Wednesday, May 30, 2012

spring reading

So, I've been in the habit of publishing my book list every seasonal quarter and I was wondering if that's just too many at one time. Do y'all out there actually read through the whole list? Would you prefer, perhaps, every two months?

It's a fairly long list this time, being snake bit as I was. Had lots of time to read.

The Athena Project by Brad Thor - super secret super crack all women team of agents for the government sent on important missions and they get the job done.  Oh, yeah, and they are all beautiful as well as trained and deadly.  A fun read.

Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo - a community with an Amish presence experiences a series of hate crimes against the Amish people that coincides with the death by misadventure (or is it?) of an Amish husband and wife and brother who die in the manure pit on their farm leaving four children orphans.  The captain of the small police force, born Amish, is frustrated in her attempts to solve the crimes by the refusal of the Amish to cooperate.  A good story with an unexpected little turn at the end.

The Keeper Of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen- this was written by a Danish author and I found the translation to be a little stiff at times but it was a good story about a police detective and his two partners that were ambushed at a crime scene.  One is killed, the other is paralyzed, and the third suffers survivor's guilt and his caustic attitude does nothing to endear him to the other detectives in his department.  He is given a 'promotion' and relegated to his new office in the basement where he is given cold cases to work on.  The first case he and his 'assistant', a civilian hired for janitorial, driving, and go-fer duties, is the disappearance and presumed death of a young beautiful rising politician.  But she's not dead...yet.

The Expats by Chris Pavone – Kate, who has kept her life as a CIA agent secret from her husband, is given an opportunity to re-make herself and stop the lies when her computer nerd husband proposes they move to Luxembourg when he is offered a lucrative job as a security consultant for a secretive banking institution there. She quits her job and they make the move with their two young boys. Things don't go exactly as planned as her husband is always at work or away on business leaving her to try and live the mommy life she thought she wanted. Things get interesting and suspicious when another American couple move to town. Using her contacts in the CIA, Kate starts to learn things about her friends and her husband and the deceptions they are themselves involved in. Her husband is not who she thought he was. A good story with a little twist at the end. I found the writing style to be confusing at first since the story is told in the past, present, and future but always in the 'present' tense. A different type face separates the 'future' from the rest. And also, it takes a while to find out what Kate's deception is as regards her husband.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – post-apocalyptic America has been divided up into districts, each district enclosed by an electrified fence, and ruled by a totalitarian regime from the new Capitol somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The population is kept at starvation levels for the most part, slaves basically, producing the goods that the Capitol wallows in. 75 years previous one of the districts rebelled and was bombed into rubble and as a result the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games as a reminder of that failed rebellion. Once a year, each district sends one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Arena to fight to the death on live TV and all citizens are required to watch. The last one standing wins and is showered with riches and prestige and exemption from ever having to participate in the Games again. This year District 12 selects Katniss and Peeta and the game is on.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Every 25 years a special edition of the Hunger Games is presented and unfortunately for Katniss and Peeta the next year is it. The special edition for the 75th anniversary of the Games has all the 'tributes', the children sent to the games, being drawn from previous winners no matter their age or general condition. Since District 12 only has three winners to choose from, Katniss and Peeta end up being sent back to the arena but the rebellion fomenting in the thought-to-be-destroyed District 13 prior to the last year's games catches fire and spreads and their leaders, whose attention was caught by Katniss and her rebellious attitude, have different plans for the game and for her.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – The rebellion has spread to every district and all but District 2 are under their control. When Peeta, who was captured by the Capitol shows up on air doing propaganda for them a rescue mission is planned for him and the other captured Tributes. Now begins the last offensive to take the Capitol but Katniss has plans of her own. She is determined to kill the President herself. I really enjoyed these, want to see the movie but I wanted to read the books first. I was under the impression that these were 'young adult' books and I know they are popular with teens but I found them to be a well written easy read, not that I think books for young adults aren't well written.

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark – a biblical scholar discovers a parchment that he believes was written by Jesus himself. When his daughter becomes alarmed at not being able to get hold of him she rushes over to her parent's house and finds her father dead of a gun shot and her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, cowering in a closet with the gun. A search finds the parchment is missing. Pretty good whodunit.

City Of Dragons by Robin Hobb – This was the third and what I mistakenly thought was the last of this series that started with Dragon Keeper and was followed with Dragon Haven. Made sense since all her other writings were trilogies. But no, I was disappointed that this was not the third and last book but only because I was expecting that it would all come to a satisfactory conclusion. It's a good story but now I will have to wait til the next one comes out to see how it all ends, if it does then.

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich – the further adventures of Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter and her sidekick Lula. This one didn't make me laugh out loud but it did elicit a lot of chuckles. It was good. Better than the last one I think.

The Book Of Mortals: Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee – 400+ years previous, after the last world war went nuclear and devastated the planet a charismatic leader arose uniting the populations of earth under one Sovereign. A new religion, Order, was founded and a virus unleashed that turned off all emotions save fear. A small secret group, the Keepers, was founded to save the last vial of uninfected blood for the day when a special royal boy, who was immune to the virus, would be born to come to power to return emotion to the human race. Now that day has come. I didn't realize this was a series until I was nearly finished. In fact, I looked closely at the cover to make sure this was a one volume story. Alas, it was not. This is the first. It was a good enough story and I'll probably seek out the next volume when it is published.

The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra – another novel translated into English, this one written in Spanish. A historical novel based on Noah and the flood myth and also on that peculiar passage in Genesis about the sons of god coming to earth and getting it on with the daughters of men. Only in the story, the sons of god are angels. There is a lot of interesting information in the novel about the flood myths which appear in just about every culture worldwide and which are probably the historical remains of an actual catastrophe that occurred at the end of the last ice age when all the water captured in glaciers was released and sea levels rose drowning all the civilizations that lived on or near the coast lines. And there's also a lot of interesting stuff about the Noah story and the Elizabethan mystic John Dee in particular. But the story itself is kind of stupid. It's a convoluted plot to get a physic, magic rocks, and a tablet up to Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat during a gigantic solar storm that they caused so that the descendants of the angels can ascend to heaven. It'd be a little easier to swallow if the human/angels weren't arrogant and condescending. And besides it doesn't make sense because according to the story, it was the angels cavorting with human women and having babies and the offspring getting uppity that pissed god off enough to destroy the world and if Noah was one of these human/angel hybrids (which the story says he was) and he repopulated the world then every person living today would be an angel descendant. But no, apparently it was just a couple of Americans, a couple of English, and an obscure tribe of Armenians.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje – although this is written like a memoir or autobiography, the notes at the end declare it a work of fiction even though the central character's name is Michael. The story is a series of memories of the 3 week journey he took when he was 11 when his family on the Asian island of Colombo where he grew up put him on a ship for England alone to go live with his mother. He met two other boys about his age who were also traveling alone and having no supervision, they basically ran wild learning about life. As an adult, he reflects how that trip shaped his life. I enjoyed this one a lot.

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig – A historical novel set in India in the early 19th century during the time of the East India Company, the story centers around a young woman who chaffs at proper behavior expected of young ladies and finds herself married off and sent to India to let the scandal of her marriage settle down and a captain in the East India Company army who find themselves drawn to each other as they hunt down a spy named The Marigold.

The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes – I'm not really sure what I think of this one. I think I didn't really like it. It's a narrative by the character about his growing up and his friends and his first girlfriend. His girlfriend moves on to one of his friends and a mean spirited letter written out of anger and hurt gets sent. Once out of school and getting immersed in their lives they start to lose contact. Several years later, one of the four friends, the smartest and most cerebral of them, the one who went with the ex-girlfriend, commits suicide. Fast forward 40 years with an outline of the intervening years and the narrator gets a bequest from his ex-girlfriend's recently deceased mother. The letter resurfaces and therein starts an examination of his culpability in the events that followed. As if. As if one letter would put a chain of events into motion that could not be changed. But then that's just my opinion. So the untangling of the relationships that follows is interesting and surprising but there was also something about it that annoyed me though I don't know what. But his ex-girlfriend? She's a bitch.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

life stuff

I almost have my 'W' post ready. It's all written up and the images are ready but it involves a little technology learning curve. I'm doing some audio recordings and I had to figure that out and then had to download a converter program to get the right file type. Now I have to upload them to a site that creates embed codes and then hopefully, it will all work when I finally publish the post.

I'd do that today except that my daughter, SIL, and grandkids are coming out so that the kids can hang with their second cousins, my sister's grandkids, who live in Albuquerque. They are visiting this week and it's been a couple of years since they were here. It's hard to keep a family together when the members are scattered around the country.

We had a slew of birthdays this past month starting with mine on April 30 followed by my DIL, my daughter, and then my son. I bought me a birthday present. I haven't hung it yet as it involves having to rearrange something else.

Rabbit Ears by Kelly Vivanco

And I made little tea cup and mug planters with cactus for DIL and Son. The teacups are from my china, my grandmother's china, and my aunt's china. The mugs are one's we acquired through various of our son's activities. I used the drill press to put holes in the bottoms.

My daughter, who has a husband, four kids, two dogs, and two cats, does not need anything else to take care of so for her I made a peach pie from Texas peaches.

Tomorrow, I start two full weeks at the antique store so my sister can have the time with her grandkids and the other employee is also on vacation. Although the economy seems to be showing signs of improvement, it hasn't really made it to this small town in an agricultural county in Texas. I'll probably use the time as storekeeper to work on more wax models.

I've got the next three botanica erotica waxes done though I haven't polished them yet.

Still waiting on the two big walls to be funded. Apparently the structural engineers are struggling with the metal base that the large glass panels will rest on. In the meantime, we did two more samples for the mountain wall. After looking at some of our work they decided they wanted to do a more sculptural rendering instead of the silhouette they had at first proposed.

This is the drawing for one of them, 18” x 30”. I haven't photographed the finished samples yet.

Well, as my friend Jody says...TTFN.

(ta ta for now)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the habit of a lifetime

Like most kids who grew up in the 50s and 60s, my parents smoked though my dad quit about the time I was 8 or 9 I think, when all the research was coming out about how bad it was. I was pretty young because I don't actually remember him smoking but I know we had moved into the new house. He used sour lemon candies, the kind that are sweet until you bite into them and get the sour powder in the middle, to help him break the habit.

I can still see the dish of candies on the side table next to his recliner. We weren't really allowed to eat them as they were his candies but we did sneak one now and then. Whenever he felt the urge to smoke, he would eat a candy or two instead. I think that for awhile he just shifted his addition to those candies.

The other thing I remember about my father smoking is that he used a human skull cap for an ashtray. Once he quit smoking it became just another ornament in the house. I don't know what happened to it after he died. I know it was still on his desk. Perhaps my brother has it or maybe my sister.

My mother, though, never quit. Not even when she started having TIAs (transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke). She only quit once she was in the family home because she needed 24 hour care and they didn't allow smoking. She was very sneaky about getting cigarettes though. She would talk people into bringing some to her. Of course it only aggravated her condition and when we found out we would roundly chastise whoever had given them to her. Eventually she ran out of people she could call.

I remember when the first anti-smoking campaign came out. Us kids jumped on it trying to get our mother to quit. We were tired of the smoke filled house and going anywhere in the car was even worse. It's a wonder we're not all dead from second hand smoke.

Dad brought home some posters one day. My siblings and I took one of them and pinned it on our parent's bedroom door while our mother was out.

She was not amused.

Eventually I grew up and went off to college and picked it up myself. Even then more people smoked than not. Didn't really care for it though so I quit after a couple of years. I was more into smoking pot.

My first husband was a smoker too. He was also a lazy no good bum who couldn't be bothered to get out of bed every morning and look for a job, much less go to work. I would come home from my job and he would still be in bed, watching TV (the Sony Trinitron his mother gave him for his birthday), the house a mess and forget any meal waiting. That was the woman's job.

I think the day I came home and found the ashtray mounded up so full of cigarette butts that they were spilling out and onto the floor was the day I began my exit from that relationship.

Several years later I married again to another smoker but when the kids were still small in the early 80s, he quit. It only lasted a few years before he started up again but I took the opportunity to ban smoking in the house. When friends and family came over, they had to step outside to have a smoke.

Once again, my mother was not amused.

It was a very radical move at the time, to expect your friends and family, your guests, to step outside no matter what the weather to have a smoke. My mother thought that she should be the exception. It took another 20 years or so for smoking to be banned indoors in public places.

Mother eventually died from the cumulative effect of her TIAs. My brother-in-law, who smoked for 50 years, died from stage 4 metastatic lung cancer two or three years after he quit. My husband finally quit smoking again about 2 ½ years ago.

The jury is still out on him.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the tyranny of squash

We moved out of the city several years ago for a variety of reasons which I wrote about off and on when I first started this blog so I won't really go into it now. But one of the things we wanted was access to fresh organic food. Preferably food that we grew ourselves. We made one or two attempts to grow food in the city in the very lean years (I'd capitalize that except they occurred off and on with regularity) but we really didn't have any spot that got enough sun and usually by the time the occasional vegetable ripened, we had work again.

I've always liked to garden and my yard and the house next door yard, after we bought it for more studio space, was all done in native perennials and wild flowers because I am, after all, a lazy gardener. It was sink or swim in my yard through summer heat or winter freezes.

So now here we are out in the country and we have space to grow food. This is our fourth garden. The first one was kind of hit or miss because we didn't actually take up permanent residence out here til two years ago. Before that we were spending 3 or 4 days here and 3 or 4 days in the city every week depending on how the work load was going.

We have discovered that growing food is very different from growing plants and flowers. Food is a little more high maintenance.

I've always heard from people who did grow food about the abundance of squash. Our first garden, we didn't plant any squash but we had butternut come up as volunteers from the compost I had turned into the garden. They were doing quite fine with about a dozen butternuts forming until one day I went out and they were in total wilt.

A little research turned up the problem...squash vine borer worms. So I conducted a little surgery on the vines, lost about half but managed to harvest about half a dozen butternut squashes.

The next year I planted yellow squash and they were attacked early on and though I tried to cut the worms out, I think we only got one or two squash before the plants cratered. The next year it was zucchini and the same thing happened. We got maybe half a dozen and surgery aside, the plants didn't make it.

This year we planted white patty pan and zucchini. The plants grew and grew and started producing squash after squash. Never had the plants grown so big and full and lush. I've been going out every day looking for the signs of the vine borers and the plants have remained healthy, until about a week or so ago when I spied the first signs.

So, once again I was out there doing surgery on my squash plants. I dug out the worms, piled dirt on the wounds and the plants have not missed a single stride. In the past, I didn't try to save them until they were in total wilt. This year we are being held hostage to the squash.

Finally I understand.

We eat squash every night. We eat two squash and the next morning we go out and pick four more. I'm starting to be happy when I go out and see a little squash withering on the vine.

Marc has fixed baked squash, boiled squash, stuffed zucchini, orzo and zucchini salad, stir fry, grilled squash, zucchini lasagna, tuna stuffed patty pans, squash tempura, and these are just what I can remember.

We're going to have to make a trip into the city if for no other reason than to unload some of this squash!

Monday, May 14, 2012

day lilies

The day lilies, whose flowers last only a single day, are in full bloom. There were several varieties here already when we bought the country house but about half came from a friend who sent me bulbs from at least a dozen more. Thanks Linda!

They're not all crisply in focus as the camera kept wanting to focus on the foliage and there may be a duplicate or two since I took these over a period of about a week and at different times of the day so the light changed which affected the brightness of the colors.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

mother's day

I'm not much for holidays. Oh, I like holidays. I like having the day off from the usual expectations and activities of every other ordinary day. I like having a day off when I don't have to come up with my own excuses for taking it.

When I say I'm not much for holidays I mean that I'm not much for participating in the expected behaviors of whichever particular holiday it happens to be. Though I enjoy the decorations and foods that others indulge in, I just don't seem to find the point in working myself into a frenzy for a holiday instead of kicking back and putzing around.

Holidays fall into categories...religious, national, and commercial. Some occupy more than one category since the rampant commercialization in our country never fails to miss an opportunity to tell us that we must buy buy buy to show just how loving, faithful, or patriotic we are. This irritates me more and more as I get older.

And now Mother's Day is upon us once again, this national holiday that falls heavily in the commercialism stream that tells us how we are supposed to feel and how we are supposed to express those feelings.

This was not a day I cared for as a child after a certain point in my growing up, or even as an adult child. My mother is dead now so the issue is moot except where my own kids are concerned. I get phone calls on the appointed day just because they do love me (at least I hope that's what motivates them), unlike my own feelings for my mother whom I did not like very much and held any love I might have had for her in abeyance so that any call or gift she got from me was strictly out of duty. She was a selfish self centered woman and I could expect no real affection or even interest in my life from her in return. Our jobs as her children; my sister, my brother, and I; were to orbit her and reflect well of her.

I've never wanted or demanded that from my own kids who I adore. No gifts or flowers or simpering emotion required. No guilt or recriminations doled out should they let the day go by unmarked. I would prefer nothing from my children than the resented dutiful phone call, appearance or gift that was expected of me.

Not all women are suited for motherhood but before the cultural changes of the '60s that's what all women expected of their lives, what was expected of them. You got a boyfriend, got married, had sex (or had sex and then got married), and had babies. About the only way to avoid having children was to be infertile or to never marry.

As it turned out, my mother didn't really like children. They were messy, time consuming, and demanding of her attention and affection. She liked the idea of children as it fit into whatever role she was currently playing, but she didn't actually like to spend time with her children. Oh, I'm sure she loved us in her way but she just didn't have much interest in us til we became teenagers, something she would freely admit to.

I think she liked teenagers because that is where her self image stopped growing. In her mind she was perpetually that pretty girl who the boys sought after, going to parties and hanging out with her friends. Once we became grown and had families of our own, her interest in our lives waned.

Since she didn't take to motherhood I suppose it was unrealistic of us to think she would be interested in being a grandmother, which she decidedly was not. She didn't even want them to call her any of the variations of grandmother. They were to call her by her middle name, Lou. So, of course I, in my perversity, instructed my children to call her Grandma Lou.

She was happy to see her grandchildren as long as it was a short visit and they came with a parent attached. There was no spending the day or the night, there was no babysitting even for an hour or two so I could go meet a client, there were no week long visits away from home. My sister, elder by three years who married and had her kids young, filled that role for my children.

Mother told us that she would wait until they became teenagers only by then my kids had no interest in spending time with a woman who wouldn't be bothered to get to know them while they were growing up.

Besides, they told me, she had too many rules at her house.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

what I've been doing with myself

no, not that!

So, I've mentioned that I've submitted proposals for two 20' walls that will just be fabrication on our part, no design work. Mid-April, I attended a second meeting and met more of the people involved in the process. The company that proposed the walls and is doing the design work had a full size mock-up made and they taped it up in place where the actual glass will go. This wall is a map done in diagonal lines. There will be blue glass installed against the wall and the etched glass map will be installed in front of the blue glass.

the mock-up

The etched glass part of the panels will only be 16' wide and flanked with clear glass because of the proportions of the map. So far I've done three samples for this wall. Three samples and three proposals. The man in charge of the budget has assured me that they are committed to the project and are waiting for some final specs to issue the purchase order.

The second wall has a mountain motif which I gather is their company logo. It will be a more interesting piece to work on as it will be done in carving and shading. They decided to shorten it to the same 16' for consistency except that they aren't even on the same floor. I've also done three proposals for this wall.

the mountain

I've also been doing sketches for a residence, the front entrance sidelites and two side doors.

one of the six bird panels, 12” x 17”, for the sidelites

And then last month I did designs for a powder room mirror and spent about a week consulting with people and getting a proposal ready for that for the designer but no word yet on if the client will go with it.

mirror design with silvered bevels and stuff

And we did a little door with a grape cluster design which they still haven't picked up yet.

And I put together a submission for a general call to artists for an art consultant.

And put together a CD for a gallery submission and sent that off.

Not to mention my garden duties, like conducting surgery on my squash plants yesterday to get rid of the vine borer worms to hopefully save my zucchini and weeding and watering and, the best part, plucking and eating.

So I've been very busy, trying like hell to get some work. It's why I haven't been around as much. It's all very time consuming, for example doing the sketches and proposal for the residence took me the better part of 5 days and I've been consulting with the people for the two walls since January when they were first proposing the concept.

The cast glass work, though, is sort of off the table right now as I focus on getting some income now that there are at least possibilities out there, an improvement all on its own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

vive la différence

little girl squash flower

little boy squash flower

Sunday, May 6, 2012

new pond

Did I say I was working on my 'W' post? Hahahahahahahaha.

I'm such a kidder.

Actually, I'm thinking about working on my 'W' post. I should be working on my 'W' post.

Today, I think I'll sink the small pond, Big Mama's previous pond. I've finally picked a spot on the other side of the fence from the big pond which is not sunk. I couldn't sink it because it is snugged up against the ginkgo tree and I didn't want to cut out a big slice of its roots.

I also have four azaleas that need to be planted plus all that stuff I got at the plant swap weeks ago. It's overcast and cool this morning, probably the very last one so I want to take advantage of it. The weather guessers are predicting a high of 90˚ today and the humidity has been upwards of 70% this week.

So out I went. After a short break for a late breakfast, I finished up about 1 PM.

getting started

hole dug

leveling the pond

see, it's level!

the sun came out so I had to go get my hat

fill 'er up!

all done

The water plants have been in a galvanized tub. There's a papyrus, an arrowhead, and a bedraggled water lily that has never bloomed. I've got some others that are still in the tub but my back was saying 'enough already' and they need to be repotted.

I've already had a visitor. This red dragonfly was checking out the new digs. It's perched on the dry seed pod of a larkspur that is beside the pond. That's my rosemary behind it. Poor picture but the darn thing wouldn't let me get close enough to not have to use the zoom.

Friday, May 4, 2012

random photos from the last few days

A toad was snugged down in one of the bromeliads.

Emma, the cat, helping me with my drawings.

The yellow 13 Acre Field was mowed.

The magnolia tree is blooming.

The dewberries have been providing me with fruit to go with my breakfast.

It was a spider kind of day.

I know you can't tell from this picture but this zucchini blossom was enormous, maybe 8” across.

Either Big Mama finally laid her eggs or the fugue state that possesses her finally passed, but she hasn't ventured out of her pond for a week and a half. That I forgot to remove the bridge the last time we went to the city and spent the night and she probably spent more than 24 hours in the yard, might have something to do with it. She does seem to enjoy hanging out on the bridge though.