Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fun on Flickr

One of the funniest things I saw on the Flickr site the other day was a video of a woman snow-kayaking. Yup, that's right. She had her kayak out in the snow and used it as a sled of sorts; using her paddle to push off. She did quite a nice low brace to stop herself from ending up in the icy river. And then rolled over and fell out face down in the snow. Then, rolled over on her back and just laid there.

I don't typically get that much traffic on my Flickr site. Lately, a lot of views come as the result of search engine activity. Although, I found out recently that a co-worker has, as he put it, been "stalking my Flickr site." No, really, it's not weird or scary. He's a cool person and I'm sure he found my Flickr site from Facebook. He let me know this during a conference call that we both attend. The call is this horrible status meeting that I have to attend 3 times a week and both of us find it painful. During the last meeting, he started IMing me about the awfulness of the meeting. I had to put the phone on mute since his comments were making me laugh (these meetings are horrid but at least they're short). During our IM chat, he revealed that he had been "stalking my Flickr site" and thought my pictures were quite good. Of course, I was flattered. Knowing that someone I know might be looking at the photos has inspired me to get out and take more of them.

And speaking of my Flickr site, one of the most popular pictures lately seems to be a silly one of my key lime tree. I purchased one of those little seedling things that you find at the airports in Florida. I've been able to keep the little critter alive for two years. Last summer, it lived outside on the patio and did quite well. For the heck of it, I took a picture and posted it. Now, it's the second most viewed picture that I have. It may soon overtake my pictures of ravens at the Tower of London. Most of the views come from search engines...what is it about key lime trees that people find so fascinating that they keep searching for pictures of them?

Poor little tree. I suspect it will never flower or produce fruit...a hard thing for a citrus tree to do in the Northeast. And yet, I still have hope that one day, maybe 10 years in the future, I'll be able to use the fruit from my own tree to make a key lime pie.

I've been at my wits end lately, not being able to go to the glass studio. I'm thinking of taking a digital photography class as an alternative. Since I have the Flickr site, it would be nice to learn how to take better pictures than the average muck I post now.

And speaking of the glass studio, there is a small, glimmer of hope that it will return in some form. The latest update is that they are working on a "go forward" plan (hopefully, it's not a liquidation plan!). There might be a fundraiser in March and there was some mention of classes in the Spring. And, one of my instructors is planning on renting torch time at her own studio in February. So, in another few weeks, I may be able to get back to working with glass. I miss it terribly. I realize that glass work is a form of therapy for me and without it, I'm becoming an anxious and neurotic person. Sigh.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewell to the New Street Glass Studio

I posted earlier that the glass studio where I take classes was "temporarily" closed. The reality is, there is no reason to expect that they will reopen. They mismanaged their money for years and now the creditors are demanding what is owed.

So, today, I will call and ask for a refund on my class fees that I paid last month and accept the fact that I will never return to the New Street Glass Studio.

I stopped in last night to pick up an unfinished fusing project of mine. I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with one of my instructors and the director of the studio. And to take one last look around at a place I had grown to love.

Based on my conversations with the studio folks, it's very unlikely that the glass studio will reopen soon, if at all. On the other hand, I'm very glad I had a chance to speak with the bead making instructor. She has her own studio nearby and is getting set up to teach classes there. So, come February, I should be able to return to the torch and get back to honing my bead making skills. As for the glass fusing, well, a friend of mine has a kiln, plus there's a local glass shop that has a kiln and a sandblaster. So, I can continue that work on my own.

But it's not the same experience as going to the glass studio. There was something special about the classes....about being with a group of people who truely loved working with glass. Something uplifting about being surrounded by creative people, some working on stained glass, some working at the torch, and of course, the magical glass blowers. To walk into the studio and smell the molten glass, to feel the heat of the furnaces, to just BE with the people who work with glass, was a very special feeling. There was a sense of community that you just don't find that often.

Here's what I will remember most fondly:
  • That first night when I went to the studio. It was raining, it was dark, I got lost and was very late to my first class. The studio was in the middle of nowhere!
  • Getting over my fear of the torch and becoming comfortable working with molten glass. It took me a long time, but now it's easy.
  • Walking up those horrible, flimsy, wooden stairs, lugging 30 pounds or more of glass supplies to my fusing classes. I was always waiting for those stairs to collapse and made sure I walked up the middle where there was the most support.
  • Opening the studio door and smelling the distinct odor of the glass furnaces and feeling that blast of heat.
  • Watching the glass blowers do their magic when I took a break during glass.
  • Gathering around the table in the flat shop as we discussed the latest results from the kiln in the fusing glass.
  • Getting set up in the warm glass shop, turning on the torch, gathering the tools, and finding my work from the previous week (our instructor would take our beads out of the annealer and bundle them up for us).
  • The bead making instructor yelling at us when we did something wrong (she did it with love, we knew that :-)).
  • Cutting my hands on the sharp edges of the glass that we cut for our fusing projects. My instructor would roll her eyes as I headed out to the first aid cabinet for yet one more bandage.
  • Arriving at class and being pleased at the results of some project. With glass, you often don't know what the results will be, especially in fusing. I had several very happy surprises.
  • The people in the classes and the instructors. Feeling that we were all united in a common cause...creating something that would bring a little bit of joy to the world. Being surrounded by creative people, learning and sharing.

Farewell New Street Glass Studio. It was here that I learned about loving to work with glass. I will continue at other places, with other instructors. But I will always remember the joy of my visits at my very first glass studio.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Returning to the kitchen

One of my recent goals is to get back to cooking. No, I don't eat "box" food all the time. And I used to cook all the time. Then I got out of the habit of cooking full meals. For awhile, I did the "eat a big lunch" and small dinner thing. But lately, the food at the office cafeteria bores me and I'm way too lazy to go out to eat all the time (plus, restaurant portions are too big and it gets expensive!).

But, I like cooking. I like fussing with herbs and trying new recipes. Or revisiting old recipes.
A few things that I cooked in the last month or so:

Carmelized clementine and chocolate tart: I don't bake often, but this recipe in the Sunday paper caught my eye. I actually made the crust (most unusual for me, I'm not a pastry chef!) and overall the tart came out well. Crust could have been rolled a bit thinner, I ended up using rice instead of beans as pie weights (didn't have beans in the house), and the clementine preparation took a lot longer and more effort than I anticipated. But overall, not bad. I also baked a lemon pound cake. It was slightly underdone, but was received well when I brought it to a friend's house for dinner.

I also did a very nice roast chicken with my new pottery vertical chicken roaster. I need to get a better meat thermometer, though. The one I had didn't register the temperature properly and the chicken was slightly underdone. Nothing a visit to the microwave couldn't fix.

Last night, I made tomato sauce. I had tomatoes from the summer harvest in the freezer. I managed to put together a very nice sauce based on my recollection of my favorite tomato sauce recipe. I didn't bother to look for the recipe, just dredged up the basics from the shadowy corners of my mind. Let's see...saute onions in a stock pot until slightly brown. You could also add some carrots for sweetness (or sugar). I didn't have any, so I skipped this (actually, I forgot about it). But the tomotoes were sweet enough. I didn't need to add anything on the sweet side.

Next, add several cloves of chopped garlic. Saute for another minute. Then add plenty of herbs: oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Add about a cup of red wine and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Then add the tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, some broth (I used vegetable broth). I also added some parmesan/romano cheese. Simmer for at least an hour. More is OK.

The end result looks and smells quite yummy. Now I need to cook something that needs tomato sauce. Or, I'll freeze the sauce for future use.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Greendragon goes a-snowshoeing, Chapter 2

What a snowy winter we're having! As I write here now, the plows are out in the parking lot, cleaning up after yet another winter deposit.

This week's snowshoeing adventure turned out much better than my last outing because:

  • I went with people who knew the trail very well.
  • It was a shorter hike
I went with some members of the local kayaking group. Yes, in the winter, instead of heading out to the water, we play in the snow. Originally, the hike was supposed to be a full moon hike but the park rangers didn't give us permission to be there at night (not sure why). So, a small group of us set out in the late afternoon.

I came quite close to bailing out; when I arrived at the park, the conditions looked very icy -- the parking lot was treacherous. Not very conducive for a nice snowshoe hike. But, the leader of the hike assured me that the walk up to the summit of the hill would be worth it. So off we went.

The snow was completely covered by a thick layer of ice. This had to be one of the noisiest hikes I've ever been on. We had the constant "crunch, crunch" from the snowshoes gripping into the ice. But, in the end, it was a lovely hike. This park was new to me; before the hike, I didn't even know it existed. And it's quite close to home. The view of the Blackstone river was quite nice once we got to the summit. Although we didn't see any wildlife (we were way too noisy!), we did see some deer tracks. Wonder what they though of us, as we crunched through their territory.

The hike took longer than expected so we ended up returning as the sun set. What a relief to be with someone who knew the trail...if I was on my own I'm sure I would have ended up wandering around in the dark, whimpering (as I do, when I'm tired and lost). But, we returned safely to the parking lot. But, our leader knew her way, and we happily crunched, crunched behind her. One of our group had a headlight that also helped (got to get one of those, there's bound to be another night hike this winter, if we continue to get snow).

By the time I got home, it was full dark and within an hour, our next snow storm had begun. So far, I'm liking this winter a lot. Although, this week is supposed to be bitter cold, which I will NOT like. has its good parts and bad parts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The glass studio is closed temporarily due to financial difficulties.

Although I've been a bit horrified at how my 401K and IRAs are losing money like water flowing down a drain, and have been disturbed at seeing news of layoffs and business closing, today's event has left me feeling very sad.

The glass studio is closed, temporarily (or so I hope).

I've been taking classes there for over a year now. Just recently, I started to feel truely at home there, that I was making real progress in my work, and in general, just enjoying my time there. I was looking forward to my classes that were supposed to start next week. I had plans for making things to give to my friends as gifts.

But, the glass studio is having financial issues and they sent out email today saying that they were "pausing operations". I don't know how long the pause will last. The Craft Center has been in existance for 152 years, so there's hope that they'll make it through this last problem. But maybe not. Other long-lived establishments are closing their doors. Little by little, this econonmic downturn is making itself felt in many, many different ways.

I knew the studio was having some financial issues. The director of the studio told me that revenue from tuition was down (and yet, all my classes were full). But, I never expected them to delay (or cancel?) the start of classes.

I feel lost. The only other studio with a flameshop is in Boston. It's far to go to for a weeknight class and it's in a neighborhood that I don't like. And there's a person I know who spends a lot of time there who I'd like to avoid seeing at all cost.

The interesting thing is that until this moment, I considered the glass work a hobby, something I really liked doing but not necessarily a passion. Maybe it really IS a passion. The thought of not having classes, not being at the glass studio every week is just heartbreaking for me.

So, instead of going to classes next week, I'll be looking for some substitute for classes. Sigh.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Greendragon goes a hiking, gets lost, and is rescued.

When you go hiking, there are rules. Especially, if you're hiking solo. And it's winter. Rules such as: dress in layers, bring extra water, know the area or bring a map. Know your limits -- how far can you walk and how fast. Bring your cell phone. Let someone know where you are and when.

I managed to ignore most of them the other day, much to my chagrin.

It was a lovely winter day with just enough snow for a good snowshoe hike. I decided to hike around the lake where I kayak in the warm weather. I knew there were trails there, but had never walked them.

I had plans to meet a friend at 4:00 that day. I started out at 12:30, figuring I had plenty of time to get some good exercise in and be back in time to meet up with my friend. I set out walking with the idea that at a specific time, I would turn back to make sure I wouldn't be late. But, the weather was so perfect and I was enjoying the walk, that I decided I had time to got a bit farther than orginally planned. I decided to walk the full circumference of the lake. It was early, I thought I was at least half-way done (here's where the lack of a map comes into play), so I made the fateful decision to keep going.

That was a really, bad judgement call! I walked and walked, and suddenly lost the trail. I appeared to be in a residential neighborhood and there were no trail markers to be found. And, it was later than I expected (stopping often to take pictures didn't help the timing issue). I backtracked, and then decided to bushwack through the trees, following the shoreline of the lake.

Then I found the trail....and lost it again...and found it again. And I'm walking and walking. I'm getting tired. I kept thinking that the parking lot was just around the next bend. But it wasn't. Never. And now, I'm late. I call my friend and tell here I'll be late. Then I call her again and tell her I'll be very late.

And, I still have NO idea where the end of the trail is or how far I still need to hike. And now, I'm exhausted. The trail wanders up, down, around. I'm tripping over rocks and tree roots. I fall (but am not hurt, thankfully). I'm starting to whimper. I can hear cars on the road and keep thinking, I must be very close to the parking lot. But I'm not.

Finally, I abandon the trail and head up towards the road, thinking I'll be on the road that takes me to the entrance of the park. But no, not true. I'm on some other road, and I'm walking, and walking, and walking. I debate whether to call a cab, knock on the door of one of the houses on the street and beg for help, or call my frirend and ask her to come get me. I am soooo tired. I'm upset that I've ruined my plans with my friend, I'm sweaty and ready to cry.

And then, I see a mail truck. I stand by the side of the road with a pathetic look. He stops, asks if I need help. I tell him where I'm going and he lets me know that I'm very close. I ask if it's possible for him to give me a ride. The postman takes pity on me. I'm sure he's not supposed to have passengers, and he doesn't know that I'm NOT an axe murderer. But, he opens up the back of the truck, lets me get in and off we go. He offers me something to drink, a piece of fruit, and in general, is about as nice as any person can be. In about 5 minutes, he drops me off at the parking lot and I tell him, he's my hero. Because, if I had to walk, it probably would have taken me a good 20 minutes to get to my car, and I was totally done in.

I eventually meet up with my friend and she is so very understanding. Sigh. I'm still feeling a bit traumatized by the event. And my toes hurt from where I tripped over rocks and such. But, I learned my lesson. Next time, Greendragon goes a-hiking, she'll be a lot more careful!