Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CHRISTMAS OVERLOAD FROM VEGAS - Bellagio Conservatory December 2015

How Vegas does Christmas?  Over the top, naturally.  We tend not to have seasons that support snow here, so the beautiful Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens works their magic in providing the illusion of winter for us desert dwellers (sigh).
This is the reality of a Vegas Christmas, as seen from inside the atrium of the Four Seasons Hotel at Mandalay Bay.  I did hear yesterday that this may be the warmest Christmas on record for LOTS of folks across the United States.
They do give it their best shot - the beautiful snow photo above the Four Seasons check-in desk is our Red Rocks Canyon, blanketed in a dusting of snow...probably from about 6 years ago, when we actually got some for a minute.
There's no better place in town to be transported to Christmasland than the grand Bellagio Conservatory - Christmas overload at its finest!  And, ALWAYS, my beautiful American flag prominently displayed, no matter the season (which is usually the HOT season).  Thank you, Bellagio, for keeping it in place.
A 42-foot White Fir, resplendent with 2,500 ornaments, and 7,000 lights...flanked by a 12 foot Jack-in-the-Box (and you thought creepy clowns were just for the circus?!), 10-ft. stockings, huge packages amid ribbon curls, and 14-ft. wooden soldiers.
The three bears on display are covered with 22,000 white carnations, while the penguins are decked out in Vegas finery.
The large guy at the bottom pops up from the igloo above, and looks around (for victims, probably - yeah, I really don't dig penguins since the Batman movie!).
I'm fairly certain Clark Griswold would LOVE Vegas Christmas.
Poinsettias (28,000) as far as the eye can see - cyclamen, azaleas, mums...and roses, too.  35 THOUSAND flowers in all!
Lunch at the beautiful Cafe Bellagio - take a friend and let her buy you lunch (thanks, friend!).  The open wall provides a view of the Atrium.  Out the other side?  The pool and "actual" Vegas December.
A 12 foot snowglobe, and a "rockin'" horse...
Cheers abound!  The moon?  10-ft. tall and 5-ft. wide.
It all spills out into the rest of the hotel, as well...the gift shop off the side is always full of twinkling, shiny things and Led Zeppelins - the Chocolatier around the corner is always good for added calories. The Chihuly glass ceiling in the lobby adds to more grandiose decorations, and the area behind the registration desk, I could live in - seriously!
The display is in place now through January 3rd...always free...always spectacular...always a magical illusion that masks the casino hustle and bustle.
Two of my best presents this year arrive tomorrow!  My wish for you and yours, is a SAFE and lovely Christmas and New Year, spent in the company of those you treasure the most.  Merry Christmas!  XOXO

Monday, December 7, 2015


It's DEFINITELY Bakelite.  It's DEFINITELY old.  It's DEFINITELY hand-carved.  It's DEFINITELY mine (those who know me know I have a Bakelite sickness weakness).  I've been told the color is called Cherry Amber.  Beyond that, it's pretty much a mystery!  (And right up front, though all thoughts or comments are welcome...this has already been seen by several Bakelite aficionados/dealers, who had their own thoughts on it - possibly an "after-hours" or "home" carve"?  All agree it's Bakelite, and it's OLD.  It has also been in the hands of an expert who has verified that it is NOT of the Taiwaneese "Fakelite" ilk either, as the prior experts first concurred.)
So, the story on Bakelite goes like this.  There have been three major developments in plastics over time - first manufactured in 1855, and further refined in 1868, came Celluloid.  Fabulously malleable under heat, but VIOLENTLY flammable and explosive.  It saw great use in vanity sets, pretty bracelets set with rhinestones (it's usually ivory in color)...and film.  Due to many theater fires, celluloid was eventually replaced by the far less flammable cellulose acetate in photography.
Galalith came next, in 1897.  Beautiful colors, and stronger than celluloid, it was also molded by heating.  The setback here was it was not strong or moisture resistant, and had a real tendency to warp.  Galalith was used for small things like hair combs, buttons, buckles, jewelry, and knitting needles. 
Enter Bakelite.  In 1907 New York, a Belgian-born chemist named LEO Baekeland invented Bakelite (he also invented Velox).  He combined phenolic resin with formaldehyde in the presence of a catalyst and heat, and came up with a plastic that was nonflammable, intractable, and could withstand 1000,000 volts of electricity, intact.  It hardened permanently when cured, and would not soften again with heat.  It was first used in electrical insulation and radio, telephone and car parts, and later found use in cutlery handles, kitchenware, smoking articles, vanity sets, poker chips, chess pieces, billiard balls, radio cases, and JEWELRY.
Plastic costume jewelry made it's first real appearance in 1918 - mainly celluloid pieces filled with rhinestones and geometric designs.  A Shipping Heiress returning from an African trip with armloads of ivory bangles, around 1929, caused the plastics industry to jump on the bandwagon and offer reproductions of these African bangles that had caused such a jewelry riot...1929 also saw the start of THE Crash.
As the Great Depression gradually receded, it was found that many of the rich women could no longer afford the fine jewelry they were accustomed to, and the plastics held a real draw at 20 cents to $3 each (certainly not the prices of today's market).  By 1936, 70%  of all jewelry sold was cast phenolic resin (or Bakelite)...by 1942 and the start of WWII, Bakelite was needed for defense items, and the jewelry production was done.
There is never a seam to be found in Bakelite, unlike the molded plastic products of today.  Each of these bracelets started as an extruded tube of plastic.  Slices of varying widths were cut from the tubes, and handed off to skilled artisans who hand carved each piece.  The Ace Plastic Novelty Corp. in Brooklyn, and the Moure Family/Alta Novelty Company out of Manhattan seem to be responsible for most of the items found today.  The ten member Moure Family turned out some of the more imaginative carved, figural, and geometric jewelry pieces of the late 1930s.
All carving was done by holding the piece of tubing against lathes with high-speed carving tools attached, and the use of hand tools.  Extraordinary skills developed, allowing for more and more intricate designs...as these were all hand done, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.
My name is Tanya, and I have a weakness for plastics.  I bought this a few weeks back, and it's a mystery.  As with anything else that gains popularity, there are new knock-offs being produced "across the ocean" - pretty easily recognizable for what they are supposed to be, but beware - they are out there.  However, the designs on those are almost always the popular florals or geometrics. 
I bought this from someone who had been collecting since she was 5, thanks to a grandmother...she thought this piece to possibly be a Zodiac reference.  The Zodiac was not a "thing" to people living in the late 1930s.  Not only that, I know enough to know that the carvers would have added Lions or the astrological sign, instead of flowers.  Nope, not astrological.  
My own thoughts went immediately to the name carved on it...LEO...as in Leo Baekeland!  This piece is pretty incredible - not only is there ONE Leo carved into the side, there are FOUR Leos carved around the sides.  There are also four large pinwheel flowers, with an assortment of flowers and "berries" around the top and bottom of the piece.  It's a whopper in size - about 1.25" wide;  the standard 2.5" inside diameter;  and about 3/8" thick.  Was this done for him by one of the carvers?  Did someone experiment with the carving tools, and do something really out of the ordinary (usually Bakelite has florals or geometric carvings - names such as this were never carved, and are nowhere to be found in any of the numerous books on Bakelite)?
I never intended to purchase it - really!  I wrote to her (twice) to let her know my take on it, as opposed to her Astrological description, and that it might "mean" a little more - I was honest with her, as I was just trying to help her out with information.  She wasn't biting, and instead, dropped the price drastically, at which point Leo came to live with me (I also have two Leo birthdays in the house, so "whatever works").  NOT astrological, but mine now.
The mystery is in who carved it, and for what purpose or for whom was it carved?  Right now, it was carved for ME!  Happy early Christmas.  It's a mystery.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


A final trek (FINALLY - yes, life gets in the way of blogs sometimes) through THE largest cliff dwelling in North America, which sits in Mesa Verde National Park.  The park is nearing their snowy season now, if not already into it.  Living in the desert SW tends to skew my view of the weather in the rest of the country.  The park is always open, but access to some of the areas is limited during the winter months.
December 18th will mark the 127th year since Richard Weatherill and Charlie Mason, ranchers in the SW corner of Colorado, stumbled upon these magnificent ruins.  Riding atop this mesa, searching for stray cattle during a blizzard, they were met by an astonishing sight across the canyon pictured... 
Three stories high, a magnificent stone city was hidden under a massive rock overhang.  The cattle search was quickly abandoned while the men climbed down, and then up, to explore their discovery for several hours. 
This is Cliff Palace - 150 rooms, 23 kivas and, speculated, home to over a hundred people, it is thought that Cliff Palace was probably a social and "administrative" site of pretty great ceremonial importance in its heyday.  The centerpiece of Mesa Verde, it is one of the finest examples of late prehistoric cliff dwellings in the American Southwest.  Much restoration has been done over the years to preserve it, this is one of the ticketed/guided tours within the park. 
Much controversy surrounds the legacy of Wetherill and Mason, and little credit seems to be given (depending on the story teller) the men in the actual discovery of Cliff Palace.  In the years following their discovery, Wetherill collected thousands of artifacts from this and other area ruins.  However, most all of Wetherill's artifacts ended up in museums, where they could be studied by professional archaeologists and viewed by the public...and MORE sadly, squirreled away in huge, dark storerooms WITHIN these museums, not to be seen by anyone in the public, since acquisition.

The same cannot be said of countless other priceless artifacts stolen by visitors over the years, which ended up in private collections.  To protect the site from further looting and degradation, Congress named Mesa Verde a National Park in 1906.
These canyon walls are literally dotted with ruin after ruin, if you keep your eyes wide open, and take the time to look.  Some are nothing more than small storage spaces, or single family dwellings...some a little larger...you just have to look.  This was in the canyon walls opposite the massive dwelling, and sitting under the mesa top where Cliff Palace was originally spotted from.
 Today, this Park protects some 5,000 known archaeological sites, which includes 600 cliff dwellings.
The House of Many Windows, in the same general vicinity.  These, and the "afore-blogged" dwellings are all on the Chapin Mesa, and open year-round, whether viewing from a distance, or taking an up-close and personal tour.  Go in with eyes wide open - you never know where you might spot something a little more spectacular than just beautiful scenery.
On the opposite side of the park, but all within a little less than 20 miles by car, sits Wetherill Mesa - home to beautiful tourist lodging, and even more ancient treasures.  This side of the Park is only open from May to September, weather permitting.  We ran into a hell of a thunderstorm that day, that stopped us from hiking the last ruin, due to waiting out the rain and hitting there at closing time.  If you go, plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time.  It was actually a blessing in disguise for me to have missed it, as my cowboy boots had just about had it by this tree. 
 Like I said, they're everywhere....
EVERYWHERE!  One of the greatest gifts we have as Americans is the freedom to travel as we please. To get out and discover this great land of ours - the history and treasures it holds - and to LEARN - even the women!  Thankful, as I look at these photos, for a lifetime of being allowed to soak up everything I can!
A parting shot of the ruins of Hemenway House - yep, eyes wide open (go back up a few photos and look, but they are in the center of the mesa, under the large shaded overhang).  Want to explore for yourself...

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours...may it be SAFE, happy, and spent with someone you love!

Friday, October 30, 2015

You did WHAT with that most treasured childhood toy?!! HAPPY HALLOWEEN...

We played Land Before Time, and fed it to the dog dinosaur - just for a few photos before we saved it from certain doom.

October 31st...the day the kids love most, and the dogs hate worst - at least those living in Empty Nest homes!  The littlest green dino was my son's "security blanket" when he was tiny. "Dinosaur" was unpronounceable when he first got it, so "Deena Wa" it was, from then on.  None the worse for wear after the photo shoot, and the 9 lb. Stegosaurus was happy with the dog treat.  Deena Wa is back, safely, in a drawer...here's wishing YOU a safe, and 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I DO own a pair of hiking shoes...I just didn't pack them with me this trip.  And besides, I LIVE in these old Lucchese boots in the fall and winter - they are truly the best boots I have ever owned...great support, but they feel like bedroom slippers at the same time.  Good soles, sturdy boots, and I'm a Colorado girl, so it's what we do!

The first trail I hiked that day took me down to the Spruce Tree House ruins.  An easy enough walk - it is only a half-mile round trip, but it zig-zags straight down 100 feet.  Remember this vista - not only did I hike down INTO the canyon, I walked the top, way over there, to the other side of the canyon and back!
This was poison ivy in a small alcove along the trail - it was posted, and there was a group of tourists in shorts and Birkenstock hiking sandals, who were agonizing about going in to see it. "HA!"  I had cowboy boots AND jeans, so I blazed right past them, leaving their snivelling little selves on the paved path.  Each leaf on these poison ivy bushes (and it was EVERYWHERE) was the size of my palm, seriously!
I had numerous people, on my way down (the trail was paved, and they could hear me coming), question the fact that I was doing this in cowboy boots - they in their hiking shoes/sandals. "YES!", I replied each time.  "I live in these boots, and I'm a Colorado girl - it's what we do!"
Looking back at the ruin through the trees - the canyon is absolutely beautiful, and now I'm in the bottom of it...
looking UP and facing the fact that my parents are in that little covered vantage point at the top, and I now have a 100 ft. vertical climb, albeit a switchback one - a 100 ft. climb, nonetheless.  It's OK, I had my reliable and COMFORTABLE cowboy boots on.
Endured a few more comments directed at my choice of hiking footwear (I HONESTLY do own a pair of hikers) on the way up.  As I was rounding the last switchback at the top, I realized that there was a small, hidden trail head off to the side, that would take me around and over the top of the ruin...WAY around - I went THAT way.  Those dark dots on the bottom left photo?  The crows in the next photo, scavenging something next to an old storage room off of the main ruins...these were both telephoto shots.
This trail was dirt, so my boots were quieter...until I came to these rocks that I had to traverse to get around the canyon and over to the far side, which was STILL rocks.  A little slippery at times, but my cowboy boots comfortable, and leaving me as sure-footed as any mountain goat - OK, I slipped around a few times, but caught myself looking around to make sure no one saw ("I meant to do that!").  I was totally by myself on that trail.
Beautiful scenery and different vantage points - sometimes it more than pays to take the road less traveled...in cowboy boots.  I wish I had had my pedometer with me (I own one of those, too...those "hiking types" have nothing on me, really) - I don't know now far I walked around there, but it was a hell of a hike.
Surviving my earlier morning hike, it is now mid-morning, and we had travelled on down the road a bit, and came upon this.  Skipping the actual tour down into this more strenuous ruin (it's probably one of the cooler tours, however, with ladder climbing, etc. - done it a few times before), I found that I could take a "short" hike for a different perspective.

1.2 miles round trip - I don't know who was lying to who here, but the actual map stated it was 3/4 miles one way, which adds up to 1.FIVE miles round trip on MY calculator.  "Short" hike.  In my cowboy boots.
Dad decides he was going to join me on this "short" hike.  It was a BEAUTIFUL "short" hike...in my cowboy boots.  Mostly loose, packed dirt.  Then came the slick rocks.  Then these beautiful clouds started moving in, so it wasn't as hot as the upper right picture looks (you would expect a vulture on the branch in that one, huh?).  Unfortunately, we were too taken with the beauty of the clouds to realize that these were actually thunderheads...duh!
You can see my dad had on appropriate footwear.  This is a man who is 81 years young - has 21 pins and screws in one leg, from a mishap with a ladder ten years ago.  He also fell on ice (while shoveling a neighbor's walk last winter), and cracked his hip on that same side.  I love walking with him, because he makes us rest every 60 steps.  As you can see, he was in FRONT of me and my cowboy boots, as I was starting to huff and puff at this point, and he was fine.  He stopped at one point to grab a blade of grass to make a whistle, while I was gasping for air.  Notice the sky is no longer as blue, and I was wondering "Where IS the d*@#n balcony?", just like the sign above asked.
OK, 6 miles later, here we are...the Balcony House sits in an overhang on that far wall (more telephoto shots to help - see if you can pinpoint it).  We oohed and ahhed for about 2 minutes and realized the skies were now pretty ominous, and we had 14 miles left to hike back.

About 19 miles into that return trip, the BIGGEST thunderclap let go, right on top of us. No lightning, very little rain, and NO warning - scared the hell out of me and my cowboy boots - no joke.  Dad laughed, like Dads do in the face of danger.
We did more walking and hiking that day, and the storm caught up with us on the other mesa.  We closed the park - they turned me away at the last trail I wanted to hike.  My cowboy boots?  Well, my old reliables didn't let me down!

My back, at about 8:00 that evening???  I thought I was paralyzed. There IS, evidently, a reason for hiking footwear instead of 1-1/2" riding heels if you're going to be out trekking trails for 8 hours in a day.  The back was fine, 48 hours and lots of Advil later, and I'm no worse for the wear today.

I AM a Colorado girl, it's what we do...
and, hell if I didn't look cool doin' it!!!
The End.