Sunday, September 30, 2012

is there a problem officer?

No sir. I don't believe i am too distracted to drive.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

let me back up a minute

Some of you have contacted me saying that you don't know what is going on with me and these cats.
I talked about the trip to so many different people that i thought everyone knew.
Here's the skinny: my friend Francie (nee Heidi) lives in Portland OR with her husband and daughter; her mom -Nancy- is moving there to be closer to the soon-to-be-one-year-old grandbaby.
You might recall that i did the flowers for Fancie's wedding a couple of years ago; here is a pic of Nancy and Francie to jog your memory.
In Baltimore, Nancy lived with her other daughter, Elin, and 6 cats: Bunny, Emmy, Frodo, Maggie, Sam and Shadow. Elin flew out to Portland with Bunny early last week to pick up the key to the new condo. Nancy packed all their stuff into 3 PODS and sent them on their merry way late last week.
On Saturday Nancy and I loaded up her Jeep Liberty and the 5 remaining cats and headed for the west coast.
We detoured up to Milwaukee to drop of one cat - Emmy- to Francie's good friend from college, Carmen.
The PODS have arrived in Portland; Francie and her husband Jake have arranged to unload them tomorrow. I am trying to get Nancy there to oversee the moving-in process.
The burning question everyone seems to have is Why? Why am I involved?
My friend needed help, i've always wanted to drive across the country and since i am in charge of the route, i am collecting seven new states.
Everybody with me so far?

Monday, September 24, 2012

and we're off

From Baltimore MD to Portland OR via Milwaukee WI in a Jeep Liberty with 5 cats and Francie's mom.

Left Saturday afternoon and drove 515 miles: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia again and Ohio, stopping in Dayton, OH. 
There weren't a lot of cool highlights from Day 1 because Baltimore to Columbus is a familiar route that i could do in my sleep, but there were some interesting rounds of musical cats as we figured out the best configuration with crates and carriers.
 Also, it took us 7 tries to find a hotel with outside doors -cause, you know, 5 cats- and i can certainly say that the America's Best Value Inn outside of Dayton had at least that going for it.
Day 2 got off to a bit of a rough start as i only got about an hour of sleep and 3 of the 5 cats -the boys, BTW- found such a good hiding place behind the dresser that we didn't find them until we had moved and dismantled every piece of furniture in the room, including the bed.
Finally on the road around 10:30, we had gone about 6 miles when the back passenger window decided that it didn't want to go up ever, ever again; getting off of I-70W three exits after we got on, i went into Meijer's -huge Midwestern superstore- to get emergency repair supplies:

Nearly 20 years of creating cool stuff from plastic and tape does come in handy in situations like this.

I fixed it.
This little side adventure took almost an hour as i also had to buy kitty treats and litter [Dear Meijer's: having the litter boxes in one place and the litter in another doesn't help anyone] and while doing the second plastic layer -one inside and one outside of course- i dropped the tape and it rolled away much quicker than one would expect, finally lodging behind a wheel five cars down the row.
Once actual driving got underway it was a nice day, with sightings of a huge candle right over the Indiana line (spotted too late to get my own pic) and a cheese castle right inside Wisconsin (no time to stop people; we are off pace!).
Yes, i did say Wisconsin, which many of you know is a new state for me:

Oh, i almost forgot that there was also a cool wind farm that went on for miles and miles in Indiana. We stopped right in the middle of it for a litter box break, affording us a great view in all 4 directions:

I thought being a Sunday meant that Chicago wouldn't be too much of a problem, but much like the DC Beltway it was snaggly anyway, perhaps just to spite us:
look kids, Chicago and traffic

look kids, Chicago again and even more traffic
We made a side trip to Milwaukee to drop off one of the cats to Francie's college friend Carmen, but decided to push on a little farther before calling it quits for the day.

 Spotting this guy outside of the Rodeway Inn sealed the deal for us and now we are settling in for the night with the humans eating chicken fingers from the attached bar and the cats looking for improbable places to sleep.

I will find a way behind this bed, mark my words...
Day 2: 493 miles in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Farewell, Soft Stuff

Long, long ago there was a storybook amusement park not far from my house called Enchanted Forest. Across the street was the  Forest Diner and the Forest Motel. In front of the motel was an ice cream stand called Soft Stuff.
As happens in the world, the amusement park closed and got turned into a shopping center. Then the motel fell into disrepair. The diner held on for years, but was recently sold and the land will be turned into yet another shopping center. Which means that Soft Stuff has to close this month. They claim that after all the development they will reopen with a better, bigger ice cream shop, but i'm not holding my breath.
So tonight i met up with some friends to have one more orange-vanilla swirl:

[from the left] Niki's shadow, Lydia (who would like everyone to know that she is holding my ice cream, not that she is eating two), Jami, Miriam, Felicia, Abby, Laura, Kris and making his Nikiverse debut, baby Malcolm
Goodbye last piece of non-gentrified Ellicott City; it's been real.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

you know who hates jewelry?

The Thwart-hog hates jewelry.
Beauty and joy and sparkles are like thorns in its paws.
The first photo shoot for NikCo was postponed because of weather on Tuesday and then again just this afternoon cause my model is sick in bed.

jewelry roundup 6

This afternoon i am having my first photo shoot for the NikCo Etsy store (re-opening October 10, 2012).  It was going to be on Tuesday, but we were rained out.
Excited, but trepidatious since i have never done anything like this before, I've been distracting myself all morning by cleaning. After a trip to the dump i decided to work on cleaning out my photo files as there are almost 900 pictures in there being edited and categorized for blogging [not Niki hyperbole; with Alaska and Vegas both in the works, it is real] and realized that it is way past time for another jewelry roundup.
Let's dive right in with a pin that I bought in New Oeleans in 2002 with Chris, Christina and ScoPi that you really need to have the right occasion to wear:
Why yes, that is a crayfish playing the trumpet and it was perfect for Hot August Blues.
You know how much i love it when things perfectly match up like that,
or like the day when i realized i still had these blue bead hoop earrings from 1988 that are almost the same exact beads as this crazy clip-on from the 60's. It was so matchy-matchy (which i love) that a boy even noticed - thanks, Will.

Speaking of unusual clip-ons, I found these blackened white floral oval things at Objects Found last winter. I have no idea what they are made out of; it feels harder than resin, but more pliable than stone. Intrigued, i bought them for $1.
 These beautiful silver floral circles were inherited from a great aunt on my dad's side years ago. There is an amazing bracelet that matched that i wore almost every day of 8th grade, but it needs a tricky repair so it stayed in the jewelry box this day.

I really like this kinda shabby cream painted leaf cluster that i found for $1.50, but i'm not so sure any more about that hairdo...

Flowers are always a favorite for me and i broke out several big ones recently:
I can only imagine the level of ugliness of the 80's blouse that was the original home for the burgundy fabric flower; it makes a far better hair accent, especially since it was free.
The vintage blue painted enamel flower was inherited this spring. I am so honored that Kate shared her precious mom's things with me and i think of Cass whenever i wear any of the pieces.
Since i was trying to wear every piece i owned in one year i avoided buying as much new stuff as i normally would, but i could not resist the blue rhinestone flower on the right. It is breathtaking in person with regular rhinestones, moonstones and AB crystals. A pricey $12 i was able to talk it down to $8 which is a lot for me to pay for one piece, but i love, love, love it.
And here's more love - literally:
Douglas gave me this fun bracelet on the next to last day of the cruise and it is pictured here in our room in Vegas with the wee Eiffel Tower in the background.
While were in Vegas he bought me this wonderful Hello Kitty crystal ring.

 I'm not gonna lie, Douglas was a bit confused as to why i'd prefer this $22 beauty over a Chihuly vase (which was breathtakingly beautiful and made me almost weep when he offered to buy it for me), but the truth is that it makes me smile every time i  put it on and the light is dazzling dancing across it.
The other ring pictured is a bronze creation made by my former TSP partner Brian. When he first started apprenticing as a bronzesmith he'd bring me pieces to evaluate; he thought the little joints on it were flaws, but i thought it gave it character so he let me keep it. Later he gifted me a "better" version that i also love, but i tend to wear this one more.
I can't remember if i mentioned before that my Grandma Craig collected butterfly pins and when she died i inherited a few of them, including the cool silver one on the left that has jointed wings.
 Ever since she passed in 2004 i find myself drawn to butterfly pins and add to my own collection like with the small Mexican sterling and shell beauty on the right that was only marked $2 for some reason; i can only imagine that whomever priced it didn't realize what they had. Score for me!
It is unfortunate that the pics for this hair/jewelry extravaganza did not capture the overall effect i think i created by mixing several different styles of vintage pink and white clip-ons scattered throughout my head. Though different designs, the stone materials are exactly the same and mayhaps even from the same designer which makes them a fun non-matching match.

As always, blue was a popular jewelry accent this round. The big silver and baby blue pin on the left is one of my favorite acquisitions; it was missing a bunch of stones so i got it for free and over time i have found all but one of the original stones in subsequent "broken jewelry" bags.
The top pic was also a great save; missing several stones i got it for 50 cents, popped out all the stones, rearranged them and added a few from my magic bottle. Bet if you zoomed in on the pic you can't even tell where i did the repairs. Man, i love redesigning jewelry!
The turquoise chip clip-on fastened at the base of my side pony did not need any repair work, but it has been patiently waiting for about 4 years for me to wear it.
Finally, we'll end with this vintage white necklace.
Big oval pendants like this were popular in the 70's, but i've never seen one that had beads in the chain. In fact, it looks exactly like necklaces i've designed before cause i love the look of  mixing beading and chains, so image my joy at discovering it at the National Road yard sale last year for one big dollar.

Monday, September 17, 2012

i do not have a problem and i can stop anytime i want to, thank you very much

A recent visitor to my apartment commented on the quantity of  music selection present in an incredulous and somewhat judgey tone.

Flarke main shelf

Flarke overflow shelf

next to the CD player

in the bedroom

in the dining room

I'm not sure i understood his point.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I might have been mistaken

I tend towards hyperbole, saying things like There's no such thing as having too much fun, until your heart explodes or Can you ever have too much of a good thing? I don't think so.
Then Ron and I were at The Pub in Gettysburg and our server suggested i get the carrot cake.
She didn't mention that one portion is the size of a whole cake.
Really?!? What am i gonna do with this?
I'm sitting with a man who can't eat sugar.
People from other tables pointed and took pictures.
It was delicious, but it was dessert for dinner right there and then breakfast, snack and dinner the next day.

Hot August Blues

There is an all day blues festival in Baltimore at the beginning of every August (as one might gathered from the post title) and i've wanted to go for years. The problem was that i didn't have any blues-loving friends to go with me. But this year, this was the year that i was going to Hot August Blues, dagnabit, even if i had to go by myself because this year Trombone Shorty was playing.
Mayhaps you remember me falling in love with Trombone Shorty in the Spring.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Will and Jami suggested going to HAB to see him together!

I'd been to Oregon Ridge years ago to hear the symphony, but this is the first time i've attended a concert there as an adult and, believe it or not, my first all day music festival. The sound in the park is amazing; the stage is at the bottom of a hill so the sound is nicely reflected.
We staked out our seats, listened to a few bands (not that they weren't good, but i don't really remember much about them as i was kinda just biding my time for Mr. Shorty), looked at the vendors (Jami got a great hat) and indulged in crazy fair food (the corn on the cob was the best and i tried deep fried Snickers because... well, why not?)
 Finally, it was Trombone Shorty time.
Even from our seats where he appeared to be about 12 inches tall, the sound was great. I love, love that he carried out his own trombone and trumpet instead of having a roadie set them up on the stage ahead of time.
Oh, did i not mention that he plays trumpet as well as trombone?
 And sings?
 And leads the band?
 And dances?
I had to get closer.
[i wanted to see better, but it might have had something to do with a chatty guy who i finally realized was hitting on me (i assume people are just friendly) when i caught Will's expression of supressed laughter mixed with the do-you-need-me-to-get-rid-of-him look after he said, I'm Skid, by the way; Skid Row.]
Rude, awful people elbow their way to the front past folks who have been legitamitely standing there for hours which makes me so mad, but you can get there by being watchful and polite. It also helps when you are short so people don't mind if you slide into a hole in front of them cause they can still see.
 [don't even get me started on tall people who step directly in front of others ignoring the fact thay they are blocking everyone - selfish, self-centered jerks; but i digress]
 Slowly, but surely i worked my way to the front row stage right, next to the press section, affording me this unobstructed view:
The whole band -Orleans Avenue- was crazy tight and clearly enjoying themselves; here is a wee snippet for ya:

Let's zoom in a bit, shall we?

Several times Shorty left the stage and came down into the grass to be closer to the crowd who ate him up like warm pecan pie.
 Security had their hands full shooing people back behind the ropes as rampant dancing had broken out and folks were hopping into the open grass for more room.

Near the end of his set Warren Haynes from Gov't Mule -the last band of the night- came out and played with them. The energy was amazing and finished of what was easily the best set of the entire day.

After Trombone Shorty left the stage, Jami found me -she and Will hadn't come all the way to the front wuth me, but had kept an eye on my location to make sure i was Skid Row-free - and waited with me for him to come out to meet and greet.

People started out in a line acting like civilized human beings, but it quickly dissolved into a free for all. I didn't get to hear Jami yell at one guy for jumping line as i was too busy trying to ascertain if the older lady with glasses actually knew Shorty as she hung onto him as he talked to various people.
Once again, taking advantage of tiny openings while being patient and polite does pay off. Trombone Shorty -or my friend Troy, as i call him now- was very nice and appreciative as he signed my CD booklet and posed for pics. My camera chose that moment to have a breakdown and he didn't move away, but asked if i had my phone with me to take pics or if someone in the crowd could take a pic with their phone and mail it to me. Like i said, super nice and cool.

Do not hesitate if you ever have the chance to see Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue perform.
It will be a show to remember.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Global Day of Play

It's easy to get caught up in all the icky crap of the world, easy to be jaded and think that its all going to hell in a handbasket.
But if you keep your eyes open and actively look for the good, joy is right there in front of you.
Do you remember in the Spring when that video about the kid who made an entire arcade out of cardboard was going around? Well, there is an amazing follow-up; i dare you not to be moved by the earnestness of these kids and excited by the well-spring of creativity.

So let's all play on October 6th. This would make a great homeschool lesson or museum activity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
That pretty much describes the Festival for me this year.
The thwart-hog continued to plague me all weekend with such highlights as Kinkos closing early and an injury in the wee hours of Sunday morning that left me hobbling on one leg, but with the awesome, amazing, indispensable help of Kate P i managed to be setup on time with product displayed in fun and creative ways.
It was kinda hard to photograph the booth as it was in partially in shadow all day, but here are some pics to at least give you an idea:

Hello! Welcome to NikCo on location. Come right in; it is nice to see you.
Please excuse me for not getting up; i have a hole in my foot.

The ReWearables earrings looked even better than normal as Kate grouped them by color family. I had intentionally made pieces to try to fill out and balance the color selection and her display on my handy dandy expandable screen benefited from that decision.
It is hard to believe, but it looks like i need more purple.

My music tree made another appearance for bracelets and the more delicate necklaces; all the other necklaces were spread across various tables.

New for this show was a line of earrings called Quirkees; made from modern glass and lampwork beads they are all fun, whimsical accents like hearts, stars, owls, seahorses, penguins, turtles, ice cream cones, etc. that i put on the old frame display (the original shadowbox display design was one of the things cut due to thwart-hog).
Closer pictures will be on the Etsy site (opening October 10, 2012!).

I was able to do a few theme specific Quirkees displays, including the Breast Cancer pink ribbon earrings (though the pieces are supposed to be on the ribbon instead of the glass in front of it; thwart-hog!), winter-themed earrings on a wooden filigree tree, Halloween earrings on a wooden wreath (this was going to be a gourd stack statue (cooler than it sounds), but you know, thwart-hog),

and both Orioles and Ravens earrings in the team colors on custom-made flags, shown here with the card basket and memo pad racks.

Sales were disappointing; there was a lot of foot traffic, but i noticed most people weren't stopping at any booths so i don't think it was just me. People who did stop and look at my pieces often made a purchase.Thanks to the incredible generosity of Reggie from Objects Found i didn't have to pay for my booth rental or insurance so at least it wasn't a financial loss.
I appreciate all of you who stopped by to say HI and support my fledgling dream, as well as you out-of-towners who sent well wishes

A very special thanks to Kate. I almost gave up and cancelled the whole thing at 4:30 Sunday morning when the thwart-hog sent me crying to my bed, bleeding profusely and unable to stand on my right foot, but i knew she was coming at 7 to help so i pulled myself together. Kate did almost all of the loading, unloading and setup herself with me giving instructions from my chair. She also carried and fetched all day, fighting the wind to keep displays upright and pretty. She didn't leave my side except to get us lunch. Without her help i would NOT have been able to be at this festival this year and would have missed my first goal.
Thank you seems insufficient for your contribution, Kate. Jason did the whole group a tremendous favor when he married you into the family.

There are a few little shows on the horizon, but the next big goal for NikCo is the re-opening of my Etsy store on OCTOBER 10, 2012!
Watch for announcements and updates.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

the thwart-hog also rises


It felt like everything was going too well.
It felt like things were progressing just a bit too smoothly.
But i wasn't worried; in fact, i figured the thwart-hog had been chased away by the actual calamity that was this summer, that he was giving me some space to get The Plan on track.
Overly optimistic?
Just plain dumb?

For perhaps the first time in history i was not only on target, on schedule and not procrastinating, i was ahead of schedule in preparation for the Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival tomorrow. My BFF was calling every 6-12 hours for us to set another production goal (and i earned cool stuff like homemade jelly and cookies if i accomplished them; isn't she cool?), displays were being built and painted, i was even getting sleep, people.

And somewhere the thwart-hog was watching, waiting and laughing.

It was time to take a little break, get some dinner and go to Michael's. Normally i buy findings and wires in bulk on-line, but production has been so high, so on target this week that i ran out.
In the shopping center parking lot my car had some sort of electrical breakdown and i had to get AAA to tow it to the dealership, which was closed since it was a Friday night.
So the day before the Festival, I have no car.

I'm sure that i can find a way around the half built displays that need hinges from the hardware store, the necklaces that are waiting for findings cause i never got to the Michael's, the complete lack of caffeine in my house right now, the display pieces that i just realized are in my car at the dealership along with my  travel chairs, the repair bill that i don't know how i'm going to pay and the super grumpy attitude that i am currently wearing.
I'm sure that it is all gonna be just fine in the end; mayhaps not as super-sparkly, ultra-fantastic as i planned, but certainly not an abysmal tragedy.
But that doesn't change the fact that I want to hunt down that dagnabbed thwart-hog and run him over with my car.
...oh wait

Anyhoo, i figured a cathartic little post would be a good way to purge my bile and get back on track; plus, i know that someday this will just be a funny story - like the time i had to finish the display cards for the art exhibition by lantern light - so it needed to be recorded in this here digital scrapbook of the insanity that is my life.
I'm off to do... something... maybe take a bubble bath with aroma candles and soothing Native American flute sonatas.

If you're in town, come see me tomorrow at the Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival.
My tent will be in front of Objects Found and it should be a hoot to see what i manage to cobble together for displays.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

panic followed by cuteness

This is NOT how you want to start your morning.

[interior Niki's bedroom, snoring is heard from under purple floral sheets]
Niki sits up alarmed, reaches for cell phone, flips it open and reads:
Jason: Where are you?
Niki glances at clock groggily - 6:09am (set 8 minutes fast)- and types:
Niki: Its only 6
Jason: No. It is 7.
Niki looks at the clock. Looks at the phone. Looks at the clock. Looks at the phone. Looks at the clock. Looks at the clock ON the phone - 7:04am.
Realization quickly followed by naked alarm crosses Niki's face; she was supposed to be at Jason and Kate's house at 6:40 cause the normal sitter is on a weird rotation at nursing school and can't take Dash to preschool on Tuesdays.


And welcome to Tuesday, people. There was an electricity bobble on Friday and i must have set my clock wrong. When i was on a normal schedule i used clock as the primary alarm and set my cell phone as an emergency backup. I didn't even think of it last night since i haven't even been needing the alarm.
 I got to JP's house at 7:14; thank goodness for only living one point zero miles away. He was already in the driveway waiting. After some car seat lessons he was off to battle Beltway traffic and sleepy college students.
There was enough time to go inside, brush my hair and do the toothpaste-on-my-finger-its-better-than-nothing trick before it was time to wake up Dash. It felt weird intentionally waking up a little kid that i'm used to trying to get to sleep. He was not at all interested in getting up, but took it like a champ with no crying.
The rest of the morning -dressing, cartoons, breakfast- went by without incident, probably because both of us were not-so-secretly wishing we were still asleep.
The abrupt wake-up and adrenaline panic was worth it though because when i picked up his glittery Cars backpack he turned right around and stuck out his wee arms for me to put it on him:

I bet i could fit him inside that bag.
Honestly, the adorable factor wiped away the last bit of unsettled.

Don't fret, Aunt Niki.
It's time for learning fun, with
my ginormous bag.