Monday, January 26, 2009

New Years again...

Today is Chinese New Year...a good excuse for me to write an about my new year and to share the unusual way I started it. This is my interpretation/recollection of an interesting evening, so I may not have all my "facts" about the ceremony totally correct. The pictures are courtesy of Val's daughter.

Two of my neighbors have been studying Peruvian stype shamanisn, and on New years night hosted a despacho. My rather uneducated lay description of a despacho is a ceremony where you essentially make a package of gifts and blessings to offer to mother earth (Pachamama) as thanks or as a celebration, or to seek good fortune or cast away evil spirits.

We started the evening with a lovely dinner and wine, then headed downstairs to a big table where the the paper wrapper was laid out and surrounded by the offerings.

The purchased kit is layed out on the brown paper. Rancid llama fat is smelly!

The gifts include an assortment of plant materials; seeds and leaves and fresh flower petals, sea shells and starfish, items that represent animal life, such as animal crackers and gummi bears and stickers, things that represent the earth like soil, and items that represent the heavens like rainbow strings and cotton clouds and stars. Kits can actually by purchased that contain appropriate offerings. My friends had quite a variety of items in addition to the kit which contained a few rare (for us) items like peruvian soil and llama fat and placenta. We were all invited to bring our own offerings as well.

Patty blowing smoke.

With these items we created a mandala on the paper. There was of course an order to the laying of the gifts, and their orientation and layers, all dictated to us by my friends, the shaman in training. We all sipped from a glass of wine, which was then offered to the god, my friends blew (organic) tobbacco smoke onto the pile (which seemed odd as neither of them smoke), and we all took a turn blowing a mist of Florida water over the offerings. The wine and the smoke and the Florida water where all things that the gods "like". The water was interesting as it was a more or less an alcohol (strong) extract of flowers. It wasn't meant to be swallowed, but taken into the mouth then misted over the package. I think fire water would have been a better name! More important than all the actual items were our intentions as we mantthe offerings.

The package was neatly tied up, bundled in a cloth and we took turns passed the package over each other. I think this was supposed to balance or release personal energy. I was rather surprised by the odd sensation I felt as the package was passed over me.

Val and Patti, our shaman.

After this was done we moved outside where we had a bondfire and burned the despacho, offering all of our intentions to the spirits. There was ceremony to this as well, incense oriented to the 4 coordinants, more smoke and Florida water. We watched the fire until our despacho we incinerated, looking for glimpses of the various items in the smoldering embers.

While I'm not sure I necessarily believe in this sort of mystisism, it was a very interesting way to bring in the new year. Learning the believes of other cultures is always fascinating. Besides, how can you go wrong with a ceremony that is all about thankfullness and good intentions?

The despacho burns... see the starfish?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dancing With Coincidence

I had a little e-chat with an on-line friend last week. I can't remember why exactly, but we were talking about dancing. I told him that I'm lousy dancer, that I swear that I'm rhythmically impaired and that admitedly, I'm kind of dance phobic, but that the one kind of dancing I do really like is square dancing, because someone else tells me what to do. I hope my new friend didn't think it was too weird that I like square dancing. I'll be the first to admit that there's not too much "cool, hip factor" in that. Also, not much opportunity either, I don't think I'd square danced in about 20 years.

Fast forward a few days. One of the guys in the lab invites me to ... guess what?... a square dance! His wife plays the banjo and started playing with a band started by the husband of another biology person. The Bueno Avenue String Band. This guy is a woodworker and has his shop in a warehousey sort of place across town. Once a month he's been clearing a space in the middle of the studio and hosting a dance, square dance caller and all. So, last night was my first ho-down in a long, long long time. It was a great fun! I felt a little silly, because, as often seems to happen in my life, agewise, I was probably a little out of place, but the 20 somethings let me join right in. I feel really lucky that my student friends let me come play with them. I'm looking forward to next months dance. Yee-ha!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inversion Time...

The weather outside is frightful.... well, maybe not the weather itself, but the thick pollution that mires the valley due to the high pressure weather pattern is really frightful. Health advisory frightful. This is the one bad thing about living in Salt Lake Valley.

So, with dreary in the air, why not focus on the positive... indoors. One of the perks of working in a biology building is having a green house on the roof. Here and there throughout the public areas of the department there are big planters filled with houseplants. Mostly your "standard" sort of houseplants, except when something interesting flowers in the greenhouse and our greenhouse manager puts them out in the planters, like this planter with not one, put two beautiful orchids! How positively beautiful!!!!! A real treat for this girl who studied botany in college!

The ugly air downtown today...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today's Adventure...

My girlfriend, her daughter and a friend and I went on a fun adventure today. We headed up to Farmington Bay to look for bald eagles, which should be starting to migrate through en-mass. We're having a pretty nasty temperature inversion (pea soup level pollution - ugh) right now, but all that fog made beautiful ice crystals everywhere. It was beautiful despite the pollution and fact that we only saw one eagle. I took my good camera and borrowed my daughters new fisheye lens(my Christmas present to her), and quite by accident got some really neat shots... the accident was a wrong camera setting. I completely forgot to change the light setting from tungten (which I use for my bead pictures) to daylight, so all my pictures, except where I used the macro setting, came out in hues of blue. Pretty blues, which really worked with all the ice. Maybe not "realistic" but pretty cool. Of course when everything is already distorted from the fish eye effect, a little color alteration seems acceptable. The fisheye lens is fun to play with... I'm starting to wish I had one too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's Done!

As you can see, I did it. Finally. It did take a few days to get up the motivation. I did tell you I had the lazy girl blues didn't I? What you see here is the end of Christmas. The last of my Christmas tree the rest is chopped to bits and put in a box. Yeah, that's my weird way of disposing of the. Put away all the lights and decoration, then cut off all the branches, and put them in a box. The box goes out in the garage, and the branches eventually become kindling for my fire place. The tree trunk goes out in the backyard, and some day in the summer when I'm feeling motivated I'll cut it up for firewood. Pretty efficient huh? Maybe I'm not that unmotivated after all.

It's nice to reclaim all that space in my living room, and it's amazing how much more light streams through the window without the tree standing in the way. But, the thing I really miss, is the smell. The aroma of the tree has been downright intoxicating this last month, it's one of my favorite aspects of Christmas.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Motivate me!!!!

Somebody, please? I really need some motivation. Is this the January blues? Post holiday blues? Kids are back in school blues? Or is it just the "I need to take down my Christmas tree and decorations" blues? I think I'm betting on the last. Why is putting up decorations fun and exciting, but putting them all away such a huge chore? All week I've been telling myself it needs to get done, and have succeeded at procrastinating all week. Procrastinating is a very special skill I have. So will tonight be the night? Guess I'll decide later.

It would certainly be good to get it done tonight, so I don't have to waste a perfectly good three day weekend doing chores. I used to think it was silly to have a holiday so soon after the holidays. But now I feel like I need a holiday to recover from my holiday!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cake Update....

A short update to the tale of too many birthday cakes at my home this weekend. Yesterday afternoon Sarah and I went off to run a short errand. When I returned a spied a large piece of fool on the floor. I'm sure I didn't leave it there! On the counter stood the well bitten remains of the rasta cake. It appears Daisy put her paws up on the counter and bit off as much as her furry muzzle could reach. Fortunately, the chocolate layer cake I made was still safe under the metal cake lid, and she hadn't yet made her way to the other foil covered confection. Tragic yes, I for one and glad to have less cake in the house. I'm hoping Sarah and her friends finish off the others today at lunch.

And that Daisy dog of mine... I'm always amazed at the look of sheer embarassment and guilt she has as she lowers her head in shame when I exclaim "Daisy! What did you do?" Guilt, on one hand yes, but on the other I can't help but wonder if she spent the last two days impatiently wondering: "When, oh when, will both of them leave so I can have a snack?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Sarah!

I was in the kitchen Friday night when I heard kids come in the door. I thought it was Sarah and her friend, but instead it was four of her other girlfriends, who came to deliver a surprise birthday cake. (Saturday was Sarah's 17th birthday). One of them called Sarah who told them she was almost home, and as she pulled in the driveway they ran back to the kitchen, giggling as they turned off lights and start lighting candles. Sarah walked in the door, and exclaimed "Where's Ann?" (Ann's car was in the driveway). The girls all pop out and present Sarah with the triple layer Rasta colored birthday cake they made her. The room was full of giggles and laughter and hugs and I was thrilled to be there to share in the merriment. There isn't much that's nicer that a kitchen full of happy teenagers. I'm a lucky mom!

On Saturday a second cake arrived, courtesy of two other friends. I had planned to make Sarah a cake, her favorite chocolate cake that I make every year for her birthday. I thought two cakes might be sufficient so I asked if she still wanted her chocolate cake. She grinned and said "Yes!", and said she'd "spent the whole week looking forward to her chocolate cake". So I wasn't off the hook after all, and by Saturday night not one but three birthday cakes adorned my kitchen counters. I guess my daughters a lucky girl! I guess that's what birthdays are all about!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The News...

So where do you get your news from?
I don't watch much TV news, other than sometines turning on the Today show in the morning while getting dressed. In the car I'm an NPR junkie. And then there's the internet. My number one place for catching up with what's going on in the world has to be the Lampwork Etc. forum. If there's a natural disaster, tragedy, recall, happy story, news of the weird... you name it... chances are someone on the forum will have heard the story and will post a link before I ever hear about it through the real news sources. Yesterday for instance, someone posted about the family that didn't report their kid missing for 10 years . Another person posted about the ski lift incident that left some poor man dangling half naked from the chair lift. Sure enough, I learned of these stories last night through my bead forum friends, and this morning both stories were the Today show.

The lampwork forum may be an unusual way to get the news, and you may laugh at me for considering it a "news source" but it is suprisingly efficient!

Another place for "news", one I should remember to read more often is The Onion. One of my new years resolutions was to remember to read The Onion more regularly. So yesterday I logged on and found that one of their daily must have been written about me (or woman like me):

Online dating for Women.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Even the snowmen have been partying ...

This is what you get when the college age kids decide to make a snowman. I love having a snowman in the yard, even if he is a drunk.

I actually took a walk on the wild side and had a New Years Party this year. I'm not usually a big fan of New Years parties, but one of my "lab babies", (a girl who spent over 4 years working in my lab and is now off at grad school) was back in town and wanted someone to have a party, so I said "what the heck" and volunteered. So I had nice little party with my friends, neighbors and the folks from the lab. My kids and their friends wandered in and out, mostly to raid the chili pot before going off to their own parties.

Have you ever noticed how people congregate at parties? I don't really have a great party house. My house only has small rooms. A small living room and tiny den which are kind of connected by small dining room. I never think my living room is really big enough for a party, especially when there's a huge Christmas tree in it. The funny thing is that while I lament the size small size of my living room, when ever I have party it's hardly used. My New Years eve bash was no exception. Every one sat around the dining room table, or hung out in the kitchen (which is also small), and for a while a group stood in the hallway area between the loveseat and the stairs. Not once all night did anyone go in and sit on my couches... I guess I don't really need to worry about my house being to small for a party. When friends gather no space is too small!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!

Do you suppose Daisy and Oreo made a New Years resolution this year? One that said "I will be better friends with my 4 legged sibling!" They normally get along fine. Daisy is not a cat chaser and she's not exactly a alpha dog, so she leaves Oreo alone. Even so, every once in a while Oreo walks up to Daisy and gives her a random swat. I suppose he does that just to reinforce that he was here first and that is the "boss". While they have really gotten along great for seven years, they have never really been playful or cuddly together.

So I was actually surprised when I walked into the living room this afternoon that where both sleeping together on the couch. Definitely a rare sight. When I walked up with the camera Daisy's tail started wagging, alternatively thumping on the couch and Oreo's face. Oreo just sat there and smiled. I wonder if their resolution was to be nicer to each other this year!