Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Missing that Aussie

On Christmas Eve it started to snow...

And then there was a blizzard...and then it snowed again.

The stray cats still made it to the coontina....

...but the thermometer has still not made it to above freezing.

Brrrr. Cold. Ice. Cold again. Brrr. I've been stuck indoors for days and although I have a full case of wine and lots of enchiladas (not sure why but that's what I decided to make for Christmas dinner), I want to get outside and visit friends or just do something but it's been too darn icy.

I also want to get out because I haven't seen Aussie in about a month. I miss that dog. I'm looking forward to being with her on the Kansas land so we can stomp around and see what everything looks like covered in snow and to see what kind of critter tracks are traversing the landscape... but dang, it's just too cold and icy. I hope she's spending her time in front of a fireplace... which is probably something I should be doing too. :-)

Last time I was out on the Kansas land was about a month ago. It looked like winter was approaching but the weather was unusually warm (in the 60s!) and since I always get out there so late, the shadows were long.

The goldenrod had gone to seed.

And the shadows got longer as I decided to cross one part of the unexplored property to see what was on the other side.

Aussie (of course) joined me and the two of us walked through the part of the woods where the Ents lived.

We walked and walked and walked and then....what the????


Horses that were acting like they had never seen anything like a woman and a dog on the other side of their fence.

I'm sure they were just as surprised to see us as Aussie and I were to see them...and just as curious.

Aussie, I know what you're thinking...don't do it.

Oh Aussie!

The horses snorted, hmmphed, had some disapproving looks directed at us, and then galloped away, making as much noise as they possibly could on their 50+ open acres of land.

Gallop, gallop, gallop (not in a straight line, they were taking their time) and that was that. Show offs.

Aussie and I then moved on to the next area to explore. She's a very good and patient scout. This is what I see when I try to catch up because I'm usually tangled up in vines or something. Two legs are no match for four experienced ones.

When I first saw this thing I thought of a tree house. Not sure why because there's no tree and there's no house.

We found an old rotted tree.

I found another down feather from a hawk or owl. It's getting hard to take these close up photos because if Aussie sees me interested in something, she comes running. Feather fluffs move around a lot when one dog is having some good hearty breaths just an inch or so away.

We found a rather deep and narrow ravine and I'm glad there was a pallet over it because I would have had to retrace my steps where I had been if there was no way to cross it...and probably in the dark too because the sun was quickly setting.

It's still so pretty out there, even when there is hardly anything to see.

It has got be some place wonderful when covered with bright white snow. The temperature is supposed to get to at least 32 degrees tomorrow and if things thaw out enough, I am out of here. Besides, I think the birds are tired of me after being confined with me for almost four days. Eddie has been calling out "Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!" because that's usually what she does when I'm almost out the door on my way to work in the morning. I think she means it now. And I'm anxious to follow her orders. To go and go and go. :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009


It's so cold, even nightlights seem warm.

If Stella was a painter and lived in 17th century Italy and painted a self portrait, she could sign it Stella Caravaggia. Ha ha ha.

When I was up in Chicago about 10 days ago, there was a Caravaggio exhibit (the artist known for chiaroscuro, paintings focused on light and shadow). One of the guards on the main floor told me I was not to miss it but when I finally found the gallery, it was the same stuff I had seen when I was a little girl (and I think in the same room!). The guard in that gallery admitted that there was one new painting and pointed to it on the far wall. Well....sometimes you're in the mood and some days you're looking for things that surprise and delight. If I had stopped to read the description of Caravaggio though, he was definitely full of the personality. He would spend a couple weeks on a somber religious painting and then go out and look for a fight. He sure had a lot of Irish in him for being an Italian. The painting on loan was something that I most probably won't see again in my lifetime so I really should have stopped for a full scrutiny...but I was driven to look at other things and besides, I didn't have all day, just part of a day.

Down the hall from the Caravaggio, a dark hall, were 36 of these small busts made by Honore Daumier. Oh my oh my oh my. When I first saw them I thought, who were these guys and what did Daumier have against them???? Surely he wasn't friends with any of them. I learned later that he created these busts as models for political caricatures. The originals he used were modeled in clay but the ones in this glass case were cast in bronze posthumously.

Those faces!

All smug and nasty (I'm curious about the bump on the head of this one).

Looking like characters from a Dickens novel...the evil characters.

I was drawn to one in particular and apparently at least one of these characters did turn out to be someone that Daumier liked, well, I'm assuming he did because the two worked together. This is his friend Charles Philipon, the editor of La Caricature, a French satirical political journal and also the less politically extreme Le Charivari (which was the model for England's Punch magazine). It was hard to take a picture through glass in a very dark hall with no flash....but try to imagine a face with a pleasant expression with a very long and upturned nose. His personality was actually very charming in contrast to everyone else in the case.

In some sort of an odd way, he reminds me of my friend Ken. This little bronze just has that stance of Ken, always looking up. I remember one time attending midnight mass with him at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco one Christmas Eve. That was quite the blend of people in attendance. There were the wealthy, wealthy people and then there were the kids just off the street playing air guitar, the drag queens and of course the full-on Christmas procession pageantry with the dousing of everyone in the aisles with incense (cough cough cough). When mass was over we ran across the street to L'Etoile and drank single-malt scotch to celebrate ourselves and Christmas.

Ken and I met when we worked in a publishing company a long time ago. I was always late, really late getting to work each morning because...I just don't like getting out of bed. Thirty years later it's still an issue. Ha ha ha. However, Ken would do his best to get me to work sort of on time by calling me when he got to work and then asking me if I was awake. I would lie and say yes (I can have lucid telephone conversations when I'm half asleep or even a higher percentage than that). Ken would ask if my eyes were open. I would lie and say yes. He would then ask me what the weather was like. I'd lie and say the sun was out. He would ask if I could go to the window and tell him exactly what I saw. I'd lie and make up something. Then he'd get serious and would ask me a complicated math problem. He would ask something like what 47 times 16 was and then...I'd damn him because those math problems wake you up!

Ken grew up in the south and had a strong Atlanta accent. He studied music at Yale (which is in Connecticut) and is probably the smartest person I have known. Ken's accent however, made it hard for some people to understand him at times. One of my favorite stories was when he had to go get ice for a party when he was at Yale. When he was at the convenience store, he asked for some "ahse." The cashier did not know what he was talking about. I think she answered with an "excuse me?" He repeated his request for some "ahse." I think she replied with another "excuse me" but probably this time with a more frustrated face. Ken repeated his request. She still did not know what he was talking about. I think they volleyed one question followed by the other's question for such a long time that when it was Ken's turn to ask his question again, Ken got so frustrated he just yelled out "AHSE! FROZEN WATER, COMES IN CUBES!"

Ken was a beautifully expressive writer even when it came to professional correspondence. I remember he was having a hard time with a difficult customer and things got so bad that when he sent his final letter, he ended it with "Madam, I refrain from a complimentary closing." Ha ha ha.

He also had a beautiful voice and when I needed to say no to someone at work, I'd borrow him to deliver a baritone "NO."

I think about Ken every Christmas and on the 28th of December because today is Ken's birthday. He would have been...57 I think. Ken passed away three years ago from cancer. We had grown apart for at least five years before his passing because it was so hard to get past his significant other. When I would call, that awful man would answer the phone and try to make me go away by saying that they were preparing dinner, eating dinner, or cleaning up after dinner. There was always an excuse of something being a before, during or after. After a while I just gave up.

I flew out for Ken's memorial in San Francisco and made Michael (who also worked with us) go with me. Michael was not happy about that, mainly because he couldn't stand Ken's partner either. We were the first ones to arrive at the church and positioned ourselves at the very back because we did not want that awful man to see us. When we saw that that awful man had entered the church and was walking up the aisle, Michael and I both (at the exact same time) slid down in the pew and put the programs over our faces. In San Francisco the sun just about never comes out but it did that day and when the light burst through the stained glass windows on that awful man and Michael and me, I knew that was Ken laughing at the three of us.

We found out later that that awful man had another one of his outbursts when Ken's choir had gathered to sing under his window at the hospice. The awful man had gone to Cala to get some groceries and when he came back to find the choir under the window, took out the canned goods and threw them at the choir members until they ran away. I'm sure if I looked for that awful man in that Daumier case, I would find him, front and center.

Ken always made me laugh and was amused and bemused by so many things. I am always drawn to people who can do that and I miss him. People come and go in your life but if you have some good stories, you can introduce your friend to other people even if that friend isn't around anymore. So today I think of Ken, and laugh about the stories of him and his music friends (his friend Harry performed the Nutcracker on STILTS on Japanese TV!) and wish Ken a happy birthday...and I know he hears me because the sun is gloriously bright today. :-)

Friday, December 25, 2009

From all of us...

Everyone did a pretty good job of posing for the Christmas photo this morning except for Violet...who is mad. Why is she mad? Because Violet wanted to wear the dress Stella has on. And Stella being the way she is, I don't think she'll take that dress off for a week.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a little family drama. :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stella made her request to Santa...

And just to be sure Santa would know how really bad she was this year, Stella took a big bite out of the linen closet shelf yesterday. Baaaaaad. I'm sure she'll get just what she's worked so hard for... lots and lots of sticks to shred and chew.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I almost always find out about these exhibits too late.

Case in point? A recent exhibit of Jennifer Angus. I found out about it two days after it closed. An exhibit of design patterns made with insects...although this clip of another exhibit has an additional theme of Victorian children. What's not to like if you happen to be me?

When I saw this image in a magazine review of an art exhibit recently, I made my reservation to see the show immediately since it closes January 3. This was something I did not want to miss.

It definitely looked like the Victorian scrapbook pages I've written about before, the ones I've been researching because the why of their creation is such a mystery. To find an entire exhibit of these things (although mine are American and do not use photos or "cartes de visite"), well, I am still somewhat astonished.

So last Wednesday I flew up to Chicago to see the Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photocollage show at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I flew up primarily to see this one show but was also hoping I might see the department store Christmas window displays...but um, I never made it out of the museum. Apparently you are allowed to use a camera in the museum (just no flash and you can only photograph objects in the permanent collection)! The novelty of being able to do this took over my day. The freedom to take a picture of almost anything? I've been to some museums where you aren't even allowed to sketch!

When I first got to the museum, I decided to stop for coffee or lunch or something and somehow settled on doing that at the new restaurant in the new modern wing. Oh my. So high in clouds are we that we must make a reservation to be allowed up. I made the reservation at the front desk and then took the elevator up to have lunch all by myself attended to by the entire waitstaff...which was really, really nice. :-)

This is a pumpkin soup garnished with sweet potato chips, some sort of grated cheese at the bottom and micro-herbs that the waiter avowed were tarragon, parsley and chervil....I wasn't convinced...I suspected they were radish sprouts because they were so peppery. The soup was further accented with cayenne pepper. It was divine.

This is a butternut squash filled ravioli with sausage, caramelized onions and micro-herb sage. Again, absolute perfection.

What a nice way to start the day. The waiter recommended I start my museum tour by visiting the third floor of the modern wing, his favorite, because there was a Francis Bacon. Bacon was one of my favorite painters when I was in my 20s too but I could not find his painting...instead I found this installation...

A hanging black man and a sleeping white man. Not the kind of thing I wanted to think about after such a perfect experience in the restaurant, but to see them as a repeat pattern on a wall? Well, how can I not be drawn to a pattern?

Uh, but bags of cat litter on the floor????? Some days you are receptive to what an artist is communicating and some days you are not. Today was one of my "not" days. I just am not drawn into art that is made up of symbols that require an explanation. If you need a written explanation, personally I think your medium should be editorial, not pictorial. Maybe that's the illustrator in me talking because in illustration you have to grab your audience immediately and tell your story as fast as possible.

In the middle of this installation was a wedding dress (to symbolize optimistic hopes, the wallpaper pattern symbolized the United States' past and the cat litter "symbolized absorption of the stench of excrement" from what was depicted on the wallpaper I suppose...oh...political agenda, it is just so darn tedious. Why? Because you are not allowed to think your own thoughts even if you might agree with what's being said).

Anyway, back to the wedding dress, I was talking to one of the guards and she said that a lot of people were taking pictures of themselves behind the wedding dress and heck, that sounded like fun. I got this young woman to pose...

Uh, but my photos didn't quite turn out (hahaha)...

When I walked to the next gallery I noticed a group of women in front of a dramatic apricot and orange painting. I had to tell them they were missing a photo opportunity. They then handed me their I-Phones but dang, handling several I-Phones and a winter coat at one time is hard and whereas those women were formerly an interesting composition of layered silhouettes, they decided to all line up and smile when it came to picture taking time. Oh well. I'm sure they all still looked good.

I wandered off to another gallery and started talking with a guard again (this was another theme of the day because I could never figure out what building I was in...it was hard for me to follow directions to go up the steps on the third floor to get to the second floor!!!). In the middle of a conversation I had to stop and take a photo because you know, how can you not take a photo when you see something like this? The guard gave me a thumbs up when she saw what I had just done. :-)

I was charmed by how this room was set up. The blue of the ceiling light and the blue of the painting in the distance. The symmetrical pose and pretty colors of the Joseph Stella behind the very assured Gaston Lachaise sculpture.

Oh I just love that sculpture and her little feet.

But who was she looking at way in the distance?

Another formidable chick. I wouldn't mess with either one of them.

It was such a fun day. Everyone I met was so friendly...

...so why is there an "unfriendly" edition of The Chicago Sun-Times? Seriously. :-/

Although photography was allowed in most of the galleries, it wasn't allowed in the special exhibitions...like the one I specifically flew up for. I'm waiting for a few books from Amazon to arrive so I can post some images. When you see these things in person, there is so much detail that can't be picked up by the camera anyway, but then, it is even more difficult to see what you're really looking at once the artwork has been reproduced and printed. Those ladies (and one gentleman) were extraordinary cut and pasters. Even with a magnifying glass I think I'd have a hard time finding the pieces that were cut out and applied. There were many albums exhibited under glass and you cannot imagine the frustration I had because I could not turn the pages to get to the really good ones. >:-\ I'm hoping there are some surprise images when I get the catalog. :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sarah sent out an announcement because...

Yes, Rex is already two years old and it was time for a party.

Rex got tW0 birthday cakes.

ONe to share (the cake in front with the long candles) and 0ne just for him...

...which was a good thing because blowing out a fire on a cake is a messy and earnest business for a two year old.

...as is the cake cutting.

There were presents...

Some to share (this little flute was too hard to blow for anyone in the 2-3 year old age range...not that it wasn't tried...a lot)...

And some that were kind of shared...

Lucy later claimed the toy phone as hers and was stunned (in a very loud way) when she found out that it was not going home with her (I think Santa was text messaged about that).

The fire engine however, was not to be shared. If anyone tried to play with it, Rex got serious (I think that fire engine came from his uncle who is a fire chief).

Despite all the commotion and negotiation between all those under ten years old...

Rex's cat nanny Daffodil still managed to stick with her normal day's routine...

...of taking her scheduled afternoon nap. :-)