a new router in the evening. Therefore all I had during the day was internet via my phone. I discovered I switch between devices a lot during the day (iPad for news paper and books, desktop for proper work stuff, laptop for couch work, phone for in between searching). All these switches asked for reconnecting to my phone before connecting to the internet. It quickly became a very unproductive day. I therefore decided to turn to reading, but then discovered how often I wanted to look something up while reading. Checking sources, clarifying terms, following suggestions for further reading. All in all I’m glad we were reconnected at around eight in the evening. Twelve hours without internet at home was more than enough.

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Finding Muji gel pen replacement: experiment one (232)

I’m a fan of my Muji gel pens. I use them for my A6 drawings and I use them for writing (although I’ve now switched to fountain pens for writing). But my stock of black 0.5mm gel pens is running out. Recently I started using the last one and even though it will last me for a while I have been thinking about what to use next. The thing is, I used to buy these pens when visiting Düsseldorf where my dear friend P used to live. During my last visit, knowing P would move out of the country, I stocked up. And that stock is now gone. As Düsseldorf is now less of an attractive visit (no friends to hang out with, covid rules and slightly longer distance driving there) I have two options.

The first option is to order a bunch in the EU Muji store. Muji has no stores in The Netherlands, but they do ship to this country. However, it comes with significant shipping costs of a minimum of €8. That sounds a bit steep for pens that cost €1,95 a piece. Nevertheless, I can order by bulk to lessen the shipping costs per pen if I really want to keep using Muji pens. That said, I’d rather use something that I can buy locally.

So my second option is to find a similar (or better) alternative in the local shops. I went back to the store I bought my new fountain pen a couple of weeks ago, but they focus more on selling writing pens than pens to draw with. Then I went to the hobby shop in the city center. They have a wide collection of pens to choose from. After test driving several black pens I decided to buy a Tombow brush pen. I can use it for both details (I tend to use tiny dots a lot) and paint larger surfaces.

While I was there, I discovered another wonderful collection of felt tip pens in all tints you can imagine. In the last few pieces I drew I used colour as well. One was with water colour paint the other with Muji gel pens. I wasn’t really satisfied with the end result. Therefore I decided to buy a bunch of these felt tip pens to experiment with.

On my A6 cards they render like this.

So now I have to test drive the Tombow and the colours on a new drawing. I will post a review when I’ve finished a new card.

P.S.: I cycled 18 km on this trip. And I also enjoyed a coffee while writing.

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The importance of peers

Until recently Daughter has been reluctant to draw actual things. My parental opinion is that she takes after me when it comes to perfectionism. Her mother is thirty-eight years ahead of her when it comes to drawing circles, so Daughter prefers my circles over hers. When she wants to draw a Sun, I draw the circle and she ads the sunbeams. But still, most of her drawings look similar to the one she made in daycare a little over a week ago.

I was totally convinced she could do more, but wasn’t ready to show it yet. Then two weeks she did start to add more purpose to her lines. She created abstract figures following the rules of zen drawing: taking it one line at a time and turn ‘errors’ into features.

So far Daughter attends the toddler group at daycare, for two to four year olds. When school starts in September she will move on to the after school care group. It is in the same building as her current group so she is allowed to attend her new group for a few days in the run upto full transition. Last week was her first day there and this is what she made:

Hello mum, dad, daughter and baby in the belly. Daughter told me that while she was drawing she sat next to a girl that used to be in her toddler group as well (who turned four a few months before Daughter did). I was right, she could draw more than she showed so far. But when surrounded by two years olds you draw like a two year old. When surrounded by four years old you draw like a four year old.

And now she is unstoppable.

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New story kit (218)

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine reminded me to write more. Write more stories. As my mind was occupied with ‘how the heck do I survive this covid19 thing’ there was too little room for stories in my head. I tried. But there was just too little headspace. Until now.

Yesterday, I decided it’s time to get back into a story mode again. As my story moleskine is nearly full, I bought a new notebook. And to make it even more friction-less to start writing I bought an accompanying fountain pen that I can attach to the notebook.

May the stories flow.

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