Monday, March 29, 2010

regeneration


I am in awe of nature. Or more precisely, I am in awe of plants. All of these wonderful blooming creatures were frozen to the ground last January. And while my definitely tropical hibiscus and plumerias show no signs of returning, these six semi-tropicals are shooting up from the roots.

angel trumpet

confederate rose

hummingbird bush

night blooming jasmine

plumbago

yellow bells


Friday, March 26, 2010

a job done


We finished all 13 panels for St. Stanislaus Catholic Church yesterday. Installation is set for next Wednesday. They ranged in size from 38” x 38” to 38” x 61”. These panels go into a new wall that was built to create a small lobby inside the main doors to the church. Previously, when you entered the church, you entered the sanctuary. When we were first contacted about the work, the Father wanted angels on the doors and crosses on all the other panels. Fortunately, one of the ladies on the committee didn't think that lived up to the potential of the space and she did an internet search and found us.



We ultimately decided on angels for the doors, and for the rest of the panels we decided on a design motif of the seven sacraments. These are in no particular order...

marriage
confirmation
ordination
extreme unction
baptism
reconciliation
communion



That of course left 2 panels blank. For those we used symbols for the tree of life and the trinity. Later, they added the cry room which we divided into two panels because we simply cannot pick up and move a piece of glass that big. The cry room, for those of you uninitiated in the ways of the catholic, is where mothers (or fathers) go with crying children so that they will not disturb the other worshipers. The Father wanted a design of Jesus with the children. We tied it in by using the same border. We'll be there during the installation and will take pictures so I'll post them later.



We are very happy that we were able to finish the job and get it installed before Easter, if only just. Actually, it could have been installed Monday or Tuesday, but the Father is going to be away those days and he really wants to be there. We are very happy to be done because we have been working pretty much non-stop since late summer. Three big jobs, one after the other, squeezing in two small jobs as well. It's tiring and not just physically. We are ready for a break, some downtime, some time to spend on other of life's necessities. Ready to get back in the studio and do some new pate de verre and cast glass stuff.

The end of this job is also the end of all the contracted work we have. Two maybe out there but I'm only confident of one. Another nibble, in fact turned down doing a logo, but there are other areas in this project for us, so says the art consultant. I hope I didn't put him off by not wanting to do the logo. Really, there was no reason to do it in glass. It could have been much better done in other media. We have banked enough money to see us through for a while but these times always make me nervous.

I could do cold calls but those take so long to bear fruit if I even get a nod. Probably I will check in with certain designers, an email seeing how they are doing. Last year I started to work on a newsletter but then got busy about this time and never really got it going. Perhaps I'll resurrect that idea. I've been neglecting my website and have slipped off the first several pages of the search engines. I should do some sort of promotion. But to tell the truth, I'm tired of having to do that. There are times when I wish I had taken a different path and had some sort of retirement/pension. I know realisticly that even if I had gone that route I very probably would have lost it through two stock market crashes and the bad economy (like other people I know). I might even be unemployed with no options. Or rather the same options I have now. And my life certainly would have been different but I rather doubt, better.

So, here I am in a place I have been many times. I have a few months reprieve and I am ready for a break. Today I took the day off, indulged in doing some spring maintenance in the yard. Tomorrow, more of the same. We are just really happy to be home after being away for a week.

I know this gorgeous weather will give way to the heat and humidity of summer sooner rather than later and so I am going to enjoy as much of it as I can. Plenty of time to get busy in the studio when this has passed.

Life...is good.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

O Texas my Texas




A lady here in our great state was the benefactress of a fund raiser to help her battle breast cancer except it was a scam and she used the money to get breast implants. She’s been arrested. Lawyers for the scammed are wanting her to pay restitution and maybe have the court order her to have the implants removed.

Some kids in fort Bend County broke into their high schools and stole the computers, uploaded some software and returned them to the school. Then they proceeded to access their student records and changed grades and attendance records (OMG, that's never been done before!). The county prosecutor is deliberating charges because what they did was, of course, illegal. Punishment could range from probation to life in prison. Seriously? Life in prison for changing your high school records?

It's not bad enough that it's a constant battle to keep the christian biblical story of creation out of the science books. Now they want to revise the history books as well. No longer will Thomas Jefferson and separation of church and state be studied. Never mind that separation of church and state is one of the hallmarks of our constitution. The religious right wants this to be a christian nation and if they have to rewrite history to make it so, then so be it.

Back when in the wild west, Texans were the baddest asses around. You messed with a Texan at your own peril. Texas is where the outlaws ran to escape the law. Now instead of being the baddest asses around we're just the most ignorant. What the hell happened?

Monday, March 22, 2010

escaping winter's grasp


With the vernal equinox came the (hopefully) last cold front of the winter. So while the calendar is saying 'spring', the weather was saying 'winter'. It's warming up now. Me? I had to work all weekend regardless. One more week to finish the 8 out of 13 panels for St. Stanislau, the catholic church in Chappell Hill, so they can be installed before Easter (pictures soon).

So since I have no time, or am too tired and brain dead to come up with a witty or poignant post, here are some random pictures of spring flowers but what you won't see is the azaleas. None of my azaleas are blooming this year. I can't remember when that has ever happened before. I guess the drought last summer and the frigid week in January did them in. Come to think of it, I haven't seen any blooming around town either. But (and you may click on the pictures to enlarge)...


The wood violets are blooming


along with these small red lilies. The pot label said african lilies when I bought it. They are pretty in the spring but they're invasive. That's one of the things that makes them so pretty though, they have spread every where and are thick.


The red bud trees have been beautiful this year. We have them in both yards, city and country.


Out at the country house, the peas have been blooming in the garden


and the bluebonnets are putting up buds.


Back in the city this tree is blooming in the next block. There are three of them nearby the country house. This particular one, the top part of the trunk died this summer as it used to be taller.


Does anyone know what kind of tree this is? It is so sweetly fragrant.

Friday, March 19, 2010

a rabbit tale



When my daughter was in 6th grade she asked if she could have a bunny for a pet. Since I had had a bunny when I was a kid, I considered it within the realm of possibility. However, I was not willing to keep a rabbit in a small hutch for it's lifetime, which is how my rabbit lived it's life. It was an Easter rabbit, purchased in a pet store, a baby that grew to a full size rabbit, brown and so I named it, appropriately, Brownie. I would take Brownie out of her hutch (in hindsight, I believe Brownie was a her) and pet her (she was very docile), hold her in my lap until the day she peed in my lap. Hot abundant pee. After that I was a little hesitant to let her sit in my lap. I was afraid to let her run loose in the yard, thinking that she would run away and get killed by dogs (this was back in the day when everyone let their dogs run loose) so she spent her poor little miserable life in a small hutch. One day I went out to feed her and she had died.

By the time my daughter said she wanted a bunny I had learned that rabbits can be trained to use a litter box like a cat so I decided we would have a house rabbit. Not ideal, it wouldn't be outdoors, but far better than a small hutch.

Because it was not around Easter that we were trying to find a rabbit, the pet stores did not have any so I looked in the want ads, found a place 'in the country' and my daughter and I drove out there to pick out a bunny. This guy raised rabbits of various kinds, I guess to supply pet stores, and all the babies were pretty young and not used to being handled and so struggled when the man put one in my daughter's hand which she didn't like. He also had a half grown male miniature dutch rabbit.

The breeder had thought to see if neutering male rabbits would make them calmer and had undertaken to neuter this rabbit and had, in fact, removed one of it's testicles. Apparently male rabbit testicles are hard to find and so he was planning to have another go at it but decided the whole enterprise was more trouble than it was worth. So this little male miniature dutch bunny had only one nut. But he was very calm and let my daughter hold him and this was the one she wanted. Could not be persuaded to consider one of the baby bunnies. She named him Bunnykins on the ride home, most often shortened to Bunny but sometimes referred to as That Rabbit.

So, Bunnykins, the half neutered buck miniature dutch rabbit came to live with us. Rabbits will indeed use a litter box. They also gnaw on everything. Furniture legs, baseboards, stuff left on the floor, electrical cords. And they are territorial. Did I mention we also had two cats? The cats were indoor/outdoor cats, pretty much coming and going as they pleased. They didn't really know quite what to make of that thing but they kept a wary distance.

Bunny, as he matured, started to engage in bunny behaviors. He would stalk those cats. They would be minding their own business, keeping an eye out for the rabbit and the rabbit would be sitting motionless somewhere across the room. The moment the cats' attention was distracted, that rabbit would move up a few paces. And the next time they looked, he would still be motionless only a few steps closer. He was a very sneaky rabbit.

The cats tried to keep their distance but eventually the rabbit would get close enough to express his amor. You've seen those cartoons, right? The ones where the dog and cat or the cat and mouse or the cat and skunk are a whirling mass with an occasional flash of ear or limb or tail? Yeah, that. Our poor kitties would finally break loose and run for high ground. Bunnykins was one tough rabbit. After a couple of bouts with the rabbit, the cats mostly stayed outside and when they did come in they would scan the room from the door and then run to the nearest piece of furniture and then they would leap from chair to table to couch to bookcase, whatever, but they were not setting foot on the floor where That Rabbit reigned.

I guess we had had Bunnykins for a year and a half or so when we got a boxer puppy for our son. It was love at first sight for those two. For my son and the dog but also for the dog and the rabbit. Atilla the Honey or Tilly for short, was about the same size as the rabbit when she came to live with us. Bunny was full grown by that time and Tilly of course was just starting to grow. With the dog also came the getting of a fence around the property which we had not had before.

I don't rightly remember how long it was before I had had enough of a house rabbit with the whole chewing on everything and the stalking of the cats and the bunny pellets that didn't always find their way into the litter pan but at some point I banished the rabbit to the outdoors. I used chicken wire and garden stakes to erect a fence around a fairly large area and built a shelter inside so that although he was confined to a space, it was by far larger than a hutch.

One day soon after the rabbit went to live outdoors, I noticed the neighbor's cat sitting on top of the wood fence between our properties which Bunny's habitat backed up to. I sat myself down to watch the show, never for a moment fearing for the rabbit. The cat hunkered down and crept slowly closer and closer until it finally got up the nerve to jump into the rabbit's enclosure intent on having itself a grand time and perhaps a rabbit dinner. Well, needless to say, the cat got the surprise of it's life. That rabbit was on that cat like a duck on a june bug. It fled for it's life and was not seen again.

Now I mentioned that the dog and the rabbit had become best buds and though the 'fence' was admittedly flimsy, it was good enough to keep the rabbit in. Not good enough to keep the dog out however. Tilly was not happy that her pal was in a fenced area where she could not get to it so she would jump up against the chicken wire, flatten it to the ground and let the rabbit out. She would let That Rabbit hump her to his heart's content and he would let the dog carry him around in her mouth. They would take turns chasing each other across the yard and back. They would cuddle up and nap. Entertained the neighbors no end. I finally gave up trying to keep the rabbit in the enclosure and dismantled it since the dog would go right behind me and let him out every time I put him back in.

One day though, just like Peter Rabbit's daddy, Bunnykins got into the wrong yard. He found a hole in the back corner of the fence and on the other side of that fence were two dogs. Because of his friendship with Tilly and his general fearlessness, the rabbit did not understand about dogs and so early one morning, Bunnykins met his demise.

I was dreading having to tell my daughter that Bunny had been killed so I sat her down and broke the news to her as gently as I could.

Oh,” she said. “So, can I get a cat?”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the Gang Of Four has gone


This is the first evening since last Friday that I have not been cooking, cleaning or responding to the chorus of 'Granny Granny Granny'. I love my grandkids but I also think my daughter is nuts. What the hell was she thinking? Four? Two was exhausting back when.

I have prepared and cleaned up after (with the occasional help of various kidlings) three meals a day from Saturday evening to Wednesday afternoon (except Marc did Tuesday night and lunch today, the preparing part). So much work goes into meal prep and clean up.

We only had two kids. Our daughter? Four. Two seemed consuming to me. I don't know how she does it. And I thank god for birth control. My mother and sister have done some genealogy and the lists of children have 10 to 12 entries. Granted, up to about a third of the children also died back then, but can you just imagine giving birth that many times, having to look after, feed and tend to that many small lives? No wonder women wore out.

We also had lots of other fun. The kids brought their bikes and the other kids on the street were out for spring break. We worked a 500 pc. jigsaw puzzle, dug in the garden, bought and planted tomatoes, peppers and strawberries, collected eggs at my sister's, unrestrained bike riding ensued, we picked up the 8' diameter water tank (Big Mama's new pond if we ever get her moved) at the local feed store and brought it home in the back of the pick-up, there was some tree climbing, some sleeping in the tent in the backyard (yes, me too, one night), going to the library and at least one trip to the grocery store every day. They each got five dollars to spend at a resale shop (where everything over $1 is half price) in the next little town over or keep it or spend it on candy.

It's really been wonderful spring weather. It rained one whole day, an intermittent gentle rain, but all day just the same and then the next day was another blue sky warm day.

What I did not get done was the full size art work for the last window for the current job. Foolish of me, I know, to think that I had even a hope of getting it done while the Gang Of Four were here. Oh well, (sigh), a girl can dream.

So we are headed back to the city tomorrow as early as possible to begin the home stretch of the current project. We will be 'in city' until it is done.

I'd process a few pics to illustrate this post but it's late and I'm for bed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

a few days off


We're home, at the country house with all four grandkids. More time digging in the garden getting it ready to plant this week.

Busy busy as only I am when they are here. Lots of cooking (they eat ALL the time) and the subsequent cleaning with bouts of other activity in between.

Here's a few pictures of some things that greeted me when we got home (click to enlarge).


The red bud tree.

The iris that appeared during the week we were in the city.

A huge flock of cedar waxwings perched in two trees eating the red berries on another in between.

Friday, March 12, 2010

work in and work out



We're feeling a bit optimistic today. Of the 13 pieces of glass we have the sandblasting done on 7, the stencil is cut on one more and by the end of the day today two more stencils will be cut and at least one more sandblasted. Also, I am getting the last bit of art work done that I have been putting off and it is at the reprographic shop getting enlarged to full size. Still have to do the cream etching on all the panels and we are taking 3 days off next week (spring break with the g'kids), but it looks in the realm of possibility to get it done and installed by Easter. That would make them so happy. That would make us happy too.


After I got my work done for the day yesterday, I went out into the yard here in the city. My SIL and the g'kids were out clearing out stuff from the winter. I lost so much here during that week of temps in the 20s. All of these things froze to the ground...night blooming jasmine, star of india, plumeria, hummingbird bush, angel trumpet, hibiscus, bougainvillea, ginger, plumbago and I think the banana trees. And these were not small young shrubs. These were large mature shrubs. I started cutting down the remains...the trunks of my beautiful plumeria and my star of india, the hummingbird bush. The yard already looks so bare and still so much more to cut down and haul away. Some things I think will come back...the plumbago, the ginger, the night blooming jasmine, the bananas. I have hopes for the star of india and the hummingbird bush and the bougainvillea but I fear the hibiscus, angel trumpet and plumeria are gone.

It's been a beautiful week here, supposed to cool down a little this weekend. Remember this picture last week of the sweet gum tree budding out? 


This is what it looks like this week. See the baby gum ball?



























Monday, March 8, 2010

of mice and possums


and birds and dirt and buds and sunrises and eggs!

After working all week in the city, turning a blind eye to the warmer days and the burgeoning buds, I was released into the yard.




All the flower beds need attention out at the country house and the garden and the compost pile and the area I am clearing around the peach tree next to the garden shed. I grabbed my shovel and trowel and got to work. I don’t know what it is about digging but I love it. I like moving and turning the soil, I like crumbling the clods and sifting the dirt through my hands getting the weeds out. Saturday I worked with the trowel on a flower bed in the back yard that I am cleaning out and expanding. Sunday I used the shovel and finished clearing out around the peach tree. This mostly consisted of digging up the last of the orange cannas and trees from just sprouted to 2’ tall. Then I dug all the weeds out of the compost pile. Then I started to trench around the garden plot, moving dirt from the compost pile to the garden and turning it in. This morning my body is demanding to know just what the hell I thought I was doing with all that digging yesterday.




I wasn’t the only one out working the land. The farmer who farms the fields on the other side of the road was out turning dirt too. Only he was using a tractor.

I mentioned last week that the bluejays were engaged in nest building. I guess that goes for all the birds. Saturday morning as I was headed out of the garage I happened to glance over at the bag of rags hanging on a peg and this is what I saw.



Apparently it looked like a cozy place for a nest. Haven't seen any birds working at it but I'm guessing it's a wren because it looks like the nest they built on my windowsill once and also the wrens have been very curious about our garage in the past.



I’m not usually up early enough to catch the sunrise but Sunday morning about 5 AM, the cat was frantic to get into the back half of the house which we close off at night. Marc opened the door for her and went back to sleep. I laid there til I heard the clock chime 6 and then got up. I checked to see if the cat wanted out and found her staring intently at the desk in the big room. Listening, I could hear little gnawing sounds. When I pulled the desk away from the wall, I was not surprised to see a little mouse. I say I was not surprised to see a little mouse because last weekend when we got home I stepped on a pecan in that room. I still have two grocery bags full of pecans sitting in that room from the harvest last fall. Looking around, I saw several pecans and empty shells scattered about.

Well, Emma (the cat) pounced on the mouse and before I could get the back door open for her to take her toy outside, she let it go. There ensued a rather silly chase with me yelling at the cat for being worthless, moving things about so Emma could get at the mouse and each time she caught it, she would let it go. Finally it ran into a storage closet adjacent to the big room and between the two of us I managed to get it trapped under an empty coffee can. I slipped a piece of cardboard underneath and took it outside with Emma on my heels where I let it go.


The sun was just barely starting to come up now and when I looked in the back yard about half an hour later, I did not see the cat but I did see a small possum in the middle of the yard. It was moving it's head from side to side and every now and then would snuffle in the dirt and eat something. I have always had possums living under my house in the city but this was the first one I had seen at the country house. They are quiet timid creatures if left alone but like all wild things, they will put up a fight to protect themselves. Finally, it was beginning to get light and it headed towards the fence at the corner of the house and slipped through. I slipped out of the house and followed as I wanted to see where it was going. Just on the other side of the fence there is an opening into the crawl space under the house with screen over it and the drain hose for the washer comes out there. That possum squeezed itself through a small opening next to the drain hose and under it went. Now I know what was under the house back in December.



Speaking of possums, I was relating this story to my sister Sunday afternoon and she told me she heard of a woman who will do rescues for possums and relocate them, that it seems they are becoming endangered in some states. Anyway, they had caught another possum in the trap and dispatched it as well and now they have started getting eggs again. So, not only were the possums (and dogs) attacking the hens and ducks, they were stealing all the eggs as well. I brought home two dozen fresh eggs.

Last night, the cat was being stubborn about coming in and it was 10 PM and all that exertion from the weekend was beginning to show on me and I was ready for bed. I went to the back door one last time and there sitting in the first crook of the chinese tallow tree was the possum.

*possum picture by Tom Wineman (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7941988@N07/513471113/)


Saturday, March 6, 2010

back roads entertainment


A couple of weeks ago we drove over to Chappell Hill from Wharton to get some measurements for the catholic church job. We like to take the county roads and the ranch roads and the farm roads and the farm-to-market roads when we travel. It’s much more entertaining to take the small back roads than the highways. You aren’t going to see anything but Anywhere USA on the highways, where Everyplace is Anyplace.


We’ve made this drive, about an hour and a half each way, several times now. We make the transition from coastal plain to lower hill country. We get to pass through some Texas towns and ranch land which is increasingly being converted into ‘communities’. Although we are skirting Houston, we are still in it’s gravitational pull.


You don’t have to go far, though, to find rural Texas.


Texans are resourceful and Reba seems to have the bases covered.



After you’ve taken care of your storage, laundry and liquor you may feel inclined to worship. Welcome just as you are.


We didn’t get a shot of the sign nearby that advertised ‘Horses and Harleys’.




Farther on is this old brick railroad bridge.



We saw a lot of these. Clearly, this part of Texas is not happy with our current government. And then we passed this guy... (you can click to enlarge to get all the details)







And then we were here


at the turn-off to our destination.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

good thing/bad thing, good girl/bad girl

Last Wednesday we had 11 pieces of glass delivered for the job we are currently working on. I sent two of them right back, two of the three beveled pieces were unacceptable.

Now we are engaged in cutting the stencils and getting the sandblasting done. This is the last of the three big jobs we got deposits for last fall. They have been very nice and patient so we are trying to get the work done as quickly as possible. Well, as quickly as possible for us. They were hoping to have it by Easter and at the end of last year that seemed entirely possible. But there are so many variables...like the week we lost in January due to the arctic blast, like it taking twice the amount of time to get the jewels prepared and glued on for the previous job, like losing a week in February while we were in Austin teaching, like spring break coming up and the grandkids wanting to come to the country house. So now Easter is just a heartbeat away and we are only just beginning. When we finish this job though, that is the end of all our scheduled work and the phone has been ominously silent all year.

The silent phone is a good thing/bad thing. It's a bad thing because, of course, no jobs mean no income. The good thing about it is that we have cushion for a little while and we are ready to get back in the studio and do some new pate de verre work.

Because we are trying to be good and get this job done sooner, we're spending more time in the city and more time in the shop. I'm afraid I'm getting behind in my blog reading and posting. And this is the part where I tell you how bad I am, have been. I have chosen not to display awards on my blog that have been given to me. Part of that is because I like a clean look to my blog. Another part of that is because I am not good about following the requirements and passing them on. I am honored, of course, whenever one is awarded to me and I do like to acknowledge them when that happens, but this is the black hole of awards. Whatever comes in never escapes again. And the last several never even got acknowledged, at least not here. I do go over to the giver's blog and say thank you. I kept thinking I would remember (hysterical laughter ensues) who and what and do a post but the days, weeks, months, I'm sorry to say, have slipped by and now I do not remember who and what. Only that there were several. This has floated up to my conscious level today because insomniac ellen of ...this bittersweet symphony has given me a shout out and a link on her blog. Thanks Ellen.

After another long day tomorrow, we will be heading home for clean underwear and grocery shopping and then on Monday, back to the grind.

On a high note though, we seem to have finally broken the back of winter here and I can confidently say that spring has arrived.



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

winter reading



With one or two exceptions, I've been slumming this winter. I've slunk down to the level of popular culture. Too cold to go out to the library so I'm reduced to what's on hand. And what's on hand ain't that classy. My SIL knows a lady that would bring her boxes and boxes of cheap paperbacks and my SIL would spread the joy. Somehow I've ended up with boxes and boxes myself. Sometimes four or five copies of the same book.

Anyway, since the weather got bad and we got high speed, I haven't made my way to the library, hence the paperback version of dumpster diving.


The Magician’s Assistant by Anne Patchett – This was the last book I checked out from the library. It came all the way from El Paso. For a dollar, the library will search outside it's regular exchange area and will have it sent 'a fer piece' for you. It was an enjoyable little read about a recent widow, the only survivor in a rather strange love triangle. She is surprised to find her deceased husband has living family and the story is about her grief and her integration into his family.


Bed Of Roses by Nora Roberts – Well, we all know Nora now don't we? I tend to skip over the hot and heavy parts but she does tell a good story. This is part 2 of the Bride series.


On The Street Where You Live by Mary Higgins Clark – Another very good storyteller of the murder mystery type.


The PMS Outlaws by Sharyn McCrumb – My sister gave me this one. It was a cute little tale about two women and their rivalry, a law partner put to the errand of buying a house for their offices and an elderly bootlegger.


Honeymoon by James Patterson & Howard Roughan – Female serial killer, marries 'em for their money and then kills 'em.


Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood – Young woman finds herself in a small Texas town to get more information about a centuries old feud between her family and the family of her sister's new husband. Dead bodies keep turning up in the truck of her car. Her FBI brother and friend come to her aid.


Bloodlines by Jan Burke – This was a good story, well written, about a newspaper reporter that spanned about 40 years with a good dose of the past thrown in. Kid/sidekick-reporter/mentor about an unsolved murder/kidnapping.


Breakwater by Carla Neggars – Hands down the worst of the lot. Dumb story, not particularly well written about an undercover investigation into a vigilante group with a main female character. And oh yeah, the requisite 'hot sex' scene.