Wednesday, December 30, 2015

in between

These are the days in between, the quiet days of winter, the last week of the year when nothing gets done even if you do go in to work. Unless you're in retail that is. I should be using this week to finish up some stuff...the flower with the bee, the day lily...but the weather turned cold and it is, once again, overcast and wet and I know that after New Year's, we will be very busy working on the small animal hospital job that will be funded as soon as we turn in a tax form.


The puppy is curled up in my lap, I have two new books from the library, we have food in the house though the grocery list is getting longer. We still have to make our foray out to buy fireworks for our year end extravaganza. The Girl and Husband and the four grandkids will be out tomorrow and the three grandgirls will stay til Sunday.

Since my sister returned and fetched her dogs on Monday, we went to see the new Star Wars movie yesterday. It was well done in the way the first three were well done, only with nearly 40 years worth of special effects improvement. In the manner of this franchise, it was one explosion after another, one spaceship chase after another and it started up almost immediately. One has to wonder about the armor suits and helmets of the Storm Troopers though as they still don't seem able to stop any sort of weapon. Seems to me their only purpose is to identify the bad guys and make them clumsy. If you haven't seen it and still want to you might want to stop reading now though I'm not really revealing much. It wasn't exactly a remake, more of a homage, of the first one/three but it was the same story and the similarities and outright references were endless. The regrouped Dark Side has a new young Vader, Kylo Ren, in training, they have a new planet destroying weapon, the Resistance is still fighting them, and everyone wants to find Luke who has disappeared. We're introduced to the two new young heroes, Rey and Fin. There's a few surprises and it was fun seeing Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in their roles again but Mark Hamill, who looked damn fine as an aging Luke Skywalker, didn't show up til the very end.

A good way to end the year I think, watching explosions and then engaging in a few harmless ones ourselves tomorrow.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

random stuff


Three days before Christmas Eve I was seeing ads for celebrating New Year's Eve. So it goes in America, the land of the 5 minute attention span. Hey, it's almost Christmas, we've just about milked this cow dry...on to the next thing we can convince people to spend money on.

The day after Christmas, that magical day, the most wonderful day of the year where you get your heart's desire; the stores are mobbed with people returning all those thoughtfully selected and lovingly given gifts. One year I would have gladly been in that mob had I not been a child after opening a present that my father picked out...a pink and orange plaid pantsuit.

The radio station that started playing nothing but non-stop Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving is still at it. I'm supposed to have it on in the store and I the other room as far from me as I can get it. Thankfully, it's a crappy radio and it keeps shifting into static which I only discover when I go to turn it off at the end of the day.


Today is Marcmas! Ordinarily we would be going to the movie and out for dinner but because we have the dogs we'll spend a quiet day at home although I think we will be getting a visit from some combination of our daughter and her family later. We'll celebrate tomorrow or the next day depending on what time my sister gets back.

It's overcast and windy and rainy today, the beginning of the end of our warm weather I think. A winter storm is moving south and it's supposed to dip down into the 40˚s this coming week. 40˚s are OK but we'll have to turn on the heater. I still won't have to move the plants in though. Right now they are all huddled against the south side of the house in the crook of an L, protected from the west as well.

Last Wednesday I got up from the couch mid-day and felt a stab of pain in my lower back, the kind of pain that doesn't let you do anything, a reprise of an injury from 13 or 14 years ago when we worked non-stop for 3 months fabricating 10 – 5' x 6' panels for two walls at a hospital. I stressed my back so badly that when done with the job, a week later when I had fully relaxed, I experienced such severe pain that basically all I could do was lay flat on my back. No picking up things or grandkids, no gardening, it was impossible to sit comfortably, and sneezing was something to be avoided. Anyway, I did eventually recover from it and working out at the gym helped bring balance and strength back to my body. I've tried to be very cognizant of keeping my body balanced since then so I was really surprised when this happened for no apparent reason. Fortunately, it is not lingering and while it still aches, it's not that debilitating pain and I was able to do my regular morning yoga routine this morning.

Speaking of yoga, there is a new yoga instructor here in Wharton. She plans to open a yoga studio starting the first week of January, as opposed to just teaching sessions here and there, with real yoga studio prices, more than twice what the lady in El Campo charges but then her classes will be half again as long. I'll probably try her out but because she works full time, her classes don't start til 7 PM (and the one I'm really interested in doesn't start til 8:15 PM). By then, I'm fully ensconced in the house for the night so we'll see. If the studio goes well, she plans to quit her job and then classes at earlier times will be available. It would be nice not to have to drive to the next town for yoga.

Well, the birds are giving me the stink eye so I guess the teacup is empty.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

merry Turning Of The Wheel, y'all

Everyone has been saying how warm it is for this time of year. It's warm here too and while it's not unusual for it to be in the low 70s on Christmas Day, it is rare for it to be 80˚. I'm sitting here in full summer dress mode...shorts, tank top, barefoot, hair pulled back in a ponytail, and the doors and windows are open. The roses are all in full bloom and the altheas are putting on new growth and it's too hot and muggy to do any serious work out in the yard.

It's Christmas Eve but as you probably know by now, I don't do christmas. I quit celebrating christmas in my mid-20s when I married a jewish man. I had already abandoned the theology years previous but participated in a secular way. Family expectations and all. We raised our kids Jewish. That was before I abandoned religion altogether. There was a lot of common ground between my beliefs and Judaism at that point in my life but in the end, it was still religion and it too was discarded. I don't consider myself an atheist but what I think and ponder on is about as diametrically opposed to the father creator god in the sky, separate from existence, as it can be.

part of my neighbor's christmas decorations

Christmas, for me, is a free two days off. Stores are either closed or mobbed, no one expects any business to get done, no family obligations at this point in my life so I usually spend it putzing around doing whatever I feel like doing or doing nothing at all, curled up for two days with a book. It's so warm this year that I'm in putzing mode. In fact, I've basically been putzing around all week.

I filled the mold for the day lily flower (I'll post on that later), unpacked all the stuff from the two studio sales/open houses this year, I'm hanging some of the botanicas and other art work that has been sitting around, I've been going over to my sister's house every day for cat duty while she is gone and her dogs are here, 

I got the garden totems all back out in the yard and rearranged the plate flowers.

And...Marc replaced the rotten part of the sub-floor so I went down to the local floor coverings place and picked a vinyl and they came and installed it yesterday. Today, Marc reseated the toilet so we have our bathroom back with brand new flooring.

So nice to have the main bathroom back in working order.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

it seemed like a good idea

Well, I guess it's back to work stuff. Almost four years ago a friend gave me a ball mill. 

A ball mill, for those that don't know, is a device that turns glass chunks into powder. It consists of a heavy ceramic canister half filled with ceramic marbles that turns on the rods powered by the motor. The ceramic marbles spin and fall much like clothes in a dryer and this action crushes whatever material you put in the canister. Ceramists use them to powder and compound materials to make their own glazes. I thought I could use it to make frit (crushed glass about the consistency of coarse sand) from the chunks of lead crystal Gaffer glass that I have that I bought probably 10 years or longer ago.

The glass we use for our castings is Bullseye which is a soda lime glass. Soda lime glass is harder and stiffer than lead crystal. Lead crystal is softer and flows easier and at lower temperatures with shorter hold times. Casting at higher temperatures and with longer hold times can be tricky as the glass and mold material want to become one and then you get a scummy surface.

So, lesson over, all those years ago I bought a pound each of 15 different colors of Gaffer lead crystal which is a beautiful glass. It comes in frit and billets (thick slabs) for casting so I ordered mine in frit which is what I use to fill my molds. Unfortunately for me, their frit is not uniform in size and each bag contained glass from powder all the way up to big chunks. I sifted out all the fine particles of each color and used those to do a small smooth sided bowl and put the rest of the glass aside. Gaffer will only frit the glass to a consistent particle size if I order a minimum of 40 pounds per color. So ended my short foray into using Gaffer lead crystal for my pate de verre.

The other day I decided to pull out the ball mill and see if I could use it to frit the glass by stopping the process and sifting out the fine particles before they were turned to powder. I only use powdered glass sparingly in my castings because it makes the pieces come out more opaque.

Whoever had given the ball mill to my friend, who had it for years before he gave it to me, did not clean out the canisters before passing it on and there was residue caked on the sides, bottom, and thickly in the shoulders of the canisters and it was hard. as. a. rock! 

It took me about 3 hours to scrape and dig and chisel that stuff out of one of the two canisters and that was after filling it with water and letting it soak overnight. Then I had to clean each and every marble because they also had whatever this white powder stuff is caked into the ridges of the marbles.

Finally I was ready to try out the ball mill. I selected a color that was in big chunks and one that I rarely use in case I totally screwed it up (or it gets contaminated) and set it to working. I figured I would give it 30 minutes or so and then stop it and see what I had.

What I had was a mixture of the big chunks...and powder. If I wanted to go to all the trouble to stop it every 20 minutes or so and sieve out the maybe 1/8 teaspoon of fine particles that might be mixed in there, then I might get enough fine frit to do nothing with. 

So I'm just going to mill it all down to powder (since that's my only choice) and then do a piece or two with the powder and see what I get. Who knows? I may really like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I'm sitting here trying to think of something to write about. I don't do Christmas so that's out. I'm sick of reading and writing about our culture's social problems. I can't whine about winter since we really aren't having one yet and I just did a post on the state of nature around here.

I suppose I could write about the big bathroom being out of commission, a slow draining toilet pulled up to reveal the nightmare of a corroded flange and rotten sub-floor and that the sink in the little bathroom has barely any water pressure and the pipes leak and need to be replaced.

Or that the puppy goes in for her 'fixing' tomorrow at 8 AM and the end of her confinement to the house or leash. Not sure who will be happier about that, her or me.

Or that the chandelier cleaning, abandoned last winter when it got too cold because I was doing it outside, has accumulated dust and cobwebs again and I must now start over. At least I moved it from the garage and into the house several months ago.

Or the new light fixture I bought this past summer for the spot above my computer and still have not installed because I'm afraid it won't give me enough light when I work on dim days.

Or that the squirrels wasted no time in accessing the new totem bird feeder I was sure they wouldn't be able to get on.

Or that the attempted repair of the last Botanica by re-firing it to mend the crack failed as the piece just cracked again in a different spot and burned the yellow out of part of it (something that I am at a loss to explain or understand and really isn't apparent in the photo).

Or that I made potato leek soup last Sunday and it was really good.

Well, maybe I'll be more inspired another day.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

wherein I don't talk about work

With my nose to the grindstone the last several weeks my posts have mostly been about the progress of my work but other things have been happening in my world at the same time.

The cold weather that dipped down into the low 30s for a couple of nights after Thanksgiving finally triggered the ginkgo trees and they have been yellow torches for the past week. This morning though, the ground was solid with yellow leaves and the rest are steadily falling.

The tallows, those that aren't already leafless like the ones in my yard, have also come out in colors.

My three grandgirls spent the weekend after Thanksgiving here and we went around to our usual favorite shops and I scored 5 glass drawer knobs ( I had previously found three glass bar drawer pulls). I also finally bought these three small hand painted nut or candy dishes (3 1/2") that I have been mooning over for months. I figure each grandgirl will get one when the time comes to divvy up my stuff.

Last year, 2014, I saw almost no butterflies and bees were scarce as well. This past summer, and currently, I am seeing many more, bees seem abundant and butterflies are, if not abundant, present and best of all, I have been seeing monarchs this fall. Not a lot, but a few. I do have more food plants for them now which I have been working on in several spots and the other day I saw four big caterpillars, then just three, then the others were gone also. I've found one chrysalis so the rest are around here as well.

We had three or four days of overcast and drizzle, what I gather people in the NW call 'rain', and a few days later these weird black mushrooms were coming up over at the shop.

Sunday, after the open house, I put Minnie on a long rope and putzed around in the yard all day. We're having some very mild weather, a sort of Indian summer, and so the weather was perfect for it. I repotted a few cuttings into larger pots and dug up the daffodil bulbs from where they were being crowded out, a chore I had been meaning to do for months, to replant them in a better spot. I didn't think they would have sprouted yet but as you can see, they have. They aren't the only early spring bloomers that are getting started; the bluebonnets, the baby-blue-eyes, the early iris, the little red lilies, the evening primrose are all sprouting and gearing up for early spring.

And Thursday night's sunset was one of those rare nights when not just the western sky is pink and orange but the north and the south as well and the very air is pink.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

catching up and the open house

Well, the mad rush to get as much stuff completed as possible in time for the open house, which amounted to ONE piece, is over. The designing and building of the display for the 6 botanicas to show is done (and it looked great), the garden totems sorted and divided into keepers and sellers, the stressful set up on Friday at the hot shop done (major traffic accident on the freeway in delayed us by an hour), and the open house itself now a thing of the past.

We sold one piece, the very last available sculpted bowl, 
to a pair who has collected our work in the past. Everyone seems to still connect us to the sculpted bowls which, with the exception of the three we made for the gallery show in Florida this past spring, I haven't made for about 4 years, maybe longer. Probably longer. Anyway, they didn't seem very tempted by the new work. The garden totems also didn't generate any interest.  People didn't really realize what they were.  Failure on my part when setting up the display (or else wrong market).  I do have a couple interested in the flower piece when I get it finished and maybe made one or two contacts for some commission work. Not bad I guess for a not very well attended event (which is what I expected being a last minute decision on Dick and Kathy's part about doing it this year).

I guess I should have taken pictures of the other four artists work but, well, I didn't.

Anyway, I'm working on some ideas for next year to have other opportunities to sell my work myself instead of depending on galleries which I don't think is a very good model for us. If I can sell directly, I can lower my prices.

So. I've been trying to stay off social media the last week or two, and when I do scroll through, not reading articles that I know will make me angry or depressed. I have enough trouble with humanity as it is and the current hatefulness and fear mongering and stupidity and refusal of our politicians and the justice system to do anything about any of it is not helping matters one bit. Instead I'm spending my time working on being creative. Now that the open house is over, I'm getting the other pieces in progress finished. Filled the flower mold, ordered glass to fill the day lily mold, am doing the finish work on the magnolia leaves, and then, if I still haven't received the deposit for the small animal hospital, I'll start on new models and I need to get the website updated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

fall reading list

Still not back up to my usual reading habits but at least I have three books this past quarter instead of just one.

The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day In May by Mark Z. Danielewski - Believe it or not, I finished it. 839 (numbered) pages (there was a whole section of un-numbered pages), of what I'm not exactly sure. 9 story lines, each story line in a different font, of which some, I'm pretty sure, were only visited once, some twice, a few several times. The main story line concerns Zander, a 14 year old geeky gawky mis-matched (her eyes are different colors) curious epileptic girl whose father has died in the previous year, her mother who finally finished her dissertation and is afraid to look at the results, and her stepfather who dotes on her and who is part of a team that is developing a computer game they are trying to sell and her parents decision to get a special dog for Zander, an Akita that is going to cost several thousand dollars, to help...her epilepsy, her grief over her father's death? Maybe both. The entire book with all its font changes and type size changes and crazy layouts and different story lines and its writing style that puts down every thought unsaid and the ridiculous use of parentheses instead of commas all takes place in one day. Presumably the same day in all story lines. Let me save you the trouble. The main story line...after a long day out in the rain with her stepfather, on the way to finally pick up the Akita, Zander jumps out of the car to rescue a 2 week old kitten that is drowning. Zander insists they take the kitten to the vet immediately, dog forgotten. The mother, who really wanted the dog, did not pass her dissertation, the sale of the stepfather's game didn't go through so now they can't afford the dog anyway, and we don't even know if they kitten lives. This is supposed to be the first of 27 volumes and if it, in fact, is, I won't be reading any of them. If you happen to see it in the library or in a book store, pick it up, flip through it, marvel at my determination or stupidity, and then put it back down.

A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson – This book is a companion piece, rather than a sequel, to her book Life After Life which I thoroughly enjoyed. It took me two tries to read this one but not because it was a hard read so much as because I just haven't been able to settle down and read since the puppy showed up. Or really before that I guess. And I'm not really sure what the title has to do with the story except that it is one of many literary quotes throughout the novel. Anyway, this book is about Teddy, Ursula's (from Life After Life) younger brother who becomes a bomber pilot during WWII, a fatal occupation as most pilots and their crews died, many not even making it back from their first mission. In this timeline, Teddy survives and the story jumps back and forth from his life in the present to different times in his past and we eventually get the whole story of his life and that of his wife, daughter (who is a thoroughly unlikable person), and his two grandkids. At the end, Teddy is dying from old age with his granddaughter in attendance and just as he takes his last breath and exhales...well, you'll have to read it.

Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman – Tony Hillerman's daughter is carrying on her father's characters and locale and this is her second book featuring Bernadette Manuelito and Jim Chee, officers in the Navaho Nation Police Force. Bernie and Jim are taking a rare week off to visit Chee's cousin and help him get his new tour business off to a good start when Bernie gets a call from a neighbor to tell her that her sister, who lives with and helps care for their mother, didn't come home last night so Bernie returns to take care of things at home and since she is there she continues to investigate a case connected to a man she stopped during a drug dragnet. He didn't have any drugs but he did have two boxes of dirt and an illegal rifle and tried to bribe her into letting him go. The FBI took over the case and refuses to share any information. In the meantime, Chee has accepted a temporary job with the local station there where his cousin lives looking for a lost woman from a movie production on the reservation and when he finds her, they stumble on a fresh grave. Chee is asked to clear that up before returning home to Bernie and his regular post. Anne does a good job with the characters and carrying on her father's legacy.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

who needs fucking enemies from without

There is no need for Islamic terrorists to bring us down, we are doing a fine job of it ourselves. We are killing far more of us every day than any Islamic terrorist could do. Terrorists may go for the big flashy statement, but for body count, we can't be beat.

Guns are rampant in this country. All kinds, shapes, sizes. Guns for children even. Another record for gun sales this past Black Friday. Why? Last week's outrage, the Syrian refugees, no doubt. Those people who have suffered the loss of everything in their world...their homes and lives turned to rubble by our bombs. Their ability to care of their families gone up in smoke. No home, no job, no neighborhood, no infrastructure, no food, no water, they are left with the clothes on their backs and their lives. These people who have undergone up to two years of scrutiny, who only want a safe place to raise their families, that are the victims of the very people we say we are fighting, that are finally being allowed in are being vilified by our politicians and a good segment of our population who want to refuse them entry and if they are let in want to refuse them any help because they are being told by the rabid right wing and Fox News that these people should be feared. Never mind that if a terrorist wants in this country it is far easier to get in on a visitor's visa.

Meanwhile, a guy gets pissed off at his waitress because she asked him not to smoke in the restaurant so he pulls out his gun and shoots her in the head.

Meanwhile, a guy hides in the dark and shoots his neighbor three times because she asked him earlier in the day not to drive his riding lawnmower across her yard.

Meanwhile, a guy shoots his neighbor because the man refused to move his car which he had parked in the public street in front of the shooter's house.

Meanwhile, a guy shoots his two kids and then himself.

Meanwhile, a guy shoots up a Planned Parenthood killing three people and injuring many more.

Meanwhile, a man and a woman burst into a banquet and open fire killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, most critically.

And that was just some of what went on this week but by all means, let's be afraid of desperate Syrian women and children.

Did you know that people on the FBI's terrorist watch list can buy guns here legally?

I had thought I would write about the Syrian refugees and the shameful and hateful attitude towards them by so many Americans. The attacks in Paris just galvanized them and the whole time I'm thinking that we are in far more danger from our neighbors than we are from any outside terrorist. We have a culture of gun ownership gone bizarre, a hysteria of fear and hatred in a country where the gun has become the only solution to every problem, where would be vigilantes parade down the street brandishing their long guns, where victims are blamed for not having their own gun amid the chaos...

business as usual when suddenly the door slams open and 2 gunmen lay down constant fire from their long guns with huge ammo clips for 5 or 6 minutes, who leave as suddenly as they came and so when amid all the noise and chaos and screaming and diving for cover and adrenalin dumping in your system causing you to shake and you're trying to figure out what the fuck is happening and you look down to see the blood coming from the bullet hole in your body and tell me just exactly when you stupid idiot who thinks you could have taken out the shooter because you think you are 'well trained', just when in all that do you think you could have pulled out your own gun and started shooting before they nailed you

...where someone who goes target shooting considers himself 'well trained' and so never goes anywhere without his gun. People who can't venture out and feel safe without a handgun on them will one day use that weapon. They want to use it. That's why they have it. The feeling of safety is an illusion as the reality is that the presence of a gun increases the likelihood of it being used and when guns get used, people die. 

The hue and cry will once again die down and once again no reforms to gun ownership will be made. It is, after all, just normal life here. The deaths of all the innocents are considered debt paid for those who think their right to wield a deadly weapon trumps innocent lives.

So, because we would rather turn a blind eye instead of face our homegrown terrorism, we justify our obsession with guns by projecting our fear onto the helpless and disenfranchised Syrians fleeing for their lives.

Just what the fucking fuck, America? Just, what the fuck.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

well, yesterday was frustrating

Got started late, the mold for the flower wasn't completely steamed out and by the time it was and the repair made (I hope) where a bubble got caught, dog walked, lunch had, it was too late to start filling it if I wanted to go to yoga, which I did. Drove all the way there to discover class canceled due to the town's christmas festival. When I got back, I could have chosen to work late over at the shop and get it in the kiln tomorrow. I thought about it and then just let it go. That's a good sign for me. In the past I would have worked til midnight every night up to the open house that is this Friday evening and Saturday, now four days away, to try and get it completed in time. Fuck it. One less piece is not going to make it or break it. In fact, I don't expect much attendance but that's a subject for another day. I'd rather take my time and have it come out than try to rush it and have it not come out. Plus, I still have plenty to do, besides actually making stuff, to get ready for this weekend.

And, my mood was not improved that of the three magnolia leaves, two cast disappointingly, one didn't fill the mold completely and the one with the red seeds, they look more black than red (although they do look red while wet so maybe it will be OK). They are currently bathing in vinegar. 

About the only thing I got accomplished yesterday was cleaning the kitchen, which was no mean feat after having all three grandgirls here Friday thru Sunday.

I'll be glad when this weekend is over.