Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For

Ah, Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

We had a larger crew than normal at my parent's house for Thanksgiving this year. Most of us have been through some hard times this year, with several people joining us who had previously had other family to be with this time last year. Spending the day surrounded by family, I had much time to think about what made the day so special.

I'm so lucky to still have my parents around. They were very happy to have a large crew to feed and several children to keep track of, including 2 furry ones. Though we'd planned on having more people join us, everybody called to talk to the family, even the ones calling from the hospital.

Though my grandparents are rapidly deteriorating, they remembered the names of my children and asked to tell them both Happy Thanksgiving, even though one of them can't understand yet.

We had friends join us this year and I am so thankful that we can include them in our family. As hard as this year has been for so many, we're still able to open our homes and help others.

As has been pressed home so much this year, time is short. I'm thankful to be able to spend time with family and to know they love me and they know I love them.

While the house was warm and the food was fantastic, it was the company that made this holiday so fantastic. As my children get older, I hope they can come to appreciate Thanksgiving for what it means to us as a family and love this time of year as much as I do.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dr. PingOS; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Linux

Around this time last year, my laptop had a meltdown. This was helped along by the cracked monitor and the sticky something that was spilled and killed the lamp in my screen. I was not a happy camper. I discovered if I hooked it up to an external monitor that the keyboard and mouse worked ok but I was still operating on Windows Vista and it kept crashing with increasing frequency.

In April of this year, I had a friend come to visit. He took one look at my computer and said “I'm putting Linux on your laptop so you can actually use it.”

Linux? I panicked. I don't know computers well enough to use Linux! It's been 20 years since I've had to type anything into a command line. Please don't make me look like an idiot, I begged.

He told me there was nothing to worry about but I didn't believe him. Didn't only hackers and computer nerds use Linux? I was an enthusiast, at best.

He installed Ubuntu 10.04 while I was at work and when I came home, it was up and running. He had me type in my password on the sign in page.

Huh, I thought as it opened up. This doesn't look too scary. The menus were at the top of the screen instead of at the bottom but he showed me how to change it if I wanted to. My files and applications were easier to find than with the Windows start menu. I'd been using Open Office for a little over a year so that wasn't a big change, except I had the new version which was all shiny.

Well, but what about getting on line? I loved Firefox but it was a total memory hog on Windows. Opening it on my laptop literally meant I couldn't use anything else but I liked it a lot better than other browsers I'd used. It came pre-installed and, while still a memory hog, my operating system wasn't taking up most of my available memory. I can be online and write at that same time. Well, in theory. I still get distracted by the shiny online.

Freecell! What about my solitaire game of choice? He showed me the software center, which is on the bar at the top of my screen, where I can install and un-install many, if not most, of the applications available for Linux. Oh, sure, there was freecell but what's that one that looks like Tetris? Or Lemmings? Bust a Move? Forget Freecell, man, I like these games better!

The one thing I hadn't found an immediate replacement for was Microsoft Publisher. I love Publisher. Slowly, I ventured out into the Linux community to see if there was a recommendation. What I found astounded me. Yes, people recommended a program which I still haven't had a chance to explore yet, but it was the attitude that astonished me. I wasn't a n00b. People were polite and actually wanted to help me. Getting help from Windows is like asking a 14-year-old for, well, just about anything. I felt like I was dealing with grownups while I was getting help for my Linux questions and that was incredibly refreshing.

The great part about all of this? It was all free (that's free as in freedom and free as in no cost). There are industrial versions of Linux that are meant for large corporations that do cost money but, from my understanding, they don't cost nearly as much as Windows. Also, I could have run the whole thing off a 4gb memory stick had I really, really wanted to keep Windows on my laptop.

Now, my computer boots up in 30 seconds. I can get online in less than a minute. I'm learning how to use several programs that are supposed to replace other software that I used to play around with. The games are fun and kinda cute. They certainly run better.

If you yourself are interested in checking out linux, check out Ubuntu or Linux Mint, both great for new users. Download the file, burn to a disc, pop it in, and try out the live CD feature, allowing you to demo the operating system without even installing it.

There's a learning curve but you know what? I think I'm smart enough to use Linux.

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Walking through the book and magazine aisle in the grocery store, I kept looking around and saying, “I know her” or “I've met him” or “I went to school with their kids.” There were several books that I could remember conversations I had with the authors.

My aunt is mentioned in the book Gods Guest List by Debbie Macomber. It mentions the book she was writing, which she has since published and which resides on my book shelf.

This trip to the grocery store reminded me why I want to write. I want my friends and family to be able to take a similar walk, point to a book and say, “Hey, I know her,” and it's my book.

Maybe I should work on my novel some more.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I am not on a diet. I repeat, I am not on a diet. I don't believe in dieting. I am currently affecting a temporary lifestyle change. No, they're not the same thing. Let me explain.

I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who I will refer to here as Panda. She's happy, talkative, cuddly and lactose intolerant. Anybody who is lactose intolerant can tell you how uncomfortable ingesting dairy can be. With a baby who can't express what hurts much more than to cry, it's enough to break a mother's heart.

I've been told that many moms at this point just stop breastfeeding and put the baby on a soy formula. Of course, I'm not most moms and I rarely do things the easy way.

I've cut dairy out of my diet as much as I could. Some things are made with milk as the wet ingredient but they contain so little that it doesn't affect her. We've learned quickly how to discover what the problem food. Even when I really, really want it to be something else, as will be explained later on.

Due to a thyroid problem, I'm not supposed to eat much soy so finding substitutes for certain things has been difficult though surprisingly fun. Rice milk is really good on cereal. Chocolate almond milk is really good to drink straight. I put almonds on salads instead of cheese.

But, for the most part, I've done without. For some things, it was a fight. Especially the chocolate.

For a very long time, I refused to believe that milk chocolate was causing a problem. However, not eating any for 2 days gave conclusive proof that milk chocolate was causing my daughter to be uncomfortable.

I fought it. I ate more just because I wasn't supposed to. I'd given up milk. I'd given up cheese. Please, don't ask me to give up chocolate. Reluctantly, I got rid of all the chocolate candy in the house. I stopped making chocolate chip cookies. When I went grocery shopping, I cried over the hostess cupcakes and the donuts.

Since giving up everything I have, I still have rebellious impulses. I have to change the channel when a pizza commercial comes on. When my family is eating enchiladas, my turkey wrap just doesn't look appetizing. Yes, I do have rebellious impulses. But, it's not for me. It's for my daughter.

And it's only temporary.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

I wanna do bad things with you . . .

For the weekend sexiness, I'm sharing some of my favorite characters from HBO's Trueblood.

Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5

and Sophie-Ann, the Queen of Louisiana

Anybody else watching? Who's your favorite?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Photo Critiques

I took some pictures of some bags I was making to put up on Etsy. I needed a background other than a cluttered desk so I put some fabric down that I pulled at random from my stash.

While the fabric is definitely cool, I'm thinking I'll be doing some new photos. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The View From My Window

The colors of autumn won't last long but I just had to share this. This is what I see when I look directly to the right of my computer and sewing machine. It's both inspiring and distracting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Do I Sew?

This question was posed to readers of Threads Magazine and it struck me as a question that could be incredibly mundane as well as incredibly profound. Why does one really do anything? We eat, drink, sleep and mate out of a desire for survival. Everything we do beyond that is for reasons that are far more complex, though most of them boil down to a survival as a creature that is more complex than a simple beast.

I first became aware of sewing as something beyond a way to make clothes when my mom started making a quilt for me. She pulled scraps of fabric that looked familiar out of boxes with no labels on them that had sat in the back of closets at 2 houses. These were leftovers from the clothes my mother had been making for me since I could walk.

Making a quilt takes time and I was fascinated by the process. I sat with her while she cut out and pinned together the pieces. She told me stories about making my dresses and making her dresses when she was younger. Winning awards in 4-H and designing aprons from scratch without a pattern were magic to a very young me.

As I got older, I wanted to make magic myself. I made pillows. Lots and lots of pillows. Then I made a stuffed unicorn. It was difficult but I did it, and I loved it. When it came time to try and make my own clothes, I insisted on doing them all by myself. I grew out of the first few outfits before I finished them but my mom saved them. They're in her attic still and may some day fit my daughter.

I designed the dress I wore to my senior prom because nothing in the stores that year looked good on me. This was to become a theme. Once I discovered what shapes looked good on me, I began to lament the lack of age appropriate clothing for girls my size. Fashion has come a long way since then but I got a lot of practice making clothes that looked good on me.

I can now find clothes off the rack that look good but costumes? Forget it. While my obsession with costumes, particularly period costumes, is another story, my closet full of them, most of them ones I designed myself, is a very clear indication of the direction my journey has taken. The books on corsets and the making of undergarments that I have give a good indication of where it's going but the why of the journey goes all the way back to the beginning.

I sew because it's magic.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend Sexiness

I submit for your approval some truly inspiring images.

Ryan Kelly of Celtic Thunder

Paul Byrom of Celtic Thunder

Vin Diesel

And something for the guys . . .

Enjoy and have a fantastic weekend!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Knave Abides

There has been a trend recently of re-examining literature and changing it. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the better known examples of doing this. Honestly, I'm pretty meh about the whole thing. I liked the original books and I'm not a big fan of zombies. Changing classic literature into something better is difficult, particularly because what would be better is completely subjective.

However, there is a twist on this trend that I have to support. Adam Bertocci took the cult film The Big Lebowski and re-wrote it in the style of Shakespeare. At first glance, The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski seems like a terrible idea. Most people these days just don't get Shakespeare, mostly because at least half of what Shakespeare wrote was popular culture references for his time. However, Bertocci shows a great understanding of not only The Big Lebowski but also of Shakespeare.

I submit this video for those people who aren't into the whole reading plays thing:

Also, if anybody in Denver decides to actually perform this as a play, I will buy front row tickets for every showing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Creativity in our Daily Lives

Many people, in their daily lives, do not consider themselves to be creative. They consider creative people to be artists of various flavors and, while they may admire these creative people, they don't believe that creative pursuits have a place in their lives. Writing that memo, negotiating with a difficult customer or scheduling multiple errands around school and activities are not considered creative pursuits though they may require as much creative energy as painting a mural, writing a story or designing a quilt.

The reason we don't recognize creativity in our daily lives is that we don't always 'feel' creative when we're going about them. Many people treat their creative selves like the good china; they only consciously bring it out for special occasions. Eventually, no occasion is good enough and what once was a creative pursuit becomes boring and routine. People become stagnant, doing the same thing over and over. Stagnation isn't healthy for any living thing and mental stagnation often signals the beginnings of a decline in physical health.

How, then, can we ward off stagnation? I would suggest, and there are multiple authors who agree, that a person can deliberately court the muse. Doing something occasionally that inspires you to be creative, no matter what form that creativity takes, keeps your mind limber. There is a growing body of research on the way music and painting affect people who are suffering from Alzheimer's. People who participated actively in these forms of creativity did not decline as rapidly as those who did not.

So, find something that inspires you to be creative and go do it. Sing because you want to. Paint because you feel like it. Do it alone, for yourself, if you don't want anybody to see. Don't make an excuse. If you don't think you're any good, remember that you can only get better through practice.

Political Junkie

I fully intended to post something on creativity in our daily lives. However, as I'm a political junkie, I spent the evening watching the news and swearing at various commentators. I promise, though, that my swearing was very creative.

Watch this space for thoughts on Artist's Date's and courting the muse to come as soon as I wake up.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do You Actually Enjoy What You Eat?

As I write this, I have what is quickly becoming one of my favorite television shows playing; Good Eats, where Alton Brown plays with the chemistry set he calls a kitchen. With my non-diet, new, temporary food restrictions and my favorite holiday coming up, food is definitely weighing on my mind. For much of America, it also weighs on our waistlines and for creative people, it can weigh on our drive to create.

(shirts swiped from Jeph Jacques at Questionable Content)

I can't remember where I heard the advice I used to stop over eating. It was originally in reference to somebody quitting smoking. The advice was to make a ritual of it, to really enjoy smoking; make a point of noticing the fire from the lighter, the taste of the smoke, the way it fills your lungs. By taking the time to enjoy smoking, you start to need less of a cigarette to get your fix.

The same advice works for food. Take your time to enjoy it. Eat something that you really like and take the time to really taste it. It's hard to do at first. So much of what we eat is designed to be eaten quickly and we eat it so fast, we don't realize we're full. Also, taking the time to enjoy your food means you may realize that you don't really like something that you've been eating every day for years.

I started taking my time over food more than a year ago. With a recent pregnancy, I came to discover that if I didn't eat slowly, I wouldn't keep it down at all. Once I started actually tasting what I ate, I started to realize that I really, really didn't like much of what I'd eaten every day for several years. For instance, I really detest most types of french fries. I also really hate instant oatmeal. In fact, I stopped liking so many foods that I had to discover new things to eat. A mostly dairy free diet these days has also sent me searching for alternatives.

Not surprisingly, I've discovered that fresh foods taste better. Removing Ranch dressing and cheese from my sauce options, I've become much more open to fruits, vegetables and vinaigrettes. I've found myself opting for a salad instead of a cheeseburger and not regretting it. Good pasta and good sauces have to be able to stand on their own and not be masked by cheese. I'll admit, I've found myself becoming something of a food snob. But that's ok, I'm slowly becoming a slender food snob.