Saturday, January 30, 2010

Time for a Gypsy Post!

Look at those bright eyes. He's always looking, anticipating your every move, in hopes it might be toward the tin of kitty treats...

Or toward the bowl, waiting to be filled with Fancy Feast...

Or toward the special, magic cat dancer toy!

Sometimes he doesn't see the treats if you toss them too quickly or too far. Yet another characteristic the Gyp and I share. Friday I had my eyes checked and it's bifocal time. (Though they said I should wear my dollar store readers for the computer still; something about the monitor height.)

The doc also said "You must have a hell of a time driving at night!" (which I do) and they reminded me that I was on the very edge of needing to wear glasses when taking the driving test.

Now, it's not that I didn't know this was coming. All summer, driving to and from the lake, I was finding it harder to play the alphabet game, unable to read the smaller print at high speeds from greater distances. (Trust me, playing the alphabet game isn't as bad as texting, but it can be addictive.) If I hadn't remembered that the "Z" comes from those median signs that say "authorized vehicles only," I wouldn't ever get that letter, because they're now too tiny to see at 70 miles and hour.

But wait, there's more. My dentist (aka Dr. Mengele -- so named for the glint he gets in his eyes when he talks about crowns and other expensive procedures and an uncanny ability to inflict "discomfort") -- and whose Mercedes I'm sure I am contributing to -- suggests I get a crown in the near future. The very near future.

Now, you all know my feeling about crowns. They belong on the top of the head, not inside it.

And I'm wishing I'd socked more into my health care spending account.

Meanwhile, the Gypster needs a physical and his teeth cleaned. We share much in common -- we both seem to have sinus issues and crave love and attention. He likes to be pet; rub my back and you have a friend for life.

Well, we haven't started looking like each other yet! (Apart from wearing the hand painted silk scarves...) I wonder if I'd look good as a redhead...

NOTE: I share my feelings on a new book, Jacqueline Winspear's "Among the Mad" (the most recent in the "Maisie Dobbs" series) over at Chopsticks and String!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cold and Lonesome!

It's cold here in Lansing this week! And I mean bone-chilling cold, and the mercury is headed down. I suppose I shouldn't complain -- our winter hasn't been all that bad compared to last year.

But Rick is in Texas at a trade show, and while I'd rather not be at a trade show, I would rather be someplace a tad warmer than here!

But apart from that, it's not all that bad a week. At my Weight Watchers meeting I hit a 14 pound loss -- not even half of my goal, but an excellent beginning. More to the point, I can pull down my jeans without unbuttoning or unzipping them. That's good motivation!

I'm almost through with the Christmas cards! Those should be done by the weekend. Then I can start working on taking down the trees. Well, a couple little ones are down, but you really can't avoid the holiday spirit here.

And I can see "bottom" on the art table! I have a couple of projects I want to get going on, so that's good motivation, too.

Now if I could just warm up!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Discovering Frank

I had known about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work for a long while before that early autumn evening when he became a "real" person to me. I'd long admired his work -- his use of integrating light, nature, the land into his designs. His reputation included being persnickety, so convinced his style and design was correct, he would at times rearrange the furniture in one of the home he had designed because he didn't think the homeowner's version contributed to the elegance of his design. I hated that character trait, yet admired his guts and conviction.

Rick lives in one of the 1960s homes built in the style of Wright's work and has tried to keep consistent with that feeling.

But it wasn't until an unexpected evening several years ago that included video and ice cream that I would learn more about this man.

A number of years ago, Ken Burns produced a remarkably short special (for him -- only four hours) about the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The film was to be one of the centerpiece of PBS' November sweeps period (yes, no matter what anyone tells you, at PBS ratings matter).

Several Frank Lloyd Wright houses remain in the Lansing area, and I thought it would be a wonderful idea to feature one of these as our program guide cover. So, I asked Michael Maurer Smith (whose blog is here and whose website is here) to photograph the home of Don and Mary Lou Schaberg in Okemos. (The photos in this post are not by Mike, but found at various sites online including wikipedia and some real estate sites.)

The Schaberg's home was from Wright's Usonian period in the 1950s, homes designed for the "typical American family." While now the market price could top a million, back then the homes were for middle income people. Schaberg, who was in the lumber business, was a fine partner for the eccentric architect and his supervisors, having a genuine eye for beauty. (Wikipedia talks about the Schaberg house here.)

Well, Mike came back with some splendid images, having enjoyed a lovely time with the Schabergs. We planned on our cover and that was that!

But one day -- before even PBS stations had seen a preview of the program -- Don called me and said he had received a copy from Ken and wondered if I would like to come preview it, with Rick of course, and with Mike and Kate. We'd have some ice cream, he promised.

Well, we were delighted and excited, and the evening didn't disappoint. The house itself was beautiful, with an open floor plan, astounding light, beautiful use of wood, stained glass and organic elements and the built-in features Wright was associated with. (The pool came later!)

We watched part of the documentary, including that which featured Don and Mary Lou's home movies during the building of their home. We then toured the tower Don had designed and built on their grounds (Don's office) and enjoyed our ice cream.

The Schabergs were delightful people and the evening was warm and congenial. During our talk, I learned Don was an old Lansingite and after he had revealed his high school, I asked him if he had ever known my mother or her sisters. I was thrilled when he remembered them all, particularly my aunt Grace, who was his age and with whom he hung about in school.

In fact, he said, he had a movie camera back then and he would shoot movies that Gracie and other friends wrote, using the homes of the various parents. "I'm sure I still have them," he said. And, when we made our farewells, he said he would try to find them.

Not long after, I received another call from Don. Would I like to come for ice cream and see the movie of my aunt Grace?, he asked. Well, yeah. (Below is Gracie with my uncle, Martin, 1951)

To see the woman whom I knew as a mom-figure come to life on the screen as a sixteen year-old girl was truly jarring and wonderful. The face, the expressions were there, but in the form of a young woman, playing a role (the devious maid!) with all the aplomb and sassiness I would recognize in this dear funny woman who would, like my mother, die far too young. (Grace, about 1975)

Not long after that, the Schabergs would give me a copy of that film, which I would share with Mama K's husband David and his two sisters, Patty and Mutty. It remains one of our treasures.

Frank Lloyd Wright -- he was as eccentric, Don said, as all the stories Ken Burns and countless others told about him. And as brilliant. Certainly one bit of proof was their own home and their own memories.

Wright's life was turbulent and marked by many loves and great tragedy. To learn about the novel "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan, which I recently finished, visit Chopsticks and String.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's Go to the Movies

There was a time when I went to the movies all the time. My friend Suzanne and I would keep meticulous records of all the films we had seen on index cards. (She still does, though I'm not sure if the cards remain or have gone high tech.) I had a respectable library of film criticism books, biographies, pictorials and more. And I read them. Classic, contemporary, you name it.

That was then, this is now. I don't know what changed. I'd like to say the budget, but truth be told, back then we were all seriously poor when it came to discretionary funds for entertainment. Yet we made going to the movies a priority.

And face it, the theatres were worth going to back then, too. Beautiful old buildings with elegant lobbies, elaborate carvings framing the screen and sculpture resting in nooks carved into the hallways.

And every theatre had a concession stand with any candy you might want, fragrant popcorn, and it was all fairly inexpensive.

When I was a kid, the big draw was the concession stand. It was such fun to have so many treats from which to choose. They were all so colorful!

Every now and then I get that, even now. I've written about Jackson's Michigan Theatre before. Last week we had another in our WKAR Night at the Michigan series. We were welcomed in style.

I love meeting the people who come to the theatre. Many of them tell me they don't have television sets (choice or necessity) and they love our free presentations on the big screen. They're all ages -- parents bring their children; some come with their oxygen tanks and walkers. Even bad weather hasn't kept people away.

(FYI, if you miss a program you're following on PBS, chances are likely you can catch it on the computer at -- visit the "watch video" tab and you'll see many programs, including my favorite, "Masterpiece," are available on demand.)

Our host at the Michigan is George (on the left), one of the most jovial and enthusiastic fellows you'll ever know. He works hard at combining free events like ours with paying movies (for a mere four or five dollars), interesting classic film series (famous pairs is this year's monthly Sunday theme), and second-run movie house staples like "Rocky Horror" and kids films.

(That's Dennis with him on the right. Dennis is the tech guy and one of the two projectionists I've been fortunate enough to work with there.)

Our showing last week was Joshua Bell and friends "Live From Lincoln Center" in a delightfully informal and versatile concert.

The thing I really loved about this is that the theater patrons watching on the big screen were so enthralled, they clapped after the various selections. Well-deserved clapping, I might add!

It enchants me that this is how people always used to go to the movies. The entire experience made it special. The detail was incredible -- there was always a ladies lounge with a soft sofa and enough mirrors so everyone had room to primp. (This Michigan has its original signs.)

Even when the economy was terrible and the country was in the throes of the Great Depression, people could come to the movies (and get their piece of depression glass or Hall China! -- that doesn't happen now!) and sit in a place of quiet, elegant splendor, wrapped in a glimmering shawl of gilt, deep red, cherubs, and elegant lamps.

And the balconies were always special.

For the child, it was the "spot on high" where we could see everything and feel very grand and very small at the same time. For the adolescent, the spot to fire spitwads on unsusupecting patrons below (until asked to leave!). And for the young romantic -- well, there was no more romantic spot to hold hands, steal a kiss, or make time!

Iron gates were elegant barriers. No stanchions here!

And long hallways offered entry to the many aisles. You could wait till the movie ended and patrons left -- or you could slip in anytime and stay as long as you liked to see it over and over again.

These days there are options at the concession stand I didn't have as a child.

(At the Michigan, even beer and wine are offered!)

But the feeling is the same. And believe me, it's a far cry from lining up with the hoards at the multiplex!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Great Minds!

Well, great minds like Debbie and Joyce must think alike, because I recently the same wonderful award from all of them! It’s the Kreativ Blogger award!

Thank you so much! Debbie hails from Australia and her blog includes her beautiful photography, photos of her sweet pug and often thought provoking commentary. Joyce is from British Columbia, CA, and has marvelous poetry, an oft-illuminating look at her world and with a URL that includes the words possumkitty, it's no surprise a lovely feline is pictured!

To have this award is to pass it on – the instructions are as follows:

1. Thank the person giving the award (or in this case, the persons!)
2. Copy the award graphic to your blog (check the sidebar at the right!)
3. Place a link to their blog(s) – Debbie’s and Joyce’s are most certainly worth a visit!
4. Name seven things people don’t know about you (bel0w).
5. Nominate seven bloggers you admire.
6. Place a link to these bloggers.
7. Leave a comment on their blog notifying them of the award.

That “seven things” part is pretty tough, given that I generally spill whatever is in my mind on The Gypsy pretty regularly. But here goes.

1. I often wear hand warmers in my office at work and at home.

2. I used to be a bookkeeper for the health department (and if you know me, you know that was a professional stretch.) I also used to dispense pills at a pharmacy -- and while I'm used to taking my share, I can't believe they let me do that. Rules and regs were a lot different in the 70s!

3. I used to stand with my friends in the yard of my parents' home at Christmas and we would make our own mechanical-dummy Christmas pageant, moving with painstaking slowness and mechanically for what seemed like hours in the end in the cold as people would drive by during their Christmas light rounds.

4. My earliest memory is of a fire in our house at Christmas; I was about three (this was our Christmas card that year).

5. I used to be a pretty darned good singer till my sinuses messed me up!

6. Rick and I met because I was evicted because of my illegal cat (Stimpy).

7. When I was a nine or ten-year-old kid and we all talked about what actress we would be if we could, everyone wanted to be Sandra Dee. I wanted to be Judy Holliday.

Naming seven inspirational bloggers is tough, because I think most of you I've passed awards onto in the past. So, while the rules say fill out the seven questions, if you've already done this, please accept the award and offer it up to "anyone." Meanwhile, I'll nominate:

Nathalie of An Artists Legacy -- Her art is beautiful and her Etsy store is terrific!

Ruth of syn-chro-ni-city -- Take eloquent use of language and combine it with thought provoking words and astounding photos. You'll love it!

Janet of Just Me and My Art. Janet used to have The Lavender Loft (and I need to change her blog name on my blogroll!) Recently, she's been going whole hog on her art and her growth is astounding, her inspiration amazing.

Bobbi of My Muse and Me writes some of the most thought provoking poetry I've read in blogs. And she's prolific at it, too, which is an inspiration in itself.

Relyn of Come Sit by My Fire may be one of your old friends; she came to me this past year and I revel in her lovely posts.

Patty of Magpie's Nest always has new art. Always. I don't know how she manages to produce so many beautiful pieces, but she does and I am in awe.

Sonja of Secrets of a Stamp Stash Collector is another dedicated artists who works often and whose blog is a joy.

Well, now I feel bad I didn't single out some of you others. Really, if I didn't find inspiration in your blogs, I wouldn't visit! You are all Kreativ (and Creative!) bloggers!

And again, thanks for your concern on the past post! I'm much improved, still getting energy back but feeling very nice indeed!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Quick Update

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to visit, even though I've been unable to visit you! I am slowly catching up, and hope to do more later this week.

To those who asked how I'm feeling -- well, feeding Gypsy is about my max these days, but the temp is down and tomorrow (Tuesday) I should be back at work. Thanks for your concern.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Las Vegas, NETA and a New Year!

Happy New Year!

That was the message in the glitzy Vegas hotels, as they prepared for the Year of the Tiger. After all the meetings were over, my friend Maryanne and I headed out to do a little shopping, eat a great dinner and catch some beauty.

But first, a wrap of the NETA meeting.

I went to a number of sessions on social media and heard some of the PBS folk talk about things like the next new big thing -- mobile, live-streaming, hand-held television signals (as if we don't get enough of it in our daily lives!)

And I was able to hear the inspiring Paula Kerger, president of PBS, speak.

Fresh from the PBS press tour in LA a few days before, she shared news that Bill Moyers and NOW were leaving the schedule but being replaced by a new show called "Need to Know," which she described as falling between the timely nighly news of "PBS NewsHour" and the more in-depth reporting on "Frontline."

And, she said Patrick Stewart wowed them at the press tour as he spoke about the two Shakespearean plays he'll be in for "Great Performances" next season -- the title role of "Macbeth" and Claudius in "Hamlet." I feel very proud that PBS can bring this caliber of performance to students in high school who may never get to see a Shakespearean play live (or, a good one, at least) into the home and classroom.

She also talked budget in the system (not good, but is it anywhere) and about the power of the education programming for children. Her speech was indeed worth hearing.

But, back to the bright lights and big city. Our hotel was WAY out there, so we took the shuttle in and walked about past some of the hotels. Here are a few of the sights along the way.

At Treasure Island, this sea sprite (catch the octopus in her hair) on one of the pirate ships...

Another of the pirate ships...

Overlooking the canal at the Venetian...

... and a peek at the Venetian tower...

We didn't have a lot of time, so we decided to spend it in the Venetian, with its Canal Shops and great restaurants. And, it's simply beautiful. This trio was playing in the "square."

The square itself is framed by shops, and the ceiling painted to look like the sky, and beautifully lit.

The canal runs through the building, and tourists can take gondola rides. I snapped a photo of these three gondoliers standing about and looking rather bored -- when I went to get another, they noticed me and came to life.

As you would expect, the window displays were pretty elaborate.

And what do you think that shoe is constructed from? Look closely!

It's made from hangers! And this one, celebrating Happy New Decade, made great use of pecans!

We ate at a marvelous restaurant called Woo, one of -- if not the only -- family owned and operated restaurants on the strip. We shared appetizers, salad, plum sake to die for and this unbelievable frangipane cake with pressed almonds, served with raspberry sorbet. The restaurant was lovely -- spare and elegant. (This phot was near the restroom; we were at a tall table.)

Then back into that lobby again. The thing about Vegas anywhere is that it is pure excess. Some is over the top. Some it totally gorgeous.

This fell into the gorgeous category.

And the tiger was magnificent.

I was rather fond of this beast, and couldn't resist overshooting!

Can we get a little closer?

I couldn't help but be in awe of these wonderful lanterns.

And the coin motif was great!

It almost made coming home with a 103 temperature worth it! Happy New Year -- again!

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