Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tired and Inspired

Good news! There is art for every taste.

I'm grateful that a co-worker friend of mine happened to notice that today was Art on the Green, held on the lawn of the Bastrop courthouse. I had not gotten around to reading the local paper and had no idea it was taking place. She suggested she drive down and we would go see what there was to see.

It was small, as art fairs go, but full of interesting items for sale, plus live music from the gazebo. While we were there, the Patterson Brothers were performing in a style very reminiscent of the late Rusty Wier. I was tapping my foot and swaying my way from tent to tent, inspecting jewelry, paintings, pottery and sculpture.

I appreciate art, but I don't consider myself an artist. Mother was an artist and could draw anything. She could also take a lump of clay and quickly turn it into a recognizable object. If I attempt to draw anything, it looks like the output of a pre-schooler. Put a lump of clay in my hands and it ends up looking like a lump of clay, but not as pretty as the lump I started with.

My artistic interest runs more to knitting and the ability to create dollhouse vignettes, not that I ever really considered that to be artistic. Until today, that is.

I rounded a corner and entered a tent and was immediately spellbound. One of the artists, a member of the local Arts Guild, works in the medium of dioramas. And her dioramas were miniature vignettes similar to the kinds of displays I create, only they were all designed to fit neatly into standard shadow-box frames. There was a scene of a wheatfield, with a barbed wire fence in the foreground and a rustic red barn in the background. There was a scene depicting a dirt road leading to a covered bridge, with a brick wall and autumn foliage. There were scenes of houses and a garden scene with a tiny gazebo. These were true works of art, with wonderful use of perspective to draw the eye into the scene and lead it into the distance.

I knew I had to have one. I was enchanted with the lady's work and she was delighted to discuss the materials she had used to get the right effects. We discussed scale modeling and she even expressed an interest in seeing my work. I studied each of the dozen or so of these little worlds that were for sale, trying to decide which of them I liked the most. I wanted the wheatfield, because it reminded of me my grandparents' farm. I wanted the covered bridge because the scene was just so perfect. I wanted the garden scene because the little gazebo was complete down to the verdigris roof. I wanted them all.

The one I ended up with was not one I thought I would be bringing home, but I kept returning to it and admiring the unique composition. A window within the window of the frame, and offset on an angle, showing a glimpse of lace curtain and a potted plant beyond.

This encounter with a true artist in my world of miniature vignettes has given me new inspiration. As much as I love dollhouses, I also very much enjoy creating vignettes with a "slice of life" scene. Ideas are beginning to buzz around in my head.

As I wandered around the art show, clutching my prize, I was stopped more than once by other artists inquiring "which one did you get?". They would nod approvingly, then go on to ask, "did you see the one....?". This lady's work had been getting a lot of attention. I am quite pleased with my art acquisition.

From the art show, we strolled downtown, visiting antique shops and dropping into gift shops. When hunger finally caught up with us, we decided to try the new Cajun restaurant. It was a great choice and we left stuffed to our limits with shrimp and boudin balls and dirty rice. We decided we needed to walk some more to compensate for the big meal and wandered into a store that was doling out free wine in real crystal stemware.

It may have been a spur of the moment decision to attend the art fair, but it was an inspired decision. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Art. It's a good thing.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work is Bliss (Sometimes)

I do love the days that I work from home. The top ten reasons I love working from home:

10) I get to sleep an hour later. (No need to jump out of bed and rush around getting dressed.)

9) I can wear shorts and a tee-shirt to the office.

8) Heck, I can wear my nightgown all day if I want.

7) I don't have to make the 110 mile round trip commute. No driving, no tolls, no idiot drivers to contend with, no gas consumption.

6) I don't have to pack a lunch or go out to get lunch. I just have to walk to the kitchen.

5) I can arrange for repairmen or deliveries to arrive on a normal working day. No paying extra for weekends.

4) Five minutes after the end of the work day, I can settle down for a nap.

3) I can watch the roadrunners busy at work just outside my office window.

2) I have a standing appointment twice a month to see my massage therapist at the end of my work day. (She's 5 minutes down the street.)

1) My best assistant is always on the job.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Wanderings

Getting a little bit out of chronological order, I will back up to last Sunday and give you a book report.

Back in April of 2009 I wrote about attending a book signing in Smithville where I met a favorite author, Susan Wittig Albert, who lives in Bertram and writes the China Bayles mystery series. I happened to catch wind that she was giving another book talk and signing in Elgin last Sunday, coinciding with the release of not one but two books. I so enjoyed hearing her speak before that I looked forward to another chance to hear some of her stories of how she got into the writing profession.

She was just as entertaining the second time around. She is so down to earth and so full of funny stories that I could have spent the afternoon listening to her. I picked up her two new books, plus a writer's guide on how to jump start your writing. Mrs. Albert is one of the founders of the Story Circle Network which encourages women writers and the writer's guide was a product of her work with that group. I figured it might help me get back into the blog habit, which I've been sadly neglecting of late.

Mrs. Albert has quite a following in Central Texas. Just as in Smithville, the room filled up with folks who were very familiar with her books and kept her busy during the question and answer session following her talk. As I was making my book purchase, I was surprised to hear my name called and there in the front row were two of my fellow DRT members. (We had the opportunity at the DRT meeting this past Friday to compare reading notes and it turns out we have very similar tastes in authors. I got a couple of good author leads from one of the ladies.) As I waited for the talk to begin, a stranger behind me struck up a conversation when she observed that I had selected an unusual cookie from the refreshment table. The cookie obviously contained some kind of herb that was most unusual for a cookie and we speculated on what it might be before moving on to a discussion about her former life as a third grade teacher. It was another of those chance encounters that turned out to be a most entertaining diversion. Afterwards I made a point to inquire about those cookies and discovered they were Butter Basil cookies. They were superb and I would love to have the recipe.

Fast forwarding to this weekend, last night I met up with a group of co-workers and friends of co-workers at a local Sports Bar where we had drinks and appetizers before proceeding on to the Bastrop Opera House to watch one of our own perform in a play. With 20-20 hindsight, I should never have had that frozen margarita. It was v-e-r-y strong and my head was a little bit swimmy when we headed to the theater. I think I would have been okay, except for one thing. The play (actually two one-act plays by Eugene Ionesco) was from the Theater of the Absurd. I had never heard of the Theater of the Absurd and it was quite a shock. The dialogue was incredibly difficult to follow, full of disjointed phrases and illogical thought. With a head clouded with too much tequila, it pretty much sounded like Greek by the time it got to my brain.

I managed to stay with the first play pretty well, even if it didn't make sense. Unfortunately our co-worker was a character in the second play. My head kept getting swimmier and although there were brief pockets of humor that came through clearly (and most of them involved our friend's character), I never did really figure out what was going on and I had a devil of a time staying awake. There was no way I was going to be able to go with my friends for a post theater drink, so I said my good-byes and headed home to bed. While I enjoyed the fellowship of the evening, all I can say is that the Theater of the Absurd will have to get along without me. There for awhile I began to understand what senility feels like from the inside. After reading about the two plays on Wikipedia and learning that they aren't supposed to make sense and that they remain very popular in France, I begin to understand why the French are so enamored of Jerry Lewis. They just have an incredibly odd sense of humor. I'm not sure I would have known what was going on if I had been handed a copy of the plays and could have read along with the performance. Oh, well, one must make a point to seek out new experiences. The experience I gained will lead me to run like crazy in the opposite direction the next time I hear the phrase "Theater of the Absurd".

Just not enough French blood flowing in my veins, I guess.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Little Car That Can

Lately I have been fighting some back issues that won't seem to go away. Thanks to a good chiropractor and a good massage therapist, I get periodic relief, but it has become increasingly clear to me that the problem is I spend way too much time in front of a computer.

I had decided that I need a new chair for my home office (and probably one at my work office, as well, but I'm going to see if I can't get the company to pay for that one) that would offer better support for my aging back. This morning when I headed toward the furniture store in Smithville, I did not really think I would find a suitable chair. I had in mind to purchase a new mattress and box spring set. The one I've been sleeping on for the past TWENTY or more years has more than given my money's worth and I made up my mind that I deserved a new bed for my new antique bedstead. And the furniture store was having a great, big sale. I do love sales.

Before I went bed shopping, I strolled around the store to see what else might catch my eye. I had been there less than 5 minutes when I heard a seductive whistle from the vicinity of the office furniture. There sat a beautiful chair that I knew would fit in with my antiques. I sauntered over, gave it a good examination and then sat down. Oh, my goodness. It was soft. It had lumbar support. It had an oak pedestal. It had decorative metal studs. I was in love.

Next to the chair was a very nice barrister's bookcase that was giving me the come-hither, but close examination of it led me to believe I could do better in the bookcase department, so I sat back down for another blissful, cushiony moment and then made myself get up and go in search of the bed department.

After twenty years, I was in for a bit of sticker shock at the current price of mattresses. Once I had recovered from that, I proceeded to lie down, roll around, briefly close my eyes, and savor the comfort of about a dozen mattresses. (I was not the only one performing this weird little ritual. The sale brought out lots and lots of shoppers.) I settled on a mid-price set by Sealy, with a cloud top and a latex foundation. I was very tempted to take a nap right there in the store, it was so comfortable.

The mattress had to be ordered (I get the distinct impression that few people purchase full mattresses these days and in fact even after I specified full, the salesman wrote down queen, which fortunately we discovered before I left the store). The chair, however, was ready to go home with me, provided we could squeeze it into Big Red.

Now, Big Red is deceptive to the casual observer. You would not believe how much you can haul in my baby when you put the back seats down. I had absolute confidence that the chair would slide right in and I would be on my way.

But the awkward angle of the chair back made it impossible to close the hatch top. The men helping me load were standing around considering how easy it would be to disassemble the pedestal and I was getting more apprehensive about how well I would be able to re-assemble it when I got home. That's when I pointed out the nice little anchor rings in the floor of the cargo area and suggested we let me get my bungee cords out of the storage well to hold the hatch down. After all, I only had to drive 11 miles. That was all the go-ahead they needed and before I could blink twice, they had conjured up some twine and had me safe and secure for the ride home.

The only hitch in the whole proceedings was when I unloaded the chair and knocked one of the wooden leg covers off. It took me awhile to figure out how the things fitted onto the metal legs.

I soon had the new member of the household in place and Mojo and I have been trying it out all afternoon. I think it will be a great comfort to my achy back.

The fine weather has brought a resurrection to my soul. After weeks of allergy troubles and back troubles, I have not felt like doing much. But today, once I was home and had Big Red unloaded, I fell in and began clearing out the front flower beds that have gotten so wild over the long, hot summer. While Coco sun-bathed on the back deck, Mojo stood guard as I pulled weeds and cut down errant tree sprouts. We feel a little less like worthless couch potatoes this afternoon. (Coco is still a worthless couch potato. That girl knows how to avoid work in favor of a nice nap in the sun.)

Tonight I head out to see a co-worker in a new play at the Opera House. A group from the office is meeting for some pre-performance appetizers. I fully expect to thoroughly enjoy the evening.

Too bad that the new mattress isn't here yet. It would have been the perfect ending to a very nice day.