Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Other Blog

Let's just call this Concordia, shall we?

I've writing the second in a series of books set in Concordia, an old Mississippi River town on the upswing. By now, the place is become very real to me and there's all sorts of things going on that the characters are part of. Art fairs, church activities, weddings, weather incidents. Not all of it's going into the books, so I started a faux news site http://concordiainthenews.blogspot.com

You can take the old reporter out of the newsroom, but you can't always take the newsroom out of her blood.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Best dressed

Look what I found at the local resale store. A trip to the past. I was that girl in high school, the mid-'70s version of Goth, wearing vintage before vintage was much of a thing. It was stuff my mother had saved, hoping to lose enough weight to fit back into the clothes she'd worn in her 20s. (That, apparently, has always been a thing.) They were beautiful dresses in extraordinary fabric and I felt beautiful and extraordinary in them. 

I can try to relive that, even though it will take every shred of dressmaking skills I've ever learned to resize these. (The Vogue Pattern Size 14 is for a 32-inch bust. The Size 14 I now wear is for a bigger rack.) They were hidden, tucked on the bottom shelf at the charity store, three huge bins of patterns. I bought 76 from the '50s to the '70s (in case I ever want to dress like I was in high school.) I'll make a few, if I find perfect fabric. Will it be a lot of look? I'm sure there are going to be people that say that. But I'm going with Miuccia Prada on this, with my own twist: Wilder, yet with refinement. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Off kilter

My virtual ass is dragging. Dad died a couple weeks ago. 10 days since the funeral. I don't feel like doing much but sitting in the corner of the couch and drinking, so not-drinking is taking up all my energy. All of it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Led Zepplin saved me

I wrote this back in September and it was published on one of my favorite sites, Better After 50 while I was on vacation. Just found it.


Rock On, Pretty Baby!

October 11, 2013
singing in the carI’m driving home from the grocery store with a case of cheap Pinot Grigio in the trunk because I’m hosting what my husband calls “a little family gathering.” What that really means is I’ll be feeding more people than I want to be feeding and the only thing that’s going to make that OK is a lot of wine. The “family” in this case is HIS family and since this is our second marriage, his family doesn’t always like to share him with me, the interloper.
I’m not happy about this whole thing, which is redundant to even mention because we’re smart women here. We’ve been there. We’ve all soldiered on, taking a back seat so someone else can ride in the front. We’re starting to feel invisible and it doesn’t help when the check-out girl at the grocery store doesn’t stop chatting with the bagger long enough to even acknowledge us. If it wasn’t 10 a.m., I’d start on that wine.
And then, like a gift from the universe, the song comes on the radio. It’s one of those songs that burst out of you in moments of joy, a song from your youth which reminds you life can be … amazing. So, since I’m sure no one can see me in my car, I start singing along. “Hey baby, pretty baby …”
Then it hits.
The Pretty Baby in that song is in her mid-50s now, probably pushing 60 or maybe even 70…a true Baby Boomer. Those moves that sat one man down with a pen to write a song that lives on are now less noteworthy, crippled by bad knees and aching joints, and if Baby was, oooh-oooh, in the front row today the only person eyeing her with interest would be security. But, hey baby, that was us. That was me and it was probably you. We wore concert shirts unironically. We danced in the aisles and no one told us to sit down. We may not have specifically been the girl the songs were written about, but we knew that girl. We knew we could have been that girl if we wanted it enough.
But then we wanted other things more and that was OK. We grew up. Those concert t-shirts became cleaning rags and those songs dropped off the charts and on to oldies stations. The 8-tracks we’d played were replaced by cassettes and then again by downloads which we’d secretly listen to on the treadmill, a little embarrassed by our stunted taste in music. Embedded on my iPod, Pretty Baby never grows up, she’ll always be a catchy anonymous refrain. Once, we were the face of a generation. Now, no one would guess we were that girl. On bad days, even we forget that was us.
But today, I remember. It plays in my mind like an opening bass riff. Sitting there at the stop light, I remember that there is no song without an inspiration and that inspiration is always there, somewhere inside, waiting, hidden, a little afraid its time has passed. So sitting there with my a trunkful of warm white wine, I vow to reclaim that inner Pretty Baby. It is time to write our own verses and if we must, our own song. It may only be in the quiet of a car. Or it may be in a bustling kitchen, surrounded by family and friends, where we rock on and on and on.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Emergency woodworking

Building tables from old house parts

Someday I'll remember to take better pictures. This is the first of several planned tables using reclaimed lumber from Burlington, Iowa's, Preservation Station, a non-profit run by the Heritage Trust that strips old houses of useable parts before they're torn down. They were kind enough to donate the materials to the Art Guild, where we're creating high-tops for our social events. 

Here's the plans. Quarter sawn oak from baseboards, accented with brass kickplates aged with ammonia and coarse salt.
We chose baseboard, stripped the finish off on the jointer then glued it up to form the thickness necessary.
These brass plates came from an old school, where they protected the bottom of doors. Aged them with a mixture coarse salt and ammonia, then let it sit in the sun. Finished it with a spray of clear fix. Below is the base laying on the shop floor.

So here's the thing. This old wood is VERY dry and the cracking forced us to give up on details like mortise and tenon joinery for pocket hole screws and lots of glue. And because pieces kept cracking I had to substitute wood I had in the shop, which was often pine, when I ran out of oak baseboards... did I mention the tight deadline? So instead of the tung oil finish I'd hoped to use to bring out the grain, I ended up using a a Minwax gel stain in Cherrywood..The top is pine covered in blackboard paint, which was fun for the partygoers. Since these are all donated materials we're hoping for a nice soapstone for the remaining 4. Maybe slate. Maybe chalkboard. If not, it's all good. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

When the barn gives you a gift...

The husband's story goes something like this: It was in a barn. He thinks. Maybe a garage. He's not sure. It has a tag that says HAWKEYE, Burlington Iowa on the cabinet door
Its a sweet upper half a cabinet. And as much as I love painted furniture... and as much as I SWEAR I'll do everything I can to keep that original paint ... this time I just couldn't 
The green had crackled nicely, revealing a nice white. But that was only on one side. There was also the metallic silver used on a couple of drawers, the black sprayed on half a cabinet face, some blue that had dripped down the side and the outline of a can of red enamel that had been left sitting and puddling on top. 
 It's nearly stripped now ... I used a heat gun ... but I haven't decided what to do next. To paint or not to paint. Stain? Bleach? Paint ... definitely paint.
In the beginning

It's in the entryway now. No stain, a few coats of poly, wax, Rebuilt the drawers, added legs. Miracle... saved all the hardware. Nothing particularly creative or interesting about it beyond repair work, but sometimes a piece screams "Don't mess with me" 

CUTE, right. I like it.

Grow Up and Get Over It

The website Better After 50 -  www.ba50.com - has been kind to me. The published my essay "Grow Up And Get Over It" recently:

I’m not whining here, but up to a certain point, my life kind of sucked. Not the Dickensian kind of horrible, with orphanages and gruel, but more of the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of suckiness, where some instincts you didn’t know you had tell you to get off your rapidly expanding behind and move forward. Granted, those instincts really didn’t kick in until I was in my 40s, but the point is they did and things got better.
 Still, one doesn’t forget where one comes from, even when one is forgetting nearly everything else. Edging past 50 there are days (weeks) of struggle to keep the past in the past. It creeps in and I wash it back with wine and regret. My iPod repeats songs I found corny in my youth, with refrains of missed opportunity and lost chances. In the morning, when my head clears, I make lists – lots of lists – and get on with it. Here’s my current 10 step method for moving forward when I’d rather not move at all, give or take a few steps:
1.                    Stop wining. Yeah, that bottle of cool crisp comfort. That lovely chard or sublime s.b.? Put it away. Fresh starts, even Fresh Start #78, need clear heads. Tell yourself its temporary if you must, but cork it.
2.                    Collect recipes for the end of the world. Things like “101 Meals from Foraged Food” or “Bonfire Bakery.” You may never need them, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you can continue to thrive, even in conditions far worse that those you’re currently experiencing.
3.                    Get off Facebook. All those crazy family members you’ve avoided over the years? Facebook is where the hunt you down and corner you. Run away.
4.                    Stop feeling bad about feeling bad. Life’s like a hangover. You feel horrible one morning. You promise yourself you’ll never drink again EVER. You feel better. Until you remember that EVER is a very long time.
5.                    Keep moving. It doesn’t have to be fast and it doesn’t have to be far. It just has to be off the couch.
6.                    Use some of that useful information you’ve gathered on Pinterest. Make the baby food jar terrarium. Repurpose your old t-shirts into a wall hanging. Bake cupcakes in a coffee mug. Clear your life of the things you’re going to do Some Day by getting them out of the way. You’ll find that some things aren’t worth the effort of holding on to, like crockpot recipes for 40. Or faded flowers from your first wedding. Or anything that reminds you that life can’t be grand.

How I ended up in the basement

This all started when the bookstore at the mall was having a going out of business sale. Everything at the mall that year was having a going out of business sale. I’d just come from the furniture store where the Biggest. Sale. Ever. was underway and the bookstore was the last stop before heading  out for groceries.
I hadn’t found anything I wanted at the furniture store – a sort of perpetual state when you’re not sure what you’re looking for at any specific moment, but at the bookstore I found two dog-eared books on building Craftsmen style furniture which may have been on the shelves since the store opened in 1976.
I have a love-hate relationship with Craftsman style. It can be needlessly bulky and uncomfortable, witness the Morse Chair, which is basically a piece of lawn furniture made out of barn beams. But it can also be as graceful as a piece of oriental art with its Greene Brothers cantilevered tables and organic Wright chairs. (And I hate FLW as a person. Not that we’ve ever met, but I’ve read a few biographies and really, the man treated women like I treat a bottle of wine. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a brilliant designer.)
Anyway, I bought them. The make-your-own furniture books. I had a few power tools in the basement and a father-in-law who works with wood. Last winter, I’d drive up to their place to learn the craft, making a small table. The table turned out great, but my contributions were limited. My FiL really didn’t want me to touch the saws, and how much can you do without access to a saw? Men, as a rule, do not like women touching those particular tools. 

My own tools and my own lap joint.
These pieces, the ones in the cut-rate books, were going to be my solo projects. How hard could it be? There were pictures and diagrams, something I’m not particularly good with. I’m a word girl, always have been. But I wanted to make something solid, something that would last a century. Something that my kids would fight over. Something that my kids would actually talk to me about in a conversation that didn’t end with them finding something far better to do, like watch a rerun of Gilmore Girls.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Pigeon show

I Love the Pigeon Show. It’s not actually a pigeon show, at least not anymore. There was a time when a bunch of local guys brought their homing pigeons down to the livestock show ring at the college, but that’s only a minor part of this monthly gathering.
Now, it’s a flea market with a live-animal twist. Sure, there’s a few pigeons – and there’s the hourly pigeon drawing, where the lucky winner gets to bring home their own bird and get into the exciting hobby of pigeon racing. But there’s also pygmy goats and ducks and every variety of chicken known. There were peacocks this time and tons of puppies and kittens, although I can’t imagine there’s a huge consumer base for $450 pedigreed dogs at these things. Whole families come and stroll the booths. If there are any acquisitive antique dealers there -- the kind we've come to hate in rural Iowa -- I don't see them. Mostly they're at family auctions, outbidding the kids for grandma's heirlooms.
After by-passing the Elvis paraphernalia, the stacks of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (do they even make those things anymore?) and the small engine parts, I found some old garden tools that looked sturdier than my new ones, a trio of shabby chic candlesticks (candles thrown in for free) and a clay casserole that may or may not hold up in the oven.
I kept looking at the chickens, though... I few chickens would keep the dog company.