Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movin' On - Vickie Lane

My friend Vickie Lane died in the wee hours Dec. 18th, 2010. I would have posted sooner on this, but today's the first day I can even wrap my mind around it without crying.

Vickie and I were co-worker at the Daily Camera first, then friends, then frenemies, then slowly friends again. I won't pull any punches; Vickie could be tough to get along with sometimes, which was probably why we spent about six months shooting barbed evil eyes at each other and not speaking. Neither of us had a reverse or retreat option built in, so we butted heads on more than one occasion. However, she was as loyal a frenemy as she was a friend, and eventually we both came around, finding we had more in common than not - in both the strengths as well as weaknesses department. She had a wickedly sharp tongue, incredible talent, strong opinions, a great sense of humor, a quick temper, and a good heart.

Vickie was the only person I knew that loved books - not just the reading of, but the particular enjoyment of owning books - as much, if not more, than I do. Vickie loved to write as well, and could be found at any point in time dragging around several ongoing journals in her backpack, each one filled with her own particular illegible code of cramped, capped scribbling.

Oh, we also had in common our crush on Robert Crais after we had our books signed at the Rue Morgue Bookstore. He totally knew it, too. I think it was all the girlish giggling and breathless sighing that gave us away. Or it could have been how we sat on the front row giving him the bambi eyes and clutching our books to our bosoms the entire time he spoke.

HA! Good times... good times...

Over the last couple of years we'd spanned the geographical distance between us with a collaborative art journal. I would send it to her in the snail mail with three prompts, and she had two weeks to create a piece from one of the prompts and whatever else she could manage to squeeze in before time expired. Then she would mail it back with three prompts of her own devising for me to choose from, and so on.

Grief is so weird. This morning I was looking through some books on Amazon, and I came across one on art journaling and collage and thought, "Ooo. I bet Vickie would like to read this when I'm done. I should send it to her after... oh...."


OK, I'm doing that thing where I'm holding my eyes open real wide and sending upward huffs of air to dry them out and fanning them with my hands. Like that actually does any good.Thank goodness I have emergency office mascara in my desk.

Quick now, before I start tearing up again, I want to post a few pages from our art journal. She would probably hate that I'm doing this, as she was a particularly private person. Frankly, she never thought her writing or her art as good enough to share with other people. Her two long-standing requests upon her death were "Take care of my cat and burn my journals", if that tells you anything.

Vickie was a good egg. I'll miss her. Its tragic that she never came to the realization that her work was always more than good enough. (Dare I say, genius?) I knew it. The people who were familiar with her work knew it. I just wish she had known it, too.

The Art Journal Cover

Vickie's button-pushers: Cruelty to animals and kids, willful ignorance,
women talking baby talk, bicycles on sidewalks (She was a hard-core pedestrian and
public transportation person. She didn't even own a car.), and slow talkers. Grrr! :)

Vickie contributed the book in the center and I wrote around it.
The prompt she gave me was "Name your magic spells".
This was inspired by the Harry Potter movie we saw together the last time I was in Boulder for a visit.

Vickie selected my prompt "What is your magic wand made of?"
She wrote, "We are Word Witches. This is our magic wand.
We cast spells, weave webs, evoke dragons and then slay them.
As for Prince Charming - we customize!"

Using my prompt "Bird", Vickie came up with two pieces.
One was an idea she had for a children's picture book
and the other was also her original poetry in a more serious tone.

This one was generated by my prompt, "Write your biography in six words".
She came up with "Defined by my breasts. Brain optional."
Those who knew Vickie will find this one amusing.

 This is one of my favorite pieces of hers. The prompt was "Your lucky charm".

This is the backside of the guitar flap, and a poem called "Empty Rooms and Promises", which would make a fantastic country song. The picture is of Vickie the day her dad gave her his guitar.

The tiny envelope in the bottom right contained a guitar pick - her lucky charm

Empty Rooms and Promises
by Vickie Lane

Empty rooms and promises,
That's not how I want to live,
But empty rooms and promises
That's all you have to give.
You've shattered all my memories
Scattered all my dreams
Ripped away these loving arms
Torn this life at its seams.
The kids are cryin' tears
I'm just cryin' songs
It's time I started movin' on.

Titled: "I am an unfinished work-in-progress."
 "Tell me what it is that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? A ship is safe in port, but that is not what ships are for." --Mary Oliver

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Putting the "Cor!" in Decorating

Now that I have the outside of the house done, I'm going to have to turn my attention to the inside. That, to me, is the hard part of this whole project. I do not have an eye for this sort of thing... this decorating. I know what I like when I see it (thus the source of the impulse buying issue I seem to have), but I have no idea how to put it all together. Most of the time I'm completely content with living out of boxes. Ask my friend, J9. We lived in a very cool townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, (I still miss that place) for several years and there were many, many boxes that I never bothered to unpacked.

I believe my official decorating style is "eclectic". Which is a nice way to say I have a hobo's collection of random crap. This year my efforts concerning Holly House are going to be geared toward making some sort of sense of it all. Also, getting rid of stuff that doesn't make sense and that I don't love/need because quarters at Holly House are limited where storage is concerned.

For instance, consider the main bathroom upstairs. It is SMALL, so everything that goes in there makes a BIG impact. (I what it lacks in size it makes up for in character with the light fixture, the floor tile, the subway wall tile, the swimming pool bathtub...) Take the shower curtain for instance. I could use some advice on this one.

To shower curtain...


Not to shower curtain?

That is the question of the moment.

Now my first (cowardly) impulse, because I really admire the Scandinavian style of design and decorating, would be to leave it with the clear curtain or get a white fabric shower curtain with some kind of texture to it, then add some colorBAM with towels and things. That seems a little too safe though. The cityscape curtain that I have is fantastic. It makes me smile every time I look at it. Once you get use to it hanging up, it seems less overwhelming in the small space.

Yes, I did hang it up straight out of the package to get an idea of how it would look, so it's kind of wrinkly. I don't iron my bedsheets either. Sorry to disappoint the Marthas in the crowd.

Aren't these shower curtain hangers great?

I already tried a couple of other curtains, but their patterns and colors were waaaay too much. Let me know what you think. With? Without? Or Plan C (which you will have to provide, because I don't have a Plan C)?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review - Bright of the Sky

I know, I know, this was on my list for the 2011 E-Reader Challenge, but it's close enough to 2011 for it to count, right?

Now, as a disclaimer, I do not like to dog people's work because at least they wrote a book and got it published, which is more than I've done. Marveling at the brilliance that is Kurt Vonnegut, I shall quote him here, "Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."

However, I don't think it's fair if I only post reviews of books that are, in my opinion, spectacular. With that said, I didn't like Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon. By the last few chapters, it was a monumental struggle to get it finished, which is probably not a good sign.

It had an interesting premise, the plot was decent, there was some very good alien creature and world building going on, but I simply could not relate to the characters. I realize there will be many who counter that statement with, "It's SCI-FI, for pete's sake. In SCI-FI, characterization is secondary (or tertiary, or even further down the list of priorities) to the SCIENCE portion of the story."

Yeah, well, I think you can have both. And I want my sci-fi world to have both, because you invited me to visit this planet with your intriguing back cover or inside flap teaser, damn you, and now that I'm here I want... no, I DEMAND, both.

Bright of the Sky didn't have both. There was a lot of telling the reader how the characters felt (particularly toward each other), but not a lot of showing. In life and in literature, actions speak louder than words. As I was reading, I often found myself wondering, "What?? Where did that come from?" Having not seen the emotion between characters develop over time it would come as a suprise when BOOM!, all of a sudden we have significant feeling between them. The characters seemed not just reserved, but robotic.

Frankly, I started out liking the main character, but by the end I thought he was an asshat. Maybe he redeems himself in later books, but I don't know that I want to spend the time finding out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review - Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

My latest reading trend - books set in India. I'm devouring them like kheer. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever. I can't get enough of the people, the culture, the religions, the food and spices, the brightly colored saris and white cotton angarkas, the textures of the landscape, the sounds of the temples, the smells of the thick, dusty heat of summer and the drenching monsoon rains... The writing is rich with colors and sumptuous flavors, each word a golden feast for the mind.

Which is a nice change from the sere countryside, freezing temperatures, and bitter winter winds of my reality.

Recently I've read "The Man Who Died Laughing", "Mistress of Spices", "Queen of Dreams", and "Keeping Corner". When I ordered Keeping Corner from Amazon, I thought it was an adult book with a young protagonist, but it's a book written for a young adult audience. I was not disappointed in the slightest, once I began reading.

Leela is twelve and lives in the small town of Jamlee in Gujarat, India. The youngest of two children, her 21 year old brother is away teaching at a college in the city. Though whip-crack smart, Leela is a bit spoiled by her parents and her childless aunt and uncle, but not so much you want to smack her. She's wheedling and prone to pouting when she can't have her way and completely convinced the world orbits around her. So in other words... she's twelve.

Despite the fact that in 1918 life in Leela's village seems untouched by world events of the past 100 years, India outside her village is changing rapidly. Her country is in the grips of a terrible drought, the world is at war, and Mohandas Gandhi begins his crusade of satyagrah to protest the treatment of his people by the English.

But those major events just barely intrude into Leela's life. She's more concerned with attending parties and the town's annual fair, giggling with her friends, and cajoling her mother into buying her a some lovely bangles and tasseled hair ribbons to go with her new sunset-red ghagri-poulka.

It just goes to show that, for the most part, twelve year-old girls are the same no matter the time or place.

However, there is a difference - a big one - between Leela and today's pre-teen girls. Leela was engaged at two years-old and married at nine. Her husband is a boy in the village by the name of Ramanlal. Despite being husband and wife, Ramanlal and Leela still live with their parents and aren't allowed to so much as hold hands or speak to each other without a chaperon. Just on the cusp of discovering boys (beyond the "Ewww, yuck! Boys!" stage), Leela's beginning to be intrigued by the idea of her looming anu, a ceremony of celebration when she will leave her parent's home and go to live with Ramanlal and his family.

That is, until the unthinkable happens and Ramanlal dies, ending Leela's hopes and dreams for the future and turning her into a pariah. Widowed before she is even truly a wife, Leela is expected to "keep corner" and stay in the house for an entire year during the initial mourning period. Which doesn't sound that bad, until it is gradually revealed to Leela and the readers exactly what it means to become a widow in her society. Not only can she not step foot outside for the first year (not even into the yard. Basically her home becomes a prison), but her head is shaved bald (forever), she is only allowed to wear a dull brown sari (forever), all physical adornments are taken from her (never to be worn again), and when she is finally allowed outside people in the community shun her (because widows are the worst kind of luck). Oh, and she's never allowed to marry again. Ever.

So that's it. Life is pretty much over for Leela.

Or is it?

This story, based loosely on the author's great-aunt's experience of being a widowed child bride, is one of a girl beginning to question a society's conventions and traditions that she'd never recognized before. Leela learns that knowledge is not only power, but taking advantage of an education can also provide freedom. I enjoy stories that encourage ladies of all ages to capitalize on their intelligence - a characteristic that is devalued in many societies that prize a woman's beauty over her brains. It's was also refreshing to see that Leela took into account her family and their feelings as well and wasn't just rebellious without a care as to how it would effect her relations. She understood that her actions were a direct reflection on her family and could have a detrimental effect their social standing in the very close-knit community.

She refuses to be a victim of circumstance. With judicious use of her intelligence, resourcefulness, sensitivity, and determination, Leela works to make her condition and the condition of other women in Indian society better. Now that is a story with a happy ending.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baking Xmas Cookies - Ho, Ho, Holy #$%!

There are times when I forget that I cannot cook. Particularly challenging for me is the form of cookery known as "baking", which a pastry chef explained to me in rather pompous tones is completely different from mere "cooking". His airquotes, not mine.

Six weeks ago, the idea of doing a cookie exchange at work seemed like a fantastic idea. I mean, it's cookies, right? How fun is that, getting a bajillion different kinds of cookies to take home? Now, 48 hours before the exchange, I've had a change of heart. I FREAKING HATE BAKING COOKIES.

(The 2011 Fo'Sho' Goals, particularly #7, do not officially take effect until Jan. 1. I'm cleared for cursing as much as I want until then. Good thing, too, because last night I think I scorched the ozone layer in the atmosphere directly over my house with all the swearing I did.)

Yes, I know, it's very grinchy, not to mention downright un-American, to say you hate cookies. Who hates cookies? It's like saying you hate butterflies and sunshine and *$#&^@# unicorns.

And of course, I've been telling everyone for weeks that I'm going the Full Martha this year with my cookie recipe and baking Maple Pecan Shortbreads out of her new Cookies cookbook. I promised everyone in the office that there would be no cookies sliced from a pre-made roll or broken from a sheet of perforated squares, which is my usual M.O. Oh no! This year my cookies will be homemade with luuuurve. Accept no substitutes.

What Maple Pecan Shortbread cookies are supposed to look like.

Then last night, as I'm looking at the recipe I'm thinking "Holy *&%$! This is waaaay more involved than I thought it was. Sift the flour? Do I need a special piece of machinery for that? What the &*$* is Tubinado sugar? A cookie cutter. I need a cookie cutter for this? Can't I just roll them up in little balls and plop them on the sheet? Parchment paper. What the *&$$# is that? Can you buy that in the store, or do I have to find a really old book and start ripping pages out?"

It was also unfortunate that I didn't do the math on how many batches it was actually going to take to give everyone in our department at least four cookies. I didn't want to be chintzy and only give two or three. That's not in the spirit of Christmas.

I would need six dozen cookies. I had one cookie sheet big enough to hold a dozen cookies + time to bake + mixing up the batter + the time the dough needed to chill in the fridge... sweetbabyJebusinaninjasuit! I was going to be baking cookies until 3 AM!

But I couldn't go back on my promise of making, with my own two hands, Martha's Maple Pecan Shortbread. Not only would reneging at the last minute suck, but I would be the subject of office ridicule until next Christmas.

By the time I was finished, I was so sick of the smell of cookies the thought of eating one made me feel nauseous. I hope all the animosity I was feeling doesn't make that last 3AM batch taste bad. "I'd like a side of cookies, hold the luuuuurve."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oy With the Resolutions!!

As the old year comes to a close, I start getting the itch/compulsion to create a list of New Year's Resolutions. I don't know why I torture myself this way. Most of the time all the Resolutions do is make me feel like a complete failure in December of the following year when I look back and realize that 1.) I didn't lost weight AGAIN, 2.) I didn't write the great American novel, 3.) I haven't won Powerball.

There are always a few successes, though not as many as I would like, on the list. In 2010 I did, against all odds and with about $10 emergency cash in my pocket, manage to go to Journalfest this year. I did read a book a week. I did attend another 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat and observe Noble Silence the whole time.  I did start a blog. I did purchase a Kindle. I did open a savings account. There isn't anything in it, but still...

I guess that's not too bad. There was that Harvard study that indicated that people who wrote down their goals were typically much more successful than those who didn't write them down or didn't have any goals at all. And Harvard is the modern equivalent of the Oracle of Delphi, right? If Harvard shows it in a study then it's got to be true.

(The name for my next pet = Harvard.)

Maybe it's all in the semantics. To invoke the magic of The Harvard, I should rename my New Year's Resolutions, Holly's Fo' Sho' Goals of 2011. Here goes.

2011 Fo' Sho' Goals

1. FINISH THE HOUSE - That's the big one. The kitchen cabinets were pushed back to Jan. 26th, but I'm not going to let that get me down. If I do a little bit every day, and hammer and tongs on the weekends it should be completed by Feb.

2. Put up a chain link fence around the backyard so that Beckett can go outside at the new house without becoming a cat-snack for local coyotes or cat-pizza on the road.

3. Move into the house.

4. Make a microloan through Kiva every month.

5. Read a book a week.

6. Watch less TV. (Even though I luuuurve TV, my mother was right - it really does rot your brain.)

7. Swear less. (Man, this is going to cut my current vocabulary in half. I'll be reduced to using clicks, growls and burps to communicate.)

8. Complete *&#%^$! Nanowrimo.

9. Meditate four days a week.

10. Go on a meditation retreat.

11. Lose 20 pounds.

12. Attend Journalfest 2011.

13. Dematerialize. (Not in the Star Trek manner, but as in getting rid of excess possessions.)

14. Save $1 a day.

15. Fast one day a week. (Mondays pretty much suck anyway, so why not?)

16. Make a smaller ecological footprint.

17. Post on my blog at least twice a week.

18. Find a way(s) to give back.

19. Visit friends in Colorado.

20. Create every day.

How about you? What's are your Fo'Sho' Goals for next year?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Portait of Old Bearded Dude in PanPastels

I'm sort of a newbie to the whole "art scene" and I haven't had much experience working in different mediums outside of a little bit of watercolor, pen and Copic marker. In October I attended Journalfest, a four day art journaling retreat at Fort Worden in  Port Townsend, Washington. (I cannot recommend this retreat highly enough. It was an one of the more amazing artistic experiences I've had, but that is a subject for a whole other post.) In the three days of classes with various instructors, I had a chance to experiment with other medium and I fell in luuuurve with PanPastels.

On My X-mas Wish List

Up until then, I hadn't been a big fan of pastels. I didn't like the dust, the muss, the lack of detail (probably a lack of skill on my part). But I got a chance to use a brand called PanPastels in two of the classes and was immediately captivated. The big difference between regular stick pastels and PanPastels, is that PanPastels come in a pan. Go figure. They blend and apply like paint, and they're super soft, almost creamy to the touch, but I've found they are less likely to smear once they're down on the paper. (You still have to use fixative though.) They also erase very cleanly.

The downside is the cost - which seems pricey to me. But then so are Copic  markers. The manufacturer claims that PanPastels last a lot longer though, so the price is justifiable. I received a full-sized freebie in my Journalfest swag bag (SCORE!), and I ordered a set of 10 paint colors online as an early Christmas present to myself. I don't use the fancy applicators. I mostly use my fingers, which is waaaay more fun.

Here's a portrait I did using the PanPastels, my fingers, and a pencil erasure.

The Old Bearded Dude - I Call Him Mr. Wisenheimer

Someone looked over my shoulder as I was working and said, "Very German Impressionist". My intelligent response: "Uhhh... what's that?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stairway to Heaven - The Saga Continues

Over the weekend, I got the stairs put in. Mostly. The hard parts, anyway. I now owe my sister and brother-in-law the equivalent of 143.7 years worth of babysitting duty for their assistance - which they will never let me repay, of course, because they are FREAKIN' AWESOME.

Second Floor Landing
Thank God for Joel and his instinctive knowledge of how things are supposed to be assembled and his innate Type-A need for everything to be perfect (which in most people is a trait that makes me inexplecably want to punch them in the head), otherwise I would be living my entire life on the first floor and trying to bathe out of a tiny sink in the downstairs bathroom. I helped out with the assembly where I could - tightened bolts, held posts, measured and assembled the spindles, general step and fetch, etc. - but these stairs were a multiple person project. Did I mention that I owe everyone who helped (including my 6 year old nephew who  kept me amused by dashing in and out of the house wearing various tools and cardboard boxes on his head and yelling "Come on! Let's go play!") a debt that can never be repaid?

Now all that needs to be done is installation of the handrail and the metal barrier upstairs that will keep me from falling off the landing in the middle of the night (see: photo above) and the oak landing and treads. NO MORE LADDER! Which decreases by 50% the likelihood that I become one of the statistics of people who are killed in household accidents.

Vertigo Much?

Don't worry, the stairs aren't crooked. It's my camera angle.

The last big project on the list is the kitchen. I ordered my cabinets on Sunday and they should be ready for installation on Jan. 10th-ish. I'm almost there! Soon my tiny Tumbleweed house and I will be united and remain together forever. And I do mean FOR. EH. VER. After everything I've been through to build this house over the last year and a half, when I die I have requested in my will that the house be burned down around me, a-la Viking funeral pyre.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, where I purchased my plans, specializes in very small (microhomes by American standards), very efficient houses. They run from the XS at 65sq. ft., up to the B-53, which is the house plan I purchased, at 874 sq. ft. Once the customizations that I wanted were in place, my house is just barely over 1,000 sq. ft. I probably would've gone smaller and built the Harbinger instead if there had been enough room for all my books. If you're interested in your own Tumbleweed home, check out their website here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday - Mr. Toast's Creative Tuesdays

Here's my first submission to Mr. Toast's Creative Tuesdays. The theme was "Holiday".

Initially I did the Santa as a blind drawing from memory, which means I put my pen on the paper and, while gazing out the window, put a general shape down without looking at what I was drawing. I went back touched up and filled in a bit with a black Sharpie pen and put in the lettering. Then using Copic markers and a white paint Sharpie, I went back and added the color. It's a mini; a 3.5"x4.75" on watercolor paper.

I like the innocent, whimsical nature the blind drawings have. If you have a hard time getting started on a big scary blank page, using the "blind" technique and a tiny canvas alleviates the pressure of possibly screwing things up beyond repair. Then if it turns out like crap you can always say "Well, what do you expect when you can't look at what you're doing?" and toss it in the garbage without any guilt.

Check out Mr. Toast's blog, Hot Toast and Jam, here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review - Unseen Academicals

Terry Pratchett is a genius.

He has for the better part of 30 years been the sole inhabitant of the Humorous Satirical Fantasy subgenre. For a population of one, he hasn't done too bad for himself. He has a truly unique vision. Yes, the Discworld is populated by witches and wizards, life and DEATH struggles, battles between questionably good, the uncertainly evil, and the hilariously neutral - but his books are unlike anything you have ever read before or will ever read again. Every book is a crazy, hilarious ride that I hope never ends, but unfortunately after approximately 430 pages it does. Damn.

Unseen Academicals takes place in one of my favorite Discworld settings, the Unseen University in the city of Ankh-Morpork, and tackles (HA!) the subject of foot-the-ball. I believe his portrayal of foot-the-ball's rough, almost criminal beginnings, the rabid fanatics, the madness of the crowd, the willingness of the players to risk life and limb, is spot-on for the modern day game despite the strangeness of the fantasy setting. It doesn't get more strange than a flat world carried on the back of four elephants supported on the shell of the world turtle, Great A'Tuin, who swims through space.

Unless you are a Sooner fan or a Cowboys fan here in Oklahoma during something they call "bedlam".

Personally, I loathe foot-the-ball, soccer, football, or whatever it's called where you live. I don't know anything about any of it and I don't have any desire to learn. I buy a square in the company football pool every week and I have to trust that my co-workers are going to tell me if I won. Considering I have yet to win any money at all in four years, I'm beginning to think they are taking advantage of my ignorance and splitting my money between them.

During the last football game I watched over at a friend's house - one of the four games I can say I've watched from beginning to end - I was quoted as saying "Oh dear, someone dropped their yellow hankie on the field." I wasn't invited back, but I'm convinced I'm not really missing anything.

That is until I realized that foot-the-ball can be played with a team of wizards and an orangutan, coached by a goblin and refereed by the Archchancellor of the University who is possessed by the shade of Evan the Striped (every child's nightmare gym teacher) whenever he uses the whistle and begins screaming phrases like "ANY BOY HERE WHO HAS NOT BOUGHT HIS KIT WILL PLAY IN HIS UNDERPANTS!"

Now THAT is a game I could get in to.

2011 E-book Challenge

Since I Heart My Kindle and I read most of my book club selections with it, I should be a shoo-in for the "Obsessed" category. Check out the guidelines and sign-up for the challenge here.

I've already picked out several books:

1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiquro
2. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
3. Beatrix Potter: A Life In Nature by Linda Lear
4.  Bright of the Sky by Kaye Kenyon
5. A Dead Man's Tale by James D. Doss
6. The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
7. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Of course, any or all of these selections are subject to change depending on my mood, caffeine levels, or direction of the wind. Except for #1, which is a definite because it's a book club pick for January.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holly House

Here's a picture of Holly House. The photo is a couple of months old (note the surroundings are actually green) and I've added side porch railings since this picture was taken.

I unpackaged my stairs last night, sat the components out on some mats to keep from scuffing the floor, and made sure all the parts were accounted for. Everything was there, thank goodness. It was a sunuvabitch to unload off the semi, so I would've hated to have to return it. It doesn't look like much now, but eventually this junk will be a beautiful spiral staircase.

I will have to paint the metal staircase and stain and polyurethane the wooden treads so they match the rest of the wood floors, but that's small stuff. Once it's installed at least I will have access to the upstairs that doesn't require me shimmying up a precariously positioned ladder like a monkey. Because, unlike a wee monkey, I am not quick and agile. Before several cups of A.M. coffee I can barely remember my name, much less remember not to step out into the void of the stairwell when there aren't any stairs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

YAR!!! The long awaited, anxiously anticipated spiral stairs arrived via semi-truck this afternoon. I am one step (actually, it would be 14 steps) closer to moving into my house. The contractor came to measure for the kitchen today as well. The kitchen and the stairs are the last two major items before I would be able to move into a fully functional house.

Of course, there are a lot of cosmetic bits that will need to be done, dings to be patched, paint to touch up, furniture to be purchased, etc., but those are items that can be done along the way. AFTER I'm in.

This house might finally happen, and I might actually retain my sanity. That's a big might. The stairs still have to be installed. If I can manage to get through that without throwing myself or anyone else through a second floor window, everything else will be easy-peasy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two of My Favorite Things - Together at Last!

Like peanut butter and pickles, blue moon and a slice of orange, jalapenos and popcorn (that one's for you Brian), finally two of my favorite things have come together in one fabulous Spielbergian package...


Watch the Trailer

Not to mention the presence of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford on the same silver screen rates high on my dream combo scale - right under Dr. Tran and that voiceover guy.

Dr. Tran - He's a REAL Doctor

Corny, you say? Hokey, perhaps? Yeah, well, when the movie comes out and everyone is like "HELLS yeah!" I will say "Hey, remember when you scorned the subject? You said, 'Bah! (you will actually have said the word 'bah!' which in itself is a crime.) Cowboys and aliens? Are you kidding? That's the most ridiculous idea for a movie I have ever heard!' Remember when you said that?" Then the crowd will turn on you and proceed to mock you unmercifully until you cry like a baby. Daniel Craig will personally pen you a scathing note. Harrison Ford will probably be his usual grumpy, crusty self, so how can you ever tell when he is upset with you, but oh, you will know. You. Will. Know.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Movie - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

I went with several friends to the Warren Theater (or maybe it's TheatRE, I'm not certain) to see Harry Potter on opening night last Friday.

As I climb into the confessional, you should know that I have not read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows since purchasing it at 12:02AM at the Border Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado, on the day of its official release many years ago. After roughly elbowing aside the costumed tweens standing between me and the register I paid for my book, went home, called in sick to work, and began reading at a pace which allowed for absolutely no retention of the material until I, bleary-eyed and slightly nauseous, had blasted through to the final page. Then I had a nice cry and stumbled to bed to sleep for the following 13.5 hours.

I hardly retained anything beyond who lived and died in the final battle and who got married in the epilogue. The movie was all new information to me, full of "Oh, yeah, now I remember that!" moments.

Dude, I can't even remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Cut me some slack.

Realizing that this movie is set up for the final installment, I don't have any major gripes. Maybe when I re-read the book I will. My only issue - and it is minor - was with the use of animation to tell the mythology of the Deathly Hallows. The animation itself was beautifully done, very Tim Burton-esque, but totally inconsistent with the remainder of the movie and previous six HP movies - none of which contained any animated scenes. (Of course, I'm not counting CGI as animation.) It felt as though the scene had been filmed previously in some other fashion, but when it went to editing, the original scene got cut. Needing a quick fix and relatively inexpensive solution, they inserted the animated storyline at the last moment.

The Potterverse characters are wizards, right? Couldn't the wizard retelling the story have animated it for their audience (Harry, Hermione, Ron)? Or shown it through the moving pictures in the book? Or crafted it in a bowl of ink, or a magic mirror, or shadows cast on a wall? There were countless options that could have been used to incorporate the necessary plot element into the movie without taking us out of the scene to do it.

The best part... sitting in the balcony above the common riffraff, indulging in alcoholic beverages, and toasting my heinie in the heated movie seats while watching the film with friends. It's the only way to fly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nanowrimo - The Breakup

I am thinking about breaking up with Nano. He's just too controlling. It's only week three in our relationship and he's already demanding that I spend all of my spare time with him. I'm working my fingers to the bone to make him happy, but it's never enough. I want time to make art and watch Supernatural while simultaneously texting my friend Brian to debate "Good Vs. Evil Sam" and put my new desk together and finish my house. But I can't because Nano's needs come first.

And what is he doing for me in return? Nothing, unless you count stressing me out. It may be best if I write him 1,667 word "Dear John" letter explaining why I'm leaving.

I'm fairly certain his sneering reaction will be to wave the letter under my nose and say, "Seriously? Why did you waste your time writing this garbage? You can't break up with me! I won't leave until you have 50,000 words! Did you post your word count today?"

In my head, Nano looks very much like Chris Baty's evil twin. (You would never be able to tell them apart except for some reason Nano has a pencil thin mustache which he drew on with a Sharpie. Hey, this scenario is in my head, I can do what I want.) In the beginning, I had such a nerdy crush on him, but I'm afraid that the honeymoon is officially over.

Sweet baby Jesus in a ninja suit, how I hate week three of National Novel Writing Month (Nano for short). The goal is to have 50,000 words by the end of November. At last count, I am approximately 16,000 words behind.

It doesn't help that I'm a "pantser" this year - as in "flying by the seat of". I didn't plan. I didn't plot. I didn't have names for my characters. I didn't think about anything past the first scene, which is, if I may say so, fabulous, though there has been an alarming decline in quality since then.

Ooo. I'm going to name my antagonist Nano Whymo.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Sketchbook Project

Art House Co-op started with the idea of bringing art to the masses by creating "massive, international art projects that tie thousands of artists together - and anyone can participate."

Not that they're ambitious or anything.

Their most popular project is The Sketchbook Project. Participants sign up, select their theme (or roll the dice and have a theme assigned to them), pay their $25, and are given a Moleskine (my favorite!) Cahier sketchbook and a deadline. Participants take their notebook and assigned theme and create an artistic masterpiece using whatever medium, creative juices, and flattened muses they wish - as long as it fits in the sketchbook.

Completed sketchbooks must be postmarked by Jan. 15th, 2011, and sent back to them. Then in March the sketchbooks go on tour to be exhibited in galleries and museums all over the country. "It's like a concert tour, but with sketchbooks." When tour is complete, they go into the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library where they can be checked out to the public. Brilliant, right?

While I was out of town, I missed the Oct. 31st deadline to sign up for this year, but due to overwhelming demand they extended the deadline until Nov. 15th. YAY!! I signed up today and will hopefully have the sketchbook in hand within the week. My theme: "This is not a sketchbook". I debated between that and "A record year for rainfall", "And then there were none", and "happy thoughts". I might still do a happy thoughts page in my sketchbook because I did a neato piece on that subject using some hand-carved stamps.

I can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dick Blick

Before you get all excited people, it's a site for art supplies. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I just want to mention how great Dick Blick's is. Yes, they screwed up my order. Instead of the Copic Sketch marker in Black that I ordered I received the Copic Sketch marker in Tahitian Blue. Black, blue... they both start with "bluh". I could see where a mix up might occur.

The point is, I called the 1-800 customer service number to report the mix up and they were awesome. The lady that fielded my call was extremely nice to me and apologized several times for the mixup. Now, not only am I getting my Bluhack marker, but I get to keep the Tahitian Bluhew as well.

You'd be excited too if you knew how frickin' expensive these things are at the local Hobby Lobby.

As I got ready to hang up she said, "Now go make something beautiful with that Tahitian Blue marker."
Oh, I will DickBlickOutstandingCustomerServiceLadyoftheYear. I will.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Peer Pressure - A Victim's Perspective

Okay. I did it. I caved in to the pressure like a bad souffle, and I am not above blaming it on my friends.

I've started a blog.

And here's where my voice starts to take on a highly annoying, whiny tone... everyone else had one and I was starting to feel left out.

As soon as I typed that previous sentence I heard my mother's voice in my head pose the familiar, age-old question, "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?" The answer to that is obviously, "Yes. Yes, I would. I would cast my self willingly into the void like the lemming that I obviously am."

At the last BookBabes gathering I was the only one who didn't have some sort of bloggery presence online. One individual, who shall remain nameless, had her beautifully customized blog for over a year and had yet to write a single post. But at least she had one. As everyone was exchanging URLs, I felt distinctly left out of the inner blogging circle.

"I have 51 followers now, all of whom think I am brilliant and witty," said one of the Babes, as she knocked back a stiff belt of wine. "They leave me comments and wonderful words of praise."

Well, damn. I had to have some of that. It sounded about as close to having minions/ worshippers as I'm liable to get.

There is a certain amount of pressure to perform, however, that comes with establishing a blog. There is an expectation that I must do something worthy of writing about in order to justify my narcissistic activity. I feel like I need to lead a much more interesting life in order to keep the followers coming to place their lavish gifts at the foot(er) of my blog/altar. I want to be one of those benevolent bloggers who showers their followers with hilarity and wisdom. Given the kind of life I lead though, unintentional hilarity is likely to ensue, but I can't promise anything that even vaguely resembles wisdom, unless it's the please-learn-from-the-following-painful-mistakes-I-have-made variety.

Having been on the follower/friend end of the issue, I also am fully aware of what it is like to receive too much information. I love some of these same people to the point of distraction, but, seriously, I DO NOT NEED TO KNOWexactly when, where, how, why and what bodily functions are performed every time they go to the loo. Shit happens. I get it. I love you, but it's fine if I don't know certain things. We're still friends, I promise.

To spare my followers (the number I expect to reach triple digits aaaany second now) a torturous litany of stream of consciousness blather and loo status reports broadcast like it's important news from the front, I swear, if it comes to that, I will willingly cast my blog into the void.