Thursday, July 31, 2008

We Had Quite a Storm This Morning

I was actually going to write on a different topic today, but then came the storm. It is no joke when I say that the sky darkened, and it was as dark as night. Automatic lights came on. You could hear the thunder in the background as it drew closer, then the storm hit. The winds were extremely strong. I tried to get a picture of the trees being pushed into odd shapes by the wind, but it was too dark for my camera to record. The rain was falling in sheets. It was hard to see. I'm so lucky I was at home. I would have hated to be driving in that weather.
The storm seemed to rage for an hour, but it was only about a half an hour. After the storm ended, I went outside to check for damage. I don't know how or why, but there was no damage in my yard or to my house. However, the neighbors on both sides of me had damage to their trees. I was shocked to see what the storm had done. My neighbor to the left of me had this damage to her tree. The tree is a beautiful one in the fall. I'm not sure it can survive.
My neighbors to the right of me had a big and beautiful maple tree. I was shocked to see the damage the winds had done.
That looked like the extent of the damage in our neighborhood. I walked around my house and checked, but I didn't see any damage. I feel very grateful for that. I found a small branch on my deck. It was nothing significant compared to these trees. I'm sorry about the damage, but I am glad that nothing more was hurt. As I walked around our neightborhood after the storm, I looked up and saw the sun. It's good when things return to normal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Weeds One, Me None

If there is such a thing as recycling the soul, then I want to come back as a weed. Weeds are tough. In drought conditions, they are the plants that, not only survive, but actually thrive! They populate the area where they live without a bit of help from rain, seeds, or fertilizer. If you yank them out of the ground, they come back. If you try to kill them with weed killer, part of the plant might yellow and die, but lurking underneath are fresh roots that spring up in another location. Some weeds attract monarch butterflies. Other plants, though called weeds, produce beautiful flowers, such as Queen Anne's Lace. Other weeds, such as Burdock, have healing properties. In my driveway, I have a thriving community of weeds. I have pulled them out, yet they come back. When my yard was landscaped last year, the landscaper sprayed all the weeds in my driveway and told me that nothing would grow there for years. I think that now there are more weeds peeking through the cracks of my driveway than ever before. In an effort to reduce the dandelion population in my backyard, I purchased a gel that guaranteed if I sprayed the gel on my dandelions, they would be gone the next day. I took off the spray and poured the substance directly on top of my dandelions. The next day, the dandelions looked like they had been fertilized. They were greener than they had been the day before. As a matter of fact, they are even more populous than they have been since I poured the weed killer on them. I must admit, I have a grudging admiration for weeds. Yes, if there is a chance that I could come back after I die, I really do want to be a weed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's Hot and Humid Today

I was going to complain about the weather because it's 90 degrees and the humidity is in the tropical range. It's hot here in southern Minnesota! It is July, so I guess that's normal. It's easy to complain about the heat, really easy, but then, as I was going through some old pictures, I came across this photo. Given a choice, I choose now. This will be coming soon enough.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The First Sign of Autumn

As I sit outside, with Spike by his tree basking in the intense heat and humidity, I am sweating and wondering why I should write about the first sign of autumn. It's so hot and humid! I'm not complaining, but I'd rather be inside than outside right now. I do have to say, though, that even before the sumacs begin to change color, this first sign of autumn signals the downside of summer and the close start of school. What is this phenomena? It is the return of the Minnesota Vikings football team to Mankato for their training camp. For the last 40, Mankato has been the home of the Vikings from late July to early August. I think they are here for about 3 weeks. You can feel a change of energy in Mankato when the Vikings come to town. We have many visitors who come to celebrate the Vikings and wish them on to a fabulous year in football. Training camp is a big event. Big TV networks come to cover the Vikings as they tussle on the field for the spectators. Many children line up to see if they can catch an autograph from their favorite players. Things have changed, though, since we first moved to Mankato in training camp. For one, there used to be free with free access to the players for the kids. Now, there is a limited access to players, and it costs to go to training camp! Yet, there is still a festive mood with the many activities that are planned to celebrate the Vikings coming to Mankato. The local news is full of Viking activities. Our local TV station had a contest in which children auditioned to be able to interview, on TV, one of the Minnesota Vikings! I'm sure for the winner that is going to be a thrill! Today, as I was at the Mall, ready to walk in, two rather large men who were leaving the mall, wearing Vikings jerseys, saw me approach and returned to hold the door open for me. Wow! Their mamas raised them right! I'm not sure if they were Viking's players or not, but they sure were nice. Yes, today is one of the most hot and humid days we have had in a long time, but with training camp under way, we have the first sign of autumn on the horizon.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Frit - Ground Glass- My Shorts

This is handmade frit. You can tell it's handmade because of the many different sizes of frit in the container. I made this frit using the nubs that result when I get to the end of a glass rod or rods.
Making frit is very easy. It takes some simple tools. Most of the tools can be found around the house or purchased at a hardware store. Yes, I said a hardware store. Take a look and see what I have experimented with as I practiced making home

This is a very simple way to make frit. You simply heat the rod and then plunge it into some water. The glass cracks. I didn't like it because it took forever to get a decent amount of frit to use.

The next method Involves a tool that most of us have in our homes, the simple hammer. I tried this but I found it difficult to use because glass flew everywhere. It goes without saying that safety glasses are needed when you use this method.

Next I tried a more modern and innovative method for making frit. I used an old coffee grinder. The problem with that method is that the coffee grinder being as powerful as it is, ground the frit to a find powder and it was easy to breathe in ground glass. You need a mask for that this method, too. The other problem I found with using a coffee grinder was that plastic from the lid got into the frit causing small fires to break out when using the frit on the molten glass. Beside, who wants to breathe plastic that's burning?

I finally made a trip to Mutch's Hardware, a small family owned business. The owners, Sandy and Dave Mutch are good friends, and help me often when I come in looking for the ingredients for making handmade tools for glass work. When I described to Dave what I wanted, he provided me with the items I needed, and look, my favorite frit makers, all made with parts that can be found at a hardware store, any hardware store!
In my opinion, these tools make the best frit. I use the small one when I need emergency frit. I use the larger one when I actually plan out my frit. I love them. They give you exercise as you pound, and they help to get rid of that pent up frustration that happens in our everyday lives.

Then there is a way I use very frequently. I simply buy my frit. The suppliers are numerous. The frit is sized appropriately, and there is no glass dust to deal with. Most of the time, I like that method the best. The only downside is that you can't use your nubs of glass, and that it takes a few days after you order to receive your frit. Oh well, life is like that. I love using frit in glass! I also truly believe that when there's a will there's a way. There always is.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Shorts

When I start talking about my shorts, I am not talking about making a fashion statement with my clothing. The shorts I am talking about, in this case, are the ends of the glass rods that I use when I make my lampwork beads. Depending on the rod and the company, rods differ in length and width. Most glass rods are about 12" in length. The width can vary from 3mm to 8mm. As you melt the glass and less is left on the rod, you get to a point where the rod becomes too short to use without burning your fingers. There are tools to help you melt the rod down farther, and I do own one. Some people fuse the left over portions of the rods together to make a longer rod. It doesn't matter what you do, though, you are always left with shorts. I hate to throw those beautiful pieces of glass away, so I have tried to figure out how to use the leftovers resourcefully.

The first photo is a picture of my smaller nubs of glass. The smaller pieces go into making frit (ground glass). The longer nubs I use to make "Leftover Beads." I'll show you some of those in a bit. I also use them to make purple hearts and multicolored butterflies for Beads of Courage. I love the look of many colors in butterfly wings. My longer shorts go into making beads and discs.

Beads of Courage gets my butterflies.

I made these discs using my shorts. I love them because they are fun and funky looking!

I made this bead using my shorts directly on my mandrel.

I even make frit using my shorts, but that's another story. I'll show you how I make frit tomorrow. I've tried a lot of different ways to make frit, and you'll see that tomorrow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spike's Tumor Is Benign!

I would have known this sooner if I had checked my voice mail yesterday, but I didn't check it. I didn't even notice the words "New Voice Mail" on my phone. This morning, when I was in the shower, I thought I heard the phone ring. As soon as I got out, I checked the phone and there was the message from the vet. He had called yesterday. He said that Spike's tumor was clearly benign! That was great news! He called it a something something type of tumor that dogs sometimes get. He also told me that this was the first one that he had seen. He said that he didn't think it would grow back in Spike's lifetime. Spike is now 11, that's 77 in human years. He's getting to be an old dog. I sure hope not. Spike doesn't know the difference. He's already forgotten his experience at the vet. He's happy. He's sleeping right now. I'm glad!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What We Don't See Is Important, Too!

One day, as I was out walking Spike, I happened to look up in the sky. I saw two banks of clouds, and in the center of those clouds was a streak of bright blue. I remember thinking, "I wish I had my camera." Then I remembered, my new cell phone had a camera! So, as Spike and I continued to walk, I tried to capture that part of the sky with the bright blue in the center of two clouds. I took a lot of pictures, but I didn't look at them until I got home. I imagine my shock when I saw what the camera captured! This "reflection" was not visible to my naked eye, but the camera saw what I couldn't see. What a beautiful sight! It made me think of life. There are so many situations where we see only the surface. I think I have to start looking for what I haven't seen. Just look at that photo. I never would have dreamed the images could be there! Wow! Trust me, other than to shrink this photo to fit in pixels, this photo has not been retouched. It was taken with a cell phone camera!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I love these pillows!

No, I'm not talking about a pillow for your bed or a decorative pillow for your couch, I'm talking about some beads I made. Since this blog is about the love of beads, I have to show you some new ones that I really do love. For me, melting glass is only a small part of the bead making process. The rest of it is shaping the beads, decorating the beads, and just relaxing and enjoying what I am doing. Some beads are very stressful for me to make. When I try out a new technique or a new press, I find myself rather agitated if the bead does not turn out as I expected. The sense of play and fun just disappears. When I bought this new press, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I would enjoy using the press or if it would be a "learning experience for me." In this case, it was just plain fun! I am really enjoying this Cattwalk Ribbed Pillow press. For me, it's been one of the easiest presses that I have ever used. I love it! No stress, just make a big, fat barrel bead and press. Wow! How easy is that? So one day, when I was craving chocolate, I pulled out a rod of dark brown glass and started to melt it. Next I added some silver glass for decoration. I don't know which one because I didn't mark it. I made a big, fat barrel bead. I put that bead in the press, and look what happened. I made a rippled pillow. I absolutely love this set! It has all the elements I love! The beads have texture and a great shape. They are also calorie free images, at least in my mind, of chocolate and cinnamon. Now, who wouldn't like that?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sunday with my daughter

Both of my children are adults now, and knowing that, spending time with them is an opportunity I cherish. When Jenny asked me if I anted to go to drive up to see her on Sunday, of course, I said, yes! I got ther in time for lunch. We ate at a local restaurant called Olive Garden for lunch, then, on the way back to her condo, we made a stop at her library. When Jenny was little, my husband used to take her to the library. They were always gone for a very long time. When they would get back, I would ask why they were gone so long. Dan would always say, "It's hard to take the worm out of the garden." Jenny was, and still is, a book worm. When she has time, she always visits the library, her garden. Who can blame her? Outside there is a pond! Inside, there is a beautiful, botanical garden. There's a small waterfall. Who wouldn't love that library! What a beautiful place to visit! I wish we had a library like that. I'm so envious. Oh, it was one of the places some beads were released.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Beadalina Arrived Today!

When you see the work of a fabulous artist who goes by the name of Angelina Beadalina, you know why I wanted to own a piece of her work! Well, today I do! This is an absolutely fabulous sculpture that I will treasure for the rest of my life, and knowing that it's a Beadalina, well, that will make this piece of art even more special. Ang, thank you for your ability to share your talent with us through this glass medium! I am truly impressed by the quality of your work and your ability to take a glob of glass and fashion it into this marvelous work of art. I'm sure that everyone will agree with me when they see this woman with her hair blowing in the wind. She's mine now!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bead Release

Bead release is a product that we, who make lampwork beads, use on our mandrels so that the bead will not be permanently attached to the stainless steel rod. In this case, though, when I speak about bead release, I am not speaking about a type of product, but an activity sponsored by the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers). As a member of this group, I am participating by "releasing" beads into the environment that, when found, can be kept by the finder. The instructions were simple. We were to print out the card and attach a bead, anonymously, to the card. We were to put the card and bead in a zip lock bag and "release" the bead somewhere that it could be found. I have released some in my hometown. Today, when I drove up to St. Paul to visit my daughter, even though she would rather have not done this, we released beads at a restaurant, a store, and at the wonderful library by her house. I am hoping that these beads are appreciated by the finders. I didn't take photos of the beads I released, and, now, I am sorry that I didn't. I accidentally covered the bead in the photo with my fingers. Oh, well, I hope the finder is impressed. I have to check the ISGB website to see if anyone has posted about finding my beads. That is part of the fun. What a great idea, ISGB! This has been fun, and there's still time. This promotion doesn't end until the end of July! I better find some more beads to release!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion

Every once in a while, I feel it is important to indulge in shameless self promotion. What does that mean? Simply put, I'm going to show you some of the items in my etsy store without a single bit of shame for telling you how good I think these products are. So, are you ready? Here goes, it's time for shameless self promotion. No humility here!

This is a set of funky, wonky discs. These discs would make a wonderful addition to a necklace or bracelet. They are in my etsy store. Take a peek!

This is a vessel that I blew by hand. I rolled it in a special frit. I love it! This would be a perfect gift for the hunter in your family.

This set is made with red glass and silvered ivory stringer. I really like this set. It was fun to make once I melted the glass and pressed the molten glass in a press. It's very unique.

Now that wasn't bad, was it? This blog was just a little bit of shameless self promotion.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Really Did Win this Award

Wow! I didn't know my blog was so fascinating, but I am thoroughly delighted to be nominated for and win an award!!!

Thank you, Rita, for nominating me.

My thank you speech that I copied and pasted but realized I had to change because I don't have a cat, I don't have grandchildren, you get the picture.

Thanks to all the little people, my dog, my children, , my cousins, and everyone else who makes life interesting for me, particularly all the beads and beaders that I know.
Thank you Wet Canvas for giving me a world-wide circle of friends.

Here's my list of nominees that I'd like to receive this award as well:

1. - Sueze's Blog
2. - Gabriella in Glassland
3. - BeadTowne
4. Credit River Art Glass
5. Sew Much to Do Sew Little time
6. Cinnamonandhoney
7. Sherry Bellamy

Here are the rules for this award:

1. The winner can put the logo on their blog.
2. Link to the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you've nominated.
6. Write an acceptance speech in the style of the Academy Awards, thanking every body's mother, father, sister, brother, aunties and uncles and the kitchen staff at your favorite restaurant!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Was the Only One with Lights on at 4:30 AM!

Why, do you say, was I the only one with lights on in my neighborhood at 4:30 AM? The reason is that the anticipated storms leading to a cool off, finally arrived. So, why was I up at 4:30 AM? Not my choice. Spike is terrified of thunderstorms. I had wakened up at 3:30 and was trying to go back to sleep, then I saw it! The flash of lightening. I knew then my sleep was over for the night I was awake. Soon, Spike can to the bed whining. The vet told me to dim the lights and turn off the music to calm him down. No music was playing, and, certainly, there were no lights. Bugger! So, I just got up and worked on ways to help Spike calm down. I turned on the computer. Spike has shown he feels much more comfortable in the office where the computer is located. However, as I turned on the computer to chat with my Kiwi friend, Deb, Spike decided to really let me know he was unhappy. He whined and cried. I pulled out his toy that holds treats to distract him, and it sort of worked. He just decided that I had to keep it filled for the duration of the storm. It's continued to storm on and off all day. I'm glad. If it were just me, I wouldn't care. I love the rain and the storms, but Spike just doesn't. So, after the first storm passed, and there was calm again, guess what? No, I didn't go back to sleep, too much caffeine by then. You guessed, Spike slept snuggly and calmly until the thunder rattled the house again much later. Right now, he's outside playing. He just doesn't know when to come in out of the rain.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spike Went to the Ophthalomogist!

For about the past 4 years, Spike has had a tumor growing right next to his eye, where a tear duct should be. The local vets have removed it twice now. The last time they did surgery on his eye, the told me that the pathological report was undecided, but that they thought this tumor was cancerous. Since that time, we noticed some growth in the area of the tumor, but when the vets would check it, they would always tell me that it was just scar tissue. When my daughter was home for Mother's Day, she told me that she felt the tumor. She thought it had doubled in size since Christmas. I started to keep an eye on it. Yes, it did look like it was growing, so we made an appointment with the vet to discuss it's removal. The vet that we saw said that no one at the clinic would be willing to remove it because of its size, and that the best bet would be to go to the Twin Cities to see Dr. Olivera, (, because he would be the best one to remove it. She said the size was big, and that it would not be easy to reshape Spike's eye after the tumor was removed.
So, with some trepidation, I made the appointment. In the meantime, knowing Spike's great anxiety in the car, I called our local vets to ask for some type of medication to help Spike on the trip. They gave Spike a "happy pill" that they said would help him to sleep and not whine. It became apparent, very quickly on the 1 1/2 hour drive to the Twin Cities, that the "Happy Pill" did not work. Luckily, we weren't in rush hour traffic, so I was able to drive safely in spite of the whining. When we got to the clinic, Spike was fairly calm. The pet owners who came in to pick up their pets or bring them in for eye exams spoke the praises of Dr. Olivera and his staff. In all honesty, I was impressed. When our turn came for the exam and evaluation, I met Dr. Olivera and his staff member. They were both able to calm Spike down immediately for the exam. Dr. Olivera read the notes from Spike's history. He told me that the last biopsy had been an aspirate biopsy, and that the notes said the biopsy was inconclusive. He said that happened on that type of biopsy. He felt, after the exam, that the tumor, although in a weird place, was not malignant. He asked me if I was willing to have a wedge biopsy done on Spike. I said, of course.
They told me to leave for about 45 minutes and come back. When I got back to pick up Spike, he was sedated. Two of the vet techs had to carry him to the car. We started our drive home, and Spike, although he whined a bit, slept most of the way.
When we got home, Spike's rear legs would not hold him up, so we both sat out by his tree for about an hour and a half waiting until Spike could walk into the house. It was hot, and I was very thankful it wasn't cold. When Spike was able to walk again, we made it into the house. He immediately indicated that he needed to go potty. I had to hold onto his collar as we made our way down the stairs and back. I finally got Spike settled in the bedroom on his bed. He made it very clear to me that he was very upset with me for putting him through this ordeal. He would "ask" for a treat by showing me his "trick" of Good Boy. This trick is one he made up. He sits very still and shows me he's a good boy. Okay, it's nothing to brag about, but it's his way of telling me that he wants a treat. So, I got him one of his favorite treats, a dog biscuit. He turned his head and refused. I offered him his all time favorite, a chewy leather treat. He turned his head and refused to eat it. He was showing me. I offered him cheese, fish oil tablets, and lunchmeat. He refused each treat I offered. He showed me. The treats were all over the bedroom. He would have nothing to do with them or me. He was clearly upset. He finally went to sleep after I put some ointment in his eyes.
The next morning, he woke me up early needing to go potty. He was much more stable now on his feet and was able to walk down the stair without assistance. All of a sudden a light bulb seemed to go on in his brain, and Spike began to hunt down each and every treat that he had rejected the night before. After filling his belly with treats, I realized that I needed to put some more ointment in his eye. I found the information the vet had given me the day before. I needed to know how many times a day to put the ointment in Spike's eye. As I read the report, I was thrilled. The report indicated what we had talked about as options for treatment for Spike, but what I noticed as I read was that the doctor had removed almost all of the tumor! I was thrilled! One of the options we had discussed was to do a biopsy and then decide whether to leave the tumor alone because of Spike's age. (He' s 11.) For me, that's the best choice, if it's not cancer. After being rejected by Spike, poor dog, he just didn't understand, I think he's had enough trauma to last him the rest of his life. He's back to being a happy dog now. He lets me put in his ointment without a fuss. Next week, sometime, we should have the results of the biopsy. With luck, Spike won't have to go back to the ophthalmologist again. I'm going to cross my fingers as I wait for the results!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let's Talk Teddy Bears

Everyone loves teddy bears, right? Well, I'm not sure, but I think most people do love them. They are usually sweet, soft, loving, and well worn. What happens, though, when you make them out of glass? This was an interesting challenge for an exchange on Lampworketc forums. The challenge for the exchange is to make and trade teddy bears, sweet little bears. So I have been working on this exchange. Here are a couple of my favorite teddies to date.

This bear's name is Joshua. He's actually in my etsy store. He's just not going to make it to the exchange.

I call this little guy, Scrappy. He was made from glass scraps that I just had laying around. He's one of my favorites!

This little girl is named Felicia. I just think she's sweet!
Last bu not least is my special needs teddy. He was in my etsy store, but he should be in his new home by now. Thanks, Teri!How could you not love Teddy Bears? This truly has been fun!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Walk Home from the Parade

I checked the mileage of the hill I needed to walk down to get to the parade and back up to return home. It was exactly 1/2 mile from the top to the bottom and from the bottom to the top. This hill is a very steep hill that is cut in half by a very busy street. When you look at the photos of my climb up the hill, you are truly going to wonder where the street has gone. Trust me, it's there. But before we look at the hill, look at my prize from the parade! I caught this neat key ring! I really like it and plan to put it to good use!

At this point, I am not going to narrate the photos. I just want you to look at the natural beauty of this hill I climbed on the way home. The sides of the road are completely balanced with nature. There is not human interference. Beautiful weeds are allowed to live. Natural grasses grow undisturbed. As you walk by you can hear the chirping of the crickets and tree frogs. As hard and steep as that hill is to climb, the beauty is a total distraction to the effort of climbing. I didn't think about how hot and sweaty I was--until I walked in my front door. I didn't think about the sweat that was pouring down my back, until I felt it was necessary to climb in the shower. The beauty of nature in the city caused me to pause, which was good, because then I could allow my breathing to slow down a bit from the climb. So what do you think?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Rest of the Parade

There really was a lot more to this parade than I am able to show you. The best I can do is to give you the highlights of the rest of the parade.

Let's start with our local TV personalities. Here's our local weatherman, Mark Tarello. He was out helping to collect food for the local food shelf.
Here's one of the many interesting "floats" in the parade. It's from the Nicollet County Historical Society, I think.
This is a drum core that marched in the parade. They were fun to watch.
The Shriners made a visit, too.

Here is the Queen and her court!
What do we have left? This was the most interesting "float" in the parade. All I could think about was, "Will the trees catch on fire?" The device is what fills a hot air balloon.
What's this you say? Did the Lancers change clothes and end the parade? The answer is no, they didn't change clothes, but they did end the parade, at least the RETIRED Lancers who returned did.

Last, but not least, comes the cleanup crews. First the boy scouts who collect aluminum cans as a fund raiser. People either throw the cans in the street for pick up or they aim for the basket on the cart.
The final end of the parade is marked by the street cleaners and their machines as they dust off the street at the end of the parade.
A good timem was had by all! Tomorrow, the walk home!