Tuesday, December 31, 2013

year end

It's New Year's Eve and I'm sitting on the couch with two of my grandgirls and the third is in another chair next to us. We're watching transformers on TV. Well, they are watching Transformers. I was shelling pecans but I lost interest quickly.

The grandboy and his friend are watching TV in my workroom. Sometimes TV and sometimes X-Box.

It's cold outside and dark and we have a lot of fireworks to set off later. No one seems in a big hurry and dinner is being prepared.

After offering them only either oatmeal or cold cereal the past two mornings, I have a big breakfast planned for tomorrow...eggs, bacon, and blueberry pecan pancakes.

Yesterday I made a huge bowl of tuna salad, today it is gone and I had to go buy some lunch meat.

Our sleep and wake cycles are off. There has been a Breaking Bad marathon on the TV, every episode in order. The better half of the last three days has been devoted to watching.  In the end, last night, we had to stay up til 2:30 to see what became of Jesse and Walt.

Today I restrung a favorite wind chime that has been awaiting mending for years.

This has been a good last day to a good year. This has been a good year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

tea time

I put this little teacup bird feeder up about a year ago under the eave of the house hanging in front of the window I gaze out of where I sit. At first I put regular bird seed in it but the only bird that discovered it was a cardinal so I replaced the seed with sunflower seeds.

Eventually, chickadees and titmice discovered it and it has been a source of entertainment all year. Once in a while a curious wren would check it out and just recently, blue jays have visited.

A few days ago I took the screens off the windows and cleaned the windows inside and out. Wow. I can see so much so much more clearly as can the birds apparently. They are acting all freaky and jittery. And they definitely do not like me raising the camera.

They are very quick except for the cardinals who come to the cup and 'dine in'. The chickadees and titmice make kamikaze runs. Grab and go.

I have lots of pictures of the teacup.

The chickadees are the smallest and lowest man on the totem pole and they give ground to all the other birds. As they are small, they are usually hidden somewhat by the cup.

The titmice often come in pairs and are the quickest and hardest to get a picture of. I have to see them coming and get ready, camera on.

Of the cardinals, the females are more timid. The males are not fazed and will let me take picture after picture.

The bluejays even send the cardinals packing. They are recent visitors and very nervous and very hard to get a picture of. The least movement sends them off. They haven't been back, that I've seen, since I took down the screens and cleaned the windows. They are such big birds, every time they land and take off they send the tea cup, or rather the saucer, bonking into the window. And they don't seem to shell the sunflower seed like the other birds but eat them shell and all.

edit: this bluejay showed up this morning but flew away as soon as I took the picture. Skittish.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

post christmas post

Some of you might have figured out that this has not usually been my favorite time of year. In the past for many years I actively hated it. The constant christmas carols and winter songs everywhere you go, the encroachment on Thanksgiving and now Halloween, the sappy christmas shows and specials on TV that take over, the ridiculous over-commercialization, the unreal expectations, the obligatory nature of the gift giving, the absurd claim that any tragedy that happens in December is somehow worse because it happened at this time of year, the so-called 'war on christmas' because other people celebrate other holidays at this time of year and like to have that acknowledged.

If it could just be contained to a week or so it would be so much more tolerable.

I'm not nearly so bad about it as I have been. Mostly these days I'm fairly ambivalent about it though I still avoid going into stores from Thanksgiving on.

And actually there are some customs I like about it like the outdoor lights and the ornaments, especially the glass mold blown antique ones. I have several from my childhood that I think I've finally figured out how to display, if I can find room. And bringing trees in the house. And even the idea of gift giving.

But these are modern variations of the ancient, older than christmas, mid-winter solstice celebration customs and if I think of this season in those terms, I find I am starting to reconnect with some of the pleasure. Eat, drink, and be merry. And be generous.

Yes, I can definitely get behind that.

Maybe next year I'll light some luminarias on the longest night and bring in some pine or cedar boughs. Can't in good conscience bring in a tree. They are, after all, living sentient beings. You don't just cut one down to display it's corpse and then throw it on the trash pile.

The reason for the season is much more fundamental than any one god's claim to a day or festival or celebration. It is the end of the long night, the promise of the warmth and life to come, food is still abundant from the harvests, the ale and wine made earlier in the year has matured, there is more leisure time while the fields lay dormant. The turning of the wheel.

It is the rhythm of life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Yuletide

The longest night is done and the light and the sun are reborn. Eat, drink, and be merry!

This event has been celebrated with feasts and festivals in cultures the world over into antiquity.

My ancestry is weighted with Germanic and Nordic lines and Yuletide was the pagan Germanic/Northern European mid-winter festival that lasted anywhere from the solstice to the new year or mid-November to mid-January.

People gathered for the festival bringing food and ale. Livestock, which often starved in the fields during the winter, was sacrificed and the meat boiled and shared. Toasts were made to the gods, to the king, for good harvests and peace, and to the ancestors.

Wandering groups would go door to door singing songs of good cheer and blessings and were rewarded with cups of cider or ale.

Bonfires were lit and a large log or whole tree was brought into the houses and burned in the hearths to provide light and heat, representing the return of warm days and growth during the long festival. Evergreens, symbols of life since they stayed green and 'alive' all year, were decorated with fruits and small ornaments depicting the gods and boughs were brought into the house as was mistletoe, a symbol of fertility, the continuation of life.

Solstice was the time of the Wild Hunt when Odin would ride through the sky leading a hunting party on his horse. Children would set out their boots by the door filled with hay and other food for his horse and small gifts of fruit and nuts were left in gratitude.

If all this sounds familiar, it is because these are the ancient traditions and celebrations that have come to be associated with the celebration of Christmas. The fledgling christian church was not having much success convincing pagans and even it's early converts into abandoning it's heathen celebrations so it did what every conquering nation did. It absorbed the popular festival and rededicated it to their god.

For many of us though, it is still the pagan mid-winter festival that celebrates the end of the long nights and the coming of the light.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

a major achievement

My youngest grandchild, Robin, was Bat Mitzvah last Saturday. Bat Mitzvah (Bar Mitzvah for boys) is the coming of age ceremony in Judaism which marks the celebrant as an adult in the eyes of god and the community.

Robin on the bima

They are not adults in actual growing and legal terms, but at this point in their lives and after years of study, they are old enough to know right from wrong and bad behavior is no longer excused as being too young to know better.

In Judaism, while the Rabbis generally lead the services as the very learned teachers they are, any Jewish adult can lead the community in worship and so to introduce and welcome a new adult to the congregation, the Bat/Bar Mitzvah conducts the worship service.

This is not an easy task. Robin attended special classes for 3 years twice a week and religious school once a week and in the 6 months preceding her date, that study intensifies. She not only learned about being a Jewish adult but she also learned to read Hebrew as most of the service is conducted in Hebrew.

Generally, because the congregation is so large, each Bat/Bar Mitzvah has a partner and the services Friday night and Saturday morning are divided between them but Robin's partner was going to be out of town all summer and couldn't start the intensive preparations so they gave her a different date. Which meant that Robin didn't have a partner so for her, they decided to forgo the Friday night service.

When my kids were Bat/Bar Mitzvah, they led the service for the entire congregation both days. Now, because the congregation is so large and there is a Bat/Bar Mitzvah nearly every freakin' weekend and they started getting complaints from members who just wanted a regular service on Saturday mornings, the congregation in general holds services in the Chapel while the celebrant and their family and friends hold their Saturday service in the Sanctuary.

The Torah (old testament to Christians) is read in it's entirety every three years (one third of every book every year). They start at the beginning of Genesis after Yom Kipper (Jewish New Year) and end at the end of the Days of Awe (the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper). Every congregation no matter where in the world they are reads the same Torah portion on the same day.

And so Robin found a lesson in her Torah portion and spoke about the importance of forgiveness.

She did a great job and we are all very proud of her.

And then it was all over except for the partying!

Marc's immediate family and spouses minus 8...brothers, sister, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews.

ready for the party, all we need now are the guests


Robin and Thor


grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends

a little line dancing

her uncle's questionable taste in footwear

Autumn with her balloon headwear

Monday, December 16, 2013

dumb work stuff and a brilliant tree

It's been a very busy past two weeks, working in the city, preparing for and participating in the annual open house, and the big family event of my youngest grandgirl's Bat Mitzvah (post coming up) and I am woefully behind on visiting the blogs I read with (some sort of) regularity.

The next couple of weeks are going to be just as busy as I get the current commission finished and get all the design work I promised out by the end of the year. I also promised samples for two of the upcoming commissions but it doesn't look like that's going to happen until the first week of January.

I have been working on one job with a sketch provided by the architect, a project sketch to show the client whose house they are restoring. I usually do my own design work but the client is really adamant about me reproducing the original sketch as closely as possible.

That's fine. I don't really have a problem with that but it makes it harder. I have to translate a pencil sketch into a drawing for glass. I guess the real problem has been how far am I allowed to deviate from the architect's sketch in an attempt to make it make sense. I think I've finally got it figured out.

That couple of weeks of bitter cold weather that has put us behind in fabrication and thus these sketches turned the remaining deciduous trees that still had their leaves into colorful torches. We have a lot of evergreens here, many types of trees that never loose their foliage so we tend to get the isolated brilliantly colored tree when we get any at all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

two more amazing artists

I mentioned Kari Minnick in my last post.

One of the great things for me, having a kiln glass center here in the Houston area, is getting to meet artists, whose work I have admired, when they come in to teach a class. I'm not always able to get out there, as it is out in the Boonies, and I missed Kari when she was here last year but this year I did make it out there.

Kari creates beautiful fused glass panels using powders and frit. While her past work used some images of a recognizable nature and verses, her new work is very abstract and though I'm not much for abstract, I love Kari's work.

You can see much more of her work here.

Another artist I've had the pleasure of meeting and whose work I also love is Richard Parrish. It's been a while since Richard came to teach. He also does abstract fused glass panels and vessel forms but his technique is very different, involving kiln carving (slumping over cut out fiber paper shapes) and sandblasting.

Richard's work falls in two styles...pieces that look very geologic to me and others that remind me of woven fabric.

You can see more of Richard's work here.

Well, we are headed into the city today to work on the peacock panel and sketches and will be in residence through Saturday.

Monday, December 9, 2013

open house and other winter things

Not our best open house and if it weren't for the hosts and one of the participants, it would have been our worst with only one sale to the general public. But...for the other participants it was good to great so, good for them. I'm glad to see people buying from artists even if they aren't buying from me.

Gene Hester fused glass

 Gene and Marc

Miguel Unson fused glass

Jennifer Barnds glass bead jewelry

Lisa Klein Addison enameled jewelry

Kathy Poeppel and Dick Moiel blown glass, our hosts

Kathy and Jennifer doing a demo

So now what am I going to do with all those window/garden ornaments? Maybe I'll drill more holes and hook them all together into a long column and hang it from one of our trees. The bowls we can send to one of our galleries. The rest of the little pedestal sculptures will become gifts.

But sales aside, it was freakin' old home week for me over the weekend. Four people who I had not seen in 15 – 30 years came to the open house and the most amazing part about it is that I remembered their names! I can't even remember the names of people I see with some sort of regularity. So that was fun, getting caught up.

It was a long week in the city last week and another bitterly cold one at that. Marc got in the sandblast booth anyway for two days and worked as long as he could stand it on the peacock panel. We have to go back this week to try and get it finished. Fortunately, it's not supposed to be quite so cold.

I managed to run out to Hot Glass Houston to visit a short while with Kari Minnick who is teaching a workshop there. She is an incredible artist and her glass panels look more like paintings. More about Kari in my next post.

looking down the street in front of the city house

After Thanksgiving week and temps hovering in the 40˚s, the city looked quite winterish 

the Big Back Yard

and coming home late last night after another week of temps ranging from 30˚s to 40˚s, it is looking downright winterish. 

the Little Back Yard

The two ginkos which had held onto their leaves far longer than I would have thought, which were still greenish when we left last Wednesday, had turned completely yellow and shed most of them by the time we returned.

I'm taking the day off today but we are going to try to return to the city tomorrow to finish the peacock panel though it may be Wednesday.

And then my youngest grandgirl Robin is getting Bat Mitzvah on Saturday. Then hopefully things will settle down and I can get these sketches and samples done.