Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Chicago Miniatures Shows

Last weekend, I went to Chicago for the Tom Bishop Chicago International Show and the Three Blind Mice Show. It was FABOOSH! I saw Brae and April and Keli and Mini Dork and Mad for Mod and Greg and a bazillion vendors and other miniaturists and OH IT WAS HEAVEN!!!! It was a whirlwind of people and shopping and food and sleeping and amazing artisans from all over the world. But first I had to get there.

I went and got a last-minute (yay for someone else's cancellation) back epidural two days before I left. Without anesthesia. In my doctor's office. He's very professional and awesome and all, but BIG SHOT with NO DRUGS plus Anxiety Disorder. Hmmm. It wasn't fun. However, I survived, and I was able to go to Chicago BECAUSE of my back doctor, so I praise him. THANK YOU, BACK DOCTOR!

Then I was THISCLOSE to my destination when BAM, I blew a flat on I-88, which for those of you unfamiliar with the Chicagoland area, is a tollway right outside of the city proper. I was internally b*tching about the $3.60 (each) tolls UNTIL I blew this flat, and a nice man came and put on my spare for free:

It was a HUGE hole. Like the kind of hole that you can't patch. The guy changing the tire said he thought it was probably a screw. OH JOY. And yes, the tread on that tire looks great because it was less than a year old. Sigh. I drove on the original Corolla tires for TEN YEARS, bought all new tires finallllly, and then blow a flat like 10 months later:

So then I could only drive 55 mph with the spare because the #999 HELP guy -- who I didn't even have to call because he saw me on a camera somewhere and showed up in under 5 minutes (THANK YOU, CREEPY BIG BROTHER CAMERAS) -- told me I could blow a flat in the little fake tire if I drove too fast. He said, "They run HOT." Ever try driving really slowly in Chicago traffic? Yeah, it doesn't work so well.

Stupid things happen on or near me. A lot.

I wasn't ON Clark Street, but I was damn close. Just sayin.'

Anyway, after all of the chaos leading up to the trip, I was ecstatic when I finally met up with Brae at Three Blind Mice. And then the shopping began...

Um. I spent a lot of money. And it was totally worth it. I've been stuffing away dollars since last fall for this experience. No regrets!

Some highlights...

(No particular order, and these are from both of the shows.)

I've been eyeballing this scythe from Sir Thomas Thumb for a really long time. It looks perfect propped up in the Beacon Hill Crime Museum, where it will live from now on:

I found this tiny painted metal owl cane in a bargain basket for $1.00. Ollie is SO HAPPY to have a cane, even though you can't tell with that grumpy, little face:

Pots from The Enchanted Garden. They're so purty:

This little duck is my favorite one. It has shiny, glittery glaze. I find it's hard to stop staring at it:

I got the strawberry plant pot above for the Jeanetta Kendall strawberry plant kit. I also got some flower kits from Mostly Paper Miniatures. There are wee toy kits from Volker Arnold who was SO nice and personable. I love a good German accent, so it was fun to chat with him while we shopped:

I also loved meeting Kathryn and Alan from Templewood Miniatures in person. I have many of their 1:144 kits that I need to actually put together/finish *cough* which I will do very soon. I got some 1:48 clock kits from them and a bunch of fun box kits from Lisa's Little Things:

I got this little petit point pig pillow kit (say that 5x fast) from Lucy Iducovich. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the real pillow in color to have something to work from since I'm so visual. If any of you have the finished pig pillow or know someone who does, I'd love a photo. I only have Lucy's snail mail address, so I might have to write to her for a picture in the future:

Jane Graber honey pot. Jane was also SO sweet and wonderful in person. I would have loved to talk with her, but instead I just handed her this pot with The Shakiest Hand Ever because I was so intimidated by all of her beautiful things, and she told me to reach into the pottery display to choose which one I wanted. It was quite funny because the more I thought about my hand shaking, the more it shook, of course. I found the perfect, little honey dipper for it at Hartland Miniatures:

I saw these scissors early on, but then two days later, I couldn't remember where I'd seen them. On our last go round, I found them again and was so happy! They're from Tiny Ter Miniatures. Wee scissors from Spain! WHEEEEE:

I saw this wasp nest when I went to the 2013 Quad Cities Mini Makers Show. It's from A Pocket Full of Wishes. I emailed them in advance to see if they still had the wasp nests I'd been thinking about for the last two whole years? Yes, yes they did! Lesson learned: If you really like something, buy it right then and there:

A kitty vase that reminded me of Webster (The Enchanted Garden) and a ridiculously adorable friend from 64tnt miniatures:

April and I had a fantastic conversation about Lutheran Fluff, which is what I call the wide variety of fluffs and jellos that can be found at Lutheran gatherings, so I HAD to have these jellos when I saw them -- and yes, they DO jiggle. The best part is that April had also spied them on her own and bought one, too. Lutheran Jello FOR ALL! OK, so it's probably not really Lutheran jello. Whatevs:

I got a bunch of half scale kits for Ollie and Svetlana from Tiny Textiles & More:

An itty bitty bright orange hand blown glass perfume bottle from Gerd Felka:

Pig toy from Taller Targioni and a Toblerone bar A FREAKIN' AWESOME TOBLERONE BAR from Franzy's Paradies:

April and I both went on quite the goose chase for those Toblerone bars. We both separately saw them on Friday and then spent some time hemming and hawing and realized we needed them and went on a hunt for them on Saturday and couldn't find them and WHERE ARE THEY?! and then PRESTO MAGIC! April found them again. Thank GAWDS because we really needed them. I see that Keli also needed one. I totally understand.

*huge smile*

I got this little drum-playing bunny from the talented and lovely Veronique Lux of France:

Some wonderful, little minis from Wright Guide Miniatures -- love these people. They're so nice and fun:

The very first table I went to was Miyuki Kobayashi from Japan. I'm obsessed with her fish bowls. I've been wanting one forEVER, so I was SO happy to find the perfect one. I want ALL of her bowls, but I settled for this one with three fishies inside. It's sitting on a penny, which tells you how teeeeeeny those fishies are. It's perfect. Miyuki was so sweet. I hope to see her again one day:

The necessities from T&D Miniatures, who always have everything you could possibly need at fantastic prices:

OMG I'm still dying of cute over my little platypus from Franzy's. Isn't she so adorable? Photos don't really do her justice. Her little beak is open. I want to pet her all day long. I see a theme here. I got a lot of toys. After you mini long enough, you learn that you can get plates and cups anywhere, but these little artisan beauties are the really special minis. Purr:

Tweezers and tapes from The Little Dollhouse Company. I saw these in Brae's post and had her take me directly to where she found them because I had a major jealous and needed them. Thank you, Brae! So itty bitty:

Whenever I see Barbara Meyer from mini-gems, I buy up some more birdies. Her birdies are the BEST:

Goodies from Patricia M. Wehmeier:

An itty bitty needlework from Moe Miniatures. Can you believe this only cost $4.50? Neither can I:

And then I got a HUGE surprise when Keli gave me a whole bunch of farmie goodies. Look at the details in these canned goods!! I love them. They're extra special to me because right now at this very moment in my basement is a whole closet filled with my grandmother's canning supplies. I love knowing they're down there because it makes me have fond memories of Grandma canning applesauce each summer when I was a kid:

Keli made goodies for me, April, and Brae, and you can see them all here. I'm so blessed to have such thoughtful, generous friends. THANK YOU, KELI!!!!!

And then I drove home in a Wrath of God thunderstorm that would NOT let up for almost three hours. Good times. At least the new tire worked just fine.

I usually get a snow globe when I travel, right? Well, I have a bazillion Chicago/Illinois snow globes from when I lived there already, so I picked up this little $2.99 ring holder at a gas station. It's to keep my jewelry safe from Gretchen. It's now high up on the bathroom wall, where she can't... um... stalk it...

I can't decide if I should send this to my back doctor as a thank you for helping me go to the shows or if I should selfishly hoard it. This might make him think I'm even weirder than he already thinks I am. Hmmm. I'll think on it:

Whew! That was a lot of links and minis. I'm exhausted. Are you?

And just like every BlogHer conference that I've been to, I was super anxious and nervous and worried ahead of time, and then I got there and remembered it's all about The People and The Friends, and everything was fine. I was fine. I was really, really happy. I had a great time. The memories of this weekend will sustain me for a long time to come. Thank you SO MUCH to all of my friends for helping to make it happen and to all of the vendors who came so far and worked so hard to bring childlike joy to all those miniaturists.

Thank you. A million times thank you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blue Mars, Blue Blondie

A super long time ago, I started reading Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's part of the Mars Trilogy. I read the first two books on my Nook, but then it got too hard to read Blue Mars that way because I needed to be able to easily flip back and find pages to reread. It's a lot of story. I abandoned it at some point thinking I'd find it in true "old-school book" form at some point. Luckily, the library had it. Hooray! But then I had to start rereading it all over again. I'm getting closer and closer to "new story," which is exciting. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying rereading and reviewing the parts I already know about. Once again, I find myself thinking thinking thinking -- about life, politics, Earth, what's "good" vs. what's "bad." Robinson always leaves plenty of nuggets in his books for me to chew on.

There is a psychologist who went on the original trip to Mars with the First Hundred. He's still around, and his name is Michel. He's talking to Ann, who is a biologist obsessed with the "original Mars" -- the "red Mars" that will never be again because they've started terraforming. I don't think I'm really adding any spoilers here because, come on, the names of the books are Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. It's kind of obvious, isn't it? Methinks so. I won't ruin the plot. I'll just talk about this one little part.

So Michel is talking to Ann. She's gotten severely depressed because she wanted Mars to remain in its original state -- the EXACT way they found it when they arrived. It's not possible. Too much has already changed. Time has passed. Just like in our own lives, you can't just stay in one place and time and have nothing change no matter how much you want that. Life goes on.

There are many different ways to deal with depression or other mental health issues, so I was rather surprised to find the kind that I practice right here in the book. This could have easily been a conversation between me and Shrinkydink back when I lived in Chicago.

  What is now lacking?
  The world.
  Every day you still walk out to see the sunset.
  You claim the destruction of the primal Mars is the source of your depression. I think the philosophical reasons cited by people suffering depression are masks protecting them from harder, more personal hurts.
  It can all be real.
  You mean all the reasons?

   ...There's usually a start to these things, among all the real reasons -- the first one that started you down your road. Often you have to go back to that point in your journey in order to start off in a new way.
  Time is not space. The metaphor of space lies about what is really possible in time. You can never go back.
  No no. You can go back, metaphorically. In your mental traveling you can journey back into the past, retrace your steps, see where you turned and why, then proceed onward in a direction that is different because it includes these loops of understanding. Increased understanding means increased meaning. 

  I think you're afraid. Afraid of attempting a transmutation -- a metamorphosis into something new. The alembic stands out there, all around you. The fire is hot. You'll be melted, you'll be reborn...

Yes, yes, you have to keep fighting and going back and melting yourself to figure things out. It makes total sense. This is why I try to have conversations with "young Blondie" -- to tell her it will be OK, to kill fears that still grip me in my middle age, to reframe the past and help make a better future.

I truly believe you can't just ignore your past, run away from it, or pretend it never happened. I find that if I push away my hurts, they build and build and build until I'm a volcano of 1,000 emotions. It's better to sit with the 1 or 5 current emotions and not let them stack up upon each other.

How do I feel?

It's the why that ends up helping me the most. I'm acting X because Y happened in the past that has created Z today. Can I think about X in a different way and act A today and end up at G tomorrow? It's entirely possible. I don't have to keep ending up at Z over and over and over. I can end up at G or L or S. If I work at it. The key is working at it.

My back has been hurting again lately. It's time for another epidural. I've been trying to ignore the physical pain and pretend it's not happening for a long time. My mind and my body are connected, however, so along with ignoring the physical pain, I've lost track of the mental pain. X and Y are getting pushed by the silliest of things, and now I'm back at Z. Depressed. Hard on myself. Miserable. Sad.

I need to fight. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!!!! Veer away from Y -- look around for J. There's got to be another letter out there. Another way of thinking. Another response. I can create a new pathway in my brain. GO GO GO, SELF! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!

Something like that. I'm trying. And in the meantime, I'll get my shot.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Briarpatch Loses Its Briars

I took this selfie to send to my friends on one of my first visits to Briarpatch before I moved in. It's hard to explain exactly how ENORMOUS the bushes outside are/were. I thought maybe the photo would help. I'm 6' tall. That's me standing near one of the "shorter" bushes. You can kind of see part of the really tall one on the far right -- the one that went above the roof line. That bush was smack in front of my kitchen window. It gave me this lovely view:

Yep. That's a lotta bush. Gretchen LOVED it though because the birdies would hop around in there all day, so she could sit right there by the window and watch them for hours. It was kitteh heaven, really.

The other bushes were also tall, but they were mostly "fat." I guess that's the best way to put it. This one below was the first thing you would see if you walked out my front door. It was covering part of the sidewalk. This winter, we got a really bad snowstorm. This bush got weighed down by the snow and covered the entire sidewalk. I spent an evening scooping snow off of the bush so anyone who needed to could actually come to the door. It didn't really help. The weight of the snow was just too much. It was a sad, saggy bush. I wish I'd taken a picture of that. Oh well:

Here's the thing about the bushes. Because I'm sentimental and all, getting rid of them is/was hard for me. I feel like I'm taking away something that belongs to my grandparents. Even though they passed away long ago, I still correlate many parts of this house to them. For example, the kitchen, entryway, laundry room, and porch all belong to my grandparents. The living room, bedroom, and guest room belong to me. I'm getting older, and my memories are hazy. I don't remember ever spending time in my grandparents' bedroom while they were alive, so it's been very easy to make it "truly mine." But other parts of the property are so heavily linked to Grandma and Grandpa Blonderson that I think of them as somehow being "on loan" to me. I know, I know. It's weird. But it's how I feel. I am living in the present. I know this house is mine. But I kind of like the idea that we're kinda "sharing" the property. It's comforting.

But back to the bushes. My kind sister offered to come trim them with her hedge trimmer. Um, no. Girlfriend, these bushes are BEASTS, I said. No amount of hacking them back was going to help. I found out from Uncle that the bushes were planted in 1969, making them 46 years old. If they had been properly maintained, I probably could've kept them. But they weren't. They were "rental" bushes. I'm a life-long renter, so I totally get it. I never spent any time maintaining the bushes at Farmhouse Villa. It's just the way rental properties go. You mow, and then you call it a day. So the bushes of my childhood, which were small, perfectly trimmed, and pretty are gone. The bushes of today are going to swallow Briarpatch whole if left to their own devices. I am not Briar Rose. It was time to rip out those bushes farmie-style.

Yes, I had a few moments of panic when I saw my father using a chainsaw by himself under this bush, but once he showed me that the chainsaw idles when you aren't pulling the trigger, I felt better. Still, I felt the need to be outside just in case there was some kind of bush emergency.

The bush before:

There were two more bushes just around the corner that covered my laundry room and bathroom windows. You can see the extra tall one that covered the kitchen window peeking up above the roof line there:

Pa masterfully cut the front bush apart in chunks and drug them away with his lawn tractor:

It took a while, but then it was done! HOORAY!!!!

And then I realized I need to wash my siding. Baby steps:

A few weeks later, I heard the familiar sound of a chainsaw in the lawn. This time, it was Uncle. He was going after the dead pine tree in the yard. This tree made me incredibly sad because it USED to be beautiful. We took an extended family photo in front of this tree for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. We took another family photo in front of it after Grandpa was killed in his car accident. So the tree has always been bittersweet. Now, it was just bitter. Half dead, very sad looking, and growing wonk where it topped out and skewed off to the side. Just to the right of it, you can see a baby pine tree that's never grown and is also half dead. It was time for that one to go, too:

The good thing about being a farmie is that you have large equipment all over the place. So you hook up a chain to the top of the tree, pull it tight with the front of your tractor, and then send someone else to chainsaw the bottom of the tree. Back up the tractor right when the tree is falling, and no one gets hurt. PRESTO MAGIC! Then you can drag the tree away over into the large pile of other dead trees that randomly collect on farm properties:

Watching my uncle, cousin, and father work together on the tree was a magical thing. Yes, I was worried inside (I'm an anxious gal in these situations), but I also felt happy. I saw their smiles. I heard them hollering instructions to each other over the rumble of diesel engines. I felt excited and proud to be a part of their world for a little bit. I remembered old slides I saw of Grandpa working with his sons. It's all being paid forward now. The tree, which Uncle said was planted in the 1970s, lived a good life. It rose and died in my lifetime. It's OK for it to die. It's OK to take it down. It's OK to change the landscape of the Briarpatch property. New trees will grow. I'm going to plant one soon.

So a little time went by, and then it was back to the bushes:

Pa took them down like a champ while I watched and took photos for posterity:

My horrible back was sore, so I tipped back in my Zero-G lawn chair and watched just to make sure one of the bushes didn't eat Pa whole. Yes, farmies wear Carhartts while they're sunning:

Piece by piece, the bushes came down and were dragged away:

The innards of the bushes were all just wood. The green part was only growing on the top and the front. Strange, but true:

Then it was time for the big beast on the end. This bush is covering a little staircase that leads to my back porch (which every Blonderson calls "the front porch"). This one was trickier because it didn't have one large stump to hack at. It had many, many, many little stumps, so it took a lot of time. Pa was very diligent, careful, and determined:

Here we are about halfway through. At least I can see the staircase rail now, eh?

And then it was done. WOW. There was a lot of house hiding under those bushes! I took a broom and brushed off the side of the entire house. It only helped a little tiny bit. Imma need to borrow Eagle's power washer this summer:

Just out of camera range was this giant tractor. Yes, we have a lot of heavy equipment around here, and it RULES:

And Gretchen? She was shocked to see that the birdie bush was gone, but she still sits here every day and watches the robins on the ground instead. The kitchen is gloriously BRIGHT now. I can also see if someone is in my driveway, which I could never see before:

At the end of the day, all of the tree bits were gone except the stump. The little tree was gone, too. It's OK. It felt GOOD to look outside and see the healthy, happy trees. I'm very blessed to have family who will help me with my yard work. I can't only imagine how much it would have cost to pay someone to do all that. Now, when spring bursts out soon in all her true glory, this part of my yard will be so beautiful. I'm excited:

But we're not quite done. In this last photo, you can see the very edge of the OTHER giant bush lurking on the other side of the front door. And then there are more going around the other side of the house. We'll get there. All things in good time.

And I know Grandpa is proud of my father, my uncle, and my cousin. And even me.

Thank you, family. Thank you, Grandpa.

I was taken back by all of this to an old Robert Frost poem. My trees aren't birches, but the poem captures the joy of any and all trees -- and the people who make them special.

by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.