Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Closing Down a Lifetime of Work

How do you know when it is time to move on or declare you are ready to retire?

For most of us, what we do has been a big part of who we are for most of our adult life.  

I think I'm at a big transition point in my life.

For years, I considered life and its demands secondary to my art work.  Although making money was nice, it was not the driving force behind the many hours I spent creating animal head sculptures. One of my favorite remarks was "I only sell them so the house doesn't fill up!"  Every sale made room for a new creation.  Yes, I'm also a wife and mother, but in my heart I'm an artist, and making the animal heads is my identity.

I'm sure many people struggle with similar feelings when they retire from their professions. Happy because they will now have time and energy for other things, like RVing.  But also a little sad and uncertain about leaving behind a world with which they were quite comfortable.

I've let my business die a slow death over the last several years. I have not done any shows, nor promoted my web site in any way, nor pursued retail opportunities, nor restocked as my inventory of available work has slowly sold.  

Instead of life being an interruption of the flow of my art work production, lately new orders have become an interruption to my life.  Instead of being excited about a new creative opportunity, I feel like I've "been there, done that" when asked to make one of the animals on my web site.

After forty-some years, I'm ready to close the door for good.

In the last few weeks I've gotten rid of all of the fabrics I have used to make dragons.  Many were scraps or remnants. I have made several hundred dragons, large and small over the years, and so the fabrics were paid for many times over.  I have culled my fur fabrics and will hang onto them until the house sells.  But I won't be buying any more.

Today I cleared out a large cabinet in the studio where I had many bags and boxes of "pretty shiny things": decorative gold and silver buttons, acrylic gem stones, glass marbles and beads, plus bags of old or broken jewelry that had either been given to me or that I had bought at Goodwill. I used such jewelry to make bases for my "Hoard Dragons" to roost on.  

I am waiting for a return call from the local elementary school to see if I can drop them off for art projects. I figure this close to Christmas, some teacher might be able to use them. Our school no longer has an art teacher :-(  I would like to see the stuff be used rather than tossed.

As I sat here today on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, wrestling with my feelings about slowly closing down my studio, the telephone rang.  It was a New York decorator who wants to know more about me.  Seems he had just found my web site and "loved" my work.  He said he is doing a Manhattan hotel and my work would be perfect for one of the areas.  He asked what I had that could go out immediately because the project was almost done and he had a deadline. I told him what I tell anyone who inquires.  I am still making animal heads, but on a custom order basis only.  No inventory, and  that it takes several weeks from order to ship. This was too long for him, but he did say he would keep me in mind in the future. I told him I could do some things for him if he gave me advance notice and we left it there.

Why today?

If he had called several weeks ago I would have been able to do the job.  Except for a couple of international orders, I have not had any business for weeks. In  years when I did shows, this would have been a very busy time with Christmas sales. Not this year.

The truth is I will be somewhat glad to have it end. I was not at all unhappy about not being able to take his order. I got more satisfaction out of making that blanket for the Alfa than I would have gotten from making yet another $500 moose.

I may be able to take some aspect of my work forward, or perhaps I will come up with another wonderful line that will be compatible with full time RVing.  

To quote an old expression: "When one door closes, another opens."  

I just have to have the creative courage to pass thru.

I think I'm ready.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bedspread for the Alfa

After having good results making the reading pillow and the chair vibrator pad cover out of fleece, I decided to look into making a duvet cover or quilt for the bed in the Alfa. Over the years I seem to have collected a half dozen comforters, and I thought a removable duvet cover would be better than a new quilt.

I was intrigued by the wide variety of fleece fabrics I have seen. However even though there are many available at the several large fabric stores in town, none were quite what I wanted.

I decided to look online and found the Hancock Fabric Site was having a huge sale.  I had paid $12.99 for the one yard of fleece I used for the pillow and seat cover. Hancock has over 900 prints! One of them was the same as the one I had bought locally, so I knew what the quality was. Many of the prints were on a closeout sale for $3.99 per yard.   

Knowing a good deal when I saw it, I looked at all 900+ designs and picked two. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to make or how. To be on the safe side I ordered six yards of each. One is a Native American design, and the other is a rustic cabin print.  They don't really go together, but that's OK because you don't see them both at the same time.

I've been itching to get started on it, but with railings to sand, animal heads to make, and Thanksgiving to enjoy, I had to leave the fabric alone for a while.

Which was probably a good thing, because by the time I was able to get to work I had nixed the duvet cover as too much trouble to take on and off the comforter, and a quilt as possibly being too warm for summer nights.

Instead I decided on making a reversible fleece  bedspread that could be used as a lighter blanket in warmer weather.

First I cut each six yard piece in half.  I used one 60' x 108' piece as a center panel and cut two 22' x 108' side panels from the second half.  I did this with each of the designs creating identical front and back pieces.

Sewing the individual sides was not too hard.  I had moved my sewing machine to the dining room table because I knew I couldn't manage this work on the small sewing cabinet I normally use.

Getting old is a bummer.  I never had so much trouble getting a bobbin started or threading the machine needle as I do now.

By the time the two sides were put together, handling the twelve yards of fabric was a challenge.

I did six lines of stitching from top to bottom, and a line all around the edge to stabilize the two layers. For each line I had to roll and bundle the spread so I could sew the line.

I made it spread size so that I could bring it up over the pillows when the bed is made.  I find the regular Queen size comforters are a bit short for that.

I also made it to drape over the sides and end of the bed.  

This is the more rustic side.  

One spread, two decors. Which do you like better?  Which seasons do you think each matches up with?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

And Life Goes On

We had a pleasant family Thanksgiving.  We do not have family living near us, so only our daughter, her husband and our two grandsons were here.  Their German au pair, Anka, also came.  It is always interesting to share the holiday with an au pair because they tell us about traditions in their countries. This was the first time she had tasted turkey.  She said it was good.

Our son was not able to come this year and that made me a bit sad.

On Friday we took them to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to see our closest redwood grove.  It is not the most impressive, but this might be the Anka's only opportunity to see the big trees.  

There are none down near San Diego, and I don't think she will get to the northern part of the state during her year.

We also went for lunch and walkabout in downtown Los Gatos.  Some of the street trees are finally at their peak of color.

Each of our grandsons has his own special interest.

The twelve-year-old has always loved math, and has now found some internet sites that are helping him learn about math that's quite ahead of his grade.

Here he is not doing homework, he's just having fun.

The nine-year-old loves all things having to do with food and cooking.  The high point of the weekend for him was a trip to a local specialty shop for oil and balsamic vinegar tasting.  

It is now Saturday afternoon.  They just left for their long drive home to San Diego. We will see them again when we go there for Christmas.

I just wish these two holidays were further apart, or they lived a little closer to us.  

Maybe when we are full-timers we can spend the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas down there.  

Something to look forward to.  But now we will have to get back to work on the house for a few weeks.  We finished the stairwell deck railings.  The only ones left are on the upper deck, and we have decided to let them be until spring.  We will also do the stairs then.

Craig is eager to get started finishing four new doors and a bunch of baseboards and door trim wood that he bought last spring.  When the weather started to get nice in May he shifted to outdoor painting work.  Now it is time to shift back to concentrating on indoor projects.

I also want him to do a little patch work on some of the drywall up in my sewing loft.  It was damaged before we had the new roof put on two years ago, and has to be fixed so I can paint the loft and small bedroom up there.

My goal for between now and Christmas is to help Craig and to clear more stuff out of the studio.  Someday it will have to become a bedroom again. 

So, as the title of this post says, "Life Goes On."

What will you be doing between now and December 25th?

Sunday, November 11, 2012


As work goes on and new projects are considered, I feel as if there is no end in sight.  

I have set a deadline.  
August 1, 2013.  

No one can predict when it will sell, but in my heart, if there is still work to be done, it will be done while the house is for sale, or not done at all!

Craig says we can do it.  

If it is not on the market by then ...

I will ...

I will ...

Stomp my feet and cry. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In our Yard

First off, the pictures in this post are all pretty bad because they were taken at dusk from some distance.  I don't have a telephoto lens on my point and shoot.

Behind our home there is a rather steep, dry hillside.  We don't water the trees, but there is one stunted apple tree that produces a few fruit each year.  I generally collect them the week before Thanksgiving, add some purchased ones and make a pie.  

Last week I noticed a doe and two yearlings trying to get the apples with no success. I wondered if it was time to pick them.

Yesterday at dusk, I noticed two bucks eyeing the tree.

The one on the right was larger, and at one point he clacked antlers with the smaller buck to let him know whose apples these were! But the smaller buck hung around and watched anyway.  

"If I stare at it long enough, maybe it will just fall down."

"Who needs a longer neck?"



He made about a half dozen tries and did manage to snag two apples before giving up.  His younger friend managed to get a few leaves when the big guy wasn't looking, but pretty much stayed out of the way.

We don't "garden" because between the deer, gophers and dry summers it is a hopeless venture.  I enjoy watching this sort of thing too much to want to have deer fences around the place.

This afternoon a large group of does were in the yard. 

That buck will be after them soon, and a new crop of fawns will be learning about apples next year.  I can buy as many as I need at Safeway!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Work Around the House

It is only Wednesday, but I think we have already done a good week's work around here! 

We decided to skip the large stair area and finish the rest of the railings on the lower deck fist.  It was a good stretch of over 80 uprights, and took most of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

A rainstorm is predicted for tomorrow, so we put away the sanders for a few days and Craig has been working most of today (Wednesday) cleaning up leaves.  About 1/3 of the trees around our house are big maples and drop their leaves in autumn.  The rest are either redwoods, Douglas fir, pine, live oak, or bay laurel which do not.

We seem to be cleaning up leaves almost all year round, since some of the trees mentioned above drop their leaves gradually over the year, and the evergreens are always dropping needles!

Craig started up on the roof. 

Then did the back court area. 

And the upper drive where the Alfa is parked.

I didn't start working on sanding another of the railings today because I had to work on a new order for a couple of animal head sculptures. Business has been dreadfully slow this year, but I still get some work from time to time.  Just enough to keep the  studio room renovation for one of our last projects!

I also just have to tell you about a new sandwich that Craig tried this week.  He read about it in the New York Times.

Peanut Butter and Pickle sandwiches! 

He tried both sliced sweet pickles, and some pickle relish.  It was strangely delicious and may become a new favorite. The bread he used was my home made whole wheat bread. The reason it looks like someone took a small bite out of the face slice was because I didn't take the paddle out of the bread machine before it baked.

What is your favorite unusual food?

Friday, November 2, 2012


When I started to change my eating habits at the end of January I was tired of being fat and tired. 

When I started my BMI (body mass index) was 30, which is in the obese category.

At 5'7" I weighed 204 pounds on a good day, more on a bad. 

"This time" I was determined to lose weight in a healthy sustainable way.  

"This time" I knew I had to make changes that I could stick to for the rest of my life.  

My goal was to lose 45 pounds and get down to the normal range BMI of 25.  I reached that goal in September. It took eight months, but except for having to give up a few things, it really wasn't all that hard.

Once I reached my goal, I knew I had to continue eating in the same way I had been, and continue to do daily exercise.  The only real change I have made since reaching my goal, was to stop recording and analyzing every bit of food I consumed in a food journal.  

I weigh myself ever day, and if I start to gain, I will go back to the journaling.

I am determined to keep it off this time! 

In the month since I reached my goal I have lost an additional five pounds. An amazing total loss of 50 pounds! 

I weighed in at 154 pounds this morning.

My BMI is now 24.1 (Normal is 18 - 25)

I have lost 23% of my body weight, and feel great.

In this picture I am wearing a T-shirt my grandson tie-dyed for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Although I liked it very much, it stayed in the closet because it was too small. I felt like my arms were stuffed into sausage skins. It fits now and is very comfortable.

I am not big on fashion. For years I have worn the same brand of black pants. I buy them at K-Mart. I had some from this time last year that were almost impossible to keep up. They were Extra Large. I bought some Large ones in spring, and they too have become very loose.  

Last week I ordered several pair from K-Mart online, and bravely selected Medium size. After ordering them I told Craig I wondered if they would fit. I expected to have to return them.

They arrived yesterday, and fit beautifully! For the fist time in years I am a Medium! I feel so good about it.

But, I remind myself of and old expression my mother used to say when any of us became too prideful.

"Don't hurt your arm patting yourself on the back."

I know that maintaining this weight loss is going to be a new challenge for me.  

Last week as I was going thru a stack of papers in the studio I came across a calendar from 2008. I had kept it because it had nice animal pictures, but it also serves as a reminder of how vulnerable I am. It is the record of one of my past weight loss efforts. Over a period of five months I recorded my weight each day.  I lost 30 pounds. As I recall it took less than five months to regain it!

Do any of you remember Oprah's weight loss in 1988? Remember how she pulled a little red wagon containing 67 pounds of fat onto the stage? 

Then over the next year or so we watched her balloon back up. It was so discouraging. If she couldn't keep it off, how could I?

I'm hoping that by blogging about it I will be adding one more incentive to succeed. I want to be able to post that I have kept the weight off from time to time.  

But I won't hurt my arm.

For me, the hardest thing will be to continue  saying "no" to a glass or two of wine in the evening. But I know that would be like drinking poison for me. I know "once in a while" would slip into "just on weekends", would slide back to "everyday".  

Wish me luck. And keep posting good low calorie recipes. I love to experiment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NEW Wine for Seniors

NEW Wine for Seniors

A single glass at night could mean a peaceful, uninterrupted nights sleep.

I kid you not...

California vintners in the Napa Valley area, 
which primarily produce Pinot Blanc, 
Pinot Noir, and Pinot Grigio wines, 
have developed a new hybrid grape
that acts as an anti-diuretic.
It is expected to reduce the number of trips
older people have to make to the 
bathroom during the night.

The new wine will be marketed as