Thursday, October 18, 2018

Autumn Leaves - Sharing With All of You

I actually got a lot done yesterday. Just having the particulars of this year's Holiday Card nailed down allowed me to actually begin working on them, so I was able to put some items back into storage, pull other items out, clean my space a bit, and most importantly, find the paints I want to use which were buried with a different group of crafting supplies. Now I'm excited, and I'm starting to hear from several of you. Let's make it a landslide of people - Such fun. 

I pulled off in the the parking lot of the Senior Living condominium 1/2
mile from my house to share this beautiful tree. 

A little farther into my immediate neighborhood was
this golden beauty with rust at the tips. It dominates
the entire block. So pretty! 

I've been watching and laughing at this tree for a couple
of weeks now. Look carefully. It's a single tree. The back side
of it is green, the front is this brilliant scarlet. It
obviously has decision issues. 

I took a bit of time while driving back home from the grocery store to take autumn photos of my immediate neighborhood showing their fall colors to share with all of you. Today's post will be heavy on the photos, but it's so pretty. 

A second look at my "split personality" tree. This is on one of two
roads that I take home at night, only a mile or less from my house. 

A little farther along, on my way to the gym every morning, is this
lovely spread of red-tinged gold trees. That spark of brilliant
scarlet in the center left always pulls my eye. 

Even smaller plants can sing. This is just a small
plant around a tree by the side of a commercial building.
That brilliant scarlet coloring just caught my eye and
I had to take a quick photo. This is between my
grocer and my house, maybe a mile away from where
I live. 

I grew up in the Western US where autumn consisted of driving into the high mountains to see the carpet of gold caused by the aspen leaves contrasting with the evergreens in the heights. It was wondrous and beautiful and I loved it. But my favorite colors have always been the saffrons, russets, and bright reds, and those were very rare in Colorado. They aren't rare up here. Every bank of trees or bushes has red somewhere. I'm sharing reds with all of you today. 

Of course we get amazing golds too. This tree is still turning, but
looked so amazing framed against our brilliant blue sky. 

The main street forming the southern border of this mile-long square
I've been sharing with all of you has these newer trees that go
into a dark and rich red every autumn. They extend from here
to the left for at least 1/2 mile, maybe closer to a full mile. 

Finally, one last shot - here's the dawn's light hitting one bank of
turning leaves as I drive home from the gym in the early morning.
The darker area in the sky is actually clouds, although it looks
like ocean or a lake. No, it's low-clouds near the horizon. 

We're off peak. We usually peak right around October 11th, but it's been grey, cloudy, cold, rainy and even a touch snowy, so yesterday was the first true blue sky we've had in the past two weeks. Great timing, Mother Nature. That blue sky allows me to show you why I love autumn in the Frozen Northlands so much. 

Now to plug in my photos and share with all of you. Have a great Thursday and I'll return tomorrow! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

First CALL OUT FOR CARDS Opportunity - House Mouse

I had promised myself that decisions would be made yesterday regarding this year's holiday card, and they were. I'm shelving my original plan for this year's theme and shifting gears to brightly colored packages and mice - happy mice. Mice are cute (except when they're running around in my house), and I can pull this card together relatively quickly. I'm still undecided about whether I'm including a gift in this year's card or not, but the theme, at least, has been decided. 

This year I'll be featuring images by House Mouse Designs, and
hand-coloring them for my cards. I'll be peppering my post today
with non-holiday images of House Mouse. So cute! 

That said, I'm putting out my first call-out for cards. Here's what I need. 

(1) If you got a card last year and are still at the same address, I'm pretty good with things as they are and will be working off last year's master list of addresses. 

(2) BUT - If you've moved since last year's card, and would like to receive this year's card, please message me your new address so that I can update my records. I may already have updated them, but better safe than sorry. 

(3) If you haven't received a card from me in the past but would like one, message me and I can add you to the list. There are always some people who drop off the list, so I usually have room to add a few new people. 

Here's a sweet House Mouse image to celebrate a new
baby. My friend Rashel brought her new baby boy,
Braxton, to the bym yesterday to show him off. Born
at the end of September, he's so young and sweet! Still,
I'm happy I never had children. She has the energy to
take care of him, I'm not sure I would have at her age. 

Is it early to be thinking about Holiday Cards? Not really. My cards are Solstice cards and my annual goal is to have them in the mail by Winter Solstice. The cards are hand-made, and I have a firm total of no more than 50 cards. This year my total will be 46 cards available to send, but I think we'll be OK no matter what. I do this because I enjoy doing something creative - it keeps me happy and focused on the mundane. I need fun to balance out the search for health insurance and Medicare plans - LOL. 

Here we have the fun of Autumn combined with the winds
of Spring as the House Mice fly brilliantly colored leaf kites. 

So there you go - my first CALL OUT FOR CARDS this year. Remember, if you got one last year, you're on the list, but also remember that I always change the list a little bit, so it never hurts to be sure you're on it. Cheers! Have a great Wednesday and I'll be back tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Getting Back Up - The Roly-Poly Toy of Life

I woke up this morning in a bit of a panic - just a bit, though. Nothing really hits me into a true panic mode, I guess because I seem to always land on my feet, at least I have in more than 60 years walking this earth. I've made good decisions and some really poor ones, and somehow have stumbled onward. 

Roly-Poly toys are weighted to return to their upright
positions when pushed or pulled. Babies play with
them, kids play with versions of them, and adults
sometimes feel like them when life hits them over the head. 

In a way, life is rather like the force hitting one of those roly-poly toys, isn't it? You stand up straight and proud, facing each day, and sometimes something or someone comes along and gives you a push. Or they even strike out at you. You fall down. Your reactions can vary then. You can either stay down and weep, crying out against the injustice of it all, or you can get back up, dust off, and face the fray once again. Yes - that's life. 

Of course I couldn't resist showing you these blow-up Minion
kids punching bags. These bottom-weighted punching
bags are the next stage up from the roly-poly toys of

Is that a good part of life? It's really hard to say. That getting knocked down and getting back up is inescapable, it's reality, but your personal reactions to this are ... well, they're personal. Everyone will react differently. DH will rant and rage against the universe. He'll mope and sometimes strike out (never actually physically, but certainly on an emotional level at times). Me? I tend to shake myself off like a wet dog, and move to the next area, hoping the next experience will be positive instead of negative. 

Eventually many kids will go on to use actual returning
punching bags - on stands as they are young, or
hanging in gyms. they help arm development and
hand-eye coordination. They're also excellent to
work off a bit of steam on something non-breakable. 

Today's panic was neither negative nor positive, but it was a reminder that I need to do some planning and a bit of thought as well as scheduling. I'm going to make it work - it's what I do. Easy? Feh! Easy isn't what I usually do, but if I can succeed in this, easy is what it will look like at the end. On that note, I'm wrapping this up with photos of various roly-poly or returning toys and actions, because that's life. Have an excellent Tuesday and I'll return tomorrow with yet another roly-poly installment in my life. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

First Snow! Maybe That's Why I Can't Think Today

DH and I spent a quiet Sunday playing Lord of the Rings Online and watching/listening to football games. Although I sat for too many hours, it was a pleasant day topped off by Chinese food for dinner. My original plans had included dinner at our local pizza fave, but the deal they were offering this month wasn't as good as the previous one. Instead of getting a free pizza (buy one/get one), they only offered 30% off the total bill. We discussed our finances and decided Chinese was preferable for taste and funds. 

Yesterday morning greeted me with snow on the ground and large flakes
falling from the sky. I WASN'T happy, but it was all gone by the
time I left to pick up dinner at 4:00 pm. 

Autumn is a crazy season around here. The temps drop - I'm wearing my parka now because my morning temps are hovering at freezing, but during the day we'll move into the 40's and this week we may touch 60. Crazy! I awakened on Sunday morning, opened the door to collect the newspaper and saw snow! Big flakes coming down, enough to stay on the grass, but not the driveways and sidewalks. It switched to small flakes within the hour, and was totally gone by the time I left the house at 4:00 pm to collect our food. Still ... it was snow, and it's now mid-October. Ick! Too early for me. 

Chickie and I play ping pong with the customers effortlessly. We bounce
ideas, colors, history and technique back and forth, helping people
in different ways. Sometimes the explanation by one of us doesn't
click, but the other person's will. 

Chickie still has five vacation days due this year and she'll start taking them in single days over the next four weeks. I think she'll be MIA on Thursday this week. Things are always a bit more stumbly when she's not there (she says the same on the days when I'm off and she's working). We know how to handle the customers, we bounce people back and forth very well. When my Manager is working instead of her, it's much harder. He doesn't interact as well with the customers and usually is happier working behind the scenes as much as possible. The next few weeks will be a bit of a chore because of the odd vacation days, but it's better than having her out for an entire week. 

I always wanted to hang glide. It's never happened and I'm
probably WAY too old now, but what fun. Still, imagination
can be similar if I can allow it to run free. That means not
thinking about the mundane all of the time and allowing my
ideas to roam. 

I think that's about all I have for today. It's strange, I usually have a bunch of ideas for my blog pushing against my brain, but all I can think about today is getting my act together and starting work on my Holiday Cards. I guess I just enjoy being frazzled when the deadlines loom. What a way to spend a life - always walking along the crumbling cliffs instead of inland where I could enjoy the contrast between the land and the sea. Have an excellent Monday and I'll be back on Tuesday. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

An Introduction To Your Local Black Hole Monster

I wanted to get started on my Holiday Cards yesterday (yes ... I'm REALLY late this year). Going through the box I had carefully put together last week and brought over to the shop, I realized I had packed the box with the wrong stuff and was still completely missing the main stamps and other important stuff. *sigh* I brought the incorrect stuff home last night and spent a bit of time retrieving some possibilities since I hadn't found the main focal yet. This morning, as I sat down at the computer, I looked to my right and there, just waiting to be found, was the focal. Duh! 

Pixies were always the more mischievous of the various
fey creatures. Not quite as industrious as Brownies, although
closely related, they weren't as flighty as Fairies. 

When I was a young girl, if things like the above had happened - i.e., something found in a spot where you know you had looked many times before - Mom said that the pixies had borrowed it. I always had a rather jaded attitude towards pixies from that saying - they caused me a lot of angst as well as hours of wasted labor looking for missing items. 

Want your own personal Black Hole rug? They are out there
in a variety of styles. This one is excellent! 

In later years a cousin introduced me to the Black Hole Monster and it's that which accompanies me to this day. The BHM operates in a manner similar to the pixies, but he doesn't eat items from spite, rather from hunger. BHM's need to be fed, like any other critter. They lurk, and generally they're quite benign, but every once in a while they get hungry. They don't eat food in quite the same way as we do - their stomachs have limited capacity and they don't actually digest their food. They eat a single item, and when something more interesting catches their eye, they'll often spit up the first item and replace it with the second. 

In the mood to really blow your mind? This
black hole carpeting is from a video game
store in Paris. The floor is flat and uncurved, but
the eyes say it should be a very up and down
experience for walking. 

BHM's come into play when you've looked high and low for an item - your eyeglasses, your favorite pin, a letter you needed to answer, or a bill you need to pay. BHM's have a varied diet and are completely open to eating new and different things. They also roam - they might be in the study for a while, but when you least expect it, you discover they've moved to the kitchen or the bedroom. That's when you suddenly find something you've been looking for for a few days, or a few weeks - sometimes even a year or two. Suddenly, there it is! Sitting in a place where you know you've looked many times before without success. But now it's there. 

How about a black hole with dimension? Here's one Black Hole
Monster showing off for you and for me. It looks hungry,
doesn't it? 

You have two choices then. Either grab up the item you've been fruitlessly searching for and be happy, or grab the item up and be really cranky because you know that to recover the one, you've now lost something else you'll seek in the future. I generally tend to be happy. We all own too many things in our lives (at least most of us do) and realistically can stand to lose a few. Having my stamp for my holiday cards suddenly show up after more than three weeks of searching, sitting right next to where I work on my computer every day ... that's totally on my BHM. 

Have hardwood floors? That won't stop a determined Black Hole
Monster. Here, it's disguised as a Black Hole decal and it
opens up the greater universe to us all. 

I'm putting a call out to my local BHM, though. I'd really like my engagement ring back one of these days. 

On that note, have a wonderful weekend and I'll be back on Monday. We're supposedly supposed to have a quick flash of warmer weather next week, but I'll believe it when I feel it. We've totally missed out on fall - the days were rainy and grey. We had great colors on the trees, but no blue sky to show them up in their glory. *sigh* Be safe, be loved, and watch out for your own, personal Black Hole Monster. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Freeze and Public Sculpture - An Unlikely Pairing

We finally had our first hard freeze, and I've broken down and grabbed my parka from the closet. Even though we might have a few days of Indian Summer in the remaining days of October, I can't count on that. It bothers me, though. Usually, at least based on the many years I've lived up here in the Frozen Northlands, we don't get quite these temps until much later in the month, sometimes not even until November. We're running ahead of ourselves right now, and that doesn't bode well for the upcoming snowy season. 

Sometimes I function better just putting on my headphones and
turning on music. This fabulous sculpture by Jaume Plensa
is entitled "Istambul Blues". The kneeling figure is
composed entirely of musical staves and notes. 

Everything seems a bit off this year. We're ahead of the game on the weather, and I'm WAY behind the game on my Holiday Cards. I know I have to get into gear and get going on them, and I'm STILL undecided about subject matter and exactly what, if anything, to include as a little gift within the envelope. It's been a difficult year for so many of us and we've been sporadically in contact where we used to be in touch almost daily. I've got to make some firm decisions, and it has to be quick. 

Continuing with the musical theme, here's a delightful
fiddle-playing frog sculpture, located in the town
of Clayton, North Carolina. 

But, as I said, everything seems a bit off-kilter right now. The weather is ahead, and plans are running behind. Schedules are thrown away - tossed behind shoulders with disgusted abandon. How best to make sense of it all? I'm not sure that's possible, but I've got to try. 

I'm not sure I like this particular sculpture. Entitled "Points
of View", it stands in Houston, Texas. If it was a couple
of months earlier, I'd be looking at this as if it was a
tornado holding a lot of corn dogs from the State Fair.
I dread to think about how much this sculpture cost or what
future generations will say about it. Maybe it will
become beloved, but I suspect not. 

So as I layer my clothing to stand outside the gym doors in our early freezing temperatures, I'll be trying hard to focus. I suspect that's a lot easier said than done, but if I can manage do to that for a few days, a lot of the loose bits will be swept up and I'll be able to dive into to the next project without regret. Enjoy your Friday and treat yourself to a sweet or savory morsel. You deserve it! I'll be back tomorrow. Oh, and tomorrow is Ironman in Hawaii. One of my gym buddies will be competing this year. Go Kevin!!! 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Webinair Report Card ... Meh

So, I had that Webinare about the new sales tax regulations yesterday. I logged on about five minutes before the hour, and even though I hadn't done one of these in years (if ever, I can't recall for sure - but I have done web classes, if that counts), I jumped through all of the appropriate hoops quickly. I was one of the few, however, so the presentation itself started almost 15 minutes late while the moderators waited for everyone to log in. Microphone questions were not allowed, but text questions could be asked. Out of more than 300 of us logged in, there was only a single question - "Will a transcript of the presentation be available afterward for us to download?". Good question. Short answer, "Yes". 

Sales tax - it's assessed on almost every purchase made in
the USA, but when you pay it as a shopper, you don't
think about it very much. As a vendor, the tables turn
and suddenly it looms large in your thoughts. 

I was looking for information on how to determine appropriate sales tax for my out-of-state mail order sales, as well as mail order sales to jurisdictions other than my own within my state. I had already phoned the Dept of Revenue last week for help with an in-state issue, but I do have customers in other states who order and now I need to charge them sales tax for their jurisdiction as well as file sales tax reports in their states. As a small business, this is a royal PITA! 

It's not good to piss off government, especially the
Department of Revenue. They can make your life
hellaceous. I don't want to anger them, I just
want to find out how to comply with the new law. 

Unfortunately, the only information really offered that addressed my out-of-state questions were to refer us to a specific location on the MN Revenue website that would help us with that specific issue. Whoopie! I think I could have figured that out with another phone call and/or a bit of clicking on their home page. 

The entire experience was meh. There was an hour
I spent on this that I can never get back, and I'm
not sure it was an hour worth taking. 

Brass tacks review - the experience was totally "Meh". Although there was some good information in there, it just didn't go into enough depth to really address my needs, so I probably could have avoided it completely. I did learn a couple of things, so it wasn't a complete waste of my time, but ... yeah ... my review wasn't glowing. I was honest in my review and said the presentation just didn't have enough depth, especially for a long-time business just needing guidance in an area that had never been necessary in the past. 

The newest world-wide update for LOTRO is Number 23 which went
live on Tuesday. "Where Dragons Dwell" challenges us with new
Dwarven lands and more beasties. Of course, dragons in Tolkien
are few, but we're beyond the book tale now and into new areas. 

As a balance for the sales tax ridiculousness, however, Aearwen and I had a totally delightful chat late in the afternoon. As usual, our topics bounced across the board, from family to "Lord of the Rings Online" and everything in between. As a quick note to her - DH realized that the Scroll of Delving I wanted to use was a level too low for that weapon. I'll use it on a different one. I sent a followup email to the Devs explaining that my issue had been self-resolved and thanking them for a great game which has kept me occupied for more than eleven years. 

And on this note, I'm wrapping up. It's cold today - in the mid-30's - so I grabbed my heavier leather coat from the closet last night. I'm not quite willing to grab the parka yet. Supposedly we'll have a late Indian Summer next week with some much higher temps. I'll believe it when I see it, but we'll have a lot of raking to do if that turns out to be the case. Have a great Thursday and do something wonderful for yourself today. I'll be back tomorrow.