Gary bought me frozen lemonade or I might have expired in the heat.
Paul was happy that football season has begun!
Today was Iowa's home-opener against Maine. It was really not football weather, being that it was in the upper 80's. Anyone who knows me well, knows that's not my favorite weather! I like football with a nip in the air. It only seems right. But still, it was a good day. Iowa prevailed, with a score of 46-3. I hope we can do more of the same for the rest of the season! Friends, Suzi, Gary, Sam and Sue joined Paul and I in the fun. You can't ask for anything better than that!
Summer is almost gone. The garden is beginning to look like it's seen better days (of course, the weeds still look vigorous!). There are still some pretties out there to enjoy and some tomatoes that taste like the summer sun.
I hope you all have a great weekend! Take a little time to remember all of the unsung people in our society that work so hard to make life easier for all of us. Many bus drivers, restaurant workers, clerks, janitors, farm workers, delivery people, factory workers, medical workers, etc., will be working hard this weekend.
These guys look ready. I love the expression on the face of the girl behind them!
Paul is always ready for some football!
I'm not sure I am, but here it is! The Hawkeye season starts Saturday with Iowa taking on Maine here at Kinnick Stadium. I fear the Hawkeyes aren't going to set the world on fire this year, but it's always a good time with lots of fun, food and friends. I'm kind of shocked by how fast the summer flew by. Football is certainly a sure sign that fall is coming. Ready or not............
Check out this most hilarious site, The Shakespearean Insulter, that I found on Karen Elmquist's blog. While you're at it, check out Karen's blog. Karen is a fantastic lampworker in Canada. I've been coveting several of her beads since I met her at the Bead and Button Show in June.
I was in the garden today pulling weeds, oh so many weeds, when I had two visitors. The first little fellow landed on my shoulder with such a thud that he gave me quite a start! I wonder what folks who live in other parts of the world where there aren't cicadas, would think of these amazing beings? They are truly a sight to behold. The noise they make is like something from the X-Files. We always know that the dog days of summer have arrived when the racket starts. After a while you don't notice it anymore, which is a good thing, because otherwise I think it could drive you crazy!
My second visitor was this lovely woodchuck, whom I'll call Chuck. I was sitting on the ground beneath one of our tall ornamental grasses pulling trumpet vines that had snuck into the the plant when Chuck poked his head under the fence and looked at me. I, of course issued the universal warning meant to strike terror into any creatures heart, "SHOO! SHOO!". I know, I'm fierce aren't I? My stern warning seemed to have no effect on Chuck, who seemed intent on getting past me so that he could steal one of my tomatoes. After I yelled at him a few more times he got tired of me and retreated to the other side of the fence. I saw him peeking at me a few more times and I swear he was scowling at me! Later, when I was back in the house, I saw Chuck through the bedroom window and I took his picture. I have had run-ins with Chuck's kind before. They like to dig holes under your house that can actually undermine the foundation and cause massive cracks. A few years ago a family of woodchucks built their condo beneath my neighbors garage and caused cracks 3 inches wide in the foundation. When they decided then dug a tunnel under my garage, I got a live-trap and relocated them all to the woods where we were all happier. Looks like it's time to get the Woodchuck Relocation Program going again. I'm beginning to feel a little like Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
I know it's coming. I can feel it in the air. The cicadas are buzzing away and the nights are just a bit cooler than they were a week ago. Fall's coming. I love fall, but I'm not quite ready for summer to be over yet. We had a nice summer here, except for the flooding in June. Too much rain early on meant not as good of a crop of tomatoes as we are used to. But still they are the best that the summer has to offer, in my opinion. I do love growing them. I grow them from seeds in my basement at the end of March and by May 15, I usually plant about 36 plants, sometimes more. I grow them from seed so that I can plant heirloom varieties that you'd never be able to find at a nursery. I grow varieties with old-fashioned sounding names like Brandywine, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee, and Mortgage Lifter. I know, a lot of tomatoes for two people, but I love to give them away and put them up in jars like my Mom and Grandma did. It makes me feel connected to both of them. When my sisters and I were young and we would complain about all of the work of gardening and canning and freezing masses of corn, tomatoes, green beans, etc., my Mom would always say "It'll taste awfully good when the snow flies, girls!". And you now, it still does.
This is one of the pieces that Shannon made in class
This is a piece that Shannon made using one of my lockets.
I ran across the website of one of my students, Shannon today while I was surfing the net. She took one of my workshops a while back at Bead Haven in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was one of those students that gives you the feeling she could excel with whatever materials she decided to lay her hands on. She does really nice work and is a very nice gal and very kindly let me post a couple of pictures of her work here.
I've been thinking a lot lately about fairness. I suppose it comes to my mind because of the controversy surrounding the Chinese women's (or maybe it should be girl's!) gymnastics team. Fairness, or more correctly, the lack of fairness, has always been a pet-peeve of mine. Even the small unfair things in life tend to bother me. You know the things that I mean. The person in the express line with 35 items pretending that they don't know the limit is 12, the guy who steals the parking spot that you've so patiently been waiting for, or the blow-hard at work who cavalierly takes credit for ideas that you both know were yours. I know that in the scheme of things this stuff isn't really important. I guess what bothers me the most about people like this, is the arrogance that it takes to believe that other peoples time, ideas or efforts are just not as important as their own. The more that we accept these little injustices, I think the more numb we become to the really big ones involving politics, social and global justice.
If the allegations should turn out to be true, isn't this arrogance what's at the root of the falsification of some of the Chinese athletes birth records or the use of performance enhancing drugs in the Tour de France, Major League Baseball or any number of other professional sports? The idea that we deserve to win at any cost, even if the other competitors worked harder, had more natural ability or just happened to be better on that particular day, seems to be a more common one than any of us would care to admit. I know of course, that life isn't always fair, but I think fairness is definitely something to aspire to in each of our short stays on the planet. Play nice!
Bria wearing....I really don't know what she's wearing !
I was in Tucson last week visiting my excellent friend, Anne Mitchell. Anne is a metalsmith extraordinaire and an even better friend. She invited myself, Gail, and Stacey for a long weekend in the desert. Except for weather delays and Stacey not being able to make it at the last minute, we had a wonderful time. We were joined by the lovely Bria for much of the weekend, which was such a treat. We swam and played war games in Anne's pool with water cannons, ate great Mexican food, watched the Olympics and laughed and laughed and laughed! We also spent a lot of time playing with metal. Gail and I showed Anne and Bria some of what we learned about BronzClay at the workshop at Purdue. They made very cool things. I was really impressed with Bria, who had never made anything with metal clay before. She made so many things, all with a lot of imagination. It's fun to watch people learn new things.
For a while I thought the heat might get the best of poor Gail, who had never experienced the Tucson heat, let alone Tucson in the summer! She was a real trooper, but I really hope to get back there with her in the winter when the desert is at it's best for us midwesterners! I lived in Tucson some years back and have spent a lot of time there since, but I've never learned to handle the intense summer sun. I burn in about 30 seconds! I really do love it there though.
The time passed quickly, as it always does when you are having fun, and before we knew it, it was time to head home to Paul, Max and Sophie. I hope I get to see them all again soon. There's nothing like hanging around with fun, creative people. Thanks again Anne!
Today is one of those rainy days where you just know that it's going to rain on and off all day. Not a downpour, just a nice, soft constant rain. I love days like this, they make me want to sit on the couch and read a good book all day. I can't do that, though, there's work to be done!
A nice steady rain like this is welcome, not at all like the nightmare flooding in Iowa and much of the midwest in June.
In July I took the very first workshop in the new BronzClay made by Metal Adventures. It was held in West Lafayette Indiana a few days before the International PMC Conference. The class was sponsored by Rio Grande and was taught by one of the best teachers and artists around, Celie Fago. I went to the workshop with my dear, crazy friendGail. It was an amazing experience to be one of the first people to work with a brand new material. I think my favorite part was the variety of things that people made. Isn't it amazing that you can give 12 people the same raw material and the same tools and all 12 will make completely different things? People made wind chimes, bells, bowls, small sculptures and, oh yeah, some of us actually made jewelry! I decided to use the time to make the sorts of things that I often make from silver. I made toggles, lentil-shaped beads, charms, pendants, rings, among many other things. I wanted to see how the material differed from PMC . It's an incredible material. It molds well, carves beautifully and is incredibly strong. It is a bit more difficult, in my opinion, to make rings and other components that are spiraled around objects like straws. Even this just takes a bit of practice. Firing the bronze pieces is very interesting. A covered steel pan filled with the pieces and coal-based or coconut-based carbon is placed in the kiln and fired for 9 hours. The kiln is heated slowly (250 degrees) to a temperature somewhere in the 1516-1550 degree range ( there is some debate about the holding temp.) and then held there for three and a half hours. The slow ramp time forces oxygen out of the steel container, creating the necessary reduction atmosphere in the kiln. Out-gassing from the coal-based carbon creates the most amazing colors to appear on the surface of the bronze. The coconut carbon is certainly a more environmentally sound choice, but doesn't produce the same amazing colors, but they are lovely all the same. The colors are only semi-permanent anyway. The only down-side to the BronzClay that I have seen so far, is the long firing time required.
I have done at least 10 firings of BronzClay at home since the workshop. They have all turned out well except for one load. Many of those pieces were very brittle, as if they had a bronze shell and had not fully sintered inside. The pieces snapped like twigs when I applied pressure to them. This happened to one of Gail's pieces at the workshop as well. Celie thought it could have been that her piece was too close to the edge of the pan and in a cooler spot in the kiln. I'm not sure what caused it, but I think that maybe I crowded too many pieces into the kiln. I decided to refire the pieces, this time giving them a little more room to breathe. They came out great. I think there is just going to be more of a learning curve and experimentation required here. I must say that the results are worth it. I had a very good reception to the bronze at my last show.
Michael Phelps not withstanding, perhaps the most inspiring Olympian for me this time has been 41 year old Dara Torres. It just goes to show that you should never let anything get in the way of your dreams. She may have only won a silver medal in these games, but to me, she's golden.
I'm so happy and proud that fellow Iowan, Shawn Johnson, won a gold medal tonight in the Beijing Olympics. I loved watching Shawn and Nastia Liukin in these games. It was nice to watch the two women rooting for each other. I was really touched by Shawn's parents reaction to her victory. I'm sure it was an overwhelming mix of joy and relief. The sacrifice made by the Olympians and their families is hard to fathom.
Now that the swimming and gymnastics are over, perhaps I can get some of my life back!
It was a beautiful summer day here in Iowa. I've been traveling a lot lately. While there are so many wonderful places to see in this country, I find none as beautiful as my own backyard. This is one of the many Barred Owls that lives in the woods near my house. When he first started hanging out on the downspout, he would fly away when I got too close. Now, he considers me for a bit before he closes his eyes and takes a nap. I guess he's decided that my weeding is of no threat to him. Having him here is such a privilege. Plus, I have to admit that I have much less of a problem with rabbits.
Hi everyone! My name is Cris and I'm new to the blogosphere. I've been wanting to do a blog for a long time, but haven't done it until now. The other day a good friend asked me "why do you think people blog?". I gave a quick answer, something about it being an outlet for creative thought, blah blah blah. The truth is, I'm not really sure why people blog. For me, I think it will be a way to reach out to people that I already know and connect with others that I don't yet. People's words and pictures can tell such a compelling story, don't you think?