Saturday, December 19, 2009

In Stitches

I have always had a lot of hobbies. I blame it on my mother. I grew up with a mother who could paint, sew, knit, crochet, and take amazing photographs. She has always been an incredibly creative person, and when you grow up in that environment it's hard not to pick up a few things. I alternate between being easily distracted (ooh, shiny!) and then becoming intensely focused on a single thing. If I try to juggle too many interests at once I end up with dozens of half finished projects and an endless pursuit of new things to do.

That's why I tend to let certain things fall by the wayside for a while. One of those things was sewing. As a kid, I had access to plenty of fabric scraps, needles, and thread. I'd make clothes for my barbie dolls, stitch together little pocket sized dolls, sachets, and other random projects (such as a patchwork cat with a zipper in its back). I taught my best friend how to sew, and we'd sit together and make things. I think she still has the lap quilt we made when we were about ten years old.

As I got older, sewing became one of those hobbies that got lost in favor of all the other things I liked to do. I was never great at it, but good enough for my little projects, so it wasn't a major skill I was neglecting.

I recently decided to dust off my sewing needles and give it another go. Partially through necessity, since my fiance seems to rip holes in nearly every article of clothing he owns, but also just for the fun of it. I know I will never be great at it. I don't have the time to devote to learning how to do anything beyond simple things, and frankly I probably should not be allowed near sewing machines. A big needle that moves rapidly up and down in close proximity to my fingers is a bad idea all around. If you doubt me on this, ask me how many times I've been to the hospital for stitches, or how many times I came awfully close to needing them. The answer would be "many", in case you were wondering.

I'm not overly ambitious with it. I know my limitations and am quite happy cobbling together the odd project here and there for my own amusement. I bought a bunch of felt and have been stitching up little christmas ornaments. I'm hardly turning out things that would land me on Project Runway, but something about making cheery little snowmen and mice is very satisfying. It reminds me of being a kid again, and my mom teaching me how to make my first crooked, overly large stitches while she was working on some project or another. My fiance just might come home and find all of his clothes patched with snowmen shaped patches.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Cost of Art

Price is often a hotly debated subject in the art community. People often have their own ideas about how things should be priced. Some people price too low. Others price too high. Then there are those who constantly worry about how to price their work, always fearing that they're either too high or too low. They don't want to scare away customers with high prices, but don't want to undersell themselves, either.

Then there are the customers (or potential customers) themselves. There are people who are willing to pay the asking price because they feel that hand made goods are well worth it. Then there are those who think that hand made goods are no better than the mass produced things they can pick up at any store. Worse are those who think that hand made things are worth even less than that.

The thing is, it's hard to know how to price your work. Especially when you're just starting out. Selling your work can be an intimidating process, especially with so many conflicting opinions on how it should be priced.

My take on it is this. It takes a lot of work to make many hand made things. Hours of work in many cases. Also, very few artists spring forth with full knowledge and perfect technique. For jewelry specifically, there's a lot that has to be learned and practiced. Some people take classes, which are expensive. Others buy magazines, or books, like I did. Then you have the supplies. All of those lovely sparkling little beads cost money. The tools cost money. Good tools are expensive. A single pair of Lindstrom pliers can cost over $40. That's for one tool. One single tool in a craft that uses dozens.

Now, if you were paying me for the cost of my supplies alone, for those things I specifically turn into jewelry, you would not be paying me very much at all. A12"x6" sheet of solid copper costs around $13 from most places. I can get over a dozen pendants and dangles from one sheet of copper. Leather cord costs me $8 for several yards, from which I can produce about 10 necklaces. Then you get into the etching supplies. $9 for a bottle of etchant. $5 for a bottle of stop-out resist. I can etch several things from one bottle of etchant, and a bottle of resist can yield hundreds. Beads vary in price, but typically a necklace will use only two or three beads from a single 15" strand that usually has at least a dozen beads on it.

So why do I charge what I do for a single necklace that doesn't cost me that much to make? It's because you are not paying me just for my supplies. You are paying me $50+ for a necklace because of the time it took me to prepare everything. I hand cut those copper sheets into smaller pieces. I file their edges, polish them, and then draw the pictures I want to etch onto them and then paint over those pictures with resist. It takes me about half an hour to prepare one small piece of copper to be etched. The etching process takes at least an hour, sometimes longer as the etchant gets older and is used more.

Cleaning the etched piece takes time, and is a hazard to myself. Etchant and resist are both toxic substances. Breathing in copper dust while filing the edges can be dangerous as well.

The etched pieces have to be polished and drilled and polished again. Then if I want to oxidize them, that's more time and another toxic substance. They get polished another time, then put into a rock tumbler (which costs around $80 for a decent quality one, and then another $20 for the stainless steel shot that goes in it, and $5 for a bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid that is also used for tumbling) for an hour or two. That is for one etched piece. One single etched piece of copper takes hours to make when you add it all together. We haven't even gotten into the rest of the necklace, yet.

The frame of the focal for the necklace has to be built. Copper wire ($13 for a 1lb roll of it) has to be cut, shaped, and then hammered (hammer and anvil, $23 for a good quality hammer and $15 for a small bench block anvil). The stones are wired into place. Individual pieces are wired together. I have to make sure the wrapping is smooth, tight, and even. Then comes the process of polishing and oxidizing and tumbling. I have to make the clasps. Then, when everything is ready, I cut the leather cord to length, put on the clasp, and wire the focal to the cord. One completed necklace.

Oh, but we're not done just yet. I have to photograph the necklace from multiple angles (with my $250 camera that eats batteries like candy, so I bought the more expensive rechargeable batteries and a charger for them). The pictures are saved to the large SD card ($30), and then uploaded to my computer. I have to crop the photos and re-size them. Then comes to the process of listing, in which I have to describe the piece, upload the photos, and then pay the listing fee.

Most of all, you're paying for my skill. It took me years of work, of practicing, of wear and tear on my hands and my tools to get to where I am today. It took buying books and doing research. My skill as a painter comes into play when I draw and then paint those little pictures on the copper. Have you ever taken a really good look at an artist's hands? Mine are often stained, the skin cracked and rough, my nails kept short as possible. There are lots of tiny scars on my fingertips. I always have some fresh cut or scab. I also have a hell of a grip thanks to handling the heavier gauges of wire. This is because I can do what you cannot, and that's take those toxic substances and copper sheet and pieces of wire and leather and strands of beads and turn them into something wearable, something that will last a lifetime or longer.

After it's all said and done, when someone buys one of my necklaces, they're buying something utterly unique. Even if I replicate a design I've done before (which I do not often do), it will not be exactly like the previous piece. The wire never bends the same way twice. Stones vary in pattern and color. An etched picture won't ever turn out the same if I do another one in that style.

If someone doesn't want to pay that much for a single necklace, that's fine. I can understand that. Everyone has priorities and what they'll spend money on and what they won't. It's just that so many artists hear the dreaded words "I can buy that from Wal-Mart for $10!" that it tends to become a sore spot in the community. No one likes having the work of their heart compared to something you could buy off of any store shelf for a low, low price. That is what the art community wants people to understand. It's not just the parts. It's the labor...and since art is often a labor of love, hearing your work declared to be worth so very little hurts so very much.

I will leave you all on that note, because I feel the need to go play a round of Dragon Age ($50) before retiring for the evening to cuddle with my fiance (priceless).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Origin of Art

When people find out I make jewelry, or see something I've made, they invariably end up asking me how I learned to do it, or what got me into it. Honestly, I have my mother to thank and to blame for my obsession with jewelry making. I remember always having beads when I was growing up. From the time I could put them on a string, I was making jewelry or sewing beads onto things.

It was always more of a hobby than anything, nothing I was especially serious about, but enjoyed doing. One day my mother came home with an issue of Bead and Button, handed it to me, and asked "Why don't you learn how to do that?" while indicating the beadwoven piece on the cover.

I had never tried my hand at beadweaving, and always considered it to be something beyond my abilities. I told her that I couldn't possibly do such a thing. My mother, never one to let me get away with saying "I can't", asked me why I couldn't.

Really, I had no answer. Obviously I did not know how to do intricate beadwork, but she'd just provided me with a magazine that had instructions on the basics. So what excuse did I have, except to try it? So I bought myself a pack of beading needles and some cheap seed beads from wal-mart. My first beadwoven piece was made with sewing thread. I didn't know how to weave the ends in, so little knots stuck out everywhere. It was too tightly woven in some places, and far too loose in others. The beads themselves were somewhat misshapen, so even where my tension was good, the beads made the piece ripple and pucker. It was an ugly thing, the little peyote purse I made, but I was so ridiculously proud of it.

I learned the basics, and then the more advanced techniques, and soon enough I could make any number of things. Then one day after flipping through an issue of Art Jewelry and wishing I could do the intricate wirework, I remembered that day when my mother brought home Bead and Button, and asked myself "Well, why not?"

I taught myself wirework through books and magazines, until eventually I knew enough to make things people would actually want to wear. Much as I loved beadwork with its hundreds of teensy sparkling beads and time consuming needlework, wirework called to me in a way that no other technique had. I was simply fascinated by the art of shaping the wire and hammering it flat, of joining pieces together and wrapping stones. I can't say that I'd have gone down this path were it not for the fact that my mother simply didn't let me shrug and say I couldn't do such a thing. Now every time I find myself wanting to learn something new, I don't hold back for fear that I won't be able to. Mom's voice is a constant in those situations, nudging me towards trying my hand at the various things that take my fancy. I'll admit that some didn't make it. Knitting, for example. I'll leave the knitting to other people, for I fear my talent does not stretch to that. But at least I tried it before I decided that it wasn't for me.

My mother gets a piece of jewelry every year for Christmas. I figure it's the least I can do, considering all that she has done for me. It's my modern day version of the crayon drawing hung carefully on the fridge, a tribute to my mommy, without whom I couldn't do half of the things I've learned.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roses are red

I've been bit by the yarn bug pretty hard this year. When the weather starts getting cooler I always have the urge to dust off my crochet hooks, buy some pretty yarn, and make a scarf of a hat.

This year I've started experimenting with pieces that can be worn almost like jewelry. I do like scarves and hats, but when I get into the office in the mornings I have to take them off. I wanted things I could wear all day without looking like I'd just come in from outside.

The nice thing about crochet is that is can be very sculptural while still looking soft and delicate. There are so many fancy stitches, but even the most basic ones look wonderfully textured and touchable.

I've made a few lariats so far. The one I'm working on right now is in shades of oatmeal and a lovely deep reddish-brown.

This is the second one I made: Photobucket

It's done in a very soft, slightly fuzzy yarn (Lion Brand Jiffy yarn). Narrow as the lariat is (it's about an inch and a half wide), it is also surprisingly warm. It can be worn a lot of different ways. As a belt, a scarf, looped several times around the neck or just once.

I've bought so much yarn these past few months that I'll be making a lot more. I'm also playing around with crocheted bangle bracelets and belts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

And in the end

Two months left to go in this year. I can't help but wonder where the time went, as I do every year when the trees are stripped bare and I find frost on my windshield in the morning. Spring and summer went by in a rush, and autumn is tiptoeing towards winter, promising snow and ice as it goes.

I forgot about daylight savings this morning until I stepped out my front door into sunlight. I'd grown used to driving to work in the dark, used to the reflection of streetlights and headlights on the pavement, used to rounding the curves on the hill and seeing the city lit up in the fog just ahead of me.

This morning was misty and cold, and my breath blew out in clouds as I scraped the frost off of my car. I could see the crows strutting in the front yard and every bare limbed tree let shreds of the rising sun peek through. Another year come and gone, and so much has happened, and yet it's like nothing has happened at all, or not enough.

I wonder if there will ever be a year where I feel its passing and think to myself "I'm sorry to see it go"? In a way, I always am, but it's not so much that the year itself was so wonderful, but more that it never lived up to what I had hoped, and now it's gone.

So I drove to work this morning in the sharp air, watching the leaves scuttle across my path and blow down the hillside, taking with them the last bits and pieces of October, the ghost of so many seasons past gone off to haunt someone else for a while.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Season Turning

Autumn has always been a tricky season, here. It is never the same from year to year. Sometimes it stays hotter for longer than it should (like the month of my sister's wedding, where we baked in 90+ degree weather at the end of September), sometimes colder, and sometimes, like that last bowl of porridge, the season is just right.

This year has been the colder variety. It has rained nearly every week, beating the leaves off the trees right as they're changing color. It has washed away all traces of summer and left us with a soggy mess in place of the warm days we still expected to have. It's an unwelcome reminder that winter is just around the corner and that soon everything will be hard and bare.

But no matter what our weather is like, every year for a few brief weeks there is a short vivid burst of life as the seasons swing from one to the next. On one of the rare sunny days we've had so far, I decided to take my camera and catch a few such beautiful things.

Asters are everywhere here. If left unchecked, they grow in huge clouds of purple and white flowers. This year they overtook our pasture and ringed our pond until you can't even see the water. Butterflies and bees love the flowers. I spent half an hour stalking butterflies through the asters, trying to sneak up on them without disturbing them.





My goat was tethered near the biggest bunch of asters, and he apparently disapproved of me paying so much attention to the butterflies, and so little attention to him.


The trees looked promising this season until the rain took its toll. They are rather less spectacular now, since most of them have been stripped of leaves save for the lowest branches.




Then I stumbled across the tiniest maple tree that was all decked out:


It was barely five inches high. I hope the little guy grows until eventually it becomes as big as the other maples in the yard.

A few years ago a huge old tree was ripped up by its roots during a bad storm. The crater its roots left behind turned into a small pond that is largely populated by frogs. I never can sneak up on the frogs. Unlike the butterflies, they always know I'm coming and before I even come into full view of the pond I hear little croaks of alarm and then splashing plops as they jump into the water.

I did get some pictures of the maple leaves floating in the pond, even if the frogs eluded me.



Last but not least, we have the true harbinger of the changing season. We always have a lot of crows around, but in autumn they become overwhelming. You can't step outside without hearing them cawing in the trees.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Attack of the Killer Squirrels

Living in a rural area means that we have a lot of critters of the small and fuzzy variety. Of course, we also have critters of the Big and Scary variety, but luckily I don't encounter those quite as often.

Ever since the ice storm I have noticed that all the fuzzy little things have moved closer to populated areas. I think a lot of hidey holes ended up being destroyed when so many trees and branches came down. I used to rarely see squirrels on our road. Rabbits, sure. Groundhogs were even a fairly common sight, as were chipmunks. But squirrels were like elusive little gray ghosts. You knew they were around somewhere, but you never really knew where.

This year has been different. They're everywhere this year. Every time I look out the window, or pull into my driveway, there are squirrels cavorting in my yard. They're digging in the ditches by the road and leaving piles of chewed up hickory nut husks everywhere. They went from being rarely seen to rarely not seen.

The thing about squirrels is that they're fearless. I don't know if this is because they're too stupid to know any better, or because they're simply brazen and don't care. Either way, I find myself having to drive like a stunt driver to avoid turning them into furry little splats in the road. Our road is very narrow and steep, so all of this swerving and slamming on brakes often takes its toll on my nerves.

I think they're aiming for me, though. I think they wait for me to pass and then radio ahead to other squirrels, so that my drive to and from home is fraught with kamikaze squirrels who launch themselves with great abandon towards the wheels of my car. Of course their frantic dashing is usually aimed towards snatching some acorn or other treasure from my path, lest it be crushed into useless powder before it can be stashed away. I halfway expect to see them clad in tiny helmets as they run crazily around in the road, tails whirling like windmills.

I guess it could be worse, though. Squirrel are just a part of living here, like the rabbits and the birds and the shirtless drunken country boys riding their horses down the road at 2:00 AM.

I just hope the squirrels and my car can survive each other.

Body Odd

I posted before about my annoyance with sweaters this season. It's nearly impossible to find a well made sweater that doesn't have elbow length or dolman sleeves this year. I ran into that problem again this past weekend, when I once more made a fruitless trip to look for winter clothes. The temperature has dropped like a stone here, and it's colder than usual for this time of year. We're usually not this chilly until mid November.

In addition to sweater shopping, I decided to look for slacks to wear to work, and a pair of nice leather gloves. Leather gloves are something I mean to get for myself every year, and then don't due to price or not finding a style I like, or not being able to find a pair that's not trimmed with rabbit fur. I can wear leather, but the feel of fur gives me the creeps. It's just too real feeling. It reminds me of my little hamsters and how soft their fur was. I don't want to feel like I've got their pelts around my wrists.

But my efforts to buy either of those things were met with frustration. See, I have an Odd Body. My waist is two sizes smaller than my rear, and my hips are a size in between. So slacks are a constant struggle for me. I own two pairs. That's it. I've owned two pairs for three years, because every year I go shopping for slacks, and every year I come away from the stores empty handed. If it fits one place on my body, it doesn't fit the rest of me. I could go up a size or two and then have them tailored to fit, but tailoring is so darned expensive that I find myself resisting the idea of it. This is the year I will probably give in and have it done.

When I was a teenager, and then into my early 20s, I was lacking in the hip and rear department. Clothing hung like a tent on me. I was frustrated when I outgrew the Juniors department and found that everything in Misses made me look like a kid playing dress-up. Once I got over age 25, got a desk job, and ran out of time to do all the active things I used to, I sprouted curves. But only on my lower half. Now I'm frustrated that all the things that hung like tents on me now squeeze me like a drunken relative at Christmas.

As far as gloves go, my hands are another issue. I have long, skinny fingers and wide palms. My wrists are scrawny things that make my hands look larger than they really are. Small gloves don't fit. Medium gloves almost fit. Large gloves? Too bunchy around my wrists and fingers. They fit the length of my fingers, but that's it.

So what exactly are my options? Knit gloves that stretch, but get soggy if I have to scrape my windshield or touch anything wet. Fingerless gloves that leave my fingers exposed, which is bad due to my joint problems since it makes my hands stiffen up and ache.

I guess my only option this year is to do what I did last year. Gloveless and wearing nothing but dresses with tights and boots. Which is a good look, but not one I want to do every single day at work. I need to find that magical place where they sell things for a woman with a size 2 waist and a size 6 ass. Hopefully this place will also carry sweaters with sleeves and leather gloves that fit my odd hands.

Until then, I will continue to search, and likely walk away frustrated about a body I shouldn't have to feel bad about. That is the only time I ever feel bad about myself, is when I've tried on a dozen things that don't fit and eventually give it up as a lost cause.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Off with her head

History has always been a passion of mine. The often dark and bloody history of England has been especially fascinating to me. My mother grew up in England and always supplied me with books about the kings and queens and battles there.

Of course everyone is into Henry VIII since Showtime started airing "The Tudors", which is now in its third season. Henry and the unfortunate Anne Boleyn were always extensively covered by in books both fictional and factual, and of course in movies. Now there are even more books coming out, which is good for those of us who love that period in history!

So out of boredom one night, after reading a book on his various wives and their often tragic endings, I decided to make an Anne Boleyn doll. I do not work off of patterns with crochet. It's all done freehand, since I have what can only be described as "the dumb" when it comes to reading crochet patterns. She is entirely of my own design.

Being as my sense of humor can be a little warped at times, I decided that she of course needed to be the headless version, with the classic black Xs for eyes.



I even recreated her famous "B" gold and pearl necklace using gold filled wire and seed pearls. The longer necklace is made with teensy faceted garnets and pearls. She stands about 5" high.

I'll have to take some better pictures of her dress. I only had a few minutes to take those yesterday, so her dress isn't arranged properly.

I brought her in to my office to show to a friend, and she pretty much went on a tour of the offices here. People kept coming and picking her up to show her to other people. I was afraid she'd go a-wandering and not come back eventually, so now she's safely on my desk at home where no one can bother her!

I do plan on making the rest of his wives at some point. It probably won't be until next month, though.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feast your eyes upon...

I made it on to craftgawker. go me!


of course that pin sold in between the time I submitted it and the time they approved it, but oh well! perhaps it will still drive some traffic to my etsy shop.

Hook, line, and sinker

Every year as the weather creeps closer and closer to winter, I get the urge to break out my crochet hook and make myself something warm and cozy. My ability to read crochet patterns is somewhat limited (in other words, the damned things make almost zero sense to me unless they're the kind with pretty little symbols instead of abbreviations), so my projects are never overly ambitious. I tend to stick to things that are fairly straightforward like afghans, scarves, shawls, or hats.

I'm nearly done with the wrap I've been working on. Realizing that the end was near, I started considering my next project. I decided on a mobius cowl that I can wear indoors without it looking too scarf-like. I bought the yarn for that, and then I bought more yarn. The "just because it's pretty" yarn that you buy when you have no real project in mind, but cannot resist its fluffy softness or nice color.

The funny thing that I've noticed is that most people don't seem to know the difference between knitting and crochet. I'll be sitting there working on a scarf and someone will come along and say "oooh! knitting!" well, no. I'm not knitting. I'm crocheting. Explaining it to people results in a blank stare like I've just revealed to them the secrets of the universe while speaking an alien tongue.

Of course, all of these projects make for lots of little scraps of yarn. I know most people use them for granny squares, but my granny squares aren't squares so much as they are mutant yarn monsters. I just can't seem to wrap my head (or my hook) around granny squares. They're one of the easiest things in the world, according to everyone who crochets. But mine always turn out looking like someone gave a ball of yarn to the world's most hyper kitten and said "here, see what you can do with this!"

Actually, the end result from a kitten attacking a ball of yarn would probably look better than my granny squares.

Oh well. Perhaps I will practice more until they look like proper granny squares and not something you'd see killing all the villagers with the power of worsted weight.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Here Comes Santa Clause

About two weeks ago I went to Macy's on a quest for new pillows. Our current ones are getting to that "too flat to be comfortable" stage, so I figured I'd check out the sales and see if they had anything that appealed to me.

They keep the housewares on the third floor at the Macy's here, so as I rode up the escalator, I found myself at eye level with something that I did not quite expect to see.

Christmas decorations. Directly across from the top of the escalator, Macy's had set up their Christmas department. Artificial trees festooned with blown glass ornaments glittered in the glow of a thousand little twinkly lights. Tinsel adorned the walls and the railings. I think if you went into the Christmas department and stood still for more than a minute, you'd sprout a fine patina of glitter like mold growing on bread.

I am of course all for Christmas. I like it well enough. I can be holly jolly and dreaming of a white christmas while I deck the halls. But it's not even October yet. Halloween hasn't come and gone. Thanksgiving has yet to pass. Isn't it a little too early for the dizzying displays of Christmas cheer? I need the time to enjoy the smell of pumpkin spice and cloves before they start trotting out the freshly cut pine and apple cinnamon scents in stores. Give me a little more time with my gargoyles and pumpkins and rubber bats before you start assaulting my senses with Santa's plump and cheerful visage.

That being said, I have started to keep an eye out for Christmas presents. I've already found something for my mother. But I still want to look around and see grinning jack-o-lanterns while I peruse the stores. Give me garlands of felted ghosts, or give me..well. Give me garlands of tinsel, apparently.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All in a day's work

This weekend was a busy one for me. I only work two saturdays a year, and this was the saturday that I had to go in. It was only for a few hours, but it still bit a chunk out of my day.

Once I got back from work, did all the usual things that needed doing, and settled in for the evening, I sat myself down in front of my anvil and worked on some new things. I've been making a lot of smaller shawl pins that are fairly quick and easy to make. I'd also been etching a lot of pendants over the course of the week, so I had to mix up some liver of sulfer so I could oxidize them.

By the time I was finished it was nearly 9:30 at night, and my fingers were stained with etching solution, resist, and the excess patina that I'd polished off the copper and silver when I was done oxidizing it.

This is one of the etched pieces I put together:


and some of the shawl pins:




and a pair of earrings:


I have about half a dozen more etched pieces waiting to be made into necklaces. I'll take care of those tomorrow after I get out of work. Ah, to be able to do this full time. But my regular job is what pays the bills, so keep it I must.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stormy weather

This week has been incredibly dreary. It started raining on Sunday, and it hasn't stopped since. Wet leaves have plastered everything outside, and muddy water is pouring from ditches and turning potholes into swimming pools for frogs.

This morning was thick with fog and flying leaves, rain battering everything into a sopping mess. I know eventually the sun will come back, but it seems like it never will.

I've been holed up inside making shawl pins and etching pieces of copper for pendants. I finally made a few shawl pins in sterling silver, since christmas is coming and I need to get more stock in my etsy store. I figure not everyone wants to wear copper.

Other than that, I've been crocheting my fingers to the bone. I have orders for three witch dolls, and I'm making myself a wrap to wear here at work, where they keep the air conditioner running until mid October. I think my hands simply can't stay still. They have to be busy with something, even when I'm watching TV. Crocheting is good for keeping them occupied without having to pay much attention to what it is I'm working on. The wrap I'm making is a deep burgundy color, done in an open V stitch. So far it's looking quite nice. I think I'll make myself a complimenting shawl pin, so I can keep it in place and advertise at the same time.

This week's weather is a reminder that the year is starting to wind down. I only have four dental appointments left until I'm done. Though it's not even officially Fall yet, I'm preparing myself for winter, hoping that this time there won't be another ice storm. I hope that autumn lingers this year. I want long golden days filled with brilliantly colored leaves before everything starts to turn brown and withered. Most of all right now, I want this soggy weather to stop.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In my etsy store right now:

The long and short of it

In anticipation of the cooler weather headed our way, I have been sweater shopping a few times already this month. Last year I waited until it got cold enough to need sweaters, and was unable to find anything even remotely nice in my size. I went through last winter with a few cheaply made pitiful sweaters that ended up bagging at the elbows and unraveling before the season was out. I should have probably splurged on some nice hand made ones, but alas, I simply wasn't thinking.

So this year I was determined that I would NOT be stuck with a few pathetic little scraps of yarn cobbled into sweater form. It would appear that this year, there's a terrible yarn shortage. Why would I think that? Because none of the sweaters have proper sleeves. Oh, I like the dolman sleeve. It's cute, if it's not overly huge. But I don't want every sweater in my wardrobe to be something I could take off in on a windy day. If the sweaters didn't have dolman sleeves, they lacked sleeves at all. Forget finding a cardigan. The only buttons to be seen were purely decorative ones on sleeves or shoulders. Nothing functional.

It's early in the season yet, so perhaps as the colder weather creeps closer they will suddenly discover sweaters with plain old long sleeves, that aren't huge and floppy, or elbow length, or embellished with buttons. A girl can dream, right?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Impressions

Yesterday was my second dentist appointment in as many days. Going to the dentist twice a month is bad enough. Going to the dentist twice in one week, two days in a row, is not exactly my idea of a wonderful time.

But I'm finally nearing the end of my dental work. This week they prepped me for the first of three crowns. That naturally involved cutting down the tooth, making a temporary crown, and taking the impression for the permanent one. It took my dentist three attempts to get an impression for the crown. My mouth just didn't want to cooperate. On the list of disgusting things I have personally experienced, the impression goo is probably number 3. It's like the bastard child of a bottle of mint pepto bismol and the pink ooze from Ghostbusters. It expands in a rather horrifying way and creeps its cold, gooey way towards the back of its unsuspecting victim's throat. When it's removed, it feels as though it's trying to take all of your teeth with it.

So now I have a temporary crown cemented to my tooth, and it's bothering me to no end. It feels like a hardened old piece of gum has been wrapped around my molar. I'm stuck with it for a week and a half. I can't stop worrying at it with my tongue. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. It's just so obviously there that I find myself poking at it constantly.

Now I just have to go through this two more times, and I'll be done. Done with a capital D. I don't know what I'll do with myself when I don't have to go to the dentist so much.

I wonder if they'll let me keep the temporary crowns so I can burn them when I'm finally finished?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Something Witchy This Way Comes...

In keeping with my earlier post about halloween, I decided to share some of my latest projects.

This is one of my small cemetery pendants: Photobucket

The Jack-O-Lantern, complete with bats: Photobucket

A two-piece cemetery necklace: Photobucket

One of the crocheted witch dolls: Photobucket

and a "witch-o-lantern" hair stick: Photobucket

My new bottle of etching solution is on its way, so I'll be able to make some more halloween jewelry when it gets here. I'm also working on a standing witch holding a broom, and a pumpkin patch of crocheted jack-o-lanterns. I'm selling the jewelry in my etsy store, but not the dolls. They don't fit with my other stuff, really, and I don't have the time to handle two shops and making stock for them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This Is Halloween

I know that it's a little early yet, but I'm feeling impatient for fall to get here. The stores have just started to get their halloween stock in, and it's a nice thing to see. Hobby Lobby is overflowing with garlands of silk leaves in autumn colors. Scarecrows sit beside pumpkins and black cats. TJ Maxx, which is perhaps my favorite store in the world, got their halloween goodies in a couple of weeks ago. Pumpkin spice candles are everywhere.

I love it when the season starts to edge its way into coolness. The mornings have been ever so slightly chilly here, though we've a few weeks to go before it truly starts to change. I want the colorful leaves and the crisp, apple-bite air.

In the spirit of the coming season, I've already started making halloween things. I've started etching copper more and more, and have created haunted graveyard scenes and grinning jack-o-lanterns surrounded by clouds of bats. I'm in the mood to crochet scarves with little pumpkin bobbles amongst the fringe. I've already started making my yearly coven of witch dolls.

This has been an unusual year so far with the weather. It's already cooler than normal, with more rain than we usually get. The fog has been thick every night. Our weatherman has been predicting a dire winter, as he does every year, but this might be the one year he's right.

But in the meantime, I'll continue to count down the days until fall is well and truly here, and I can decorate my desk at work with witches and jack-o-lanterns.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shades of Grey

Last night I took the time to sit down and draw a little. Painting was my first love, before I ever picked up a bead and put it on a string. I don't draw or paint very often anymore. It's just one of those things that fell by the wayside as I started working full time and moved in with my fiance. There are only so many hours in the day once I get home from work. I often pick jewelry making as my hobby of choice, since right now it's my only lucrative (well, sort of) one. I don't think I could ever sell my artwork, and honestly, I'm not sure I really want to.

Seeing as I was alone until 10:00 PM, once I'd made it home and finished all of the little daily things that needed doing, I turned off the TV, put in the latest VAST album, and settled in to sketch a little.

It was really enjoyable. I need to do it more often, really, instead of just pushing it aside as another thing I don't really have time for. I need to drag out my easel and my paints so I can get back into that as well. I usually only draw in charcoal, so my fingers quickly turned varying shades of black and grey, as did anything else I touched.

By the time I was finished, my fiance was home, and it was creeping up on my bedtime. The days where I could stay up past midnight are long gone, unfortunately. I'm not quite sure when that happened. Somewhere between starting a full-time job and turning 25, I think. It's like once I hit my mid 20s, the ability to stay up all night seeped out of me.

I think this week I'll pay a visit to the art supply store across the street from work and buy myself some more charcoal pencils, and maybe a new sketch pad. Time to make time for more of the things I love.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Monster Mash

This month the Palace Theatre is running all of the old classic monster movies. Every friday and saturday night they show a different one. Last weekend we went and saw The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula. This coming weekend it will be Frankenstein and The Mummy.

I do love spooky things. I always have, ever since I was a little girl. I would read every book on true ghost stories I could get my hands on. I watched every episode of Unsolved Mysteries just for the ghosts and aliens. I had a huge fascination with the undead, which eventually resulted in an odd fear of unfenced graveyards (my logic being that if the shambling undead arose from their graves, they wouldn't be able to climb fences or unlatch gates with their stiff and clumsy limbs). Actually, unfenced graveyards still give me the willies.

These days it's easy to be into the supernatural. You can't swing a stick in the bookstore without hitting ten books on zombies, or vampires, or ghosts (actually, I'm pretty sure you just plain can't swing a stick in a bookstore, being as the employees would probably frown upon it). There are fiction books. There are books about "true" encounters. There are joke books, and reference books, and historical books, and field guides on every kind of spook that lurked in your closet as a kid. There are movies and TV shows and t-shirts and posters everywhere. The vampire trend has kind of always been around, but now it's even bigger. Zombies tend to go in and out of style.

My library is expanding rapidly with the sort of books I used to have to hunt high and low for. The books that you could find every so often on the clearance table because no one else wanted them. Suddenly, I've gone from the chick with the weird book collection to having people ask me to recommend things to them. It's an odd feeling.

But I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Especially the monster movies.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

All books (and pants) half off.

I love books. I love books almost more than I love my fiance. I love books so much that if I lost my job, I'd stand by the roadside with a sign that proclaimed my willingness to work for books. I love books even more than I love my blood, which is saying a lot because if you'll remember, my blood is the best thing since sliced bread.

I also love bargains. Not as much as I love books, but it's a pretty close second. So as you can imagine, a bargain book is my main reason for living (but don't tell my fiance, since he thinks it's him, and don't tell my blood, because strictly speaking that IS the reason I'm living). Barnes and Noble is my bookstore of choice when it comes to a good selection of cheap books. I buy at least two huge boxes of books from their website every month.

They had a sale recently. Bargain books were an even better bargain. Books for $1.99, and if you were a B&N member (which it goes without saying that I am, but I'm saying it anyways...yes, yes I am) you got them for $1.76. I bought lots of books. LOTS of books. I bought so many books that when they arrived, the box was so big that I'm pretty sure the UPS woman cursed the day I discovered the clearance book section on their website. She may have even placed a pox upon my household.

So when I came home to discover the box that my fiance had managed to drag into the house, I ripped into it like a kid on christmas who knows that not only did Santa bring the coveted pony, but left a few dozen kittens along with it. I pulled my treasures out one by one. True crime. Historical fiction. Ghost stories. A few fantasy books. Oh, and a book written by a police officer on how to avoid getting tickets, purchased for my sister who just got pulled over and ticketed last week. Because I care. Actually, because I wanted to poke fun at her. But we'll pretend it's because I care.

But then...I pulled something else out of the box. It was a hardcover. It had a bright pink band around it. It also had a barely clothed woman sprawled across the cover. It was..a book on how to find a man, seduce him, and then..keep him by your side with excellent sexual techniques. Written by a former porn star, in fact. It had illustrations. Very..detailed illustrations. Anatomically correct illustrations. Beneath the hardcover was another book. A paperback, this time, which featured a shirtless man. A romance novel about one woman and three brothers. I did not order either of those books. They were not on the packing slip. I was not charged for them. Yet, there they were, nestled in with all of the nice shiny new books I had ordered. What is it, Barnes and Noble? Did you look at my purchases and figure I was a lonely person who needed a little nudge in the right direction? Are your customer service people raving perverts who have decided that this is a new perk to being a Barnes and Noble member?? Did you mistake the meaning behind the word "member" and figured that when I renewed my membership, that was what I really meant??

Of course, I really assume that there was a wee mix-up, and someone somewhere is eagerly awaiting their book with a ripply muscled man on the cover and a guide on how to get one of their very own, but what the heck am I to do with these books? Call them up and say "Uh, hey guys, I don't want your pervy sex manual or the romance novel that you also thoughtfully included, so please pay for me to send these back"?

My fiance, by the way, was unconvinced that I hadn't ordered those books until I showed him the packing slip. He's showing a little too much interest in the sex manual, and I'm fairly certain his intention is not to go pick up a man and show him a good time. I guess I'll e-mail their customer service department tomorrow and ask if they'd like to have their dirty books back. In the meantime, I need to keep him away from them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fly away home

Yesterday evening I received a somewhat frantic phone call from my mother. It seemed that a hummingbird had managed to get itself into her garage, and was flinging itself against the skylight. Mom had opened the door and tried to shoo it out, but it was intent on escaping through the clear plastic ceiling panel instead.

I only live a few miles away from her, so my fiance and I went down to her house to find her balanced on a chair in the middle of the garage, waving a broom at the hummingbird. She was trying to get it to land on the broom so she could lower it down to the door and set it free. By the time we got there, the bird was so exhausted that it had finally landed on the waving broom head.

She lowered the bird ever so slowly down to me, and I was able to pick it up off the broom and carry it outside. It sat in my cupped hand like it did things like that every day, utterly calm (though more likely too tired and battered to do much more).

I have never felt anything so fast as that bird's heartbeat. It pittered against my fingertips like a runaway train made in miniature. I wasn't quite sure what to do. The bird seemed content to just sit there, cradled in my palm, emerald feathers trembling in time to its racing heartbeat, eyes blinking open and shut like a sleepy child's.

Finally I found a safe place to put it, in a tiny swinging birdbath that Mom never kept filled. We watched it, anxious, afraid it had flung itself too hard against the ceiling and wouldn't survive. But a few minutes later its eyes popped open, and it hopped onto the edge of the bath, fluffing itself and fanning its wings, slow at first, then faster, even faster, becoming a blur in the twilight until it lifted and flew away.

I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of that bird's heartbeat in my hand.

Friday, July 3, 2009

As The Tumbler Turns

Right now my rock tumbler is happily humming away, churning 3 lbs of mixed steel shot and several copper pieces for hair sticks. I've taken advantage of my 3 day weekend by getting a good start on more stock for my etsy store. Sales picked up recently, and I've found that of all the things I make, the hair sticks always sell the best.

I like the work involved in making things. I love the bending of wire, hammering it, shaping it into swirls and elaborate designs. This batch is adorned with little creatures. Turtles, frogs, and butterflies are currently spinning round in my tumbler, caught in spirals of copper. Once they're done tumbling I'll pull them out, polish them up with some steel wool, and toss them back in for another 45 minutes.

It's more satisfying than any job I've ever had. There is a measure of satisfaction in my day job, my full time work in which I am a receptionist for a university. There are always problems to be sorted out, parents to diffuse, students to soothe (sometimes with limited success). But this work is the work of my heart, the thing I would give up just about any job for if I could afford to do so. No matter how good sales might be, I still have to do the daily nine to five (or in my case, 7:30 - 4:30) to pay the bills.

But as long as I can afford to do this, I'm content. I make enough off my jewelry for it to pay for itself and have a little extra left over. I make enough at my day job to pay my bills, put aside money for a house, and have enough left over for as many bargain books as I want (oh, Barnes and Noble, how I love you and your cheap, cheap clearance books). I am also lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive fiance who would stand by me even if I made nothing for all of my twiddling with wire.

So on this lovely sunny 3 day weekend with its unsually cool weather, I am happy to sit here and listen to my tumbler spin and know that inside it, I have things that someone, somewhere, will want to adorn themselves with. On Monday I will go back to my job, and perhaps grumble a bit at having to get up so very early, but right now I consider it to be worth it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

twinkle, twinkle

Summer has hit with a vengeance this year. The weather cannot seem to make up its mind. Either it's blisteringly hot and humid, or it's storming so badly that it turns the ditches into creeks and the creeks into rivers. The air conditioning in my office is not working properly, so we have been alternating between arctic temperatures that penguins would declare to be too cold, or we sit here and wilt like flowers in air that feels like it hasn't moved in 30 years.

Meanwhile, our local weatherman John Belsky is talking about how we're heading towards the worst winter ever. No one wants to hear that, Belsky. Keep it to yourself.

But along with the oppressive heat and the storms, all of the wonderful things about summer have arrived as well. Last night we were driving home at sunset, along the twisting hill roads that rise and fall and weave their way through the trees strong enough to survive the storms. The sky was full of swirling clouds whose undersides were lit with pink and gold. By the time we got home it was dusk, and the fireflies had started to come out. I love fireflies. Every year I look forward to the first night that I see them, and every year it's just as magical as it ever was.

Between the heat and the rain the nights have been thick and foggy here, and the fields are hazy and glittering by the time it reaches full dark. About that time the bats come out. Which is a good thing, because naturally this weather breeds mosquitos and horseflies and other undesireable biting things.

I love it all so much. The fog, the fireflies, the bats, the thick smell of honeysuckle in that humid heavy air, the frogs singing in the pond...I don't think I could ever leave it all behind for city life. It's become too much a part of my life by this point. As much as I dislike the heat, and as bad as the storms have become, I wouldn't give up our summers for anything.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Etsy seller feature: Serenity Art

Being part of the Etsy community, I'd like to share some of the wonderful shops that can be found there. The seller I'm featuring today offers some really beautiful fairy prints and paintings, along with tarot readings and astrological charts. Her art is pure fantasy: whimsical, magical, full of imagination and beauty. If you're a lover of fairies, I highly recommend her shop!

Her shop is here:

You can also check out her blog here:

Her blog is also fascinating, detailing how she works and showing her paintings as she works, adding details and changing features.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blood from a stone

Yesterday the Red Cross came to my place of employment for a blood drive. They come here a few times a year, and each year I think about donating and then never actually do it. I decided that this would be the time I finally would.

So I gathered up my rather small amount of courage, steeled myself against the idea of a GIANT NEEDLE going into my vein, and trotted down to the room they'd set up in. I passed the general screening and the iron test, so I went over to the row of cots and gave them my little info packet and collection of blood bags. The woman drawing blood took one look at my arm and told me she probably couldn't do anything with me. She smacked her fingers against my vein, made me squeeze a ball, pumped up the blood pressure cuff, and..nothing. My vein wouldn't rise. She tried the other arm, and..nothing. She called over another red cross person, who also tried to get my veins up. Nope. It wasn't working. Apparently my veins are so small that the giant needle would collapse them if they tried to use it on me. They shook their heads, told me they weren't comfortable even trying to get blood from me, and sent me on my way. So much for my good deed of the day.

Looking at my arms, I can't even see my veins through the skin. Last time I had blood drawn for a blood test, they had to stick me twice with the tiny butterfly needle before they could find the vein. I guess that should've been a clue that I wouldn't be the best candidate for giving blood.

Oh well. Now I know that any vampires looking for a late night snack will be sorely dissapointed if they try to suck my blood. Take that, Dracula. My tiny veins shall thwart your evil plot!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A murder of crows

Being out in the country, it is of course entirely natural and expected to see all sorts of critters roaming the area. There's a groundhog that lives in our back yard, and a fox that I see all the time down the road. Deer are everywhere, of course, and the usual suspects like racoons, possums, and so many rabbits that it's not uncommon to see about a dozen of them in the yard.

Then you've got the scaled, slithering, hopping and crawling things like frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, and skinks. We have an ample supply of bugs, too..which leads, naturally, to bats. Lots of bats. I like to sit on the porch in summer when dusk is just starting to fall and watch the bats swoop and dart overhead. That's perhaps my favorite thing in summer. The thick, heady, heavy nights where the fields burn with millions of fireflies, the air smells of honeysuckle and cut grass, and the bats turn into leather-winged acrobats just overhead. If one ignores the mosquitos, it's perfect.

But lately we have had an influx of crows. We have a small flock of chickens, and one day as I watched them scratch and peck in the front yard I realized that one of them was not, in fact, a chicken. It was a crow, mixed in with the flock just as comfy as could be, as though it belonged.

I don't mind crows. But the sheer number of them lately is a tad disturbing. Especially as they're everywhere. They sit low in the trees by the roadside and swoop out as cars pass by. I've so far avoided hitting one, but I've come pretty close. They gather on the wild grape vine we have and cackle at each other like a bunch of gossips. They apparently have infiltrated the chickens. Some mornings when I go outside there are so many in the trees that I feel like I'm stuck in some sort of Hitchcock movie. So far they haven't been a bother, but as all of those black beady eyes turn towards me and they shift and mutter on their perches, I can't help but feel as though they're plotting something.

But then, I'm probably just paranoid after the Thrush went after me the other week. Maybe all of these crows are hitmen hired by the thrush, and they're just waiting for me to accept them as a normal part of the landscape.

If anyone sees a report on the news about a woman in kentucky getting pecked to death by crows, inform the police that a thrush was behind it all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My current etsy selection:

Give in to the pretties. You know you want to.

Watch out for that tree..

Yesterday afternoon on my way home from the gym, I passed a rather unusual sight. I live on one of the hills that make up a rather deep valley. To get home, I have to drive a winding, curvy road that twists and turns and has sudden drop-offs that are, for the most part, protected by guardrail. It's a difficult road to drive if you don't know how to handle it, and a lot of people do not know how to handle it.

The first curve of the hill road is one of the worst. It's a sharp, sudden one, wrapping around a jut of rock that has always, to me, resembled a dinosaur head poking out of the hillside. The outer edge of the curve butts against a gravel driveway. As I came up on the curve, I noticed that our sheriff and several other officers were parked in the gravel driveway. Then I saw why. Suspended about 6 feet off the ground was a little red ford taurus. It was stuck firmly in a tree.

It would seem that the drive of the taurus took the curve too quickly, lost control, went airborne across the driveway and went off the side of the hill. Except there happened to be some trees in the way, which stopped the car from going over the side completely. There was no sign of the driver, so I'm assuming they're probably in a hospital somewhere. The sheriff and other officers were all standing around, looking at the car in the tree, obviously trying to figure out how in the holy heck they'd get it out of there.

They must have figured it out because it was gone by this morning.

I really need to remember to carry my camera with me. This particular road has been the source of many, many accidents caused by people who drive it too fast, or don't pay enough attention. Being a rural road, it is of course not uncommon to find escaped livestock wandering across it, or get stuck behind a farmer on a tractor. One of the oddest sights was a local riding a cooler that had somehow been converted into a scooter. But anyone who drives that road on a daily basis learns to look out for the unexpected. I have seen cars upside down in the ditches, cars gone sideways off a curve, cars rolled into trees, cars stuck in the creek at its bottom. Had I remembered my camera, I could now have a coffee table book full of the stupid accidents on this road. Just last week someone flipped their Blazer going too fast down the hill. It's a road you have to treat with respect, because you never know what's around the next loop or bend.

Were it not such a liability, I think they should have left the taurus stuck in the trees as a warning to everyone else. Maybe seeing that would slow people down a little, make them realize that whatever their destination is, and how much of a hurry they're in, it's not worth that much.

Monday, April 20, 2009

all knotted up

Tonight I feel slightly frustrated. After I finished physical therapy, I sat down and tried to make some jewelry. But after about a month of not making much of anything, my fingers were clumsy and refused to cooperate with me. Every little, delicate thing I tried to make ended up bigger than I wanted and badly formed. Finally I gave up after beating on a few pieces of copper sheet. That I can do. Whacking something with a hammer doesn't require one to be precise.

I've not washed my hands yet, so my fingers smell like a combination of latex from the resistance bands and pennies from the copper sheet. It reminds me of when I worked retail. At the end of the day, my fingertips would be black and stinking of old, dirty change. No matter how many times I washed them through out the day, within an hour they'd be filthy again. One reason why I rarely carry coins on me, now. I've seen just how nasty they can be.

I've been in physical therapy for nearly a month now. I like to ignore problems until they go away, which rarely works and usually makes things worse. I've been ignoring my painful joints since I was about 20 years old until I realized how weak I was becoming. So now I have to contort myself in various ways using latex bands and a squishy ball. The exercises range from the mundane to the ridiculous. All of them hurt like the dickens. As soon as I get used to the exercises, the physical therapist adds more reps and new things to do. I'm pretty sure she's in league with my dentist and they meet in secret each week to discuss new ways of torturing me.

But this friday marks the end of my weekly visits to her office. I get to go from once a week to once every 3 weeks, though still doing the cursed exercises every day at home. I know eventually it will all pay off. But as I curse and grunt and bend myself into each new position, it seems futile at times. Especially when I sit down and my hands won't even let me shape wire properly.

I guess I'll go wash the stink off of my hands and throw my pity party in bed. I have a date with two Tylenol PM and a cup of tea. My fiance will be home soon, and I'll get him to rub out all the knots, and the welt on my stomach from where one of the resistance bands slipped off the doorknob and snapped back into me. Hey, those suckers HURT when they do that.

Tomorrow I'll be feeling better. I'll just sit down again and make my hands listen to me, to the shape of the pliers against my palm, and the sharp gleam of the copper wire until something beautiful comes out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not quite the bluebird of happiness..

Yesterday I had yet another marathon dentist appointment. Three hours to remove an old filling and place the core and pins for a crown. By the time it was all over with I was puffy faced and numb on the entire left side of my jaw. My lips were cracked and I had the imprint of various dental implements stamped across my face. Not exactly my most charming moment, I must confess.

I left the dental school and wobbled my way through the parking lot on jelly legs, got into my car, and left the lot. Instead of change, the parking meter gave me a slip stating I was owed $4, with no instructions on how to actually get the money back. I then found my way to the interstate and battled downtown rush hour traffic that moved as sluggishly as I felt. It was nearly 6:00 PM by the time I finally got home. My face was still numb. Ever since my root canal, when the pulp of my tooth hadn't numbed despite a full course of anesthesia, they tend to overdo it with the drugs.

After cleaning myself up a bit and changing out of my work clothes, I went down to my mother's house to take the garbage down to the curb for her. While I was over there, she asked me to see if I could retrieve her dog's saddlebags from somewhere in the yard. Yes, saddlebags. She has a beagle whose main purpose in life is to escape the yard. So she puts a pair of dog-sized saddlebags on him so he can't wriggle out from the fence. Yesterday he apparently managed to slip free from them, though he had not actually escaped. We fixed his last exit hole and since then he hasn't managed to find a new one. But he still wears the saddlebags as a precaution.

So out into the yard I went, figuring the most likely spot was the last place he'd been getting out through. Sure enough, I could see them laying beside the fence. Naturally they were behind some small cedar trees, honeysuckle, and a large wild rose bush. I started to wedge myself through the various trees and bushes, and was just reaching for the saddlebags when I heard a very odd sort of noise.

Brr, brr brr.

It sounded slightly electrical, like short bursts on a small drill or something shorting out. The electric fence had been disconnected for years, and I couldn't imagine what else it might be. Then I heard some crackling in the biggest cedar tree, followed by angry chirping and more of the odd sounds. I slowly turned and found myself eye to beady eye with an extremely pissed off thrush. Apparently the bird had a nest in the cedar tree and was ready to defend it at any cost. But there I was, stuck in the middle of a bunch of bushes, fingertips trembling mere inches from the saddlebags. I ever so slowly grabbed the bags and started the painful (stupid rose bush) process of untangling myself from the vines and trees. The bird was not impressed by my slow retreat and decided to hurry me along by dive bombing me. So I'm trying to extract myself while also holding onto the saddlebags and fending off a brown blur of wings, beak, and claws all hell bent on my destruction. The air filled with chirps and yelling. My yelling was not especially helpful, especially considering that half my face was numb. So it went something like this:


"Thtop it, you thtupid bird! I don't want your eggth! Go away!"

Because birds, of course, can understand english and my pleading and cursing made perfect sense to it.

I finally managed to yank myself free from the undergrowth and beat a hasty retreat as the by now hopping mad bird watched me from its cedar tree. If birds had hands, I can only imagine it would've given me the finger as I left.

I went inside, gave my mom the saddlebags, and warned her not to go up there because a "thtupid thruth tried to kill me"

Mom, ever sympathetic, asked me if I'd encountered any "wascallay wabbits" while I was up there.

I went home that evening and picked bits of plants out of my hair, cleaned up the new scratches on my hands and leg, took the strongest painkillers I had (sadly, that was only tylenol extra strength), and didn't move from the bed for the rest of the night.

I'm not going into my mom's back yard for a while. Damned thrush probably has a price on my head.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Up to my knees in it

My mother has always been fond of animals. She takes in the ones that no one else wants. The strays, the dumped, the hard luck cases from the Humane Society..Beagles are her favorite when it comes to dogs. She has one particular beagle by the name of Bradley whose main purpose in life seems to be escaping her back yard. The yard it fully fenced, but he will always find a way out. She has tried everything, including fitting him with a set of saddlebags made especially for dogs (they made him too bulky to fit through or under or over the fence). Those worked until he figured out how to chew them off of himself.

Last week he got out of his saddlebags and escaped. Mom was frustrated, as he refuses to come when called and will only take off running if you approach him while he's out of the yard. He is perhaps the most stubborn dog I have ever met. No amount of training has broken him of it.

I tried catching him once, when I saw him digging up mole holes along the side of her fence. Unfortunately he saw me coming at the last second and took off running. Half an hour later, there he was again..nose in the mud, digging furiously. So intent was he on his task that he didn't notice me this time. I crept up behind him as quietly as I possibly could. Traffic on the road helped mask the sound of my feet on the neighbor's gravel driveway as I crept closer and closer, intent on my mud covered and still furiously digging target.

Right as my fingers brushed his collar, he whipped around and tried to take off again. I wasn't having it this time, though. Yelling an inarticulate war cry along the lines of "BradleyARRRRRGH!", I flung myself on him like a football player sacking the quarterback, landing with a rather squishy thump on the ground. Unfortunately for me, his choice digging spot was right beside a ditch lined with fallen tree branches. It had rained recently. I believe I've mentioned before that Kentucky turns into sticky, clay-filled mud around this time of year. So there I was, half laying, half kneeling on the ground with one knee in a ditch full of water, tree branches jabbing me in the rear end, and one arm around 30 lbs of squirming, muddy, angry beagle.

Naturally a lot of traffic was passing by, so I had plenty of witnesses to my highly professional display of dog catching.

I managed to extricate myself from ditch and branches and got him into the house before he had a chance to make a break for it again. Mom is now only taking him out on a leash until she can figure out a different way of keeping him inside the fence.

I had to wash my jeans twice to get all the mud stains out. Luckily for him, Bradley only had to be washed once. Nothing quite like Kentucky mud...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Crow, anyone?

Watch me prepare to eat my earlier words about the weather.

It snowed and iced some more, and on Tuesday evening the power went out. No big deal, I thought. We have a generator, and when our power goes out it's generally not out for more than a few hours at the most. When a bad wind storm ripped through the region last year, we were without power for 8 hours while a lot of people were out for 10 days.

The first day passed, and I became concerned. I cannot even remember when our power was out for an entire day. Then the second day passed with no power, and the salt trucks and snow plows did not come near our road. My mother and sister had also lost their electricity, and my fiance and I tried to get down to my mother's house to check on her. Our road was a disaster area. It was covered with ice and littered with fallen trees, shattered branches, and downed power lines. We had to turn back because our road is a dead end, and our only way out was blocked by power lines and a tangle of tree branches.

Thursday afternoon finally saw us able to leave our road. Neighbors with tractors had been pulling the debris off the road and moving the downed lines off to the side, because the road crews wouldn't come near our road. We bundled up in layer upon layer of clothing and made our way down to my mother's house. Her driveway was completely blocked by massive branches. It took hours to clear it. Massive limbs from a maple tree had ripped her fence to pieces, and I had to patch it with a spool of fencing wire. It had to be laced back together like an old boot.

The electric company wasn't able to tell us much, beyond "oh, you'll get your power back by the weekend." Except the weekend came and went and no one had been up to assess the damage, let alone attempt to fix it.

We finally got power back today. It's certainly been an experience...I know there are still several thousand people who will be without electricity for at least another week.

I did get some pictures in the 3 days I was stuck here.

Behold, the icicle as long as I am tall. I'm 5'5, so that should give a good idea of size.





Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Touche, John Belsky.

Here I am, at home. I should be at work. Should be, but it would appear Mr. Belsky was right for iced and snowed and sleeted and now my driveway is one long slick crunchy sheet of snow, and our road has not been salted nor plowed at all. So here I sit, trapped on this cursed hill for today and possibly tomorrow.

Living in the country has its advantages. Those advantages disappear once winter hits. If I lived even 2 miles away, I would have been able to get to work this morning. My road is off a state road, which they have scraped, sanded, salted, and plowed so that it's nice and easy to drive. Since I live on a steep, narrow, curving nightmare of a rural road they plow it whenever they feel like getting around to it. Which is not often.

I've already e-mailed pathetic messages to my co-workers, complete with pictures of my road (because I am paranoid that they don't believe me when I tell them how bad it is, seeing as they all live in the city where the roads are well maintained). I suppose I'll try to do something productive with my day, other than watch my Fiance play Dragon Ball Z all afternoon (if I hear "we are a mighty race. don't underestimate us!" one more time from the Wii, I'm going to snap).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Damn you, John Belsky.

Our friendly local weatherman John Belsky is warning of ice and snow tonight. The predictions started last week, and have turned from one or two inches of snow to six to eight inches of ice and snow. Naturally everyone at work is in a tizzy over it. It's as though once you get past a certain age, you are only allowed to discuss 4 subjects, with the weather being main subject #1. All day long everyone speculated about how much snow, if the roads would be bad, and compared stories from snow storms past. This is Kentucky. We don't get much in the way of snow anymore. Apparently there was a bad snow storm in the 70s, which of course I was not around for, not even being alive yet. I was here for the 20 inches that fell overnight in 1994. Our power was out for 3 days. There are few things worse than being a kid faced with thigh-high snow and not being able to play in it. Especially when you originally came from Florida, where 50 degrees is considered colder than weather has any right to be.

So here I am, talking about the weather, just like everyone else. My world seems to revolve around snow and dental work.

My fiance and I went to the grocery store tonight to do our usual weekly shopping. The store was a frenzy of people buying milk (the person behind us had 5 gallons), bread, and eggs. Why is it always those three things? Do people trapped by snow live on french toast until the world thaws out again?

I am convinced that John Belsky is actually in league with the grocery stores. He gets on the news and gives dire predictions of snow and ice and doom, and people rush out to the stores and stock up like radioactive waste is going to be falling from the sky and bread and gallons of milk are their last hope of survival. Usually we don't even end up getting anything, and everyone grumbles about how he's never right, but a few weeks later he's on the news again warning about snow and people race off to the grocery store to once more empty the shelves of dairy products and baked goods.

Oh well. Such is life...and maybe Belsky will actually be right and we'll get some snow. If we do, I'll be sure to have french toast. I'm pretty sure that's what I'm supposed to do.