Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Las Vegas Love or Hate

If someone asks you what you think about Des Moines Iowa, you may or may not have an opinion. But everyone, it seems, has an opinion about Las Vegas--and a strong opinion at that. There are many things about Las Vegas that I dislike, but also many things I really like. What I like most about Vegas is the humanity. This is a sybaritic town devoted to enjoyment and pleasure so the majority of the people who live and work here are in a service industry. All around you all day are waiters, receptionists, store clerks, dealers in the casinos, valets, housekeeping personnel, and a host of others working day and night to make sure we visitors have a good experience. What I have noticed the most this visit is how happy and friendly the vast majority of them are. Maybe it's where we're going and what we're doing (craps seems like a very happy game for the most part), but the dealers last night all went out of their way to help Gina and me learn craps--even reminding us to place specific bets and to turn some of our bets off at certain points in the play. All of our waiters, receptionists, store clerks, spa personnel--everyone, in short--has been smiling and friendly. This is not a place where the surly make it. The other people you trip over everywhere are the tourists. I could happily sit and people-watch here all day. This is the world's great melting pot with all races, ages, and sexes represented.

I could talk about the disproportionate number of homeless people and drug addicts here. I could focus on the extravagant waste of water and resources that go to support this town in the desert. Both of those are real, but so is the contented joy of the people I have interacted with over the past day and a half. There is a good side to Las Vegas, and I am enjoying it to the fullest for these few days. I wish I weren't so happily exhausted because I could make a much more compelling case, but my eyelids have closed so so must the laptop. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Viva Las Vegas!

It's 9:00 pm, we have been tucked up in our adjoining rooms for at least a half hour, and I am going to do a quick post before closing my eyes for the night. I am in Vegas till Thursday morning with my friend/neighbor Zaga and a bunch of her friends. Tonight was just Zaga, another friend of hers from Boulder, and I. We hit the buffet about 4:30 for dinner, and then went into the casino to play some craps. Zaga already spent an evening teaching Jessie and me the rudiments of craps so I could maneuver my way around a little. I must say it was exciting! I got to throw the dice a couple of times and the first time I had a really long streak. I managed to throw an all small roll and there were two people betting on it. It pays 34:1 so I was pretty popular for a moment!

Back in the room I took this picture of the bathroom. Directly in front of me at the end of the tub is a window that looks out into the main room and then out the window to the Strip in the distance. To the right _in the middle of the mirror_ is a television! In the mirror! The shower is behind the glass door ahead front left, and the toilet is in another glass-doored room just opposite the shower. What incredible luxury. I can't help but be impressed.

But back to craps. I like craps. I know that it has the worst odds for players and is considered by many to be a sucker's game, but it's great entertainment when a shooter is on fire and everyone is betting on lots of different numbers and combinations. I won a ton tonight on hard six and a couple of times on hard eight (two three's and two four's). I love the way everyone at the table cheers for each other and gets into the superstitions of betting and rolling. Tomorrow I'm going to take my $3 in winnings out for a spin. I even have a marquee card which the casino uses to track how much you play in order to decide who should get comped rooms and meals. We're in comped rooms now--thank you Zaga!

Now sleep before more food, drink, gambling, and excess.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Friends Around the Table

There are few things as satisfying as welcoming friends into your home who have traveled a long way, feeding them, and providing them a cozy place to stay. Tonight we were so privileged as to have four wonderful people from Atlanta arrive at our door on their way west to the Grand Canyon for Thanksgiving. It has been so long since we've had such a lively crew sitting around the table laughing and sharing stories and wine over a good meal. Tomorrow morning they are off for a 10 am showing of Justice League at the Alamo Drafthouse, and I leave for Las Vegas before they get back. But I'll see them for breakfast. Jessie is going with them to the movie even though she's already seen it.

So Las Vegas! I have been invited by Zaga to join a small, eclectic, dynamic, opinionated group of women on their annual Las Vegas Thanksgiving revelry. I'm only staying till Thanksgiving morning and then coming home for the rest of the holiday with the family, but I have a feeling the three days I'm there are going to be a wild ride.

For Thanksgiving my spouse asked me to curate a cheese and charcuterie plate to take over to some friends' house for dinner. I may have gone a bit over board. I have 19 kinds of cheese, three kinds of thinly sliced smoked meat, two kinds of sausage--duck and wild boar, two pâtés, three fruit spreads, three kinds of pears, two kinds of apples, four kinds of olives, three preparations of almonds (including marcone almonds in honey), three kinds of crackers, pumpkin seeds, ginormous grapes, and a pomegranate. I think there are six adults and four kids. We'll be having another games night/party (or five) (or ten) with the leftovers.

As I think of how to layout this marvelous spread of munchies, I picture a 7 feet long 2 X 12 plank of some interesting wood (maybe blue pine!) that runs the length of a dining room table and has a beautiful inlay pattern in it. Everything would be laid out on the plank and would meander the length of the table. Oh that would be so cool! But not this time. At least not for the inlay...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Was So Tired I Forgot a Title!

What a beautiful, windy, fall day! I have lots of windows open, and I wish I could have the door in the jewelry studio (greenhouse) open, but the cats are hanging here with me and I don't want Pavlova to develop a hankering for outside.

For those of you who have heard and been curious about my neighbor/friend Zaga, now you can see her for yourself! She was interviewed on ABC this morning about her customizable children's book "The Adventures of Princess Insert-Name-Here" That's me and Gallifrey on the right. (Okay, "I". "That is I". Ultimately though it may be grammatically correct, it still sounds pompous. However "That's Gallifrey and I sounds fine--and is also grammatically correct so I guess I should have just used that construction instead of meandering down this obscure path.)

After a quiet evening at home playing Five Tribes again, then watching a really good movie (Predestination with Ethan Hawke) and eating an incredible cheese and meat platter (again) for dinner, it's time to go to bed. I actually just dozed off for a second sitting up on the couch with a cat in my lap, and when I woke up there was a line of periods (like this: ............................................)  after the word "Bed". Must. Close. Eyelids.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Oppressive Weight of the Holidays

The week has ended. Today is truly a TGIF day. I love Saturday because it's an everybody's-home day and it feels like we start with a blank slate. For me Saturday is both the end of the week (because you feel like you get to enjoy yourself after finishing a hard week) and the beginning of it (because the hard week is in the past and it's all green grass and high tides forever in front of you).

Next week is not a normal week. It's Thanksgiving week. The week of giving thanks for all our many blessings. It's also a time when we make too much food that we couldn't possibly eat in a week of Sundays, some of us shop till we drop, and others of us begin the Christmas decorating. It is the beginning of the most stressful season of the year. It's a season full of excess--in fact it epitomizes excess: Excess in eating, drinking, spending, decorating, and celebrating. This year I dread it. I don't feel physically well enough for the ordained whirlwind--especially with all the restrictions I am discovering I have with eating and drinking. And yet I also don't want to give up the traditions I have held onto from my family--many of which involve excess. It's a conundrum.

Tomorrow the family needs to sit down and put together a plan for what we're going to do... no, that's wrong. The family is not the problem--I am. So here's my plan. Here's what I'm going to do. We have been invited by friends for Thanksgiving. Dave will cook a little, but we'll keep it low-key, and our fridge (and ourselves) will not be overstuffed at the end of the day. We'll get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and trim it and decorate the house on Saturday. What we get done Saturday is what all we'll do and the boxes will be put away until it's time to take it all down. There will not be what seems to be unending decorating for Christmas. I will pick a thoughtful gift or two for those I love over the next couple of weeks, and then I will stop. I won't keep frenziedly buying right up through Christmas Eve. None of us need more STUFF. I'm not going to try to make everyone something from my hands.

I don't have to make this stressful for me or anyone else. Let's see if I can stick to that resolution.

P.S.--The workout wth the trainer went GREAT today! I'll see her again next Friday. After getting the Christmas tree.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bacon Ice Cream and Turducken Burger

We come down to the last day of the work week heading in to the weekend before Thanksgiving and a week-long holiday (9 days with the weekends) for the J. Today was a day with many moving parts. It started with dropping the J at school and going to ceramics class at the Art School at the Contemporary. Then I managed to get home for 15 minutes for a quick bite, and off with Zaga for a haircut.

Zaga took me to the person who cuts her hair, and when we arrived the first thing I noticed was that all the signs on the wall were in Korean. The second thing I noticed was that everyone in there was Korean--customers and staff. The guy who cut my hair did not speak any English. Zaga said she used Google translate to communicate with him, but the receptionist came and interpreted for me. Eugene, the stylist, did not wash my hair or even wet it--he dry cut it. Zaga compares him to a hummingbird lighting on your hair for a snip here and a trim there. It took him an hour, and at the end I had a third less hair without losing any length! He was pretty amazing--and never said a word to me. I like the cut  and am looking forward to seeing what it does after I wash it. There are so many different length layers that it might go all curly on me.

After the haircut was a full leg wax. It may sound silly, but because I'm starting to work out tomorrow and want to go in the pool and/or the hot tub at the gym, (I know, TMI!) I had to have the hairs on my legs ripped out from the roots. I probably wouldn't have even mentioned it here, but I spent almost the entire time on the table processing a UPS shipment of work from Atlanta to Texas for the upcoming A Fair of the Art. First I had to talk to Todd (I didn't scream at all). Then I was on-line on my phone entering the shipment. Then I had to call UPS to arrange for a pickup. I'm afraid I let loose a bit of a shriek squeak in the ear of the UPS representative when my esthetician was over enthusiastic about how much she could take from one (very tender) spot at once.

As parts were moving, Zaga dropped me off at the waxing salon and drove my car home for me. Dave picked Jessie up after school (a couple of blocks away from the salon) and they then came and got me so we could go see Justice League. Both in between haircut and wax, and wax and movie, I could've made it home, but then I would have just had to turn around ten minutes later and go back to the same area of town so it made more sense to do it the way we did. However it meant I/we had an hour between activities to hang out. Zaga took me for ice cream after the haircut at Lick and I had a scoop of the roasted beets and fresh mint (Clean, crisp garden mint flawlessly complements the slightly sweet, earthy flavor of roasted Johnson's Backyard Garden beets), and a scoop of breakfast bacon (Maple syrup adds a sweet contrast to the smoky delicious pepper bacon from our friends at Salt and Time). I kid you not; those were the flavors and the were INCREDIBLE!

After the wax Dave, J and I went to HopDoddy Burger Bar for dinner. I had to have the special burger: a turducken burger on a stuffing roll with cranberry sauce, tempura green beans, and fried onions, with a side of gravy. Apparently HopDoddy is also in California and this burger was featured on a local tv channel there. This was definitely the day of weird food for me! After dinner we strolled a couple of doors down to Dragon's Lair comics and games and payed a couple of games of Tsuro--they have a couple of demo-the-games tables. Dave and J each did a bit of shopping comic and book shopping too, and then it was time to head to the next parking lot down for Justice League at the Alamo Drafthouse Anderson Lane.

When we got to the theater and I got out my phone for the electronic tickets I discovered that the cherry on top of a really surreal day was that I had managed to buy tickets for two different movies at two different Alamo Drafthouses for the same time tonight. We saw Justice League--and really loved it--and we got rain checks for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. What a day!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Ah it is good to have friends! Friends near, friends far, friends never met but greatly, gently supportive! Dee, I hope you are coming out SOON. Bill, it is the busiest time of the year for a handcrafter (gifts to make, doncha know) so I'm not sure if I can devote a whole week to the glass studio--but I bet I can dedicate two more days to the jewelry studio and get it done in that time. Ellen, I haven't even managed to divest myself of the baby sweaters (four of them) I started for Jessie before she was born. I don't think I have a chance of getting rid of crafts yet untested. Alex and Lynne, I don't know if I can do things one at a time, but it's worth a try.

‘Shifting Sands’ (Detail) – 2012 by Steve Royston Brown
My biggest problem is that I have a large passion* for EVERYTHING I do--why else would I do it? I still thrill to the feel of thick, rough paper and the vision of it cut, ripped, punched, and stitched into books. I avidly watch woodworking and jewelry videos and dream of the pieces I want to make using the techniques I learned. I itch (no pun--really) to spin my own fiber into my own yarn, to knit into a sweater or coat of my own design.

There are still several batik fabrics I have to sew into shirts for Dave, scraps from them to make into a quilt, and worn out shirts I made him years ago to weave into rugs. A corner of the jewelry studio has been set aside for enameling, and a corner of the glass studio has been set aside (in theory it's there, under mounds of boxes) for ceramics--including a studio pottery kiln. Isn't it sad that the only passion I don't really have anymore is fused glass? I am over glass blowing too--too hot, too heavy, too steep a learning curve. I am still interested in doing some casting, some 3D screen-printing ( à la Steve Royston Brown above right), and some stained glass pieces, but sadly I don't have new directions driving me in fusing.

And then there are the combined media--wood with steel and copper, wood with glass and enamel, fiber with glass, silver and copper with glass, glass with stone...

Lucky for me I haven't taken on anything new in the last 24 hours that's going to take up more of my ever-dwindling time. Oh wait... Because of health and weight issues and the urging (nagging--mostly because of yesterday's post) of Zaga next door, I joined a gym today. Costco had a 50% off membership for the 24-Hour Fitness near me, Zaga belongs, and (yet more theory) we're going to work out together a couple (three?) times a week. Oh yes, and because I went by myself instead of with Zaga, I got talked into some sessions with a personal trainer to get me jump-started. Working out starts Friday...

But in spite of all the tearing of hair, rending of garments and salting of fields--no, wait, that was something else (and we haven't even talked gardening or BEES lately!)--I am feeling better today about my journey and actually living long enough to fully enjoy all of it. Really, we're talking weeks of dedicated work--not years--to get all my spaces set-up. It just feels like years right now. Today I was happier--even though I still didn't make anything--because I went through two on-line jewelry video classes. Maker porn always gets my engine going and makes me happy. Tomorrow is pottery in the morning so I will make tomorrow, and Friday morning Becky and I are going to do a virtual craft morning. We used to get together one day a week (when we could manage it) in Atlanta to do some craft activity, and Friday we're going to FaceTime it. I'll be in the jewelry studio.

Franzeska, if you're reading this, you should come visit for a long weekend so we can play in the studio. I do still have a passion for teaching and sharing glass, and maybe helping someone else down that road will reignite my spark.

*or at least a medium passion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Closer to Death

It was a good day and a good evening, but without even having to squint I can see myself dying before my work spaces are all set up and fully operational. What a depressing vision. Up until today when I thought about the future I'd see myself strolling into a studio in the morning with a mug of coffee, steam from it dancing with the dust motes in the sunlight coming in through the windows. I'd sit down at a fully-equipped and organized bench with all my tools and materials in place and ready for me to make something. At the end of a long artistic day, I'd put away my tools and leave the room clean and ready for next time. I wouldn't have to clean, straighten, unpack, organize and set-up for hours before I could get to the creativity part. I wouldn't have to wend my way through stacks of boxes and unsituated shelving racks to get to my work table, sewing machine, pottery wheel, table saw, jewelry bench, loom, etc. The only pick-up-and-do-ready things I have going right now are spinning and knitting--and that last one is iffy. Everything else can be done in the middle of a chaotic mess or not at all.

As I was driving back from dropping Jessie off at school this morning (she finished shooting her film, Yay!), I thought about what I had planned to do each day for the past few weeks, and what I actually had done. There was a remarkable pattern to the data, but the pattern was not in what I had planned matching up what I had done. No, the pattern was that each day I had planned to do some studio/workspace set up so I could then do some creative activity in said studio/workspace, and each day I had put off doing the set-up in favor of something else so consequently I never did any creating either.Even in Atlanta, I never had my studio completely set up the way I wanted.

Now I have four studios and one tool space to unpack, organize and optimize. At this point it's more likely that I will quit doing an activity before I have the area and all the tools and materials I've collected ready. That's especially true in the glass studio. Even after selling off huge swathes of hoarded materials, I still have far more than I could use in a lifetime. I need to continue to sell the excess off--yet one more thing between me and actual creating.

I have reached a special place in life (a new special hell): the place where you see that the stash you've accumulated for special projects is measurably greater than the time you have left in your life. Every crafter faces that moment, but not every crafter has to face it for glass (for stained, fused, and torch-worked projects); spinning fiber; knitting and crocheting yarn; book-making papers and cords; weaving yarn; jewelry findings, stones, and metals; scrapbooking supplies; rubber stamping and card-making supplies; wood; sewing/quilting fabric; Kumihimo thread; clay and pottery tools; and soap/bath product ingredients and packaging.

Dave said a few months ago (and I think I wrote about it here) that it's time for me to divest myself of all my moribund hobbies. But I hadn't thought of them as anything approaching moribund until today. (Heck, when he said it, I didn't even know what moribund meant.) Now I see that they are moribund in part from the inertia caused by their individual masses. I have to find the tools before I can use them, and it seems I spend all my time looking for them and then deciding where to store them.

Good thing we had cheese for dinner tonight (really) (we had a cheese plate) cause I have obviously still got a lot of whine to go with it. Wish I could think of a way to get through the inertia.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Film, Like the Beat, Goes On

I spent so much time tonight on other things (playing a board game with my spouse, tucking my daughter into bed--that one takes a LONG time, and answering A Fair of the Art email) that I don't have time or energy to write the latest update on the film saga. Suffice it to say that no filming happened after school today in spite of my having picked J up from school so she wouldn't have to wait through a long bus ride to get home before she could film. Now we're at the point where I am keeping her home tomorrow morning for first period (which happens to be her AV class) so she can film. The reason she couldn't film today was that she didn't have the light. Tomorrow she is going to start from scratch (I believe even with a new script) (!), and it will be all done. Then I will take her and all the equipment (lights, sound, camera, etc.) back to school. Whew! I hope tomorrow's post is interesting and can report the end of the film.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Filming, Pizza, and a Hot Tub

Kaiju by Jessie
The big question of the day is, "Is the filming done?". And the answer is, "No. Of course not!". We're not even on the same script anymore (though the falling-backward-into-water-scene from an early iteration of the original script is back in). I'd say about half of a 2-3 minute movie is filmed, and it took all day. Tomorrow or Tuesday night the last half (including the falling-back-into-the-pond-while-wearing-the-camera shot) will happen.

Jessie and Jig selfie
The biggest thing to come out of the filming is Zaga and Dave's reaction to Jessie's reset of the hosue. She left a few knick-knacks, but she was pretty ruthless in doing away with clutter. Almost every surface is empty, and to me that's just wrong. Zaga and Dave, on the other hand, thought it was incredible and wanted to know if we were going to keep it that way. Snort. The only reason to have surfaces is so you can put something on them. What use is an empty table I ask you? Besides, now I don't know where half of my small stuff is. Jessie said she'd put it all back, but I can see that job is squarely in my future.

The evening ended with familial pizza-making (mine had alfredo sauce, mozzarella, thin pear slices sauteed in butter and turbinado, prosciutto, roasted pistachios, cream cheese, and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar. Mine was the clear winner for perfection of flavors. After dinner (and an episode of Stranger Things), I went over and hot tubbed with Zaga for an hour. What a perfect way to end a day!