Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking ahead to a new year......

As I look to the next year, I am anxious to see the next discovery, the next new travels, and the next new experience.  As in this drawing, the little boy in me is watching the trolley coming into town and wondering about all the will happen next.
The past two years have been a very bumpy ride.  I had lost two people in my family, I quit being tied to a school system, my father-in-law who lived with us passed away. I was becoming too close of a friend to funeral directors and I was released from the chains of work. I guess my blogging began in the beginning of that second year.
I really believe that the blogging has helped me to smooth out a lot of the bumps of my live changing experiences.  It has helped me to find friends all over the world as well as to improve my learning of the things of this world.
The drawing that I created was one done for a man who remembered the trolley, interurban railway, that came into town daily.  He was revisiting his childhood through my drawing.  I can see the drawing as the beginning of my first artwork created after leaving work at school. As my wife says, if I don't do visual art creations, I get caught swinging a hammer instead, using my creative juices up in a different way. I like to do both.  I also get out in the garden in our short season and create with color, as long as the weather cooperates.

This next painting was my first painted work since leaving school.  I had called it "A Brave New World" at first and I now call it "A Brave New Journey." It is my new theme for this year.  The two years of changes has left my wife and me standing on the cliff of the mountain looking out in wonder, it is a time for changes.  We haven't really had time to be so selfish to make decisions that are just for ourselves.  Our personalities are both the kind that allows people to lean on us first, and we take care of ourselves second. 

It will be interesting to see what the year will bring. I want to make time for painting.  I want to build new things with wood. I want to travel. I want to grow things.  I want to still share my life, but with less demanding pressure and more spontaneous giving.  I am hopeful for a good year.

A brave new journey is one that says the hope is strong, the interest is great, and there is life yet to live.
 I hope you have a great New Year.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our town.....

When the Christmas season starts, our small town comes out of it's boxes. We have a collection, that probably started as a gift or two, but now is a bargain hunter collection. We like to add to the collection after the holidays, picking up a very discounted item.There are a couple of different brands that seem to be scaled the same so they work together.  They are lighted so that they have more of the old world magic.

We enjoy setting them up each year and looking for new people figures to go with the town.  Our town will grow as time passes and soon it will go back into it's boxes for another year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas gift.......

Our Christmas was moved to Sunday.  The Chicago kids still had a few problems getting here as the front left Iowa and moved over to Illinois. We had a great turkey dinner with the dressing and fixings that go with that.  My wife is a great pie maker so we had pumpkin and mince meat pie.  Our family is down to six now with two others that didn't make it here from Maine.  It was a good meal and afterwards we exchange gifts.
I received this one gift from the brother-in-law and his wife which confused me at first.  The sister-in-law has a history of buying great buys after Christmas then sharing the bounty the next year, so when you get a gift it could be an expensive thing but not to her and her husband as they get it for such a discount.
As I opened this gift, I was tired, and I thought, oh boy, what thing did I get stuck with here? It took a while to focus in to see what it really was, then I was all smiles. She had found something to add to my addictive collection.

I had seen these in stores before but I only buy the discounted price ones, so I never bought any like these.  As you can see, each is individually boxed and she must have hit a great sale.

My knowledge of what is going on with the industry of making glass blown ornaments is being shared by me way too often but here is some more that I have learned.  The package of each says they are glass painted ornaments and this is true.  They have developed a way to apply and fire glass paints onto a plastic-like form.  It is the best I can get of almost authentic, glass blown ornaments.   I won't whine about it anymore. There are still glass blown out there, but the process has been modified and that will do.   These won't be collectibles, but they do represent a time of years gone by.

This one makes me smile.  She is one hot penguin girl.  I have the guy and I have her all dressed up with her purse and necklace. There are things in her hair and a nice pink bow to make her fancy.  I think that it is lipstick being depicted there too.   What a hoot!!! I can't figure it out if they are giant ear rings or just plain ear muffs, but she has something on her ears.

We didn't get all of our trees up as soon as we should have, and you know why, but we will leave them up for a while. I will probably go ahead and put these on my little tree.  I am scouting for a bigger tree for next year.  Mine is a three foot.  I hope that I can find a four or five foot one now. 

We will have very cold weather all week so I don't know when we will get out again.  My parents home was a warm 40 degrees when we visited it.  I turned everything up to 50 degrees to keep the plaster from cracking and I partially drained back some of the water out of the pipes.  I miss the three people who lived there as it is such an empty house now.  I scooped a walk to the door but no one will use it but me.  I rather not return now for a couple of months with it so cold and it looks so much more isolated and abandoned with all the snow around it.   We are resting and are warm at home.    Thanks for reading....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Evergreen forest....not.

Photography can be so tricky when it comes to deceiving the viewer.  I was trying to copy a fellow blogger's cue and take a shot of my neighbors trees.  I cropped it so it kind of looks  like it is in the forest.  But it is not a forest but a row of two trees.

My Minnesota balsam tree puts out a nice pattern with it's four inches of powdery snow dumped on it.

The previous owner built in a buffet the length of the room and it is great storage.  The wood is a veneered, unknown wood to me. We decided to leave the one wall with walnut paneling which is on the  same side of the room as the buffet.   It looks so much lighter now without  all the four walls of dark paneling. 

Our Christmas dinner was served here on Sunday. It was a special time and it felt good to have such a nice place to serve guests.  When you live in an old house, you except certain conditions that are not changeable, but this change was really a satisfying thing.

We are traveling to southern Iowa to check on my parents house to see that the heat is still working and the water pipes are safe.  We will get down to five below tonight.  We will stop at a bookstore on the way back and have some hot coffee and try to warm up.    Thanks for reading............

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Burl Ives and more......

Across the street, we have this guy standing in the snow.   He glows in the night with a light inside of him and a fan blower inflates him.  I don't know how popular the balloon decorations are in your area that you live, but they are everywhere!!!!

This guy is much bigger than he appears.  I looked out yesterday and the neighbor guy, Scott, was shaking his head violently.  Actually I realized he was knocking off snow but at first it looked like a brutal attack.

This penguin sits next to the snowman.  He belongs to a family with a second grade girl and twin girls in kindergarten.  The were so excited when these decorations were being put out.  They are quite a threesome.  They keep my border collie busy watching out for them.  I have a cute picture of the three girls petting him, but with the world we live in I will not post it.  He just sits and loves to be petted by all three.
I scooped snow today and finished the final thing in the dining room, final hanging of the light fixture.  What in the world will I do with my life? We are looking forward to having our Chicago kids here tomorrow.  We have been eating off the new dining room table, with an old quilt as a tablecloth to protect it,  but tomorrow it gets the first royal treatment.  Thanks for reading......

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snowmen of old......

A blurry bunch of guys.....sorry.

These are a jolly holiday bunch.  I ran fundraisers when I was teaching with my art kids to help raise funds for art supplies.   This group was one of the products that was sold and it arrived broken.  The company replaced it and said to throw it away for them.  Instead, I glued these guys back together again.  It is a fun group and there are places for candles which I don't think is necessary.  It is just a fun, funky sculpture.
Hope everyone out there is doing alright.  We are at the edge of blizzard number two.  If you drive about fifty miles east of here they were getting rain, while we were getting snow along with those west of us.    I-35 was the storm line barrier.   Oh well.......    Thanks for reading ............

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tree number four.........

and just under the wire. Christmas is tomorrow.

This is my wife's teddy bear tree.  We had to work on the area before we could put up this tree, so I put the tree up and today, Della loaded it down with bears and dogs too.

Another job that I just got done under the wire.  I delivered this last night to the customers house. It was raining so hard that I had to put a spare garbage bag over my head.  We are having flooding now in southern Iowa, along with snow still on the ground.

The finished product is shown.  If you look back up at the photo above you can see the photo I had to look at while drawing.  I found out later that it was taken on a cell phone.  I wondered why it was so purple. 
We are moving our one other deadline back now.  Our weather is so bad, freezing rain and snow for two straight days, so we are going to wait until Sunday to have our Christmas with family.  Our oldest son and wife live in Chicago and we really don't want them getting stranded out there.

Merry Christmas to you all.  Enjoy the season and we meet up again in the New Year, or maybe even sooner.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One more frame job to do.......

We had a last minute frame job come in last week.  It was three different jobs.  Two of them consisted of framed sets of photos of a grandson's wedding.  The third was a more difficult one that required us to make a shadow box, to hold one of the ribbons of the bridesmaid's bouquet.

The above photo shows the detail need to get the mat cut with a second reveal of avocado green. This is the backside, and I was working so fast that I didn't get the front shot. The deadlines are killing me.

This is the back side of the mat for the groom's mothers photos.  The box shape is what will stick out in the back in order to have enough space to hold the ribbon and babble tied to it.  I have put weight on the back mat board to hold it down while the glue dries.

I hope you are not disappointed but I am busy.  I didn't get a chance to photograph the finished work.  They walked out the door a couple of hours ago with a happy customers.  They were to be Christmas gifus.  As you can see there is the ribbon with it's fake green decoration at the knot of the bow.  The ball shape was an inch plus in thickness and the frame was only measuring a mere half in or more.  We created the box to allow the ball to be in the frame, and we actually cut a hole in the back of the box so some of it could stick out the back.  Glass went on top and we slide it into a polished silver metal frame. When we were done it was all leveled out in back and you wouldn't know that there was ribbon and green ball sticking out the back.

This is tree number tree.  It is a bad photo but I will try to do more that be a common photographer later.  The lights are not turned on and the packages aren't wrapped yet that go under it.  It looks pretty spotty with it's decorations.  It sits inside our bay window in the living room.  There is an arched opening above it so it is a perfect spot for it.  I will be putting the last tree up tonight but it won't get decorated until tomorrow.  It is my  wife's teddy bear tree, which is decorated with stuff bears and  a few other cloth animals. 
I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  I am sure you all are feeling the same panic.  We are probably going to be stormed in for the next two days, so I will have time to get the last of the list done.  My wife and I wallpapered a ceiling area today in our fireplace area. With interruptions we were done by seven o'clock.  We didn't start until two-thirty so it was a quick job.  Our roof had a leak, which is now repaired and the wallpaper needed to be replaced.  It is done.     Thanks for sharing time with me,  I know it is busy out there for everyone.  

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dentils are all in a row......

The dining room window is done and my wife bought curtains for our new window.  I have blogged about my dentil decorations on my wood mouldings around my windows in my house.  Dentils were used to decorate the Parthenon and they were carved in stone.  You can buy this kind of moulding but I have fun cutting and nailing them on. I have these decorations on the  front door, living room window and our bedroom window.  We we rework our spare room their is a window waiting for it's dentil treatment.

The window at night reflects the table with a quilt being use as a tablecloth to protect it.  I have plants in the window for a short time for watering purposes but plan to put them back into their east window. It will be nice to get the curtains up and take that off of the to do list.  This is a blurry picture when you enlarge it.  I will try to show you with a clearer picture later of  what I did for the crown moulding at the top of the window.     Have a good Sunday, and thanks for reading......

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Checking in while on the run..... .

In Iowa, after it became a state in 1846,  county maps were created and placed in institutions court houses.  The atlas were made in the 1870's and they would include maps of all 99 counties.  On the back of the map would be town maps of some of the larger towns.  This frame job was one with two Dallas County maps, which is where I live. You can see above that I framed them sandwiched in glass so that the back, can be see as well as the front.  The bottom one displays some cities in Iowa and the one above is Dallas County.

Our counties are divided into Townships, and above is the Des Moines township in which I live.  If you click on the photo, you can see the block 6 in which I live.  The town of Woodward did not exist then and the coal mining town, full of Italians was east of there on the line between 4 and 6.   Xenia is the name of the town where  the miners lived and they worked in the mines along that Des Moines River.  You also can see that every four blocks has a country school as indicated by a symbol.  Woodward became a town because of a strange reason.  Xenia was downhill from it and the train could not make the hill after it had stopped at Xenia for water.  So they started driving on through the town and stopping on top of the hill to get water for their steam engines. A train station was created there and the town was started.
As a side note of interest the miners lived in very small houses that were on wooden runners, and when a mine shut down they would drag the houses to another area.  We have a former mine town called Moran south of us where the houses were moved.  I don't know the exact numbers but I do remember that people said that these communities were populated with hundreds of people.

I did get this put under glass today and it is ready for pick up by the owner.  The red and gold doesn't really look too bad even though it is intentionally done in Iowa State Universities' colors.

This is a Christmas present for a neighbor's daughter.  I have to get this done and framed before Christmas.  I will add a tree in front of the house and shade, colorize with colored pencil.  They asked my wife to draw the two dogs  of theirs and they will be in the driveway or on the front stoop.
Thanks for reading.......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A high of 10 degrees F. ........

-12 C. It is winter in Iowa and it is miserable to be outside.  We received fresh snow Friday so our old snow wouldn't turn so gray.  Then again on Monday, another inch was added on to the top.

Walking the sidewalk and you can see the neighbor's snow blower tracks.  It is great when people have toys like a snow blower as they love to use them on my sidewalk at no charge.  I would hate to buy a one and ruin my neighors fun with his machine.  It really is nice of them to do it for me.   Keep warm, where ever you are and thanks for stopping in to my site.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A busy day, a good day with rewards....

It has been a busy day.  I have now a chance to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The framing business that I was going to quit, of course, is booming, and I hurried all day to get caught up with it as new work was coming in this evening.  It will be an easy frame job of four different items.
My wife helped me paint trim moulding while I was cutting the lengths today.  The trim was for the top of the baseboard, and tomorrow I will cut the quarter round for the bottom of them baseboard.  Then all the trim work will be done.  Anything else that I will do will be like decorating the cake as I want to do some fancy trim on the big window.

I had a request to see this frame job develop and here is how the crochet looks after it has been stretched and starched from the back side.  I took out the pins after it dried and it is keeping it's shape well.  I cut the red and gold mat for it today. Tomorrow my wife and I will get it attached to the mat backing. This is probably the most unusual colors that I have been asked to use on a frame job like this.  Usually I encourage old fashion colors to go with the theme of the crochet.

Three boxes of these ornaments means I am an excessive compulsive ornament person.  I will probably buy no more, unless,,,,,,,, I buy a bigger tree!!! Maybe after Christmas when they all go on sale.

Two of the boxes are filled with what I call small sized ornaments, and this is the box of miniature sized ornaments.  My wife helped me get these on the tree and the tree is full.

I bet you thought you were going to get to see the tree, but you are not.  I didn't get good shots of it tonight and I want to set it up at its final location.  The tree is small enough that I can carry it around.  It is sitting tonight on the top of our new dining room table which the table  is covered with a quilt to protect it during renovation.   The ornaments that fall tonight will land on the quilt and then I will move it to it final location.  Time for bed,  it has been a good day of achievements but I am very tired.  Thanks for reading.....

Sunday, December 13, 2009


A new small ornament for my tree.  I have found that if you have a wood surface and you gently bounce it, that you can tell if it is plastic formed or glass blown.  Glass has that great sound expect when you are dropping it on the wood floor and breaking it. Click on the photo and see the crown on the top. I actually think that is great design for an ornament.

The burning bush has lost all of it's leaves now and creates a perfect line study against the snow.  There are just a few red seeds left for the birds.

The red  twig dogwood bush is looking grand against the snow.  I have mentioned this before to my garden friends about trimming them back. I have read an article about a master gardener who trims them back to the ground each year.  I saw his photos of this yellow twig and red twig bushes, cut back and they were extremely thick because of the pruning.  I did it last year and I do have a thicker bush, but I don't think I will do it again this year.  One of the reasons I planted it was to see those red stems against the snow.

The sedum and black-eyed susans are gone now.  They will last all winter waiting for me to clear them in the spring.   I hope it is warm somewhere out there.  Thanks for visiting my blog.....

Tree number 1 is now up, and a few to go......

My wife started to collect angel ornaments and we got a tree for them so she could have a theme tree.  It has always been the tree that we have up in the Gallery for customers to see and enjoy.  Saturday evening was the time for us to get it up and going. We really are glad we finally got our first tree decorated.  The next tree will be done today.  That will be my glass ornament tree.

The tree is basically all white but it glows a little more yellow from the light below it shining through it.

From the business side of my life I wanted to show you how it is done.  Maybe you have crocheted one of these name corchets or you received one as a gift, but this shows you the work that is required to get the item ready for framing.  We have learned to cut a piece of stiff foam core to the correct size and then draw some guidelines on it so the piece can be pinned and blocked out straight.  In most cases they come to us very uneven.  
As we start in the middle we pin it in alignment to our guidelines working out to the ends.  The little fringes are then pinned out to point in the right direction.  Once it is all straightened we then lightly spray starch it from the back.  When it dries, we remove the pins and have a perfect form to be placed on the mat boards for framing. When I finish this on Monday I will show you the results.  The young woman who is having this framed has chosen Iowa State University colors as her mat colors, red and gold.  It will be interesting to see the final look.    Thanks for reading........

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coffee break all day.......

Working hard on any project can eventually get to you emotionally.  I needed to take a mental day off, and do something else.  I have people standing in line to bring me last minute frame jobs for Christmas.  I always get those every single year.  We try to help out for those who can't plan ahead and I don't say bad things to them when they bring the jobs in to me 10 days before Christmas.  So as I was saying, I am taking the day off.
We took off for Des Moines and bought supplies for the frame shop, and I picked up a small glass blown ornament for my tree.  We found our mat board colors that I needed and they were half priced today.  My wife is busy painting last minute commissioned portraits and she found some small oil paint brushes to help her finish up her works.
We then headed to Menard's to pick up moulding for the dining room job.  One needs a lot of moulding to get the finished look that the rest of the house has in it.  We have a last minute repair job of a wallpaper problem.  It will take a half day to repaper the very small ceiling, but we fianally have the paper purchased.  I found a special cut, one by two, that was just the right size for a door frame job that I am doing.  By the way, the only reason we go to Menards is that they carry picture frame moulding and the other fine lumber stores, do not.  Oh yes, I bought a new dimmer switch for our new dining room light. 
After that, we headed to Panera for a nice salad and half of sandwich.  They sucker me in because of their great smelling coffee. The food is good too.
So now we are back home, no fender benders for us, even though we saw two trucks that were in an accident a few days back.  One truck was completely up side down and the the other one, on the other side of the road in the ditch was sitting on it's side.  The lighter weight vehicles, made for good gas mileage, do tend to rock and roll when they get into an accident.
My rest of the day is planned to spend time drinking more coffee, Christmas Traditions was the name of the coffee beans that I bought, and it is very good.  I need to go fill my bird feeders, once I am through resting, and I think I will call it a day.  Oh yes, I am going to talk my wife into putting up her angel Christmas tree, that will sit in the art gallery.  Saturdays while one is retired usually is just another work day, unless you make yourself stop.  I hope everyone is doing good out there, and have a restful Sunday.    Thanks for spending time with me.......

Friday, December 11, 2009


Snow had collected nicely on my tree.  We actually warmed up to 23 degrees today and it seemed warm because we had a clear day and the sun did shine.

The winds were strong enough to  create different shapes and sculptures.  I had a neat design around my garbage bin, but the guys who cleared the snow out of my drive also cleared around the bin for me.

The main roads are cleared, with the salt and different chemicals that they use to get it to melt.  All of the side streets look like this.  It gets packed down and will stay for weeks so we are all in our winter driving mode.  Our country roads, gravel is the surface material, were not cleared enough to allow the school buses to pick up the students today. 

Thanks for reading......