Thursday, February 28, 2008

How many truckstops between here and Denver??

Keys. Cap. Scarf. Map.
Pillow. Cash.
Best friend, sunroof, snow......
and 9 hours of deep, theological discussion (WHATEVER)
..... from here to the mountains.

ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dear Rusty,
Do you remember??

I've been thinking.....if we watched Donny and Marie every every Friday night and sang along....I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock'n roll....Oh my gosh, buddy....does that mean we were actually nerds????

Thanks for driving in, thanks for dinner and thanks for laughing with me. I love you, I'm proud of you and I look forward to seeing you again next year.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hearts and Flowers in the City of Brotherly Love

Every February for the past five years, I've spent Valentines weekend in Philadelphia, "the City of Brotherly Love". No romance involved, unless you count my love for some of the restaurants in town. No...unfortunately there are no hearts, no flowers. Just a market show that I attend as vendor with a group of my coworkers on behalf of our company.

Some of you have asked what I do when I travel for my company. Well, here's a taste of this annual event.....

Philadelphia is a busy city full of history. Tucked in between the towering modern buildings are others that are hundreds of years old and full of history dating back generations.

The event is held in a historic venue, the renovated Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Terminal Station and Train Shed. If trains and history interest you, google the subject for a pages and pages of fascinating facts and photos showing the place. The Readers Digest version: the conference hall where my company shows our product line to the galleries that sell for us, used to be a major train station. Much of the original exterior structure and substantial interior walls are evident all over the massive conference center, adjoining hotel and market.

This is the Train Shed, which eventually became part of the Marriott Hotel.

Inside the massive arches of the original building remain with paintings to hint at the flavor of an era long-passed.

The old terminal, now a vast exhibition hall.

The event that I attend is the annual Buyers Market of American Craft.

American Craft artists from all over the country bring samples of their art to this event and sell it to retail gallery and store owners. There are jewelers, glassblowers, artists that work in metal and wood and fiber. There are painters and potters and artists that take old street junk and fashion it into sculpture. You can find just about anything at this event from great little watches with whimsical kitty faces to outrageously colorful and unusual furniture. The gallery and store owners in attendance cruise the aisles of the exhibition in search of pieces that they think their retail customers will like enough to buy. It's an interesting business.

I sell furniture. Colorful, interesting, handcrafted furniture fashioned right here in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 100 American Craft galleries across the country carry about product line. It's well-known, colorful and definitely (to some folks way of thinking) something other than the ordinary.

Take a peek at where I spent my time this Valentines weekend. Here are a few glimpses that will help you catch the flavor of the event:

For a better idea, you'll have to visit a gallery that carries our product line.

But this is enough to give you a bit of a taste.

Yup. I spend the weekend with some really handsome fellows.

It's a chance for me to meet in person with people I work with over the telephone and via email all through the year. I talk to some of these folks several times a day.
This is my one chance to hang out with them in person, if only for just a bit, maybe grab a great dinner with one of them at a favorite restaurant.

Soon after it's over, I'm back in the Philadelphia International Airport arguing with the security guys about the necessity of confiscating my mini-bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme.
Yeah, I always lose. Such a glamorous way to end an exciting weekend, huh???

Lined up like neat little sardines on our two-hour ride to home.

Passing the time by taking pictures of the backs of random strangers heads and stuff because I forgot my Oprah Magazine. This guy coughed alot before he finally fell asleep. I kind of wanted to remember him in case I spend the remainder of the winter in the throes of my own miserable, drippy-nose version of his pneumonia.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Our favorite bread ~ EASY and it soooo rocks

Cold day. Warm bread. Oh yeahhhhh.
This is a grrrrreat recipe for our families favorite home-baked bread.
And it doesn't require kneading.

It's important to make sure you dissolve the yeast in warm water that is the right temperature.Technically, it needs to be between 105 and 115 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, the water will be very warm when you run the faucet over the inside of your wrist, but not hot. If the water is too hot, you'll kill the yeast. How will you know if you killed it?? Keep reading...

Once you've stirred the bread up with a spoon, it will need to rise in a warm place. After an hour or so, you'll stir it down and let it rise again.
If your lump of dough doesn't rise, if it just sits in the bowl and stays the same size, sadly you have killed your yeast and created a fragrant dill-seed paperweight. Set outside in the sun to dry and use to prop open doors or perhaps toss at annoying neighbors dogs when they bark late at night. As for the bread...............just start over and be more careful with the water temp.
If, as most likely will happen, your bread rises as planned......bake and cool for 10 minutes.
It's that easy.
The house smells mighty fine.
And it's best toasted.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Taking Me Back

Somewhere upstairs inside a big storage box are yellowing newspapers, magazine clippings and photos. On top of them are bundles of hand-written letters in the small, familiar writing of my son. I never open the box, I never read the letters. Maybe someday.

Tonight while clicking through files buried deep in the darker corners of my laptop computer I ran across a photo that I don't even remember taking.

I couldn't even tell you what year my son left for the Middle East without counting back, it's a blur but I know it was February. I've forgotten alot of things about that year. The day before he left he had been promoted to Sgt. He called me one last time from the airport in San Diego before he boarded the plane and flew off to Kuwait. It was weeks before I heard from him again.

This is the picture.
It's his first letter home.

He wrote it on the inside of a MRE box, the box his meal had come in. I remember reading it a thousand times, studying every letter as if finding a special curve in an "L" or a "J" was a special message that would tell me he really, truly was all right. It was taped shut. There were grains of sand stuck in the tape. I carried that letter in my purse for a long time. I took it out in traffic and showed everyone who would give me a moment of their attention. Eventually more letters followed over the months until he came home safe.

I don't know why, but running across this picture is like driving down the freeway at 70 MPH and having someone reach down and pull on the emergency brake. It really brought my day up short.

It reminds me why I never open the box.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Same Weather, Different Day

Another trip home from work.
Snow. Snow. More snow.
And a snow plow coming down the wrong side of the road,
just in case winter driving isn't fun enough all on it's own.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Collaborative Art

Here is what happens when I leave a spiral notebook and a black Sharpie on the bathroom hamper. It started when I mindlessly doodled a few random lines. My daughter would come home from college and add a few more lines. She came and went, graduated. I graduated. We kept adding lines.

Is there a message in this collaborative work? I don't think so.Except maybe that the apple hasn't fallen too far from the twisted tree.

The concept of a "career path" fascinates me. When I hear guidance counselors talk about it I get this vision of a smooth road that takes a big, dramatic sweep from the obscurity of the prairie off into a horizon of urban success. The real path is usually more rocky. Crooked. Twisty. With better scenery. The real path is more interesting.

Not too long ago a young friend said to me, "I want to be just like you when I grow up!". What a lovely compliment. And what a shock to her if she knew all the places I've been that got me to where I am. As Julie Andrews said to those little kids all dressed up in the curtains.....Let's start at the very beginning.....

Babysitter at 35-cents per hour
Dishwasher at Eddie's Elbow Room
Waitress at the DM Airport Coffee Shop
Candystriper Volunteer / SW9th Street Nursing Home
Usher at KRNT theater
In home companion/tutor / Kurtz Junior High
Candystriper Volunteer / Mercy Hospital
Sandwich chick at the Iowa State Fair Maid-Rite
Usher at Hoyt Sherman Place
Volunteer at Polk County Jail - rolling fingerprints
Extra in movie, "A Thief in the Night"
Sales clerk at Younkers
Receptionist/Allstate Insurance
Claims Adjuster/Allstate Insurance
Claims Adjuster/MFA-Shelter Insurance
Certified Audio Speaker Repair Technician
Office Manager / Williams Electronics
Habitat for Humanity Volunteer
Sales/Creative Circle
Des Moines Children's Chorus Volunteer
International Student Host Family
Sunday School Teacher
Elementary Classroom Volunteer
Mail chick / Altoona Post Office
Neighborhood reporter / Des Moines Register
School Board President
Columnist / Altoona Herald
Published feature articles / DM Register & Altoona Herald
Little League Team Mother
Office Manager / Trude Enterprises
Mail chick / Bondurant Post Office
Cub Scout Den Mother
Front Desk / Best Inn & Suites
Sales Manager / Best Inn & Suites
Banquet & Catering Executive / Wildwood Lodge
Tour Guide / Glacier National Park / West Glacier, Montana
Sales / Chemlawn (2 weeks --- HORRIBLE JOB)
Cashier / Target (6 days ---- even WORSE)
Sales / Panera Bread (12 hours,working somewhere you love to eat-- not a great idea)
Tour Guide / Alliant Energy - Power House/Newton, IA
Sales Rep / Gallery Manager

................uhm, was married for 25 years and raised three kids along in there somewhere, too. Started college when I was 46. Graduated in four years. Donate blood every couple of months. And of course I am a friend to small animals.

Shoot. No wonder I'm tired and I still have paintings to paint, essays to publish, countries to visit. There are at least a thousand things on my do-before-I-die list, places to go, people to see...........

I'd better get packing.