Friday, October 28, 2011

busy days

Let's see. Where was I? 

 Or maybe the better question is, where am I?

We received a commission to make 100 fused glass crosses for a church in Houston so for the past week or so, my friend Gene and I have been cutting up thousands of tiny pieces of glass as each one of these crosses is composed of 34 separate pieces that have to be assembled. While we were in the city to do our two small etching jobs, I spent a day over at Gene's while we assembled crosses and got 35 in the kiln.

It's always weeks between visits to the city since work has been so slow and driving in this time past Memorial Park was just heartbreaking. It looks like nearly every single pine is dead and many oaks and other trees as well from the drought which is still ongoing. I didn't get a picture this time, got these of the park via google, but now there is one lone green tree surrounded by dead ones instead of the occasional dead tree starting the middle of August. Passing by on the West Loop maybe one in ten trees is living. Maybe. I think that's optimistic.

Today was the presentation to the Garden Club on the various glass techniques and how they could be used architecturally or as a stand alone sculpture. They decided on the carved glass for the side lites and transom around the double doors that enter the library. Now I need to do sketches and a formal proposal, so that went well.

Marc and I spent the rest of the day getting stuff packed, five boxes and a stack of books, for our workshop this weekend. It's basically a repeat of the one we did earlier in the year only students will make their models out of wax instead of clay. In the clay workshop they got to make two or three pieces. In this one they will make one piece but it's larger and they will have all day to work on it doing the mold making and mold filling on Sunday.

We're having our coldest weather to date since summer finally ended. It even rained late yesterday afternoon as the front moved in. A nice rain but it didn't last long. It's supposed to get down to 45˚ tonight. 45˚? Really? It hasn't been that long since we were having triple digits every day. I'd like to have more than a month between air conditioner and heater if you weather gods don't mind.

That big cloud on the left is the backside of the storm edge of the cold front moving in.

So, a working weekend ahead, one day off and then three days at Miss Hattie's Place while my sister is in Lubbock. Our aunt, our father's sister, died about a week and a half ago and my sister is the executer of her will. She was the last living member of our parent's generation making my sister the oldest living person in our family. We are now the altacockers.

Our aunt had one child, a son who is one day younger than I am, but he falls into the autism spectrum and although he functioned well enough day to day as long as his mother was alive, even has a job, he has always lived with his parents/mother and she always took care of everything so we are a little concerned about his ability to live long term on his own. He seems to be handling the death of his mother well enough and my sister keeps in touch.

Hopefully by the end of next week I'll have the time to look around me and think of other things besides the task at hand or the next commitment.

I might even finish my post for the letter S.

Monday, October 24, 2011

many fingers in many pies

I've been very busy lately and will be for the next couple of weeks and so my reading, commenting, and posting has been a little hit or miss and will probably continue to be for a while.

We're heading into the city in a little while to do two small etching jobs. Also I've been cutting hundreds of little bitty pieces of glass for 100 fused glass crosses that the church ordered (the irony is not lost on me, an unbeliever).

And I've been working on some sun catcher/wind chime thingeys. Not sure what I'm going to do with them.

Coming up, we have a workshop this weekend and then next week, I'll be working in the store for 3 days and then the last day of the workshop the following weekend.

And this coming Friday I have a preliminary presentation to give for to the garden club and library here for a possible sculpture for the library gifted by the garden club.

Here's a few shots from the yard:

grasses blooming in the 13 acre field

cat whiskers

gomphrena fireworks

Friday, October 21, 2011

Miss Hattie's Place

Friday I worked at the antique store and then the first three days of November I will also work.  I had to open the shop and handle any sales and phone calls, then close up and lock up.  My sister prepped me a couple of weeks ago when we thought I was going to work a day for her back then, but the jury call was canceled. So knowing me as she does, she had all the important info written down for me, everything I needed to know (where all the light switches are, how to write up a sale for the different vendors, how to handle it if someone wants to haggle, how to open the cash register).

I actually made two sales and helped one move out a drum table which my sister was thrilled that it sold. One of those pieces. You know what I mean. And it was.

I was talking to my daughter last night telling her that I would be working at the store today and getting paid.

"Wow, Mom," she says, "that's like a real job.  Have you ever had one of those before?"

Yes, actually I have but it's been many years.  In fact I think the last time I had a job where I had to show up and work for 8 hours a day every day was back in 1974.  I've been self-employed since then doing the artist thing.

It's a sign of just how bad the economy is now that I've never had to seek employment during all that time.  Never until now when I am most grateful for these few days in the store and hope they become fairly regular until things improve.

But if I have to have a 'real' job, working in the antique store is an OK one to have.  I'm surrounded by lots of cool stuff and I get a rare chance to interact with people.

Miss Hattie's Place is in one of the old buildings on the square and faces the courthouse that has recently been restored.

Besides some very nice furniture...

buffets, dressers, wardrobes, china and display cabinets, chairs, tables, and couches

you can shop for vintage costume jewelry

miniature tea sets

tin boxes and a Goofy pez dispenser

kitchen and farm implements

quilts and tablecloths

china and crystal

depression glass

a ceramic parrot and a blue glass pegasus

and just so much stuff...

As you can see, there is plenty of stuff to look at.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the acceptance of aging

I've been looking at and evaluating my body lately.  My 61 year old body.  61!  How did that happen?  I mean, I know how it happened and I prefer that to the alternative, but still, it just seemed to happen so fast. 

I liked the 40s (even though I went through menopause) and the 50s were good years too.  But my 60s, my seventh decade, is taking some getting used to. Who is that person looking back at me in the mirror?  I mean, some major changes have taken place, more I think in the last 10 than in the previous 20 or 30. 

Up until about a year and a half ago OK, probably closer to two years, I worked out at the gym for an hour and then walked on the treadmill for another hour three times a week and yoga for an hour once a week.

I was very buff. Great arms, shoulders, legs, butt, stomach, even my neck, all tight, firm, toned and shapely. Even had some faux cleavage.

But then we completed the move to the country house and although there is a gym here at the junior college, the hours are restricted for non-students and I could never work out a new routine given the times that the gym was available to me (I don't get up early enough for the morning session and by late afternoon, I'm either working on something or ready for a drink). I've also got a list of other excuses. Fact is, I've found other ways to fill that 2 hours a day three times a week. Keeping fit is time consuming.

But now, though, I feel and look slacker. All that muscle turned to fat and migrated to my stomach. I'm not fat at 5'4” and 123 pounds and yet I have a ring around my middle that bulges over the waistband of my pants.  

At 50 I underwent an interior image metamorphosis.  You know, the picture you carry around in your head that reflects how you feel, think you look.  Even with the dim light and the small antique sulfur stained mirror in the bathroom, I could no longer reconcile the image in my head with the one that looked back at me.

I didn't expect to have to make another adjustment so soon.   This bathroom here is brighter, less forgiving.  The mirror is bigger and newer.

The 50s is when the body starts breaking down. That's when gray started creeping into my hair though even at 61 it's still mostly dark, the gray strands only seen close up. But it's also when my thyroid went wacky and I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Hence all the time spent in the gym. And then towards the end of that decade my cholesterol shot up. As ailments go though, these are pretty easy to handle.

I guess the thing I like least about this aging process is my skin. It's no longer smooth and blemish free. Now, I have a texture. It's like my skin stretched and it's getting crepe. Ugh. Even the word sounds icky. Every scar I ever had has come back and sun damage is showing up; scaly spots, brown own personal sun spots. This white northern european heritage of mine doesn't age well. My friend Phyllis from India who is in her late 70s has gorgeous skin.

I don't mind being older. I've lived a good life and I'm still living a good life. And I don't really mind looking older. I have no desire to extend a youthful appearance through artificial means. I see lots of beauty in aged faces and there's a certain freedom in having an aging body.

I just wish I could shed my skin like a snake and have it refreshed now and then.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

winter garden

I wrote this early yesterday evening. This morning, I saw that today is Blog Action Day 2011 and the topic this year is food.

I'm sitting outside.  There's a nice breeze and I'm in the shade of the pecan trees with the sun going down behind me.  The temperature is perfect whatever it is.  

I'm killing time actually, waiting til it is time to leave to meet my sister at the local theater.  It used to be a movie theater but obviously failed at some point.  Now it's being used as the local community theater.  I've been wanting to go to one of their productions and so my sister and I made plans.

Sitting in the yard, I'm sort of facing the garden.  Emma the cat is sleeping under the pepper plants.  She likes to lay in the garden.  Earlier she was laying in the space between the okra and the peas that Marc just planted, right on top of the spot where we are going to put carrots tomorrow.

Frank's garden

It's winter garden time, time to get things in before it's too late.  Our garden is small since we are still learning about growing food.  It's very haphazard compared to our neighbor Frank's garden.  Frank's garden is easily three times larger than ours, neat, all rectangled up, trenched around the edges to keep the grass out, row after row planted.

our garden

Our garden, a narrow strip on the other side of the yard, has no rows, no organization to it at all.  There are four tomato plants together at one end and one at the other.  We also have, still, the four okra from the spring garden as well as the two bell pepper and two jalapeƱo pepper and one banana pepper, also from the spring garden.  New and interspersed among them are three cauliflower and two broccoli, one swiss chard and two horseradish that got stuck in there sometime this summer.  Also peas that Marc put in today, wrapping the wire fence around the okra.

I have no idea what we are going to do with the horseradish besides just let it grow.

little garden

I've planted beans and spinach in the strawberry bed which I refer to now as the 'small garden'.  It's at the back of the property.  I put in some carrot and lettuce seeds today to fill in where the spinach didn't come up.  And I planted some zucchini in a big pot out there in an attempt to fool the squash vine borer worms which get my squash every year.

We don't grow enough to entirely feed ourselves but we do grow enough to contribute to lots of meals.  Frank, on the other hand feeds himself and his kids families and still brings stuff over to us sometimes.

We aspire to growing most of our food and not just because its fresher, tastes better, and is more nutritious but because it just seems right and it's certainly more satisfying than going to the grocery store.  It's not just the eating of the food that nourishes us but the energy, love, and effort that we put into it.  We nourish the earth and it gives back to us.

Frank's pear tree seems a little confused about what season it is.

And besides, unless the economy improves, it's that or, as Marc like to say, Chinese cat food.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

small town fun

The junior college here in this small Texas town has started its concert series and last night was the jazz concert. 'Jazz' seems to be a loosely defined term and I think that's what they call it because the band is made up of mostly brass...trumpets, trombones, and saxophones. They also had a drum set, a keyboard, and a bass guitar. The young woman who played bass guitar had black hair with a big shock of magenta right in front. And the drum kit had two drummers who switched off.

What they play is not exactly what I think of when I think of jazz and their song selection was not what I would call jazz either. I mean, Stairway to Heaven?

I kid you not.

Stairway to Heaven

Along with a Blues Brothers medley, a King of Pop medley, Thriller, and Old Time Rock and Roll.

Old Time Rock and Roll had all us old farts rockin' an' a boppin'.

But Stairway to Heaven? I still can't get over that one. The middle part was fairly upbeat but the beginning and end was a dirge. Like what they play on their way to the funeral.

The program was blessedly short, about an hour, but all in all, an enjoyable outing. The kids are all right.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

rainy day

I've had a hard time tearing myself away from the windows and doors today. You see, it was raining. Really raining. A rainy day, not just a scattered 10 minute shower on an occasional day. Not a heavy rain, not a thunderstorm, some low rumbling of thunder but no lightning. Just a steady rain.

It's magic. It's mesmerizing. It's been so long since I have seen a rain like this.

I was out earlier, before it started, trying to determine how much rain we'd got during the night. I remember waking up and hearing thunder.

I took my camera with me in case I saw anything noteworthy.

My miniature pomegranate tree (shrub?) that my sister grew from seed has put on quite a few fruit. This was not the largest or even the reddest but it was the easiest for me to photograph.

The field sunflowers were late to come on this year. In fact, I didn't think we were going to get any at all. And then they surprised me.

I wandered over to check on the spinach and beans I planted earlier in the week and this first bean sprout was up. Some spinach too.

Then it started raining and I did eventually get the mold filled I was working on. 

We've had the doors open all day. The moist air has felt so good and the sound of the rain all day was so soothing.

It's stopped now and I glanced up a moment ago and looked out and the sky was all pinky purple in the southeast. This is the first great sunset we've had in months. The unrelenting blue sky would only fade into night.

good day, good night

Friday, October 7, 2011

hot stuff

Some of you may remember that Marc does the cooking around here. Well, he does the dinner cooking and often provides lunch as well.

Since he's usually had a couple of drinks before he gets started in the kitchen (we eat dinner late), sometimes dinner is, well, unusual. But I always eat what is presented and always say thank you because I am thankful.

And he's become a pretty decent cook.

Fast forward to last night. I was working late filling a mold when he came through and out the back door, flashlight in hand.

Directly he comes back in again with a handful of small jalapenos.

We've been enjoying the peppers off our two plants all summer. He stuffs them with cheese, wrapped with bacon and grilled (or broiled) and they have been really good. Lately though, we haven't been getting much from the garden. The only things left is the okra, bell pepper and jalapeno peppers. As the drought deepened, the fruit has been slow to grow and is not getting half the size of what we got earlier in the summer. Well, except for the okra. It would grow three inches overnight.

When he called me for dinner, he had fixed a pizza with pepperoni, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and jalapenos.

Here's a thing you probably don't know about me. I have a sensitive spot in my throat that when something stimulates it it sends me into a paroxysm of coughing and eye watering followed by sneezing and my vocal chords seizing up so I can't talk to reassure people that I am, in fact, not choking for all the world that that's what it looks like is happening and I'm OK followed by more coughing until it finally eases up and goes away.

This is not to be confused with the times when I actually am choking from having aspirated whatever I'm drinking or in some cases the syrup certain candies make when you eat them (weird, I know, that candy wants to get in my lungs) or the time I was just dreaming I was eating candy and my mouth started watering and I aspirated my saliva. Let me tell you, that wakes you up in a heart beat. Things got a little woozy and Marc had to give me the Heimlich.

I think these two things are related in some weird way. Maybe I was hanged in a previous life or was a glutton that finally choked to death. I am a Taurus and I read somewhere that the throat is the body part assigned to that sign. And all my stuff seems to happen in the throat. In addition to the whole choking/not choking thing I have had to have my tonsils removed and my thyroid is cranky about working too hard.

Generally, jalapenos (or really any kind of pepper but hey, oatmeal has done it too) will stimulate this reaction. And usually, once I make it through the seizure, I can eat whatever set it off with impunity.

So last night when I saw the jalapenos on the pizza I didn't really give it a second thought. I'd been eating them all summer and they had only set me off once or twice. And they were small, maybe only as big around as my little finger. I did notice that he had not seeded them. I usually avoid eating the seeds but I shrugged it off.

I'm sitting down with my plate and he's pointing out to me the jalapenos...easy to see and pick out, he says.

Yeah, yeah, I say. I'm not worried.

Famous last words.

About a third of the way through my piece of pizza, I felt that tell-tale little tickle or scratch and knew what was coming. I always know when it's coming and there is no way to stifle it like you can sometimes with a sneeze. Marc shoots me the 'I told you so' look and keeps eating.

So, calmed down I continued to eat thinking I'm good to go now.

About two thirds of the way through my piece of pizza, I thought I was going to die.

I chewed and swallowed the hottest piece of pepper I have ever eaten in my life. My head exploded, coughing, gasping, rivers flowing from my eyes as it continued to get worse. Burning, oh man, burning. I have my head in my hands, wheezing, when he asks me if I'm OK.

NO. I am not 'ok'.

We don't keep milk in the house so I got up and got some salt out of the kitchen and dissolved that in my mouth. A little tea and I felt like I was going to live.

Oh, man. That was seriously painful.

I went and got my second piece of pizza and carefully picked off all the jalapenos.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

continuing on

and now it's Thursday end.

I finished the moonflower box. I have given up on trying to come up with something that would go inside. Some of the boxes, their contents are a natural extension of the piece. Some I draw a complete blank so I think it's OK to have them be empty rather than force something in them. Waiting for someone else to fill. The two flower boxes are both like that. The moonflower and the hibiscus. Complete.

Now I have just one more to finish and all the boxes I have been working on will be done. I have one more to do but it may take months as I haven't even started and I want to do parts of it in bronze, like maybe the feet or maybe something else. It's going to be similar to the wren box only the inlay will be in colors instead of solid black. Oh and I have another one that's been popping into my head, a small one dedicated to the peach.

But right now, I'm working on the boteros. Get it? Botanica eroticas. hee hee, I'm so clever. I think I might call them that. Instead of the formal name. It's not quite so 'in your face' but has a subliminal sense to it. What I'd really like is for people to look at the finished pieces and leave feeling a little sexy and turned on without thinking they're looking at plant porn.

Also I like how it sounds spanish. That's not a real spanish word, is it? With a real meaning?

As it turns out, it is. It's the word for a man who works with leather to make bags for wine or a boatman.


I'll have to think about that.

Anyway, the molds for the next three blocks are made and ready to be filled so that's what I'm doing.

This one is a little deceiving because I'm working with striker colors here. The actual colors are pinks and reds. They'll change to their true colors after firing. I'm not really sure how this one is going to come out because I haven't used these colors in just this way before. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

a day in the life

I don't know where the time goes.  I'm busy all the time but don't seem to ever get anything accomplished.  Let's see.  Monday I was prepared to work in the antique store for my sister because she had been called for jury duty, only when she got there they had canceled it.  So I planted a row of pole beans (seeds from plants we grew earlier) and some spinach in the strawberry bed.  The strawberry plants struggled valiantly but they didn't survive the brutal summer.

Sunday I tightened up the cement blocks around the strawberry bed and then hammered in two tall stakes in the corners, took apart one of the old tomato cages and flattened it and tied it to the stakes for the beans to climb on.  My little tepee from the spring was cute but impractical as it turned out.  I think I'm going to plant sweet peas between the bean plants for spring.

Sunday and Saturday were spent mostly in the yard.  Well we went to the grocery store on Saturday.  I have several objectives...move all the bricks away from the side of the garage, plant some of the things in pots which means digging up grass, pulling grass out of flower beds and lining them with bricks which facilitates the moving the bricks away from the side of the garage.  

Anyway, back to yesterday. We start late, not getting up til about 7:30 usually but sometimes later.  We breakfast late, about 9:30, 10 o'clock.  The first two hours of the day are spent with coffee and reading blogs, getting mail, waking up.  We traditionally don't speak during this time.  It's safer that way.

After breakfast is when I did my planting and then I dragged out my sewing machine and mended the seam on the covering of my feather pillow that was letting little fluff feathers escape and the next thing I knew it was 1:15.  I watch a soap opera during that hour so I cleaned off the big table and got out the enlargement for the full size drawing I have to do and made very little progress on it.

Then it was lunchtime which is 2, 2:30 sometimes later so I got out the salmon and onions and capers and crackers while Marc ran up to the store to get cream cheese.  

After lunch I repaired some cracks in two of the rain collector barrels (as if I'm actually going to need them) and then hauled out the flat lap to continue working to flatten the bottom of the moonflower box.  My third session with it.  I have a small diamond flat lap which takes so much longer than my friend's big loose grit flat lap (I know, shop talk, sorry) but I'm not in town so I finally got it down to a point which I found, if not perfect, at least acceptable for attaching the feet.  Then I worked with the hand grinder on the inside rim of the box til the top fit.  By then it was a little after 7 PM.

Time to fix myself a drink and sit on the couch while Marc does dinner which is usually around 8ish.

Later I'll have to do the dishes...or not. (didn't)