Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving at home

happy thanksgiving flag tradition

or Norman Rockwell's Holiday Traditions 2008
starring my favorite guy, Keith.

This year Thanksgiving in Manassas was fun and full of delicious food and small traditions we have developed over the the years. A while back Mom got in a bad way and had to be in the hospital during Thanksgiving. Dad and the rest of us needed to have a holiday meal, so Keith stepped up with an offer to cook a turkey and bring it out to Manassas for the whole family. Jenny, my sister visiting from Texas,  prepared the kitchen for cooking a big meal and watched over Dad and Dave that year while Keith collected all the feastly fixings to create Thanksgiving dinner in Mom's absence. Now the tradition continues with Keith's help this year. At some point we also began getting out the Christmas tree and putting it up with decorations and lights because this time of year is very busy for floral designers, like Keith... therefore Christmas comes a little early to Manassas.  

Keith and I got Mom's Christmas tree up quickly Wednesday evening including a string of bubbling lights that I adore. We decided to go to Target for some replacement bubbling bulbs and found they have no more bubblers this year. We settled for a string of the new LED lights in all red faceted globes they are much more energy efficient. I chose red because the red and green of the bubble light fixtures adds warmth and we needed a little more warmth on this year's tree than just the seven bubbling lights. This is our first holiday without my Dad who was the reason these meals became so important in our family even with Mom in hospital. I know he was a big part of the drive to have a family celebrations. This year the table was set with brother Dave's favorite brown patterned plates, I requested the good sterling silverware, Mom chose to match the new drapes with a cranberry red table cloth and her new matching seat covers. The sparkling apple cider was served in lead crystal wine glasses from my dearly departed friend Harry Power's estate.  They ring clear and sweet like bells when clicked together for holiday toasts. Napkins of cloth, to save trees from the paper mills, were held in ceramic turkey napkin rings that were a gift from dear Aunt Beth many years ago. At the appointed time we all bowed our heads while Mom gave a blessing and shed a tear for all the loved ones missing from our holiday table. Then we filled our selves up with all our favorite Thanksgivings day's traditional foods. Beginning with turkey meat: light and dark, fully juicy and flavored with herbs from our garden, topped off with a side of pecan bread dressing, buttery golden Yukon mashed potatoes, green bean casserole with onion rings and creamy sauce, oven baked dinner rolls buttered and two kinds of cranberry dressing one tangy and the other sweet. Home made gravy from the turkey broth with mushrooms for earthy flavoring. It was all so good. Then after the main course and a small plate of salad  we had Keith's spicy sweet pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  Earlier in the day we saw most of the New York City Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. This year I enjoyed it more than usual for some reason, maybe the new flat screen TV showed if off better? Also we watched as the terrible terrorists in Mumbai, India continued their terrors on CNN live. This day giving thanks for our blessings was easy after seeing how uncertain security really is in this world. 
After our Thanksgiving day dinner, Dave went straight to bed, Keith and I helped Mom cleaning up then we had to pack up and come home to DC right away. Luckily traffic was light, we unloaded  left overs and clean laundry then we ate dinner again and watched a animated Pixar film The Incredibles on TV and went to bed happy and full of good food and thanks for all of our blessings. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Kermit Berg's prints 

solid maple wood rocking chairs

This is a ceramic jar that is used in Colonial Williamsburg for the sides of buildings where some sorts of birds nest but we have not seen any use ours fully. Once or twice Mr. house wren added twigs but Ms. wren rejected it for family raising due to the large front door. She prefers small doors that keep out unwanted bigger birds and squirrels  

burning bush and gray dogwood branches, Manassas
I like this gazebo bird feeder that hangs there empty lately due to squirrel raids. 

This tall shrub has a maroon colored leaf during the growing season and it changed to these lovely colors in fall. Mom and I got this and planted it years ago. She used to love them in Roanoke, VA when she was a kid. In spring they have flowers that look like puffs of smoke, so this bush gives interest much of the year and doesn't need much attention.

Yesterday while out delivering my 29 new Coptic bound books to the Plan b Gallery on 14th Street, NW for the white box show that opens on Black Friday, I ran across a little shop that I hadn't seen before. It was a used furniture shop with lots of cool stuff laid out in an old auto parts store. After I dropped my books off at Plan b Gallery and took some photos of the installation of my San Francisco artist pal Kermit Berg's photos for Foto Week DC, I decided to go check out the old stuff in this store called Miss Pixie's. My first time in the place, I kept thinking of my Mother and all the great furniture she might use. Frist, there was a daybed type chair that looked very 1940's with pastel colored upholstery covering it and a ruffle falling to the floor, seemingly perfect to hoist your legs to rest upright. Then, I came upon these chairs (see photo) which match almost exactly the one she bought herself back in the 1970's when she and Dad went out and started buying new furniture for the living room in the "Mediterranean style" that was all the rage back then. I tried one out, the straight upright back reminded me how this was an uncomfortable chair for me, now more that back then. I could sit anywhere and get comfortable at 16 years old, however at 53 it is challenging to be comfortable in any position. After trying them I won't be recommending we replace the one that is now gone. Still, I loved seeing these chairs and I wonder if that is the original fabric covering them like Mom had on hers when she got it in the 1970's. It sure looked familiar.  
A little further into the store I fell in love with a solid maple wood rocking chair, they had two of  them but this one has a better finish. Only $110.00 sounded like a good price for a nearly new chair that was comfortable to rock in yesterday. Sadly there isn't much room in our one bedroom apt. for another chair. I think how important it is to save good wooden chairs and furniture because when you go look at the new stuff it is all veneered and much of it is particle boards covered with plastic! Not the sort of thing you can use for very long. So it seems to me that Ikea makes landfill not furniture from goodness knows how many trees every year. I know the initial low low price is what makes it sell but in the long run those cheap furniture resources will be used up and there won't be any good stuff left for Ikea or Chippendale. Just another example of ignoring the real cost of a product. I have a beautiful oak library table I use as a desk with a solid wood top and massive legs that needs the drawer repaired. I also have a great captain's style chair that is certainly hand made also of wood but all the rungs have worked loose and need to be taken apart and glued back together with a fresh pot of glue. I love them both and don't want to part with them but I don't know where I can go to have them fixed. Any suggestions are welcome. Having the good stuff really does pay off if you can keep it in useful repair. 
We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving and I will be going with Keith home to Manassas to share the traditional Turkey and trimmings with Mom and my brother David. It will be a bit sad without Dad this year but we will be  giving thanks for what we have now and remembering holidays past. I was out in Manassas a couple weeks ago and took some photos of the colorful trees which are sure to be gone by this week's visit.  As you can see I found a very odd moth in our house flying very awkwardly around our living room a couple nights ago and got his picture when it landed on the wall next to my chair. I hope it isn't munching on our woolen blanket and sweaters that reside in the living room too!

Monday, November 17, 2008

one box and a new book to go in it...

Barcelona view #12 by Cor Windhouwer

 book of paintings open and standing 

That's right, I got up and went right to work on the remaining steps to complete the Barcelona leporello box and book. The weather was cool but there was no wind so the little space heater did keep me toasty warm on the porch studio while I worked. I retrieved the boxes out from under the brick weights, then I cut  brightly colored marbled paper to fit the inside of the clam shell box. The little pocket of blue was the hardest bit to do but it went in place pretty fast. Then the clam box had to go in the shell or "case" that makes the box complete. Once the box was done and under weights to hold it down for drying I got to work placing all the paintings Cor Windhouwer painted of Barcelona into the leporello book I made a year or more ago. That was fun, modern photograph corners are quick to use now a days. This Book  project is for Cor and his elder friend  Mr. Waelput who gave him the little book of photos. Mr. Waelput used to work for the Dutch Airlines: KLM so he traveled extensively. Now he is retired. Both Cor and Mr. Waelput in Rotterdam, Netherlands. 
In the end I was delighted to discover that the book fit into the case like a hand fits in a glove! No spare space in the box for the book to wiggle around causing damage. That also means the next box I make for my copy will be just the same size, it needs  no alterations to my first plan. It has been several years since I made a clam shell box and I was surprised how much I remembered about how to do it. Only once did I hesitate about how to wrap the teal paper over the box corners. 
This proeject is ready to be packed up to go over to it's owner in the next few weeks. If you want to see the original paintings before I mail it out let me know soon.
I am grateful to have had this interesting body of Cor's paintings to compile into a new bigger work of art.  
The bright colors of the box and the marble paper I chose to complement the paintings Cor did and the colors he likes to use, naturally we both love orange! 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

a box for Barcelona leporello

This morning I finally got back to work a project I started two years ago. I began with a pair of books in the form of an accordion or a leporello. Inside these are copies of photos of a tourist's book from Barcelona Spain of the 1950's painted by Cor Windhouwer with abstractions. I have the original Barcelona leporello to include in the box with the new book therefore I am making a small pocket in the top of the box to hold the original leporello which is much smaller. I feel pretty bad about taking so long to get this project done and I don't really have a good reason why. I hope my friend won't be too disappointed once he finally sees the finished book and box. This is the first time I have shown anyone what any of it looks like except Keith. I spent five hours today just laying out these parts of the box, cutting them, assembling them, then covering the inside and the case with paper and book cloth. I drew a plan or map of the design with all the measurements written in carefully in case I have troubles once it is all assembled then I can make a new one and adjust what ever problems arise. If I am lucky this first box will be perfect and I won't have to start over. I made  a copy of the Windhouwer paintings for the new book to keep for my collection of book works and I will make a second box to match this one for my copy after I get Cor's done. I find it is actually a lot of fun measuring, cutting, wrapping and gluing boxes but the initial start is a challenge because the parts must fit exactly. Once I begin it draws me in deeper and deeper and the only reason I quit working today was to let the completed work dry. Tomorrow I hope to put the inside sections in and assemble the case and the box but the weather man is calling for unseasonably cold weather and my studio is difficult to heat when the winter winds blow. I am very excited with this new work and I can't for the life of me figure out why I waited so long to get it done! I am really sorry to have kept my best pal Cor waiting all these years but he has never put any pressure on me to hurry up. Thank you Cor. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November is chrysanthemum month

pink chrysanthemums
The wild Chinese chrysanthemums in our yard have been extra beautiful this year. I don't know how it happened,  but from the one color we had the first year when it was just a few branches, to now as a whole flower bed full, it has developed a rainbow of colored blooms. Red, rust, yellow, beige, pink, and magenta. Add to those a few from domestic plants and we have had a nice year end to the blooming season.
Since I got home from Williamsburg life has been busy and fun. This time of year is great for art museums and visiting friends. Last week I saw the new exhibits at National Gallery of Art including the new show from Pompeii and other cities surrounding the volcano the erupted and buried them in 79 AD. Also a master works show of Dutch artist Jan Lievens who was friends with Rembrandt and painted his portrait into many of his works. I got to show my pals the Indian paintings still hanging I wrote about earlier by George de Forest Brush. I am looking forward to my next visit to the gallery because this is a great place to get out for a stroll through the grand halls of beautiful art works free and accessible to all who come. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

books, papers, flowers

Dust to Dust

This past weekend I attended a two day book arts fair that Pyramid Atlantic creates every two years. I have been going since 2000 and enjoying it every time. I bought the best marble papers there two years ago hand made by a guy from Minnesota and this year his paper was there again and I bought some more. The second day I bought some marbled papers from Chena River Marblers Regina & Dan St. John  from Amherst, Massachusetts. I am already making new books with the papers I bought. This morning I finished my white journal and then cut papers and glued up a couple more new books one has some of the new marble paper as it's end pages. I also bought a poem, pencil & book in a cigarette box that was made by Chip Shilling another guy from Minnesota who taught a class at Pyramid Atlantic I took a while back on UV sensitive polymer plates  used for letter presses. 
He made his box for the Artomat® machine that is in Minneapolis. I made books for the Artomat® that back in 2001. Clark Whittington and his Artists in Cellophane are a lot of fun and I like collecting the good stuff that comes from his rehabilitated cigarette machines at only $5 each they are a steal. Mine are still popular but I gave up trying to keep Clark's Artomat® machine full. Chip and his wife worked out the way to make their submission pay for it's self. I am delighted with the little book set he created. I took a picture of it and discovered I got number 55 of his edition of 150 copies! I like the number 55 too.
I also got to take some photos of the chrysanthemums  in our garden recently. I wanted to show you the Chinese wild chrysanthemums and how they have evolved to be several different colors all from the same original plant we bought at the National Arboretum's annual plant sale three years ago. I had to shoot a short film of the mums for fun. Today I worked on editing more of the Jamestown and Williamsburg photos 385 in total. I hope to have time the end of the week to set those up on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

home again, home again jig-a-dee-jig

slave's dirt floor cabin down in the bottom

dirt floor cabin at Great Hopes Plantation
That funny basket there above the bed is a chicken basket to carry chickens. The spaces between the logs of the cabin were filled with a mix of mud, manure, hair and straw and removed in summer for colonial air conditioning.

We are just home from voting for our first Afro-American President which was a very exciting experience. We left the poll and took a cloudy damp day tour of the gardens at the monastery across the street. Riotous red-orange crape myrtles surround the parking lot and roses are blooming in the garden slow and rich this time of year to finish the season. Last week was spent in Williamsburg/Jamestown, Virginia where we saw all sorts of beautiful leaves and trees, colonial houses and folks dressed to illustrate life of the 1770's.  On this trip we took my mother along for the full experience since she no longer has to play nurse to my father. We took  walks and enjoyed having lunches in the three taverns of Williamsburg. We went to Jamestown to see the new medallion discovered this past year in the basement digs of Fort Jamestown's buildings. I was impressed with the drawing on it since it looked like a line drawing from my own sketch book. The medallion was an Indian's head cut from copper foil and incised with a line to show eyes, nose, ear and the outline of his hair. Not as big as a quarter it was very fine work but also very simple. The historians at the museum posited that this could have been an identification badge, for the Indian who wore it, to come and go from the fortress. They didn't explain why they thought that was plausible. I would guess there was some mention of such a thing in some one's diary from those times but I wish they had explained exactly why. I was completely delighted to take lots of photographs while we were touring and one of our last experiences was visiting a place called  Great Hopes Plantation of colonial Williamsburg. This farm is where they have more and more buildings  each year and fields tilled by real oxen and tended by hand. There on the far are the colonial Williamsburg staff carpenters who are building all the time. They use eighteenth century tools and techniques to build in the historic area. A few years back when this area was begun not long after a hurricane blew right through town they were collecting fallen trees and slicing them into boards and beams for new buildings! Right now they are working on the first building to go up on Duke of Gloucester Street in 50 years. The newly rediscovered and excavated Carlton Coffee House. This coffee house was underneath a late Victorian 189o's home that they moved to the edged of town and sold to some private person. The visit to the Great Hopes Plantation was late in the day and there was a lone carpenter named Chris who was working on a few "goads" for the Oxen drivers to use to direct the Oxen. He was very red and burnt from working in the sun but his personality beamed as he explained he was being a good guy and making these smooth sticks to be given as gifts at the International Oxen Conference taking place behind his building in the field. I took a couple short videos of him scrapping the old wood from these sticks to make them more flexible. He used a scrapping tool that was like a two handle knife blade to pull the length of the stick and shape it to his liking. The bench he sits on holds the stick in place until he steps on the pedal that raised a big heavy round  ball that held the stick still as he pulled the blade across the stick. 

There were others on the plantation working including a lady who was making pegs for the carpenters using the same sort of bench with a pedal and ball to hold them in place while she scrapped the pegs down to the right size and circumference.  We visited the slave quarters and saw a house with a dirt floor that was pretty exotic for us but common in that time for all sorts of people slaves and otherwise. All in all the trip to Great Hopes Plantation was a high point in the week. We saw  a coop with Dominique chickens (rare old breed) and three hogs in the pig pen that were soon to be hanging in the newly built smoke house, a resident whispered. 
I have a lot of stories and pictures  from this years Williamsburg & Jamestown  trip but before you go to sleep or click delete I will close and join the masses waiting for the exciting news of who won the elections! More to come...