Saturday, July 30, 2011


Maybe it was the heat wave, maybe it was the alien spores causing allergy freakouts, maybe it was not enough sleep , maybe it was being away from my studio for a month, maybe it was crappy junk food cause i was moving around houses, maybe it was the duelling texts from my 2 of my best friends who are -completely separate from each other- on fabulous roadtrips out west while i'm not, maybe it was just that even science ninjas get the blues.
Whatever it was, I've been shuffling around in the dumps for a few days for absolutely no good reason.
Everyone has those moments when their circumstances feel oppressive, right?
I believe that is healthy to allow yourself to feel crappy once in a while; not wallow in freakish misery, mind you, but take stock of the things in your life that you aren't totally happy about. Then you can turn that insight into action items.
I was off yesterday cause i had to work today and i used the time to refocus: did dishes, cleaned out my purse, cleaned my briefcase, balanced my checkbook, paid bills, took out the trash and recycling, cleaned the fridge and caught up my commonplace book, where i stumbled across the perfect quote for this week:
If the truth is told, things are just as bad as you yourself care to make them.
As a teenager Anne Frank wrote those words while hiding from Nazis.
Kinda puts having a few sulky days into perspective for me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

this is freakin' America, people; no one should be going hungry

The food we drop off of the roof at work is over-ripe and not really fit for human consumption most of the time. But still, i harbor a little niggling feeling about it inside, so the Charity of the Month is going to be the Maryland Food Bank.
Now since you might have noticed that there are indeed only 2 days left in this month, i've decided to double up on this charity and send both the July and August allotment.
A tiny bit of guilt goes a long way in the Nikiverse.
They take monetary donations, of course, but in cruising around the site i found this cool option to do a virtual food drive where you send money to buy specific foods. I've never heard of such a thing and you know how much i enjoy the new so i think that's the way i'm gonna go.
Time to virtual shop!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

why do we buy toys?

When kids are just as happy chasing dollar store bubbles and playing with the bottle cap?

Grandma Cass and Dashiell

Friday, July 22, 2011

behind the scenes dirt

If you'd been downtown on Sunday you'd have seen me tearing around on a Segway, walkie-talkie in one hand, megaphone in the other, working the crowd and whipping them into a chanting frenzy as various objects plummeted from the roof of the museum 40 feet down to the bricks below.
It was more fun than should be legal.
What you wouldn't have seen was the crowd going back into the air-conditioned museum, leaving me with this:
unbreakable mustard bottles indeed aren't

...and this.

Oh yes, my friends: if you drop it, you gotta clean it up.
If we drop food, we try to drop over-ripe, not-fit-for-human-consumption food so it is a bit manky even before the 4 story fall and abrupt stop. That is not the easiest stuff to get up.
But if you wanna play the games, you gotta pay the price.

(though it doesn't keep me from wishing that i had roadies)

hello new chicken salad

The one dish i get asked time and time to make is chicken salad.
I freaking love chicken salad.
I have made many variations over the years, but the top two requests are my classic and my curried chicken salads. They are two of the only recipes that i consistently make the same every time because i feel like i have finally perfected them.
No, don't bother asking for the recipes cause i can't tell you.
Not because i am mean and don't want you to have my awesome recipes, but because there is really no way to explain them. The spices in the classic are measured by smell. The spices in the curried are measured by color. Sorry.
But i can share this fusion of two standard chicken salad variations: curried and fruited.
I had some leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge and wanted to make chicken salad, but didn't have any celery. I figured that i would just curry it up and that would have to do; i cut up the chicken, adding dehydrated onion, curry powder and mayo.
Seemed kinda texturally bland. I've had various chicken salads with grapes added and thought that maybe i could add some of the cherries i had in the fridge.
Nah... that sounds gross.
But raisins are kinda grapes and craisins are kinda like raisins so i threw in a handful of dried cranberries.
Many of those fruity chicken salads have pecan or walnuts in them so i added what i had in my pantry - sunflower seeds.
The color was amazing, the texture was certainly not bland and it tasted yummy.
So yummy that i was inspired to actually pack a well-rounded lunch for myself instead of just throwing some stuff in a bag.
Here is the awesome fusion chicken salad with wheat thins (i prefer it with crackers instead of in a sandwich; triscuits would have been better but i went with what i had), carrots with ranch, vanilla pudding with cinnamon rounds and fresh cherries, nectar of the gods (diet coke, of course) and a wee box of Hello Kitty Jelly Bellies that a co-worker left on my desk cause she loves it when i squeal with delight. 
It's fun to play with dishes that you love.
It never hurts to try new things because you can always retreat to the old if it doesn't work out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

what IS this building?

Let's see...
- completely isolated on the side of a state route outside of a small town
- quaint white clapboard and double dormers
- adorable green trim and shutters with moon cutouts
- double door entrance
- mini rose bushes
- old stone grinding wheel by the walk
- big wooden cutout of an anvil
- gigantic knife hanging over the entrance
- no identifying signs
-no signs of life
-security system
I can only figure 3 possibilities: a) blacksmith shop that is closed for renovations, b) clubhouse for knife aficionados or, c) fairytale home of the woodsman/ woodcutter that always shows up at the last minute to save the day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

art exhibition 2011 - entropy

As i mentioned before, i want to show those of you who couldn't make the art exhibition in May, the pieces that i displayed.
First up is an old piece that has been hanging in my studio ever since i moved to the new apartment, so some of you will recognize it (even with the terrible yellowish lighting in this pic):
entropy, mixed media

A little larger than 9X11, this was originally started as a birthday card for fTM Rob. I wanted to do something metallic and monochromatic that relied completely on texture for visual interest. A lot of times when i am working on a project i will make a masterboard (larger collage or assemblage that is then cut down and used in pieces) so i started the paper layering much larger than the finished card.
I cut and punched and layered more and more pieces of cardstock to build up the background; everything was different colors and looked a fright, but it didn't matter because then i covered the whole thing with silver acrylic paint.
After the paint dried i was kind of in love with the way the layers took the paint differently and i realized that i couldn't cut it apart.
Rob ended up getting something else on his birthday card.
Little by little i would add more texture, more variations of silver using found objects in my old studio (raise your hand if you remember the blue room? anybody miss it as much as me?):

washers, punchees, gears, embossed paper, a watchband connector and some diamond glaze squiggles;

mirrors, the wrong sides of gems, the letter Q cause no one ever uses poor little Q (plus i like that it is a letter with a tail like a puppy), various sizes of holes, more textural squiggles and a painted imagine, that i'm not sure why i picked, it just felt right.

Like most of my projects, it got done in fits and starts. I'd add things and remove things until the balance felt right, until it felt done. Even when i was sure that nothing needed to be done to the assemblage i set it aside for a few months while i contemplated how to frame it. For me, how a piece is displayed and hung is the final step, the completion. In my head i knew what i wanted, but i wasn't sure that it existed (as most things in my head don't).
Finally i decided to find or build a naked wood frame so that i could make it be exactly what i envisioned.
After months of searching i found the right frame and did a metallic finish with the same paint as the assemblage. I wanted the whole thing to blend perfectly, for the wood of the frame to simply be another layer or dimension, but it looked a bit flat. The frame needed to be just a little different, have just a touch of something to set it apart so i did some black washes to make it look like parts of the frame were tarnished as if it was old silverplate. [btw, that thin strip of metal at the top used to be one of those wedding ring favors]

Finally, it was done.
Well, almost done.
It needed to be signed and named.
Sometimes i have a name in mind when i am working, but more often than not i can't name something until i see it completed in reality instead of in my head.
I looked and looked and looked at it and the sections of chaos surrounded by sections of order with sections of virtual blankness made me think of the word "entropy". The Second Law of Thermodynamics basically has to do with usable energy being converted into unusable energy over time, but it is often described in popular terms as an increase in randomness or that it takes more energy to create order than disorder. My genetics professor described it as meaning the universe is going to hell in a hand basket, which is oversimplified almost to the point of inaccuracy, but it has always stuck with me.
It is a piece that i'm not sure i could ever sell (though if you wanted to buy it, i'd entertain offers - obscenely high offers, that it) because i really do like having it hang over my paper racks; a constant reminder of how much energy one must invest to make sense from chaos.
Probably my favorite thing about entropy, now that it is over 5 years old and i have taken it down, cleaned it and hung it in a show is that you can just barely start to see some of the edges of the layers curling a wee bit, exposing the true color of the paper underneath:
entropy at work within its namesake

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

yellow squash, two ways

A trip to the farmer's market yielded some lovely yellow squash.
I'm not generally a squash connoisseur, but you know how i'm trying at least one new thing every month so i figured why not?.
The few times i've ever had yellow squash it has been with zucchini so i really had no idea what to do with these so i went with my old kitchen fall-back - make something up.
First up was roasting.
Kate P does a dynamite roasted veggie side dish that i decided to twist for my squash. I'd also gotten a sweet potato and tiny red potatoes at the farmer's market, so i cubed them up, tossed 'em in a glass dish and got them roasting in a 400 degree oven. While the taters cooked, i cut up a sweet onion and added into the dish after about 15 minutes. 10 minutes later the squash was sliced and quartered, then layered on top of the dish with some olive oil and a healthy sprinkling of curry powder. Every 10 minutes i stirred everything up as it slow roasted.
The result was so tender and curry-licious that i ate it by itself for dinner that night. The next day i had it cold for lunch and it was just as fabulous.
A few nights later i knew i was gonna have Boca Burgers for dinner, but was stuck for a veggie so it was time to finish off the yellow squash.
I love Boca's -especially the vegan ones- but they just beg for a spicy, exciting side dish, so the remaining 2 squash were sauteed after being sliced and then halved with sliced sweet onion. Last year at the farmer's market i had bought a fajita spice mixture from a local company that i haven't seen yet this year (i hope they didn't fold) and liberally applied to the squash and onion in the pan with a wee bit of olive oil it added just the right amount of heat.
left, Curried Squash and Taters; right, Fajita Squash

Sunday, July 17, 2011

more than one reason to be concerned

Am i more alarmed by the fact that we are obviously securing something to a bolt that couldn't hold the weight of a person or by the grammar of the warning itself?
Honestly, it's kind of a draw.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

just another day at the office

Last Saturday i went to work to get trained on this sophisticated scientific apparatus:
That would be you your basic chuck-things-off-the-roof-to-see-if-they-bounce-or-splat tube. It is about 40 feet above the official drop-stuff-here tarp:
This is highly sensitive and delicate stuff, people; you can see why there needs to be training.
The bottom team gathers an audience, pumps them up and controls the timing of the drops:
Meanwhile, the roof team (okay, really it is a roof person, but since i was there training we'll call it a team) lines up that round of objects to be dropped,
sounds the air siren and does the actual chucking.

To be sure that it hits the tarp and not the glass windows of the museum, co-worker Chris uses both a shoving pole and a poking pole, all while remaining in contact with the bottom team:
Watch out below!
over-ripe papaya
goodbye watermelon
To get these pictures i had to be at the edge of the roof, so i have no idea how things looked when they hit. However, i can report that 2 seconds after the watermelon, the whole front of the crowd had stepped back and was laughing hard:
is there any in my hair?
Tomorrow (Sunday) i am Drop Captain, which means that i get to choose what gets chucked. I know i am going to do a case of mustard -the bottle claims to be unbreakable; we'll just see about that-, gallon jugs of colored water and watermelons.However, i am open to suggestions.
What would you like to see tossed off of the roof of a museum, to certain death 40 feet below?
[remember, there is an audience, so as much as i really, really, really want to do electronics and other explode-on-impact glass things, we can't do anything that will cause razor sharp shrapnel]
If you happen to be in the Inner Harbor tomorrow, come see what i end up shoving down the tube around noon, 2:00 and 4:00!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One For the Mockinbird

Whenever i see Ron the drummer and the conversation inevitably turns to music, one of us ends up mentioning some song or band i haven't thought about in years. Recently he brought up the seriously under-rated Cutting Crew. On the way home from dinner i dug out my 20 year old cassette copy of Broadcast -how can i be that old?- and gave it a listen.
My favorite song on it is "One For the Mockingbird", which wasn't a big hit, but then again my favorites hardly ever are. The first verse hit me like a slap in the face:
I have learned through all my past mistakes,
not to let the hurdles sap my energy.
Time will tell and time is all it takes.
You won't see the bastards knock the running out of me.
My schedule lately has been beyond crazy. I have taken to writing what i am supposed to be doing each day chronologically, with a location on the white board so that i don't miss anything.
It is hectic, frantic and delightful.
Though i know there are things slipping through the cracks, i can honestly say that i am giving this new reordering, this evolution at work my all. In fact, almost everyone in the education department is on board and working themselves to the bone, but there is always a doubter, a naysayer. Our resident wet blanket is driving me nuts with self-centeredness and an almost willful obtuseness about the imperative to change, but i refuse to be deterred. I will make the most of this incredible opportunity, work at my full capacity, stay healthy and be joyful despite the human roadblock.
In defiance of negativity, these lyrics will be this week's quote.

Monday, July 11, 2011

National Building Museum

The lovely Colleen and I continue to plug away on the Local See and Do List, but i swear it doesn't get any shorter. Of course, since local encompasses parts of 4 states and 2 cities - one of which is the nation's capitol - there are a lot of things to be seen and to be done.
Our latest foray was to the Nation Building Museum. As i mentioned on the Memorial Day post about the law enforcement memorial, all we knew before we left home was the address and Metro stop. As we were looking at the memorial and taking pictures of lion statues we were trying to figure out what street we were on to know which direction to walk to find the museum.
maybe if we can figure out what this huge building right here is, one of us says to the other,
only to realize that this IS the National Building Museum.
That's convenient.
Built in the 1880s, this was originally the US Pension Bureau Headquarters, which is reflected in the 3ft high frieze circling the outside portraying various scenes of soldiers returning from the Civil War.

100 years later, an act of Congress repurposed it from offices to a museum celebrating the environments we create for ourselves.

When we went, there were 5 exhibitions staged: Cityscapes Revealed highlighted permanent collection pieces; Washington: Symbol and City told the in-depth story of the designing and construction of our nation's capitol, as well as describing some of its neighborhoods; Designing Tomorrow captures the design and impact of the World's Fairs of the 1930s (runs through Sept 5th 2011 if you want to see cool early/mid-century stuff); Walls Speak displays an amazing collection of the Art Deco artist Hildreth Meiere (runs through Nov 27th 2011 and is awesome); and, LEGO Architecture. The first four were free, but there was no photography allowed.
LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition is a touring exhibition, running through Sept 2012 and was a reasonable $5 buy-up. It features replicas of 15 famous building, rendered in LEGO:

cute Empire State Building in the back

Leenie checks out the Chicago Spire

Falling Water was my favorite

There was also a building area with so many LEGOs it was mind-boggling. You could build anything you wanted, but there was signage about different urban planning schemes so that your building could be designed to suit various purposes.

the stripey one is mine

Once your structure was done, there was a cityscape where it could live. It was neat to see not only what structures others had built, but where people chose to put them in the city.

Even if you don't have time for the exhibits, you have, have, have to at least walk into the Great Hall:
 words don't even begin to capture the beauty
or the vastness of this space. 
Each of the column is humongous and gives the Great Hall a feeling of an open plaza inside of the building.

i'm so tiny in comparison
There were a lot of people hanging out, reading, and eating in this lovely, comfortable place. Also, there is a children/family area right in the Great Room where folks can build their own structures from all sorts of materials.
BTW, if the room looks familiar to you, there have been Presidential Inaugural Balls here since Grover Cleveland.
I recommend a visit and be sure to check out the super fun sculpture on the far-side from the Metro stop:
and maybe even be a part of it!

[note: there has been a pricing change for this museum since i visited it; info can be found here]

Saturday, July 9, 2011

i work with some freaks

The I Dare You was what made me go scurrying for my camera, but the cheerful little Thank You that appeared in the 45 seconds that i was gone from the kitchen just sent me over the edge.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

360 degrees of AWESOME

Waaaaaaaaaaay back in December i get a text from my friend Ron: Trying to buy U2 tickets. Do you want one?
My reply: YES!!
His answer:

Oh wait; that's right; he didn't answer.
I never heard another word about it.
I figured that he hadn't been able to get tickets; i didn't ask him about it because of what we refer to as the Vertigo Tour Incident. [he only had one job that day - get us tickets to Vertigo. That's it. One tiny little task. But did he get them? NO. Years later and we -that is I- still refer to his utter lack of getting us tickets] I was disappointed, but told myself that it was better in the long run cause i couldn't really afford a ticket any way.
Time passes.
We celebrated New Year's together.
Billboards for the show appear all over town.
We did Lynn's Super Bowl Party together.
Time passes.
We hung out on multiple occasions.
More time passes.
We are sitting at the Phoenix in Old Ellicott City a few weeks before my birthday talking about -wait for it- music. I'm introducing him to 30 Seconds From Mars (on YouTube, people; not in person) which leads to a discussion of Muse which leads to a discussion of U2 and he says something about going to the show
What? says I.
The show is only 6 weeks away says he. Pause for him to notice my bewildered expression. I did tell you that I got the tickets, right?
Why no; no, you did not tell me that we have tickets. In fact i spent the last 5 months sighing sadly every time i drove to work and had to pass a giant billboard about the show in the morning. Every day. For 5 months.
Then the sheer joy set in, then the jubilant screaming, then the people at other tables are looking at me like i had gone nuts. It was quite the sight.
He'd simply forgotten to tell me that he did indeed secure the tickets. After the Vertigo Tour Incident he was not going to fail again. He was sure that he had told me that he had tickets.
Let's just take a quick moment to talk about Ron.
I love Ron.
We have been friends for 17 years.
He's one of my oldest friend's step-sister's uncle. (really)
He dated one of my best friends for 2 years. (then she dumped me, she dumped him and disappeared)
He dated another one of my friends for another 2 years. (then he dumped her, she dumped me and disappeared)
We can talk about music all day, every day and still not run out of things to say.
He's a music teacher, an amazing drummer and generally a good guy.
But he is also a giant goof ball.
Really. A Goof Ball. I couldn't stay mad about not knowing we had U2 tickets because 1) that's just the way Ron is and 2) we HAD U2 TICKETS.
This tour is called the 360 Tour because they are performing in the round with a ginormous 30 foot tall stage that in the daylight looks quite a bit like a headless dragon to me, though Ron wanted to know that was the deal with the cheese buttons. The main stage was in the center with bridges out to the catwalk and a huge, huge, huge circular video screen. By having the audience around the stage instead of just in front of it, everyone could be closer. Even way up in the fifth level, I wasn't any farther away from them in this stadium then i would have been in an arena.

As night fell, the video screen scrolled all sorts of tidbits of information (like 17 babies have been born to the crew so far during this tour) and showed the current time all over the world. Finally, all of the lights in the stadium went out, the crazy dragon/octopus/spaceship started to light up and the band walked to the stage. Yep, they just walked to it from the locker rooms. No big production, which is different for them and super cool. You could literally feel the excitement building and cresting as they got closer and closer to their instruments.
Then the awesomeness was upon us.
You might recall that i had a hard time describing the Muse show i went to last year. U2 360 is just as impossible to sum up in words. This is the third time i have seen them and it was everything i wanted it to be.
We can talk about the spectacle that was the constantly changing stage
a little red

white spots
crazy blue spots

more blue

freaky texture lights

small red spots

or no lights at all
 or the fact that the bridges to the catwalk MOVED, even when band members were walking on them, sliding right over the heads of the audience or that the giant video screen was made up of tons of smaller screens that descended like a cone of moving images around the stage


or that the spire at the top lit up like a flaming sword
and pulsed
and turned into a giant disco ball

But, unlike PopMart, it wasn't all just spectacle. Though a stadium tour, you really did feel close to the band. There was a real connection. Bono was in a thoughtful mood, talking a bit about recovering from surgery and being grateful that he could be there. There was, of course, political discourse as well, but it felt genuine, not preachy or contrived. Before starting Moment of Surrender, he had everyone hold up their cell phones and take a moment of silence to remember anyone they'd ever lost. It sounds hokey when i type it, but it was truly moving at the time. And i don't think i have ever had chills quite like the ones i felt when 80,000 people sang the first verse of Amazing Grace together.
Plus, there was the music. The band sounded good. They sounded tight. The playlist was fan-dam-tastic. My favorite song was played third -free pizza to anyone who can name it before hitting play-:

They covered quite a range of their catalog (30 years of albums gives one a lot to choose from) and didn't just stick to the hits. In fact, they did an amazing version of a deep cut from Achtung Baby -so deep, Ron didn't recognize it- that is very close to my heart as i heard it for the first time on a mix tape (yes, i'm old) that fTM Frack made me long, long ago (there are 2 snippets cause i didn't want either to be too long):

And on top of all of that, the concert was 10 years -almost to the day- of when Ron and I saw U2 together for the first time on the Elevation Tour. I had an extra ticket and took him to the show though he wasn't a huge fan at the time. I mean, he liked them when he heard them on the radio (yes, i'm old), but didn't really love them or own any of their records. After that concert -which remains one the the very best i have ever seen- he was sold on their greatness.
Flash forward a decade and here we are again

And as if the spectacle, music, mood, and nostalgia weren't enough, when i asked Ron how much I owed him for the ticket he said Never mind that. I just want you to have an awesome night.
Mission Accomplished!
Thanks, Ron.