Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'll be looking everyday/I know I'm gonna find a way/Nothings gonna stop me now/I'll find a way somehow/I'll be searching everywhere

I've worked a lot with polymer clay in the last few years and have made quite a lot of jewelry with it; colorful, mostly inexpensive pieces using stamped images and some painting and glossing.

I also did some sculpting, mostly sticking to a basic shaped base topped with individually formed foliage and flowers and enhanced with gold or platinum powder (I love these but they didn't seem to be as popular -- I did price them quite a bit higher as they were way more work).

Because I am apparently not necessarily cut out for the mercenary merchant lifestyle, I seem unable to make myself keep churning out the things that sell, over and over (which is why I don't have any of type I sold the most). Once I've made something, I'm bored with doing it again. This is a really stupid way to do business, I know. I'm learning, I'm learning.

I became aware of precious metal clay a while ago, but I put off getting any. It's a little bit of an investment to get all the materials necessary, plus the clay itself is rather expensive, relatively anyway. Finally, after all this time away from working with clay (or most anything else, really) I decided I was ready for this stuff and requested a kit for my birthday. Yesterday I finally delved into it. After looking at a lot of items online and thinking hard about what I wanted to do as my first project, I came up with a mended broken heart design. Do you know anyone over the age of 18 who hasn't had a broken heart? I love heart imagery and use it a lot, though I try to take the sappiness out when I do and give something a bit of a harder edge.

Delving into the clay was daunting. It took me quite a bit to get up the nerve to unwrap the stuff and start using it. By all accounts I knew it was tricky to work with and dries out quite easily. You have to have a plan and move with it quickly. I was so nervous and anxious working with the medium that at one point I realized I actually had a roaring in my ears. On further thought, I was kind of pleased with that development -- I certainly was 100% engaged in the process. I completed the heart and put it aside to dry and decided to start on a ring for myself. For both pieces I pre-made a version using polymer clay, just so I could get a clear idea of what I wass doing and have a model to work off of. The PMC however, is such a different texture than the polymer clay that it was difficult to judge the amount needed for a given project. I fumbled a lot making the ring and by the time I got it on the mandrel to dry I was afraid I had ruined it.

In the meantime, the heart was dry and ready for the torch. At this point I was still dubious that this clay would turn into silver -- not just silver but 99.9% pure silver, more pure than sterling). I fired up the butane torch and watched as the dusty white piece heated up and glowed pale orange for three minutes. As soon as it was cool (and I burnt my fingertips a couple times trying to pick it up checking -- you heat it to 1200 degrees fahrenheit) I started scraping with the metal brush and, oh my gosh!, it was pure shiny silver underneath. It really is like magic, alchemy.

By the time I got the heart all cleaned off and polished to where I wanted it, the ring was dry enough to fire. Unfortunately, my lack of mad PMC skills, ensured that it was too thin and stuck to the mandrel; it came off in pieces. Since it was too late to save the clay, I went ahead and fired the shards. I can always use them to attached to other pieces in the future. It would have been a cool ring, but one must learn somehow. So, here are the results. The heart is kind of messy, in a cool way (I hope), and the mending is a little Frankenstein (I'm thinking black wire for future versions -- like real stitches!). I have no idea what I'll do with the shards, but they're pretty.

So, I'm off and running with PMC. Custom orders welcome!

What's in a name?/That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself.

Every day for the last week I've walked past the Blue Girl rosebush in my front yard and felt a little ashamed that I let it be taken over by morning glory vines -- it was bent horizontal. I didn't worry too much as I thought that since it was October the bush was done for the season anyway. And then I noticed a full bud shooting up and I kept my eye out. Even with the cold nights this last week, this bud burst into full, gorgeous bloom a few days ago and I was amazed at its beauty. It is actually the most beautiful bloom I had all year. The flowers on this bush tend to burst open then quickly become overblown and limp. If only I could embed some sort of smell-o-rama widget -- this rose has the most fragrant, intoxicating scent of any rose, maybe any flower (second only to the deliciously peppery freesia, in my book). In other words, best rose ever. I am a lazy, neglectful gardener and this bush comes back year after year (whether I remember to cut it back or not) and produces copious blooms each time. I haven't even mentioned the exquisite silvery blue lavender color which I fell in love with. If you're going to plant a rose, get this one.

Even though I woke up with a headache and am quite allergic to flowers, I couldn't help cutting this one and bringing it inside. It smells so good I keep pressing it to my nose, despite the fact that I begin sneezing. That's what Claritin is for anyway, right?

Because the rose made me think of it, today may be the day to dig out my copy of "Romeo and Juliet" for my annual reading.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And I was you and I was you/If they were me and I was you/Would you have liked a present too

Saturday was my birthday and it carried a number with it that I'm not particularly fond of repeating. It just sounds...old. Normally I'm not bothered with such things -- you're only as old as you feel, age is just a number, yada yada yada -- but this year is different for some reason. Perhaps it's just this period of transition that has me feeling a bit untethered. Anyway, I decided on a night at the Royale to celebrate. I thought of somewhere fancier, but upon reflection I realized that I (and my friends) feel at home at the Royale and what better place to relax and forget those two pesky numbers?

One quick photo to document the night and we were on our way. Steve and I met Dana there and Michael and Roy soon arrived. As a bonus, Joe and Gina Thebeau showed up (with late season homegrown tomatoes -- thanks!) and Mark Early was the DJ for the evening. Our waiter Cory was a hoot, the drinks were perfect, as always, the food was good and the firepit was a lovely thing.

Michael, looking heroic. Or something.

Joe, Gina and Mark, attacked by mysterious indoor fireworks.

And Mark has the most awesome Halloween costume -- he's a ghost!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I am gonna hang out in the park/Hang out after dark/I am gonna be with the gang tonight

Yesterday and today I watched the two parts of a movie series based on Russian novels by Sergei Lukyanenko, Night Watch and Day Watch (a third movie, to match the trilogy of novels, is possibly due out sometime in 2009). They are directed by Timur Bekmambetov in a style that suggests he made a few music videos in his day. While they don't really add anything to the vampire mythos, they are worth watching. There are some gorgeous sequences; my favorites all involve various characters going to walls and various other barriers in this weird, melty way. Thanks to my Scottish Correspondent for suggesting them.

Yesterday I also became reacquainted with Gregory's Girl, a lovely Scottish movie I had seen when it originally showed in the U.S. but hadn't watched since, a birthday gift from my Correspondent.

While viewing Day Watch today, I also drew and painted. I'm not very happy with my results. I'm thinking too much rather than just doing and I have to find a way to let myself go and just disconnect the critical part of my brain and work. There have to be some exercises that teach one to do that. I will do some research. So, here's the source material and the result.

I kind of hate this one. I'm determined to do something better tomorrow.

Influenced by Heather, I bought a gorgeous little pumpkin yesterday (for eating not carving). I came across a recipe for a roasted pumpkin salad so I decided to make my own version of it. I cubed the roasted pumpkin and mixed it with roasted onions and a coarse bulgar wheat which I dressed with a honey/rice wine dressing. I grilled a couple of pork chops in the George Forman, along with a red and a poblano pepper and dinner was done.

I still have a ton of pumpkin left and I think I'm going to again follow Heather's lead and make some sort of soup with it tomorrow. With Moroccan spices, peppers and garbanzo beans...maybe.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I can't tell one from another/Did I find you, or you find me?/There was a time Before we were born/If someone asks, this is where I'll be...

I'm plodding on in my drawing and painting endeavors. I think I need to go out with my camera and find different source material. Perhaps that is a job for tomorrow. At any rate, here's the latest.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If I look hard enough into the setting sun/My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

Let's talk of soup. I love soup. I would like to make soup for a living. If you have any ideas on how I could do that, please feel free to share. A really great soup can evolve from very humble ingredients -- the sum is greater than it's parts, as it were. I had a head of cabbage in the refrigerator that was crying out to be turned into something tasty and I knew I had some smoked ham hocks in the freezer that would combine nicely. Throw in sliced onion, cubed potatoes, spices, beans and bit of pork loin for good measure and I ended up with a big pot of golden hued goodness.

I'll leave you with what I consider to be the most imporant part of making soup: salt and season it well from the beginning; you can make it salty once it's done, but it will never taste as good as it could have been.

So, in addition to making soup (and brownies and bread), I got it into my head that I wanted to combine ink and watercolors and try my hand at some painting. Now, neither drawing nor painting are my thing -- that's not where my limited artistic talents lie -- but I just had a hankering. I decided to try a vague rendering of a photo I took with my mobile of a gorgeous pink, cloud streaked sky.

I couldn't find my proper watercolor pad so the paper I used wasn't the best for the purpose, but I was pretty happy with the results. I'm thinking I might try much smaller tableaus to be used on greeting cards...who knows. Inspiration and inclination often evade me as a pair, so we'll see.

I don't there's any painting in my future today, but I have high hopes for tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Be a star and fall down somewhere next to me/And make it past your color TV/This time will pass and with it will me/And all these pretty things

Is it wrong to celebrate beauty? I was perusing the Myspace pages of my niece Heidi and my great-niece Kyrie and I was just so taken with what beautiful women they've grown into. It seems so recent that teeny tiny Heidi was born two months prematurely; and could it really have been 18 years ago that Kyrie attended that Nine Inch Nails show with me, albeit in her mother's belly?

These two are so much more than pretty pictures and I expect great things in their future, but I just wanted to share these exquisite images. I can only hope they don't get mad at Aunt Cat for doing it. :)

When did that cute little kid get the perfect hair, makeup and bone structure?

We used to call Kyrie the alien baby with her giant eyes and pale pale skin and hair. And now she looks already famous.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cut beneath the surface screen of what we say and what we seem/Is a trick to be seen

I'm sitting here, putting off doing any real work (like crafty things, business things or putting together my radio show) and instead listening to Guy Garvey's Finest Hour on BBC 6. I suppose one could call this research of sorts, since I've generally been stealing at least one of Guy's selections for my own show each week. Guy is, of course, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands ever, Elbow. (Keep your fingers crossed for a US tour soon.) Honestly, though, I don't always like his musical choices much; our tastes don't always mesh. He is unfailingly, however, a lovely lovely man, giddily enthusiastic about the music he loves. He gushes over his weekly interviewees and confesses to often being star struck even though he's quite the star himself these days. And his Mancunian accent is dreamy. Let's have a photo, shall we?

It's been an interesting weekend. On Friday night it turned out I would be on my own as all my people had plans. For some reason I decided to, for only the second time in my life, go to a movie on my own. I chose La Fille Coupee en Deux, directed by Claude Chabrol. I enjoyed it; it made me think about some of my own motivations and desires and it put me in a melancholy mood, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

Saturday was a day of grocery shopping, cooking, planning, and delirious chatting. The hours flew by and before I knew, it was time to get ready to go out and meet Steve, Roy and Dana at Pi for drinks and pizza. I still have garlic on my breath, which is a good thing. It was a lovely evening full of talking and laughing and pinot grigio. See? I was having so much fun I couldn't be captured by a mere mobile camera. It appears as if I'm telling Dana something dubious, but I don't remember what it could have been.

Today I woke up before 6am to the sounds of grackles chittering, chattering and fussing non-stop in the backyard. I could tell I wasn't going back to sleep so I got up and took my coffee, the laptop and my Iain Banks novel (The Wasp Factory) out to the deck to enjoy the cool, sunny morning. The birds never shut up and it turns out they were battling with three squirrels over the bowl of dog food on the deck next door. I took this photo as the sun finally made it over the tall building at the end of the block. By happy coincidence, my Scottish Correspondent was also sitting outside, reading, laptop at the ready and we got to have a chat.

And now it's time to do some real work for my show and then get to making dinner: chicken breasts; and sauteed onions, tomatoes and squash over polenta.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And if I haver yeah I know I'm gonna be/I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you

Today was all about birdies and bridies. Today I was finally inspired to get out the wool and start needlefelting again. Actually, I wasn't inspired so much as goaded into being productive rather than just lazing another day away. While I think I still deserve some resting time, not everyone agrees with that. Perhaps I needed a fire lit under my ass.

I also came up with a new business idea, prompted by a conversation with my Scottish Correspondent. I'm not going to talk about that yet, though.

So birdies: I've sold every needlefelted bird I've ever made so I figured I would start with making some of them again. Actually, today I started with a multi-petal flower brooch, but I'm not really that happy with how it turned out. It's not how I envisioned it; I'll keep experimenting with that one. I'm happy, however, with the birds.

While looking up Scottish recipes, I came across something called Forfar Bridies. I wanted to make Forfar Bridies before I even know what a Forfar Bridie was. Thank goodness a bridie is nothing like, say, haggis (which also seemed a possibility until I actually read a recipe and found out it's made with beef heart -- no thank you -- I'd eat it, but I'm not cooking a beef heart), but is really just a fairly simply little meat turnover. I had also come across a recipe for champ, a name which doesn't really evoke anything, particularly not the fact that champ is basically mashed potatoes with onions in them. Traditionally I think it's supposed to be green onions, but I caramelized a vidalia and also added some regular and garlic chives to give it that nice green color accent. I used store bought pastry for the bridies but despite that they turned out really well. And they tasted amazing and looked really good.

These turned out a trifle more rustic looking than I'd like, but I'm generally happy.

Stayed tuned!

Monday, October 6, 2008

But I won't give you up/I won't let you down/and I won't leave you falling /if the moment ever comes

Today was my shot at seeing what Emotional Rescue could do during the fall membership drive. The results weren't very good. I made less than half my goal. Boo.

This afternoon, Steve made a trip to Ted Drewes and brought home concretes for both of us. Mine was hot fudge with extra malt; Steve went for peanut butter cup. Even though it's open nearly year round, an October trip to Ted's makes it definitely seem like an official end to summer.

Having had ice cream, basically, for lunch, I opted for salad for dinner. I tossed spinach, chopped apple, water chestnuts and croutons with poppyseed dressing then topped each with tuna and sliced hard-boiled eggs. A bottle of pinot grigio rounded things off. Or took the edge off. Or something like that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'll never let you go/If you promise not to fade away/Never fade away

Well, the first week of unemployment is done, under my belt. If we don't count the weekend, by day three I was an emotional wreck. OK, so the last days coincided with my PMS schedule and the first day of non-work coincided with my cycle. I have to take it into consideration that my moods could have been ruled by my hormones, at least partly. All I know is that I had a fabulous day on Monday. My show went smoothly; I thought it was great and somehow the most cohesive so far. The rest of the day was fantastic, with great conversations and affectionate chats with the people I care most about. I felt connected and energized and relieved to have the time to myself away from work.

On Tuesday, things seemed to change a little. I felt a little more anxious and suddenly no one was available to communicate with me. Perhaps I have child-like expectations, but if I have a great day, full of something wonderful, well then I want that something wonderful the next day too. And maybe the day after that. Of course, the world doesn't work that way and I immediately go into full-on self-pity, I-was-wrong-about-everything, everybody-hates-me mode. I'm not proud, but I am willing to admit I do it. It's unreasonable, it places ridiculous expectations where they shouldn't be and I have no doubt it's incredibly annoying to anyone in the path. It's a bad place to be for everyone involved. Then, a glitch in technology really threw me for a loop. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was a technological glitch and I fell headfirst down the rabbit hole of self pity.

This mess didn't really kick in full force until Wednesday. Suddenly it seemed like a lot of unfilled time loomed before me. And on top of everything, I had a bit of an existential crisis regarding what, exactly, I want to do with my life, going forward. Like I was going to decide that day. In retrospect, I see the ridiculousness of my panic and anxiety. Which makes it all the more dear that my friends didn't disregard but instead offered comfort and encouragement and patience. I'm not sure what I did to deserve such consideration, but I'm grateful.

God, when did I become such a handful? My apologies to everyone around me for my fits of paranoia, pity and anxiety. Yesterday Steve pointed out to me that "you've always been moody" when I was trying to place the blame of my "new" mood swings on impending hormonal changes. I wanted to argue; I tried to argue, but fuck, maybe he was right. He is right. It's probably stunningly obvious to anyone who knows me that this is true, but I was honestly gobsmacked by this revelation. I suppose I'm lucky that I have any friends or lovers. I'm a big pain in the ass. But on the flip side, my highs are pretty high (and, really, my moods fall on the positive side a high percentage of the time), I'm ridiculously passionate about those things and people whom I care about and I'm as obsessive about them as I want them to be about me. (Well, maybe everyone doesn't see that last as a positive, but I do.)

At any rate, the crisis was sorted by the end of the day Wednesday and I was feeling better about everything. Things seemed more...scheduled. Or something. I had lovely morning plans, I had afternoon plans to go shopping with Michael and a much brighter outlook overall. I still have no idea where I want to land, work-wise, but I'd rather not worry about that for the moment.

So let's get back to what I'm been cooking this week. On Wednesday morning I went shopping at the international grocery store in Kirkwood, mostly on a mission to find Kinder Eggs, prompted by TRex's taunting about the ones he had just gotten direct from the Netherlands. I was unsuccessful in that search, but I did manage to buy the makings of a nice stir fry. So, feeling so much better about life in general, I cubed the fried tofu, chopped bok choy, onions and celery and prepared the snow peas. I also bought a tub of gorgeous crystallized ginger and I chopped a bit of that to throw into the wok for the sauce I concocted of soy, rice vinegar, sugar and sriracha. Since I had waited until the last minute, as usual, to cook (hey time zones are a bitch when your correspondents don't live in your own), I threw the brown rice in the pressure cooker. I love brown rice and hate to eat the white stuff, but who has an hour to cook rice? I rarely plan ahead that far. The pressure cooker is an absolutely ideal cooking implement for brown rice -- in 20 minutes you have fluffy, perfect brown rice. And pressure cookers are cheap and not at all scary to use, once you get used to the method. They are also ideal, by the way, for cooking dried beans. I mean, who remembers to soak beans overnight? Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of the stir-fry, but it was bright and pretty. The pre-fried tofu was delicious and soaked up just enough of the sauce without getting squishy. Sometimes I think I could go back to being vegetarian. Sometimes. It does seem hopeless when the next day found me drooling over a packet of thick, raw sirloin.

On Thursday morning I wanted to make myself some crumpets from scratch, having never had them before. The batter was simply a runny yeast dough and the final result was a batch of a sort of a firm, less sweet pancake. They were good, but I had tons of batter left over but I didn't feel like making and saving the remainder. I decided to simply add more flour and let it rise all day. I finally managed to shape it into a loaf and popped it in the oven just before dinner. The result was kind of cute:

I had also bought a package of lavash at the international grocery, thinking it might be ideal for making flatbread pizza, so that became the basis for Thursday night's dinner. The individual flatbreads were quite larger than I had thought, but perfect for making one big pizza. I spread on sauce, coarsely chopped up a couple of portabello mushrooms, a Vidalia onion and some raw spinach and, as a tribute to Britain, sprinkled the top with corn before topping with mozzarella. [To explain, Steve and I had pizza in London years ago. It was mostly like the pizza we were used to except it came with corn and we opted for the fried egg in the middle as well. I have recreated that version a couple times, but does one really need an egg on a pizza? I'm all for the deliciousness of runny yolk, but perhaps it's overkill with pizza.] The lavash worked perfectly for pizza and I can't wait to make a couple more with the remaining sheets of bread. However, the resulting photograph is quite terrible (seriously terrible and inept) and I apologize.

Yesterday we had an appointment for Steve to get a haircut as soon as he was done with his show and we headed for the Paul Mitchell academy. One of the students there had been a regular customer of mine and she seemed like a sweet, talented girl and Steve was clamoring for a cut. I imagined he was just wanting a trim and I blithely sent him off with Suzi. Not thinking that this was a training facility I didn't realize I'd be waiting over an hour and a half for their return. When they finally emerged I was already so tired of waiting that the sight of his very short hair clammed me up immediately. I was rather shocked at my own rudeness when Suzi asked if I liked it and I curtly replied, "No." I backpedaled a little, explaining that the cut was fine but that I was shocked at the length. She had styled it in an odd way too. When we were riding the elevator down another customer who had overheard us at the counter asked how long his hair had been and I told him it had been nearly shoulder length and that now he looked like Alfalfa. I messes around with it at home, added some product and I'm getting used to it. I know I could conjure a great emo boy look but Steve won't let me and he's probably wise. Anyway, judge for yourself:

Last night we were left to our own devices and I really wanted to get out for at least a drink or two. Steve suggested steak and drink and off we went. I wore silver shoes and I wanted to take a picture of them. I've had these for a while, but I haven't worn them much but I still adore them.

That's probably enough for now. I've navel gazed enough for today.