Monday, August 31, 2015

summer book reviews

just to show you how many I could have read

Since the first of June, I have read one book.


And it took me nearly a month to read that one. What with the grandkid visits and my trip to Canada and then some work to attend to when I got back I just haven't had the time, energy, or inclination to read, especially with a new puppy demanding constant attention. I even returned Kate Atkinson's new book, which I had had for a good month, after only reading about 1/5th of it. I finally went to the library about 10 days ago hoping to find a good short read so that I would have at least two books this quarter.

So what did I come back with? An 839 page tome that weighs a fucking ton. I picked up The Familiar, vol. 1 by Mark Z. Danielewski. When I checked it out, the librarian told me 'good luck, I don't think anyone has finished it yet'. It is not a normal book so I did a search on it and found the NY Times book review of it. Sheesh. I couldn't even get through the review! And apparently this is the first volume of 27. I have lost my fucking mind.

OK, so here is the book I did read:

The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas - I finally finished The Kashmir Shawl. It took me the better part of a month I think. Not because it wasn't a good story. It is a good story and I would have enjoyed it more if I had had the time or inclination to sit down and read. Mair finds an exquisite hand woven pashmina shawl when she and her siblings go to close out the house after their father died. The shawl was handed down by Mair's grandmother and it, with a lock of hair and a photograph, sets Mair off on a quest to learn about the shawl and hopefully in the process, about her grandmother, married to her missionary husband, from Wales in Kashmir during WW2. The story is told two ways or two stories...from Mair's perspective in the present and from her grandmother, Nerys' perspective in the past. As Mair travels through Kashmir learning about where and how the shawl was made, Nerys' story unfolds there in the same places, the story of the women in the picture in the India of the British Raj during the years of WW2, the story of the shawl and the lock of hair, the story that Mair finally pieces together and her own journey.

Now that I have my one little review done, I thought I'd give you a peek at The Familiar. It is one main story line interspersed with short segments of other story lines and so far, all but one of these alternate story line segments have been different...sort of like channel surfing on TV while the commercials come on during the show you are actually watching. Spacing changes, type faces change, pages are inserted that have you going 'what the fuck?', I swear this guy makes up languages and slang as he goes along. I don't try to understand what I am reading, hoping instead to just glean understanding as I go along. Here are a few examples:

even has its own bookmark!

It's not actually as fearsome as it seems. I'm already on page 231, reading only about half an hour to an hour in the evenings. I don't know why I haven't taken it back. Maybe I just want to be able to say I was the first person in Wharton that actually read the whole thing. And maybe by the time I get to the end I'll even understand what it was about.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

problem solving

This has been a busy week. I finished the sketches and submitted my proposal but spent the rest of the week trying to find, or rather decide on, a fix for the installation. That's misleading. What the architect specified for these 7' x 4' panels is a graphic on one piece of glass laminated between two other pieces of glass and the framework was detailed to accommodate that at 7/8” thick, which is a really heavy piece of glass at 350 lbs and since that's not what we do, I have had to propose an alternate way of using our glass in the space. I'm still waiting on the final pricing for the glass and install to submit my final proposal.

Did I mention the client really likes our work and that the art consultant really likes the sketches I did?

I've also been trying to finish the small circles with the stars for the San Jacinto Memorial Museum. The tape protecting the edges of the glass circles blew off partially during the sandblasting and so now all but three have slightly frosted edges in spots. This is a problem as they use some of these as awards. So now I have to try and polish it back up. My glass company can do it, I'm pretty sure, easily enough but that is an extra expense so I'm going to see what I can do with my little bit of equipment.

All this headache and hassle just reminds me why I want to retire from doing this stuff and while I am happy to get new jobs, I'm happy to not have new complicated jobs.

The other thing I've been doing is working on the totems. I finished 2 more and have 5 in progress. I'm spending a lot of money and time on these things so I hope they sell.

What I haven't been doing is visiting around but I hope to catch up today while I (wo)man the antique store.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

family, sketches, and the wheel

This past weekend my sister-in-law, my niece, and my greatniece from Portland came to Wharton to visit. They came in Friday late afternoon from Crosby, about a two hour drive from here, where they had been visiting my sister-in-law's mother. It was really nice to see Kathy, Megan, and to meet Mabel who is just three years old and just the cutest thing.

My sister's daughter who lives in Katy came out for dinner Friday night and Saturday, my daughter and the twins came out to visit since they don't get to see this part of the family very often. It was a very girlie get together with my husband being the only male.

So of course we did the shops on the square. And, of course I bought more stuff to make totems. On top of the huge amount of pieces I got at the last estate sale. You'd think I'd have cleaned this little town out by now of items within my price range. And there is another estate sale this Friday. These totems seem to have become something of an obsession so maybe I'll try to sell some in the shop or else everyone is getting a totem for their holiday gift.

Last week I started on the compositional sketches for the small animal hospital that they are not building, it is already built, but are remodeling the front facade. I have two directions...formal groupings like family portraits and arrangements of heads. I'm sort of liking the heads best but then I've only done one sketch in the portrait style.

Yesterday morning, even though it is still just so hot (in the 90s all this week) after the little cool down from the rain last week, I walked out into the Little Backyard to see the bottom row of leaves on the plumerias had turned completely yellow overnight and the tallow is starting to drop a few red/orange/yellow mottled leaves and the altheas, even though they are blooming sort of half heartedly, are sporting tired and yellowing foliage. 

All signs that the wheel is turning. I imagine the pampas grass will be blooming soon if not already. These little signs that summer is winding down are soothing to my mind if not my body.

Friday, August 21, 2015

rain and a crazy squirrel

It's raining with lots of lightning and thunder, one crash rattled all the windows and got both the cat and dog up and alert. This is a good thing. Not the cat and dog part but the rain part. I woke up to rain yesterday morning and it rained mostly all day yesterday. Not a hard rain but a steady rain, the kind that soaks in the ground and heals all the cracks in the earth. It's raining a bit harder now, this morning. It has been so dry, maybe two small showers since the middle of June.

Of course, the rain yesterday (and I guess today if it keeps up like yesterday) threw a wrench in the puppy house training. Four 'accidents' in the house yesterday even though we took her out every time the rain let up.

Today I am working at the antique store instead of my regular Saturday since my sister-in-law, my niece, and my grandniece (whom I have never met), who are visiting other family members on the in-law side about 2 hours away, are coming in late today and will be spending the day here tomorrow.

Here's a few squirrel pictures for your entertainment. She certainly entertained me. And the cat. This squirrel comes to the tea cup, at least I think it's the same one. She doesn't show any fear of me when I poke my head out the door. The other day she was climbing all over the screens on the windows on either side of the one outside of which the tea cup hangs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

close but no cigar

You might remember that I posted about being on the short list for the City of Houston Portable Works Collection that will become part of the permanent collection of the Houston Airport System and will be displayed at the Houston Intercontinental Airport. Well, the selection committee came and went and they declined to purchase any of the 3 pieces that the liaison from the Houston Center Of Contemporary Craft had selected to show them. Ah well, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

This week I am working on a new job, a single panel 5' x 5' for a master bath,

and working on a proposal for three large panels, 4' x 7', for a small animal hospital that is being built. I'm working with an art consultant who presented images of our work and a rough proposal. The client loved our work and so now I am doing some compositional sketches and a firm proposal. It's not for sure until I have my deposit but I am feeling positive about it especially since they want a November installation.

It's still too hot out there to do any work in the shop unless it's very early in the morning or early evening. Fortunately, the work I'm doing now can be done in the air conditioned work room in the house. This fall and winter, we plan to do the remodel of the inside parts of the shop (what we should have done last winter but we were finishing up the Botanicas instead), those areas that we will be able to air condition. Working in the winter in the shop isn't so bad since the metal building warms up nicely and on those really cold days I have a space heater that keeps me warm.

Well, I'm off to field measure, or rather accompany my installer as he field measures for this big window. I haven't seen the space yet and I do like to see where the work is going before I start.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

puppy tales

It's like being a new parent...tired all the time. She gets up earlier than we do and being a puppy who is still getting house trained that means she has to go outside and Sometimes she'll quiet back down but not usually so we are not getting our sleep.

She's about 4 months old now and best guess by the vet and the techs is a rat terrier/chihuahua mix. She is long legged and long bodied and a week and a half ago, she weighed 6lbs 5oz.

She's also very smart and stubborn and ignores you if she doesn't want to do whatever you want even though you know she knows her name. But she also wants to please so she does learn the lessons and she is so cute and funny. I had to go all alpha dog on her last night because I didn't want her romping in my lap so she went over to Marc telling him mom's being mean and then climbed up on his shoulders and laid down curled around his neck. 

She bounds like an antelope and runs like the wind and the other day I was in the pool (12' diameter x 30” deep) when she leaped up and grabbed onto the edge and scrambled herself up and over and into the water where she then swam like mad for the other side and I lifted her out. She didn't try that again.

Another thing she likes to do is make a nest out of the bath mat while I'm brushing my teeth.

She has learned to keep a wide swath between her and the cat who finally got tired of waiting for the little pesky dog to leave and started asserting herself and claiming her space back by charging at the little dog and swiping at her from hidden spots, though I'm beginning to think Emma is playing with her in her cat-like thorny way. Minnie, on the other hand, is still very intimidated by the cat who will sit in the doorway that the puppy wants to go through. If I pick up Minnie and hold her at eye level with the cat (but far enough away that Emma can't swipe at her), the puppy will turn her head from side to! don't make me look at the cat!

The other day, Minnie was in my lap asleep draped over one leg when Emma decided she wanted in my lap too so I had the dog on one leg and the cat on the other with their backs to each other. Then Marc walked in and Minnie jumped down. I don't think the puppy ever realized the cat was right there behind her because if she had she would have freaked out.

So she has a new trick, besides standing on her hind legs to get whatever toy is being dangled. Yesterday she was chasing her tail spinning around really fast until she got dizzy and then she would stop and wobble a bit and then do it all over again. And fetch, she has learned how to play fetch with one of her toys.

Unless she is asleep, she is in near constant motion.

It's a good thing she makes us laugh so much.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

mississippi kites

You might remember I posted a picture July 9th of a nest with a small fuzzy white chick in it that the mississippi kites had built in the top of the tallow tree in the Little Backyard.

I've been watching it off and on and the chick has been growing and getting its juvenile coloring which is a sort of mottled brown. My vantage point for being able to see the nest was by the corner of the garage which gave me a view through the branches. The now older chick has been perching near the nest lately rather than in it and there is lots of noise and activity in the mornings and evenings as the chick calls to its parents and they call back and bring food. I have suspected that there was another chick in the nest because when a parent flies in with food, there seems to be a big flutter of wings, more than just two birds would account for but I was never able to see a second chick.

Until a few days ago.

I found a new vantage point with a clearer view on the other side of the garage from the Little Backyard and took some pictures on zoom. I think one of the chicks is older than the other and it has taken to perching on a limb instead of on the nest.

A parent comes in.

Today, the nest looks deserted though I could still hear one of the juveniles calling and finally located it in the oak tree on the other side of the house.

It seems the other chick has left the nest as when one of the parents flew in, the junior in the oak flew to the nest and I could only see the one. 

I missed the shot of its parent coming in for a landing but then I saw a hummingbird up there above the nest framed by the tree branches checking things out. That would have been the shot to get.

edit: The nest appears to be truly empty this morning. No juniors, no calling back and forth. As soon as I wrote that, I heard one calling so I went out to look for it. The last junior has moved to a pine tree across the street and down two houses. I saw it make a short circular flight and back to the branch. Still has it's juvenile coloring.

edit: well, now it is back at the nest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

summer week 4

We brought Robin, who is 14 this year and taller than both her mother and her two older sisters and me, home with us from the gathered family day at the beach on the Saturday after I returned from my week in Canada and the next day we went to Costco and the grocery store to outfit the kitchen for her visit. After that, this is mostly what she did:

We did do a few things like make a strawberry pie (sorry no pics), swim in the pool,

go to the movie to see Paper Towns,

and do the shops on the lookout for items we could use for our main project

no, not the hat

where every time I turned around she was sitting on the closest available chair

in between bouts of this:

The end of the week we got started on our totems. I've been collecting cheap glassware from the resale shops and estate sales for over a year. I keep a budget of $3 or less per piece (unless it's something that I really like in which case I'll go a little higher) and so Robin and I started putting them together.

When we had visited our favorite resale shop in Glen Flora, we found a pair of brand new never worn Tom's shoes women's size 8. I wear a size 7 1/2 but I figured I could make do so I bought them since I had already bought Robin the last pair of Tom's shoes I found there.

Robin, who wears an 8 and who packed them in her bag, took them home. 

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

catching up

I can't believe it's been two weeks already since I got back. In some ways that is no time and others, worlds away. The very next day after I returned, we drove two hours to Galveston to spend the day with family from Dallas and the Houston area on the beach.

My grandgirl Robin left with us at the end of the day for her week. And just as she left, my sister's two (bigger but still small) black and white dogs came for their 10 day stay.

They're still here. Minnie has grown since she appeared in the yard four weeks ago but not a whole lot.

 And I've worked some days at the store. And caught up on the dangling threads I left to what remains of my business. I have even pulled out the waxes I made years ago of the tree bark around here and that is sitting on my table as I write. It is time to start some new work.

We are entering high summer. These are the dog days. This week we will see triple digits perhaps as high as 106˚. Corn is being harvested and the cotton is starting to pop. The birds are raising their last broods.

It is very dry even though we did get half an inch last Tuesday, the first rain in 7 or 8 weeks. Water is evaporating out of the turtle pond and water lily pond at a surprising rate.

The plumerias, still recovering from being froze to the ground winter before last, should be blooming but they're not. The altheas that didn't bloom in the spring like they were supposed to are putting on sparse flowers now. The yellow butterfly ginger is putting out it's first blooms and the morning glory bush is also blooming.

There's more but that's enough for now. It's too damn hot to be outside for any length of time.