Thursday, April 16, 2015

CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME at the BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDENS, Las Vegas, NV

For those who can't make it to Vegas before May 1st (when the Summer Display goes up...yes, SUMMER - SHUDDER!!!!!), you're in for a treat.  I, the desert dweller who can't grow a thing in the "non-soil" that is Las Vegas (not that I could grown anything if I had REAL soil, either), grab my camera on a quarterly basis and "live vicariously" through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens .  This Spring they are celebrating the beloved Cherry Blossoms.  It is stunning, to say the least!
Over 82,000 flowers and 75 Koi fish in this gorgeousness, in addition to the non-growing display pieces.  This 18' Spring Cherry Blossom Tree was handmade for the display, taking 1,500 hours to complete.  The 3,000 lb. tree base/limbs house 300 acrylic flowers and leaves in the 20' canopy.
The 10' X 12' Japanese Tea House and surrounding gardens.  From one of the signs posted amongst the flowers, "...the tea house and gardens serve as utensils to "awaken" consciousness and to realize with humility our relationship with our surroundings and with the universe itself".
6' tall with a 6' wingspan, the beautiful crane has 1,400 cut flowers and 200 feathers.  As always with these displays, the flowers are removed on a daily basis, as they wilt and die.
Lilies and hyacinths - heavy sigh.  Those pale peach hyacinths on the bottom were "smelling up" the entire area they were in, in the most HEAVENLY of ways.  I had to drag myself away, and kept finding myself creeping back just to sniff!  It was like someone laid down an entire bottle of the most wonderful perfume.
The 26" tall Japanese Temple was inspired by Kyoto's Golden Temple.  The gold veneer doors feature wood frames with traditional rice paper Shoji screens.
There were two of these gorgeous trees in the display.  Note the raked sands/pebbles in the gardens...attention to detail is the name of the game with these gardeners.
ENORMOUS hangings of Bougainvillea and Wisteria vines from Bamboo framework.  THESE were SOOO cool!
And ALWAYS at least one Bride and Groom taking advantage of the gardens for the perfect photo op.
16' Tsukubai waterfall, emptying into a tranquil pond below.  A symbolic and "abstract" representation of Mt. Fuji rests in a bed of tulips next to the pond.  Mt. Fuji is the 35th most prominent peak in the world, rising 12,388 ft.
More shots of the splendor...including the turtle...
This happy guy is comprised of approximately 1,200 cut flowers.  Each topiary has a metal frame, holding foam in place, which is then sculpted around to create these amazing, happy pieces.
Daffodils, as far as you could see - well, not that far, but this was a huge bed, and sat behind those gorgeous, "smelly" peach colored hyacinths.  With all the beautiful things going on, this might have been my favorite spot of the whole display, just because of the colors and the fragrance!
And parasols...thirty-five of them, all hand painted.  If you live here, get down to the Bellagio quick, before it's gone.  If you're travelling through, make sure you stop in.  If you can't make it at all, I'm glad I went for you...and me!  Happy Spring, everyone!

Friday, April 3, 2015

ROCK BOTTOM PRICES ON HAND-SOLDERED NECKLACES! NOTHING OVER $10!!!

My creative overzealousness from the last show of the year, 2014 (these were a great seller for us), coupled with Spring Cleaning, COULD be your good fortune.  FEEL FREE to pass this info along to anyone who might be interested.  $10 could land you a lot of sparkle!
Cleaning house - getting rid of the leftovers...wholesale pricing on the remaining hand-soldered necklaces, over on the sister blog,  KICKIN' IT KITSCH.
NOTHING OVER $10.00!!!
 
First come, first served, and once they are gone, they're gone...hanging up the soldering iron, for
reals!
More to see, and all details, over at KICKIN' IT KITSCH - 

Have a safe and happy Easter!  XOXO  Tanya

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO...The Pendleton Bags, and a Wintry Glimpse at the Inspirational Town of SANTA FE, NM on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"...

And then there were TWO!  Revisiting the Pendleton Bag post from last summer, where my Mom and I purchased a mighty wool blanket in Santa Fe, solely for selfish fashion purposes.
Summoning up courage to take scissors to it took quite some time - hers came first...
Mine was finished during the past two weeks - two beautiful bags from one lovely, lovely blanket.  The Mexican silver pins belonged to my great-grandmother, and were destined for this - no longer relegated to the dark, top drawer of the dresser.  The blanket turned out to be such a great investment, we did it AGAIN, this January...ahhhh, January.  I know my friends in the Midwest and on the east coast cringe at the thought, but I wish it was back, already!  We are high eighties, with scorpions galore (including the one in the house last night - they go underground when the temps drop, and I don't see them for a few glorious months).  I hate scorpions!  With a passion!  
ALWAYS an inspiration, Santa Fe in the winter is quiet and beautiful - definitely the "off" tourist season.  We popped into town for three days, met by below freezing temps but no snow (the trip back did provide freezing fog, however).  This is the breathtaking Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, in the heart of old town.
Daytime was a little crisp, but it's quite a different experience walking the town without droves of tourists to contend with - not that we don't consider ourselves well within that definition.  It's just a "different", relaxing atmosphere - and FAR cooler than the beautiful, but beastly hot summer months.  You can also find lodging at off-peak rates in the winter months, which is an added plus.
Mariachi Buenaventura - always a fun drawing point for one of our local haunts (Tomasita's).  The all-female Mariachi group performs on Tuesday evenings.  The music is as wonderful as the musically gifted girls are beautiful.
A walk through the deserted streets on our way to dinner provided a far different look from daytime, for a favorite shop - the one where the newest Pendleton was purchased (a stunning grey and white one with red crosses...scissors are almost ready to fly on that one, now that the nerves are out of the way with the first two bags).  This window display - beautiful and ominous at the same time - belies the rest of the Native American treasures housed within.  This is a DEFINITE must-see - THE RAINBOW MAN on Palace Avenue.
Which led us to this dark "alleyway" next door, through which we wandered to our newest culinary discovery in town - one we have avoided in the past, for fear of it being more of a "touristy" spot (we tend to frequent the "locals" eating spots outside of town, for the more authentic stuff - OK, we're looking for the hot stuff).  We couldn't have been more wrong, all these years...
And, I hesitate to let the cat out of the bag (though I realize we were probably the last people to know about this joint, sadly), for fear of dining overload leading to us not being able to get a seat, but it's FABULOUS!!! - all the way around.  THE SHED has been cooking up incredible New Mexican meals since 1953.  Situated in a brightly painted hacienda that dates to 1692 - outstanding traditional dishes featuring Hatch, NM green chilies, blue corn tortillas, and a surprising twist in french garlic bread to sop up all the goodness.
Santa Fe in winter - a definite must see...from beauty and the beast, margaritas and fabulous regional cuisine...and bag inspiration - leading to MORE bags.  It's a hot town, even in the cold!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FROM THE DESCENDANTS OF THE O'BRIEN CLAN...

...and speaking to the wee bit o' Irish in us all...

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!
Travel Tuesday will return on Wednesday - my corned beef is in the pot, and no time's a wastin' today ("Lose an hour in the morning, and you'll be looking for it all day").

"May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you."








Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TRAVEL BY TRAIN - DENVER'S UNION STATION on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"

Some day I'd love to do just that.  I'd have to get out of Vegas to do it, as there is no passenger train that runs anywhere close to here, but it's on my agenda - some day.  In the meantime, I got a chance to walk through the newly renovated Denver Union Station in January.  The main railway station/central transportation hub is located at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the present day, "upscale" LoDo (for Lower Downtown) District.  The Station now encompasses the historic terminal building, a train shed canopy, a 22-gate underground bus facility and light rail station, a grand hotel, retail stores and restaurants.
The first Union Station opened on June 1, 1881 at a cost of $525,000.  The impressive structure lasted 13 years before a fire in the ladies' restroom burned it to the ground.
A second version lasted a little longer - from 1894 to 1912 - before crews demolished it and rebuilt to handle increasing passenger traffic.  This time, it was redesigned in the Beaux-Arts style of the day. This present day structure was opened in 1914.
A $500 million dollar* renovation project (*I have found conflicting reports regarding final cost, ranging from $54 million to $500 million, to just now, an fhwa.dot.gov site that lists it at $487.70 million, so your guess is as good as mine - in any case, it was lots of cash!) began in December 2012, with the re-opening of the Station in July 2014.  The majority of the terminal building's upper levels have now been transformed into the 100-room Crawford Hotel, with the 12,000 square foot Great Hall serving as the lobby, public space, and train waiting station - an additional 22,000 sq. ft. house retail shops and restaurants/bars.
The Great Hall was used, historically, as the passenger waiting room.  It featured tall, multi-story arched windows and bays on the facade, with terrazzo floors, two exterior clocks, a metal canopy, and other classical elements.  It's interior actually lacked the grand ornamentation that was commonplace for stations of the time, and instead, utilized a simple color scheme, metal light sconces, and marble paneling.
And, 2,300 carved Columbines (the Colorado State Flower) on the borders of the plaster arches!  It was a a detail I missed while standing in the middle of all the grandeur, but read about - upon checking closer in my photos, there they were.  When originally constructed, the Great Hall housed three 8 ft. diameter chandeliers and ten long wooden benches that incorporated heating and lighting into their framework.  At some point prior to 2012, the chandeliers were replaced with flat, fluorescent panels.

These original sconces had also been under coats of paint for decades, and were restored to their beautiful bronze during renovation.  The renovation returned large chandeliers, similar in detail to the first ones, but also saw the removal of the benches, due to asbestos.  Two original, simple wooden benches were saved, and remain along one wall.
Other modifications included changing the brown and tan color scheme to neutral white.  The old ticket counters and offices have been converted into the Terminal Bar, along with retail and restaurant spaces being created on the periphery of, and opening to, the Great Hall.  "Denver's Living Room", the grandiose Great Hall functions today as part hotel lobby, part Amtrak, part waiting area, part retail and part public space.

A huge bronze plaque outside the Amtrak office, honoring General William Jackson Palmer (1836-1909) - founder of the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad, and the driving force behind the establishment of Colorado Springs as a major American city.
We visited on a day with spitting snow and below freezing temps, hence the grey skies that would normally be vivid Colorado blue.  If you visit, make sure to take in the fabulous mix of the old architecture that was Denver in it's heyday, happily left in place and intermingling with the new.  There's plenty of parking to be found around the area, if you're not traveling anywhere but just want to take a look around for a few hours.
On an adjoining corner to Union Station, sits the Ice House - designed and built around the turn of the 20th century, it was home to the Littleton Creamery and Beatrice Foods Cold Storage Warehouse for some 80 years.  Added to the National Historic Register in 1985, today it houses some of the most sought after loft residences in downtown Denver.
The buildings in these aren't actually leaning, but were taken from behind travelling car windows on a very cold day.  I used to work in the tall white building, upper left.  Denver is fast becoming another downtown New York - 25+ years ago, when I worked there, EVERYTHING closed its doors at 5:00 pm, and people went home to their houses in the suburbs.  Today, it is the center of all that is "hip" - an exciting "young" town now, in an old skin, thankfully!  Hooray for keeping the history and character of the old buildings, in the midst of progression.
A parting shot of the iconic and charming Daniels & Fisher Tower, that I walked by every day on my way to that tall, white building.  Built in 1910 as part of the Daniels & Fisher Department Store (which was later bought by May Co., and eventually called May D & F), this was the tallest tower between Mississippi and California when it was constructed.  Standing 325 ft. tall (20 floors), it has clock faces on all four sides, with a 2-1/2 ton bell housed in the top two floors above an observation deck.  The store is no more, but the tower has been renovated into businesses, and more lofts.

Have a wonderful Tuesday - get out and see something this week, be it old or new - increase your brain power and keep that mind strong.  Be safe - be happy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, KNITTING...I THINK NOT!

~ Borrowing from a facebook post I made today, spurred on by a ridiculous and erroneously reported story this past week (TV news and in print) of an Etsy "KNITTER" who makes just under a million dollars a year ($80,000 a month - KNITTING, if you are to believe the headline).  Most of us who create, knew this was going to turn out to be more fiction than fact, but the reports did serve as a huge discouragement to others.  What they neglected to point out, right up front, was that this woman has a small army of people working for her and (MOST IMPORTANTLY), she is importing items, and NOT knitting them herself.  I am not going to give any further exposure to her OR the reports by posting links - they are plentiful on the net ~ 
I knit.  I sew.  I make jewelry.  Among other things.  I will NEVER make a million dollars a year doing what I do - that which makes my heart and hands happy - that which I love.  (I also do a lot of it to keep myself awake at night, enjoying family instead of sleeping on the couch!)

I give away almost ALL of my pieces these days, to family and dear friends.  I also give away my "trade secrets", freely and happily, to anyone who has taken the time and/or worked up the courage to ask me for them!  I will NEVER make a million dollars at that rate.
I create with my OWN hands.  Just me.  By myself.  I will NEVER make a million dollars at that rate.  I don't buy from overseas sweatshops.  I don't embellish with pieces of lace, and then lay claim to something as my own.  I QUIT selling because I can't compete with those who DO operate this way.  Quitting selling does NOT mean I have quit creating - I will always do it, because it's in my heart - it's a piece of who I am, and anyone who knows me knows this to be true. 

No sour grapes, truly.  But, if you're going to import and lay claim to things as your own designs and handwork then, by golly, OWN THAT SHIT!  Be proud enough of yourself and exactly how you are achieving the success to put it in the headline, right next to where you tell people you're a "KNITTER".
No, I will NEVER make a million dollars with my crafting, nor do I ever expect to.  But, I'm happy doing what I do, and wouldn't have it any other way.  I can sleep at night knowing that I haven't lied about what I do, serving to discourage others who may be trying to make a few bucks, by twisting or omitting the truth and making someone else feel they are failing miserably at the game.
CARRY ON, MY ARTISAN FRIENDS - follow your heart!  STRIVE TO BE ORIGINAL (and by that I don't mean not using patterns if you want, etc., but make it your "own" - put yourself into it!), AND ABOVE ALL, BE HONEST!  We may be quintessential starving artists, but we come by that title honestly, and by our OWN hands.  BE PROUD OF THAT!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

THE EVER-CHANGING LANDSCAPE THAT IS VEGAS...A Return to "Travel Tuesday"

What better way to return to Travel Tuesday 2015, than in my own backyard.  A recent meet-up (camera ever in tow) with old friends passing through town, proved that Vegas is the town that never sleeps...especially when it comes to reconfiguring the old.  I know they were pleasantly surprised.
What used to be just a large alley-way between the old Imperial Palace (which is now The Quad) and The Flamingo Casinos, has been transformed into The Linq - shopping, eating, bowling and concerts; local artworks on the walls; and the 550 ft. High Roller Ferris Wheel that provides breathtaking views of the town.  This was an unusually gray, clouded-over day - we don't get too many.
The Flamingo Hilton, next door - the casinos and hotels are on a never-ending quest to update.  A few still have the old Vegas charm to them, with a few new twists.  The flamingos and pelicans can be found in a center, outdoor sanctuary of the casino - a place to go and reflect on the money you may have "spent" while in town.
A trip through the gorgeous FABERGE Revealed Collection, inside of the Bellagio Hotel - now through May 25 (it's an ever-changing exhibit, as well)...238 rare and jaw-dropping Faberge artifacts - the largest public collection outside Russia.  The glass sculpture atop the eggs (they don't allow cameras in, but believe me it is well worth a look!) is Chihuly - you'll find a Gallery for that there, as well.
The seasonally changing display at the Bellagio Atrium presently showcases Chinese New Year - 2015 Year of the Goat.  
I did hear grumblings among some there that 2015 is the Year of The Sheep.  Sheep/Goats - I think it's probably all relevant - gorgeous no matter what you call it!
And the ending of the day brought this - from atop the 32nd story hotel roof where they were staying, a view of the ever-changing skyline of The Las Vegas Strip.  This, the newest addition to the landscape - the fabulous and glittery City Center.  Housing The Aria Hotel and Casino; The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino sitting within the same block; high end shopping; dining; condominiums - truly a city within the city, with loads of glittering glass!  I think the days of the "theme" casinos (such as the old Excalibur and the MGM Grand) are on the way out.
A straight-on shot of the Aria, with the high-end shopping mall of Crystals in the foreground.
Either direction (north or south) on The Strip, remain the older, more easily recognizable buildings - they will all eventually end up with a Las Vegas face lift, making way for the new models.  There are a few here in town that NEED to be demolished and redone, but I guess I kind of like that they are holding on, just the way they are...at least for the time being.  
A view of the back of Planet Hollywood (which used to be The Aladdin, for those that remember), Paris, Bally's (which is older now, and used to be the old MGM Grand that caught fire all those years ago), with the new High Roller Ferris Wheel behind it all.

More great places to see - I've been saving up photos just for Tuesdays, in hopes of showing you something you might have never seen, or may want to put on a list to visit.  Hope your week is spent out of snow and cold!