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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Successful Marketing

I sold my most expensive piece of jewelry today, a necklace that took me many hours to assemble, involving over 1000 semi-precious gemstone beads arranged in continuous rainbows of natural colors, from the intense blues of Sleeping Beauty turquoise, to the equally deep greens of Russian malachite, to garnets and amethysts, jaspers and jet. It was really lovely, if I say so myself, but I was in some doubt when I priced it (basing, as I always do, the retail price of the finished item on the wholesale price of the components that went into it) that anyone would be willing to pay $200 for the thing. Well, someone was, and she didn’t just buy that necklace, but also another high-end multi-strand necklace from my “Expressions” line, a pair of earrings and a polish cloth. Even with the 10% discount that I gave her, the final ticket was enough to make driving to Augusta with all my displays, tent, tables and jewelry to set up at the Broad Street Market early this morning more than worth it. Of course, my mother’s purchases also helped considerably! Still, it was nice to have 80% of my sales be to unrelated persons. And to do as well as I did in only 4 hours! The Augusta market, unlike the Arlington one, shuts down at noon.

Anne, my brother Nate’s girlfriend, had sweetly agreed to let me drag her out of bed at 6:20 AM to go to the market to help me set up, and she had a good day, too, selling her own handmade wares. My brother showed up with Anne’s dog and my mother at about 10 AM, and immediately sold one of his Goncalo Alves (it’s a type of wood, not a person) standard bench mallets to an Australian woodworker who was so enthralled by this beautiful tool that he insisted my brother sign it. Nate was tickled—although I’ve sold some of his designs before, he’d never been present when someone had bought one. He said the feeling’s a whole lot different than when his clients admire the custom cabinets, mantels and bookcases he's installed in their houses. If he makes a mantel out of my lizard tiles, though, they may react with particular enthusiasm!

Snickers, Anne’s dog, has been getting the VIP treatment the last 24 hours—Mums and Nate have been feeding her bits of ham and steak, and Daddy took her out to the lake this afternoon for a ride on a pontoon boat, and exhausted her with a few rounds of fetch in the back yard. She’s so tired tonight she can barely keep her liquid brown eyes open. She’s a sweet dog, even if she did think that the Chihuahua puppy that we saw at the market this morning was a rabbit, and make mewling “I want to chase that and eat it!” noises as she strained toward it on the end of her leash.

Following Anne’s entrepreneurial example, I set up a store page on etsy.com this evening for my jewelry and my brother's woodworks. Nate and I should have a few items up for sale within the next few days, linked from our personal art website. We’re just going to list a sample of high-end pieces to begin with, to see what reaction they provoke. Positive and lucrative, I hope!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Welcome Drubbing

Grandmommy waxed my sweet Macon aunt, my mother and me at Scrabble last night. Actually, the word was “ax” and she got a triple letter score on the “x”, which sealed the fate of the rest of us. There’s something deeply satisfying about sitting around the kitchen table with your family while your 84-year-old grandmother dusts the floor with you in Scrabble. Meanwhile, my 90-year-old Granddaddy was reading homebuilding magazines at my elbow, occasionally bumping said elbow with his gnarled hand to draw my attention to the latest mighty wordsmithing of his wife of sixty years. They just spent the night with us (Granddaddy hates being away from home for more than 24 hours), but we got a lot of visiting in in that little time: I showed them my Ukraine pictures, my sister put a cheerful morning Rita on the webcam (grinning at us), and my mother took us womenfolk shoe shopping (she was the only person who got anything, but it was a nice diversion), and my aunt and I scanned a selection of old family photos onto CD. A good time was had by all.

Below are a sample of the old photos we digitized:

My Granddaddy, in his Navy uniform--this is the picture posted with his service record in the World War II Memorial database. He can still wear this coat, and the hat--he put them both on for pictures at his and Grandmommy's 60th anniversary dinner.


Grandmommy, just before her marriage. Granddaddy was really impressed by her independence when they met, and calls her the "greatest woman who ever lived."

Speaking of waxing, I washed my car this afternoon. For most of you who have cars, washing them probably is as normal and frequent as washing your laundry. For me, it’s an event. I used to say “once a year, whether it needs it or not,” but I’ve been procrastinating. It’d been two years since last I cleaned it. What finally made it an immediate necessity was its having been parked, for shade purposes, under what turned out to be a bird tree. With the usual results. The bug remnants and tar wads were covered by veneer of bird poop. I was forced to admit, it was time for a wash. I briefly flirted with the idea of paying to have it detailed, but frugality won out. It took me four hours to scrub all the filth off, hose it down, and vacuum the interior. Mums washed the wheels and polished the windows after cleaning her already clean SUV. The Honda doesn’t exactly glow now (no car 8 years old with almost 100,000 miles on it does), but by golly it’s clean. It’ll do for another couple of years. Or until the birds gang up on it again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Drive

As I was going to be leaving too late this afternoon to see my friends in Mebane before bedtime, and Paxifist has to work tomorrow, I decided to drive straight to GA without stopping. Arrived half an hour ago, at 2:20 AM. Saw less than a dozen 18-wheelers the entire 563 mile journey, which took me a smidgen over 9 hours, with one stop for gas and a Dairy Queen Blizzard. I figured I could handle the 1200+ calories since all I'd had to eat all day was a bagel with cream cheese and a handful of dates. I'm zonked, and off to bed.

Saturday Wedding

The bride burst into giggles in the middle of the giving of the rings and could barely choke out the words as she held her groom’s hand. The reason for this welcome hilarity was the fact that for the last several minutes, she, the groom and the officiating priest had been standing up at the altar, silent, waiting for a delegation of family members to return from running out to the car to retrieve the groom’s ring, which hadn’t come up the aisle during the noon processional.

Later, at the reception, the father of the bride toasted the couple with his tale of his mother’s being left at the church after her own wedding 50 years ago, and getting so mad waiting to be remembered that she picked up her skirts and walked to the movies and saw a double feature before she was retrieved. At his own wedding, a relative took a picture with one of those old flash-bulb cameras, which exploded with a fantastic report that left everyone cowering in shock, and now his daughter had followed in this fine family tradition.

At the service, a liturgical Episcopal number featuring the most cliché-filled homily since Hector was a pup, we sang some good old hymns, but someone at headquarters had monkeyed about with some of the lyrics. “Here I raise mine Ebenezer,” which I have long considered one of my favorite sung lines, had disappeared from "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (which the priest announced as "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing"--which made me wonder, irreverently, if there were something else in the hymnal by the name of "Come Thou Bowl of Every Blessing"), as had some less-peculiar old phrasing from subsequent hymns. But what was worse was the mediocre enthusiasm of the congregation, which could barely be heard as it mouthed its way through the verses. Hymns are meant to be belted, sung lustily from the gut, and what we had there was what could be most generously termed “mild enthusiasm.” Thus, the organ’s periodic tempo changes weren’t much of a hindrance.

Still, the event started strongly, with a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, followed by a responsive passage from Tobit (not from Judith, I’m sad to say—but I guess talking about a night of l’amour followed by decapitation just wouldn’t have been suitable), then an Apostolic letter and the Beatitudes, but given the hour length of the service, which was held in Maryland, over an hour from DC, the clergy were fading toward the end, and so was the congregation. The fact that the reception was a sit-down affair was thus doubly welcome.

The jewelry I had made for the wedding party was met with popular approval—I received several provisional orders for bridesmaids’ accessories from my unengaged friends, the two Julies and Lisa, with whom I went to the wedding. The Red-Headed Julie (RHJ) had the dubious honor of catching the bouquet (she did NOT dive for it—all we single girls were standing in disinterested ranks, hands clasped, trying not to look eager, and she either had to catch it or let it drop to the floor in front of her, since the bride tossed it carefully, to miss the ceiling fans, and it came right to her). Little did she know that this obligated her to participate in a peculiar ceremony.

After the bouquet-toss, the bride sat down on a chair, while the groom lifted her skirt and several layers of tulle to find her garter. At least he didn’t use his teeth to remove it. He is a United Methodist minister, after all. He then tossed it back into a crowd of unmarried men. The lucky bachelor, clutching this circlet of beaded lace, was then instructed by the disk jockey/ringmaster to kneel and slide this unnecessary lingerie up the leg of my friend, saying the bride and groom “will have five years of happy marriage for each inch you get it above the knee.”

The RHJ, who was caught, mute, between the natural, modest urge to run pell-mell for the parking lot, and the polite desire to not spoil her friend’s wedding reception, submitted silently to this, clutching the bouquet she had caught in one pale hand, and using the other to prevent the (also somewhat embarrassed) stranger who was moving the garter up her right leg from getting it more than half-way up her thigh. It was good she was wearing a knee-length dress to begin with—had he been groping around under a long gown, it would have been even more salacious.

Other than that little uncomfortable episode, it was a lovely party. Semi-outdoors, in a covered porch area adjoined to a restaurant. Sunny, warm (but not too warm, thanks to the aforementioned ceiling fans), with pleasant tablemates and an open bar. Incidentally, I really need to become better-versed in the language of mixed drinks. Not wanting a soda, and confused at the array of bottles before me, I mumbled something about sweet-and-sour mix to the bartender, and he had mercy on me and offered a margarita. Which is what I would have ordered to begin with if I’d known what was in it, other than tequila. My specialization in Russian history aside, I loathe all vodka-based libations.

Although my three friends and I left before anyone else, I didn’t get back home until 6:30, so going down to North Carolina was out for the evening. Considering it’s now 5:30 AM Sunday morning, going down today may be out of the question as well. Maybe (with Paxifist’s and Deacon Paul’s permission), I’ll skip Mebane entirely on the southward trek and just return that way next week. If I go straight down I-95, I can drive the whole way in 9 hours, leaving early Monday morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Addenda to Blogroll

I am adding links to two friends' blogs to my sidebar. Eli, an Englishman who is soon heading to the Middle East (and who tells me he has been lurking about on my blog for a while without leaving comments), writes the Chizadek entries, and Helen, a sometime-diplomat and always-insightful ex-neighbor, issues the Voice of Christine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Asomnulent in Arlington

Excuse the light blogging, but I've been getting rotten rest the past three days and haven't felt up to rambling coherently (which is a goal to strive for, even if blithering nonsensically is usually the highest state I achieve).

Sunday and Monday night I didn't fall asleep until 6 AM, after my roommate Susan had gotten up and left for work. Sunday was straight insomnia, lying in the dark staring up at the ceiling and fruitlessly trying all sorts of mental games to doze off. Monday I decided to use the sleepless night to make a necklace, so at least in the pale light of dawn I would have something to show for it. Last night I napped, restlessly for less than 6 hours. If I can doze off into real, deep sleep tonight, it will do me a world of good.

Hopefully, the electricity won't go off again. I can't sleep when I'm hot. And there's a Trader Joe's cheesecake in the freezer that we need to have presentable for tomorrow night, when Susan and I are hosting a party for a departing English friend who's heading for the old country and then the Middle East. Of course, if it's not pretty, I'm sure the guys we've invited will still eat it.

Speaking of frozen sweets, electricity issues and male friends, the thunderstorm this afternoon caused the power to go out all down our street. So, the NPV and his roommate came over this evening with two cartons of melting ice cream, which we polished off while watching a DVD of episodes from the TV series Firefly (now regrettably cancelled) on Susan's computer, all four of us squeezed in on our couch in front of the small screen. Her laptop batteries are much better than mine, and we had the NPV's as a backup when the juice ran low. Happily, the electricity is back on now, and I've cranked up the AC to compensate for the muggy atmosphere.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tiger Woods I Ain't

I went to a bachelorette party yesterday afternoon. It consisted of the bride, her maid of honor, a friend and me going mini-golfing in Merrifield and then eating medium chili at a restaurant in Clarendon. I was home by 9:30, stone sober in that none of us had had a drop of alcohol, but drunk and slurring from fatigue.

The mini-golfing was fun, although my attempts to make polite conversation and birdie-putts were both way off. Someone has to be last on the scorecard, and so I shot a 64 on 18 easy holes, making everyone else look good. I wasn't trying to be charitable, I'm just not that good at sports involving a ball.

My companions were pleasant, we just weren't on the same wavelength conversationally. The last exchange over dinner was typical of our interaction. The friend of the bride had regaled us with some curious and several rather flat vignettes from her drunken past, from accidently ending up in a strip club in downtown St. Paul during Oktoberfest (yelling beerily at the matronly artiste to "Go home to your kids" while her friends were urged by the bouncer to remove her from the premises), to stumbling home in the wee hours from a cousin's neighboring farm in rural Minnesota and meeting her sanguine father coming out to do the morning's milking. She finished up by telling us about a Christmas when her mother had gotten drunk and started doing yoga.

I had grimaced cordially at the previous stories, but had no idea what to say to this one. Maternal inebriation is not exactly a usual polite company subject. "Did she get her foot behind her head?" I inquired lightly. Everyone stared at me in puzzlement. "What?" At that point, I decided I was too tired for further revelry and asked a friend (who had just showed up for a cameo, to wish the bride well before heading off to another party) to take me home, which she kindly did. Sometimes cordiality is a drain on the psyche, and nothing takes it out of me faster than an audience who doesn't laugh at my jokes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Elaboration

I have been asked to elaborate on the bullet-pointed happenings of the penultimate post.

The cookies which Susan and I baked in our neighbors' kitchen were for soldiers in Iraq, but lest anyone think I am attempting to win my way into the heart of a lonely and sugar-deprived man in uniform (although this would be a pretty good way to do that, come to think of it) by plying him with desserts, the baking was done on behalf of the fifth and sixth-grade Sunday school class at our church, which has been corresponding with several soldiers over the last month or so. The Lieutenant of the bunch requested cookies, and Susan, being the teacher of the class, took it upon herself to make them, since coordinating the schedules of her charges so that they could get together to make them would have been difficult.

The "processing" was not the preparation of something according to certain steps (although Leslie, the locquacious author we met in the garden of Christ Church in Alexandria, did tell a hilarious tale about helping out a bunch of little old ladies with the bag lunch ministry and being told "that's not the right way" to spread peanut butter on the bread for the sandwiches, etc.), but the parading of the congregation behind the vestment-wearing clergyperson around the streets of the town. Apparently this last Palm Sunday, this involved a lot of walking, waving bits of greenery, and coordinated rendevous with the similarly peripatetic congregations of two other Episcopal churches in the area.

As to cute babies, they do seem to be everywhere I go. Of course, at church alone, there were fifteen born in the last seven months. There were three under five months old in the balcony during the 9:15 service last Sunday. All very good, just occasionally gurgling and making happy baby noises. Everywhere I go--whether it be on a walk, to the store, everywhere, there is at least one baby, its little hands waving or relaxed in helpless curves next to its round cheeks. I just want to pick up and cuddle them all. My sister went over to a friend's house last week and held her infant, which aroused considerable indignation in my small niece, who said, angrily, "No, no baby!" as my sister rocked the little person.

I plan to attend a wedding in Pennsylvania not this Saturday (which is the bachlorette party--consisting of a nice lunch and mini-golf) but next, then drive Georgiawards in the evening. Lord willing, I should be in Augusta by June 17, to stay until the next Monday. Much to do before then!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Effervesence

I saw Rameses II driving a red Impala when I came into Georgetown this afternoon. I swear, it looked exactly like him, from the dehydrated tanned skin under the thin shock of black mummified hair, to the brown-paper-over-bones hands that were clutching the steering wheel. He was wearing the same expression, too, that he does in all the photographs of him in his coffin back in Cairo. It was almost as exciting as seeing Bin Laden on a bicycle in Rosslyn, or Nikolai Gogol's the Nose on the Onichkov Bridge in downtown St. Petersburg.

I was--as one seldom sees four millennia old Egyptian pharoahs scooting around in family-style American-made vehicles--in high good humor when I reached the department, and had the pleasure of sharing this vignette with the CSCM, who happened by the front desk. He told me I looked happy, then settled on "effervescent," asking if there was any particular reason. I told him. I also told him about my less-than-stellar biking performance a couple of weeks ago. He apparently rides down to Alexandria from upper DC every day before coming into work. But then again I doubt he would be confortable walking as far as I do on a regular basis.

Speaking of bubbling over, S Dawg has lately cast multiple witty aspersions on my claims of shopping-aversion. Considering the last dozen purchases I've made on any Internet sites have been on behalf of her small offspring, I don't think she should be maligning my participation in the electronic marketplace. Besides, the notion of "shopping" still entails, for most people, going out to a brick and mortar store and listening to bad rock and worse Muzak while pawing through piles of wrongly-sized merchandise. That's the sort I hate. Buying books online just isn't in the same category. So there. Naya naya.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Week's Adventures

I've been so busy I haven't blogged all week, though much in the blog-worthy realm has occured. Where to begin? Perhaps I should just bullet-point topics, and my readers can feel free to ask for further details, to be provided in a subsequent post.

-Seeing one of my honorary nephews for the first time in a year--much changed between the ages of two and fourteen months!

-Random encounter in an Alexandria churchyard (as good as Amtrak trains for meeting interesting characters) with an author who belongs to SOD (Stewards of the Dirt) and who gave us an impromptu hour-long discourse on the history of her Episcopal church, the convoluted beliefs of the same about the importance of processing and the non-existance of hell, her literary career, and her city, including the difference between spite-houses and flounder-houses.

-The retrieval of my furniture, with the possibility of John-the-Baptist head-on-a-platter decapitation by sewing desk parts.

-Cute babies--they're everywhere, they're everywhere!

-Shopping. Argh, how I hate it! Even though it was successful, and I'm now decently clad.

-Electricity issues, and the for-the-troops cookie dough pilgrimage next door to Lee and his roommate's apartment, which had power. Slogans on the refrigerator which notably did not include "cleanliness is next to Godliness." Flashlights and candlelight and defrosting meat.

-Ephesians "marriage" passages and the difficulty of tailoring this message to singles. Is hugging guys "indiscrete"?

-And, of course, the possibly-incurable tuberculosis patient who went abroad for his honeymoon: should we be more concerned about the threat of avian flu or sick flying lawyers? The CDC connection is just one of those delicious ironies of biohazard stories...