Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Stainless Steel Glass Whatsit

 Way back last July, Carl came in the house with a piece of stainless steel scrap from a job he'd been working on.  The scrap steel was 9" wide by 18" tall and 1" thick with four vertical openings resembling a window pane cut out.  I wish I'd taken a before picture, but once again, I've dropped the ball. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll try to keep it well below the limit.

"What do you think we should do with this?" he asked as he carefully set it down on the kitchen floor.  "Do you have any ideas?"

As it turned out, I did have an idea for the impossibly heavy hunk of metal.  At first I thought it would make an interesting frame for a stained glass panel for the garden.  I sat down to draw up a design but the vertical lines were too narrow to accommodate anything floral.  (You know me, I'm all about the flowers.) 

While I was poking around in our stained glass scraps, I found some glass globs in assorted shapes and sizes stashed in an ice cream pail.  Most of the globs came with some supplies we had purchased from a stained glass artist who had given up the craft.  I was never really sure what I would do with them at the time, but the time had come.



I decided to attempt an abstract stained glass design.  The spaces were just right for squares, rectangles and circles of varying sizes.  I laid the entire design out on the light table in the dining room, gingerly putting the thirty pound hunk of stainless on the surface without breaking the glass underneath. I puttered around with the shapes for a week or two at night, trying various configurations.

This process of putzing was similar to the way we created the big round window for Castle Aaargh; there was no design, just a whole bunch of random scrap glass in varying shapes.










Castle Aaargh's Round Scrap Window 2014
 I admit that the round window came out much better than either of us anticipated.   This was the first window we ever made without a pattern; the shapes we had to work with formed their own pattern.  I wasn't as optimistic about the Stainless Steel Glass Whatsit, but what the heck?  Might as well try something new.  It's all basically scraps anyway.


Once I had the glass shapes placed in the vertical panes, I took a few days to wrap copper foil around each of them.  Many of the glass jewels were quite thick, so the process took longer than I anticipated, which is fine because foiling is my favorite part of the craft of stained glass.  I find it very relaxing to sit down with a bucket of glass and a good movie.  




Carl took over with the soldering when I was done foiling everything.  We weren't sure if the solder would adhere to the stainless steel or not, but surprisingly there were no problems.    At one point the entire project was tipped over by accident, so many of the pieces were dislodged before they were soldered, but to tell the truth,  I guess it didn't matter very much.  Behold my first attempt at abstract stained glass:

Carl had finished soldering this together late last fall, and I put off doing the clean up on the project for various reasons.   It had been moved from the front porch to the dining room floor and finally to the basement for the holidays where Carl plopped it into a wastebasket.   Neither of us were totally thrilled with the end result, no stained glass work ever looks promising especially covered in soldering paste and flux in a gooey mess.  I had chalked it up to an experiment and a learning experience; not anything I was likely to repeat.

 This week I went to empty the wastebasket and found the Whatsit again; it was very cold outside, nothing else was happening, might as well take my mind off my troubles and start the cleaning and detailing process.

Flush side
One side of the Whatsit is flush with the surface, but the other side is recessed into the 'panes' of the stainless steel piece.

Recessed side
The cleaning process took me most of the day and a night of movie watching, by all rights, a window or lamp should be cleaned as soon as possible after soldering, but with us, that doesn't always happen.  I have a set of dental picks that are great tools for detailing stained glass.


At first we had been underwhelmed by the way Whatsit turned out, but when I propped it up in the dining room window and the late afternoon sun streamed through it reminded me of stained glass chipped 'slab' windows installed in some churches and mausoleums. 

  All in all, this was an experiment that we may try again.  Using two different mediums was actually quite fun.  I'm not sure how or where we will display the Whatsit, but I'm sure Carl will think of something. 





In a way, life is a lot like these windows, sometimes you're given pieces of the puzzle and you don't know how any of them fit in the big picture.



 When life throws us scraps, all we can do is arrange things the best we can.  Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong, but one thing is for certain, at least we tried.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Anxiety, Thy Name is Karen

When we last left them, Carl and Karen were in the midst of figuring out their septic tank woes.  And woes they are; the soil test failed, so now we are scheduled for a mound system installation this spring.  It will be 100 feet long and approximately 3-4' tall, not sure on the height yet, more soil tests are necessary for that determination.
December 23, 2015

One good thing; we can put the mound a long distance from the house, so the River Bed is not in jeopardy.  Well, except for the fact the original septic tank will have to be dug up and removed and a new one stuck back in which will entail digging up most of the back yard.  And, oh yeah, I forgot; the truck bringing in the new tank is Really Big, so we may need to cut down a few trees here and there and possibly say adios to the gazebo, but other than that, with a little luck and ambition and with the weather cooperating, we might have something other than mud by July.

Time to go into the Tardig and teleport Somewhere Else?
And to add to my stress, I've got three garden walks already scheduled for this summer, the first one in June.  Thankfully, they are not big tours; but I do hate to disappoint people when they've traveled for any distance.  I had another call this week and I told them about the possibility of seeing far less than perfection upon their arrival, but they were undaunted.  Luckily, they don't want to tour until August. 

Good ol' Castle Aaargh will be on the back burner again this season, but it can't be helped.  Having indoor plumbing trumps everything.

Random snowy urn things.

The financial side of this is stressful, to say the least.  I had just about enough saved up for our remodeling fund (if I don't pay any other bills for the rest of the year) to cover this.  The soil test guy joked, "Seeing all the rocks around here it seems like you guys like hard work, why don't you just put your own septic system in?"

Well, ha ha, Mr. Funny Man, if we could legally do that, we definitely would.   But of course there are government inspections, paperwork, official rules and regulations, permits, red tape, so on and so forth, so that's not an option.  Don't even dangle the carrot of sweat equity in our sad old faces, ok? 

Have a seat.
I have a doctor's appointment later on this week.  Yet another expense we really don't need, but I don't have a choice.  There are tests and more tests in my future, I have a tentative diagnosis of Lyme disease at the moment and have no idea where we go from here.  Like most people my age, some days I feel fairly good, but the joint pain is unrelenting along with very frequent headaches.  I'm still exercising on a regular schedule and trying my best to watch my diet, but a few pounds crept back on already this winter.  I gave up on heavy weightlifting since last summer; it takes far too much of a toll on my joints at the moment.  As trite as it sounds, I have to listen to my body or risk being unable to function.



More Random Snowy Urn Things.
Skiing has been my salvation as it is every winter.  We've only had one good snowstorm so far and I've been making use of it at least four times a week, going out for an hour a day.  Lately the temperatures have been below zero and the windchills are nasty, but if I stay in the tree line in the Back Eight and up against the neighbor's woods on our northern farm fence line, I don't suffer too much.  Crossing the bare fields from the trees to the woods is the worst part.

Skis!!!  
 Some days I get really down on myself; the woulda coulda shoulda's creep in, I shoulda seen this coming, coulda stayed working for the insurance company, woulda avoided being bitten by a woodtick, you get the picture.  Woe is me, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna go eat some worms.  (Where did that come from?  My father...it was one of his favorite taunts when I was a little kid feeling miserable over something.)

But then I go outside and take in the beauty of the world around me and it helps so much.  I'll never be thin, I'll never be rich (that's a No-Brainer!) but I can still get around and all is not lost.  Not yet.

 I can't afford to throw a Pity Party.  Heck, I can't afford to throw any parties at the moment, but pity parties are definitely off limits.


There's always something to look forward to, every day is a blessing.  But try as I might, the obsessive thoughts fly around in my poor old brain.  Here's a sample of my daily ruminations:

 I may or may not have to look for a job this year; it's all up in the air.  With employment comes other headaches (on top of the ones I have daily now) such as am I up to it physically?  Mentally?  My car is already eleven years old and Carl's is a 1989; any work traveling will soon put both cars into the junkyard and we'd need new-ish ones; depending on the work I can get (if it's office-related) there's a wardrobe to consider, would my measly imaginary income help us or hinder us when it comes to tax brackets? There is no way I can tend this garden to the extent I do now; I'll probably end up on an opposite shift from Carl; what if this is Lyme's disease?  What if it isn't? What is with the new rash that just developed?  I don't think I felt a lump, no, it's gone now, how can I afford this doctor?  Our deductible is $15K before insurance picks up a dime.  The dentist says I need a root canal and a new crown, it's only $800..... and Mom.........what about Mom?  I am her sole caregiver, she's doing ok at the moment but there's no guarantees.  There are no guarantees on anything.  No extended warranties any of us can buy that will ensure our health, wealth and well-being.  No one gets out alive.  Bah, humbug.

End Rant.
(Aren't you glad you don't live in my head?)
No, I didn't take the Christmas decorations down yet. 

Take a deep breath.  Calm down.  It will all be fine.  So much of what we worry about never comes to pass.  Pray.  It's not that bad.   But then the mind starts up again with the old tapes, my MIL told me years ago that 'failure to plan is a plan to fail' and 'you should always have a backup plan in place'.  She had no sympathy for those who didn't,  'Times are tough all over.'

Yes, they are.  And I know my current 'tough' times are nothing compared to what other people are dealing with.  I still have a warm house, enough to eat (too much, if you believe my scale) a loving husband and family, I have it all, I'm just a Worry Wort.  That's nothing new.


There's still snow outside, and it's free for the skiing.  What more could I ask for?


Plus, we have the Biggest Balls of Them All.  (Inappropriate, but true.)


This too shall pass, even if my perc test didn't.  Wish me luck at the doctor's office this week, I can really use it.  (And what is up with my blog format?  Good grief, I apologize for silliness!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

Septic woes notwithstanding, Christmas came anyway.  Carl managed to patch the system together until the permits and excavation can begin, so we are limping along for now.

Below is this year's Christmas Twig which is really two boughs from one of our Norway spruce tied to a cedar post and stuck in a tree stand to appear tree-like (or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)


I was way behind with dinner preparations on Christmas Day, and was still scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees at 11:30AM.  Dinner wouldn't be ready by noon as I'd planned, so I sent out a text to our sons and Ann telling them to give me another half hour, please.  Ann arrived early, bless her heart, and took over washing dishes for me as I continued to get all the dirt off the floor from the day before.  Digging up the backyard and abundant rainfall had made a mess of the house.

Our Christmas celebrations are traditionally small here, just immediate family and Ann, of course, who is like a sister to me.  I'm always amazed at the huge gatherings other people routinely host; I would be a nervous wreck.  With Ann's help, we pulled this little party together.


Ann, displaying her Christmas cookies from Joel and Abby  (Abby wasn't feeling well that day.)  Next to Ann is Joel opening a really lame gift from Mom and Dad.

L-R: David, stuffed from far too much Christmas dinner, The Elusive Lucille (Mom) and Karen (me!) getting ready to sample my Christmas cookies.


Mom looks happy here; she hates having her picture taken, so I'll always cherish this one.  She's seen 95 Christmas Days. 


Joel, wondering why in the world we bought him a 'Walking Dead' video game and moments later.......


Wondering why we gave him a card with glitter on it.  Joel is a Glitterphobe, I should have known better!

After all the eating and gift opening, we settled in for a few hours of Sheepshead and after everyone but Ann had gone home, Carl, Ann and I played Pegs and Jokers until well after midnight.

On Saturday night, we went to the Green Bay Botanical Garden for the Christmas light show with Ann and her sister and husband.  We should have taken a tripod along, but here are some blurry-ish pictures of some of the sights:














It is hard for me to believe Christmas is over already; I think mostly because the weather was so strangely warm and having no snow didn't help much either.  Well, that all changed last night; we had a blizzard of epic proportion, 13" of snow fell driven by 40 mph winds, I guess I can safely call it a blizzard.  In the space of a few hours, the yard went from this:


 To this:



The Christmas Twig came off of one of the Norway spruces in the background which needed pruning anyway. 

Snow, snow, everywhere!  This will make getting the septic system done an even bigger challenge.


We spent the morning digging out of here and at Mom's; Carl has vacation this week which is a good thing.  We didn't have the snow blower on the tractor yet because we're silly and didn't think winter would come this year.  Hooking the snow blower to the tractor is a chore for me alone, and I was glad I had Carl's help.   Carl shoveled while I blew the snow to smithereens.


Even with the tractor, it took well over two hours to get everything cleared.  (I appreciate the tractor, believe me I do!  I'd hate to shovel both yards.)

We will have to do some more snow removal for the excavation crew expected on New Year's Eve.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our soil test will pass, but with our luck, a mound may well be in our future.  Sigh.  I don't know how I will deal with a mound right smack dab in the middle of my Riverbed....I know there are bigger tragedies in the world, but this was our very first flower garden.  I guess, as Carl says, we'll figure something out.  But Darn!  I will miss my Riverbed.

Wish us luck!  


Happy New Year!