Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here's What Did It For Me. . .

This is what got me out of that non-torching funk that I was talking about yesterday. . . one incredibly cool and thoughtful care package from Mona and The Gaffer Girls. You know, the volume of all three of Julia Cameron's Artist's Way books lies unread on my desk, even though I had delusions of reading one chapter each week starting with the first week of June. And not even the good feeling of having my hubby ask why I don't have my torch out was enough to make me clear off the workspace again. It was Mona's care package that finally kicked me in the rear.
How can I not clean off the worktable and hook up the torch??
When this box arrived last week, I was home with the kiddos plus two of their cousins. With four kids waiting on me, I decided to put off opening the package until we'd gone to town to meet up with the other cousins. You should have seen the excitement when we got back and I started unpacking Gaffer goodies! Every different color of powder was greeted with yet another chorus of "ooooooooo, pretttttttty!"
And did I tell you why Mona sent me basic colors plus that colorful assortment of powders? Mona knew I like to work big with my sculptures and so don't feel justified buying lots of different colors (stocking up on plain dark ivory in bulk was my ordering modus operandi). Smart and thoughtful woman that she is, Mona realized that using powders/enamels could be the most efficient solution to letting me add color when I feel like it. IS SHE GREAT, OR WHAT??

Yep, this is such a boost to my muse! I have been happily putting together an extra storage shelf, clearing off the workspace, and stacking the kiln (doesn't quite work when dismantled into the separate layers of firebrick). Next step is mounting the torch and hooking up hoses, but I had to show you some pictures first.
Oh, and by the way, today is Mona Larson's birthday! If you get a chance, be sure to drop her a "Happy Happy" comment on her personal blog or Facebook or you get the idea :)
With big changes in COE come big changes in the way you organize your glass. Glass peeps know what I'm talking about-- different COE glasses cannot be mixed because they cool at different rates and mixing them will cause a piece to break. That means you have to make a decision when you switch from one COE to another. Do you want to keep everything separate and labeled, or do you want to completely clear your workspace and keep only one COE of glass in sight? Me, I'm a bit too unorganized to keep different glasses within reach at the same time. Heaven only knows, I would eventually (probably sooner than later) pick up two different glasses and mix them in one sculpture. So, the solution for me is to put away all my 104 COE glass, vacuum and wipe the table surface clean, and then start arranging that luscious Gaffer goodness! As an added precaution, I took some advice I saw on Lampwork Etc. yesterday, and I used colored Sharpie and/or nail polish to mark the ends of my Gaffer rods of glass.

Ah, yes, that's the Chalcedony that Deb, Mallory, and Laurie have been rocking! Tips and tricks abound on their blogs, as well as on this page from Gaffer. I hope I can do it justice.

Just a reminder to use a respirator whenever you play with powdery substances. The salt shakers have something to do with the enamels, too, in case you non-glass peeps are wondering. I scoured The Dollar Tree for smaller, clear glass bottles with lids. I contemplated buying a few packages of tiny cheapo lip glosses that came in glass bottles with plastic lids, but they were almost too small. I really wanted small, clear glass salt shakers with metal screw-on lids, but honestly, these were cheeeeeeeap and available today. I'm going to experiment with covering part of the holes in the lids. I figure after I've played for a bit with the enamels, I'll have a better feel for how many holes to close and how many to leave open. Good grief, I am such an utter newbie when it comes to practically anything except sculpting, LOL. Those of you who've already "been there, done that" should be rolling your eyes about now :) Still, you never know when a beginner's enthusiasm might make a tiny difference in someone else's day.
Finally, I have to tell you The Dollar Tree is too much fun! Everything is one dollar. Now, this can be a baaaaaaaaaaaad thing for me. I try not to go there anymore because my "dollar this" and "dollar that" can so quickly become a basket of thirty or forty "it's only a dollar" items. I had a feeling they would have something to use for powder keeper/shakers, though, so I let myself walk in their door today. In the end, what with ten sets of shakers, Katie's two new headbands, James' two play sets, and my citrus lemongrass scented lotion and body butter, the final tally was still under $20. SCORE!
And that, my friends, is day two of my return to glass. I dipped a few mandrels this morning, and now I'm going to go hook up the torch. After that, we'll see. . .and hopefully there'll be kiln goodies to show tomorrow.









Monday, June 29, 2009

What Would Entice You Back to the Torch?

Hey, all you glass melting peeps, how many of you have ever packed away the torch? Given the state of the economy in the past year, I'm willing to bet I'm not the only lampworker who picked up a part-time job in the last few months. In my case, I went back to substitute teaching because I used to love it and because it would leave me an occasional day at home by myself during the week. That occasional day with no sub job would be perfect for torching, and it would all be good.
Well, the substitute teaching was as fun as I remembered it being, even after more than a decade, and I will gladly do it some more when school starts in August! I thrive on the challenge of making a substitute teacher day a fun/peaceful/relativelyproductive day for a class. Walking into a new classroom, finding the lesson plans, skimming over assignments, getting to know names-- it's all fun for me. I like it even better once I get to know the teachers and kids, which is what quickly happened at James and Kate's school this past spring. Without a doubt, I should have been a teacher, but that's another story :)
Once the sub calls started coming in, though, I wasn't as anxious to torch. The goal of paying off my glass/tool credit card balance was so much easier to accomplish once I had an outside paycheck (erratic though a sub gig might be). For one thing, I found myself much less interested in buying more glass and tools, and everyone who has an art obsession knows that buying new materials and tools is half the fun at times. Thinking and scheming and planning new product ideas always seems to lead to a list of things you just have to have for your business. Implementing and finetuning those ideas takes time, though. . .
Then, the chaos that is my workspace had to be reigned in so that other people could actually walk through what was intended to be a room that connects the back door to the kitchen. Holy moly! All of a sudden, we could walk through the breezeway without kicking a box or accidentally knocking over a stack of sculpture junk. Know what else? I realized I kind of liked having an excuse to not get back to the torch. I am a clutterbug, it's true, but it was nice to have a cleared up space. I am a glass melting fool, it's true, but it was nice to not feel the pressure to go create something because I really "needed to get back in the swing of things." I am an artist, it's true, but it was nice to own up to the fact that I am also an all-or-nothing kind of artist. That's it, in a nutshell. I want to be an uninterrupted artist. My muse runs kicking and screaming from the room when she's interrupted by phone calls and sibling squabbles and time limits. Tempermental bitch, LOL.
Now, here it is the end of June, and I've got a good reason to haul the torch out and hook it back up, even if I'll have to pack it all away again as soon as we find a house. Wanna guess what enticed me?
I'll tell you tomorrow! That's right, the blogging has suffered from the lack of glass melting, too, so I must get back into my routine :) It's going to be a challenge. As some of you can attest, summer vacation can end up being busier than the school year for a mom (and that's not all bad, witness the fun stuff that has filled my summer so far). Still, instead of waving a white flag of surrender, I need to actually work on finding a balance that includes a bit o' glass melting along with the mom-ing :)
See ya tomorrow!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What a Week It Was!

What a wonderful week it was! Counting James and Katie, their cousins from Effingham, and their cousins from Florida, there were 8 of the eleven Garren grandchildren here for most of the week. Add another one to make it 9 out of 11 (Heather, one of the older three girls), and the end result was a whole lotta cousins having a whole lotta fun hanging out together. This doesn't happen often, and we're definitely hoping to have all eleven together next time. . . Sara was here with her daughter about a week before the Florida cousins came, but Amanda and her crew couldn't get here this time. You know what? I think this inlaw/outlaw aunt is going to be nagging people to make a plan for next year. If we plan it far enough ahead of time, maybe we can get everyone's schedules together.
Huge hugs to all the cousins! Love ya, and miss ya already!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great Garren-'n-Gray Water Balloon Battle and Prize-O-lympics






The battle was on yesterday! After all the water balloons were popped with a sploooooooosh and all the gumdrop and toothpick towers were dismantled and eaten with a giggle, there were at least eight winners :) With eight of the eleven grandchildren in town, it's been chaos and fun and laughter all at once.

Monday night, I divided the kids into teams in an almost random way. I say "almost" because the find-your-partner-at-the-other-end-of-the-string idea doesn't work so smoothly when everyone grabs their end and starts tugging at the same time. Can you say "giant yarn knot"? The kids rescued me, though, and had a big pow-wow-knot-untangling and figured out partners.

They also named their teams:


The Presleys (well, Elvis and Priscilla later became The Green Team instead)
Ashlyn and Katie


Kobe Black Mamba and LeBron
James and Ryan


The Lightning Turtles
Victoria and Aaron

Team Alpha Funny Bunny
Kiersten and Tanner


The big part of the battle involved raiding a lawn chair fort guarded by King Ricky and King Jeff. The teams begged bribe material (ie cold soda and candy) from Queen Barb, and then they took off for the fort in a race to grab just the right prize for their team. Unfortunately for them, some of the teams succombed to the heat of the moment and traded their prize papers to Queen Barb in return for water balloons to use on the Kings. The prizes lost included a turn at the wheel of the van during a drive on the country roads out here and control of the television remote for one hour. In dispute is the you-choose-the-menu prize which The Lightning Turtles insist was not traded or destroyed, LOL. James and Ryan are the proud owners of the King for a Day prize, and we all expect to get a little bit tired of bowing and deferring to them all day today :)


Anyway, more stuff to do today, so I'd better run! Hope your day is a fun one!















Whoops! Sorry about the double pics. Got two of them out, but I guess King James won't mind double exposure today :)











Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Irreverent Smartass Award Goes to Me. . .

for this response to someone using Adam and Eve getting thrown out of the garden as a very good example of the old catchphrase "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it":

Exactly how dumb was Adam that he couldn't think for himself and see that was a piece of forbidden fruit??
I'm just saying.
And, another thing. . . what was Eve's deal, letting everyone pin most of the rap for that fiasco on her?
For the record, the debate was a pretty good one, an all around nicely balanced discussion. There's nothing quite as satisfying as verbal jousting where no one in particular gets thrown completely off their horse and where both sides eventually come to agreement that the horse itself could use a good swift kick in the rump, LOL.
Hope you're all having a fun weekend! We've got family here, and we're all looking forward to a great week!

Monday, June 15, 2009

If You Were a Sandwich, What Would You Be?

Really. If you were a sandwich, what would you be? Would you be an open faced peanut butter sandwich with the crust removed? a pastrami on rye? a juicy cheeseburger with onion rings stacked on top? a Philly cheesesteak with peppers and onions? a hot dog? leftover steak on crusty bread?
Heehee, mombraindrain has already set in for the summer. Can you tell?
Oh, and seriously, what kinda sandwich are you?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy 8th Birthday, James!







James Stanley Garren, may you have at least 80 more birthdays to spend dreaming about cars and playing Star Wars! Son, you are amazing, and we love you very much!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
P.S. Your mother would write more right now, but she has to get your presents and wrap them, as well as go to the grocery to make sure we have all the stuff for your menu requests for the day :) Bacon and sugar toast for breakfast, pizza and chocolate cake with chocolate icing for the birthday lunch, and spaghetti for supper. . .did I get that right?



Thursday, June 11, 2009

CatSpit, Summer Days, and a Pink Bow on Top


Summertime, and the living is goooooooooood. Just ask Momo! Even taking into account that dratted pink bow Katie slid over her noggin, there's not much that isn't good about hanging out on the deck on a breezy summer afternoon :)

That just about covers the "summer days" and "a pink bow on top," leaving only the "catspit" to explain. Remember our other kitty, Moochie? Well, she is definitely a feline with cat-itude. Mooch really doesn't care one way or the other about what the humans might want from her. You know, she's the kind of cat who can't hear you but cranks up her own mrowwwwwwwwwwww's if you ignore her when she wants your attention. She's the kind of cat who will nuzzle your sock feet (if she's in the mood to show affection) but freaks out at the sight of a bare toe heading in her direction. She's the kind of cat who strives to uphold the whole I'm-a-cat-and-you're-merely-a-human disdainful feline personna.

Momo? Momo, on the other hand, is a cat who thinks she might be a dog. She relishes attention, whenever you care to give it (unless you are a seven year old girl trying to put that crazy pink bow around her neck for the fifteenth time in one day, LOL). She is the kind of cat who makes a cat lover purr with satisfaction at the luck of encountering a loving feline. She is also, unfortunately, a cat who drools when she is happy.

Imagine it. You are sunning on the deck, and the cat slinks up to you, turns around in a circle three times (another dog thing!), and plops her purring self down as close to your head as possible. . . and then proceeds to drool in your ear. Ewwwwwww, catspit!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Well, duh. . . the chicken crossed the road to buy a new house. Uh-oh, let's clarify a few things before we go any farther down this analogy road. One-- this started out as a play on words, you know, the old joke about the chicken crossing the road to get to the other side. My parents actually crossed the road to buy the neighbor's house the same year I went away to college. That worked out pretty darn good, but I want to make sure no one reads this and then reports to my parents that I called them chickens, LOL. Two-- chickens are on my mind because I want to be able to get some chicks and raise them when we do buy a house and move. Three-- being chicken to decide on one particular house is what I have accused my husband of being these past couple of years. . .BUT IT TURNS OUT THAT I'M THE ONE WHO IS A CHICKEN BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP ON HAVING CHICKENS.

Didja get all that? My husband is actually ready to place a bid on one of three houses, and he is waiting for me to choose which one. All three houses are in Highland, Illinois, which is a nice town. Highland has good schools. It's much closer to St. Louis so it cuts down on the cost of Ricky's commute (timewise and moneywise). I JUST CAN'T CHOOSE.

Can you say chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-cken, bwak, bwak, bwaaaaaaaaaaaaak? The problem is threefold, i.e. there is one big problem for each house. House #1 is solidly built, roomy enough for growing kids and visiting family and two adults with their own hobbies, and just plain pretty. . .but you can't have chickens, can't have more than 4 pets, can't put up a building or fence without Leonard's permission. Leonard is the man who subdivided the land twenty years ago, and he has deed restrictions. All of a sudden, I find myself aggravated with Leonard. He's probably a very nice man, but even though House #1 is zoned agricultural, Leonard says I can't have chickens there. I understand Leonard's point of view, I do. . .I just wish he'd exercise his point of view (and his legal deed restrictions) somewhere besides where I want to live :) House #2 is almost brand new, has a lovely two acre buffer between houses, and is also pretty. . .but Leonard also subdivided that land, and to boot, whoever zones things zoned it residential which means NO CHICKENS. I am not ready to give up my idea of raising a few chickens, but House #3 is not going to do the trick for us, even though it is zoned agricultural and has a few cattle living on part of its two acres. Aha, you think! Cattle, chickens, whatever Old MacDonald-y animal you'd like should be welcome there (perhaps even an alpaca in honor of Deb?). Sure, you can have critters, but for the same price as the two nice house options, you get a much smaller house where what would be Katie's bedroom is actually smaller than the master bathroom. I could have my chickens, but eventually, somebody in the house is going to be jealous of the space the chickens have in the tiny barn that's currently serving as the restaurant for the cows :)

Why all the fuss over a flock of imaginary fowl? I hated chickens when I was a kid. I still take great pleasure in making fun of any guineas my mother has. I grew up in the country, but much as I admire Teresa's small and efficient farm in Germany, the fact remains that I am likely to screw things up and never get to a point where my critters and garden contribute a bunch to the household. (We won't even go down the Angie and green plants road today!) In light of my stalling and complaining this week, though, it would seem that I am not ready to give up on my right to live in the country. Shoot, even my city-boy husband is starting to like the idea of my chickens. How can I give it up now?

***sigh***

Leonard, if by some strange coincidence, if you read this, please, PLEASE, please, would ya reconsider the no chickens rule?? I can do without the moo cows, and heaven knows I'd be lost when it comes to raising an alpaca, but don't ya think you'd like it if I brought ya some fresh eggs every once in a while??

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rollin'...doot, doot, doot, doot...Rollin' on da River

Okay, I'm too techno-challenged this morning to even attempt to add a link or sound, so you'll have to hum/sing Tina Turner's version of Rollin' on the River yourself. I was feeling a little hesitant about leaving the story of James and the Jalapeno because if you don't like spicy food, you might think letting an almost 8 year old have access to jalapeno slices is silly. ( The boy does like his spicy foods! Plus, when we got in the door, he was already anxious to start devouring the Italian sub sandwich with all its spicy coldcuts and oil & vinegar dressing... so I guess the jalapeno and pickle slices were just appetizers for him.) Anyway, while looking for pictures to use in a new post, I realized you haven't seen these sand rolling beach pictures from Memorial Day weekend. Hope your Friday is a teeeeeeeeeee-riffic one!


































































Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Screening Out the Thieves

This is a picture of a thief through a screen lightly. . .and thank goodness for him, that's as close as I or the cats seem to get to him when he's busy casing our joint for Cat Chow.

Momotaro the Huntress watches him, but even she of the agile claws cannot touch him. Eventually, given all the Purina product he has consumed on our dime, he ought to get so fat he can't fly!

What do you call that clicky-burpy sound of a grackle? (and is he a grackle or a blackbird?) Whatever the official birdwatching term for it, it twangs my nerves every time he does it from the edge of the garage gutter.

All I can say is that I am grateful to him for not bringing his whole flock to poop on my deck. For this, I guess I can spare a few bits of Cat Chow throughout the day :)


And that, my dears, would be the extent of my deep thoughts today, LOL. Summer vacation has begun with a great big loud bang of sibling squabbles, will-you-play-with-me-Mom's, and complaints about any suggestions that we practice our math or spelling or reading (unless the reading is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, in which case, we have a fight brewing because one keeps reading excerpts aloud and giggling but refuses to let the other one start reading one of the books).

Oh, you know we've had some fun so far, too, starting with last week when I let each kiddo have a turn skipping school and spending the day doing something fun with Mom. Considering their graded work was finished, and considering the sibling rivalry that pits them against each other so much of the time, I think the day off on their own was a good decision. James had a terrific day at school (without his sister in the classroom, something he'd hoped for ever since school began and he was doomed to share the 1st & 2nd grade classroom with Kate) while Kate and I went to the local art museum. The next day, Kate lorded it over the classroom while James was gone with me to a huge antique car dealership/museum/junkyard-of-possibilities. We've been to Carlyle Lake to play in the water at the beach, and we've gotten the cool new bicycles Grandma and Granddaddy bought for birthday presents. We've rambled through an antique mall called The Pink Elephant, where even Daddy got into looking through treasures from the past.

So, that's about it from moi today. . . Time to figure out what to fix for lunch :)

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