Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Inspire: To Pen a Pal

I've had one pen-pal in my life.  And it was in school.  Each class got teamed up with another class in another elementary school in town.  We swapped letters then we went to meet our penpals and share lunch with them.  I never really thought much of it, and I don't remember anything that we wrote about. 

But every once in awhile, I really like sending mail. 

Email is one thing.  You can send a note quickly and know that they probably will read it in a few hours or days.  With mail, you have to get a stamp, hope they can decipher your writing, and wait for the mail to make it through. 

But yet, it's great to have something in the mail that isn't bills.

I recently joined Swap-bot and just signed up for a writers penpal swap.  It's, you'll never be able to guess, a swap about hooking up writers with penpals!  I've gotten a message from one of my penpals asking a question before she sends out the actual letter and I'm excited!  I think this is going to not only help my writing by sharing it, but it will be a place of support and friendship.

I'm also going back and forth on joining the Letter Writers Alliance.  I think I should make sure the pen-pal thing works for me before I spend money on a membership.  But the lure of stationary is hard to avoid.  Some people get stuck in the shoe aisle, I get stuck in stationary. 

So this week I am inspired by pen-pals.  The joy of getting something in the mail, learning about something new, having a long talk with a new friend.   Do you have pen-pals?  Have you ever wanted any?  Do you do anything with mail art?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Create: It's On the Walls

I have a horrible habit of being broke.  It's not that I spend money on things so therefore I have no money, it's that I'm paying off old bills and being a single mom.  On the plus side, it makes me think outside the box at times on how to accomplish things I want without paying money.

One of the things I really wanted, especially once I moved, was more bulletin boards.  I wanted to have a place to tack up things that I fancy and that will help me with my writing and blogging goals.  I had the idea previously but had never accomplished it.  But given the large amount of cardboard laying around my house after the move, it was inevitable that I would finally get down and accomplish making my own bulletin boards.

These three boards are built out of one cardboard box and different stashed fabric.  As you can tell, I am still not done unpacking... One of these days!

One cardboard sheet by itself is not enough to stop tacks from going through the wall.  So I took two sheets and glued them together.  This also helped because my cardboard box was not big enough to have the expanse be a full sheet.  So there is a crease in the middle of each of my sheets.  But I crossed the creases so that while one was horizontal, the other was vertical.  It strengthened my board and gave it the thickness it needed.  Using this option also gives you the change to make much larger sizes than you would otherwise. 

All you need is cardboard, fabric, stapler (and/or glue), and nails to hold it to the wall.

1.  Cut your cardboard into pieces your desired shape.  Make sure you have two of the same shape to create the right thickness.  Three might even be better. 

2.  Glue your pieces together and let them dry.  I used tacky glue.  Keep in mind that you don't have to glue the entire piece.  I went just around the edges and x'd across.

3.  Use your pieces as a template for cutting our your fabric.  Cut a larger shape than your cardboard, about two or three inches on each side.

4.  Once your fabric is centered, for a square, open up your stapler and staple the corners of the fabric to the cardboard.  With a circle, I imagine you would pick points on your circumference to staple, working back and forth to create an even pull. 

5.  Fold up the long edges of your fabric like you are wrapping a present and staple the fabric to the cardboard.  I stapled in the center and then at the edges.  You could experiment to see what works better for you.

6.  Once you have all your long edges covered, place on your wall and hang!

I used nails through my board because I forgot early in the construction that I wanted to try to put tacks in between the cardboard.  You could push the flat headed tacks into one of the boards, then glue the other on top of it.  You might have enough tack left over to hold it into the wall. 

Create and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Write: What Do You Have?

Exercise:  Set ten minutes to look around you, noticing the items and things that surround you.  Make a list of those items.  Once you are done with your list, go back and quickly right down an association for each item.  Write what it means to you, a spark of meaning, a correspondence, a moment of memory. 

Take another ten minutes and choose one item to include in your writing.  It could be the associations with the item.  Or the item could be a random item in the room.  Or the item could be the whole of the writing.  Just write.

TV - too much time
Lamp - light in darkness
Couch - worn
Coffee table - survivor
Plants - growth
End table - sturdy
Gnomes - spirits
Bookshelves - knowledge
Handmade mug - welcoming home
Child's art work - pride and beauty
Unpacked boxes - procrastination, old life

The shelves are overflowing.  Two layers of paper on top of each other, two rows of books on one shelf.  Each occupant is snugged against it's brother with care, lovingly worn at the corners and binding.  Each one has a story to tell, a voice of their own. 

My fingers glide over the bindings, following the flow of letters.  This one, this one was great.  That one made me cry.  And that other one, that's the one that kept me laughing all night.  Each story is a piece of my own.  Each piece a thread in the tapestry of my life, and your life, and the life of those yet to come.

Down beneath it all.  Beneath the titles and the authors, beyond the characters and settings, underneath everything, runs a joining thread.  The same stories play out over ages and civilizations.  But each is unique in the trappings and characters, but they all run together in the end.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Inspire: With What You Have

"Do what you can,
with what you have,
where you are."

 - Theodore Roosevelt

I came across this quote on the Productive Flourishing page.  I have not yet used any of their products/freebies, but I am planning on it.  It fits pretty well with a quote that I'm trying to work with and live life by.  That quote is 'Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.'  Pretty basic and understandable, isn't it?  But it's a hard one to live by consistently.

This quote by Roosevelt sums it up even better.  Just do what you can with what you have.  Don't worry about not having a big house or a perfect yard for a garden, just do it.  Don't worry about not having the best schooling ever if you want to be a writer/artist.  Just do it.

It makes you think, as well, of the little joys we have.  I listened to the first podcast of a pagan show called Standing Stone, Garden Gate yesterday and this came up there as well.  One of the hosts read a few passages by a philosopher who stated, basically:  It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, it is inside you to be happy, no matter your lot in life.

What does this mean for you?  Do you already make do with what you have?  Are you happy about it? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Create: Potato Bags to the Rescue!

I hate throwing things away, as you can probably tell by now.  So I stopped using disposable sponges that you buy to clean dishes and such a long time ago.  But yet I needed something scratchy to clean my pans with.  I had learned about plarn (plastic yarn) and used it to make one scratchy.  But grease and things got into it and I couldn't get it out. 

Enter my potato bag.  I have developed a brand addiction to this one type of potato.  Can I tell you what it is?  Not really.  Only that it comes in red plastic mesh and is at Fareway.  I tried recently to get potatoes from another store in another type of bag, the plastic type with small holes in it.  I opened up the bag to get a potato a day later and half of them where moldy or getting there.  Being allergic to mold, I was not happy.  I never had any problem with the red mesh except for them growing when I left them alone for too long.

So I decided to cut one up and see if I could make plarn out of it. 

Do you see how the mesh is in rows?  I cut through one row, leave one row intact, and cut through another row.  Sometimes the bags are angled so that I can cut in one continuous line.  Other times, you have to tie the single rows together to form plarn. 

This can be used in any dish cloth pattern. I typically just use a single or double crochet square. 

I'm amazed at how long these last.  They work really well at getting grime off the pans.  It also works really well on soap scum.  When I moved, my mom was leery of using one, but once she used it, she was amazed.  She wants a couple now.  Not only do they work, but they don't scratch what you are cleaning, they leave no residue (once they've been used a couple times.  At first they may leave little bits of red mesh that were cut and trapped.  Easily cleanable.), and are easy on your hands.

I was nervous about sharing this with my mom because I thought she would think I was crazy on my recycling.   But I am proud that I did stand up and say to use these instead of buying disposable sponges.  Now she doesn't think I'm so crazy.

Have fun crafting!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Write: It's an Easy Thing...Right?

Exercise:  Take fifteen minutes and think about what Know Thyself means to you.  Think about who you are and how you know who you are.  When you are done, write down your thoughts.

It seems an easy thing.  A commandment from Deity that is easily carried out.  There is no work to be done, no dues to pay, no people to help.  It is inside and done.  That seems to simple, right?  I mean, who else is in my skin.  I am who I am... right?

The simple commands from Deity are always the hardest to follow. 

Know Thyself.

Know the weaknesses and strengths.  Acknowledge the harm done to others and yourself.  Seek the dark corners of the soul and gaze at what lies there.  Those commandments are hard, and while not askeed or written in stone, they are written none the less in the simple words of Know Thyself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inspire: Know Thyself

Thomas Fitzgerald Photography

One of the Hellenic groups I am a part of has recently started working through the Maxims.  The first one is one of the most important, in any religion, and that is Know Thyself.  It seems like such a simple concept, knowing yourself.  How could we not know ourselves?  We know our names, we know where we come from, we know where we are.

Or do we?

The little things that make us up  is what I believe this applies to.  To truly know yourself you have to clean house, go to all those little dark corners where the dust bunnies live under spiderwebs and look at what is there.  Not in your actual house, but your soul's house. To be fully in your own skin, you have to make peace with those things you don't like about yourself.  That may require you to take action to change those things, those habits, or to devote your time to helping others who are in the same position.

I recently read Dharma Punx by Noah Levine and his entire book is sort of about coming to know himself.  Well, it's more about living mindfully, but it is a similar theme.  I recommend the book and it gave me something to think about.  Granted, I never went down the path of drugs and violence, but there was a point, several points, where it could have been a possibility.

I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about teaching my son manners and how I am old fashioned in my manners.  I have anarchistic ideals and view points, but I hold doors open and say thank you.  We figured out that I might hold these manners to be important because so few people do them nowadays.  That's the way I'm a punk, I guess.

The road to knowing yourself is difficult because it's never over. 

Who are you?

PS - We have our water back, yay!  They thought it would take until Tuesday at the earliest, but they had it back on last night, all uncontaminated and such.  And those plastic bottles I was worried about?  I forgot that while Ames has not actual recycling program (put your recyclables in this bin and we will pick it up), they do recycle waste into energy.  Those plastic bottles will be cut up and used to create energy instead of coal.  Go Ames!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Create: Pencil Pouch

One of the supplies on my sons school list was a zippered pencil pouch.  I glanced through the offerings at the stores, but always had in mind that I wanted to make one.  Zippers and I don't always agree.  But this one was pretty easy.  I'm proud of myself.

The pattern is pretty simple.  It's a rectangle measuring 10.5 inches on the long side, 6 inches on the short side.  I measured this based on the length of the pencils and the length of my zipper.  I had a vintage stash from a garage sale.  Unfortunately, when I was done my son didn't like the colors.

He thought he would be teased.  So this lovely, all stashed pouch is now mine.  I'm going to make it into a traveling sewing pouch so I don't have to worry about things being all over.  In an effort to keep my kiddo from being picked on, we went and got his colors and made him a new pouch.
To make the pouch:
1.  Cut two rectangles out of your outer fabric and lining fabric.
1.a.  Adjust the length of your zipper if need be.  Stitch over and over at the spot you want the zip to end, then cut the remaining material off.
2.  Sandwich your zipper between an outer and lining rectangle, wrong sides together.  Make sure the wrong side of your outer fabric is facing the top of your zipper.  Pin together and open the zipper half way.  This makes it easier to sew. 
3.  Sew your fabric and zipper in a straight line and open.
4.  Pin the other halves of the fabric to the other side of the zipper and sew.
5.  Open the zipper all the way.  Put the outer fabric rectangles together and the lining fabric together on the opposite side.  You should have a larger rectangle with one side being your lining, the other your outer fabric.  Pin together and leave an opening to turn the fabric at the bottom of your lining.
6.  Sew around your rectangle, leaving the opening to turn.  Leave an opening.  (I tend to forget.)
7.  Cut your corners and trim excess.
8.  Turn material right side out and tuck the lining into the pouch to make sure the pouch looks like it should.
9.  Finish the seam with needle and thread.
10.  Tadaa!  You have a pouch!

Extra! Noumenia, A New Month

This post is late, but I have been stuck at home without internet for the past two days.  Ames, as some of you may know from national news, has been struck with an abundance of water... and none to drink.  This is a link to our local newspaper and more information.  Suffice to say, I'm very happy the rain and river waters went down, but I really hope the water main leaks get fixed soon.

Welcome the new month!  A lot of people in my town are starting over this month after the flooding.  I'm going to be trying even harder this month to get my schedule back in order. 

Daily goals:  I have slightly failed at following this this month.  I'm still not officially unpacked and I have gotten stuck in the 'when I get unpacked, I'll do this' mentality.  This past week I have been better.  I worked on writing on Tuesday.  Thursday I worked on craft stuff around the house I have put off.  I'm getting better, just need a little more work.

No Plastic:  I think I've done well this month.  I found syrup in a glass container that didn't come from too far away.  I also spent triple the amount of a plastic 2 liter on four glass 12oz bottles of ginger ale.  It was good though, so I think I'll do it again.  (Although I found a recipe to make my own.  Squee!!!!)  Unfortunately, I failed in that I have six gallons of drinking water and a 24 pack of 12oz bottles.  I know I shouldn't have, but it's easier for my son.  And in the rush of the store, I grabbed it just in case.  I was taking the bus and thought it would be easier to carry.

Meatless Monday:  Yeah.  I haven't followed this one very well.  I did the first two weeks, but then I realized that I was making myself miserable by limiting it and I had a talk with a friend.  She suggested that such rigid goals should be put aside for just a goal.  I believe that I will try to do one day a week of meatless-ness, but if I am really really craving meat on a Monday, I probably may eat meat.

New Goal!
On the Neokoroi yahoo group, they have started working through the Maxims from Long for Wisdom:  The Message of the Maxims by Allyson Szabo.  There is a different chapter/maxim each week to work on.  So I will be ordering the book tonight (if I get to a computer) or this weekend and working off the list.  It should be interesting.

Have a great month!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Write: Summer Break

Exercise:  "What I Accomplished on my Summer Vacation"
Make a list of things (aim for ten or more) that you have accomplished this summer.  Did you build or fly a kite?  Go swimming?  Go to a theme park?  When finished with the list, put a few notes behind each of those topics.  Keep this in your note book or bulletin board where you can easily access it.  This will be a list of things to write about later if you need a create boost.

1.  Adventureland:  Lots of rain, courage, sense of accomplishment.
2.  Swimming:  Friends, cool water, hot cement
3.  Public transportation:  Cold air, quiet hum, talking to strangers
4.  Grilling:  Smoke, sizzle, relaxing
5.  Moving:  Space, settled
6.  Garage Sales:  Seeking, fun, relaxing, good deals  
7.  Writer's Group:  Taking the lead, standing up, good ideas
8.  Birthday:  Friendship, telemundo, hilarious
9.  Bike riding:  Fun, relaxing, quiet mornings, childhood memories
10.  Being Outside:  New bench, peaceful, surrounded by trees, temple-like

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inspire: Back to the New

My son starts school in a week and a half.  Don't ask me why they start on a Thursday, because I don't understand it.  It's a new school and the earliest he's ever started.  The kiddo will also be in a regular classroom for the first time since kindergarten.  In his old school, he was in the multi-age program which was is two grade levels in one classroom, the older students helping the younger, and much more hands on and active.

So, he isn't really "going back to school" this year, he is "going back to the new" or "going forward to school."  New school, new rules, new patterns and habits.  It's a turning point, like every year is, but this one holds the potential to be so much more.

It has made me think about my patterns and what new habits I want to create.  I haven't changed anything but my location - still going to the same work place, the same events.  But I feel that I am ready to change, and have begun to change.  Like junking my broken down car and riding my bike to my vanpool site.  Now I just have to remember that summer is always sucky weather and that doesn't give me a reason to grab a ride all the time.

Our Inspiration for this week is moving forward with new habits or in a new way.  How are you changing?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Create: Going on an Adventure

I admit, as a kid (and still) I was a geek.  Possibly a nerd for awhile.  Definitely a dork.  But the definitions aren't clear and they really don't matter.  What matters is that I'm happily raising my son into a geek.  Unfortunately, he wants to geek out to things I am not always into.  One of his new hobbies is Magic: the Gathering.

While I spent most of my high school lunches playing card games such as Egyptian Rat Screw or Mao or Rummy, my son likes trading card games.   It's not a big deal, and it gives me several hours free on Fridays while he goes to the comic book store to play tournaments.

To help him on this new adventure of his, I made him a box to carry his deck around in.  Tadaa!

This was made from my stash of plastic canvas from Freecycle, and some left over yarn.  Putting it together was amazingly simple.  I do believe I am growing in skills.  The one thing not shown here is a button.  I put a button in the center and a loop of braided yarn to hold the front down. 

It's a little larger than the size of the cards because I wanted to give him room for his dice. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Write: The Adventurer is You!

Exercise:  Take a moment and think about courage and bravery.  Have you ever displayed one of those qualities in your life?  Think about adventure.  What in your life would you classify as an adventure?  Did you require courage or bravery during your adventure?  Tell us about it.

"C'mon," she said, "It's just like a big tire swing."  My little sister grinned at me as she headed for the line.  My son was already ahead of her.  "It'll be fun."

"It's going to make me sick,"  I stated, eying the ride as it started up.  It looked like a blast and like an extension of my favorite ride.  The Galleon was a pirate ship that went back and forth, doing nothing more than lifting you out of your seat at the highest point.  This ride, though, it spun you in a circle over and over again as it lifted you up. "I told you, I can't do circles."

"It'll be fine.  You can sit by me."

"I'll be sick."

"You can sit by Mom."

"Nuh uh.  If I ride this, kiddo, you're right next to me."  A heavy sigh and I got in line.  The ride went right over our heads, turning it's way towards the arc of the swing and coming back down.

Finally it was our turn.  I had had a good day so far, nothing upset my stomach or made my vertigo flair up.  Normally, I start feeling sick on the ferris wheel but I was good so far.  I prayed that this ride wouldn't be the end of that.

We buckled in and the floor dropped out from under us.  The ride began a slow swing, turning us gently over the crowd.  "I'm know I'm going to be sick,"  I muttered to my sister and she just laughed.  The first swing took us up to the trees and let us back down.  Another swing went higher and a laugh bubbled out of my throat.

Quickly, I managed to tuck my necklace inside my shirt on the way down.  It had swung up and hit my teeth and I didn't want anything to break.  I was having fun.   Sideways and higher it lifted us, laughing and screaming at the weightlessness of the ride.

"So?  Are you going to get sick?" 

"Mmm, no.  But as much as I'd love to ride that again, I would get sick after that."

"Told you so."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Inspire: Adventure Time!

Picture found here.
Summer as a kid was always a big adventure.  Where are we going?  What are we going to do?  When will the boredom of sitting inside on a really hot day end?  But as an adult, summer is just another week that I have to go to work.  I always have such awesome plans in winter and fall of things I'm going to do.  But we tend to not do very much during the summer.

This year we've only been swimming once!  Once!  But my son has gone several times with my sister so it's not so bad.  And the friend I always go with (it's her 'clubhouse' pool) works third shift and has worked massive amounts of overtime.

One of the main stays in most family summer adventure time is the theme park.  My family went there this weekend.  Here in Iowa, it's called Adventureland.  Yes, Adventureland.  They just added a water park to the typical rides and arcade layout.  They had a fire this summer so a chunk of buildings are gone, and my mom was upset because the bingo building was gone.  It was raining half the time we were there, but I was adventurous and went on a couple rides I never thought I would.  I had a blast and am very happy that I chose to adventure outside my comfort zone.

Have you done anything with your summer yet?  Have you had any adventures?  It's renn faire season elsewhere, but ours is in the fall.  That's one adventure that I am planning.  I may be adding riding public transportation while drinking to the list this summer too, but it never seems to happen.

Go be adventurous!