Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My snow tree

So here it is, the one and only photo I have of my family's snowing Christmas tree.
From Christmas 1972. I was 12 when I took the picture. The kids in front of it are my sister and 2 brothers. Behind them you can see the cardboard snow collection basin. You can also sort of see the flat plastic bottom of the angel that deflected the snow downward. I wish you could see it snow! I'll have to bug my mom some day and see if she has a better picture!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

More Christmas Kitsch....

Not my current kitsch, but my favorite kitsch from my childhood. Super kitschy kitsch. When I was kid we had an honest to goodness SNOWING Christmas tree. I was seven when we moved from a tiny little cape cod in Huntington, New York, to new, big tri-level house in the Chicago suburbs. We put up our Christmas tree in out big lower level family, but since the living room and dining room was upstairs, my mom thought we needed some decoration upstairs too. So one year before Christmas we were out shopping, at a Marshal Fields outlet store I think, when my parents stumbled upon this bargain artificial tree that couldn't be resisted. A SNOWING artificial tree! The tree sat in this big octagonal cardboard basin what was assembled by connecting cardboard panels with wing nuts. At the base of the tree sat a small vacuum pump, which attached to a tube that ran alongside the trunk of the tree. The angel attached to tube. Into the basin you dumped a huge bagfull of tiny styrofoam balls. When you turned on the noisy pump it sucked up the stryofoam snow, shot it up the tube, where it hit the bottom of the angel then showered down upon the tree. The tree came with all the lights, and beautiful set of coordinated ornaments, all silky thread and glitter cord wrapped styrofoam, which was quite in vogue at the time. I think there were also fake plastic gingerbread men and candycanes and maybe some other sugar plum sort of things. All for, as I recall, $35.

My siblings and I thought it was the most wonderful, magnificent thing, and it certainly livened up the living room. We thought we were pretty special to have the only snowing christmas tree of anyone we knew. It was a pain to assemble the whole thing, and after a many years, and 2 states and houses later, my dad refused to have anything to do with putting up that %^$*#$ tree. So my sibs and I put it up, and eventually it was relegated to a spot in the basement rec room. I wonder what happened to that tree. Shortly after I moved to Utah, my parents moved to Florida,and I know they didn't take the tree with them. I've never thought to ask what became of the tree. Perhaps one of my sibs still has it, I'm not sure. I'm sure if it's around it's pretty shabby. I'd still love to see it again!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas class or kitsch?

So what kind of Christmas decorator are you? Are you a classy, sophisticated decorator? A trendy one? A cute one? A kitshy one? A schizophrenic mix of many types? I suppose that in many ways I am the latter. Deep in my heart I am a bit of a naturalist, I love natural decorations; greenery, pinecones, berries. But then there is the other side of me, the one that loves the glitz and sparkle, the side of me that likes to indulge in beautiful European glass Christmas ornaments. While I love my glass snowmen and Santa's, my favorite glass ornaments are the round or oblong or even fancier shaped ones that have those decorated depressions in the sides that remind me of kaleidoscopes.

Of course what I like is different from reality. As much as I would like my home festooned in natural greenery, greenery is expensive, and shelling out $55 for the tree an $15 for the door wreath pretty much taps out the greenery budget. The year I made a beautiful evergreen garland for my mantle it dried out so fast I was afraid it would start a fire. So much for greenery.

My tree has many ornaments, including all my beloved blown glass, many handmade ornaments, and the wonderful ornaments my kids made when they were very young. Then there are the weird ornaments that for the most part were gifts, that make me a little nuts. Like the pink and white Power Rangers ornaments. When my kids were small they loved the TV show the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. So one year for Christmas my mom-in-law gave the kids power ranger Christmas ornaments. I have to say they have never exactly been my favorites. Plastic superheros simply aren’t my vision for Christmas. So every year I would try to discretely position them so they weren’t so obvious. As we decorated the tree this year, my daughter said “You can’t move power rangers this year mom” as she purposely hung the pink power ranger front and center on the tree.

So this year I am stuck. But I guess it doesn’t really matter as those power rangers are now Christmas tradition. I’m now even kind of sentimental about them, as they remind me of my mom-in-law, who’s now gone. (But given my druthers I’d still put them more towards the back of the tree!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The curse gods...

Do suppose that there could possibly be some kind of curse god who hands out bizarre, random, lifelong curses to people?

The clutch on my husbands 18 month old Hyundai went out this week. If that isn’t bad enough, the dealership calls and says that the clutch and transmission were both bad (to the tune of $3600), and that it ‘s not covered by the warranty because of the “non standard” transmission parts they have found on out car. Huh???. We march down to the dealer where they point at areas in our torn apart car and say that part is wrong, it’s too big, look where someone drilled out this hole, look at this pin, the part color is even wrong…. blah, blah, blah. We of course are dumbfounded because we bought the car new from the dealer, have never had anything done to it other than oil changes and tires. I don’t think that our city has a weird band of thieves that go around replacing car parts in the middle of the night. And who in their right mine would buy a car with a 10,000 mile warranty and then take it to someone other than the dealer to have a major repair done? We rightfully so, pitch a fit, insisting that they should be fixing our car, and after getting pretty huffy and even mentioning the “L” word (lawyer) they finally agreed to cover the repair. I’m not sure they really believed us as they kept insisting they have never a seen a car like ours with those particular transmission parts. I hate feeling like someone is calling me dishonest, and of course we have no way to prove that we have not had some weird repair job done on our car. (How do you prove a non-event?) I was pretty cranky. Unfortunately they later called us and said they wouldn’t cover the clutch portion after all, because the clutch only has a 12,000 mile warranty. I guess that will be our argument with them tomorrow Did the weird transmission cause the clutch to fail prematurely?? Who wants a $1000 repair bill for Christmas? Argh!!

Now this brings me to the curse part. Does my husband have some kind of clutch curse? Is there some strange god up there dolling out curses and it is my husbands lot in life to get cars with lousy clutches? Flashback to ’85 when the clutch failed on his less than 2 year old Honda. We were heading to Park City to celebrate out 1st anniversary, and were 60 miles from our home when the clutch went out. We had it towed to a dealership in Salt Lake and they replaced the clutch, which was of course no longer under warranty. The clutch started slipping before we made it the 40 miles home. So we took it to the Ogden dealership, who repaired it a second time. That clutch repair lasted about 2 weeks longer than the 90 day warranty. At that point we said “screw the Honda dealers” and took it to Mort’s Transmissions, a local shop run by a couple of Iranian guys who mostly fixed Mercedes. Those guys could fix cars! That clutch job lasted quite a few years.. Eventually the clutch went out again, and since we’d moved to Salt Lake we took it to some local yocals for the repair. (We were fools, we should have had it towed 40 miles to our buddy Mort’s!) This time the clutch started slipping before the car made it the 6 miles home and we had to fight with shop to get it re-repaired. I think the clutch failed again after that. If my memory serves we has 5 clutch repairs in 150,000 miles.

By now you must be thinking whoa, these people must not know how to drive a stick. Rest assured that is not true. Some where along the line we were told that particular year Honda had a “weird” clutch design and this Hyundai thing is just plain weird, all I can assume is that a part got put on the wrong assembly line and some moron installed it anyway. So are we cursed? Or is my husband cursed? My little silver Dodge Shadow went over 120,000 miles without having any repairs to the clutch. But that was primarily my car, does this mean the clutch curse is really my husbands? Or does the curse only apply to cars beginning with an “H”? Or only to cars that are red? Will it be our lot in life to forever deal with problem clutches? Are other people plagued by weird curses like this? Or are we just some of the lucky few who get visited by the curse gods?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Beware of the Children

So... in the spirit of the season should I remove the "Beware of the Children" sign from my front door for Christmas? I think not. With my daughter being sort of crippled, we've had even more than the usual quota of kids hanging around so it seems like useful signage to me. She's managing to get around pretty well on her crutches, although her "good" leg and arms are now sore too. She actually walked a couple of blocks to her friend Allie's house on Friday. I was amazed she could make it that far on crutches. From there they wanted to go to another friends house that was even further away. At that point she was pretty tired and didn't think she could do it, but her friends, being the resourcefull kids they are, figured out a solution. They got Allie's little brother's red wagon out of the garage, put Sarah in it, wrapped her in a blanket and pulled her the couple blocks to their friends house. I would have loved to have had a picture of that!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


That’s the number of steps to get from the parking lot at my daughter’s school to her locker. She broke her foot Monday night and today was her first day back school. She’s going to have fun negotiating her way around on crutches this month. At least yesterday the weather warmed up, so the ice is no longer a problem. Since half her classes are outside in portable classrooms located in the parking lot, she’s going to betting a work out.

Monday night she and her friends were snowskating (picture a riding a skateboard with out wheels down a snow covered hill onto a metal rail) down our front yard hill. She jumped off the snowskate, but still had momentum, ran down the driveway, slipped and rammed her foot into a ridge in the road. Her friends helped her into the house, her brother called the clinic and made an appointment and I, quite luckily, I happened to come home from running errands after work, just in time to take her the doctor. The diagnosis: broken second and third metatarsals. I figure it is a bad sign when mom (me!) can actually read the xray.

Sarah was in considerable pain, so the nurse called in a prescription for lortab, and we headed to Smiths to pick it up on the way home. My question for the day is is "Does it really do any good to have a doctor call in a prescription?" Sure enough when we got to Smiths, not only was the convenient outside walk up window not conveniently open, but my prescription also wasn’t ready. It’s aggravating to have to wait when you know your kid is in pain. I stayed home from work on Tuesday, and Sarah, despite the lortab, was still having a lot of pain so I called the doctor’s office to ask for something stronger. Finally, after 2 pm when the doctor finally came in, they called and said she could have some percocet, the catch is I would have drive to the clinic and pick up a written prescription. So off I go, down to the clinic then back to Smiths, where I turn in the script and get told the typical “it will be 10 or 15 minutes”, so I go shop for a few minutes. When I go back to the counter they tell me there is a “problem” with the script and they have to call the clinic, so it will be a while longer. At this point I’m feeling really impatient - I just want to bring my daughter her new medication. So I sort of lean on the counter, looking impatient I’m sure, when suddenly the guy behind the counter tells my I have to “back off”, and that I can’t wait there and makes some comment, which I couldn’t hear, to a coworker. And then it occurs to me: they think I’m a freaking drug addict! So was there really a “problem” with my prescription, or was the “problem” the fact that was filling two painkiller scripts in less that 24 hours? I suspect that fact that I was wearing a baggy old t-shirt, sweat pants, and acting impatient didn’t help either.

So now I wonder, does everyone who goes to the pharmacy with a prescription for painkillers get looked at with suspicion? It must be awful to have a chronic pain problem and have to constantly feel like you must justify your purchase, or that people are looking at you with evil eyes because they think you are “that” kind of person.

.... my daughter figured she had to go up or down 30 flights of a dozen or so steps today...

...and along the lines of broken things... I played with my fusing glass while I was home with Sarah, unfortunately, this is what I found in my kiln Wednesday morning. I guess I rushed a step, oh well, live and learn!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Warm, fuzzy, flannel

Is there anything nicer than fresh new flannel? I'm sitting here wearing the new flannel pajamas I got for my birthday. They are so nice and fuzzy and soft and warm! Even better, they are red, and even better than that they are decorated with snowflakes. I love snowflakes. It is snowing out side right now.

One thing I have observed in all my winters living in Utah is that snowstorms come most frequently on Sunday nights/Monday mornings. It's a Murphy's Law sort of thing, we get the most snow on the day of the week where we least want it. Nobody wants to battle the snow on their first morning back to work after the weekend. It is also the day furthest from the weekend ski days, so the chance there will be powder left at the ski resorts is slim. Sometimes I think it would be fun to get a hold of the weather records for the last 20 years and do a statistical analysis to see if indeed Monday AM storms are most probable. Yeah, Yeah, I know I'm a geek!

Regarding those pesky Christmas lights, I actually found some White C-7 replacement bulbs. At Target. I bought the last 4 packages. They had plenty of colored C-7 bulbs, but no C-9 bulbs. After being lit for 4 nights now, more bulbs have blown, including a bunch of those C-9's. I guess I need to search for them now, as the only replacements I have at home are blue, and I seem to need every color but blue. And of course by now we blew a fuse in one of the strands. Luckily we had a spare, and even better, my son volunteered to replace it! Hopefully by Christmas I'll have all the lights in perfect working order. We do after all, have those neighborhood standards to uphold! Every year I joke that my goal is have one more light than my neighbor across the street. Unfortunately, I think she's outdone me this year, and I have promised myself that I need to stop the madness... no more new lights!

I finally got my slumping molds in the mail, and so I spent time this weekend slumping my fused tiles. I think I like my little sushi-oid dishes better when I grind a little more to square off the corners. It's all one big learning process, one that I've been enjoying!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Frickin', frackin' Christmas lights!

Last night was my night to put up my outdoor Christmas lights. I do love Christmas lights. I am not an “early” Christmas person. First I decorate the outside of my house, then the inside, and then, just a few days before Christmas, we set up our tree. I have a self-imposed deadline for my outside lights. My birthday is on the 8th, so my birthday present to myself is having my lights hung for my birthday. So last night was my light hanging night.

Last year my husband took down the Christmas lights. So instead of finding them in carefully bundled in the usual box, I found a mass of lights in a plastic trash bag. Eight tangled sets of lights. Can you say macrame? What a mess and a a test of my patience. The good thing is that the lights over-wintered well. There were relatively few broken or burned out bulbs and even better, I did not have to change one fuse. (Thank you baby Jesus, Amen!) The bad thing was that a number of the burned out bulbs where white, C-7 bulbs, which I have no replacements for. I am picky; I like my strands to display their colors in proper order. No willy–nilly bulb placement here. As it turns out, this is not the year to buy white C-7 bulbs. I ran to Smiths by my house, no white bulbs, so I went took my local shopping "loop", which puts me, at the furthest point from home, at the shopping area about 4 miles away. I stopped at Smiths, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Big Lots, Family Dollar, Home Depot, Shopko and K-Mart; nary a white bulb could be found, or for that matter, hardly any C-7 replacement bulbs at all. Perhaps if I expand my “loop” to Target or Walmart I’ll be able to find some.

This gets me to my peeve about Christmas and marketing. Every year the selection at the stores is different, making it difficult to find replacements to match my existing decorating scheme. Like I presume, most people’s, my decorating has been an evolutionary process. Perhaps because Christmas is a nostalgic time, I wanted multicolored C-9 strands, like my parents used when I was kid, to decorate my home. The year we bought our house C-7 bulbs (the smaller size) where in vogue and available, so that is what we bought to line our porch and wind around our Alberta spruce. A few year later I wanted more lights, so I could outline the garage and windows, but low and behold the stores only had C-9 lights, so now my house is decorated with a mix of sizes. Later we needed lights for the upstairs and they were different again, instead of being five color strands; red, orange, blue, green and white, they were four color strands; red, orange, blue and green. Every year the stores seem to offer up something different, sometimes it’s the bulb size that changes, some years the stores have mostly opaque bulbs, sometimes transparent ones, sometimes the stores stock multicolored sets, other years they have mostly single color sets. My favorite was the year that the store nearest my house had boxes and boxes of purple transparent C-7 light strands. Now how often do you see a house all decked out in Christmas purple???

The dearth of replacement bulbs found in the stores this year is more shocking than ever. Those of us that don’t like living in the “disposable world” want to be able to use our lights year after year. We want to be able to find replacement bulbs and fuses (yikes, don’t get me going on fuses!). We don’t want to feel like we’re being forced by the “marketing powers” to buy new decorations every year. I feel bad enough about the energy I use to power the lights, I don’t want to create landfill issues too! And I really don’t want to think about the energy I’ll be wasting driving all over town looking for those elusive white bulbs!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What a difference a year makes!

I my 3 + years of bead making one bead style I haven’t really spent much time working on is sculptural beads. I don’t know why I haven’t been drawn to work on sculptural pieces, but I haven’t, so I can count my sculptural attempts on my digits. To date I have made one extremely poor goddess for a web challenge back when I was working on my hot head torch (she’s in a bowl somewhere), the simple bird that graces my Canary Beads page, another similar bird for a “birdie” friend, and four simple fish that where gifted to kids. Maybe another thing or two I’ve long since forgotten. Around this time last Christmas I tried to make some snowmen. I like snow, so I like snowmen, so they were one sculptural type bead that I was actually interested in making. I failed dismally - either I over melted the glass and made blobs, or they cracked on the mandrel or in the kiln. I only tried a few, then got very frustrated and quit.
Fast forward to this year. The first snowfall gave me the itch to try snowmen again. And low and behold, I can actually do them now. What a difference a year makes. They aren’t all perfect, and I did loose a couple (not pictured!) to cracking, but I can actually make snowman now! It’s funny how these small things that makes me happy!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ski Season is here!

Yesterday I headed up to the slopes for the first time this season. I’m itching to try my new skis, but with only a 50 inch snow base I didn’t dare to bring them. I’m a creature of habit, I enjoy the old and familiar. I like my old, red, Pre M5a’s (hand made in Park City, Utah... or so they say); they had actually become a conversation piece when I rode the lift with strangers because they were so out of style. I’m also a bit frugal, and I hate to waste (visions of filled landfills depress me!), so I keep my gear forever. But last year the paint started coming off my skis in huge chunks which I took as a sign that I needed to replace my 10 year old “straight” skis for the modern, short, parabolic ones. Hopefully they’ll revolutionize (ha, ha) my skiing. Hopefully we will have a few storms soon so I can give them a try. Funny thing about those ski resorts, they can report a 50 inch base yet still have plenty of rocks on the runs. I’m sure they hide that snow measurement stake out in a drift in the middle of the woods. I only hit a couple of rocks, all in places I should have known to avoid, but I was following Matt, and I forget that I actually turn with my skis on the ground in places where he, well, flys. He jumps over everything. Everything he does on skis looks effortless, and he just plain looks cool. It sure makes me wish I’d learned to ski when I was 4!.

It was a lovely, blue skied and clear, but cold ski day. I did have one new piece of gear to try out- new goggles (Thank you TJ Maxx for h,aving $14.99 Bolle ski goggles this year!). It’s funny how in tune, and attached you get to your ski gear. It was nice to have pristine, non-scratched goggles for a change, but they are definitely a different shade of amber than my previous pair. I spent the day feeling like I was skiing in perpetual sunset. It was sort of an interesting, surreal feeling. I imagine I’ll get used it.

The extreme (for Utah) cold snap we have been having made for a slightly harrowing trip down the canyon. Ever have one of those days when you’re not sure what the road conditions are? Can you say "black ice”? The road was white from salt, yet had this slight sheen that made me suspect it could be slick, even thought we hadn’t had fresh snow in days. I kept commenting to Bob and Matt that I thought the road was slicker than it looked, but I just wasn’t sure. Matt, the 17 year old driver thought it looked fine - thank goodness he rides the bus to ski. I felt compelled to granny drive, and was sure I was ticking off the car behind me. That was until I we reached the first tight curve, where there was an SUV, minus its whole back end, slammed into the canyon wall. At the next curve, a van was down the embankment laying on its side in a parking lot. By now I was really granny driving, which was good thing because as we approached the next curve, one of those huge monster trucks came round the corner, and started skidding and then slid sideways straight toward us. Luckily I was able to pull off the road and stop, and even luckier the other driver regained control of his truck. I don’t ever recall such a slick day when there was no fresh snow. I guess that sometimes being a neurotic, old fart, granny driver really pays off. I’m sure hoping yesterday's drive was a good lesson for my son. It is sometimes scary having an (over?) confident teenage driver in the house.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I'm sad to report that the jewel encrusted cockroach has died. I'm not sure when, exacty, as my daughter didn't know, but she seems to think that some sort of leg infection did it in. Apparently the Black Chandelier people are going to replace it for free. (But can you really replace a beloved pet?)No word yet on funeral services.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fused Glass

Earlier this week I went to the Art Glass Guild of Utah’s annual show at Red Butte Gardens. The guild is mostly about fused glass or as they say, kiln formed glass, but it appears that they have begun to embrace lampworkers as well, as a few members do lampworking in addition to fusing, and at least one appears to primarily be a lampworker. One requirement of making glass beads is that they have to be annealed, so a kiln is a necessary piece of equipment for this hobby. The kiln is also a great gateway drug to a new discipline of glass art – fusing. So now I dabble in fusing too. I say dabble as I’m certainly still a beginner, and like all good hobbies there is definitely a learning curve, and a zillion different techniques to try. I’m still at the stage where I’m doing simple things, like the tile in the picture, which I am planning to slump into a sushi style mold.

After playing around with fusing this year I have a greatly heightened appreciation for what goes into the amazing work I saw at the show. This piece was one of my favorites. Not a favorite because I'm into the tribal shield theme, but because I was so awestruck by the workmanship. I’d love to know home many hours went in to it, cutting glass, stacking it and fusing to create pattern bars, assembling all the pattern bars and glass and frits to do the flat fusing, cold working to perfect the final shape, then successfully slumping the glass over what must be a homemade mold. Fusing a magnificent piece is a ton of work, and even my simple little projects are time consuming… cutting , cleaning, and gluing the glass pieces together. Fusing them in the kiln. Grinding the edges to make them all even, carefully cleaning those edges so they don’t look scummy (I hope) then fusing again to fire polish the edges. Slumping the tile into the mold will be yet another fusing step in the kiln.

There is no instant gratification with fusing. I run my kiln at night. Depending on what time I start, the kiln may or may not be cool enough for my to peek at the results in morning. And my kiln is small, I wonder how long a big kiln takes to cool off?!! Somedays it is so hard to keep from peeking before going to work. Then sitting at work all day wondering if I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I do get to open the kiln. Will there be bubbles, will the shape and colors be what I want? Playing with fusing has definitely been a lesson in patience