Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - The Tenth Anniversary - A Mirror of Time

No picture, today. If you really need to see one, they're all over the net and my pictures are in my heart. At first, I didn't want to write about that day but came to realize that it's a catharsis of sorts and sharing could help. Is there anybody who doesn't know what they were doing on 9/11/2001? I'm sure there are some, but most of us do.
For me, it was just another Tuesday and I was at league bowling. Our lanes have televisions just above the bowlers' section for folks to follow special events and to entertain non-bowlers. You can't miss them. Even if it's your turn to bowl. They're right there, in front of you, until you've entered your approach. Some of us saw what looked like a movie of the first tower being hit and couldn't believe it was real. But, then, we stopped talking to focus on what we now realized was a real broadcast with newscasters who, themselves, were very much in shock. Something was very wrong. They were looping a replay of an airplane flying into the first tower and we had just about decided that it was just a tragic accident when they switched back to live TV and we watched a second plane intentionally strike the second tower; and our lives changed.

We all felt the shock -- the anger -- no, the rage. How dare they, whoever they were? Was this just the start of -- what? Were there more assaults on the way? And, then, I remembered that my daughter was attending her very first business travel meeting in New York -- in one of the Towers, and I couldn't remember the time...

At 9:33a.m. the owner of the bowling alley told me that I had a phone call and I could use the phone at the desk. I was so confused, I couldn't imagine who would be calling me. I was one of the lucky ones, that day. It was my daughter. They had actually met the afternoon before, but were trying to get to a morning flight at the airport when the attack happened and, instead, their entire group was rerouted and driven to New Jersey to meet cars that would be driving them back to NC. She just knew that she had told me they were meeting in the Twin Towers and wanted me to know that she was safe and would be home in a day, or so. It was then I started trembling. She was all I had left in my little family and the full impact of the horror of the attack and the possibility of losing her began to assault my system, and I couldn't stop shaking. I was not alone. We all had to sit for awhile before we finished our bowling with very little talking. None of us played anywhere near our usual game. We just wanted it over so we could get home and make sure all our loved ones were safe. Shortly after her call, most of the phone lines to NYC were jammed or no longer working in that area and I sympathized with those who had to wait for news.

Watching so many families in pain, posting photos of their missing, realizing husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, would not be coming home, made my moment seem so insignificant by comparison. And, yet, it struck me to the core. These are the times when we want the comfort of family around us, where we want to be able to count every loved head in our world and can't rest until we know for sure that they are safe.

As we all know, the news didn't get any better, that day, as more reports came in from other attack sites. We felt the fear of what would be next? how were we going to get even? Where would the next attack be? We discovered heroes within the chaos. It was a terrible time and we were all hungry for retaliatory blood. I discovered that I'm really not a nice person, after all. I don't think vicious, cruel, arrogant, self-entitled people (regardless of how much money they have) should be allowed to do what they want, simply because they can. Ossama didn't care about the people working in the towers who came from all over the world and I wanted our guys to bomb that mountain where he was hiding. I still do.

We've lost too many more of our fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, so that we could fight a nice clean war (What the hell is that?!?) because we're good people. Well, all of America is, except me. They hid that man who killed so many. They knew where he was and did nothing. In my mind, that's the enemy. I didn't like what the mirror showed me of myself, then, and wish I could change. My heart just isn't big enough. And, should the unthinkable (well, thanks to OBL, we can't say that, anymore) happen, again, my feelings would be the same.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Crocheted Billfold Purse and Coin Holder

I was doing my thing at Midtown market two weeks ago and a young woman stopped by my cotton dishcloth exhibit. (Don't you just love how this generation has discovered and fallen in love with our old-fashioned dishcloths... They work great on ceramic stove tops, by the way.) She fell in love with the only thread combination I don't care for but she didn't want the dishcloth -- she wanted me to make her a "billfold" lined purse with a zipper.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with this color combination. I'm just a softer beige-type person or blues and greens for kitchens. I told her I would be more than happy to try my hand at it and she would be able to pick it up in two weeks, when I returned to the market.

The exchange was almost done when, giving her change from her deposit, she noticed my personal coin purse and asked if I would make her one of those, as well. Oh, yes! We agreed on the price and I began my design. The fun part was finding just the right perky inside lining material.

This is the result. 

I think she's going to like it because my sister wanted one, also, as soon as I was finished. Now, I know what to do for my granddaughters. The larger purse is meant to be folded over, as well, and then held with the loop and button closure. A strap could be added, too. I suppose; but, we didn't discuss it.

 It was fun to do but I'm not sure I want to add this to my crafting chores. Will have to think about it. What do you think?  But, since I know I'll be doing them, again, will be sharing these with friends at It's a Keeper Thursday: Recipe & Project Linky.  Pop over and check out all the great recipes and projects others have shared and -- why don't you add your own!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

From Pretzel Container to Yarn Carrier

 Look what I did! If you follow my other blog, Solar Cooking for Mainstream Cooks, you know that I started taking part in the Saturday morning Farmers Market at North Hills in Raleigh. Well, even though I would love to say I'm overwhelmed with visitors, the truth is that there's time to work on some easy crafts while waiting for the next group. That means projects that can be put down to greet new people, give them total attention, and not worry about losing stitches or where to lay my project. Knitting and crocheting work best, for me, but my knitting carrier was too big for my purpose. What I needed was something to contain the yarn and let it unravel as needed, not take up much room and be light. To help me focus, I was nibbling on pretzels from this gallon container, and fueled with sustenance from the last pretzel, it was but moments when I cried, "Eureka! [Cue: Lightning. Flashbulbs (for my Brownie). Fireworks. The Ascension...] Why not make my own carrier, using this very empty container?"  It's so much easier to be creative on a full stomach; don't you think? 

Grabbing my size H crochet hook and one 2.5oz ball of Peaches N Cream 100% cotton thread, I set to work. End result? A light as a feather portable yarn container that will hold a large ball of yarn that unravels without tangling, with plenty of room to hold my small projects, too. I purposely did not create a hole through the cap because the shoulders of the container prevent the yarn ball from popping out and the cap keeps everything dust free and clean. Best of all, I've saved money, too! The downside: I'm going to have to get some more pretzels...

Gallon Jar Crocheted Cover
Using crochet hook H, I started with a ch 6 circle, then, 12 dc in circle. Row 2: Ch 2, (2 dcs in each dc)* 12 times; sl st in first dc (24 sts).  Row 3: Ch 2, 2 dc in each dc, sl st in first dc (48 sts). Row 4: Ch 2, (dc in next 5 dcs, 2 dcs in next dc) 8 times, increasing to 56 sts, sl st in first dc. Row 5: Ch 3, tc in back loop of each dc, sl st in first tc. Rows 6 thru 8, dc in each tc, sl st to first dc.  Row 9 thru 17: Ch 3, sk next dc, (dc in next dc, ch 1)*, sl st in first dc. (filet stitches). Put jar in in cover, gently working it to fit. Row 18: Ch 2, dc in each dc, reducing to 48 sts evenly around, sl st in first dc. Bind off.  Create handle: (SC 7 stitches, ch 1, turn), to create any length handle. Attach with yarn needle to opposite sides of container.

OR, you can do as I did and do this tricky thing. Do not bind off, but turn piece and (sc in next 7 stitches, ch 1, turn) for as many rows as you want for handle length. Cut long tail and, using yarn needle, attach to opposite side of jar.

I'll hope you'll try this for yourself and then share with all of us. Just as I've shared it with the It's A Keeper Thursday folks.   

Sunday, July 10, 2011

5 Suggestions for Craft Show Designated Sales Killers, er, Shoppers

Getting Ready for the Visitors
Don't you just love craft shows and street markets? To me, discovering new creative talent in your area and developing a relationship with local produce growers helps to enlarge your sense of community. But I do wonder if you ever think how every purchase you make is helping that local family earn a living?

Even small crafters who decide they are ready to sell their handcrafted items hope to either add a little income to the family coffers or, at least, to recoup the cost of supplies. You will seldom find poorly handmade items at a craft fair. (Unlike a Flea Market with a full spectrum of items from used to the latest neon bracelets.) What you will find is pride of workmanship and fair prices for truly unique items.

But, there's a down side to these open-air markets, too. The simple act of walking through so many booths and getting to know the regular vendors can create a subtle change in the shoppers. It's somewhere along the lines of 'you're never a prophet in your own home town' thinking -- behavior that almost never occurs in a bricks-and-mortar store with bar code pricing on every item. People who don't think twice about buying an item as-is off the shelf have no problem finding fault at a crafter's booth where meticulous care has been given to ensure quality workmanship for the buyer.

I've exhibited throughout the years at many different venues, so I think I can speak from not only my experience but that of my fellow crafters when wondering why some people seem to go out of their way to make remarks that will kill any sales for that vendor. Even though it's not a bricks-and-mortar building, a craft/food booth is, in fact, a business. The items may be limited to a particular craft; i.e., candles, handbags, pet products, etc., but great care has been given to making and/or selecting the best quality and ingredients. These are not people who have decided to have a fundraiser, accepting all donated hand-crafted items regardless of skill but businesses that require quality inventory for year-in year-out showings and sales. Just like their big brother department stores, this is how the vendor makes money and pays for the space, licenses, and taxes, to stay in business. For what it's worth, here are some suggestions for visitors/shoppers when at a craft show or street market.

Please wear your Designated Sale Killer button for identification when:

1. Stopping your friend from buying what they want.

When your friend picks up an item, it's because they're interested. Let them decide whether to buy it or not. This isn't about what you like; it's what they want. If you really don't like the item, take them away from the booth before you start tearing it down. More importantly, if you have not been specifically asked to prevent them from spending their money, don't kill the crafters potential sale because you're not interested.

2. Dismissing the item because you've seen a pattern and can make it, yourself.

We are a nation of crafters. It's in our nature to create beautiful things out of nothing. And, we like to try our hand at different crafts. The majority of craft fair boards have a creative standard that must be met before vendors are accepted as exhibitors. Please don't pick up an item and tell your friend not to bother with it because you or she can make it, at home. There's no doubt you probably could; but, chances are, you won't. It takes time, money, inventory, and dedication to bring a product to the sales table, and most home-made items won't match up to the crafter who does it for a living.  

3. Turning a swan into a duck (Not that there's anything wrong with ducks...)

There is nothing new under the sun -- only variations of all that has gone before. Please don't pick up an item that reminds you of something and diminish it in front of the crafter by saying, "oh, yeah, we did that at Camp" or "I've seen this done with styrofoam and cardboard tissue rolls."  You probably did something close to it in a very limited way with the cheapest possible supplies. The crafter has chosen materials to create a quality item and doesn't deserve your offhanded put down. Of course, if you did do it exactly the same way as the crafter, that's one thing; but, if it isn't, try to think before you speak. Someone else may be listening to you and decide not to buy the product because you've reduced it to child's play.

4. Expecting commercial packaging for handcrafted items. 

You're at a craft fair of handmade items; you're not in Macy's. Commercial packaging isn't cheap and the cost would have to be added to the sales price. Handcrafters produce items that cannot be found all over the country in department stores, unless it turns into something phenomenal like a Pet Rock and demand goes sky high. You will find some crafters who often create unique tags and packaging for their items; but, it's not the general rule. Accept the item in its plastic or brown bag or pay for that special packaging, if it's available -- but, don't expect to get it for nothing. 

5. Monopolizing a vendor friend.

While you may be out enjoying your day at the local Craft Fair or Farmer's Market, please keep in mind that, if your friend happens to be a vendor at same, they are at work. It's wonderful to stop by and say hello but don't monopolize, hang out, or, use the vendor's tables for your own personal items. Customers don't like to interrupt conversations or enter booths they feel have become 'private' and will leave for more open shops. This is also not the time to be making smart-alecky remarks about any of your friend's crafts to customers, like, "oh, I see you've made use of your mother's old chenille bedspread," thinking you're being funny. 

When setting up and breaking down, the vendors talk to each other and, of course, what happened during the day gets discussed. These were the most frequent problems they encountered and wished someone would say something. I don't believe any of the above behavior is done with the thought of killing someone's sale but, unfortunately, the end result is the same. Craft fair behavior is nothing more than common sense and, "Do Unto Others..."  Give vendors the same respect you would expect and make it a successful day for everyone. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Big Brother and Hair Police Mean Business on Lee-Jackson Day 1984

This is me in my new used 454 Chevrolet truck (with camper) on Lee-Jackson Day.
It is January 15, 1984, on a cold and icy road.
I am returning from having dropped off my daughter at her high school.
She missed the bus. I have to be at trial by ten a.m.
I threw on clothes but left very LARGE rollers in my hair.
There is but one road to travel to the school and back to my farm.
As I round the bend...

I'm in surround sound: STOP THE TRUCK! NOW! DO NOT MOVE!
Trooper edges toward my door with gun drawn.
I profusely apologize for rollers in my hair.
Explained I'm new to the area and didn't know the rules of the county.
(Should have used empty tomato sauce cans.)
Trooper realizes error and apologizes.
Explains that surveillance (Big Brother) saw me, earlier.
Headquarters was alerted and armed officers dispatched, post haste.
Seems there's an escaped convict who shares my taste in Chevy trucks.
Trooper becomes nicer but I am, again, told: DO NOT MOVE!
His officers are too far away to see that I'm pure as the driven snow. (blush!)
Asks for registration. I reach over to get my ... "PLEASE, DO NOT MOVE, MA'AM!"
I tell him it's in the glove compartment. He says he'll get it.
Until I'm cleared, guns are still on target -- ME!
I pass and he signals for the Firing Squad to lower their rifles.
It is then that I ask for his name and mention I'm late for court.
Now, I have HIS attention.
With a smile and a, "Sorry for the inconvenience, Ma'am," we part friends.
Rush home; remove curlers; head to court.
It's Lee-Jackson Day. There is no court.
But, my hair looked great!

Moral of story: Life won't happen to you, unless you go out to meet it. Selah. 
This has been linked to Things I Can't Say, too. So, hop on over and visit and meet some new friends

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Being Too Comfortable Isn't Necessarily a Good Thing

I can understand people wanting to be as comfortable as possible when having to wait for an appointment. I, too, like to be as comfortable as the next person when I'm in a waiting room; but; there are limits, don't you think? Take yesterday, for example. While waiting my turn in one of the few available seats in the emergency room, I found myself a captive audience to the young woman seated opposite, who apparently has a more cavalier view of personal comfort in public.

Probably in her early 20s, her sense of entitlement went beyond the pale. With hip-high jeans and a cropped shirt, her excess flesh between kind of splayed wherever because she was using the chair as a lounge, legs apart, and had moved forward enough to rest her head on the very low backrest of the chair. So, what's wrong with that, you want to know?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Finally, My DIY Kitchen Island for Under $140!

I've been a little busy of late trying to finish up my DIY project. Isn't it pretty? If you want to know how I did it with a flea market find, a pre-sanded wood panel, and some counter top paint, check it out on my other blog, Mainstream Solar Cooking. This solid oak item was actually closer to a credenza than a dresser, since it has shelves in the bottom section; but, an actual six-drawer dresser would work just as well. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Royal Gorge Holiday Creates Royal Fright and Mutism

From Wikipedia: The Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the Arkansas) is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of 50 feet (15 m) at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet (380 m) in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. Hop the train for a 24-mile round-trip within the canyon and see everything first hand. Here is where you'll find the incredible history of this great Colorado attraction.

royal - adjective - one of three definitions: a : of superior size, magnitude, or quality <a patronage of royal dimensions — J. H. Plumb> —often used as an intensive <a royal pain> 

The scene is set:
Memorial Day Weekend - 1971

My little family drove cross-country for a Western tour to visit my brother-in-law and his wife living in Colorado Springs and then on to California to visit my childhood friend and her husband to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. We hadn't seen each other since we were young girls of 11, although we wrote to each other every other week (back in the days of hand-written letters!).  We planned on visiting as many local attractions as time would allow along the way and Santa's "North Pole" Workshop located at the base of Pike's Peak in Cascade, CO was going to be a special treat for my girls. (Well, us, too, but we were grown-ups and couldn't really admit that we wanted to see the Workshop, too! And, of course, we signed up for a Letter from Santa that the girls would receive in December!) It was my brother-in-law's idea that we also visit Royal Gorge, a tourist attraction that was very different from the entertainment park you see, today. But, this scene is pretty close to the 1,250 feet of space that you would see, if you bent over the parapet at the end of what was a dirt and stone road on the mountain side opposite the train ride. That's what it was -- no buildings, no market, no bathrooms -- nothing but a parapet just under the height of a 3-1/2-year old child.
Since my husband really wanted to visit with his brother and didn't particularly care to spend too much time on the parapet, we divided parent-care duties. He was off to the side next to the car with his brother and my youngest; I had my 5-1/2 year-old in hand as we looked out at the cable car suspended over the Gorge. We could also see the train beginning it's ascent on the opposite wall.
My daughter and I  both decided we preferred standing on old terra firma as the best way to enjoy this incredible view. It was a gorgeous day and we also chatted a bit with the two or three other families next to us. Precise timing is lost but the numbness, the tremors, and all the horror of that day is as real to me, now, as it was then.

My oldest and I were just talking about who-knows-what, but chat we did, until I felt the pounding fill my body and heard the very soft voice telling me to turn around. Never letting go of my daughter's hand, I pivoted just enough to look toward my husband and his brother and my youngest -- No, I wasn't seeing my youngest daughter, at all! Nowhere! He was busily discussing whatever it is brother's busily discuss but my baby wasn't anywhere to be seen! I couldn't breathe. I couldn't cry out. My mouth went tight and my eyes begin to fill with tears. Where was she? Why are they chatting and laughing? He was supposed to be holding her hand! Where could she be? Where -- oh, shit! those are her -- her FINGERTIPS on the other side of the parapet wall near them! Oh, shit. Oh, damn. Oh, hell. Oh. My. GOD!! I'm screaming inside my head!

I don't know how the next happened, but you will never convince me I don't have a Guardian Angel -- don't even try.  Somehow, I leaned down to my oldest and quietly told her to run to her father -- NOW! I then moved as quickly as I possibly could over to my baby's fingertips. I looked over the parapet to the site you see above, except now you have to image a chubby little 3-1/2-year-old toddler, face flat against the stones, feet dangling above a whole lot of nothing but 1,250 feet of empty space beneath her! Can you do that?

Somewhere buried in my subconscious (my Guardian Angel) was the knowledge that I couldn't show panic. Of its own volition, my voice very calmly said, "If you're through looking at the cracks in the stones, now, I can help you up, Sweetie," and  my precious little baby said, "Okay, Mommy, 'cause I'm really tired, now."  While talking to her, my hands were grasping her forearms. I pulled her straight up and into my arms and held her -- just held her -- for hours, days, months, years, I just don't remember how long. I couldn't let go. I couldn't talk, but I do remember one lady coming over to me and wondering how I had remained so calm. I could only nod because I couldn't talk.

It wasn't really his fault. I knew my husband was also in shock. I knew I would forgive him for not paying more attention. But, not right then because I couldn't talk. And, I truly believe that that's what saved my marriage. I couldn't talk.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Really Won American Idol? Scotty or Lauren?

Update: The morning after!

Courtesy USA Today
I'm just a little miffed, right now. With Scotty McCreery from my neck of the woods, I have supported him with my votes from the beginning. He's a wonderful young man with a bright future and I thoroughly enjoy his singing. And, I also enjoy Lauren's singing -- not as much as Hayley, but, then, again, they're all in the Top Ten and have a year's worth of touring to make their mark. American Idol is a show that allows young people a chance to side-step the serious work of a career and jump right into all the horrors that come from being plunged into that position, while the wheelers and dealers fill their pockets.

I really believe that's one of the reasons most of them fade into oblivion. There's no solid base to work from and the whole family gets caught up in the chaos of suddenly available fame and money. Your mid-teens show you can sing -- but the mid-teens have nothing to do with the maturity to run your own career, see through the charlatans and hangers-on who will whittle away your money, and all the new "friends" who will disappear at the first sign of your not picking up the check. If your family hasn't dealt with large sums of money, they don't develop the skill the moment you win the title. And, more importantly, you haven't LIVED enough to give a good song a solid telling of its story -- a reason, I believe, that most of today's songs are nothing more than the same phrase being repeated over and over to a great beat. (BOY! I really am miffed.)

So, to make a short story even longer, American Idol is a competition and should be treated as such. I think Scotty made a huge mistake in being a gentleman and giving song delivery placement choice to Lauren. This is when being a nice guy shoots you in the foot. Was his special song great? No, but it was a nice country song and folks will enjoy it. Was Lauren's song great? Oh, yes -- as only a true country tearjerker can be -- short of singing about Jesus or someone dying young.

But Scotty did his job and sang his songs. Lauren showed her true immaturity - personal and physical -- for the job ahead. Her voice doesn't have the strength to perform under heavy conditions. She's nervous and has missed more than she has succeeded -- yet, Haley (a far superior singer) lost out because she dared be her best at what she does and show some confidence. No one has ever taken issue with the judge's and made it to the finish.

So, Lauren (or, her people) decide she needs help. Did she have a vocal chord problem; yes. Did we need to know? No. But, let's put out a story that she probably won't be able to sing on the final night of competition. Well, that will bring in viewers. Yup. Oh, wait, let's make sure the viewers all know about her problem at the top of the show -- and, that she's bravely ready to carry on. Now, let's bring on the doctor to make sure we all understand that she's able to go on! Well, folks, for those of you who don't know, professional singers/entertainers have this problem all the time, and it's taken care of behind the scenes -- the audience doesn't have to be told, because the show goes on, without trying for the sympathy vote. And, if that isn't enough, we're going to go for one more pity vote. Let's let Lauren, hand-held by Ryan, walk down the stairs to her Mother (in the MIDDLE of her final competition song!) and with teary-eyes let them embrace, so that we all understand just what a difficult obstacle she's overcome to be here for this moment. Okay. It was a great song but a very heavy-handed biased presentation.

Why am I miffed? (Just so you know, I'm not alone, here. There have been too many complaints from other voters online, as well.) I tried over and over to cast my online vote (calling and texting, as well) and simply couldn't get through, ever! When you picked Scotty to vote for, the screen just locked up. I tried for almost two hours -- longer than the average old lady would ever do it, but I'm tenacious and had a mission. For some of those who made it through, according to the commenters, they were immediately greeted with a screen that said, "Thank You for your vote for Number Two!" That was Lauren's number. She had all the even numbers! Scotty had the odd numbers. Even though you are told you could vote up to 50 times (WTF?) for your favorite, you couldn't even get into a screen to cast your first vote. Then, for the few who did make it through, they get thanked for voting for Lauren! I'm usually not the suspicious type, but this same foolishness happened when we tried to vote for Fantasia, a few years ago. In fact, the number belonged to a private individual who wasn't the least bit happy about all the calls. By the time they got that problem straightened out, the voting was over.

Something is just not right. Until you can actually see the demographics and voting results, you can only take the word of the producers. But, when you are prevented from voting and there's been a declared favorite, you start getting that funny feeling... I hope and pray that Scotty wins because he did it by following the rules, and he's a local boy. But, if Lauren wins, I'll never believe it was a fair vote -- and, that's too bad. I still think the whole premise of American Idol is ludicrous because the voters never back up their votes with spending their money for recordings; but, it should still be fairly done.

I will wait, with America, to whoop or weep.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflecting on The A-Z Challenge
As most of you have figured out, I've been involved with the A-Z Blogging Challenge from Arlee Bird's group at Tossing It Out, using the letters of the alphabet for a daily posting (excluding Sundays) for the month of April (or, beyond, if you were a little slower in posting). There was well over 1300 participants and we were supposed to visit them all, make comments, and post our own stories, or themes, to fulfill the challenge. And, today, we're in a linky, as folks follow up with their feelings about the experience.

I remember being excited starting out, because it would take a month to accomplish. Then, as each day arrived, bringing a new letter challenge for posting, the reality of it all settled in and, on a few occasions, became onerous. It isn't that I didn't enjoy the exercise but that it had become something that seemed to take over my day.

You see, here's my problem (and, it may well be the same for others): I love to research -- anything! I was once asked to speak to a senior's class on writing and my first question  was, "Who likes to do homework?" No one raised a hand or blurted out their response (as is the wont of so many, today) and all were stunned to find out that being a successful writer requires non-stop reading and non-stop research (homework). Don't know how many from that class have since become writers, but it did change some minds that day. That being said, I repeat, I love research. So, what did that mean for this exercise? Nothing got done, as I had hoped, because I was up to my chin in lovely, lovely, research!

The dark side of research is that I was led to even more interesting things and my days became blurred whilst I submerged myself in discovery heaven. That I was actually able to put a post together was even more surprising. I would research, take a nap, and then wake up to write my post, and it would all come together. Were the posts perfect? No, that's not the point. The point, for me, is that I was able to write on many things that have been kept inside for a long time, as well as clarify the unknown by having to make it understood by others.

I think that's the joy and wealth of writing, really, being able to bring something new to others and sharing in such a way that it invites even more study on their part. If that has happened from just one of my postings, then, it was an even more cool exercise.

The benefit, of course, from the challenge was in meeting so many bloggers I might never have found and discovering their way of sharing their lives, either through prose, poetry, or imagery. Since I'm still trying to get Frogger off his lily pad and safe across the street, I'm probably not going to be following the gamers. But, that still leaves hundreds of kindred posters. The Internet is an exciting place to travel, a world vibrating with so many others reaching out to share and make permanent their own voices during their own personal journeys. Please continue to use the Surprise Me button to discover these wonderful people for yourself.

I will be getting to everyone, sooner or later, but 1300+ is a big number. I hope you will do the same and come visit me on my porch, share some rockin' chair reflections on a life of adventures and anecdotes. Who knows? I may even throw in some tooth-suckin' wisdom.  It's been a pleasure and lots of fun, and will definitely look forward to next year's challenge. Come visit when you can. I'll start the tea.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zounds and Good Night to The A-Z Blogger Challenge

Photo from  Entry #11
With a zealousness bordering on the supernatural, I entered the A-Z Blogging Challenge created by Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jeffrey BeeslerJen DaikerCandace Ganger, Karen J GowenTalli Roland, and Stephen Tremp, for the month of April. It was a vertitable whirlwind of posting, a virtual zamacueca of movement of do-si-does around the hundreds of other bloggers, as we posted, visited, commented, and moved on to the next participant with the speed of a zambomba -- but twice (no, three times) as thrilling.

I used the "Surprise Me" button to randomly go through a list too long to be done in an orderly fashion, but have copied it and put everyone into a special follow-up folder for some serious visiting and comment love in May. So, I will get to you! Trying to do it all with so many contributors would have left little time for posting. But, hot-diggity-dog! I made it through and have had a ball.

[An aside: Little did they know that this exercise would create a new species, a zaftig blogger now permanently recumbent upon her zabuton as a result of having developed a spreading rootlet system on my her ass whilst remaining focused on the project. She's not pointin' fingers, here -- she's just sayin'...]

And, that being shared, it is only fair that I renew my energy by, again, thanking them all for this great exercise and opportunity to meet some wonderful new people I look forward to hearing from and visiting and, second (but most important,in my view), it's finally time to re...ZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.   

See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.
Definitions for the z words can be found here, if you've stayed awake long enough to make it this far.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yoni - A-Z Challenge

NOTE: I have had some people say they can't play the video. If yours doesn't work, try Windows Media Player , a FREE download.
The word Yoni covers a range of meanings, including: place of birth, source, origin, spring, fountain, place of rest, repository, receptacle, seat, abode, home, lair, nest, stable.

Yoni is also the basis for the Western-used adjective yonic, which is the counterpart to the term phallic. Examples of yonic symbolism can be seen in Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings.

The Aryans believed that a child is born from a yoni of stars - constellations that prevailed during the child's birth -- identifying some 50,000 astrological yonis that favour a child's birth. It is from this yoni of stars that my Staria Melodies are born.

The following is an example of a memorial melody created from the birth date of the subject, along with family photos supplied by her surviving family members. I've been doing this since my early 20s, usually putting the melody on a cassette (do they even use them, anymore?)  By using the exact date, time, and place of the birth, each individual's yoni of stars is used to create their own personal melody. The lighter support orchestration comes from the 'grace note' stars within the yoni and complete the melody.  

For each special moment of your life -- birth, marriage, or death -- the heavens resound with a new celestial melody, a subtle thrumming of heavenly strength and support meant for you and you, alone. It's a song that resonates within your soul, a song that brings you joy and inner peace throughout your life's journey. I'll bet you wonder how your astrological yoni melody sounds; don't you?


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xylography - A-Z Challenge

Xylography - The art of engraving on wood.

Thomas Bewick. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in History of British Birds. 1847.
We've all seen wood carvings (xyloglyphy) and marvel at the intricasies of the cut. Who hasn't picked up a pen knife and tried to carve something, only to discover that it just might take more practice than we're ready to give. 

And, I can't have been the only one to get a xylopyrography (woodburning) kit for Christmas, as a child. Fun, fun, fun.

But xylography art as shown above with Thomas Bewick's Barn Owl just blows me away. This is wood engraving.  Something that is done so meticulously that it can be added to press composites to create newspapers. Each line is no higher than the text tiles it nestles in so that printing is seamless -- and, it is almost limitless in repetitive printing. Give yourself a treat and take a look at these engravings.

And, we've all heard of Dremel tools, fantastic engraving/carving tools of the late 20th Century. No question, they make fast work of what used to be so laborious. But, these engravings were done by hand! Yes, by hand! And with a special cutting tool called a burin (that's a cutting tool with a V-shaped tip). It's done on the end of a block of wood rather than the soft side used by current laser engravers, which are cost-prohibitive to home hobbyists. Just look at all the cutting lines, all 8,935,632 of them. The hand skill is extraordinary when viewed from this perspective. Does anyone want to give me one? No pressure; just askin' 

It goes without saying that Bewick had no time for blogging, but what a legacy. Have you ever tried xylography?


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Wash Day, a Three-Wring Circus - A-Z Challenge

Back in the day, wash day meant boiling water over a fire, filling a washtub, hand scrubbing the clothes against a washboard, then running them through the wringers, before hanging them on the line. Today, my wringer stand just holds a washtub waiting for some summer annuals.  And, that's all you will see as you pass by my little Creative Handz shop next to the house. "Oh, look!" you'll say, "What a great antique." (Which is better, I suppose, than suggesting that I'm the great antique.) You'll smile and drive on. 

But, my heart sees something different. I see my mother, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and friends, thrilled to death that they wouldn't have to hand-wring all those heavy overalls, sheets, and woven fabrics, because someone invented this hand-cranked wringer miracle. There were still some items that had to be hand-wrung, that would produce blisters the size of quarters on our hands, healing just in time for the next wash day -- and, it would start all over again. Hand-cranking wringers were a big step up and we were thrilled to have them.

Time moves on and, in the 60s, at my first apartment, the tenants were graciously supplied one (yes, one!) electric washing machine in an outside covered porch with a concave floor for spillovers, along with two lines for solar drying. (If you think women get ugly at Black Friday sales, try putting that one extra shirt on another tenant's line space!) You attached the water hose to a cold water faucet over a wet sink where you could soak really dirty items. If you wanted hot water, you boiled your own and carried it to the washing machine. [Psst! Don't tell anyone, but, I used to insert one of those plug attachments into the single light socket and, then, hook up a hotplate to boil water.]  Then, I got smart and filled metal buckets with soap and water the day before, set them out in the sun, gave everything a good swish with a broom handle and let them have an overnight soak. The next morning, I would carry the buckets to the washing machine for some agitation and wringing. It was easier than using the hot plate that limited the pot size, meaning, lots of refilling and waiting. While the washtub was filling up with a fresh cold water rinse, I would add 1/2 cup salt to the first rinsing, to help remove the soap from the loosely wrung clothes. Then, it was agitate, wring, change water, return clothes to the tub, and repeat until no suds appeared during wringing process. (This was actually optional; but, I couldn't stand the stiffness from left-in soap.)

Now, for the uninitiated, those rollers required a learning curve. Many's the time I watched in horror as my husband's shirtsleeves would choose to wrap around opposing rollers! Karate moves were required to pop that thingy on the top or it was new rags for cleaning. Easier said than done, since you were so busy trying to feed everything towards the middle of the rollers to avoid your clothes and linens catching on the gears at each end and the inevitable shower created from ballooning suds-filled items, you forgot about the sleeves doing their ying-yang thing. (My gift for expletives grew with each wash day, as screaming "Oh, dear!" at the top of my voice lacked a certain something...) And, sheets? We're not even going to go there. Wash day was truly a three-wring circus! 

Thanks to my drill-sergeant landlady, you had to plan on getting up before the birds, if you wanted to get a turn and find good line space. Leaving clothes on the line longer than it took for them to get solar dried was just asking for trouble. The other residents would either pull your clothes off the line and leave them in a heap on the ground or, if more friendly, they'd be knocking on your door, letting you know that their clothes were ready to go up and could you please take your DRY things down. No cell phones, then, and the only available phone was in the landlady's house and, according to the Tenant Rules, it better be used strictly for business!

Better days were coming, but most households couldn't afford the new-fangled all-electric washing machines that you could use inside your kitchen. But, it was definitely on your Wish List!

Of course, we still had to use that handy-dandy solar dryer!  And, frankly, that was fine because nothing smells better than sun-dried clothes! Indoor dryers were still down the road. Today, these Energy Saver washers and dryers do everything but bake cakes and are a convenience taken for granted. The more crafty folks turn old clotheslines into gorgeous baskets.

As my family dwindles, every day that I pass this old washtub and hand-cranking wringer to go into my shop, I'm reminded of the days when my younger self, my family and friends, fighting the dust and grime of a different world at a different pace, fell in love with the convenience of this time-saving wonderful new way to get the family's clothes clean. It's not just a yard ornament, to me, it's a family timeline. 

See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Virtuosity and the Virtual Piano A-K Challenge

n. pl. vir·tu·os·i·ties
1. The technical skill, fluency, or style exhibited by a virtuoso or a composition.
2. An appreciation for or interest in fine objects of art.

Image from
Have you ever played an instrument? Wrote a song but didn't know what to do next or how to make it permanent, so those young whippersnappers in generations to come could also discover your virtuosity? Well, check out this virtual piano site and let your creative juices flow. Want to learn to play? The Sudnow Method promises you'll be playing by ear in just a few months. You may decide NOT to get that baby grand piano, after all; but, you're sure going to have some fun! Go ahead; enjoy!


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Ungulate - A-Z Challenge

Mama Ungulate and Up-and-Coming!
Ungulates rule the world. Here you will get the whole story about the whole family of ungulates -- and, a might story it is. It's all about the cloven-hoofed mammal (although, I don't think the Devil can be considered one of them, regardless of genetics!) There's a gazillion of them so just bookmark the page and know you have something to do, later on, when it's just too cold to go outside. Have a great day. I'm going for a drive and enjoy watching our local ungulates ruminate in their undulating fields!


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Troubadour

Noun1.troubadour - a singer of folk songs  - a person who sings

I've been singing and writing songs all my life. It's been a great journey and I've made lots of wonderful friends, over the years. And, a journey it is! Starting out in a Rest Home, as a young girl, I had a captive audience. I knew all the latest songs and the senior residents encouraged me. NOT my teachers. I attended a parochial school and, unfortunately, had a naturally low-pitched voice when good little girls were supposed to sing alto or soprano. Constantly being told there was something wrong with me because I couldn't sing higher, it took me a long time to become comfortable singing with others and, ultimately, I ended up following my own muse.

By mid-teens, there was a new-fangled thing called television and I got a job singing at WPST-TV on a Country-Western show called Sunset Ranch in Miami, FL.  Being a young teen, it was my job to sing one country song hit song in the first half of the show and then do the number one rock 'n' roll song of the week in the second half of the show. It was all fun and glam and we were "all live" as Uncle Martin would announce at the opening of the show. (Compared to those taped shows that were scheduled for the other 20-1/2 hours!) Television was young, kleig lights were hot, and the world was out there, just waiting. Molly Turner, who started out as Miss Effie on the show and went on to a very distinguished journalistic career on television in South Florida until her retirement in 1989, was a pioneer in helping women achieve success. It was she who helped sway Uncle Martin to give me that great opportunity and was a delight to know.

As the years passed, I've lived my life and used my voice and songs in any number of ways. After my husband's death, it was back into a more active singing life and heading a band called the Lee-Jackson Express for six years that, I'm proud to say, was booked most weekends. My biggest(?) moment came when I opened for a fellow named George Jones, along with a "Swingin'" John Anderson. Although, that ended up with George opening for me! -- but, that's another post. My songs were good enough that Conway Twitty's group still has them at Twittyville, somewhere. They tell a story of how I see life happening around me, and you never know what will be the catalyst for a new song.

Above, you can see I've come full circle -- back to performing at Senior Retirement Centers. There's comfort in hearing the songs of your youth and the memories they evoke, and I really enjoy being able to sing those oldies-but goodies for them. Performing is probably the wrong word to use, now, because it's really a sharing of time's gone by and bringing special moments back to life to be shared anew. I'm not the world's greatest singer/songwriter and I'm not sure I'd want to be. But, I do feel blessed that God has given me a talent to share and make people happy, even if only for an hour, or so. 


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Solar Cooking - Of Course! A-Z Challenge

[NOTE:  Finally figured out why this didn't get posted. Thought I would be clever and schedule my A-Z Challenge postings. Hee hee hee. Apparently, you're supposed to not only schedule date and time, but publish it, as well. Please accept my apologies.]

I would be remiss is I didn't include solar cooking under "S" in the challenge; don't you think? Having cooked with the sun (FREE solar energy) for more than five years, now, I really can't imagine not continuing to do so. Here's a link to a recent post I wrote for the April 1-8 Ultimate Blog Party group introducing them to solar cooking advantages, and it serves just as well to help you discover the savings, both in your budget and in fossil fuel usage.  To my mind, it's the best kept secret from mainstream cooks. Introducing solar cooking has become my mission. It's an immediate way to reduce energy bills and enjoy some great meals in the process. I'm so committed to this journey that I've invented a mainstream solar oven, the SolarChief, that is specifically designed for beauty, ease of use, and expected to become available to the public by early summer. I hope you'll take the time to check out my cooking blog to discover for yourself how versatile this sensational way of cooking can be. Can't beat the price, compared to solar panels, turbines, etc., it's within the reach of almost everyone and, from the moment you have a solar oven, it's FREE. You're doing your part to help keep America green and putting money back into your pockets!


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Ronald McDonald House Charity - A-Z Blogging Challenge

Mission and Vision

The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children. more.

If you are unfamiliar with the work done by this incredible organization for children around the world, do yourself a favor and check out the main site. You can be a part of this worthy charity in so many ways, and there is a chapter near you, ready, willing, and able to help you or accept your help in caring for the children in need in your neighborhood.


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quintessential - A-Z Blogging Challenge

quin·tes·sen·tial  (kwnt-snshl) adj.
Of, relating to, or having the nature of a quintessence; being the most typical: "Liszt was the quintessential romantic" (Musical Heritage Review).
That's what I ended up with for my Q posting. I was going to do one on 'quiet domination' but the Google responses were beyond the pale. Check it out for yourself. But, this is just a typical post.
So, it's being the typical anything, something we use as a guide to bring people to our point of view. But, wait! This is the 21st Century and is there really such a thing as typical in today's world?  If we are all unique individuals, how can we have typical behavior? Doesn't our individual history, time and place of birth, experiences at schools, in neighborhoods, communities, make us the who that we have become? 
Can we even use typical to describe what is forever changing in a world hell-bent for the future? What do you think? Can you give the quintessential answer?


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Power and Profound Effects of Blogging - A-Z Blogging Challenge

Pieta Pysanki
This isn't what I was going to write about today. It was going to be a light and cheery posting about my pysanki egg decorating and this very special one made for a very sick friend. Then, I woke up, earlier than usual. I could check on emails and some posts from around the blogosphere with my morning cup of coffee before heading out to a few appointments. I decided to use my Pieta Pysanki egg as a signal to represent the solemnity of this occasion. Mixed with all the other carefree, coupon-saving, crazy day rantings, I found a post from LaDonna Rae at that stopped me in my tracks. She was sharing her own profound sorrow at seeing a posting from someone we both follow, Jessica, at Misadventures of an Army Wife, Final Goodbye
Jessica is a young woman in her 20s, living her married life with a soldier and following him to wherever he is expected to report. It's all in her blog. The ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows. But, not this one. This one shocks you to the core. A blog you are totally unprepared to see. But, the response from her many followers (most not even in her Following group) with the speed and power that only can be accomplished with today's Internet, probably saved her life. You expect blogs to be uplifting, fun, expository, informative -- but, never, real life-and-death. Do NOT go there if you can't handle another's pain. She didn't ask for help -- that came from her readers and the swift power of the blogging community that performed the miracle.  The follow-up from Jessica's mother is here


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Naysayers and (Cockeyed) Optimists - A-Z Challenge

I'm combining N & O because they complement each other.

I raised my children to always consider the source of information. Why? Because so many people will give an opinion, usually negative, whether they have knowledge about the subject, or not. Playing the devil's advocate beyond supportive evidence to the contrary can become pure mule-headedness. On the other hand, you don't want to be a cockeyed optimist, either.

Opinions are asked for to help clear up any potential problems. As an example, your friend has decided to build Fido a tree house in case of flooding or to keep his bones away from other dogs. It would be inconceivable to almost anyone that this would work -- but, not to your friend holding the tools! Someone (that's you) has to act as the devil's advocate. To protect the dog, if nothing else!

What d'ya think?
Using soft, low tones, one might ask:
  • Is the tree low enough for Fido to see his house at the top of the crossbars?
  • Will the crossbars be highly-polished so Fido doesn't get splinters in his paws?
  • Will the window frame be strong enough for the 5000 BTU a/c?
  • Where can you get Fido trained to raise and lower that food basket?

These questions could spark some clarity for your friend. If your friend blows holes through your points, explaining Fido's love of heights and limb napping and that he can raise and lower a basket of kittens, still, you continue to press your point, you could be a naysayer -- someone who takes a negative or pessimistic view of everything. Are you afraid of new ideas? Are you jealous because you didn't think of it? Understand your motives before you bring someone else down.

New ideas are fragile and need nurturing or they will die under too much negative feedback. The best resource for an honest opinion is from people familiar with your subject. They'll focus their thoughts on familiar results and know how to counter, and you'll be able to trust them. The less your critic knows about your subject, the less effective and the more personal the comments.
  • What makes you think you can do that?
  • Are you out of your mind?
  • What a STUPID idea!
  • Oh, no! Here we go, again! 
How do you respond to new ideas? Are you a naysayer? Are you a cockeyed optimist? It's not your job to tear someone else down simply because they asked for an opinion. Do you agree with everything they do, knowing they'll be humiliated, later? The old rule still holds true:

For every negative thing you say, you have to say three positive things. It's best to start with two positive things, slip in the negative, and end with a positive -- especially, if you're not an expert in the field.
  • You have one smart dog, there, friend.
  • Hey! This is a perfect location for Fido's tree house!
  • Uh, can Fido climb crossbars?
  • I love the paint color -- it's so Frank Lloyd Wright.

Believe me, there will be enough criticism when the project is ready for a more public display. Life is too short to get beaten down by people not willing to take chances, themselves, but who are so quick to judge others. As a friend or family member, try to be supportive and protective. The wolves are supposed to be outside the door. Try not to be just an automatic naysayer or Pollyanna. Playing the devil's advocate reveals potential problems in a project seen with new eyes. Letting someone go ahead with cockeyed optimism is cruel. Share your thoughts with love. After all, without new ideas, you'd be reading this on paper.

Success is 99 percent failure.  ---Soichiro Honda

Go for it. All you can do, is fail.  ---Sharlene Thomas


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Mindmapping/Full View Outline - A-Z Challenge

This is what I do before writing articles or chapters in my books. I create my 'spider,' something I've been doing since I was a little girl. And, it still works great, today!

This can grow like Grape-Nuts if the project is bigger. Then, I'll take a 'leg' and create a new 'spider' for that section, alone. By seeing everything you need at a glance, you can see what should be added, dropped, or what you've missed, and helps to keep you focused.

When I was consulting medical offices and entrepreneurs in the 80s and 90s, I made it more attractive and professional-looking and called it and called it a Full View Outline. This was included in some articles I wrote for a medical magazine and it's just easier to give you a link.

This generation is more visual and enjoys pictures along with text and Mindmapping is the name given to this old concept. You can see some great examples that will help you, here. But, if you would love to see some absolutely fantastic mindmapping art, you need to check out Mindmap Art.  This may work as an art form, but would be far too distracting for me to accomplish my initial goal, which is to get my own project finished! But, they're both wonderfully creative sights and may well have something that will help you.

What do you do to keep focused on your projects?


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.