Monday, October 31, 2011

Inspire: It's a night for Pumpkins

Tonight is Halloween, All Hallows, Samhain, and a host of other holidays.  Here, in the middle of Iowa, costumes will be thrown on and the night will be full of shrieks and ringing door bells.  Children, and probably adults, will crash from sugar highs and wake up in November. 

For the Pagan side of me, this fun holiday always has a quiet side.  It is a night of the dead, a night to honor those who have passed beyond this world into the next, a night to remember.  With all the passings in my family and friends, I think I need the moment to stop, breath, and remember that life continues.

This evening, I will gather with the Kiddo and friends, chatter and laugh, feast, and then go track down as much sugar as a pillowcase can hold.  Then, I will return home and light a candle for those that have come before.

Have a happy, and safe, Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Create: Halloween 2011, Part II

For once, I am done with Halloween costumes days before Trick or Treating starts.  Normally, I procrastinate until at least the day before.  But not this year.  I have too much to do to let those costumes sit around unfinished.

The Kiddo (and I've decided it really does need to be capitalized and will insist he includes Kiddo on his list of aliases now) shortened his desired costume to Wolf Demon Archer after flirts with Spartans, Time Travelers, and Steampunk.  I made a few accessories and he found some clothes in his closet, added on a fox tail from the Renn Faire, and he is ready to go.  Today he took a canned food item to school so he could wear his ears as a hat all day.

For the arm guard, I sewed a few straps of felt onto a shaped rectangle and called it good.  You can find how to make the ears, and the quiver on this blog.  For the glove, we found an old winter glove without a mate and cut it.

For me, I decided not to be a witch again this year and found some things in my closet to throw on.  The necklace I made a while back.  The vest I found at Salvation Army a few years ago to go with my Steampunk fairy outfit for the Witches Ball.
These aren't big, detailed costumes, but I've never had much luck with those.  These are comfy and winter coats can easily be added.  Plus, all parts can be worn in normal day to day clothing.  Yes, even the fox tail can be used more than once.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write: Getting Ready

One of the downsides of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is the lack of time to do much else.  I try to publish here three times a week, on my other blog once a week (I said try), and write a couple other things.  I also have to craft and get ready for xmas.  How am I going to fit all this in at once?

I'm going to plan ahead.

Yes.  I, the ultimate procrastinator, have made a plan and have started working on it.  This plan calls for me to have most of these posts written ahead of time and ready to be published.  This plan also calls for me to craft my butt off in order to have my projects finished.

The biggest problem I have with creating is blocking myself with too many thoughts.  That's a part of the reason this blog was created.  By structuring things so I knew what I needed to work on, it freed me from worrying about everything else.  By having a plan in place and some of the work done ahead of time, I can sit down and write without worrying about needing to do something else.

Are you participating in NaNoWri this year?  How are you planning the rest of your life around the word count?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inspire: Take a Breath

Ah, the last week of October.  As the week before I try to write a 50,000 word novel, I'm rushing to get lots of things done.  Today we are going to take a step back, breath in, breath out, and enjoy a few slices of life.

Green on brown leaves

A dandelion in September.

The bunny, Konijn, posing.

Ah, no!  It's Basket Head! Run away!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Create: Halloween 2011, Part 1

With Halloween almost upon us and my sewing machine out of commission, I've been floundering on what is going to happen.  I planned on whipping up a quick tunic/toga for the kiddo, but without my sewing machine I feel like I can't do anything.

Of course, it doesn't help that the kiddo keeps changing his mind on his costume.  Just this morning, he said something about time-traveling.  Last I knew, he wanted to be kitsune Spartan archer.  Although if he wants to go time traveling, I'm going to demand he add a bit of steampunk to his costume. 

In order to at least have begun his costume, I pulled out my trusty glue gun and some bits from around the house to make a quiver for the kiddo.

Glue gun and sticks
Brown felt (leftover from another project)
Cardboard tube and stopper (from the pile for the bunny to chew on)

I found a large tube with a plastic stopper on the end and cut out the felt to fit around it, then glued it into place.  The end was folded and glued down. 

I was going to try to do something fancy with the top, but decided simplicity was a better idea.  I put down a line of glue and folded the felt down, then cut it to size. 

The straps were two inches wide and cut to the length of my remaining felt.  I glued one strap to each end of the quiver so the kiddo could tie it on.  I'll add a few safety pins to make sure it stays on all night.

The kiddo has a couple play crossbow bolts and a few nerf arrows that will fill the quiver.  I'm not having him take the bow as it will just get in the way.  But now he has a quiver that he can play around with.  Hmm, maybe I need to make myself a shield now before he takes over the house....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Write: A Group Effort

I've been a member of a small writers group for quite a while now.  We don't have much more than five people that attend sporadically.  Our meetings are once a month for two hours.  Not much time to chat about writing, but we accomplish quite a bit.  At least, it helps keep me on track and energized about my writing.

At our September meeting, I brought a small piece of flash fiction I had written a number of  months ago as I was frustrated on what I was working on.  I figured it would just be a fun piece that I might expand a bit more with description.  When my group got done with it, however, I was ready to turn my quick piece into a real story.  They took the idea and ran with it.  And they ran in directions I hadn't even thought of.  Instead of a chance meeting and a lucky break, they had my character as a part of a national crime ring or hunted down by drug dealers.  So many new fascinating options!

That is one reason I love my writing group.  Each of us comes from a different walk of life and bring our own interpretations of writing.  We have non-fiction writers, poets, novelists, haiku teachers, and magazine writers.  All together, we seem to know a little bit about everything.

If you are interested in writing or find yourself lacking writing motivation, find a writing group.  It's an invaluable tool and resource.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inspire: It's Alright, We're Doing Fine

A long time ago, I worried.  I worried and I worried and nothing got done because I worried.  I froze myself in place and worried about what would happen when I took the necessary steps forward.  Or I freaked myself out about reaching out and picking up the phone to ask for something I needed.

This weekend has shown me just how far away from that I now am. 

On Saturday afternoon, I went out to my garage for a box of books I was giving to a new friend (1), and noticed that my car had a huge puddle of antifreeze underneath of it.  I looked and thought I had figured out where it was coming from, so I called my stepdad to come take a look at it (2).  We figured out the radiator reservoir had a leak and I made a call to see if the parts store had what I needed although we wouldn't be able to fix it until Sunday (3).  Then I made a call to see if I could get a ride to the UU on Sunday (4), where I was helping facilitate the service (5), and singing in the choir (6). 

On Sunday, we discovered that the part the store had wouldn't fit my car and so we arranged things so my stepdad could go find the part at another store on Monday (7).  Then I called someone who rides my van to see if they could give me a ride to work on Monday (8). 

This weekend I did eight things that required me to ask others for help and put myself forward.  And, I didn't worry myself sick about it or procrastinate it like crazy.  I could have said I couldn't make it to my obligations and just not asked for a ride. 

The neatest thing is, I didn't even realize how easy I dealt with these things until it was all over. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Create: Potato Soup with Spinach

Potato soup has always been a comfort food for me and my family.  On Christmas Eve, when we all gather together, we typically have a pot of chili and a pot of potato soup going.  My grandmother would make it with flour dumplings and that was my favorite part of the soup. 

The other day, we were shopping at Wheatsfield and their deli had a wonderful potato soup with sausage in it.  It was wonderful and made me realize just how long it has been since I've made it.  I've never quite figured out how to make the dumplings properly but I've managed some wonderful soup all on my own.  Of course, I almost never write down my recipe.

Today, however, I would like to share my Potato, Spinach, and Sausage Soup with you.  Please feel free to adjust it to suit your own tastes.

4 large Golden Russett Potatoes (or the plain old kind, I was feeling spiffy)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup torn spinach with stems removed
4 New Orleans Style Sausages (They look like bratwursts and are made like Andouille)
4 cups of water
4 cups of milk
1 tbps butter or margarine
Salt and Pepper to taste

I threw all those ingredients in in the pot, saving the butter for last half hour of cooking, and cooked over medium heat.  I attempted to use a crockpot, but I just kept messing with it and it wasn't doing what I wanted, so I switched to the stove.  Cook until the potatoes are done and it tastes right to you.  Serve with crackers or bread.
The kiddo thought it was fantastic, and I thought it was wonderful.  So go enjoy a warm bowl of soup!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Write: The Music In My Ears

One of the habits I have while writing is music.  Something about it lets me shut off the outside world and get into the words.  Of course, it has to be the right kind of music.  It's also pretty easy to set aside writing while I try to find the right kind. 

Pandora is a fantastic tool for me.  I don't have to worry about what band to play, just pick a station and have at it.  If it's not working for me, I just change the station until it is right.  No hassling with piles of CDs and indecision over which one sounds right.  Plus, it lets me listen to the kinds of music I don't have at home. 

The bad side?  I don't often remember what the really neat songs I liked were.  They just shuffle on to the next song and I forget about it afterward. 

I recently found a new thing, that I'm sure is probably an old thing, Reverb Nation.  Not only does this have great artists on it and a neat way to search it out, but it has local music as well.  Of course, it's not as seamless as Pandora, but it has it's good points. 

As I get ready for NaNoWriMo this year, I'm trying to compose a playlist or stations I can turn to so I don't waste time looking for it.  My typical music types are Blues, Rockabilly, Punk, and Swamp Rock.  I'm looking for some good Steampunk bands to get into the mood of my novel.

What do you listen to while writing?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inspire: A Bowl of Soup

I've always thought my comfort food was chocolate (which is still is), but recently I've realized that soup is my other comfort food.  A nice bowl of warm, rich soup not only feeds my body but my mind and soul as well.  It's also one of the kiddo's favorite types of meals, and one way he will eat veggies.

Every once in a while I'll make up 'refrigerator soup' by tossing whatever types of veggies I have left into a pot.  That's his favorite and what he has asked me to make several times.  I can't get the kiddo to eat any of the veggies by themselves without making a face, but he will eat it all in a soup. 

I've always thought the Chicken Soup for the Soul books were weird, but now I see their point.  Soup is good for healing and recharging the batteries.  It just has to be a different kind of soup for me. 

What's your favorite kind of soup?  Do you have any good recipes to pass on?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Create: Tea Towel Embroidery

This year I've really had a thing for embroidery.  I embroidered my bag, my kiddo's pencil case, and now I'm working on tea towels.  They were supposed to be a present, but I don't think they will be done in time.  Besides, it's my first time doing this, so I probably shouldn't give my first attempt as a gift, right?  We'll see if it gets done or not.

When I decided to embroider tea towels, I searched online for what sort of stitches to use.  And I couldn't find anything.  I had recently looked up blackwork, so I decided that a double running stitch was just want my towels needed to reduce the chaos of the back.  I am planning on using some satin stitches and split stitch as well. 

I used the towels I received at xmas last year from my grandfather's girlfiriend as a guide.  I really like having examples in front of me when I do things.  Unfortunately, the lovely lady who made those towels passed away on Wednesday.  She was crafty and caring and put up with all of us on top of dating my grumpy grandfather.  She really brought out the best in him and we all miss her dearly. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Write: Exercise from The Poets Companion

One of the first guides to poetry I read (outside of school) was The Poet's Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.  After all these years, I still remember that it was a great book that helped me get going in poetry.  Recently, I received the book from Paperback Swap and started reading it again.

At the end of each chapter are a list of questions/exercises to get you thinking about poetry.  The authors call these, Ideas for Writing.  Lots of 'guide' books use this technique, and I think it's a great one. 

The exercise I chose to do last night was about writing an instructional poem.  Take the steps to something you know how to do and turn it into a poem.  I've felt like I'm missing something in my poetry lately, I'm not opening up the poem.  So this exercise is a great one to work with. 

I've got the steps down but I don't think I'm conveying the emotion I'm looking for yet.  I feel it, because I'm writing it, but I'm going to have to let it sit for a day or two and reread it. 

Do you have any exercises to ease you into writing?  How do you open up a poem?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Inspire: The Compulsion to Serve

I let my weird urge to volunteer for things lead me into helping facilitate a service at the UU this Sunday.  It wasn't as stress inducing as I thought, and it was a great one to have as an introduction into facilitating.  The topic was 'The Compulsion to Serve' and was led by a couple who had been in Ghana as Peace Corps Volunteers. 

Sometimes I let my raised hand run away with me and feel like I am stretched too thing.  Sometimes I feel like I just want to go back to being a hermit and not put myself out there.  But then I run across something like this Sunday, or last Sunday at the Art Festival, and I realize why I do it.  It's not just seeing a need and filling it, or wanting to make something better.  It's the compulsion, the need, to help other people and expand my world. 

I've had several conversations with different people about serving lately, about the quality of volunteering, and this Sunday just pulled it together for me.

Does this mean that I'm going to be volunteering a lot more?  Absolutely not.  If anything, it means that I need to volunteer less.  When I do lend my hand to situations that need a volunteer, or things that I want to do, I need to make absolutely sure that I have the time and energy to spare.  I cannot give my whole heart to everything and it cheats us all if I'm so divided that I'm not of use. 

I need to learn that it is okay to say no so I can truly serve.

Do you volunteer or serve?  How do you remember to say no?