Blogging Break

I have a snow day today (woo hoo!) so I just wanted to stop by and leave a little note for my followers – that sounds cult-like, doesn’t it? – my dedicated readers.  For a variety of reasons, I am going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging – longer than my normal breaks – but I fully intend on resuming blogging when life permits.  I expect to be chatting with many of you on your own blogs but my blog will go a bit quiet for the time being.  Frankly, it is not as if pandemic life is giving me much of interest to share with you.

I shall sign off with some photos of when we Picts recently walked almost the entire length of the Powerline Trail.

2021-01-18 11.26.05

2021-01-18 11.41.29-1

2021-01-18 11.42.58-1

2021-01-18 13.04.46

Third Blog Anniversary in Drawings

Incredibly, today marks three years – three whole years – since I started this blog.  I never would have imagined I would be capable of keeping this blog going for three years but here I am.

It is easy to remember my blog anniversary because I embarked on it a week after emigrating to the US from Scotland.  Therefore, my immigration and my blog have always been inextricably linked.  It was a friend who suggested that I start a blog so that folks back home could see what I was up to (though actually the overwhelming majority just use Facebook to do so) and so that I could have a record, for posterity, of my initial responses and reactions to my new life and experiences.  For at least the  first year, that really was the theme that dominated: finding my feet as a stranger in a strange land.  There were lots of rants as I tried to navigate American bureaucracy, lots of observations about differences between Britain and America, and lots of first experiences.  Gradually, however, by the second year, posts about those sorts of topics became less numerous and instead I started posting about my art work and about family life and about our various trips, travels and experiences as a family.  It’s not that I am not still struggling with some aspects of American life because I sincerely and surely am.  It is just that I don’t post about those things because they are either repetitive (I still hate the road system and it makes me neurotic and anxious) or boring (the tax system here is labyrinthine and even most Americans don’t understand it so I stand no chance) or too private for now (an ongoing battle with a particular authority regarding Civil Rights that causes me sleepless nights and awful stress).

So, for this blog anniversary, instead of a more traditional review I am going to do a version of something I did last December and review the search terms that are bringing people to my blog.  Since that blog post was all words, this time I thought I might illustrate it with some quick, silly drawings.  I picked five not quite at random but five among those that I thought might have a strong visual element to them.  This is what I ended up with.

#5 “helen of troy for kids”

I regularly get people turning up at my blog looking for Helen of Troy.  Who knew she was quite so popular?  Whatever these searchers are looking for, I do hope they find some sort of answer when they land on my Helen of Troy drawing.  But they probably don’t.  I am encouraged that so many people are into the classics though.  The “for kids” bit of the search term throws me a bit.  Are they looking for a child-friendly translation of The Iliad?  Anyway, in my mind I converted this search term into Helen’s abduction by a pair of kids who have her trussed up in their wagon.

Blog2016 - Helen of Troy for kids

#4 “mixed up animals art”

Lots and lots of people wash up on the shores of my blog because they are searching for some sort of art inspiration.  I do wonder what that says about the appeal of the rest of my blog’s content but never mind.  This search term sparked an idea, however, in that the word “art” could be a noun and was probably intended as such but it could also, just about, be a verb – I know my kids and I talk about “arting”.  Let’s just pretend it is grammatically correct for the sake of my brain segue.  I imagined mixed up, Picasso-like animals engaged in making art.

Blog2016 - Mixed Up Animals Art

#3 “mondrian for children”

It’s great that so many people are looking for ways to introduce kids to the great artists.  I hope my Mondrian History of Art lesson with my kids gave someone some ideas.  Their search term made me think of Piet Mondrian campaigning for kids, being “for” something in the sense of protest.  I, therefore, drew him with a placard that alludes to his style.  My 10 year old asked why on earth I was drawing Hitler.  Oh dear.

Blog2016 - Mondrian for Children

#2 “minotaur easy step by step”

My minotaur drawing gets a lot of visitors even two years after I drew him.  Any suggestions as to why people are conducting internet searches for minotaurs?  This particular search term made me think of a minotaur being sneaky and tip-toeing around the labyrinth.

Blog2016 - Minotaur Step by Step

#1 “packing tape pa”

This is one of those search terms I just cannot resolve.  What on earth was this person trying to find?  My assumption is that they arrived at my blog because “pa” is the PA of Pennsylvania but why would they be googling for packing tape in Pennsylvania?  Just go the store and get some tape.  No need to google it.  But if it is “pa” in the sense of father or grandfather then what is the connection between the older male relative and the need for packing tape?  I don’t know that I want the answer but that latter interpretation formed the basis of my drawing.

Blog2016 - Packing Tape Pa

My Top Ten Search Terms

My favourite thing about WordPress Stats is the list of search terms that have brought people to my blog.  Of course, most of them are “unknown” but most days there is at least one phrase in there that shows how people arrived at Pict in PA from an internet search engine.  A conversation with Ellen Hawley on her excellent blog, Notes from the UK, prompted me to start logging these phrases which are surprisingly more often wacky, weird and perplexing than they are sensible.  I am often mystified as to how that particular search term brought someone to my blog.  I guess that is the magic and wonder of the internet.  Therefore, for my end of year blog review, I am going to share with you my Top Ten of the most mind-boggling search terms that brought visitors to my blog.

#10 = “18 year art paint”

I am sharing these search terms exactly as they were written.  It is interesting to note how few people ever use upper case letters or punctuation.  Apparently some people also forego syntax and word order, hence this example, a jumble of words that fail to combine to create a coherent, understandable phrase.  Was this person after a painting by an 18 year old artist?  A painting that was 18 years old? Or painted in the 18th Century?  Were they looking for paint that was 18 years old?  Or eighteen years’ worth of paint?  A quick google yields the probability that the searcher ended up on my post regarding teaching my kids about Modigliani.  I am pretty confident that is not what the searcher was looking for.  Sorry to disappoint.  Maybe try an actual sentence next time.

#9  = “dryad pict nude”

Clearly the word “pict” was critical in dumping this searcher on the doorstep of my blog.  I do not, however, think they were looking for a website about an ancient tribe indigenous to Scotland.  Deploying my meagre Sherlock skills, I think the word “nude” might indicate that this person was after a nude picture but was too lazy to type three more letters into the search bar.  So they wanted a picture of a nude dryad.  Interesting.  Sexual peccadillo or an appreciation for classical mythology?  Whatever their motive, they no doubt happened upon my watercolour painting of an Autumn Dryad.  No bared breasts or genitals on show, I’m afraid.  Sorry about that.

#8 = “take a pict with my name in your hands”

Obviously the word “pict” is what brought this searcher to my blog.  What baffled me was why they were prepared to write a long phrase in the search bar yet omitted the final letters of “picture” which presumably would have yielded much more focused results.  Well, unless they really were intending to offer someone a small Scottish person holding a name plate.  It’s the internet: anything is possible.  What was it this searcher wanted anyway?  Were they looking for a photo of some hands holding their specific name?  Or were they looking for someone to hire for the job of holding the required name in their hands?  Quite peculiar.  Some investigative googling leads me to understand they would have landed up on my blog post about sketching in the Philadelphia Museum of Art where I neither held a name in my hands nor, as a wee Pictish person, was I given to any other person.

#7 = “redneck Britain”

This one gets a mention not because I cannot fathom why someone arrived at my blog but just because I am rather intrigued by the search.  The blog post this searcher would have chanced upon would be my account of visiting a Redneck Festival in Pennsylvania.  I have not, thus far, written about “redneck Britain” and I must admit this search term set me to pondering whether such a thing exists.  “Redneck” isn’t a term used in Britain but certainly we have equivalent derogatory terms and no doubt there is some equivalent pocket of culture that people might deem “redneck”, some rural culture considered to be unsophisticated.  Exploring the differences might make for an interesting blog post but probably not written by me.  Perhaps one of my readers would like to take up that baton and go forth to research and write.

#6 = “do walrus poop”

This search term made my children and me chuckle.  Puerile humour always does.  Why on earth was someone searching for the answer to this question?  Of course, walrus poop!  A more difficult question to answer is whether the plural of walrus is walrus or walruses.  The web proclaims it can be either.  But whether they are walrus or walruses or even walri, they most certainly defecate because all mammals do.  I am not even going to google just to double check.  That is how obvious the answer is.  Do they poop in the water or on land?  Maybe both.  I don’t know because I am not going to google it and find out.  I imagine a huge hulking walrus with its punk attitude tusks will poop wherever the heck it feels like pooping.  Until this search term cropped up, I had totally forgotten that I had written a very early blog post entitled ‘Walrus Poop’ which was actually not about the feces of marine mammals at all but was a bit of a moan and a contrast to unicorn farts apparently.  It must have been very disappointing for that searcher.

#5 = “dr. inky reading pa”

What on earth was this person searching for?  Is there a medical professional out there named Dr Inky?  Does he reside in Reading, PA or does he like reading in PA or even reading to his pa?  Googling turns up the fact that the Urban Dictionary claims that “Dr Inky” is a term for “drinkies”, the quaffing of alcohol with chums, but does not reveal any Dr with the surname Inky.  I hope the searcher who landed up on my blog was not experiencing a medical emergency.  My best guess for what blog post they landed up on is The Four Boys Questions simply because it was the top result when I searched for “Dr”.

#4 = “old pa nude”

Why was someone searching the corners of the internet for an old pa nude?  Did the old male have to be a pa?  Would lack of fatherhood have disqualified him?  How old is old in this case too?  Would a middle aged man in his birthday suit have been too young for this searcher?  While an older gentleman does feature in a selection of my life drawings over on my art blog, Pict Ink, this searcher would have been disappointed by what they likely found on Pict in PA, which is a post about teaching kids about Botticelli that happens to feature my ink drawing of a nude but a nude who is neither old nor a pa.

#3 = “mr creepy bugs goliath”

In third place, we have another head scratcher: who or what is Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath?  It sounds like the first draft name for the Babadook movie character or maybe a Tim Burton screenplay or a slightly offbeat kids’ picture book.  Maybe I will draw Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath some time.  Was the searcher looking for information about Goliath Beetles?  Or maybe a chap named Mr Creepy who was really bugging Goliath before he set off to have a tussle with David?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I am not even sure what blog post of mine they might have chanced upon.  It could be one about catching fireflies (not creepy) or about my encounters with Black Widow Spiders (more creepy) or maybe our visit to the Insectarium in Philly.

#2 = “friendly kids corner mr cone head”

This search term had me at a loss for a long time.  It came hot on the heels of Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath which led me to think that Mr Cone Head was his sidekick, lurking in corners being friendly to kids perhaps.  Judder.  A bit of googling for the purposes of writing this post, however, revealed that the chain restaurant Friendly’s serves a dessert named the Cone Head.  The penny dropped.  I had written a post about eating in a Friendly’s when we Picts vacationed in Massachusetts with my parents in July 2014.  The word “cone” did indeed feature in that post.  So did the words “kids”, “Mr” and “Friendlys”.  I guess that was enough for the search engine algorithm.  I am all disappointed now.  I rather liked the idea of it being much more sinister.

#1 = “dr grunther does postmortems with live mammals”

And so we come to my number one most bizarre search term, the weirdest of the weird, and I think you will agree that it was quite the contender and would have been difficult to beat.  First of all, how does one perform postmortems on live mammals?  The very word postmortem indicates that the animal has to be dead prior to the dissection taking place.  So, whoever Dr Grunther is or was, he certainly was not performing postmortems on live mammals.  Nevertheless, the search term as written suggests that Dr Grunther might need to attend the same support group as Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath and Mr Cone Head who lurks in corners.  Googling revealed a surprising number of physicians and PhDs with the surname Grunther and even a pathologist named the close enough Dr Gunther.  Then some cobwebs cleared from the shelves of my memory and I had a tiny wee epiphany.  Clearly the searcher was looking for information about Dr Gunther Von Hagens, a pioneer in a plastination process so that the biological systems of various once living organisms can be observed.  Two of my kids and I had seen an exhibition of his plastinated animal carcasses at the Franklin Institute.  That was what had brought someone to my blog, despite the odds being stacked against them given the oddness of their search terms and their getting his name wrong.  Unless there really is a Dr Grunther out there who is somehow autopsying still breathing critters.

That concludes my retrospective of blogging in 2015 and some of the weird and wonderful ways that people have happened upon my blog.  Of course, very many more people found my blog through search terms that were less obscure and which would have led them to blog posts that were at least potentially of interest to them but those search terms were not nearly as entertaining or thought-provoking.  I rather think I might collect 2016’s oddball, wingnut, what-the-heck search terms too.

Happy New Year!  Here’s to a wonderful 2016!

Blogger Recognition Award

I have been nominated by Noémie from the Focal Heart blog for two blogging awards: the Liebster and the Blogger Recognition Award.  I was nominated for and accepted the Liebster Award in June 2014 so I cannot accept that one again, though I certainly appreciate Noémie nominating me.  In the spirit of community building, however, and in order to direct my readers to some of the many blogs that I read and enjoy, I will happily accept the Blogger Recognition Award.  I cannot recall how I stumbled upon Focal Heart but I certainly recommend that you stumble upon it too.  Noémie’s enthusiasm for creativity is infectious and I always enjoy the way she integrates her son into her creative life given how woven into my creative life my own sons are.

To accept the Award, I am tasked with answering a series of questions.  I hope that you find the answers informative.

1. Tell how this blog got started.

I started this blog almost immediately after emigrating in October 2013.  A friend had suggested that I might start blogging in order to keep everyone informed about what I was getting up to across the ocean and I thought I would give it a bash.  I soon found that blogging helped me process my thoughts and feelings about all my new experiences, the highs and lows, turning the jumble into some sort of order.  Then I found that I enjoyed the interaction with my readers and other bloggers.  I have now been blogging regularly for two years.

2. Give some advice to new bloggers.

I don’t think I am in a position to offer any particular safe advice on blogging.  Just write and keep writing.  That’s it.  Some bloggers have a very tight focus for their subject matter and some post regularly and can schedule their posts in advance.  Since my primary blog is inspired by my daily life, I blog whenever I feel like something has happened that is worth writing about – an experience, an observation, an activity – so my blogging is more haphazard.  Some days I can post multiple times but I probably post two or three times a week on average.  I do schedule posts on my art blog, Pict Ink, but I actually prefer the more organic posting on this blog.  So my secondary advice is to blog about the things you find interesting and work out what style of posting works best for you.

3. What’s your favourite animal and what do you like about them?

There are lots of animals I really like but my most consistent favourite is the pig.  I think they have sweet faces and I like how smart they are.  Pigs turn up a fair bit in my art work.  The animal that turns up even more frequently in my art work, however, is the rabbit.  I think it must be my creative spirit animal.

4. Have you discovered any new music this year? what is your current favourite musician/band? and why?

I have apparently reached that age and stage in my life where I am totally out of touch with contemporary music.  I don’t watch any music television and I listen to NPR on the radio so I just don’t hear contemporary music in passing.  I have become that parent who does not recognise the music my kids are listening to or singing.  I mainly listen to music when I am doing chores that involve me wandering around the house or when I am drawing or painting.  I listen to a lot of older music – largely stuff the same vintage as I am – and a lot of folk music.  What I have mostly listened to this week is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and the  Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell.

5. What is that smell?

Right now I can smell freshly baked banana bread.

6. What books are on your bedside table right now?

My kindle is on my bedside table and it is loaded with books. I have just read a few thrillers in a row but currently I am reading through a few issues of the magazine Family Tree.

7.  What do you do when you want to relax?

Art is what I do to relax.  I try to grab some time for art most days.  I break almost all my art projects down into stages so that I can fit art around my priorities and my other commitments and obligations.  That makes it easier to find time for creativity in every day.  I also relax by watching movies with my husband and kids.

8.  What should we do with the drunken sailor early in the morning?

Make him a large bowl of porridge.

9. What’s your favourite place in the world and why?

I completely admit to bias and will answer with Scotland.  It is a fantastic country, rich in culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes.  If you have never been then you should go.  Pack layers though, including waterproof ones.  If I am to pick somewhere other than my homeland, however, I would not hesitate in saying Rome.  I love Rome and would go back in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

10. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

A cup of tea.

11. Where are you going dressed like that?

I am in my standard mum uniform of jeans and a t-shirt and cosy slippers.

12. Where is your favourite place to go for a walk and why?

I just like walking and exploring whether it is in a city, a town, the countryside, the woods, the coast.  I love travelling, seeing and experiencing new things.  When I think of taking my kids out for a walk, however, I do tend to think of walks in the woods.  There are lots of opportunities for fun in the woods.

13. Why do men have nipples?

Men have nipples because for some reason their nipples develop before their bodies figure out they have XY chromosomes and won’t be needing them.  It’s like nature embarks on a construction project before reading the whole instruction manual.

14.  What’s your favourite drink (hot or cold)?

Tea.  Always tea.  I drink tea every day.  At least once but usually more.

15. Why do they do that?

I ask myself that about my kids all the time.

16. That creepy looking Nosferatu-esque character behind you… who is that?

I love Nosferatu.  He should introduce himself.  We can hang out.  I will pop the kettle on.

17. Goslings are pretty good. Aren’t they?

Multiple Ryans or the birds? Thanks to my husband’s nerdy obsession with ancient Rome, geese always make me think of the sacred geese that acted as guards for Rome, alerting its people to an invasion by the Gauls.

 

I follow a diverse and eclectic selection of blogs and I enjoy them all – hence my following them in the first place – so it is impossible for me to nominate specific blogs to pay this award forwards.  However, if you read this post and yours is a blog that I follow and you would like to receive the Blogger Recognition Award then please do consider yourself nominated by me.  Perhaps you could write a little about what inspired you to start blogging and what you feel is the best aspect of blogging.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the blogs that I find most diverting at present and which I recommend you check out, certainly not an exhaustive list and in no particular order.  If you like my blog because of my observations about the differences between America and Britain then you will enjoy the witty observations and writing of the authors of This British-American Life and Notes from the UK.  On the subject of wit, you should definitely check out My OBT because Donna’s weekly Etsomnia posts guarantee a good chuckle – and her other posts are always worth reading too.  What I love about Claudia McGill’s poetry – and her art work is wonderful too – is her ability to transform the mundane and everyday into something profound and engaging.  Similarly, Van of Van By The River has an ability to spin deeper truths out of her everyday life and is always worth reading.  Joy’s posts at Joy Loves Travel are also well worth perusing as are the photographs at Fife Photos & Art.  If you are interested in mixed media and art journaling then I heartily recommend Krisje’s posts at Art is my Favorite Color and Carrie Lynn at Carrie Cordero Designs.  Penny’s uplifting drawings at Motivating Giraffe always make me feel happy.  Inspirational photography can be found at Mike Powell’s blog with its beautiful nature photography and informative posts and at Leanne Cole’s photography blog.  I also always enjoy the writings of Glasgow Dragonfly and Mara Eastern.  Do check them all out.

Thanks!

1000 Followers – I Thank You!

Yesterday the musical little chime from my WordPress app informed me that I had reached 100o followers.  Wow!  I am amazed and overjoyed and surprised.  It was not that long ago that I was over the moon to reach double digits in my number of followers.  I think this time last year I might have had a 100 followers.  A thousand though?  Woah!  My flabber was well and truly gasted and my wee mind was blown.  I am perplexed, yes, but mostly touched that so many people find my posts interesting and interesting enough to want to follow my blog.

As of today, I have 1,012 followers and I wish to thank each and every one of you.  Thank you for engaging with my blog, thank you for the “likes”, thank you for the interaction in the comments section – both on my blog and in your blogs – and thanks for giving me an audience that motivates me to keep writing and sharing my experiences.  Whatever post first brought you to my blog, I hope you find something of interest in my ongoing posts at least from time to time and that you want to stick around.

I appreciate each and every one of you.  Thank you!

800!

A musical tinkle on my phone just informed me I have over 800 people following my blog now. Wow! I could never have imagined having even a hundred followers let alone several hundred. Indeed, when I started blogging in October 2013, I thought it would be amazing if I even had ten people reading. Seriously. 

As much as I enjoy blogging as an exercise in creative writing, I suspect I would have quit blogging had I not had readers to interact with. Conversations on this blog and on the blogs I follow maintain my interest in writing, sharing and publishing these little tidbits from my life.
I am, therefore, entirely surprised, bowled over, bemused but also completely thrilled and touched that so many of you have clicked “follow”. I can only hope that I can maintain your interest and that you stick around. I definitely appreciate it.

Thank you!

Thank You to Followers New and Old

I just wanted to write a quick post to welcome my new followers.  Since one particular post I wrote last September has gained a lot of attention, the number of people following my blog has doubled in a matter of a few days.  I have been bowled over by the response.  It was completely unexpected and I am feeling quite overwhelmed.  I am slowly ploughing through all of my emails and am trying to reply to comments as quickly as I possibly can.  I also fully intend to return the favour and visit all of your blogs.  Meanwhile I just wanted to thank you so much for deciding to click the Follow button.  I hope you continue to find my writing of interest.

I will also take this opportunity to thank all of my seasoned followers too, some of whom have been following me from almost the very beginning.  I would have become quickly demotivated with blogging, I’m sure, had I not had even a tiny audience so I appreciate every single one of you for reading and commenting and for the interaction I have with you both on my blog and on your blogs too.  I never for one instant thought I would have hundreds of people reading my musings, ramblings and reflections.  I truly am both overwhelmed and grateful.

Thank you, one and all.

Taking a Wee Break

Happy July, Dear Readers!

I am going to be having a completely and utterly busy July.  As such, I have decided to take a month long break from blogging on Pict in PA.  However, all the activity that shall be keeping me busy will mean I have a cornucopia of blog fodder when I resume posting.  In addition to some summer adventures and explorations, I am going to be working with my kids on a History of Art project.  You can, therefore, brace yourself for lots of posts in August.

I am going to keep blogging on my art blog, Pict Ink, for a wee bit longer but will then also have a brief break from blogging there too.

I am also going to grab this opportunity to thank all of my readers and followers (over 300 of you, which is staggering to me) for visiting my blog, liking and commenting.  Interaction with all of you – whether through comments here or through visiting your blogs – keeps me motivated and engaged in blogging.  Thank you!

See you in August!

Laura

My First Blogiversary

A little musical tinkle on my phone just informed me that today is the first anniversary of my blog.  I had forgotten that I had started blogging so soon after my arrival in America so it came as quite a surprise.

Since I recently wrote a blog entry reflecting on my first year in America, I won’t rehash the same thought processes in this anniversary post.  I never imagined that so many people would pop by and visit my blog on a regular basis, that anyone would find what I wrote about settling into life in a new country interesting or engaging, so I am beyond thrilled to have regular readers.  When I started this blog, I never even contemplated having readers and I have to say that one of the best aspects of blogging turns out to be the dialogue I get into with the people who visit and comment or with the people whose blogs I visit.  It’s like having an online natter and it’s really enjoyable.

As my blogging year has progressed, my posts seem to have split into two different categories: writing about the personal experiences of myself and my family, sharing our travels and explorations, my grumbles, rants and achievements; and my creative endeavours and sharing my art work.  As such, I recently decided to launch a separate blog for my art work so that I could divide those two aspects of my writing more coherently, though I imagine there shall be some crossover for a bit.

Should you like to continue following my artistic pursuits, therefore, you can do so at Pict Ink.  I would be delighted to see you there.  Of course, I rather hope you will continue to stop by Pict in PA as well as Pict Ink.

Thank you, everyone, for reading and commenting and giving me the impetus to keep writing and sharing this past year.  It’s been a great deal of fun and I hope it will continue to be in this coming year and beyond.