Monday, September 29, 2008

Whole Lotta Linky Lovin' Goin' On

Tomorrow is a big day for me professionally -- I'll be going to my out of town customer for the first time ALL ALONE.

As I prep for that today, I'll give you some great links to click.

My twitter-pal Nordink's birthday is today. His web site is all about entertaining the short people in your life. Fun stuff -- check it out!

Ever wondered how much of a given caffeinated drink it would take to kill you? Yes, of course, someone calculated it and webbified it.

These are the coolest skins for the iPod (or laptop or phone) I think I've seen. It's carry-able art. I haven't ordered one. Yet.

Have you heard of the six-word epitaph? That's what the one-sentence story site reminded me of. Or maybe a cross between that and twitter.

Seriously, if I hadn't already chosen Blogger as my platform, if I were starting now, I would so choose WordPress. I've read a ton about their plug-ins recently (from my twitter pal relocatedyank). And here's a fantastic story about how WP changed someone's life.

If you're looking for an unusual gift this Christmas season, check out this story (there's an Etsy link there -- interesting stuff).

Last but certainly not least, check out this post from Carlos Whittaker for an amazing example of transparency. Putting that out there took real guts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Welcome to My Rut

So if you read my blog (welcome, all two of you!), you have probably noticed I haven't posted in a while.

I am officially in a rut. Nothing to say.

Everything I have to say either gets said on twitter or on my other blogging gig.

How did this happen? Would I even have a blog if twitter had come first? I just don't know.

I could tell you about how I got stopped for a speeding ticket on my way home from getting my driving record to dismiss a speeding ticket, but y'all might think I go racing around in my sports car if I tell you that. And I gotta tell you, my last ticket was in 2004, y'all. I don't know what this is. I know I drive a sports car, and I drive it carefully. These are the first tickets I've had since I bought my car three years ago. It makes me sad.

I could tell you about how my brain is so completely gone that I forgot to send the one required work email that I'm responsible for this week. (I'm setting an alarm in Outlook to prevent any recurrences of this particular stupidity.) I have an important work meeting on Tuesday, and I need my brain back by then. Please come back, brain!

I could tell you about how Son the Older is home from college this weekend for the second time, and how he doesn't bring dirty laundry home. I have no idea what's up with that. (Actually I do; he leaves before he can park close to his dorm, and he doesn't want to carry the laundry to the car.)

I could tell you about how it may be possible that I'll be happier than Son the Younger when he gets his license, because OH MY GOSH am I ever tired of "Can you pick me up?" calls. Except that the thought of him behind the wheel scares me.

So, see? Nothing to say.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm So Excited, and I Just Can't Hide It

Now, I'm a fairly low-key kinda girl. My voice is low-pitched.

But today I SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALED so loud in excitement that I hurt my poor hubby's ears. Why, you might wonder?

Because this loveliness was in my mailbox.

It may look like just a triangular box and a tube, but when you unpack it, then you find THIS!

You're still not excited, are you?

Apparently I got some 'splainin' to do.

These, my friends, are glass rods. Well, except for the shiny thing in the middle, which is dichroic glass. What you're looking at in that picture, believe it or not, is about $120 worth of glass.

Yes, I am aware I'm completely insane. And that my husband loves me too much for words. These types of glass are ones I've never indulged in before -- far more expensive than anything I've ever bought. They are so-called silver glasses, meaning that there is silver in the glass that shows up depending on how you work it. It's fancy stuff, m'friends, and I'm just about shaking to get on my torch as I type.

But first I'll show you what I made with the bead sets I posted earlier.

First is the set I made with the raku frit beads. Several of those were sold to the nurse at my doctor's office, so they aren't all represented here. Not to mention that I haven't made the earrings yet. (Picture background courtesy of my great-grandmother.)

Next is the necklace I made with green, blue and gold glass over ivory (earrings to follow). I finally talked to my friend last night; I had previously only talked to her hubby. I'm close friends with them both but had been itching to catch up with her. Her work schedule prevents a lot of socializing, but it was great to catch up with her. She has no idea this is coming, unless her hubby tells on me.

This is the necklace made from the pink and purple heart. It's strung with dyed pearls (hot pink and purple), long mother of pearl beads, round glass white and purple beads, and faceted garnets. I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I hope Robin likes it.

This last one is what I made with the Michelangelo beads -- and if you go back and look at that post, you'll see that I said there was an expensive glass purchase in my future. Apparently I was right! Can't wait to play some more with this color. Actually, I made a twistie with this color and another expensive glass but was a little disappointed in the result. I'll have to play with this one a bit more to see how it works.

I was going to post about my church's 10-year anniversary celebration this weekend, but truth be told, I took so many pictures that it's hard to narrow things down. Once I sort through them all again, maybe I'll have something coherent to say.

Then again, it is me we're talking about.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So Many Thoughts, So Little Brain

Really. How can I be thinking so much and be so tired?

This Saturday, the 20th, is my church's 10-year anniversary celebration. I haven't been involved in the preparation, but I had the pleasure of picking up one of our former musicians from the airport today.

Buzz used to play drums for us before he moved to California six years ago. In our ultra-casual church, he wore a tie to play drums, saying it was the only way to be alternative in our church. The tie went so well with his three pairs of earrings, three eyebrow rings, his long ponytail... you get the idea.

So I picked up Buzz and his bride, Kerry, and took them up to church for band practice. There Buzz met up with Dave, the dancing bass player; Brian, the slightly unbalanced but ever-endearing keyboard player; Doug, the engineer / guitar player; and JJ, who was then and still is the music director.

That was just the first band. The second band was a whole 'nother bunch of fun. A couple of other engineer / guitar players, a horn section, and singers.

Watching this group of people, who hadn't played and sung together in years and years, laugh and joke around with each other almost brought tears to my eyes.

And if that wasn't enough, watching the daughter of one of the players have her time in the spotlight was just too much for words. I wish I'd had my SLR, but the iPhone that someone had worked just fine for capturing this.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a star is born.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sometimes I Like to Melt the Glass

If you look around here a little bit, you'll find that I like to melt glass occasionally. On those days that the sun isn't melting everything else.

Today was a glorious and beautiful day to melt glass. Hello Fall. I love you.

Incidentally, I do not blow glass. I merely melt it in a very hot flame, on a stick (called a mandrel). Blowing is a skill I have not yet acquired.

Since I've been making a few beads recently, and since I haven't inflicted pics on my blog-folks in a while, and since I had a request for pics (via twitter), I was persuaded to post some.

This first bunch of beads will be a necklace, or maybe a necklace and earrings. I will probably bead it with some lapis and/or malachite. It's for an old college friend I caught up with recently. Maybe if she likes it, I'll get to go visit her and her hubby and her four children, none of whom I've ever met. Bad friend. (Last time I saw them, she was pregnant with #1; it's been a while!)

These beads are for various things. The lower right one is a bit of a boo-boo, although a few people have told me they like it (I don't, since I know what it was supposed to look like.) The clear pink one is closer to what it was supposed to look like, and two of the three smaller beads will be earrings for my mother-in-law.

I made this set for Robin, although I can't say that I'm really happy with it. She asked for red and hot pink, which poses a certain number of problems, glass-wise. Red with hot pink doesn't offer much of a contrast, and the one glass that gets close to hot pink is a little temperamental (more on that later). So this may or may not have a happy ending; I may just trash these and start over. The base beads are clear, and the stripes are made with a twisted cane made from red, white, and pale pink clear. Why there are yellow and dark patches in these beads, I have no idea.

These beads are made with what's called raku frit (frit is just small pieces of glass). I've sold three of these to the nurse at my neurologist's office, who is a beader. She's quite anxious to get them, so I've been trying to finish up everything I want to make so I can get everything annealed (cycled through a kiln to strengthen the glass). I don't yet have a kiln, so I have to take my beads to a glass shop for the service and leave them for a day or two. Maybe someday I'll have my own...

Some beads make everyone love them, and these seem to fall into that category. The silver is called plum silver -- it starts out as a dark purple color but has a chemical reaction to a high propane flame (my torch has two sources -- propane and oxygen -- so you can vary the amount of each in the flame for various effects). This is a fairly simple bead design, but it's striking and goes with everything.

This is a bunch of miscellaneous stuff. The two on the top left were an experiment with a very expensive glass that someone gave me to try -- it's called Michaelangelo, and you'll see why later. A friend wants those beads for a necklace. The blue bead with gold squiggle next to it is made with dichroic glass, another expensive glass type that reflects different colors depending on the angle -- very pretty. On the top right is a bead that I made when trying to learn stringer control (how to make straight lines with tiny rods of glass). I had people insist to me that those were wires, not glass, so I assume I succeeded. The two beads on the bottom were made with another expensive glass from the same friend that gave me the Michaelangelo; this color is called Black Pearl. It's like plum silver only more so: it starts black but turns bright silver in a high propane flame.

These beads are all ones I learned to make by taking a class from my favorite "famous" beadmaker, Corina Tettinger. They're better to see in person. The top left is an encased floral (i.e., a flower bead encased in clear glass). There are five layers in the bead, so it's fairly time-consuming. The next one to the right is called an asteroid bead and is difficult to photograph here (and I did a miserable job). It's a black base bead, wrapped in silver foil, which is then burned off. The dots of color are made with ivory glass with silver foil burned onto it (called "silvered ivory"). This makes a rainbow effect. Then the whole thing is encased in clear. This isn't a great example; I'm going to try again and see if I can do better. The pair on the right is clear purple, with a layer of clear and gold dots on the outside. On the bottom is a bead made with twisted cane (like the first three pictures). Again, you can't tell in the picture, but when I encased it in clear, the bead ended up with a row of perfectly evenly spaced bubbles between the rows of twisted cane. It was a happy accident.

Now we come to the two best beads I made last night. This one isn't part of a set (at least not yet). When I mentioned before that the hot pink glass is a little temperamental, here is a perfect example. The dark color in this bead is supposed to be that hot pink (which incidentally is in the twisted cane bead above and turned out the right color there). In the bead below, it came out more of a dark brownish purple. You just never know with that color. The other colors in the twisted cane were clear pale pink and opaque ivory, so you can still see pink in the bead. All's well that ends well. I'm really pleased with the shape of this bead.

Last is not least here; I saved the best for last. The only colors used here are white and Michaelangelo, as hard as that is to believe. I made the pendant initially to go with the other pair of beads that I'd made (the ones my friend wants made into a necklace). When it discolored the white, I was kind of upset; I almost didn't finish making the bead. This is why you always finish making the bead -- you just never know what you have until you're done. I love this bead. It didn't translate as well in the smaller beads, but I'll take it anyway. I'm seeing now why my friend says Michaelangelo is her favorite color. It's very reactive, meaning that it does cool things with other colors of glass. I see a purchase of expensive glass in my future (don't tell my hubby!).

That's what I've been up to. Now, if y'all will excuse me, I have some more glass to melt...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I Remember 9/11 on 9/12

There was a lot of talk yesterday about "where were you when you found out?" and that sort of thing. I told my story then, at least on twitter, but it's not very interesting.

What's interesting is how 9/11 is redeemed on 9/12.

If you'll recall, the 11th was on a Tuesday in 2001, so the 12th fell on a Wednesday. My church was due to meet for our twice-monthly Wednesday get-together that night (we didn't meet every Wednesday, just the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month). For that meeting, the staff prayed about what to do. They knew people would be sad; they'd be asking questions of God.

Rather than trying to force something artificial, giving a talk that people might or might not relate to, microphones were placed in the aisles so that people could share their stories. Their questions. Their hope.

We ended with this.

Call me a radical optimist, but I'd rather recall the hope of this than the tears from the 11th -- the bonding and oneness that we felt then.

If only we could have held on to that one wonderful outcome longer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Batten Down the Hatches!

They're coming.

No, no, they're staying put.

Nope, they're coming after all.

Now my in-laws are here, evacuees from Hurricane Ike. Hubby's mom, stepdad, two sisters and their families all live in a small town between Houston and Galveston. When mandatory evacuations were announced by zip code, their town was high on the list. Until it became mandatory, the parentals were staying put: my mother-in-law has been having back problems, and a long car ride didn't sound like a lot of fun.

Fortunately, they left mid-morning today, and although the traffic was heavy, it wasn't slow. They arrived in just over four hours, which is just a little longer than the usual drive. We went to a yummy dinner and wound down watching hurricane coverage. No shortage of that in Texas tonight!

We've gotten our groceries (no bottled water, though) and are ready to hunker down and watch the weather for the next couple of days. Hubby's two sisters are bunking with friends in other places, so they're safe, although their husbands stayed behind. They are manly men and must battle the storm, doncha know.

Ah, family.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Power in Our Words

Have you ever thought about how much power there is in what you say to others?

I have, but I was reminded by a comment on a post on Antique Mommy's blog how much others' words can inspire, sustain -- or crush -- us.

Want examples? I have a few.

Example #1: the academic advisor

When I was getting my electrical engineering degree, I went to see my academic advisor. At the time, my children were four years (Son the Older) and nine months (Son the Younger), and we had just moved into university housing for married students.

After my advisor asked me a few questions about my personal life, he told me that I needed to go home and be a "good mommy" for now. He advised me that perhaps I could pursue an engineering degree once my younger son was in kindergarten.

I was dismayed. Floored. Upset. Angry. But I pulled myself up to my full (short) height and informed him, "I have been admitted to this university. I have moved into married student housing. I believe your job is just to tell me what classes I need to take to graduate, so why don't you do that?"

Understand, I do not ever speak to someone in a position of authority over me in that tone.

He did what I asked. And I remembered his words the entire time I was in school. They spurred me on and kept me from quitting many times when it was tough. And believe me, it's tough to get an engineering degree, and much more so when you pile on a couple of kids, a part-time job, and the fact that I was female. I'm not a whiner, but I had a few professors who clearly didn't want me there.

Example #2: the pastor

I once had a pastor who I looked up to a great deal, a man I respected and loved and worked with well. He told me two things that I will tell you about here, one positive and one negative. One I've tried to live up to, and the other I've tried to defy.

This man is a master storyteller. He can take any story, from the Bible or otherwise, and keep you enthralled for any amount of time. It is his particular gift. He has honed it from the stage, and I'm not sure I've ever seen his equal.

He once told me that I was a good storyteller. Coming from him, I would love to believe that's true. I should probably work at it, as he has, to make it so if I wish it to be true.

He also told me once that I wasn't creative. This was several years ago, when I wanted to be more involved in a creative area. I'm not sure why he said it, although it may be just a downside of the "engineer" label. In any case, a small part of the joy I find in my creative pursuits is showing that voice in my head that he's wrong.

Before anyone asks, yes, I've gone back and talked to this pastor. I've long since forgiven him. In fact, I'm thankful for what he said: it spurred me to do a lot of things I might not have otherwise done.

Have you considered the impact your words have on others -- your co-workers, your friends, your spouse, your children? What are the words in your life that have changed your course? Spurred you on? Made you better?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Odds and Ends

I don't have a "post topic" today, just a couple of little things.

First of all apparently it's a lot easier to take pictures when there is light streaming from the sky and WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME TRENT WAS PLAYING AT THE RANCH ON LABOR DAY? OK, deep breath. I'm better now. Provided there will be an October show in my living room. If such a thing is not forthcoming, I do not promise that I will not throw myself to the floor in a toddler-like temper tantrum. Even my ultra-picky teenage son (Son the Younger) loved the music -- quite the endorsement!

In other news, if you'll look somewhere down the left column, you'll see a new button close to the top. The Blissfully Domestic website just re-launched this week (and there was much rejoicing, yay!), with a new Inspired Bliss channel, to which I will be one of the regular contributors.

What will I write? you might be wondering. Hopefully something more insightful and intelligent than what I manage here, I would answer. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Like Me Some Music

I'm not even going to count my CDs. Let's just say the number is somewhere north of 500.

And once I started downloading music, I REALLY lost track.

It's great to live in Austin, where there is so much great live music, but really, what could be better than having great live music right in your own living room?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you TRENT MONK!

OK, to explain a little, I've had the Monk and Neagle CD for about a year (or since it came out; I ordered the pre-release). I've listened to it continually over the year and LOVE it. Since it's done with a full band and a lot of two-part harmony, I wasn't sure how Trent was going to pull off a show by himself with just his guitar. Answer: beautifully. Dude can flat-out play, and he's got PIPES. And the people love him. He's modest and sweet, and he has a way with a crowd.

Here is Trent's weapon of choice: a Taylor, of course. Gotta love it. Covered in stickers and signatures, then a layer of clear tape. Niiiiiiice.

I particularly liked the notation by the bridge. It's important to have a sense of humor. Or pathos. Or both.

Trent sang to us for about an hour, doing material from "The Twenty-First Time," and then he was happy to hang around, socialize, and take pictures. There may have been adult beverages, but I'm not sure...

This is my BFF Heather, me and Trent.

This may win Picture of the Night. This is Clare, daughter of the photog for the evening (because I was a bad blogger and didn't take pictures), and Trent being his sweet self. Clare is an amazing photographer in her own right; I would love to showcase her work here someday if she and her mom give me the go-ahead (hint, hint). She does stuff with her point and shoot that I can't manage with my SLR. I just have to remember not to covet my neighbor's camera skills.

This is about the most disgustingly good-looking couple I know, Jen and Jonathan. I'd hate them, but they're fantastic people, so I'm forced to adore them in spite of their physical perfection. Darn the luck.

This is a great example of Heather's facial expressions (she has thousands), but it's also a decent group shot of the people who hung out after the party. I'm on the far left, Jonathan is shaking hands with Trent, and Clare's dad Edward is in the white shirt on the right.

I'd love to know what Trent looks so shocked about here. Danny, his road manager, is on the left.

Last but not least, this is Kate, our photographer for the evening (a.k.a. Clare's mom and Edward's wife). Kate is one of those people who can juggle 87 things and make it look easy. She rocks, and I love her.

I talked with Trent about his history of doing house concerts as he was setting up in my living room, and you'll never guess whose living room was his very first? None other than the person who introduced me to his music -- blogging's very own beloved Sophie! When I met her in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago, she specifically asked me to tell Trent hello. He almost jumped up and down when I mentioned her name, he was so excited to hear about her. He said he and Danny will be heading back that direction soon, and they can't wait to do another show with her.

In the meantime, they'll be back in Austin soon -- sounds like maybe October -- so I might get to host another show. Yippee! There's nothing finer than great music in my own living room, surrounded by old friends and new. I can't wait to do this again with a bigger crowd! This last time was Labor Day weekend, with too many people out of town.

So for those folks in the central Texas area, if you missed this one and want in on the next one, comment, email, or twitter me and let me know!