Friday, September 22, 2017

Live Escape Rooms

Went to a live escape room called the Austin Lockout today for Zaga's birthday. It was amazingly fun! I was feeling pretty confident about half way through the time because I thought we were halfway through the puzzles. Turns out we were about 20% through, and with the two of us it would have taken us easily two hours to do it with no hints--and there's no guarantee we would have made it even then. It's a fascinating business model and the room was really intricate in the way it presents information. I feel like I'm being really coy, but I'm not even going to give a hint of what you do in there because anyone who is here in Austin and has the opportunity to do it really should. Now enough babbling. Going to take a picture and get to bed!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dragging My Sorry Butt To Bed

Today was one of those days that started out derailed from the start and it (and I) never recovered. Dave and I both woke at 2:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Dave also has a cold so he's pretty miserable awake or asleep so he got up and never did go back to sleep. I read until 6:30 when I was finally able to get back to sleep. Of course falling back to sleep at 6:30 when workmen are coming at 8:30 is not very much time to sleep, and I dragged all day.

Dave took the J to school and then came back home to the Nyquil and bed. I stayed up and puttered--feeling the day drag on interminably, but unable to kickstart myself into getting anything done. I did get in a kiln load and almost stopped before doing the last two pieces (which don't need to ship yet as I don't have the stands for them), but I decided to push on through the heat and humidity in the studio. (It was over 90 degrees and steamy in there today.) And I shouldn't have as I blew the layout on both pieces and have to remove the first layer and a half of glass and redo them tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Monday.

At the end of the day I dozed a little in the recliner (when did I become an old man?!) before Jessie got home. Poor J--she's coming down with the cold too and can't afford to miss any more school so she has to tough through it.

Now Dave's in bed, I'm pretty sure Jessie's in bed even though she has homework, and I'm going to give in and go to bed too. Tomorrow morning I have a surprise activity planned for Zaga's birthday and then I'm taking her to lunch so I had better get some rest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Stages Of Learning a New Skill

Today was supposed to be a full ceramics day but I came home mid-afternoon to pay home bills and unsnarl my medical bills. *Sigh*. Paperwork just made me tired and aggravated, so back to ceramics!

Whenever you attempt to learn a new skill you pass through a couple of distinct stages in the process. At first--no matter what you're learning--the teacher gives you instructions on how to do something, and you blindly follow them with no understanding of what they mean and no physical feeling of doing them correctly. Then comes the moment where your brain connects to whatever part of your body is trying to pick-up the new skill, e.g. your hands, and the brain remembers the instructions, and the hands know the feel of what they're supposed to do. Oh they probably can't do it yet, but they can feel where they're going. Or it could be your mouth as you pronounce a new language or sing a song. Whatever the body part is, the practice begins. You can feel your mistakes, and you frustratedly fumble around trying to overcome them. You get to the point where you can concentrate and will your body into a posture or series of actions to get the result you want. Eventually--if you practice enough--you get to the point where you don't think with your conscious mind anymore about doing anything, you just do it, and it flows as naturally as breathing.

Today I had the moment while I was throwing the clay where I could feel both where it was and where it should be as I manipulated it. I could feel when I did something that was going to cause the piece to fail before it failed. I am still abysmal at correcting my errors and saving the piece, but I am on the path and can see what it will feel like to succeed.

Now if I could just throw pieces with thick enough bottoms that they could be something other than flower pots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Old and Medicating

Another day has blown past me. I keep reciting my three-things-a-day mantra, but some days it's less effective than others. I don't even know what I got done today, but I know I decided against hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I am post-menopausal (TMI!!), and my new doctor was all rosy about HRT when she first mentioned it to me over a month ago. She touted it as the end all be all for obliterating hotflashes, preventing osteoporosis, decreasing the risk of some cancers, and keeping your skin and boobs taut. Who doesn't want taut skin and boobs I ask you? HRT is also linked to improving mood through increased serotonin and neurotransmittergamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production. An end to depression and anxiety? Sign me up!

When I went in after my lab tests to see what my hormone levels were (and progesterone and estrogen were non-existent--I suppose that's normal for my age), I had an appointment with the PA as the doctor was on vacation for three weeks. The PA gave me a sheet of paper with the potential side effects of the medications and had me sign it. She didn't have any further information to offer me about HRT, and didn't say anything specific about my medical history that would argue for or against the treatment.

But then I talked to Bill, who is also a doctor and who is someone I trust implicitly, and he wasn't wild about HRT and urged me to do more research and make my own decisions. My own research led me to the Mayo Clinic site and an article on HRT and heart disease. The clincher for me was at the end: "If you already have heart disease or you have a history of blood clots, the risks of hormone therapy have been clearly shown to outweigh any potential benefits." Considering I went to see my current doctor right after an episode of extreme blood clots in my kidney, I was more than a little surprised that she thought HRT was a good idea for me. I can put up with hot flashes, saggier skin and boobs due to loss of collagen, and look for another solution to any possible osteoporosis issues. It will also be nice to not have the additional cancer risks associated with HRT. It's also time to find a new doctor. Again.

I am not ready to go the route of the new trend in medical care--a boutique doctor who takes a limited number of patients, accepts only cash (no insurance), and has a membership fee that guarantees weekend and off-hour immediate access--but I am ready to make a change. Fortunately I met a very nice family physician at a clinic very near to us who is accepting new patients when I took Jessie in for dermatitis and allergies a couple of weeks ago. Now if I can just find her card...

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Work With Steel

Home from my metal and wood class, and tonight I learned to use the oxy-acetylene torch. I didn't weld with it--or heat form--I used it to cut through steel plate. Tonight was just playing around and learning the tool. Next week I think I'll make a cut and welded candle box for the deck. Now I need to go commune with my spouse. Tomorrow: decisions on hormone replacement therapy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

And On the Seventh Day I...

My only accomplishments so far today have been getting up, listing off everything I plan to get done, and pumicing the bottoms of my feet. Oh yes, and supervising Dave in his task of putting the wood caddy back up on the side porch with all the fireplace logs moved aside by the painters. Nevertheless, I am taking a break to post. Oh dear, it's going to be THAT kind of day!

Thanks to Morganica I rediscovered another artist/writer, Luann Udell, whose work I used to follow and I am adding her to my favs list on the right. Write of the devil and the phone will ring! Not that I am calling Morganica the devil--far from it--but I did just have a lovely chat with her. We had been planning to take Ricky Frank's enameling class at Arrowmont together next month, but she has more important things to do--like save Elmo. I am going to miss seeing her, and I am even more resolved to get out west to see her either this fall or winter.

Clearly I am not going to get through my list for the day, but I bet I can put in a kiln load and get my glass orders done, re-pot the orchids, buy my secret-pal back-to-school gifts, and take Zaga to the airport. Oh, and take a nap. Weekends are for napping. Now off to read the repotting section of my book on orchids again.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What I Learn From My Child

Many (many) years ago I bought a greeting card that had a picture of a grinning (evil-looking, or was it just mischievous?) child on the face. The text read: "Children keep you young", with "But first they make you very old." on the inside. Never were truer words written.

My child is keeping me young right now with the music she introduces me too. Her latest offerings are from the album An Awesome Wave by a British group called alt-J. My J has an assignment to make an experimental film for her AV Production class (due in two weeks), and she would like to use one of the songs from the album in it. Part of the process of making the film is to obtain the rights to use any music you need for it. The film is to be shorter than the song she wants to use, nevertheless copyright will be strictly followed and permissions obtained, or the music won't be used. I really like her teacher. Now if I can just get her to get off her butt to see what she needs to do to obtain the rights.



The music she has picked is very eclectic--it is not at all like anything you'd hear by Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. In fact Jessie doesn't, in general, like female vocalists. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at her current musical taste as she introduced her father and me to the spoken word poet and author Shane Koyczan when she was about 12. We were blown away by her mature taste back then. As with Koyczan's work, alt-J's music can be very disturbing--the videos for it even more so. (J hadn't seen any of the videos when I asked her.) At her age I liked the Beach Boys and read novels with women in ripped bodices draped over Fabio on the covers (remember the movie Romancing the Stone?). Jessie reads manga and listens to alt-J. I know who's cooler. I can't wait to see what she's like when she's my age.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Houston, We Have a Wood Shop!

Wood stash, horizontal wood and metal bandsaw, compound miter saw, shop vac, table saw.

I'm not going to call it a studio--we have enough of those as it is and this new work area is something special. It's my manly cave. I can't have a man cave as I am missing some necessary parts requisite for membership in that club (borrowing Dave's doesn't count), but I can have a manly cave, and I do! I am not exaggerating about the caveness of the space: the room has no windows and no glass in the doors either. It's also under the house accessed from under the deck. The floor is concrete, the walls are stark white, and there is a window A/C unit sticking through a non-window in the wall to the outside. I replaced the A/C unit today for $139 and am using it to further dry the lumber. (Home Depot is having a thing where if you open a Home Depot card you can have $100 off your purchase. I already had a card, but the clerk told me you can have up to five so... Score)!

Table saw (again), 14" bandsaw, 6" joiner, 10" planer, wood stash (again)
My carpenter, Craig, and his assistant Darren unloaded and set up all the equipment for me (I couldn't even lift half of it), and they also moved all the wood out of the trailer and stacked it to dry in the wood shop. As I looked at all the pieces as they came out of the trailer today I realized I have an extra slab and its accompanying cut-off. Each slab is eight feet long and has a four-foot cutoff. So I not only have the three slabs for the bed, one slab for the desk, and one cut-off for desk and bed shelving, but I also have an enormous slab for a new glass and wood dining room table with a cut-off for a leaf for it and three more cut-offs for tables! The one thing I don't have and expected is a 2 X 8 for the bed. I have the 2 X 10's, and the 4 x 4's, but not the one 2 X 8 I needed for the shelf behind the headboard. But never fear--I'll figure something out. Monday we learn to oxyacetylene weld and do our class designs, and I'm going to propose the desk even though it's so large I won't be able to take all the materials to class to work on it! I'll do the welding there and the shelves, but I'll do the top surface prep and the assembly back in the cave.

In the above pictures I'm standing in the middle of the floor where the eventual workbench will go. Some of the equipment is on wheels or otherwise easy to move, some (like the bandsaw), not so much. I think I had a genius moment and put the bandsaw in front of one of the doors (the one I never open) so that if I have a long piece I can open the door and run it through unimpeded.

Hobbies--and cool workspaces--are good.




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Got Wood?

Bubinga tabletop from
Owl Hardwood Lumber
Deep breath in, deep breath out. No anxiety tonight, and that is good. It was also good to hear some innocuous news about butterflies and pottery from Ellen (comments on previous posts). Every time I think of her, I think of the slogging clean-up she's having to do after Hurricane Harvey and all I see is endless, smelly, gooey muck. Butterflies are better.

Today Zaga and I did the inspections on the last two hives (all suited up of course) and it was a breeze. It was even a bit breezy and we HAD FUN! What a concept: Bees can be fun. This afternoon we searched for local hardwood emporiums where we could shop for materials for our steel and metal class (materials for her--I have a ton of blue pine to use for my desk and even a table or two). We went to two of the four I found--and one of those was a hardwood flooring supplier, not fine hardwood for furniture building so the trip was a bit of a bust. So far Woodcraft is the best we have seen, and Zaga was a bit disappointed with it. Apparently there is a place in Chicago called Owl Hardwood Lumber that has an enormous selection of all kinds and sizes of wood and it puts Woodcraft to shame. It's true there is only one small area for wood at Woodcraft as they also stock all the major tools and those take up most of their floor space.

Westbrook Metals
After Woodcraft we went to Westbrook Metals and I looked at i-beam, angle iron and tubing as candidates for the legs for my desk. I brought home small samples of each for $.50 a lb ($11 total--I love a hobby with relatively cheap materials!) and tomorrow when we unload the pine from the trailer and move it to the wood workshop I'll be able to look at the wood and the steel together. The slabs are really big and I need to balance the size and weight of the metal with the wood. It would look silly to have little, spindly one-inch steel tubing for the legs under a massive, three-inch-thick-slab desktop.  Right now I like the idea of i-beam standing on end and coming up all the way through the top of the desk so its end is flush with the surface. Somewhat like the leg on the bench below, but without the wood missing from one side of the i-beam, and the i-beam would not be all the way to the edge of the top either.

I think I'll use four-inch i-beam and put a leg in each corner... but who knows! I need to touch and move the wood around to see what I want to do. Big problem with that idea is that the long slabs of pine weigh about 176 lbs each, and the cut-offs weigh about 88 lbs each. I need a hobby that isn't so physically demanding. I guess I'd better figure out how I'm going to manipulate my materials. If I do use the i-beam for the legs the weight of the desk will jump to over 250 lbs (each leg will weigh about 20 lbs). And that's before I've added on any shelves or shelf hardware. Maybe I should cut the slab down to two inches thick--or I could make the desk six feet long instead of eight. That would be a better proportion of length to width anyway.

What an exciting project! After I do the desk for my class project I'll be in better shape to do the bed. And speaking of bed, I think I'll make my way to mine. Allergies are kicking my butt this week and I am TIRED!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anxious Pottery

My marvelous 12 ft slabs of blue pine--8 ft of
one of which will be the top for the desk.
No, the pieces I threw (on the wheel) today in the first ceramics class of fall were not anxious. Nor was I anxious as I was throwing them. It was a relaxed and fruitful class. In fact the title of the post should probably be Pottery Anxious as the pottery state came temporally before the anxious state. The anxious state is now. I look on my to-do list and it looks like I am on top of everything and everything is moving forward as it should. But I don't feel that way. Instead I feel like you do when you are in a plane having just taken off for a foreign destination not serviced by Amazon.com. You have the nagging sense you have forgotten something you really need. The sensation builds until the realization of the identity of the forgotten item drenches you from the inside out like cold, broken up gelatin. Only I don't think I have forgotten anything. Nevertheless I keep feeling that icy, jittery, cold-gelatin-under-your-skin-rushing-down-the-body tingle. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

My anxiety is enough that I am going to give up any pretext of writing a coherent, thoughtful post tonight. I'm not even going to try to knit. I'm going to go to bed to dream of wood and steel desks. And snuggle with my spouse (also in the reverse temporal order).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Birds and the Bees, Uh, Butterflies and Bees!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
There are some days when it's hard to come up with one photo that captures the day to post on Tookapic for the 365 Project. Today was full of photos! There were the cool honeycombs formed by the one of my hives, the beautiful butterflies in the garden--the queen of whom was the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeding from the salvia, and the stick bug and its reflection. It was a great life-affirming day outside--and I didn't melt!

I did my first bee inspection since the great debacle of a week ago, and it went just fine. I was in full suit and knee-high boots, but I think it would have been fine even had I not been as bees were just fine except for one hive at one moment--and the smoker took care of them. Looking back on the incident last week, I think the biggest mistake was not having the smoker lit.

Stickbug
Today was also the first day Gallifrey had his invisible fence collar back on, and when he went out this morning his first actions were to go outside of the yard, pee on the neighbor's 911 Porsche (caught on their security camera) and then come back in the yard. Clearly he got a good zap going in and out as he wouldn't cross the line later. Whew!

The demand letter from the lawyer went off to the contractor today, now we wait and see. In the meantime I am working with the new carpenter/handyman to get through the open items, and I am okay.

I also had my last lab work done for my doctor today. She thinks she might be able to fix my hot flashes in a plant-based, non-hormone-supplement way. It's weird that I have gotten to a place in life where it not only doesn't hurt when they take blood from my arm, but I actually can't feel it.

Today's hive inspection
Gallifrey had his own little medical procedure today. I took him in to a visiting doggie dentist at Tomlinson's (pet supplies) and he had his teeth cleaned while he was awake (without anesthesia). I had to hold him along with the dentist, and it was an awful sounding procedure (scraping the tartar off the teeth), but Gallifrey's teeth are pearly white again. I asked the dentist what to do to keep them that way as this has been an issue for me (Gallifrey already had his teeth cleaned under anesthetic a year and a half ago and they were dark brown with tartar then and almost that dark again now). Clearly I'm not doing what I should. The dentist said to give him raw bones. I thought bones were bad for the teeth and would crack them (according to my last vet) but I was told today that they needed the raw bones to keep their teeth clean. After the dental appointment I went to HEB to get bones and they don't didn't have any! The butcher said they have them occasionally, but they don't stock them. Not even soup bones. Tomorrow I search out a butcher shop to treat my sweet boy after today's ordeal.

Now we've had a great dinner (Dave rotisseried a chicken on the grill he got last year for Father's Day), watched the first few episodes of The Tick on Amazon (we love our superheroes), and are relaxing after a long day. Tomorrow pottery starts up again (for me), and I am meeting with the carpenter about replacing the bedroom and bathroom carpet with hardwood and tile. I just can't stand it any more.

For our friends in Atlanta and Florida--stay safe! I guess California, Oregon, and Montana too. A lot of the country is subject to natural disasters right now. Time for everyone to dig deep and help out wherever you can.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Tears and Welding

The tears dry slowly on my cheeks as I type. I have cried a lot in the past few days. There have been tears of overwhelming love, tears of loss, tears of leaving, and tears pulled from beautiful writing about the best of the human spirit in Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. Right now the tears are drying to the song "If It's the Beaches" by the Avett Brothers--the latest sensory input that pulls emotion from me like water from a tap.

We are home from Montana, and I cried as I drove to the airport because I didn't want to go. But unlike previous times when I left Montana (for Atlanta), when I got home this time (to Austin) I was glad to be here. It's good to have two places you really love to be. I also cried at the wedding of my Uncle Ed and new Aunt Susan. I cried during Ed's speech when he mentioned all the people who knew him and Susan and who died before being able to celebrate their day with them. One of the people who missed the day was my mother. and how I wish she could have been there! I was living in Arizona for my uncle's first marriage, and my Mom came to stay with me for the wedding. I don't remember why, but I was late getting us on the road for the wedding and we missed the first of the ceremony. My mother was so mad that I made her mother miss (at least the beginning of) her brother's wedding!

But I didn't only cry for loss at the wedding, I cried for love. My heart was full to bursting, as we say, as I listened to their vows. They have been together longer than Dave and I have been married, and to see them formalize their commitment was so life and love affirming. Watching my adorable little cousin Charlotte the flower girl (the daughter of Ed's son Andrew and his wife Rachel) scamper around during the service provided a pivot point for my feelings of continuity in life and family and love.

But enough of tears. Tonight I started another class at the Contemporary--this time in wood and steel with Zaga my friend next door. Tonight's demo/hands on tool introduction included mig welding. Next week we learn welding, cutting, and hot-forming metal with an oxy-acetylene torch. I think I'm in love. My project for this class is a desk from one of the big blue pine slabs with tubular steel legs and maybe some other steel and glass details (floating shelving, back stop, etc.). The instructor is up for us learning and using a variety of big tools including a planer, jointer, and table saw for wood; a bender, miter chop saw, and the two varieties of welders for metal; and an angle grinder for both. It's going to be an interesting few weeks.

My music has morphed into Darius Rucker's (the original--he wrote it) version of Wagon Wheel. I love that song too so I'm going to add it to the post--two songs for the post of one! Take a listen--they're worth it.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Goodbye Montana

Our time in Montana has come to an end, again. Last night at the wedding the wind picked up, and the smoke started to clear. It was an outdoor wedding and reception so when the sun finally came out after who knows how many grey/green smokey days, we all cheered the glorious sunset. The clear air held today and we got to see the lake and the mountains as they ready for fall. I wish we were staying longer, but school and data.world call so we must go. Home very late tonight, and tomorrow the regularly scheduled programming comes rushing back. Till next year...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Wedding!

Charlotte the Flower Girl
We are now home from the family wedding and I am lost in a blissful haze of love and family and the continuation of life. It was a beautiful ceremony that made me want to renew  my vows with Dave. The wedding was held on a lovely lawn cupped by spruce pine and weeping willow on the property of the Barn at Finley Point. Our part of the family (Dave, Jessie, and I) were late because we were doing last minute family stuff for the wedding party, but it worked out because the wedding wasn't ready to start on-time anyway.

It was a lovely ceremony with interjections of humor by both the bride and the groom--and lots of special moments provided  by the granddaughter Charlotte who stole the show. She was the flower girl, and took it as her solemn duty to place every petal in her bucket on the ground at the beginning of the path before proceeding up the aisle. She was adorably, studiously meticulous as she spread the rose petals on the grass in that one, perfect spot in spite of the exhortations of her mother and other members of the wedding party who kept trying to get her to come on down the aisle and drop some petals towards the end.

For much of the rest of the ceremony she sat next to me in the front row of the audience. People around us were taking pictures of the proceedings and she stated her intention to take pictures too. She asked for my phone, and I gave to her (how could I do anything else?), and she started snapping pictures. Then she'd pause, switch to the photo app, and go flipping through the pictures she had taken. Next she'd hold up the phone, go back to the camera app, and start taking more pictures. She never once asked me how to do anything on the phone, she just crushed it on her own. I have to mention here that she is three years old. I am officially disconnected from the world when a three year-old is more natively savvy with a smart phone than I will ever be. I am having difficulty right now even charging my phone enough to get all the pictures off of it...

I could recount more now about the chaos that was the day with sprained ankles (the groom's daughter--in the wedding party), adjusting the length of two bridesmaid dresses (a combination of scissors and a cigarette lighter), ironing, prescriptions, hand foot and mouth disease, and a host of other wedding-day things, but the only thing any of us needs to remember about the day is that we were lucky enough to be there and to share in the culmination of 25 years of love that went into the wedding of Ed and Susan. The rest of the happenings make for nice stories later, but for tonight, all I want to remember is the look on my uncle's face as he said his vows and pledged himself to the love of his life.

Time for me to go join the love of my life in exhausted slumber. Back to Austin tomorrow--sadness.


Friday, September 08, 2017

How Many Times Can I Cheat?!?

The bride, the groom, the granddaughter,
the eve of the wedding.
I should feel bad about cheating for the second day in a row and posting the day after the real day, but I don't. Family first, documenting second. Yesterday (today for the purposes of this post) was the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of my most beloved uncle to his fiancée and longtime partner Susan. We ate lovely BBQ in a barn that was never used as a barn, and we re-learned to square dance. I haven't square danced since 7th grade, and I'll tell you I allemanded left and dosie-doed with the best of them--as did my exceedingly adventurous and supportive spouse. It was smokey, it was grey, but we celebrated life and love nonetheless. Tomorrow , the wedding!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

I Cheat

The Barn at Finley Point
In the interests of family and exhaustion, I didn't post last night after getting home from the first gathering of the wedding guests for my uncle's wedding in Montana. I acknowledge and allow myself this cheat and post as if it were still Thursday. Sue me.

As our little plane was leaving Salt Lake City bound for Missoula, the pilot warbled over the PA system that there was good news; we would be able to land in Missoula and not have to divert to Helena because of the smoke. The whole possibility-of-diversion thing was news to us as it had never occurred to anyone that there was a possibility of not being able to land because of smoke from forest fires. But when we arrived, we could see what the big deal was. I grew up in Missoula and have never seen such dense smoke. You could smell it strongly in the jetway getting off the plane--and even right before landing we could barely see the ground under the plane. It was good to get our rental car and get out of town heading up to Polson.

Unfortunately there is nowhere you can go in Western Montana right now that isn't smokey. It isn't as bad in Polson as it is in Missoula, but you can't see the lake from our back deck, and at night all the street lights have a diffuse glow under them that looks like fog or fine snow. I can't imagine what it's like to live here day after day right now. The sun is a faint orange glow in the sky--a daily partial eclipse. It's kind of like a grey day in Seattle, but the light's a bit more sickly yellow/green. I think it would be very depressing for more than a week, and folks here have been dealing with it for much longer than that.

Getting to sleep is rough as Jessie is having difficulty breathing, and and I am worried about the air quality because I have done my normal night time routine of opening all the windows in the house. We don't have central A/C or any kind of whole-house fan system here in Montana so open windows are the only way to get any air circulation. The master bedroom (where my cousins are staying for the wedding) has a ceiling fan as does the livingroom, but otherwise we're pretty air-movement primitive up here.

Tomorrow is a day of fun at the lake (not in the water--it's way too cold for that!) and an evening of square dancing in the Barn at Finley Point.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Back to Textiles

It was a short work-week. First there was Labor Day, now tomorrow we're heading off to Montana for a long-anticipated family wedding. It's 10:30 now, and all I have left to do is pack. Considering I have more stuff in Montana that I want to bring back to Austin from the summer than I want to take for the next four days I'm guessing packing will be pretty easy. I made Dave a new shirt to wear to the wedding today, and I was finished by 6:30 pm. I can't remember a trip when I was done with everything but packing by 6:30 the evening before departure. It's weird--I hardly know what to so with myself! Guess I'll enjoy the peach hookah and post!

The shirt. Let's talk about spending the day in the fiber studio again. It was wonderful! I even sold my LeClerc 60" loom yesterday. The woman who bought it can't take delivery until October so it's going to stay crowded in the studio till then, but I can squint and see a time when I will have room to weave and sew in there without having to wend my way through narrow passage ways around the various equipment. Fall is my favorite fiber time too. There is something about the weather taking a turn for the cooler (a relative term here in Texas) that makes me want to bury my hands in textiles. Spinzilla is coming up in October, then NaKniSweMo in November (national knit a sweater month)--both of which will be dedicated to the twist coat I am making myself this year. Last year's project was Dave's sweater (an enormous garment now known as the Bolt--a reference from Neal Stephenson's book Anathem). But today I made a shirt. My goal is to replace all of his current shirts (mostly made over 14 years ago) and to take the old shirts and make them into a quilt and rag rugs for the bedroom and kitchen. A little sewing, a little weaving, a lot of spinning and knitting... Oh the fall is going to be glorious!!

Now off to pack.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

Image from the Yucatan Times (linked)
This morning Jessie pointed a beetle out to me that was hanging around by our front door. He was a cool white and black color, and I had never seen an insect like him before so I looked him up on the web. I found out he's called an Ironclad beetle and is in the Zopherus family (Zopherus nodulosus). In the Yucatan, Zopherus beetles are adorned with little rhinestones and a chain and worn as living brooches. Apparently there is a Mayan legend about a princess and a beetle that is the basis for the custom, but wearing the beetles as ma'kech (the Mayan name for the beetle brooch) might not date back in practice further than the 1980's. I think I remember my mother telling me about girls in the 50's wearing what they called chameleons but were probably green anoles as brooches. The Internet is further littered with stories of women wearing real chameleons throughout the ages. I even found citations for women wearing live, giant hissing cockroaches from Madagascar as jewelry. That one freaked me out so badly I stopped looking for more instances.

That little excursion into the weird corners of the web epitomizes my day perfectly. It was a lovely little blend of the surreal and banal, and I made it through it without accomplishing much of anything. *Sigh*. I did start making a shirt for Dave for him to wear to the big family wedding this weekend, but I barely got it more than cut out before I ran out of time. Tomorrow my day is packed solid so I don't have time to do it then, and then we leave Thursday. Guess he'll just have to wear an old one.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Finally Something Good!

A few days ago I quietly surpassed the number of posts written in a year. The previous maximum post year was 2008, and admittedly I was only posting weekdays then so my theoretical maximum for it was something like 261. I wrote 243. This is post 247 for this year.

Today's happy story started not so happily over a year ago. When we first moved in we had a really sleazy contractor (who knew there were sleazy contractors?). Not the sleazy contractor who recently absconded with all of our money and left us high and dry with several projects underway. No, this was the sleazy kitchen remodeling contractor. I didn't know any carpenters here, Dan had gone back to Atlanta, and I desperately needed someone to build frit storage in my studio so I could begin unpacking. Sleazy Contractor #1 (SC1 from now on) told me he had a carpenter who had just started working for him who wouldn't mind some extra hours, and I could hire him for some weekend work if I wanted to. The deal was, I would pay SC1 and he would pay the carpenter. He charged me $75 an hour, and I know damn good and well (because the carpenter told me so) that he paid the carpenter less than half that. Now you might say that the additional charge was for employment taxes, workman's comp, etc., but in hindsight I'm betting SC1 paid him cash under the table and pocketed the rest. It wasn't my business so I didn't ask, but...

The carpenter did really good work. He is more of a high-quality jack-of-all trades and master-of-some than he is a straight carpenter. I would have loved to hire him weekends to do more work, but SC1 said I had to continue to go through him so he could "manage the carpenter's weekend schedule", and I just wasn't willing to do that. I gave the carpenter my number and said if he was ever not working for SC1 and wanted work, he should give me a call.

Last Wednesday, as I sat in a slough of despair over the state of capital improvement and repairs here, the phone rang and it was the carpenter! He had finally had enough of SC1's uber-sleazy ways and quit. Today he came out and fixed the roof ridgecap  from SC2's work (I'm sure I don't need to explain the acronym), and he also worked on our front door--the one SC2 was supposed to replace and never did. SC2 just took the door off and left a construction door in its place. He put the old door on the ground out by the wellhouse where it sat in the rain and weather until today. The carpenter cleaned up the door and filled the place where the lock mechanism went with Bondo so we could redrill it for the new lock. Then he sanded the paint off the front and removed the broken leaded glass insert--managing to preserve all the molding strips that held it in place in the process. I cut a piece of clear textured glass from my studio stash and he put it in the door as an interim measure until I can do the new stained glass door insert, transom and sidelights. Then he tried to rehang the door. Unfortunately it suffered from its time outside in the rain and constant humidity, and it swelled so much it won't fit into the doorjamb. So now it's standing up inside the front hall drying out (and shrinking) so he can rehang it. It might still have to be sanded down a little on the sides, but it's definitely going to shrink so we didn't want to grind it down now and have it be too small in a couple of weeks. I can live a little longer with the construction door. Last thing he did before taking off was to repair the well-house door that blew off and rehang it.

Turns out the carpenter is also a fourth generation painter, and he asked if I would like him to finish painting the house (left undone by SC2's crew--probably because he stopped paying them). He's going to give me an estimate on it tomorrow. He's also going to fix the cabinet doors which are hanging off their hinges from SC1's kitchen install. I am so happy to have found someone to pick up where SC2 left off and to also fix SC1's crap. It is so good to be back working with one individual who actually does the work instead of general contractors who come in, promise the moon, and then disappear--leaving their laborers to do the work (maybe competently, maybe not). Now for a glass of wine and a shower

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Glass Incarnate Today is About... Glass!

I have clearly been out of touch with the glass fusing community for awhile. I heard today from another artist that there is some furor over fused glass boxes and who came up with what, and that someone is teaching a glass box technique remarkably similar to the one in my book. Of course there is always the possibility that this artist and I both engineered our own solutions independently and came up with the same thing--it happens all the time. Whatever the circumstance, it was gratifying to find out that things I did for the book are still out there and being tried by new people. In a fit of nostalgia I went back through my photos and found my original glass box work from 11 years ago. My how time flies! I submitted the combed box below for a Niche Award in 2007 and made it to finalist. Two years ago I submitted a 3D printed piece (done by hand with screens, not machines), and that piece won. Have I done anything really creative since? Not in glass!

Since I was thinking of glass, I went surfing through the Fused Glass Fanatics Facebook page and was excited to see pictures (admittedly from a few years ago) of the mokume gane technique from my book that other people tried. Made me want to get back into mad scientist mode in the studio too. I love the mokume gane box (above) and it was both the last box and the last mokume gane project I did. I miss that feeling of having an idea and engineering a way to make it happen in glass. Some of it is bringing forth the artistic vision, and some of it is the sheer joy of problem solving to allow the vision to come out that make my heart sing.

Years ago at a BECon lehr-bq I remember telling Lani McGregor that I was going to take the 3D-printing technique I had learned from Steve Royston Brown at a pre-conference workshop, and really go somewhere with it. I saw intricate sculptures in my head all laid down 2mm at a time in Bullseye glass powder. Unfortunately due to a firing schedule snafu in the workshop, my final piece didn't fully fuse and I unmolded it to find only glass powder sifting through my fingers. I'll admit my enthusiasm was a bit dampened by the failure. It took a few years (until I started writing the advanced book) before I sat down with it again and calculated a firing schedule that would work. As I still have my designs and the screens from the class, maybe it's time to try that complicated, multi-screen project again.

After finishing the book, the stream of life carried me down a different current and all the techniques I had worked on were left to lie fallow. Now, however, I have more time to create in the studio again. Having creative time and energy was one of the main reasons I decided not to have a teaching and retail studio anymore. I was spending all of my time trying to do my regular line of gallery work and managing the retail and teaching--there was no time for creativity.

Now I'm in Texas (for the past 15 months) and my studio still isn't unpacked and set up. But I was out there yesterday and today and I set up an auxiliary work table (for fun projects, not production), and I think it's time to get back in there to see what all the fun is about. It's almost cool enough out now to spend long days in there without dying of heat stroke. Eventually I might even get a pair of glass patio doors installed to separate the kiln room from the rest of the studio. First project is going to be a 3-D printed one. Or mokume gane tiles for our kitchen...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Today Was a Better Day

We kicked it today. It took two, but Dave and I pulled down all the plastic and tape that the painters put up on our back deck back in May (April?) when they started painting, before they absconded. Then we blew the leaves off (me), washed the decking down (Dave), and put all the furniture back (us). I also cut all the glass and inset it into the kitchen cabinet doors with silicone and glazier's points. Tomorrow we'll put all the doors back on and that project will be done.

I was all excited last weekend when I did a design for all the doors and it was supposed to be in leaded glass, but it turned out wanting to be in fused glass. And the week went on. And I couldn't execute. Turns out I just couldn't get behind the design for the doors or in fusing them. Instead I cut plain panels of reed glass (think 1930's private investigator or lawyer doors) and put them in. Simple, elegant, contemporary, classic, perfect.

Tonight we sat out on the newly reassembled deck and provided an all-you-can-eat for the mosquitos as we communed with the night. It was both more and less enjoyable than it sounds. Now I'm off to bed to snuggle with my spouse, the love of my life and partner in my frumiousness.

Friday, September 01, 2017

I Cannot TGIF Enough

The week ends as it began: with difficulty and tears. Back at the beginning of May, I went to Barton Springs Nursery and picked up some plants. When I went to leave, there was a line of cars waiting to get out of the parking lot. I joined the queue about three or four cars back. The woman in front of me rolled forward, I rolled forward, and I tapped her car. She jumped out of the car practically hysterical that I had "hit" her. She demanded my insurance info and I gladly gave it to her as there was no damage to either vehicle, and I figured she'd see there was nothing to fuss about when she calmed down. Just to be sure, I took pictures of her bumper. The only "damage" to her plastic bumper was a scratch from the hexagonal screw on my license plate holder.

Today I looked on my State Farm account online and saw that there is a claim against me for that accident. Without even calling me to let me know she had put in a claim and to see if I had information, State Farm paid her $304.58 for medical expenses, $231.88 for a rental car, and $706.68 for repairs. I was behind her so I was at fault, the fact that she completely overreacted at best, or submitted a fraudulent claim at worst doesn't even matter. I have been with State Farm for over 20 years and not been at fault for an accident in all that time. I've been hit a few times, but I have never been at fault. Now because of this my rates are going up $15 a month. Oh State Farm doesn't call it a rate increase, instead they call it losing my accident-free discount. A pile of poop by any other name smells the same.

Please let the weekend usher in a better week!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Theatre Is Dark

There are days when one posts, and there are days when one remains silent. Apparently my three days of difficulties do not end with three. The week ends tomorrow and it will be a better day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Train Wreck That is My Week Continues On

I'm baring my soul. I started to feel out of touch several months ago when I just could not make a mental connection to the definition of the word "meme". I would hear the word, know it meant something that everyone around me (namely Dave and Jessie) understood, but it felt like it was from a foreign language to me. It took about three months before I *finally* got it and felt comfortable using the word in a sentence. Looking back I blamed my inability to grasp the meaning on my B12 deficiency. In honor of how far I've come, I start this post with a meme. Of course, given how my week has been going, I won't be surprised if I get that wrong too and what follows isn't really a meme.

"I can only please one person a day and today is not your day... Tomorrow isn't looking good either." For a snapshot of my week thus far, switch it around a bit to "The universe only lets a few people triumph per day and the past two days were not my days... and today isn't looking good either". I started on Monday with the debacle of the bees--two more sting casualties added to the count since I posted the details. The latest victims were both neighbors. One was a man who was power-walking by the garden as part of his morning workout. He's prepping to do a trek in the Himalayas with his son (not sure if it's Everest, but it's still a BIG DEAL). He got stung five times--thank heaven he's not allergic! The second (I heard from another neighbor this morning) was the man who lives across the street from the gardens who was in his yard and got stung on his hand. He's the man who lives behind the big wall who was mentioned in the post This Whole Thing Could Have Ended Very Badly. So not a great start to the week.

Then yesterday I was crushed by my lack of savvy regarding "throwing shade". Even my friend the professor (who is my age) threw shade at me for my ignorance. Enough said on that low spot. In my defense, and in spite of the data points of my performance this week, I have felt more on top of things and aware since I started on blood pressure, B12, and diabetes meds. I find a good gauge of mental acuity is how well I do at Sudoku on hard, spider solitaire with four suits, and Words with Friends. Lately I have been kicking it on all of them so I've been a bit smug about my focus.

Fast forward to this morning. My schedule was pretty tight: Piano lesson 9-9:30, car in for service 10-11:30, Dr's appt 12-12:15, lunch with the child 12:35-1:16, break for a few hours and then off to the last jewelry class from 5-10:30. The piano lesson went great. I still can't play Bach's "Prelude in C" with any skill, but I did pretty well on "Rock Around the Clock" and had great first read-throughs on both "You Really Got Me" and "Amazing Grace". I was doing so well (having so much fun at piano) that I actually ran a bit late. I think my teacher also appreciates having such an enthusiastic student who really loves to practice and looks forward to her lessons so I don't think she minded the few extra minutes either.

I grabbed my laptop and my bag with my knitting and I was out the door. The minivan, though pretty new, has been badly treated over the past few months with two drives between Austin and Montana, and hauling a trailer load of wood and woodworking tools over the Rocky Mountains on the way back. It's been a bit hesitant to start and was overdue for service so I wasn't entirely surprised when I got in it today and it wouldn't start. The lights came on an it beeped at me, but the console lights wouldn't come on and the engine wouldn't turn over. I called Greg at Friendly Car Care to tell him I wasn't going to be able to make my appointment. He said that sometimes the push-button-start cars need you to press really hard on the brake before pushing the start button, or there can be an issue if it's not all the way in Park. I pushed really, really hard on the brake, and nothing. I tried to move the gearshift around, and it was firmly in Park. Then he said to call Honda because the battery should still be under warranty. I called and sure enough it was so I said I would bring it in today.

Next I needed to call AAA to get a jump. I reached across the seat for my bag and rummaged through it for my wallet to get the AAA card for the phone number and my member number. No wallet. In fact, no purse. I had left it in the house. Therefore no car "keys". My car wouldn't start because I didn't have the keys. Even technology is getting the best of me this week!

I got the car in, and while I was waiting for it to be serviced I casually watched the Wendy Williams Show. Her guest today was Yvette Nicole who gave a frankly wonderful interview about comfort with yourself and your body and being strong in your goals--all kinds of great things. Then she mentioned meeting the new Spiderman Tom Holland and she said "I think he gave me rhythm", and I was back to yesterday with absolutely no clue what she meant. At least this time I got to salvage my pride because when I told Jessie about the comment at lunch she also did not know what "giving rhythm" meant. When I told her the definition (as provided by the Urban Dictionary: "Verb. To engage in flirtatious actions between two people.") she said it sounded stupid. I said it probably sounded stupid because I said it.

Now I'm back home and I'm going to go work on my jewelry projects for awhile before class so I might have a chance at finishing one of them tonight. I need something to go right this week.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How Do Vampires Manage?

I have been feeling good for the past couple of weeks. I even mentioned awhile ago that I felt like I had half of my life in front of me rather than just 10-20 years. In the space of five minutes in the car today with my fifteen year-old daughter, I was relegated to the status of the bewildered 80 year-old grandparent wondering how I was going to navigate the rest of my life in the linguistic chaos of the world.

I have noticed before that I felt out of step with the larvae of our species. I lost interest in youth culture about the time hip-hop came in, but never before have I had so many difficulties all at once as I did today. We were listening to the radio on the way home from school and the dj said something about Taylor Swift's latest song. Jessie commented that the video was really funny as she (Taylor) ?????? ????? ??? ????. First problem: I couldn't hear what she said--my hearing is not what it used to be. So I asked her to repeat it. She instead defined what she said for me, "It's like mocking someone, but it's not." We entered the Marx Brothers portion of the dialogue with me asking , "What was?". She said, "Shade."

At this point I was completely mystified and not a little frustrated. Enunciating carefully and slowly, I asked her to use "shade" in a sentence for me so I could understand it by context. She replied, "Taylor threw shade at Kimye." (The entity formerly known as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.) I not only had never heard this phrase, but I would have had no idea what it meant had J not told me. Tonight I Googled Taylor Swift throwing shade at Kanye and I got a whole page of results. I was instantly thrown back to my youth when I looked with pity at the old fogies who were out of step with life and the current generation. How did I wake up as the old fogey? When did this happen? I listen to current music. (Sometimes. When Jessie switches the car radio from the 80's channel or Classic Rewind to Hits.) I see the latest movies and would have said that I am au courant with the world and its people (though not its fashions--I sacrificed form for function long ago). But this afternoon I was cut adrift.

Vampires go through time the same age and having to move from identity to identity to keep people from suspecting that they never grow old or die. How do they do it? With a few minor tweaks (like my hearing) I still feel inside like I did when I was 27. Unlike a vampire I have aged and I may not look 27 anymore, but I still have (almost) the same joie de vivre and spirit of adventure. But here I am getting caught by someone "throwing shade" at a Westashian. If I with my very limited life span can't keep up with language's fluidity, how do vampires who can live for hundreds of years manage it? It's a mystery.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Story Of the Angry Bees

My feet look like sausages tonight--the left one so much so that  I don't think it could swell any more without bursting the skin. On the scale of my less stellar decision-making days, today is right up there on the top. The morning dawned cloudy--not actively raining for the first time in days, cool, and only a little windy. I know you're not supposed to open your beehives when it's windy or raining, but I didn't get a chance to feed them before Harvey hit and I was worried that between the dearth of August (it's a tough time for bees in Texas because it's so hot and dry that there aren't a lot of nectar flowers for them so we have to supplement the nectar with sugar water) and the storm they would need some extra vittles.

I knew enough not to attempt a full hive inspection today. All I planned to do was open the hives and pour in a quart or two of sugar syrup in each. I suited up in a full suit and my Keene sandals as I don't have any work boots and I didn't figure sneakers would protect me either because the bees would sting me right through my socks if they felt like stinging. Choice of footgear was my first mistake.

Zaga suited up too and filled the smoker for me, but as damp as everything was (even using dry paper and leaves), I could not get it to stay lit. I tried and tried and finally decided to forgo the smoker as a) I was just doing a quick feeding, and 2) I only had 45 minutes to feed everyone before I had to get to a doctor's appointment and drop Jessie at school on the way. Forgoing the smoker was my second, and arguably biggest mistake.

As it was the first nice weather for them too, the dogs were out frolicking in the botanical garden as I went into the apiary to do the bees. Having the dogs out was the error that made the whole event a perfect swarm, er, storm.

The first hive I fed was my golden girls and they were their usual sweet selves as I filled up their feeder. The next couple of hives the bees got a bit more agitated, but nothing worrying. Then I went to the Topbar hive. As soon as I pried the bars off the box (four--not just one as I needed to get to the feeder in the bottom of the box) the bees got really testy. They buzzed angrily around me, and when Gallifrey came to see what was up with them, for the first time they went after him. He got stung twice in quick succession and Zaga and I picked bees out of his fur as we headed him towards the house. The bees instantly burrowed into his fur to get to his skin when they landed on him and with his coat they immediately disappeared. Zaga took him in the house while I finished up the Topbar hive, and she pulled another 6-8 bees off of him.

Meanwhile I got the Topbar hive fed and put back together and headed for the Lang/Topbar hybrid. As soon as I took the cover off, the buzz ratcheted up. Those bees were riled up already--probably because of the alarm pheromones in the air from the Topbar bees stinging Gallifrey. By the time I got the inner cover off (another 30 seconds tops) they were out and swarming me in my suit. Even though I was covered it was still very scary--and then they discovered my sandaled feet. As soon as the first one stung my foot and released the alarm pheromone down there I was a goner.

There were bees all over my sandals, legs and exposed feet. I was shrieking like the girl I am, Zaga was trying to figure out how to help me, I said "Water!" and ran towards the hose but quickly realized I wasn't going to be able to wait as long as it took her to get the sprayer and to turn it on, so I turned and ran for the pond instead. When I got there I swung my legs over the edge and plunged my feet into the water. Then I sat for a few minutes with my feet in the water up to my knees gasping and shaking from shock. The bees were everywhere and in their frenzy kept falling into the pond, whereupon I reached down with my gloved hands and helped them out of the water. I like to think that most of the ones I saved were shocked back to their senses and flew off back to the hive leaving me in peace.

As I sat there, I felt two bees inside my suit climbing up each of my legs. They must have been near my pant cuffs and got swept up the inside of the legs when I entered the water. I couldn't bring myself to squish them, but I was terrified they were going to sting me. They climbed higher. I got up and waded to the middle of the pond, still swarmed by bees. They were on my gloves stinging them, attacking my veil around my face, and landing all over my arms and torso. I could feel the one on the right side of my body inside my suit on my hipbone moving in towards other more tender areas. I pressed my suit flat against my body so it couldn't go that way and I started to hyperventilate. I couldn't see Zaga, I didn't know what had happened to her, I called out and she didn't answer and I started to whimper and cry in panic thinking I was all alone stuck in the pond and I didn't know what to do. Then I pulled myself together. If there's no one there to save you, you have to save yourself.

I tried tipping my head back to let the carbon dioxide and fear smell out through my veil, and slowed my breathing. It didn't help. I even tried holding my breath thinking they were attracted to the CO2 so I'd just not breathe and release any, and they'd begin to go away. Zip, zilch, nada. None of it worked and I was still being swarmed. I decided my only hope was to get out of the pond and run for the house. I sat on the edge of the pond again, this time with my legs on the inside to start, and then I swung them over and out and leapt up and ran for the house. I heard Zaga call from somewhere behind me as I ran, but I couldn't stop.

As I approached the house I heard a new tenor of buzzing--the sound of a bee inside the veil. A bee had managed to get inside my suit somehow and was angrily zipping around my head. I should have mentioned earlier that I made another sloppy mistake as I was suiting up and did not tie my hair back. By the time I made my mad dash to the house my hair was all over inside the veil and I could barely see a thing through it.

When I got to the house I had a little bit of luck: I couldn't hear any bees buzzing around me (outside my suit) and I didn't see any obvious ones on me. So I ran inside and frantically started taking off the suit before someone inside it stung me. It was soaking wet from the knees down and hard to get off. But I managed, and as I pulled my bare legs out of the suit, I saw five bees crawling around on the inside. Two of them had obviously stung me (poor bees have their stingers ripped right out of their abdomens when they sting which is why they die--their insides trail outside...), but I didn't take time to check the others. I opened the door and shooed them out while not letting any more in.

I could go on about getting Jessie to school, missing my doctor's appointment, soaking my feet in ice water as I watched them swell, and eventually suiting up again (this time with knee-high leather boots un the suit) to put the lid back on the beehive... But you get the point. It was a crazy day.

At the end of it all, my feet are--as I mentioned before--like sausages, but I still love my bees.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jewelry Studio and Rainy Bees

A yard art casualty of the wind--no glass broke though
We stayed housebound today as Harvey rained on. No hardship as we all had things we wanted to do in the house. There were a couple of times when the wind and the rain let up enough to walk around the garden a bit. Much of my yard art was blown over or blown down--including the wire man I had hung over the path into the botanical garden. But the glass didn't break--unlike the large metal bell on a plant stand that I hadn't moved off the driveway into the yard yet. It fell over and cracked right in half. I doubt I can fix.it, but maybe I can place it so only the front of the bell is visible and the back is hidden by foliage. It's not like I was actually going to ring it or anything. Jessie even gets a bonus for tomorrow as school is starting two hours late on account of the weather. I hear the rain still coming down out there and we have been very lucky that it has been moderate and steady and not an unrelenting, overwhelming deluge.

Organization has come to the jewelry studio
My day was, for the second day in a row, all about the jewelry studio. Since the temps stayed in the low to mid seventies all day it was easy to stay in there working and I got everything sorted and put away. This is a never-before-done accomplishment. The best I've managed previously is to get everything co-located in the same room or area. Now I not only have a drawer or shelf designated for all tools and materials and everything unpacked and in said drawers or on said shelves, but I also have labels on all the drawers! Dave is beside himself at the sight of more empty boxes indicating more progress on being totally moved in forever.

The cat on the mat
The torch isn't hooked up yet, but I got the Foredom hung and powered up. I also have a studio cat mat as both Kaiju and Pavlova like to
hang in there--though not on the same mat at the same time. Kaiju is more possessive of me so I have a feeling when I am in the studio, he will be too. He's the one who likes to escape out the front door when I am working in the garden just to hang out and watch me weed, or tend bees, or whatever. I think he thinks he's a smart dog (as opposed to the other dogs we have who are clearly idiots: They have collars to keep them in and out of areas, they don't get to sleep on the bed or wherever they choose, and they only get dry kibble not wet food too).

My jeweler's (watchmaker's) bench
And speaking of bees, tomorrow I have got to feed the bees and at least peek into the hives to make sure they're okay. Zaga is convinced her bees are dead. There are definitely dead bees on the front of the some of the hives--these last couple of days have got to have been hard on them. While the plants (especially the trees) have been all about the rain, the wind has taken a toll on the bees. But tomorrow morning they all get big bottles of sugar syrup as soon as there is a break in the rain. It would be the height of rudeness to open up the hive and let in the rain on top of everything else so the inspection is going to be cursory (if at all). It will also probably still be windy and inspecting when it's windy is a great way (not just good but great) to get stung. Needless to say, I'll suit up as the suit will keep me away from both bee stings and rain.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Day In the Rain

Do I have time to post tonight? Not really. We are heading out into the storm to meet with some friends and play geek games. Fortunately they live just around the corner from us (by car) so we don't have to go far. As we have already braved the storm this afternoon to go see Logan Lucky--the new Soderbergh film--at the Drafthouse, we are not too concerned. Yes the wind is still howling, yes the rain is still coming down. But we're up high, if not dry, so we don't have to worry about flash flooding.

The wind was pretty fierce last night--fierce enough to tear the metal well-house door off its top and bottom hinges. It was left hanging from the middle hinge. When I looked at it this morning I saw that the wood of the door jamb was rotten so I'll need to remove the door, replace the rotted wood, paint it, and hang the door back up. If I still had contractors, this would all be easy. For now I have the door wedged shut so the beekeeping supplies stay dry. When it dries up a bit, I'll tackle it. Or I'll try to find a new handyman to help with some of my incomplete projects.

The jewelry tools and supplies are all but deployed in the jewelry studio. Tomorrow I'll hang the Foredom, and maybe even set up the torch. A girl can dream. Though I was planning on working in the glass studio tomorrow...

Some day I might clean, or do laundry, or something housewifely, but frankly I don't think I'm that kind of girl.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hunkering Down For Harvey

I hear a bit of music from the wind chimes, and then they pick up and the wind rumbles a deeper note. Harvey is coming and we are going to get pounded with rain. When to feed the bees is my biggest issue right now--and hoping we have enough candles when the power goes out as it probably will. We aren't worried about flooding or rock slides where we are. Trees blowing over could be an issue, but mostly we're going to hunker down and wait it out. Jessie's school is a refugee center for the storm and there will be a lot of people sleeping in the gym there probably into the week next week if the rain and flooding follow through. The storm is going to be bad enough, but the massive influx of rain over the next week is what's really going to kill us.

The day was spent in the jewelry studio--still without AC as the quote I got on replacing the broken unit today was waaaay out of our current budget. I started with big swooshes of organization--unpacking all the various tools into the cabinet--and by the end of the day I was separating out two colors of 11/0 seed beads--beads so tiny I can barely see them in two different shades of medium blue... Okay so maybe I went a bit overboard on the whole organization thing, but I am looking forward to hanging in their tomorrow and finishing up. As the jewelry studio is a glass greenhouse, 2/3 of the walls and all of the roof are glass. It'll be a cool place to hang in during a driving rain storm.

Hope Ellen and Marc are safe down in Wharton, and if the water level rises too high, hope they bring their cat and come hang out here in our apartment.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

More Studio Set Up

It's a good thing I have the liver of a teetotaling teenager (according to my doctor) as I had more than two glasses of wine tonight to relax after moving three metal cabinets into the conservatory/jewelry studio/wet studio and rearranging all the furniture in there. I don't know what to call that room. It's a little glass greenhouse added onto the side of the house, and it has a tile floor with a drain in the middle of it (and a sink on one wall) so I can refer to it as the wet studio. It's also where I set up my jewelry bench and torch. Oh and my soap making and bookbinding materials. And ikebana tools and books. And all the tools I don't have a workbench or a shop for yet (they're still in boxes until I get the inside tool room and the wood shop set up).

Today I unpacked three or four boxes, cleared some of the floor off, and got ready to think about making jewelry in there. I say thinking about as last night jewelry class did not go very well and I am still feeling a bit beaten up from it. I posted a picture yesterday afternoon of the bracelet I have been working on and it was at the first level of polish. I took it all the way to final polish and started to set the stones when I ran into a problem: The bezel settings were too work-hardened to bend so I had to hammer the bezels around the stones. Unfortunately, hammering caused the big bezel to break away from the cuff in two places and I had to start all over again with the soldering, stone-setting and polishing. This time I will polish the silver after the stones are set so the metal doesn't get to hard to bend.

No glass was done today. I hold out hope for tomorrow--especially as the woman in China who sold me the glow-in-the-dark mineral pigment in June keeps prodding me to tell her how it fired. I need to get on that so I have a result for her--and for me too (though it doesn't look like we'll be remodeling our bathroom anytime soon).

Now it's time to head off to drink a lot of water, take my diabetes med, and get some sleep. Good night moon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jewelry Day

Today is my most creatively-focused day in recent memory. With the exception of filling out our benefits forms for the annual open enrollment, I have been working in some form or art or other all day. I started the morning with a piano lesson. I am working on a Bach prelude and it is seriously kicking my butt, but today my head broke through the clouds and I was able to catch mistakes as I made them because of sound, not sight reading.

As soon as I finished piano I hopped in the car and headed to the Creative Side Jewelry Academy for a four-hour open studio session to make up for the class I missed Monday night. Today was all about polishing and finishing. Fussy work that nonetheless has its own zen and joy. I was hoping to get the stones set in the bracelet I have been working on for a few weeks, but I still have one polish left. I am going to do the final polish first thing at tonight's class before it officially starts so I can get help from the instructor on getting the stones into the bezels. The actual setting (clamping the bezel down around the stones) I can do at home later this week as I have the tools. After I get the bracelet done, I'll do the last soldering (of the bead post and safety clasp) for the silver hollow-form ring I'm working on.

If I get those two projects done I'll be caught up and ready to start on the final project for the class: A kinetic sculptural necklace. I am going to do a large hollow pendant that has a couple of hinged doors on the front which open to reveal tube-set stones on the inside. I am thinking to use citrine and maybe some of the sapphires I had cut from our mining adventure in Montana this past summer for the stones as I would like to use real stones, and citrine is the only real faceted stone we have available in class. Coincidentally, Dave and Jessie's birthstones are citrine and sapphire so I can see a family-love-theme thing going.

One of the last projects I was working on at the Spruill Center For the Arts when I was taking jewelry classes there with Mom and Becky was a copper hollow-form heart with the first-name initials of my family members showing through swiss-cheese like holes in the front of the piece. I never did finish it, but I could see doing it now.

Now off to class to create some more!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back To My Glass Incarnate Roots

It was a Tuesday. Tuesdays are days when I catch up from Monday. I watered the garden today (and managed to remember to turn the water off when I was done so I didn't flood the pond this time). And I took Dave to work and Jessie to school. And I designed the glass for the kitchen cabinet doors. That last one was my big accomplishment.

I started out the project absolutely certain I was doing stained glass for the cabinets. But the design I came up with is just not really feasible for stained glass. I wanted something that was a flowing river of one-inch glass squares in many colors continuing from one door to the next. But I didn't really want squares. Instead I wanted squares with rounded corners. I love the look of the design, but the rounded corners would be extraordinarily difficult--especially given the number of squares and the number of doors--and I'm not even sure I could do them so that they would come out as good as they are in my mind. Cutting the lead would be a nightmare. As I was looking at the finished design and trying to come up with a way it would work I said to Dave, "This would be easy in fused glass." And the lightbulb went off.

I guess my creative force really wanted to do these doors as individual panes of fuse glass. However there's a big difference between the clarity of antique or semi-antique glass and glass that's been fired on a kiln shelf (however non-textured). What to do to make the clear portion of the doors look textured so the contents of the cabinets can't be seen through them, and yet have the transparent colored squares be as untextured as possible? I have some ideas, which I can't wait to start on Thursday--I'm already booked all day tomorrow. The first option I'm thinking of is tack-fusing and using large frit in the clear areas. Should I not like the look of that option, I have several other texturing options available from lava cloth or fiber paper to sculpted kiln wash. Whichever option I end up going with, I have plenty of glass to make them!

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Day and a Night

Today I had my CT scan with contrast dye. Now I wait for results. Tonight Dave and I are seeing Jason Isbell at a live taping at Austin City Limits. Dinner beforehand with B & V at LaCondesa--they have a flight of guacamole on their menu. If I still have energy, I'll update this post when I get home. Otherwise this is it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reboot Sunday

Summer comes to an end with a lovely bee symposium the Tour de Hives (detailed here and here). Tomorrow I have the CT scan to check out my right kidney One More Time, and tomorrow night Dave and I get to see Jason Isbell being taped live at Austin City Limits (he won the tickets at work). Life is good, right? Right! And yet I flounder. Today is my 440th day in this house. I look around and much has been done, much is in the process of being done (but currently languishing as I'm not doing anything), and much is left to do. I look around, and I have no idea what to do next. I actually came to the brink of tears today as I thought of next week and what I should do. I love the classes I am taking, and I am focused, driven, energized and productive in them. But at home, I become paralyzed and spend a lot of time not doing anything. I am honestly overwhelmed by how much I have started and how I am going to finish it all before I die (not in any time soon!).

Part of my inability to move on something (anything) is because of the heat. Projects that happen outside, in the glass studio, or in the conservatory (the proto jewelry and bee products/soap studio) just can't happen right now because I have totally expended my outdoor time for the week taking care of the bees, pond, and gardens. For the rest of my time I need air conditioning.

But the bigger part of my paralysis is not attributable to any obvious root cause. Today it was so bad that I went to Dave and asked to task me with three medium-sized things that he would like me to do for the house this week--something started that he would like to see finished. He looked at me like I had lost my mind, but I figured that his request would stimulate me to doing something, and at the end of the week if I accomplished what he asked, we could celebrate the win together. Mainly I am hoping that these three things will jumpstart me into finishing other projects--be they for the house or my own creative outlets.

After a bit of hesitation he came up with something, and what he asked filled my heart with joy and my body with energy. A bit of background: I asked him right as I was about to head off and take a nap this afternoon, but I was so enthused by his response that I sat down to post several entries in both blogs. So what does he want? Me to do the measurements, design the layout, and choose the glass for the kitchen cupboard doors and backsplashes (behind the sink and next to the fridge). I got so excited that I expanded the project to putting the front door back on and doing the design for the door, sidelights and transom. And there are my three projects. My raison d'être, raison de respirer for the week!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bees, Bees, Bees!

Cissus trifoliata
Today was the Tour deHives, and I met some lovely people! We had five groups (11 people in all) who came out to see the apiary, and we sat in the shade, sipped iced tea and lemonade, and talked bees and plants. I loved it, and I learned a lot. For example, I have been noticing this fleshy vine that looks a lot like a slightly succulent variety of poison ivy coming up all over the new beds and in the yard. Turns out it's not poison ivy, it's a relative of Virginia creeper call cow-itch or sorrelvine. I found two different scientific names for it: Cissus insisa from the Texas Native Plants Database from Texas A&M, and Cissus trifoliata from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database. Both of them have the same common names associated with them. It's a member of the grape family, a vigorous climber, and--like Virginia creeper--is loaded with toxic levels of oxalic acid in both the leaves and the fruit. It can also cause a skin rash, which is probably why one of the landscapers swore it was poison ivy. Curiously, oxalic acid is one of the common treatments in bee hives for varroa mites. One of the people on the Tour de Hives today speculated on potential benefits from bees pollinating the Cissus and possibly introducing a natural source of oxalic acid into the hives that might affect the mite population.

I also found out today that one of the oak tree species I have growing in the garden is the Lacey oak. Someone on the tour asked me what one of the existing trees in our botanical garden was, and I didn't know. But I had all my Texas gardening and bee books out for the tour so I was able to look it right up. I only have a couple of these trees, and they are extremely slow growers so mine could be over 20 years old. As I was looking at it today, I had the thought that I might have planted the olive tree too close to it. I guess it depends how much the olive tree is going to grow.

Tomorrow is the day of bee lectures and I am signed up for the 201 class with a talk at 10:00 by Les Crowder who is one of the foremost TopBar beekeeping experts in the country. Though I would like to spend one last quiet day with the family before school starts on Monday, I can't miss the opportunity to hear Les speak. Maybe he'll tell me why my TopBar bees are so cranky...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tour de Hives Preparation

The write-up on our apiary on the Tour de Hives map page.
I have gathered my books--both the small binders I created of the plants in the garden, and the vast collection of Texas plant books I have accumulated. I have made my shopping list (Dave is heading off early to buy ice, lemonade, iced tea and cups). At 6:15 am Zaga is going to meet me in the apiary to do inspections and feed the bees. Then I'm going to clean up contractor debris, water plants, and wait for people to come ogle my apiary. That's a less filthy activity than it sounds and not a euphemism. As I wait I'll weed. So even if no one comes by (not that I expect that outcome), I'll have a good time and get a lot done.

For the afternoon I'm supposed to head in to the rest of the TdH activities at Zilker Botanical Gardens. But it's also the last weekend of summer (how did THAT happen?!?), and so our final familial summer hurrah. I'm not sure how I want to spend it, but it would be nice to hang with Jessie.

Jessie who is NOT thrilled to be starting back to school. I always loved getting ready for school and the excitement of the first weeks and seeing my friends and starting new classes. Jessie, not so much. She likes being alone up in her rooms and occasionally coming down to forage for food. School is a just-bearable nightmare for her. So we're thinking of finding something fun to do with her this weekend. I have also registered for the Sunday 201 lecture sessions of the Tour de Hives, but, again, time with the J trumps that.

If I am going to get up joyfully (or even grudgingly) at 5:45 am, I had better toddle off to bed now.