Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Building A Dreamcatcher for Dream Seeding

Dream Seeding is an art show for all ages that takes place in Ann Arbor every winter. According to the "About Us" on its website, "Dream Seeding for a Better World is an ongoing project of the very small Ann Arbor-based non-profit group Artists for Peace." It "seek[s] art and other creative inspirations that either actively offer visions of a more peaceful community or world or give an insight as how we may bring forth such a community or world."

This year, a few of us at Crazy Wisdom got together and created a piece for the show that represented not only our store, but the community we try to create every day, a community of consciousness. My Friday Night cohort Sarah was the instigator and our partners in creation were the chai master from the tea room, Alex, and my up-for-(almost)-anything boyfriend Greg. Our awesome manager Rachel also contributed items for the dreamcatcher, though she couldn't be there for its creation. 

I had no idea how to make a dreamcatcher, and I was excited to learn. Sarah, Alex, and I first headed out to the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop in search of wood to build the frame of the dreamcatcher and little trinkets and fabrics to use for decoration. I found a baggy of feathers and some kind of old lacy net for 50 cents. I decided to grab it and see what we could do with it. PTO is a great place to shop for craft items. They also seem to have recently expanded the interior (or at least opened it up) to include a lot more home items. And you can't beat supporting your local schools.

After stopping for a fun, eclectic dinner at Whole Foods, we went to Michael's where we were quite excited to find an array of pre-made wooden hoops. They're probably intended to make front door wreathes, but they also made great frames for a dreamcatcher since we were going for that wild, hand-woven look. We had intended to weave the frame ourselves, however, finding the appropriate bendable sticks and twigs proved to be unfeasible in our limited time frame, so we got a large pre-made hoop that fit our needs.

I admit, we went a little nuts at Michael's finding all kinds of textiles to make the web, charms and such for decoration, etc. It was great! We even found miniature bottle charms filled with glitter, reminiscent of the bottles of fairy dust that we sell at Crazy Wisdom.

After picking up some great snacks at Kroger, we set up camp at Alex's house. Greg joined us, and we tackled the first order of business: braiding the three spools we had bought together to create a new and unique rope to make the web. There was a shiny golden thread, rough twine, and I think dark red yarn. (We also bought some earthy yellow yarn to wrap around the frame and strengthen it.) What followed a delicate dance requiring me to hold the three ends that we'd knotted together, and the three others to take up the other ends and and braid them together by going and over each other because we needed the rope to be very long. It turned out to be not long enough, but there was no way we were devoting another hour to weaving a new one, so we made do. Because that all had taken up so much time, we gathered another night to finish up. One of Sarah's friends also joined us. He turned out to be instrumental in helping with our, ahem, cat problem.

Alex has a very lovely and fluffy cat who apparently did not like all these people invading her territory. She had set up camp under the coffee table, probably because we were also gathered in that vicinity and she could keep an eye on us from there. The first night, after she continually attacked anyone who ventured too near to her (the coffee table was where the food was, as well as some of our supplies, so this was problematic), Alex opened the back door and allowed her to escape to the outside world. Later, she stared in as we played with string and twigs and ribbon, all kitty delights, and she immediately went nuts attacking the string when we were all getting ready to leave and she was allowed back inside. (Oh, kitties...)

On the second night that we gathered, we tried the same trick, but she would have none of it. Sarah's friend and Alex eventually collaborated to drive her out from beneath the coffee table. Alex grabbed a blanket and the other guy had a long stick that we had decided not to use for our dreamcatcher and together they managed to herd the poor, terrified cat, who was screaming, hissing, and clawing everything in reach (mostly the stick and blanket since we all had learned to stay way the hell back) out from under the table and under a nearby cabinet. Alex draped the blanket around her and the cabinet, making a "kitty fort - it's fun!" This made the cat and us much happier. She couldn't see us, though she could still hear us, which seemed to make her feel less threatened by our presence. Once Greg ventured too close to the blanket and she tried to attack him through it, but no harm was done. (A cat that didn't instantly succumb to Greg's catmancy! I can't believe it!)

Finally, we were able to finish up our dreamcatcher, tying on our buttons, fairy dust bottle, and metal charms, securing the pins Rachel had donated from the store, and tucking in swaths of fabric, a piece of a prayer flag, and a few stones, too. Sarah ran to Crazy Wisdom real quick to pick up the perfect center piece to hang in the middle, a multifaceted, round, clear quartz crystal. We hung it from the ceiling to get a good look at it, and it looked fabulous!

Sarah was kind enough to drop it off for us, and as we waited for the opening party, rumors trickled into the store about how awesome our dreamcatcher looked and what a great job we did. Yes! It was great to go to the gallery opening and see everyone studying it. One young woman had a notebook out and was taking notes.

There were a lot of great pieces in the show. It really was an all ages event with contributions from children and adults alike. There was a collaboration of multiple school art classes of a giant tree with all kinds of things attached to it, and many paintings of all styles. I really love art galleries. My grandfather, a photographer and artist, is a longtime member of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and I grew up going to shows featuring his and his friends' works of art. In high school, I often accompanied my grandparents to Kalamazoo's monthly Art Hops. So I was extra excited to see something I helped create featured at a show!

I am already committing myself to making something else for next year's show (I really hope they continue to have them so I can do this). Maybe I will enter something by just me as well as work on something for the store. I have been gathering a lot of materials over the past year for various projects I've been wanting to do - collages and so forth. Since my hours are still low right now, and I have a lot of free time between that and having submitted my column for the Journal and short story for that steampunk anthology, I think I may have to make a trip to Michael's or JoAnn's and pick up some supplies.

Art is awesome!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dream Seeding 2014

Last month, some coworkers, my boyfriend, and I built a dreamcatcher for a local yearly art show, Dream Seeding. I had intended to update with how we made the dreamcatcher, but that has proven to be such a long, involved update that I don't have time to finish it right now! I wanted to let people know about Dream Seeding, though, which is on display at the Michigan Union at 530 S. State St in Ann Arbor until February 27th. As soon as you enter the art lounge, you will see our awesome dreamcatcher. And it is really totally awesome. 

I would have worked on this yesterday, but Greg picked me up at work and took me out for a wonderful late Valentine's dinner. He and I both always work on Valentine's Day, so we didn't make plans together. However, Greg did show up at Crazy Wisdom, bringing me a rose, and then dinner after I sent him out to bring me a burrito. (He's awesome like that.) So we did end up eating together! It was just Chipotle over my break. 

Also, I have been very busy working on a short story for fast-approaching deadline on a steampunk anthology, and a column that I agreed to tackle for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal. I am really excited about the column! I hope to keep writing for the Journal from here out. I am feeling more anxious about the short story. It ended in the way I had intended, but I don't like it. There is also a scene that I had to include due to the requirements of the anthology that seemed forced to me. If the anthology doesn't take it, I think I can shop around some, and I think I'd remove that scene. I wish there were more of a market for steampunk! (And romance stories.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sawyer Gets A Bath

I know the readers of my food blog are familiar with my cat Memphis, who is featured in the header picture. (He likes to help me in the kitchen.) I probably talk less about our other cat, Sawyer, who is staying with me, Greg, and Memphis while his momma, my former roommate Kimmy, is in California. Kimmy and I never bathed Sawyer or Memphis because they were always good, clean kitties. Well, they kept themselves clean, anyway. 

That changed tonight. The reason I am late updating this blog is because this has been a busy week!!  (And I have some writing deadlines that pay better than this looming.) Sawyer was diagnosed by our vet on Tuesday morning with a severe allergic reaction to a flea bite. He was given a shot to combat the reaction, and I was given many instructions on how to combat the fleas (which I have yet to actually see). She also recommended giving Sawyer a bath to kill fleas and cleanse his poor skin. 

Now, I was not going to tackle this on my own. No, no, I insisted that Greg, Sawyer's buddy, back me up on this. Miraculously, we both had today off work. Perfect. While Greg ran errands, I moved furniture and vacuumed the entire apartment (minus the library so the kitties would have a place to hide from the Big Screaming Monster, aka the vacuum cleaner). After washing all of our bedding and laundry at the laundromat and making dinner, it was time. 

I advised Greg to change into clothing that he didn't mind having shredded (Sawyer ripped holes in my suede coat when we tried to get him into the cat carrier a few weeks ago). I prepped the bathroom with a big fluffy towel, cat shampoo, cat conditioner leave-in spray, and started the water. Greg carried in Sawyer, and we shut the doors (our bathroom has two). 

Sawyer actually likes the bathroom, so being shut in with me and Greg and a running faucet in the tub merely made him curious. He was confused when I picked him up and sat on the toilet with him, rubbing his cheeks. When I started to lower him into the tub, his claws came out, digging into my clothing and clawing my neck and face. They were superficial scratches, though, and I had been prepared for them. 

Greg managed to extricate Sawyer from me and wrestle him into the tub. We have sliding doors on our tub, so when Sawyer leaped out of the water screaming the loudest, most terrified sound I have ever heard come from the throat of a creature living or dead, he glued himself to the side of the door, as if gravity had somehow turned on its side within the confines of our shower. And, dear God, the screaming

Over the inhuman cries and Greg's and my laughter - we couldn't help it! - I heard Memphis suddenly pawing frantically at the door to be let in, emitting his own ear splitting howls. Our poor neighbors. Greg opened the door and let Memphis in while I tried to get Sawyer off the door and into the water so I could pour water on him with a cup I keep in the bathroom. Memphis was possibly as horrified as Sawyer. He yowled, tail puffed up, and even hissed at us. 

Sawyer scrambled from the tub a few times. There was still shampoo on his neck, and I wanted to be sure to get that off, so we got him into the sink. Greg held him down while I poured water from the tub over his neck and scrubbed the shampoo out. Memphis circled our feet, hissing, then got onto the toilet and yowled at me to stop torturing his  brother, the only time I think I have seen him show concern for Sawyer's welfare. (They've lived together for three years, and usually don't get along very well.) 

When I was satisfied the soap was gone, I got Sawyer wrapped up in a fluffy towel and he finally quieted down. Memphis stayed by his side while I rubbed Sawyer with the towel and scratched his cheeks until he started reluctantly purring. Greg pulled out the hair dryer and turned it on low to dry his fur. Sawyer actually seemed to like that all right, probably because it's so freaking cold right now. 

Memphis pawed at the door, wanting out, so we let him out. Then he pawed at the door wanting back in. Then he wanted out. Then he pawed again, but didn't actually want in, he just wanted us to leave the door open. We didn't let Sawyer out of the bathroom until I was satisfied he wouldn't freeze with his damp fur. Memphis ran to his side to sniff him over and make sure he was okay. Sawyer curled up in the library for a little while, possibly attempting to regain his dignity. He just came out, though, so I think he's okay. 

The original plan was to give Memphis a bath, too. I don't think that will be happening any time soon. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tank!

(Yes, the subject is a Cowboy Bebop reference.)

I realize I was supposed to update this yesterday, but I wanted to wait until today because today is when our fishy friends arrived! Yay!!

Let me explain. For quite a while, I maintained a 5 gallon fish tank while I was living in Michigan. When I moved to California, I set up a tank there for about a year before I had to move back to Michigan. My fish tragically passed away right before the move, so I no longer had to worry about transporting them with me, but I did want to preserve the tank set-up because shipping it cost less than having to re-acquire everything in Michigan. After the Michigan fish died, and Kimmy and I moved from Ann Arbor to Belleville, I had intended to re-establish my tank, but we never got around to it. 

For Christmas last, Greg, knowing how much I wanted to set up my aquarium again, bought me a gift card for Petsmart with the intention of getting fish. He also consulted a guy at Petsmart about getting a piece of the motor fixed. It could be fixed, so the guy helped Greg pick out a new piece that would make my somewhat unconventionally shaped tank (it's hexagonal)  functional again. 

So yesterday, Greg and I rearranged the furniture in the living room so that the table I used before as a fish tank holder could be near a socket that isn't turned off by a light switch, and then I got my tank arranged, filled with water, and ran it all night to get everything settled and also to warm the water to a fish-friendly temperature. 

Setting up the tank.
I decided on starting with two guppies, and if they survive, then I would like to add two albino cory catfish because I love them, and they do a good job of keeping the bottom of the tank clean. (Guppies also enjoy nibbling on algae, which is helpful in keeping a tank clean.) 

So early this afternoon, after the tank temp had reached 74F (it rose to 76F while we were away), Greg and I set out for Petsmart where we purchased one cobra guppy and one tuxedo guppy. I am not sure why he is a tuxedo guppy because he is orange in color, but why not? The cobra also doesn't look very cobra-like to me, but he is pretty. Greg suggested naming the cobra guppy the Commander after G.I. Joe, which prompted me to consider naming the tuxedo guppy something related to Tuxedo Mask for Sailor Moon, but I am not sure we're that nerdy. (I might still end up naming him Mamoru or Darien, which is easier to say for most English speakers. We'll see.) 

Acclimating the fish.
After a bumpy ride back from Petsmart, the fish arrive in their new home, and I began acclimating them to the new water temperature and other sundries that are unique to each aquarium by slowly replacing their bag water with tank water. 

The little cobra guppy, which has my slightly worried because a little chunk is missing from his tail (but it isn't blackened or otherwise discolored), was quite the darty little fish, continually slipping away from first the lady at Petsmart trying to catch him for us, then from me as I tried to catch him in the net to release him into the tank. Getting the tuxedo guppy was easy, and I got him in the first try. Greg had to help me with the cobra. 

Exploring their new home.
They are now exploring the new tank together, never straying too far from each other's sides. Successful schooling! Whoot! Since guppies are top-swimming fish and cories are bottom dwellers, I am considering getting another guppy for their school when I go pick up the cories. I could possibly fit some tetras, but I really don't want to overcrowd my tank. It is only 5 gallons, and the experts recommend 1 inch of mature fish per gallon. Guppies can get to about 1.5 inches while cories get a little bit bigger. Both fish like to school.

When I had first pulled out the tank yesterday and got the water flowing, Memphis was right up there pressing his face against the side. When he was a kitten, he loved to sit on my bed for hours and watch the fish swimming around. He did sometimes climb on top of the aquarium, but he never actually tried to get the fish. This pump with waterfall is much louder than my last one (Greg says it sounds like the toilet is running), and I was afraid it would freak Sawyer out, but so far he has just ignored it. He may not yet have noticed little fishies swimming around inside, though. 

Having the tank running drowns out a lot of the traffic noise from the nearby highway when we're in the living room, which is rather nice. It doesn't do anything for the bedroom, though, which is where I'd really like to cover up the noise! We had considered putting the tank in the bedroom on top of my dresser, but I like to see my fish, and I know I wouldn't see them in the bedroom as I barely spend any time in there awake. My ideal place for a tank is by my computer so the fish can be my distraction when I am writing rather than the internet, which has a way of sucking one in and stealing valuable writing time. (So does Doctor Who, though I don't much care for the 5th Doctor so far. He's kind of a dick, especially to chaotic-neutral Adric.) 

So our home now consists of two humans, two kitties, and two fishies. I am very pleased! We also picked up an HDMI cable last night from Meijer so we can watch Hulu on our big screen TV. I am doubly pleased! We immediately watch a bunch of Dracula episodes that we had missed. It occurred to me that it's a lot like The Count of Monte Cristo, only with Bram Stoker's characters. Will someone please make a Count of Monte Cristo TV series as well funded and gorgeous as this Dracula?? It would complete me.