In 2018 I retired after 39 years of life in Taiwan. I moved to Holland, MI, and bought a hundred year old house in the city.
The town was platted out sometime in the 1960s, and included alleys in the middle of blocks. One by one, the city “vacated” many of those alleys, but some remain. Near our house there’s one that a community association “neatened up” within the last 10 years. It’s an “art alley”. One back yard installation included a few racks of colored bottles on poles. They attracted me. I figured I could do that, myself, in my own yard.
After examining the installation, I decided that I could do it cheaper too. I sent out a request for empty bottles on a neighborhood bulletin board, and got “not few” responses, sometimes linked to statements that “we didn’t drink all that wine” or “the bottles accumulated over a long time.” (That’s Holland, MI piety speaking). My own installation, because I did it on the cheap side, blew apart in the wind more than once. Lots of bottles and red vases smashed before I finally figured out how to make it secure.
As I live and drink, I accumulate bottles regularly. Three windows in the garage were “bottled up” in 2022. More racks and installations have taken places in the yard. As I write, there are 50 bottles and vases, drilled and washed, waiting in the basement for another inspiration to strike.
People ask me a lot about my opinion of Hawaii. I suppose I do know more about our 50th state that the average person. By luck of the draw I had almost 25 programs to Hawaii during my years in the travel industry. I didn’t travel on all these programs but I have been to the islands a whooping 17 times, most of those times to Maui.
What I tell people about Hawaii is that every island has a different topography and a different personality. I usually talk about the difference between Hawai’I (the Big Island) and Kauai. The Big Island is the largest, the youngest and the most volcanic. If you haven’t been to Hawaii, then the picture you probably have in your mind is Kauai. It is much older and encompasses the lush green image we all carry around.
But I don’t talk about Oahu very much; Unbelievably with all my Hawaii programs, I never had a program on Oahu. No particular reason, just luck of the draw. This means that almost every time I have been on Oahu, it’s because I’m in the Honolulu Airport, transferring to an interisland flight. While my brain knows what Honolulu and Oahu are about, it was still a surprise to be there for three days.
We stayed in the Waikiki area because we didn’t have a car so needed to be in a walkable part of the city. This is part of Oahu that has earned the name “concrete jungle”. It is block after block of tall buildings, very high end shops and restaurants and traffic. It could almost be any big city IF you can ignore the beautiful blue sky and warm weather as well as the folks on the streets. It’s an amazing amalgam of business folks, obvious tourist (YA and I) and the huge number of surfers and counter-culture types. Waikiki is right on the water so you can walk along the main thoroughfare and look right onto sandy beach and blue waters. There is even a zoo (who knew)… we were actually able to walk there as well.
One fun thing we saw in Honolulu that I’ve never seen on other islands – people putting leis on statues. Most of the statues along Kalakaua Avenue and Beach each have at least 10-12 leis placed around their necks; all the leis are in various stages of decay, so it’s clear that people are adding them, not some program of prettification by the city.
So now I have good experience to describe Oahu and Honolulu the next time someone asked me about the islands.
For twenty years I have been using various kinds of activities to ease my pain, especially rhythmic activities, which is why I rode a bike for so long. Which is why I drew/painted with pastels. I still don’t know if that is drawing or painting. I guess painting. However aging has taken both of those activities away from me. Life has added monumental stress and a diagnosis of migraines, which my neurologist says I have had for 30 years at least.
So I went back to art, at a much more forgiving level, sketching, in other words, at a level where I can accept the sudden jerks of my hands and my poor close range eyesight issues. I can be in a severe headache and force myself to sketch, get lost in the process, and then realize 15-30 minutes later how much lower my pain is. My neurologist is surprised by this. I pointed her towards the medical literature on it.
I sketch from photographs, some as old as 75 years. I get lost in the memory of the people, places, and events. Among my favorite are travel photographs, which I group together. So I thought I might spin off VS’s game. So can you identify, despite my poor hand where I was? Some are specific places, such as 1, 6, and 7. Or maybe you can identify the area or a similar area in 2, 3, 4, and 5. Two places should be easily identifiable to two Baboons, but then there is my weak art skill. A hint: I have only traveled in 46 states and four Canadian province.
December is proving to be a hard load to carry. How does December go for you?
Yesterday Bill mentioned the disappointment that Botticelli’s Venus isn’t shown to it’s best advantage in its home in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I know someone who was disappointed at seeing the David by Michelangelo in that same city; she thought that many fewer people should be allowed into the gallery at any given time so that it is quiet while you are observing the statue. I also know several folks who were underwhelmed by Stonehenge; they feel it is too close to the highway (technically the highway is too close to Stonehenge) and there is a chain link fence along the road that runs up to it. And of course I did have a client once who just didn’t love Paris the way he thought he should. He couldn’t explain it at all and felt a little sheepish about it.
One of the days I was visiting Pat in Nashville, we drove down to Chattanooga for a day. After we’d gone all through the huge aquarium there, I told Pat I wanted to see the Chattanooga Choo Choo. After all – why not. I’m guessing if it took me 66 years to get to Chattanooga the first time, I probably won’t get another chance!
We turned on the GPS… we were only about 3 miles away but it was downtown traffic so we wanted to be sure. A left turn took us to the back of a hotel where there were some older trains but there wasn’t an entrance so we turned back. A right turn after the hotel was the same… train cars but no entrance. The front of the hotel has mostly pay parking and there was no signage whatsoever for the CCC. We finally parked in a questionable spot and I called the hotel itself. The gal who answered the phone said you had to go through the hotel lobby to get there. Hmmmm. We left the car in our questionable space and traipsed into the hotel. It became clear immediately that this hotel had been the train station at one point but these days it is in sad shape and most of the retail spots in the big open atrium are dark.
If you walk all the way through, you do indeed come out to the train yard and the CCC is right there but that’s about all there is to say. Not clean, not spiffed up, no signage, no speakers playing the famous song. No little café serving coffee with cute names and no gift shop with magnet and postcards. All the other train cars in the yard are in very sad shape; a few look like there might be some refurbishing going on, but I wouldn’t bet any money on when it will actually be finished. As long as we were there, Pat snapped a photo of me in front of the engine, proof that we had actually found it! Truly, the model of the CCC in the hotel lobby was more impressive than the actual train itself.
Luckily since we hadn’t thought about looking for the CCC until that morning, neither of us had any great expectations so it wasn’t nearly as disappointing as it could have been. I think it’s the big build up in our expectations that causes most of our disappointments – at least it is for me.
What would you call a coffee drink at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Coffee Shop?
YA and I celebrated (although I’m not sure she even know it was Kindness Day) by heading off to the Botticelli and Renaissance Florence exhibit at the Minneapolis Art Institute. It was a nice exhibit; not as much Botticelli as I would have liked, but I suppose the Uffizi in Florence didn’t want to completely empty out their galleries for us! YA wanted to see this one
(unfortunately it stayed behind in Florence). She did talk me into buying a magnet of it for the refrigerator though!
Afterwards we went to Hola Arepa for brunch. I had the Fried Egg Breakfast – the Arepa version of huevos rancheros with two great sauces and yuca fries. It was really scrumptious but made even better when half way through, YA suggested that she pay for our meal. I accepted so quickly that she laughed. NEVER before has she volunteered to pay for a meal in a restaurant for us.
I’m putting it down to World Kindness Day although I’m not sure YA was in the know!
There’s been a lot of resume talk at our house as YA has recently moved to another job at her company. She hasn’t actually shown me her current resume but I know she updates it regularly so that it’s up to date all the time. So it’s ready at a moment’s notice, if the need should arise!
Last week when we talked about sheets, K-Two said
“I got really good at making up mattresses for isolettes, bassinets, and cribs during my career – a skill no longer needed. And if really pushed, I could probably still change the sheets of an occupied bed.”
This got me to thinking how imminently practical (and refreshing) it would be to see solid skills like bed-making show up on a resume, instead of the boring vanilla stuff that you see on most resumes these days.
I started to think about the very practical skills that I could list on a resume.
Can organize errands based on opening times and order efficiency
Can coax almost any grumpy person into a smile
Can get a pill down even the most recalcitrant kitty
A friend of mine recently re-located here and just moved into her new townhouse; she invited me to come down for a few days to visit. Although I have been to this state, I’ve never been to this city before, despite having sent a few groups here over the years. I’m looking forward to a few relaxing days of sightseeing and entertainment.
The city is named after a Continental Army general during the American Revolutionary War.
The person who first called the U.S. flag “Old Glory” lived here.
The largest songwriter’s festival in the world is held here.
There is a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in this city.
President Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase “good to the last drop” here.
This was the first city in the nation to be granted an FM-broadcasting license.
The first seeing-eye dog training school in the U.S. was founded here.
Where am I? And if you know, what should I see while I’m here?
We try to limit our trips to Walmart to once a month, and I hit the jackpot there last weekend.
The Redken company ceased production of a certain hair product called Thickening Lotion. I have used it for decades to lend body to my hair so it doesn’t hang in my eyes. Well, this has reportedly been a rather unpopular move nation-wide, and I am quite unhappy about it. My hair dresser is beside herself about it.
My hairdresser has tried to find an alternative for me, like this weird foam stuff that sort of works, and hairspray, which I really dislike. I looked on-line for it, and found they were selling it for $100 a bottle on ebay.
As Husband and I left Walmart Saturday I spied two bottles of my beloved hair goop on the shelves in the Walmart Beauty Salon. It was on sale for 20% off, and cost me $20.00 a bottle. I was elated! Now I am set for another 4 months of happy hair styling and clear vision.
Remember Dipity-do? What hair products have you used in the past that you would never use again?What is the most embarrassing hair style you ever had?
I decided to put the egg table up Sunday afternoon (since I had to skip Blevins due to continuing cough). This just involves setting up the candle, cutting wax into teeny bits, lining up the kistkas that I’ll need for this year’s design and also making the dyes I’ll be using. The actual set up takes less than an hour but there’s a 24-hour lag before I can start working on eggs. The dyes need to be completely cooled and the eggs need to be room temperature.
Yesterday when I woke up at 5:30 (about the norm), it was all I could do to keep myself from going downstairs, firing up the kistkas and getting started. I know myself well enough to know that the minute I start, I’ll be obsessed until I’m done. Sitting in that chair for too many hours in a day just makes my back and shoulders hurt so starting at 6 a.m. is not a good idea.
There are very few things that I get this obsessed about. In card-making, I don’t have any problem putting things away at a good stopping point. Jigsaw puzzles can keep me busy for quite some time but I do tend to run out of puzzle steam after 3-4 hours. Reading is a passion, but except for the rare “I just have to finish this book right now” situation, I can stop when I need to. (I do occasionally have to throw YA out of my room if I’m down to the last few chapters of something I’m really into and I was once late to work!) But once I start the first egg, the decks need to be cleared because I want to keep going and going. In prior years (before retirement) I used to take the egg week off from work because I’d end up sitting at the table until 2 and 3 in the morning. Several years ago when I didn’t take the week off, I ended up pulling an all-nighter; that was ugly.
Waiting until 7:30 to go downstairs was a good idea. I ate all my meals at the table today and except for an hour when there was a tradesman here measuring stuff, I worked straight through to 8:15 p.m. Then I hobbled upstairs and headed straight to the ibuprofen bottle! I figure, based on yesterday’s work, I’ll have four more days before I’m done.
This is the last State Fair update, I swear. Until next year anyway.
On opening day of the fair, I always go by myself. I go where I want, do what I want and don’t have to give a moment’s thought. This way I can spend as much time in the Fine Arts Building and the Education Building as I like. Over the years I’ve discovered that most everyone else does not have enough tolerance for how much time I can spend looking at dioramas made by 2nd graders, woodworking projects by junior high kids and robots built by high schoolers.
I also spend a lot of time looking at the quilting projects. I love looking at quilting – it is just fascinating to me. Taking all those smaller pieces of fabric and imagining a bigger piece of art. A little bit like crop art, now that I stop and think about it. Every year I walk slowly through the entire quilting section; I particularly like the “Quilt on a Stick”.
Then I always spend the next hour thinking about taking up quilting as a hobby. Where I could take some beginner classes, where I would put the frame, what kind of cabinet for fabric. It takes about an hour before I shake it off. I always have more than one time and space-swallowing hobby! My paper crafting takes up an entire room my of house. The number of kitchen toys I own (fancy-dancy pans, fondue pots, ramekins, apple peelers, salad spinners) necessitated a huge shelf in the basement. My gardening stuff takes up the back wall of my garage. I really do NOT need another hobby.
Unfortunately this year YA wanted to do the Education Building on one of the days we went together, so I got to see the quilts twice.
Then I needed to talk myself off the ledge. Again!