Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving List

Today is Thanksgiving. It's been a really nice day. Marco and I were REALLY lazy all morning. Ahhhhh... I never get a chance to be lazy anymore. I read most of the rest of the book I've been reading (Big History by Cynthia Stokes Brown). Then I went to the studio to put a new plate in the kiln, came back, cooked a veggie dish and Mom came and brought Marco and I over to my cousin's place for dinner with my whole family. There were 14 of us there. We ate and played lots of games.

For Thanksgiving I thought I'd make a list of some things I'm thankful for:

- Marco
- My Mom
- My Dad
- Britt being back in town!!! Whoohoo!
- All the rest of my family
- Having a long history with someone and laughing about old stories
- Being healthy and energetic and almost never getting sick
- Good non-fiction books
- Pictionary and other games to play in big groups
- Walking to work listening to music
- Having a profession where I love going to work every single day
- Glass and enamels
- Old artisan professions
- Owls, hippos, bats, peacocks
- Communication just by a knowing glance
- Seeing the same view outdoors each day, but seeing how it changes with seasons and weather
- Summer thunderstorms
- Clouds in tropical lands, which seem immensely tall when you look into the sky
- A good local pub with a warm wood interior and a good atmosphere
- Being able to not live in Paris anymore
- Deliciously bad thoughts that you can think secretly without anyone knowing, or even better, knowing that someone else is thinking the same thing
- Gallery openings, especially when there's good free food, good art, or both
- Moments when I open the kiln in the morning and my glass has turned out perfectly
- National Public Radio
- Difficult people who are also fascinating
- The persimmon on the counter next to me which will be deliciously ripe tomorrow
- My church when I was a kid which I loved, even though I don't go to church now
- Trees that bear fruit
- Street markets in other countries

This is not an exhaustive list, just a few things that crossed my mind. Goodnight.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Trying to pass on the good fortune...unsuccesfully

The Art Crawl went surprisingly well! I made enough money this weekend to pay my rent for the whole month!

This morning I was walking to work and I passed a homeless old man asking for money at the freeway exit. The weather was cold and windy and I thought that since I'd made such a good income over the weekend, I could show some gratitude by buying the man a hot sandwich. I walked a block and a half down to a fast food sub shop and bought a philly cheese steak.

The sandwich took forever to make. By the time I walked back out the door and looked up the street, a cop car had arrived with it's lights on and looked to be giving the old man a hard time. I didn't want to get mixed up in that so I ended up taking the sandwich with me to work. Kinda disappointing. I ate the sandwich and it was pretty bad quality in the end, so maybe it wouldn't have helped nourish the old man much anyway.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Art Crawl again

I'm typing in my studio right now. It's sunday. This weekend is the art crawl, so I've been here for three days with the door open while people wander in and look at my work.

I wasn't prepared for the art crawl at all, since I've been working on other projects. But I just put out mostly old unsold works (sun catchers, necklaces) and I've already made $300! Yay! I even sold a mirror that I think is ugly and would never sell. I had made it in a rush for my Gallery 360 Christmas show last winter. There's a buyer for everything I guess.

My mom is in the art crawl this year too, two floors down. Cool! She is showing some photography with the group of ladies with whom she shares a co-op studio. Normally she paints. Painting has been her new hobby in the past year, now that she's fully retired.

Fascinations from Childhood

This is the kind of thing I love to see!

When I was a kid, I had a dream once that spectacular hot air balloons in all sorts of shapes and colors flew over my house. It was so vivid that I even have wondered if it really happened but I don't think so. Anyway, that memory has always left me with a sense of mystery and fascination when I see odd hot air balloons.

These pictures were on the National Public Radio website this morning, taken in London.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A marathon and a stupid woman

This morning Marco and I walked out to Summit Avenue, four blocks from our home, to check out the Twin Cities Marathon.

The Twin Cities Marathon is dubbed "the most beautiful urban marathon in America". I have no idea if that's true, but I can say that today was absolutely gorgeous. The race actually finishes in our neighborhood, and the last stretch goes down Summit Avenue. It's a wide boulevard with historic Victorian homes and large trees and flowering gardens.

The sun was bright, the sky was blue and some maple trees were turning bright red and yellow. It was 80 degrees out (27 celsius) so everyone was in t-shirts and summer dresses. Crazy weather for October! There were people cheering for the runners all along the road and everyone was in a great mood. The winner was a Russian man named Mykola Antonenko.

Here's a video of the leaders running down Summit Ave:

Last night Marco and I were also out to enjoy the gorgeous warm weather and we encountered a jaw-droppingly stupid woman.

We went to the outdoor patio at W.A. Frost, a restaurant by our house. We were walking down the sidewalk when an unexpected barrage of fireworks began just a block or two away (probably for the marathon). The bangs were really loud and unexpected and made everyone around us jump. But one woman walking her dog turned to us gasping saying "oh my gosh, I just nearly died of shock. I thought someone was attacking us. I thought it was the Iranians. They're all crazy, you know."

Marco and I were just so surprised at this idiotic statement we just kind of gawked in stunned silence as she walked off. But in retrospect we both regret not telling her off. We couldn't believe how much she sounded like someone totally duped by propaganda, the sort you find on FOX news and other Bush lapdogs. I mean, how could Iran possibly attack us here in Minnesota, and WHY? Does she really believe Iranians are on the verge of bombing us? With what bombs? How? How many people are duped like her?

It irritates me so much to hear people live in this kind of stupid artificial fear. Their all like docile, feeble cows, driven around by propaganda.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our Trip to France

While we were in France I almost had no connection to the internet (except for one day in Toulouse) so I couldn't write about what we did. But now we're back. Here's a week-by-week recap of our trip:

Week 1

Marco and I left the warm summer of Minnesota and immediately landed in chilly grey Paris, then, even worse, drove up to chillier, greyer Normandy. We hadn't known that France was currently experiencing their coldest, rainiest summer in 30 years. It was like October! I was SO cold! We had come on this trip thinking only about going to beaches in the Southwest of France, so had a bag full of swimsuits, shorts and t-shirts and absolutely no pants or a sweater! I had to go buy pants at Zara and borrow a sweater from Marco's mom.

It was weird to be back in France culturally for the first couple days. I felt very Minnesotan (which is different from feeling "American", whatever that means). One manifestation of this was the desire to smile and say hello to strangers as they pass on the street. Even Marco said he felt compelled to do that out of habit now, having lived now for a year in Minnesota. But this would be ridiculous in Rouen (Marco's hometown) or anywhere in the north of France. People don't go around interacting warmly with strangers like they would in Minnesota.

Week 2

After a couple days Marco and I borrowed his brother's car and headed south. The car was kind of funny because it was a flashy silver Audi TT sports car. It was definitely not my style and I felt kind of silly in it. But I will admit that I loved getting behind the wheel of this car because it drove SO well. It had amazing acceleration and you could pass everyone on the freeway in seconds. It was a lot of fun to drive. Even better in the mountains.

After several hours of driving the sun came out, the rain stopped and the air got warm. We were in the south! For the next week we lived in a big rented house with about 20 of our friends and their kids. Most of them had come down from Paris, but a few live elsewhere - even Mexico City and Hong Kong. Some of them I know better than others, especially those that visited Marco and I when we lived in San Diego. Others I got to know better on this trip.

Every day we went to the beach. Since it's France, the beaches are quite crowded, but unlike the rest of France there are huge sand dunes that protect these beaches from construction, so they are relatively natural and you see no big buildings. The beach we went to the most was very scenic with a river running behind the dunes.

Every day had a nice rhythm - wake up (late, for Marco and I), eat, help prepare lunch with the others and play with the kids, go to the beach or go bicycling or running or some outdoor activity. Come back late for dinner, eat at a huge table with everyone and laugh and have a good time, sleep deeply and contentedly.

One of my favorite moments was actually the only grey, stormy day. I got up and decided to go running. I drove over to the wildest beach and ran on the sand in the edge of the water. I hadn't done this since we used to live by the beach in San Diego. I love the feeling of it - the splashing of the water around my feet and the fragrant ocean air. Nobody else was on the beach at all, and the ocean was tossing around in lines of silver waves. The sun broke through the choppy clouds here and there and cast bright spotlights on the water. It was gorgeous. I felt alive when I got back. Then immediately after I went bicycling and nobody was on the bike trail either and I passed through fragrant pine forests and it was very peaceful. I had so much energy.

This week was fantastically nice. It felt like being at summer camp, where you live all day long with friends and everyone comes together and you leave missing everyone a whole lot. Marco's friends are so much fun! Some of them I hadn't seen for a long time. It was hard to leave.

Week 3

Almost everyone got in their cars and drove back to their city lives in Paris. Marco and I drove east. We were sad leaving and just put on music and didn't talk much for the first few hours after we left. The landscape got dry and flat and agricultural. We were entering the Gers region of Southwest France. We were heading to the Pyrenees.

For reasons that will remain secret for a short time longer on this blog (oooh secrets!), we were heading to the Pyrenees mountains, halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. On the way we stayed a night in Auch, in the Gers, then a night in Toulouse, then finally headed south from there to the Ariege region. We found ourselves in a beautiful mountain area called the valley of Bethmale. And from there we sort of roamed around for a week.

This part of France is wonderful, and it was just what I was looking for. Coming from Minnesota, I grew up accustomed to low population density. We have a state 1/2 the size of France but with less than 1/6th the population, and most of that is concentrated in the Twin Cities, leaving the rest empty. This means that in Minnesota you can find a pretty beach or forest or lake anywhere and feel peaceful and alone (or alone with your friends), and not be disturbed by other people. This might sound dull, but it is actually so nice. You can feel far from the pressure of crowds and cities and pollution. You can reflect and absorb your surroundings. In many other places we have lived - San Diego, Singapore, Paris - I could never shake the feeling of pressure from the density of people surrounding us. You could never feel alone with nature. There was always a freeway or a city or something just beyond the horizon. There were always more people.

But the Pyrenees mountains and the frontier area with Spain is the part of France that seems the most wild and empty. There are definitely inhabitants and villages there, but there is also space and nature. I also like that the people there feel like rebels, not subjects of Paris or Madrid but independent. The people we met seemed unpretentious, earthy and friendly. Unlike Parisians, they would smile and joke with us. It suits my character.

So Marco and I went around in the mountains and in the foothills and did hikes and visited some places (though I can't say where!!) and stayed in rustic gites or slept in the car sometimes to save money. We ate a lot of lunches and dinners outdoors in a field somewhere with a view on the mountains. It was very simple and nice. Even though the previous week with our friends was fantastic, this week alone in the mountains was wonderful too, and it was the first time in a year that I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated. I felt like I could stay there forever.

Week 4

The time came to head north again. The drive was amazingly (and sadly) quick. Up up up we went, first past Toulouse, then Montauban, then the Lot (overnight sleeping in the car near Rocamadour), then the Dordogne, Limoges, the Creuze, the Loire Valley, over to Chartres, Evreux, Dreux, Normandy then Rouen. We spent our last few days at Marco's family's place. It's much easier now, because I speak French well now and can converse easily with his family. We jumped on the new trampoline at Marco's brother's place with Cecile and Clement, Marco's niece and nephew, on a rare warm sunny Normandy evening. We went to photograph stained glass windows at the church where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. We ate lots of good home-cooked food. We lounged around.

Then we got back on the airplane, flew through Rekjavik, Iceland and arrived back here in Minnesota. Goodbye again to France. We'll be back again soon.

Back from France

We're back from France.

We've been back for a couple days, and I've been in that funny window of time where, culturally, I have one foot in France and one in Minnesota. It's like being on both sides of a mirror. I walk around here and I see stuff through the eyes of a French person. It makes you think about a lot of things.

We've had great weather since we've been back. It's warm and summery. But there's a bittersweet feel in the air too, because the light is different and a couple trees are already starting to turn yellow. Fall is so sad, I think. I love summer passionately. Summer is about color and heat and warmth and greenery and life. I feel better than I ever do when I'm in the heat all day, running around outside or swimming in the river until the late summer sunset drops to the west and the crickets start chirping. It's exciting. It's everything I love. Heat doesn't bother me at all. Heat is passionate and invigorating. You don't have to wear many clothes and hence you can feel all the sensations around you - the wind, leaves, sand, cold stones, hot chairs. In winter we're all covered up and cut off from the sensations of things around us. I hate that. It's the saddest of sad things. Some people here like fall because the leaves change color but for me it's the beginning of a long goodbye.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

One Great Week

This past week was such a fantastic week. Marco and I spent it on the southwest coast of France with about twenty of our friends, five kids, two broken chairs and one garden snake. :-) It was so unbelievable. Pretty hard to leave actually. I miss you all so much!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peru Earthquake

You know, when you hear about an earthquake like the one that just struck in Peru, it seems like a pretty absurd thing to make such a big deal about our bridge falling down in Minneapolis. The bridge seemed like a shock for us here at the time, but now looks a bit trivial in comparison.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My First Plate

I just made my first fused-glass plate today. I can't believe it -- a success on my first try. That so rarely happens. Here it is, with some other projects I'm working on.

The photos are all prettied up because I sent them with an application to a super trendy craft fair in Minneapolis this evening. I hope I get accepted! At the bottom there are images of designs for the next sets of dishware that I plan to make.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Marco and I were walking home from my studio this evening and saw a HUGE rainbow over the city!

We live up a hill at the edge of downtown St. Paul and we were just starting to walk up the hill. We stood on the grassy lawn below the cathedral and from there we saw the full vista of the downtown - skyscrapers with a gigantic perfect full arc of a rainbow over them. The rainbow was absolutely immense! It dwarfed the skyscrapers and the whole downtown. You could see the whole rainbow from end to end, and you could see every color from red to violet, rich and intense. Oh I love moments like this!

Now at 11pm storms are on their way. The rain just started, the trees are starting to whip around as I speak. Lauren was just here visiting and trying some Italian limoncello with us but he ran out before the storm hit. Pretty smart it looks like, especially if he came by motorcycle. Oooh the lights even just flickered for a moment.

I love storms! I love summer!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I think I'm turning Japanese

As of about one week ago, Marco and I now sleep on a traditional Japanese futon (called a shikibuton) laid on tatami mats. I sleep like a rock! Aaahhhhhh pure bliss! No more crappy boxspring ever again!

Let's celebrate with a sign of the day. It's been months since I've remembered to put one of these up. Here it is! Coming from China, it's the sign of the day:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Marco's home tomorrow

I can't wait until Marco's back!

He's been gone all week -- first in Rome, then in Latvia. He was there for work. It feels like it's been such a long week! Many things have happened, for both of us. I bet he has interesting stories.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Minnesotans are fascinated by collapsed bridges

I keep trying to see this bridge with my own eyes, but it's blocked off in every direction.

There has to be three miles of perimeter surrounding the bridge that fell down in Minneapolis, on both sides of the Mississippi. Yet the police have managed to block off every view possible (which is easy, because there's a lot of trees). It is technically a crime scene, so nobody is allowed in.

Yesterday I went by the University of Minnesota before I ran some errands, and as I walked along the heavily forrested riverbank (blocked with yellow police tape), I suddenly caught a small glimps of IT, the famous bridge. It did look surreal. A bridge looks WAY larger when it's on the ground, I can now state.

I saw the steep slope of the west side of the bridge, veering down at about 50 degrees. The eerie thing is that all the cars are still sitting there like they're about to drive off when the light turns green. It looks sort of like regular stopped traffic, except they would be driving in a straight into the deepest bowels of the earth.

Today I went to a gallery opening (and ran into Anton, and ultimately my good friend Emily, who I drove home). The gallery happened to be in the same building where Emily works, which is right next to where the bridge collapsed. I went up on a little hill near the river there and tried, again, to see the bridge. All I saw was the two ends at their weird angles, far in the distance. Couldn't even see the cars from here. All day long for the past three days, people keep calling all the radio stations telling their stories - they had planned to take 35W, but at the last moment they had to stop for gas, or they took a different road, and were spared disaster. I think a thousand people think they were just the recipients of a miracle.

This bridge thing is a weird transformational moment in Minnesota. I've just realized now that we (Minnesotans) have always thought of our state as a place that far from crisis, perhaps even immune from crisis. Bad things happen in other places, never here. We think of ourselves as organized, thoughtful people - people who never have these kinds of problems. Tragedies are for New York, San Francisco, Florida - but never Minnesota (except tornadoes and floods, and we are used to that). Even though this bridge collapse is hardly a September 11th, or even a Katrina, it seems to have such a profound and strange effect here. But surprisingly, I think we're fascinated by it. Not many people died, in the end, so it has become curiously engaging, mysterious, unfathomable and utterly absorbing.

When I went to try to see the brige, both times, there were MANY other people trying to see it too. It was a true pilgrimage, people from all walks of society and all ages flowing past like a steady river current on foot and on bikes. There was a quiet air of fascination and reverence, as one is in the presence of immense forces at work. The atmosphere wasn't solomn or sad, nor was it a circus. It felt truly Minnesotan - which is to say it was a quiet, reserved expression of total awe. People looked and whispered to each other and lifted their kids up to see. They called on their cellphones describing it to people who couldn't come see for themselves. Nobody can see the bridge yet everybody feels compelled to see it with their own eyes.

Emily gave me the secret tip tonight, you can see it from the old ruins below the Mill City Museum. Maybe I'll go there tomorrow.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This Bridge Thing Blows Me Away

Wow, I watched more interviews this morning (on Google video) with people who survived the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. So intense! Today it was on the radio here all day, nonstop. Probably the tv too, but I don't have one.

Yesterday I didn't realize really how chaotic this event was. I can't believe how many people are fine and uninjured. Amazing, considering the magnitude of the disaster. And I'm actually moved too by the stories of people who dove in the river and saved other people, or pulled them off the bridge. Usually I don't think I'm very sentimental, but some of those people were really heroic. It actually made me teary-eyed. Sometimes people are great.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go over there to see it with my own eyes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse!

Wow, a big Minneapolis freeway bridge just collapsed into the Mississippi river! I was in my studio in St. Paul at the time, so I'm fine. My parents are ok too. Since most of my friends and family live on the St. Paul side of the Twin Cities, there's not much chance they would be involved. Except my Mom said that she and John just crossed that bridge four times this past weekend! Anyway it's a surprise. Minnesota is usually the kind of place where nothing dramatic ever happens (except weather events, and we're used to that.)

-- This video is pretty fascinating, because it shows the rush of people arriving on the neighboring bridge to see what was happening, and it shows how enormous and unimaginable the shock of this sight must have been.

Kyoto Protocol in the US

Sometimes when I was living in France, it drove me crazy how European newspapers (not only French ones) really demonized Americans. They showed a small number of jerks (like the current administration) and created a blanket statement that ALL americans were like that. I always cringed when I read that. Towards 2005 or so I was SO sensitive about this issue. I wanted to tell people "no! no! not everyone is like that! So many people are better than that!" but I felt like someone playing a flute in a tornado -- completely unheard.

So now, listen to this. Remember the Kyoto Protocol? "Americans" were blasted for either being so stupid or so greedy that they refused to change their driving habits and industrial regulations.

Here's the real story (from NPR yesterday ) -- even though the Bush administration refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, over 600 US cities DID adopt Kyoto regulations. 600 US cities! That represents millions of Americans! Millions of Americans and Europeans actually agree on global warming. We never hear this in newspapers. They disproportionatley favor stories about some freaky church in Texas that believes that God commands us to use fossil fuels. Great.

Myy sole wish is that Europeans would see the diversity that exists in the US. There are SO MANY different kinds of opinions and lifestyles here. There are millions of decent, intelligent, sincere people who are just like the great people I knew in France and elsewhere in the world

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Today's Design Work

The only satisfying thing that I accomplished today was that I had some interesting ideas for new stained glass panels.

I am continuing to make panels that are 1-foot square (what is that, 30 cm sq?) to sell for hanging in people's windows. I also want to get back to more classical medieval stained glass techniques, but give them a modern twist.

This image is just a rough sketch that I did on the computer for my next idea. It takes foliage from an actual medieval stained glass window, and combines it with modern graphics of a songbird. I love the songbird trend that's hot right now. I'll be sad when it goes away.

Nothing worked today

Today was just one of those days where everything refused to work. Whether it was the computer, my tools and equipment... even my clothes, even it all seemed to go haywire at the moment I needed it. Rrrrgghh!! I was about to tear my hair out. Maybe because it's so hot right now. I don't mind hot weather, I love it actually, but even I have to admit that I function a bit slower when it's 95 with high humidity. Hence the same must go for my inanimate objects.

In late afternoon a storm came though, and cooled things off. It was a good ripping windy rainy gale that lasted about half an hour. Later when I walked to get groceries it was gorgeous and it smelled so nice out, like warm earth and wet pines and wildflowers.

My friends Lauren and Emily have been out of town all week and now I miss them. I've been busy the last two or three weeks and haven't seen them, but this week I'm not so busy and they're in Hawaii for a wedding. Come back guys!