Sometimes my posts turn into a hodge-podge of random thoughts, and the writer in my goes crazy trying to make a coherent entry out of them. This post is one of those - all just random musings following my cousin's wedding in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Dave and I missed the actual ceremony. I always have conflicting thoughts on the ceremony: if you go to it, the day can become really long, but yet attending it helps you feel connected with the whole process.
The reception was downtown at the Pfister hotel, a lovely place with a nice sense of history. (I'll have to take some of my writing friends there sometime - especially up to the Blu lounge on the 23rd floor. It has nice views of Lake Michigan, comfy atmosphere and wine flight samplers on the menu. Perhaps our next girls retreat?)
The reception was a great opportunity to reconnect with my cousins. It seems like every time we meet, we say how we should get together more often. We exchange emails and vow to look each other up when we're in town. It often seems that these things are mostly made up of good intentions, but I'll give it a good-faith try.
During the reception, I also had a nice conversation with another cousin's mother-in-law. She's an Episcopal priest who had very encouraging things to say to me about persevering in writing. It turns out that her own mother is romance writer Violet Hamilton, who is retired after publishing 27 books. (I had to Google Violet Hamilton, of course, and I was disappointed to find no satisfying online biographies of her career.)
We couldn't stay nearly as long at the reception as I would have liked. We had almost a two-hour drive back home and dogs waiting for us with legs crossed. Although, on our way out the door for our drive back to Chicago, Dave and I couldn't help but pop back up to the Blu lounge for one quick glance of the city at night. Our timing was perfect, as we had a great view of the fireworks display for German Fest.
Note: Photo credits go to my sister, as I never seem to take photos when she's around.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Sometimes my posts turn into a hodge-podge of random thoughts, and the writer in my goes crazy trying to make a coherent entry out of them. This post is one of those - all just random musings following my cousin's wedding in Milwaukee on Saturday.
I didn't make it to the annual Romance Writers of America national conference this year. It was this weekend in Atlanta, and last night the Rita and Golden Heart awards were announced.
A Rita is the romance industry equivalent to an Oscar. This year, two Windy City writers were nominated - Margaret Watson and Susan Carroll. Margaret was nominated for best long contemporary with her book Hometown Girl, and Susan Carroll was nominated for best long historical with her book The Dark Queen. Unfortunately, neither took her category.
Each year I try to scour the list of finalists and winners and plan to read as many of them as I can. Of particular note to me was the winner of the Paranormal category, Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair. When I saw her cover, I knew instantly that something looked familiar. So I hunted down her other works and realized that I had read her An Accidental Goddess a few years ago for the (now defunct) Windy City Choice Awards. I thoroughly enjoyed An Accidental Goddess then - and was thrilled to see it take first place in the Windy City contest - so I'm looking forward to reading Gabriel's Ghost.
Sadly for me, by not attending the conference, I missed the opportunity to hear Windy City member Susan Elizabeth Phillips accept her Lifetime Achievement Award. I love Susan's work, and she has said very encouraging things about my own writing in the past, so I wish I had been there to support her.
Painting class wrapped up on Thursday night. I don't profess to be a painter, but I think I've shown a definite progression over the past seven weeks. I mean, just look at my painting from weeks six (pink and red - top) and five (blue and green -middle) and compare it to the one from week two (orange and blue - bottom). Hugh difference.
(I'm still sparing you my effort from week one, weeks three and four are boring, and I haven't taken a photo of week seven. Disclaimer on all of these: they were each done in a two-hour class.)
What I've learned in the painting class:
Monday, July 24, 2006
Well, it's not really fire - it's molten glass heated in furnaces at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let me explain. My husband has always been fascinated by hot-glass work. A few months ago I was searching online for Chicago area glass-blowing studios and came up with a place out of Highland Park called Making Glass. Right on the studio's front page was a link for demonstrations and glass-blowing parties. After multiple discussions with the people at Making Glass, we decided to move forward with a hands-on demonstration and invited a few of our friends along.
Having watched demonstrations before, I wasn't surprised at the requirements that we wear natural-fiber clothing and closed-toe shoes. But still, the liability waiver was a little intimidating. This was going to be serious hands-on stuff.
At the studio on Saturday, we were introduced to Joe, one of the artists and instructors, and given our lecture on safety. The furnaces would be extremely hot. We'd need to drink a lot of water while in the studio to keep hydrated. Don't pick up any glass off the floor because it could still be hot. Use common sense when handling equipment. And, by the way, after years of working with the hot glass, Joe doesn't have much sensation left in his hands and arms.
Several of us became convinced that we'd forget ourselves and accidentally touch the hot part of a pole, but we were all determined to try it anyway. After Joe did a 20-minute or so demonstration on how to make a glass tumbler, the hands-on part of the evening started. With another instructor, Andy, and an assistant, we divided into groups and worked on the tumblers two at a time - one person with Joe and one with Andy.
In the photos below, you can see some of the process of making a tumbler. Click on the photos if you want to see them in greater detail. It took us each about 15-20 minutes. No one was injured. No glass was broken. It was a fascinating experience.
First, we used the pipe to gather clear glass from the furnace. I did the first gather myself (not pictured), then we brought the pipe over to the table and blew a bubble into the glass (above-left). After we had a nice bubble (only about an inch or so in diameter), we went back to the furnace to gather more glass. The second time (above-right), I let Andy do the gather. (Even though I had a protective sleeve on my right arm, when I did the first gather, my left arm felt a little singed and I didn't feel the need to prove myself again.)
After the second gather, we took the pipe with the clear wad of molten glass on it and rolled it in a bin of colored glass bits (above-left). The glass bits pretty much looked like aquarium gravel, and melted quickly into the molten glass. The interesting thing was that once the glass got hot, it all looked orange, regardless of what color it really was. Once we had all the color, we used a wet wooden mold to shape the glass into a ball (above-right).
Next, we blew more air into the glass to increase the size of the bubble. Then we swung the pipe in a pendulum motion to elongate the ball. (In the picture above-left, notice that Joe is in the background at one of the furnaces. He was helping someone else make their tumbler, and because the glass cools as you're working with it, every once in a while they'd bring it over to the furnace and reheat the glass just enough to keep it liquid but not lose its shape.)
As Andy helped me roll, I used the jacks to smooth and shape the outside of the bubble, while the assistant blew more air into it (above-left). At some point, we used the jacks to put a crease in the glass at the location that would eventually be the top of the tumbler (not shown). When the glass was at the desired shape and size, Andy used a wet, wooden paddle to flatten the bottom of the bubble (above-right). The flattened end would become the bottom of our tumbler. (Notice that in the picture above-right, the woman's leg in the background looks a little distorted. It took me a minute to realize why, but on close inspection it's the heat waves radiating off the glass.)
The next steps get a little tricky to explain. After the bottom was flattened, the assistant took a pipe with a small blob of hot glass on it, and we attached it to the flattened bottom of the glass ball. Using water to cool the depression we'd made earlier, we used the jacks to tap the pipe (above-left). This broke the glass at the depressed area.
We had successfully transferred the glass to another pipe, and where it had broken we now had an opening that would become the mouth of our tumbler. After heating the glass again, we then used the jacks to widen the mouth of the tumbler. Above-right, the tumbler is almost finished. Andy then used more water to detach the pipe from the glass, and the glass was placed in a special cabinet to gradually cool the over the next 14 hours. (If the glass cools too quickly, it breaks.)
That was pretty much the process, give or take a few manipulations of the glass.
I was the last to go, and by the time I finished, we'd been there at least three hours. We were all on a high, and guzzling tons of water. It was so much fun. Several people were almost ready right then and there to sign up for a class. It'll probably happen, too.
I'm going to pick up the finished glasses in a little while. I'll post picture of them. Stay tuned.
Kyle and I drove out to Making Glass after work tonight to pick up our finished tumblers. Wow! Do they look nice!
The variety of shapes and sizes really gives me an appreciation for how much practice and skill it would take to create a matching set of glasses.
We really did work our molten glass into something useful. If these don't get used as cups, I can easily see them getting used as vases, pencil holders or toothbrush holders.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Sixteen years have passed since I last listed my residence as Des Moines, Iowa. I can't even remember the address of my old dorm - Stalnaker - at Drake University, let alone my phone number. (This was really bugging me, so I looked it up. Thank you Internet! 1319 30th Street, Des Moines, 50311)
For most of my time in Des Moines, I didn't have a car or much spending money, so excursions off campus were extremely limited. I think Merle Hay Mall and Valley West Mall were the usual destinations. We knew one restaurant with decent Chicago-style pizza - can't remember the name of it. (Again, thank you Internet!
And how could I forget the weather beacon? Every time we drove into Des Moines we'd look at that weather beacon and try to remember the poem that helped translate it. What does weather beacon white mean? How about flashing? No matter what color it was, we always seemed to think it meant a storm was coming.
But I never got to the Iowa State Fair, or an Iowa Cubs game, or the Blank Park Zoo. Even though I spent seven semesters there (three-and-a-half years), I never really knew Des Moines.
Why am I bringing this up now? I was just reading an article in the Chicago Tribune titled Des Moines: Another Cubs city comes alive on the weekends and it just got me to thinking about all the things we never did, plus all the things I've forgotten. Some day, I'd like to spend a weekend there. Reacquaint myself. It just seems sad to have devoted a chunk of my life to living there and not know the place.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
The heat wave continued this weekend, so what better than to spend an afternoon eating and drinking wine at an outdoor concert venue - the fabulous Ravinia Festival - listening to Tom Jones and Etta James?
Dave and I heard Tom Jones two years ago at House of Blues in Chicago, so we knew he'd put on a quality show. He didn't disappoint us. The man hasn't lost an ounce of charisma over the years.
For this show, 10 of us carpooled together and set up a spread on the Ravinia lawn. We were there two hours early, so were able to stake out a decent location that was soon fully shaded. We rented a table and chairs and relaxed in the 90-some degree weather.
The grass was incredibly soft and the sound system on the lawn was great. Nobody cared that we couldn't actually see any of the performers. That wasn't the point of getting lawn tickets at Ravinia. It's all about the atmosphere and the picnicking. Plus, we were able to wander up to the pavilion and steal a glance at the stage.
A former coworker and boss of mine, Nick, works for the festival, so I was able to meet up with him and rehash some old times at the newspaper. I had a moment of doubt that I'd recognize him in the crowd - I'd only run into him once in seven years - but the moment I spotted him, I had to laugh at myself. Dummy, that's Nick, and he hasn't changed much at all! Unfortunately, we didn't have nearly enough time (in my opinion) to reconnect.
About the only complaint I have about Ravinia is that it's too far away. It's a selfish complaint, I confess. But that won't stop us from going again in September to hear/see Cheap Trick. Maybe I can catch up with Nick then, too.
Just spent a fabulous girls getaway weekend at the swank W Hotel Lakeshore in Chicago. (Unfortunately, this will be a photo-free entry because we all forgot our cameras!)
I started the weekend negotiating the Blue Line from work into the Loop. Having always lived too far out in the suburbs to take the CTA, this was only the second time I've negotiated the system by myself. Sad, I know, but true. (Ironically - and annoyingly - for a good chunk of the ride into the city, I had to listen to some guy flirt with a girl and tell her all about how annoyed he gets with suburban people.)
Anyway, my plan was to catch a cab from the Loop up to the hotel, but since I love walking in the city, I wheeled my travel case the mile and a half from State Street to the hotel. I had to laugh when a couple - their travel guide in hand - asked me for directions to the Magnificent Mile. Sure, ask the woman wheeling a suitcase through the Loop! Fortunately, I, like any good Chicago-area native, could handle that question and pointed the couple toward Michigan Avenue, north of the river.
A good 20 or so minutes later, I was at the hotel, but dripping sweat. (It was the start of an extremely hot weekend.)
The W Hotel is not only swank, but the clientele is young and attractive. And here I was dripping on the reception desk. "Are those cool wet towels over there on the counter, by chance?" I asked the clerk. At her friendly affirmative, I quickly grabbed one of the nicely rolled towels and wiped myself down, then slunk off toward the elevators.
Our hallway had little zen rock-gardens along the walls, and the room numbers printed on the carpet. Inside the room, the beds were already turned down and the television was tuned to the hotel's welcome station. The bathroom had a shuttered pass-through that was open to the room, adding to the posh feel of the place. This was going to be a fun weekend.
I met up with Jules and JC at the Bliss Spa downstairs, where we treated ourselves to milk and almond pedicures and little samplings from the brownie bar. No healthfood here!
Nice and relaxed, we cleaned up and headed for the Wave restaurant for a glass of wine and a tapas-style dinner.
At 10:30 we retired to the room. Yes - 10:30! Three girls alone in the city, we hadn't even left the hotel yet, and we were retiring for the night.
Now it was time to snuggle into the hotel's luxurious robes and work. We're writers, working on a project together - see Our erotic project - so we had scenes to share and critique, a bottle of champagne to open, and talking/scheming/planning to commence. The lights didn't go out until at least 2:30 a.m. (I know, it sort of sounds like a girls' slumber party cliche. What can I say? Truthfully, an outsider would have found it incredibly dull.)
We slept in, then after leaving our bags with the concierge and finding a Starbucks for Jules, we had brunch at the West Egg, which was incredibly busy, but incredibly good too.
We walked back to Michigan Avenue, contemplated doing a little shopping, but instead found ourselves at the Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum. The museum opened just over a month ago and is one of those little treasures in the city that can be so easily overlooked. The only reason we found it was because I'd read about it in the Chicago Tribune, then stumbled on it when I was taking a river cruise in June - see Weather unfit for barbecuing and boating. One of the four bridgehouses on the Michigan Avenue bridge has been converted to a museum devoted to the history of the river and its bridges. Starting at river level, you climb the tower, getting to see the gears and machinery inside the bridge and learn the history of the river as you go up. There were some really interesting views through the windows in the tower (especially the port-hole shaped window) that I need to return for some day with my camera.
From there, we headed to Russian Tea Time on Adams for afternoon tea. We agreed that the Highland Tay was the best of those we tried, but the Russian Caravan tasted a little too much like liquid smoke for our tastes. I'd love to go back there sometime and try their Vodka flights, to sample different varieties, but we didn't have time.
Next we were on to the ArchiCenter to pick up the Historic Skyscrapers two-hour walking tour. Again, I wish I'd had my camera. We, being the Chicago history geeks that we are, had a wonderful time learning to differentiate between a Chicago School skyscraper and an Art Deco skyscraper. I can now describe Chicago-style windows, I know the Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University has perfect acoustics, and that I should repent because Jesus is coming. (OK, that wasn't an official part of the tour. Since the Gay Games were in town, there were a large number or protestors walking around wearing placards and heralding the end of the world.)
From there, it was back to the hotel to collect our bags and Jules' car. On the way home we daydreamed about future getaways and vowed to do this at least once a year. I think we're addicted to walking tours...
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I was looking up this book online - Chaste Goddess - because it's written by a coworker of a friend. What I find so interesting is that the book is self-published through a download/print-on-demand (POD) publisher called Book Locker.
Poking around Book Locker's site was enlightening, especially its Reasons not to Work with Us page. The page seemed to be straightforward about the pros and cons of the business. Such as:
If the primary way you want to sell your print book is through book stores, we're not the right company for you. No POD company is.
If you don't like to market your book, we are definitely the wrong company for you. Our entire business is built around helping authors cost-effectively find their market. Epublishing (POD and ebooks) combined with the Internet offers the best way for new authors to do this without dishing out thousands of dollars.What was unexpected was that even though this company is techinically a self-publisher, it says it is highly selective. From the company's Submitting Your Book for Consideration page:
Your book must be accepted for publication by BookLocker prior to being listed on Booklocker.com. Once you receive a letter of acceptance, you will be provided with very detailed submission instructions. We reject more than 90% of incoming proposals, so please make sure your proposal is perfect. Books rejected by BookLocker are not eligible for future consideration. Here are the major reasons we reject books:
1.) Spelling and grammatical errors.
2.) Poor writing.
3.) Low sales potential.
4.) Too religious in nature, contains poetry, sexual content that is too strong, or other content that we feel is inappropriate.
5.) Books that may contain libel, hate material, or anything that makes us uncomfortable and that may disturb or harm readers.
A writer I know has explored going a similar direction with his book. This isn't a route that interests me at the moment, preferring the traditional roads to publishing, but it's always a good thing to be educated about the industry as a whole. There are a lot of writers who do go this route, and a few are quite successful.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I've been pretty quiet lately about what we've been doing this summer. Mostly it's been a lot of backyard barbecues and a few summer fairs.
We don't usually go to a lot of summer fairs, but we're making a conscious effort this year to get out to see more bands. June 25 we finally made it to Bloomingdale Family Fest to see a Monkeys cover band - with a bonus(?) Beach Boys cover band - and July 1 we made it to Naperville RibFest for REO Speedwagon.
We're heading off to the Ravinia Festival this weekend to see Tom Jones and Etta James. Since we have lawn tickets at Ravinia, I should probably say we're going to "listen to" Tom Jones and Etta James instead of "see". The place is huge and I doubt we'll see much, but the picnicking should be great. (As an aside: Dave and I were married by Tom Jones a few years ago in Las Vegas. OK, it was a Tom Jones impersonator, and since we were already married, it was more of a vows renewal. It just seemed like one of those must-do touristy things. But Tom Jones holds a special spot in our hearts none-the-less!)
Our painting class is midway through. We're learning a lot, but still have a lot more to learn before I'll be posting any samples...
More stories on a more regular basis, I promise!
Friday, July 07, 2006
This Yahoo Group -- historicaldelights : Tastes of historical romance -- looks like an interesting way for historical romance authors to promote their work.
The idea is that an author posts a link to an excerpt from her book, allowing the author to find new readers and for readers to find new authors.
You don't have to join the group to access the excerpts, and posts to the group are moderated so only legitimate links get through.
Maybe not everyone. But enough of us do.
I like to see what's out there -- about me, and about those other intriguing people who share my name.
I've been noticing another Haley Hughes out of Chico, Calif., for a number of years. Today Google came up with her website. She's an artist. Check out her work.
This spring I started to notice a Haley Hughes who was a reporting intern at a newspaper in Kentucky. She's since graduated and moved on to another job (I think).
I look forward to seeing what happens with these other women named Haley Hughes. Is it weird to follow their lives through Google just because they share my name?
Addendum: I'd never Googled my sister's maiden name before, so I typed in "Heather Hughes" (Yes, Mom was into alliteration) and was amused to find out that my sister shares a name with an early '70s B-movie actress named Heather Hughes. Who hasn't heard of Blood Freak, where "Only the blood of drug addicts can satisfy its thirst!"? And why didn't we know about this when we were little kids and the movie was new? (I probably would have been jealous then, thinking Heather got the cooler name. For all its popularity now, the name Haley was extremely unusual in the early '70s.)
I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has discovered a cyberspace "twin". What comes up when you search your own name?
Marriott recently moved back to Chicago after venturing to California and Florida for a few years. She's vowed to enjoy Chicago and actually do and see all the things she's talked about over the years -- like take the Eli's Cheesecake Factory tour and see the Hubbard Street Dance Company perform. From my perspective, she's doing a good job.
When I came across this article in the Chicago Tribune -- Tours aren't just for tourists -- it seemed like the article was written especially for her.
Why should out-of-towners have all the fun? We can't pretend to know everything interesting about our city. Yet we come to work every day, breezing past the folks soaking up sightseeing tidbits while lounging on boats, scooting on Segways, pedaling on bikes, riding buses or just moving on their own feet.
I've done the architectural boat tour. I think the Loop Train Tour sounds the most intriguing to me at the moment. Perhaps Marriott will do it with me. Or one of the others. (I know, Marriott, I'm all talk...)
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
The Chicago Tribune had this article this morning, For poorest of poor, each day's a struggle, and it was really sad for me because it talked about locations right in my neck of the woods -- northern DuPage County.
The woman, from Itasca, picks garbage to support her family. I can't wonder how many times on garbage day she's driven down my own street.
Judy Sirko's regular trash runs--she calls them "treasure hunts"--help sustain a precarious existence shared by thousands of people in Illinois. Census figures show that the state, despite having the fifth-largest economy in the nation, has the highest poverty rate in the Midwest. Illinois also leads the region in a grim subset of that category: the group of nearly 724,000 residents, including Sirko and her children, trapped in what experts call "deep poverty."
I hate throwing usable things away, preferring to donate them to charity or sell them in a garage sale. Whenever I see somebody put something usable at the curb, I hope that someone takes it and gives it a new life. (But the flip side of that, when I see someone picking the garbage, is worrying about more nefarious goals: such as identity theft.) It's good to know that some of those treasures are being rescued and put to good use.