Monday, October 24, 2016

Sunday - Capstones and Compost

Sunday was a lazy day and that seemed to be echoed by our two sports teams in their play yesterday. The Vikings took their first loss, looking haphazard on the field of play, and the Wild just couldn't get it together on the ice at all. But DH and I had a productive day despite the fact that we watched a lot of losing plays on the football field and the hockey ice arena.

The capstones are trapezoidal in shape, but DH has been doing
a lot of cutting to get the stones to match exactly across the steps
and along the curves of the tiers. He'll still be working on
capstones next year, but wants to get as far as possible this year. 

We started the day out by going out to the home supply store. We needed more capstones for the castle. He's been working on topping the tiers and wants to try and get as far as possible before the weather and colder temps shut him down. Considering that next week begins November, I'd say that Mother Nature and the calendar gods will succeed, and he will have to hibernate for the winter months. The home supply store had 34 of the capstones left, so we bought all of them. It will get him just that little bit closer.

Do you have some brilliantly-colored leaves
on a nearby tree? Bring a bit of color into your
home for a few days. These lovely maple leaves
can warm up a cool room just by being on
a side table. 

We had a windy weekend and a lot of our leaves are down. Soon it will be time to take out the rakes and blowers and get the leaves collected. Many people will be taking them to the various compost collection points around town. The lines for drop off at these get excessive at this time of the year, but next spring everyone gets to reap the benefits - strong, black earth that they collect in containers to take back home for their gardens. The cycle of life and death continues as each brings the turn of the next.

The leaves and other vegetative materials are brought to the
composting sites where they are moved by large earthmoving
equipment. In the spring, people will return and collect their
spoils - black dirt for their gardens. 

I'll be starting today out by a quick drive to White Bear Lake for my swim time in their YMCA followed by my every-two-weeks chiropractic appointment. I'll get the opportunity to rinse and repeat on Wednesday, although my appointment that day will be for my car to be winterized and have an oil change, rather than my back being adjusted. Either way, I rarely go to that Y twice in a week, so I'll startle the girls in the pool there on Wednesday. Today they'll just say hello in the locker room before we all begin work on our form and lap times.

We take our composting very seriously here in the Frozen Northlands. After
waiting in long lines to deposit our leaves, we wait in long lines once
again to pick up our pay-off - black dirt. Here is one of the earthmoving
machines turning a bucket full of black dirt. 

I hope each of you have a wonderful Monday. I'm hoping that my Denver Broncos don't follow the examples set by my Minnesota teams when they take to the field tonight in Monday Night Football. It would be nice to put one into the "Win" column. Have a great day!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Funeral Today - Thoughts About Funerary Practices

Chickie is taking the day off to attend the funeral of Darwin, the husband of a good friend. Darwin had been battling cancer for more than two years. These kinds of life events are always difficult. Speaking from experience, memorials and funerals are highly emotional experiences shared with people who fall into one of three categories: family members and close friends, general friends, and almost complete strangers. No matter who the people attending are, the members of the immediate family have to be gracious toward each person, accept their expressions of sorrow, and somehow sit through all of the public rituals before finally being able to escape the public and return to their private grief.

Cemetery statuary is one of my loves. I'll
pepper this posting with statues from a variety
of sources. 

Funerals are tough; ceremonies culturally codified and placed firmly within the boundaries of civic or religious ceremony. Sometimes funerals encompass both aspects - visitations at a funeral home followed by religious ceremonies before a trip to a cemetery and the actual internment overseen by a religious practitioner. I know things are different in other countries, but I find funerals in the USA bot maudlin and difficult.

I love this faithful dog waiting for his master. Such
a sweet image. I just want to bring the dog home and
spoil him rotten. 

In the past the dead would be washed, wrapped into cloths pulled tightly, laid out in the kitchen or any larger room. People in the area who knew the deceased would gather around the body, and they would drink toasts to the deceased. If needed, a religious practitioner would say appropriate words. The friends and neighbors would pull together around the family of the deceased to give support in the form of physical support (helping on the farmstead, bringing over meals, caring for young children), or emotional support (a bottle or six of whiskey can go a long way).

This lovely statue is in Milan, Italy. I love the image. 

Now the job of laying out the dead takes place at designated funeral homes under the care of morticians - professionals dealing with the dead. The job of emotional support ... well, the bottles of whiskey are often self-purchased, not brought by neighbors. Funerals used to be an opportunity for communities to pull together and celebrate a life well lived. Now they are overseen by strangers and organized within routine and ritual. In some ways that is comforting but in others it is imprisoning - a cage against which we beat our wings.

This lovely angel is attributed to the Bronte
Cemetery, although I'm not exactly sure where
that is. It's a fabulous statue, though. 

I had the opportunity to meet Darwin once. He struck me as a joy-filled and considerate person who dearly loved his family and friends. He'll be missed, and I'll be thinking about him and his family as they say good-bye to him today.

Scaffold and tree burial was common among many of the tribes in
the USA. I'm a great fan of putting the body parts back into nature, and
my claustrophobia freaks me out when I think of coffins or urns. 

Have a good weekend. Only one more week (plus a little) until Halloween, so I guess I'd better pick up some candy for the college kids - LOL.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Busy Night - Sports and Project Runway

Thursday nights usually find me parked in front of my computer working while listening (and often turning around to view) "Project Runway". I keep the TV on a single channel. DH, on the other hand, channel flips because Thursdays are often very busy nights. Last night was no exception. He was flipping between the Minnesota Wild (ice hockey - we won 3-2 against the Maple Leafs).

I love the Minnesota Wild logo, even have it on the back
of my car. It's one of the prettiest in hockey. I also happen
to love ice hockey, and treasure my Minnesota Wild
jersey that I got on sale earlier this summer. Yahoo! 

On a different channel he watched the Chicago Cubs vs the LA Dodgers (they won 8-4). The winner of this series goes on to play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series and I REALLY want a Cubs/Indians matchup.

The Chicago Cubs vs the Cleveland Indians would be a dream
World Series for me. I'm not that fond of baseball, but in that
match either team could win and I'd be happy for them. It's been
a very long span of years for either team to play for the pennant. 

Also, the Minnesota Lynx, in a hard-fought battle, lost their season to the LA Sparks 77-76, a nail-biter for sure. It was a great season, but it finally ended *sigh*. I think there was a fourth sports battle that he was switching back and forth from, but I really can't remember. At least he got to see some good ones, though, while exercising his thumb on the remote and running down the battery.

The season came to an end for the Minnesota Lynx women's
basketball team last night with a hard-fought battle
against LA. 

Project Runway Spoilers below - you've been warned!!!!

Meanwhile, I was happily watching Project Runway. The challenge this time started with a cocktail party for the designers and their judges and mentor at the very exclusive Absolut Elyx house, a lush cocktail lounge with speakeasy decor and roots. Copper pineapples and decor abounded, along with sparkling chandeliers, flamingo paintings in the bathrooms, and tufted Chesterfield-style leather sofas. Everyone had an opportunity to drink and chat before the challenge was announced - make a cocktail dress in a one-day challenge with a budget of $300 (a very high amount which should have resulted in a lot of very luxurious designs).

What a mess. The brocade was actually really nice, but
the ostrich fathers? Really? Erin lost her way this week
and was in the bottom. But there were worse, so she's
safe for another week. 

Even the great can fall, and there were some really bad designs walking the runway this week. Erin fell flat with a really lovely brocade framed by a flock of ostrich feathers. Now, I may be prejudiced against feathers because I sell them and I absolutely hate packing them, but this just looked like a mess. The judges were NOT impressed.

Jenni embellished a copper-colored dress with
lots of gold embellishments. It actually looked wonderful
on the runway, and she chose well in both her
fabric and her trim. Nobody has a lock on technique,
so her using Erin's technique for her own piece really
shouldn't be a problem. 

They were, however, impressed by copycat Jenni who used Erin's embellishment technique/style to make a simple dress very lux. She "borrowed" Erin's technique and complained about all of the hand stitching she was doing with long fingernails. Really? If the nails are getting in your way, get rid of them. Idiot. She won with this, but I don't think she deserved it.

I adored Laurence's dress. The folded leather yoke and
the incredible sculptured and tufted sleeves were the
focal of a perfectly fitted black dress. The judges
called it the "Bentley of black dresses" and they weren't
far off the mark. 

Laurence was my personal choice for the winner because of her beautiful leatherwork on the yoke and sleeves of a basic black dress that was impeccably styled and shaped. Really wonderful work that she based on the Chesterfield couches of Elyx. I think if she had chosen a different color of leather she might have pulled off the win but the judges were looking for glam.

Tasha was sent home with this contribution and it was
easy to see why. There really wasn't any design to it,
it was just thrown together and it looked like it. Tasha
added a sparkling tie at the waist, a band of gold at
the hem, and dressed it up with earrings and tassled
shoes. Poor choices. She's a very nice person, but not
a great designer. But she does street wear so she'll
probably do just fine in her comfort zone. 

Finally, Tasha was sent home after putting a black dress with a sparkling waist tie onto the runway. Her original choices in fabric had been total day wear, not cocktail, and on the advise of Tim Gunn (who gave the same advise to more than half of the designers in his critique), she scrapped her original design and pulled this out in four hours. Unfortunately, there was nothing either street or chic in this and Tasha packed up her things and left.

Have a great Friday, all. I'll be swimming in less than an hour and a day in the pool is always a great day. LOL.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Steps, Trees and Mantle

Good morning all. Are you bleary-eyed from watching last night's final presidential debate? I let DH watch it and I skipped it. I've already voted and really didn't need to get my blood pressure up listening to the two candidates spew. DH is in a fix, though. He's a lifelong Republican who hates Donald Trump and refuses to vote for him, but he hates Hillary and the Clinton Foundation just as much. Fortunately Tuesdays are his normal day off, so if he decides to vote, he can get to the polling center in mid-day when the lines will be much shorter, and he doesn't need to make a final decision about voting until November 8th.

DH spent Tuesday working on the steps. He redid several of
them and then shaped and placed the capstones onto each
one. They're looking good, aren't they? 

In the meanwhile, he's working on the steps for the castle. He spent Tuesday laying out the capstones and cutting them to shape. They're beautiful now, and if things dry out enough by the afternoon, he might try using the adhesive on a few of the steps. Everything has to be dry for that, though, and in our fall temperatures, the morning dew takes a few hours to dry from the stone.

Here's a detail look at the first two steps with their capstones
on top of them. If all goes well today, he'll start gluing
those capstones into position. 

I had John from Monster Tree out yesterday to look over the yard and give us a quote. He was fabulous - extremely professional. He had his tablet computer or iPad with him from the beginning, taking measurements and photos and making notes. He spent almost 45 minutes looking at each tree, finally came up with a number and before his car had left the driveway, I had his quote in my email inbox. He came in more than $1000 less than Twin City Tree, and that included grinding the stumps. If we decide to skip that, it would knock almost another $1000 off the bottom line. I have one more guy scheduled for next week and then we'll decide, but Monster is probably who we'll end up with.

I really love their logo. We will have to be
careful with whoever we hire and watch them
to make sure the right trees are removed and our
castle walls are left intact, but we would have
to do that with anyone. I have one more bid set
up for next week, then we'll make up our minds. 

Finally, an on-line friend of a few years asked for a picture of my mantle. She posted one of hers the other day and I commented that mine was nothing like hers - very true. She's a lovely artist with a flair for color and accent pieces, and I really loved her cozy and warm mantle. My mantle extends the width of my living room and, since I have a vaulted ceiling, goes up pretty high. DH and I have been involved in the Native American art field for more than 30 years, and our artwork reflects that with three masks by Peter Ray James (Navajo), a central acrylic original by William "Bill" Rabbit (Cherokee), and a guache on the far right that we picked up in Santa Fe. This piece changes in different lighting and I love it. So there you go, Kaishin.

Above the mantle are ceramic masks by Peter Ray James, and two
paintings. On top of the mantle are a variety of items - tinwork from
Mexico, Navajo baskets and a Yeibichai processional set, candles
and figurines. The hearth is marble, the fireplace, while having a
working chimney, has never been used for actual flame. 

I'm off to the pool, then on to the shop. I got the next piece for my holiday cards in the mail yesterday, so I want to try some trial runs with my embosser before working on the actual cardstock for the next phase. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Search Begins - Obamacare Sucks!

I'm thinking it will be easier to figure out who to hire to take down my trees (I show the representative of the second of three possible companies around my yard at noon today), than it will be to figure out what health insurance to get for next year. I've been with Blue Cross and Blue Shield on and off throughout the years, but last rejoined them in 2007. Now, because of the "Affordable Care Act" (which is NOT affordable for me), they are leaving our market for individual subscribers, only allowing businesses  with a certain minimum number of employees to have their coverage. One employee doesn't meet their criteria, so I'll have no health insurance beginning January 1, 2017. I started doing the research on where to switch my insurance yesterday morning and it's a bleak desert of choices.

A lot of good was done with Obamacare, but see that second item? Lower premiums?
My monthly premium has doubled in two years so that I'm now paying close to
$2000/month. Now DH and I won't have insurance of our choice or doctors/clinics of
our choice, and the premiums will be MORE than $2000/month. Ridiculous! 

The one thing that seems almost certain is that I'll lose my doctor and clinic, or have to pay additional fees to use them. I love my doctor! After years of hunting I finally have a doctor who listens, asks appropriate questions, and seems to really focus on wellness, not illness. I adore her! I don't want to switch to another doctor. But all of the varied health plans that seem to be available to me now don't seem to include my current clinic. ARGHHHHHH!

That really poorly drawn arrow points to my state with a 25.8% premium
increase in insurance rates. We're not the highest, but we're certainly
right up there. Only four states have increases larger than mine. All
of the twelve dark states have increases of more than 20%. Ten states
will have their insurance rate decrease or remain the same and the other
40 states will have some kind of increase with the twelve dark states
at the highest increase in insurance rates. 

I have emailed my clinic to find out what insurance plans they accept. Nowhere on their website do they list that at all. I'm going to continue to research possible plans and availability. But I'm also going to try and get as much as possible done this calendar year before I'm pulled into the whirlpool of already paying more than $2000/month for insurance and still having to pay even more if I want to see the doctor of my choice. Affordable Care? Bull!!!! What a crock of crap!

I have friends who have been helped enormously by
Obamacare. I know it has offered insurance where there were
no options in the past and has insured people who were
unable to get insurance before. But I'm caught in the middle.
My business isn't large enough and I'm not old enough to get a
break on any front. I'll have to pay through the nose
for my healthcare until I'm 65. 

Here's hoping you have a wonderful Wednesday. Mine will be super busy with the gym, errands, and meeting my next tree removal dude for a quote on taking down my trees today at noon. I'll be back with you tomorrow, hopefully ready to tackle the next step in this year's holiday cards. Watch this space - a call-out for cards will be coming before Halloween.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Whatever Happened To Issues?

We're winding down to election day here in the USA and it's been vicious. For months! Actually, for well more than a year. I'm not just talking about the national election for President, but also the local elections for any national or state-wide ... even city-wide offices. All I have to say at this point is "What's up with this?".

The ads may be all attack ads, but I still feel obliged to vote. It was a
hard-fought battle to get the right for women to vote. I'm not about
to minimize that struggle and pass on my civic obligation. 

Once upon a time, elections and their associated advertisement were focused on the issues. The candidates wanted the voters to mark their ballot for the candidate who would provide them with representation to vote in the laws they thought would be beneficial, and represent them on the national or international stage without embarrassment. Well, I have to say, at this point it's looking like anyone voted into office next month will be an embarrassment - local, regional or national candidate.

My correctly sealed and witnessed absentee ballot went into
the mail yesterday morning. Huzzah! Now I won't have to
stand in a long line to vote, and DH, if he decides to vote after
all, can head over to the polling place any time during the day
and miss the "going to work" rush. 

Nonetheless, because it is my civic duty and I can't shirk that, I did cast my absentee ballot over the weekend and dropped it into the mail yesterday morning. I was pleased with one aspect. It's been a long time since I last voted absentee, and I know the last time I wasn't able to vote in anything except the Presidential election. This time my ballot came to me, exactly the same as I would have had if I had been standing in a long line in the cold to put my marks on the paper. I had all of the candidates, even the judges and those without anyone listed as running against them - all of which were specifically for my little piece of the greater metro area. That pleased me a great deal.

He laid out capstones on the steps to see what needs
adjustment. A couple of steps are slightly off true, so he'll
be seeing what he can do to adjust them a bit today, then
he might start gluing some of the capstones on. 

Today DH will be working on capstones, and maybe re-doing one or two of the steps. The castle is looking pretty fantastic at this point. We'll need to get a palette of capstones ordered in the spring to put on the tiered walls, but that's next year. We're almost finished with this year's work (and weather in which working is sensible). He's been getting his exercise working on the castle, I've been getting mine in the pool. Time to go sweat in a large, chlorinated area of water once again, so I wish all of you a wonderful Tuesday.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rocks - So Pretty

Sunday was a perfect day - sunshine, warm temperatures, and the Minnesota Mineral Club's annual show and sale south of the Twin Cities in Cottage Grove. We attend this show every year, it's one of the high points of our fall. Often DH brings home buckets of rocks, but this time he only brought home a couple of good sized bags. He was restrained! I was so proud of him - LOL.

Ed Opatz has some of the nicer stones for sale. We look at
everyone's booths, of course, but we always seem to leave
with some of his rocks. All of the photos in the blog today
are stones from his selection. 

I fell victim to the desire for rocks also, as I always do. I have several larger wall projects in the works waiting for enameling time or additional items to add to them before I'm ready to begin the physical work on them. One of these, "Evolution", is almost ready for me to start cutting copper and working with the kiln, except for time (I don't have any) and the fact that I found two other pieces yesterday that might be perfect to add to the piece. I'll pull my original concept sketches on Wednesday and check out whether my new additions will actually work or not.

I'm going to show a lot of photos of pretty stones interspersed with a few paragraphs, but more photos than words today, so I'm putting the rest below a cut (on LJ) for people who aren't interested in looking at pretty rocks. What - you aren't interested???? Of course you are! They're beautiful!

This was a large piece of Crazy Lace Agate. DH and I aren't great fans
of agate in general, but this piece was lovely with great layering
and color banding. 

I'm much more of a jasper fan. Here, this large slab of Picasso Jasper
looked like the skeletons of trees as seen through a window pane
in the early morning light. 

Here's another slab of Picasso Jasper. Just look at the different
colors coming out here and the landscape that it's suggesting.
Picasso is an author's and artist's dream stone. 

I bought some things to play with on my lapidary wheels - rough Larimar slabs from the Dominican Republic to shape and polish and a narrow banded piece that I can see working into "Evolution" as an end point. I also bought a highly polished piece of Labradorite that might work it's way into the ocean portion of "Evolution", or not. If not, it's an easy set or bead bezel to wear it or sell it There are many things I can use these stones for, but I bought them specifically for this project so I'm hoping to fit in a little time on Wednesday to see if they will work out conceptually or not.

I don't know if you can really see the colors in the photo, but
just below the center of this beige and maroon stone, is
a splash of turquoise and forest green. It totally enchanted
me. I don't really have a project in mind for this, so it may
become part of the lid of one of my boxes. 

The other polished slab that I couldn't resist was a companion
to the piece above. In this one, along the larger maroon lines,
small bright pieces of copper ore can be seen in some lighting.
I totally fell in love! 

I also bought two polished beige slabs (pictured above) from Ed Opatz. I always seem to find something at his booth. They weren't expensive - only $8 each - but I fell in love with the colors of the smaller one and a hidden splash of shining copper along the red pathways of the larger one. I kept trying to put one or the other one down to only buy one, but then I would pick them both up again. After more than 20 minutes of trying to leave one or the other behind, I recognized a lost cause and paid for both of them.

DH bought some rough of this green stone. I'm forgetting
the exact name of the stone right now, but it's a wonderful
color and I look forward to seeing what he'll do with it. 

Rocks aren't always smooth and polished. This one reminded
me of some of the heavily textured storm clouds we can
sometimes get in our summer months. 

A person buying this nubby stone would be buying it as a
specimen for a collection, not to rework into art or
jewelry. There is something for everyone at the rock show! 

Finally, one more look at one of my two slabs (on the left). That
splash of green shows up a bit better in this photo which
it shares with another lovely piece of Picasso Jasper. 

So this post is filled with photos of rocks I was looking at yesterday, mostly from Ed's place because he always has such lovely stone. We had a great time, then went home, discussed alignment of the steps of our castle, had a light dinner and called it an early night. All in all, it was just about a perfect Sunday and how often can we get that in mid-late October? I hope your Monday is wonderful - I'll be starting out in the pool, as usual, so I know it's going to be a great day!