Thursday, December 06, 2007

Our Princess



Amongst the merriment of holiday parties, baking (and eating) cookies, decorating our house like candyland, the joyous noice of friends laughing and talking came an event that reminded me that there is a reason we savor the chances we have to be with our loved ones.

This past Sunday night in a most unexpected way during the second party we hosted at our house this weekend our 2 1/2 year old yorkshire terrier--whose full name is Leia Amadala Elizabeth with the title of princess--died (her name as a puppy was Princess and although she certainly thought herself as royalty, I wanted to give her a more formal name).

My mother climbed the stairs cradling our poor Pookie (a silly nickname for Leia) in her arms, her eyes already swollen and streaming with tears telling us the bizarre way she literally dropped dead. Less than an hour earlier I remembered Leia's little nails clicking against the floor as she paced in her flittery way and the next she was gone. I cried off and on Sunday night, but cried most the next morning as I got ready for work and at the office.

Leia blossomed when she was allowed to go to work and could be the only dog for several hours a week. She was so well behaved and a delight to clients who came into appointments only to be greeted by an adorable 4 pound silver and tan ball of energy. As I looked at the almonds my eyes teared up because Leia also helped me eat whenever she was around. She would dance and anxiously sit to gain pieces of almond, biscuit, cracker or whatever else I happened to be eating. When someone left the office to run an errand, she would sit or lay at the door awaiting their return. I used to also throw a bone or stuffed dog for her to chase. She made us all smile and made the office a happier place to be.

This holiday season even as you are drowning in shopping lists, wrapping gifts, rushing to one party after another take a moment and appreciate the most important thing about the holidays and life: the relationship with people you love and care about and the animals that grace us with their unceasing love and profound joy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Divine & Regal Inspiration



On Green Pepper Press Network Street Team this month's crusade (which I am participating in a very last minute way although I have had nearly all of this post written and saved for well over a week) pertains to who or what inspires you. I have thought about it in various levels of intensity since I found out about the latest challenge. Inspiration is a consuming interest to me and it has always informed more than art to me. I began to write a very silly post about my "muse" which made the question all the more complicated than it really is.

A friend of mine helped me realize the enduring essence of my inspiration. Each of us has themes which weave through our lives and make themselves known to us by their multiplicity and commonality. They are so prevalent and so pervasive they may even be overlooked. My muse must have her due though as she is a goddess: she is Athena. No matter where I am, or whatever else I think I always return to Athena and the values she represents: wisdom, justice, fairness, bravery, craft, reason, resourcefulness and cunning.


The image above is from a tarot card from the Goddess Tarot Deck by artist Kris Waldherr (her websites are wonderful--start at Art and Words) given to me by a friend who knew of how much I admired Athena.

I have three more goddesses who inspire me: Persephone, Queen of the Underworld; Psyche, goddess of the soul and Hestia, goddess of the hearth and home. Recently I would add Hecate, goddess of crossroads and Queen of the Night, a complicated and intriguing goddess to my list of Greek goddesses (I am in the process of moving beyond only my beloved Greek mythology, although I shall always prefer it to Roman).

Mythology calls to me in an indelible way which encompasses so many realms of my life. It informs my desire that all things have depth of meaning and have a dynamic historical narrative and precludes simplicity, but dictates strength, beauty, richness, complexity, symmetry, and femininity.
Another strong feminine presence that inspires me is Elizabeth Regina Tudor. I believe to me she is a flesh and blood manifestation of Athena despite her legendary temper and selfish manipulations. Not only does Queen Elizabeth, the persona and icon inspire me, but the land she ruled, the fashions she regaled around court in, the architecture, fabrics, colors, literature and facile and witty mind all call to me.




Do you have a mythical or larger-than-life muse (or muses)?

Of course I have a myriad of other influences and inspirations, but this time I am going to leave it with these glorious archetypes of women.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holiday Party Invitations

I have been a bit remiss in my posting, but then again who am I disappointing? It is lovely to feel no guilt! I have been working another post, but it hasn't come together entirely yet so I thought I would share something else instead.

Tuesday night I created the invitations for the upcoming party we are hosting. I made one design and then changed it up a bit with different papers and two different colors. It is a tag again which is not very creative of me, but I figure if I need to take an easy out in order to actually do the invitations then why not? I went with the pale turquoise & green colors because I am currently drawn to the combination. You can't tell in the picture but I outlined the central snowflake with a glittery white (stickles for those familiar with such a product and offhand I can't remember which of the five whites I used).

Now if you receive a holiday card from me this year don't be surprised if it looks familiar....




Friday, November 09, 2007

Beauty Captured in Paint

Today for some reason I wanted to refresh myself on the art of a fine artist I discovered through Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion which is a magazine I adore. In one issue they showcased a home in which the owners had many lovely pieces of art on their walls and one such painting pierced me--decadent, luxurious, gorgeous, lavishly detailed and reminiscent of European nobility and royalty in the days of the Divine Right of Kings, the painting also had decidedly irreverent and grotesque touches--I was immediately enraptured.

The artist is Julie Heffernan of New York and I searched for her work online some months ago and revisited it again today. Her painting is so intricate and beautiful if not for the touches of decay and the sinister, it would be too much. Like any great pastry chef knows that a dessert must not be too sweet, so does Julie Heffernan know that beauty needs ugliness to juxtapose and ground it.

Don't take my word for it--here is but one example of her work (being sold by PPOW) entitled Self Portrait with Men in Hats 2007 (all her titles begin with Self Portrait and the titles themselves are so humorous):



For more examples of her incredible work go to PPOW. For those like me without the ability to buy the actual art they are also selling a full color catalogue of her latest show, Booty, for $20.00.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hapless


I am on a love tirade. How can someone so consumed with something be so inept at it? There was little story clip today on NPR today narrated by a woman about her friend's search for love...this friend had breast cancer and when she would worry about not finding anyone the narrator would actually think: "yeah, she may never find someone." I have thought I was like the single friend (but without a life-threatening disease). By the way, the single friend's story ended up happily. What were my reasons: I wasn't pretty, I was not attractive enough, I wasn't smart enough, I was too boring, too dull, not gregarious enough, not happy enough, too fat, not nice enough, not ambitious enough, too odd, bad skin, too lazy and the list goes on....

When going on dates all these lists of things would berate me and I would feel sorry for the guy I was on the date with and with a sense of relief set him on his way to finding someone better. Dating for me is being exposed and vulnerable to all my fears all at once. Am I good enough? Are my looks tolerable? Do I have enough to offer someone else? Can I meet their expectations? How much will I disappoint them? Can I keep them entertained and interested? And I hate giving anyone the power to judge me and for me to care about their judgment. It was torture because I was so focused on what was wrong or potentially wrong with me and trying to foresee what would be the reason for the inevitable rejection (and honestly feeling better when it happened the rejection happened because I could go back to not being scrutinized).

I also got the sense that the person I was on a date with could take or leave me...they were dating to date rather than out of interest in me specifically. Actually I am not certain when anyone has been interested in me in particular....

There was quote from A Caribbean Mystery, a Miss Marple mystery by Agatha Christie I recently read that struck a chord with me:

“Miss Marple sighed, a sigh that any woman will give however old at what might be considered wasted opportunities. What was lacking in Esther had been called by so many names during Miss Marple’s span of existence. ‘Not really attractive to men.’ ‘No S.A.’ ‘Lacks come-hither in her eye.’ Fair hair, good complexion, hazel, quite a good figure, pleasant smile, but lacking that something that makes a man’s head turn when he passes a woman in the street.”
Why is something that is so basic for so many, so damned complicated and hard for me? Any and all advice would be welcomed to help this hopeless, hapless dabbler!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rambling


I believe today is a maturation day. A lot of things are bubbling along in my mind without any real output only a sense of anticipation like something exciting is going to be produced or realized.

Tonight is my ATC trade, which is held once a month. I helped to begin this trade back in 2003 after participating in numerous and various type of art trades online. One of the reasons I thought of beginning this local trade was to meet new people. I go through periods when I brainstorm new and interesting ways to meet people--I dub these my social periods. I am undoubtedly now going through a social period (as opposed to my hermit periods when I have so little social interaction I might as well be a ghost)--scheduling & hosting parties, participating in group activities, thinking of new ideas, working on my correspondence (which never is exactly where I want it to be)....

I am wondering about living a different type of life...a slower, deeper life. Some people move to other countries to escape the hectic pace and demanding lifestyle found in modern day United States. I don't think I need to go that far. I believe doing small things help to make a single day matter: sharing a meal with another person, writing a letter, chronicling the day in a journal, calling a friend, making a birthday card, looking up at the stars, walking and looking around you.... There is no end of things to enjoy.

I do have dreams of living in a place where I can walk through woods and tall grass. I have no idea if I will ever get there, but it will be interesting to find out where life leads me....

Credit: The photo was found at Bay Area Hiker.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Beast than Beauty


On days like this I wish I had guest bloggers or a set theme for days to make writing a full post easier. There is always things to write and yet sometimes I lose my way to how to write the myriad of possible topics.

I was listening to NPR (big surprise) and heard a couple of tv writers (the folks currently striking) discussing how they began working together on college radio. Their radio show only had one phone call the entire time they broadcasted. In fact their audience was so small they skipped one night and no one noticed--not even their boss. One good thing about so few people listening to them was they felt a freedom to try and do anything. They ditched the proscribed format and did what they wanted to do. I think I often feel that way with my blog. A few people read, but not many that it constricts me.



This month on TCM they have guest programmers each night who choose 3 to 4 films and they speak about each film before and after with Robert Osborne (how odd am I that I look forward to Martha Stewart's night?). Actually of all the line up's I think I most identify with Whoopi Goldberg's who kicked off the month. There seemed to be a theme about beauty with her choices and included one of my favorite romances of all times: The Enchanted Cottage about two less than beautiful people (she is supposed to be terribly homely--Dorothy McGuire can never even remotely be that and he, Robert Young, is scarred in World War II) marrying, falling in love and "being transformed".

Whoopi Goldberg's first film choice was La Belle et la Bête. I had seen this film before in high school French class, but I believe I was more impressed with the beauty and ingenuity of the special effects and all visual aspects of the film this time. Even though the dialogue is a bit overwrought, I nonetheless wanted Belle to fall in love with the Beast. I want to have my ideals of love affirmed even if only in fairy tales and fantasy. I feel a great affinity with the Beast whereas Belle is too kind, too loving, too beautiful and too noble to seem more than a lovely dream.

I think I truly took this all to heart. I think I see life too much like the stories I read or see on film. In fact most of my life I have thought I was unworthy of love because I could never live up to the ideal of Belle. There is no fairy tales in which the "ugly" woman is valued for her heart, dignity, intelligence and bravery and finds love--they are nasty stepsisters or evil shrews. Beauty in such tales seems to endue the heroine with virtue whereas ugliness equates a twisted soul. When my physical appearance never met with my high expectations, I thought I had failed. I then cast myself in the role of the cursed Beast and I have to admit I hoped for some male counterpoint to Belle--a Beau I suppose you could say--that would somehow see the beauty within me.

I am altogether too prone to desire to structure my life within a more fantastical frame. I am not sure how wise it is to be so starry-eyed and romantic...I have struggled to suppress such a predilection...is it better to be unconflicted or practical?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Holding Back

When I checked my dabblerextraordinaire@hotmail.com email account this morning I had two comments awaiting me. One from another incredible artist from the Green Pepper Press Network Street Team and then another regarding my "Going to the Draft Pile" from the guy whose cd list I referenced. My first thought was: how amazing is the web when these things can happen? And another was I didn't properly thank him for posting such a comprehensive list and which allowed me to remember. If you have a chance go to his blog--the buKitzone. His most recent post, Reality check, refers to a what a true blogger is according to Matthew Good...I am not going to paraphrase a paraphrase (how do give the proper credit?). Essentially though it is about being authentic and not giving a damn about who may or may not be reading your blog.

I seriously wonder about this statement though. Who doesn't wonder about who is reading what they write? Who isn't at nearly all times reflecting an image of themselves which is not entirely complete? Why do they write? Does opening your whole life and thoughts to others make something more honest or is it merely a compelling need to be seen and heard above others?

I am new to the world of blogging and even when I am involved in something I am never as involved as anyone else (note the title of my blog). I have never been a fanatic about anything or rather I am passionate about a lot of things which makes it impossible to be dedicated to any one thing. My concentration is way too fractured and my commitment level has not been engaged on that level. I don't follow a band or a celebrity. I have never joined a fan club. I will be focused on something for a short time and then my attention is grabbed by something else. Even my so-called obsessions are conditional.

In all ways I hold back. A friend correctly said that about me earlier this week. I hold back to the extent I am not sure what it is I am holding back anymore. Often I hold back because to be a good person at times you must. To be a healing influence you must hold back emotional disturbances. To be a listener you have to bite your tongue. To accept you must withhold judgment. To keep another's secrets you burrow holes within yourself to hide those secrets. To be a good friend, daughter, sister, etc. you keep part of yourself only for them and not for others. To fulfill what others need you may keep your own needs at bay. To be honest I also hold back out of fear, for protection and also for selfish reasons. I will not lie that there is a certain self-righteousness in the act of holding back and pride in being the one to be the person people turn to when they need someone they trust.

Perhaps blogging is about the longing to stop holding back in whatever level or way you decide and to have hope that when you do you find yourself more than you were before....

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Holiday Cooking

Now that Halloween has come and gone for another year other holidays burst to the forefront, not to mention November being an important birthday month. I have come to savor each of the major holidays for their unique personality and spirit. As my family has matured we have changed the holidays to more appropriately fit with the character of our family.

Thanksgiving is a chance to be imaginative and try new autumnal foods. Unlike Thanksgivings of my youth when my mom slaved over the meal for a week and was devoured in a few short minutes we now divide the work between my mom, sister and I. Actually, my dad not too many years ago confessed to not enjoying Thanksgivings in which my mom chained herself to the stove and preferred her company to such a production. We now have very informal Thanksgiving meals in which we make a buffet of all the dishes and watch movies together most of the day. The sides my sister and I make are ever changing. One year I made a squash soup, but often we make a couple of new salads and at least one new vegetable dish. What has been permanently added to our meal are roasted root vegetables--in fact we eat them pretty regularly throughout the autumn and at times with a whole chicken roasting on top.

I made the pumpkin pie last year, but was not as pleased with it as I might have been. I believe I will try another recipe this year whether for a cardamom-buttermilk pie I saw in the November 2007 issue of Saveur (an excellent magazine which not only has recipes, but stories rich in food history and the cultural and emotional significance of food) or another tempting treat from Gourmet's November 2007 issue like the Cranberry Almond Crostata or from Bon Appetit's November 2007 issue: Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie (I was impressed with their multitude of Thanksgiving dishes in both these issues).
I have to mention my favorite part of Gourmet: the Editor's Letter by Ruth Reichl. I own her triad of food-centric memoirs and I love her ability to evoke the most vital and elemental of life's themes through food writing. If anything most informs my blog writing style it is the editor's letters found in magazines like Gourmet & Bon Appetit.

Christmas is our more formal sit down dinner when we splurge on prime rib for my dad and uncle (the rest of us are strangely disgusted with that piece of meat) and lamb for us (my dad who is otherwise pretty open to food will not eat lamb of any sort). I now make a much lauded croissant bread pudding studded with plump, tart, ruby-bright dried cherries (adapted from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook which is a wonderful cookbook full of simple, but delicious recipes) and drizzled with nutmeg-vanilla crème anglaise (from Gale Gand). The bread pudding is so popular that I receive requests for it all year long, but I now refuse to make it for anything but the holidays in order to preserve the sense of wonder and specialness of such a dessert.

This coming holiday season I am thinking of beginning a new tradition--a Cookie & Ornament Exchange. It is all an idea right now, but I realize that celebrations sprinkled throughout the year are vital to me and for retaining friendships and fostering new ones.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spooktacular Souper Part II


I made this vignette to show you guys how the witch's fingers turned out...they were deliciously nasty looking and still yummy.

{Chedder Witch's Fingers}

(From Sunset Magazine, October 2006)
Preparation & Cooking Time: 55 minutes
Yield: 30 fingers

Notes: Keep dough cool as you work it to prevent stickiness.

INGREDIENTS
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound (about 1 cup packed) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt
  • 30 sliced almonds
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a food processor or bowl, whirl or rub together butter, cheese, flour, and cornmeal until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Add egg and whirl or stir with a fork until dough holds together.
  2. Scrape dough onto a sheet of cooking paper or parchment, 12 to 14 in. wide and about 14 in. long. Top with another equal-sized sheet of paper and pat dough into a 1/2-in.-thick circle. Wrap in plastic and freeze 15 minutes, or refrigerate up to 3 days.
  3. Roll dough into a rectangle about 8 in. wide and 10 in. long, working carefully to avoid creases in paper. Return to freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°.
  4. Peel off top paper and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 30 strips, each about 1/2 in. thick and 5 in. long. Place each strip on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt to taste, then use your fingers to round the top of each strip into a fingertip shape. Use a sharp knife to score shallow "knuckle" lines in each finger, then press an almond "nail" into the tip. If you like, bend each finger in places to make it look knobby.
  5. Bake the fingers until an even light brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

My witch's fingers were shorter & pudgier than the magazine's as seen in the picture, but they turned out looking splendid and tasting good. I also did not add additional salt and they were perfectly seasoned in my opinion as the butter already has salt added to it, but the kosher salt may have added a nice crunchy element to the fingers.


Now these desserts are rich and only for the gravest of chocolate lovers! Most people had to split them with someone else and still they didn't finish it. The Tombstone Cookies were fun to cut out freehand with a sharp knife. I made some crosses and some angled tombstones (in addition to the more classic shape pictured above) which reminded me of Tim Burton films. I only piped a few of the tombstones with RIP (badly) & it was a mess--next time I attempt these I will have more than a ziplock bag.

{DARK CHOCOLATE GRAVEYARD POTS DE CRÈME}

(from Sunset Magazine, October 2006)
Preparation and Cook Time: 15 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes chilling time.
Yield: 8 servings

Notes: This method uses a microwave to heat the cream until it's hot enough to cook and thicken the eggs, but you can always make it on the cooktop. Heat the cream over medium-high heat until it boils, about 6 minutes. Proceed with step 3, but heat the cream-egg mixture as needed in the saucepan until it reaches 160°. Then proceed with step 4.

INGREDIENTS
  • 14 ounces (about 3 cups) semisweet or bitter-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
  • Tombstone Cookies (recipe follows)
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a food processor or blender*, whirl chocolate until finely chopped. Pour into a bowl. Put eggs and yolks in the processor or blender.
  2. In a 4-cup glass measure, heat whipping cream in a microwave oven (see Notes) at full power (100%) until cream boils, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. With processor or blender on high speed, add boiling cream to eggs. Check temperature of mixture with an instant-read thermometer; if below 160°, pour mixture back into glass measure and reheat in microwave oven at full power until it reaches 160°, stirring and checking at 15-second intervals.
  4. Combine hot cream mixture, chopped chocolate, and liqueur in blender or processor (or whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl); whirl until smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Pour chocolate mixture into 8 ramekins or glasses (1/2-cup size). Chill until softly set, 30 to 45 minutes. If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day. For creamiest texture, let desserts stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before eating.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon wafer crumbs onto each pot de crème. Insert a Tombstone Cookie into each serving.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

For the chocolate I did a mix of both semisweet & bitter-sweet chocolate. The sweeter you want the chocolate the less bitter-sweet chocolate.

*Blender--funny story. I was trying to whirl the chocolate in the blender and I thought I had ruined yet another blender. I have found blenders--even the best--can't handle too much ice or chocolate in this instance. I unplugged the blender, hoping against hope that it the motor was merely overheated because the blender in this instance is a Vita-Mix (and expensive!), and fortunately it was okay. I DO NOT recommend using a blender for chopping.

I have no instant read thermometer (but plan on purchasing one), so winged this one and it came out fine in my opinion. This is deeply, darkly chocolate! The wafers are hard to find too as here the grocery store keeps them in the ice cream isle along with ice cream toppings & ice cream cones, but they are delicious! I crushed a whole box of wafers and added as much cookie crumbs as I wanted--who needs to measure that?

{TOMBSTONE COOKIES}

(from Sunset Magazine, October 2006)
Preparation and Cook Time: 15 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes chilling time.
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Notes: Cocoa nibs, also called "cacao nibs," give these cookies a mottled look that resembles stone. We made the recipe with both chocolate-covered nibs made by Scharffen Berger and plain nibs from Dagoba Organic Chocolate, and both worked well. Find both types in gourmet markets. Or substitute 2 tbsp. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate if you prefer. Make up to 3 days ahead; store airtight.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (or cacao) nibs (see Notes above)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling cookies
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Melted semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a blender, whirl cocoa nibs until each is about the size of a grain of rice. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy; beat in egg and vanilla.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa nibs; gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly, to form a soft dough. Divide dough into thirds, cover each portion tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour), or up to 3 days.
  3. On a floured board, roll out dough, a portion at a time, to a thickness of 1/8 in. (keep dough refrigerated when not in use). With a sharp knife, cut out free-form tombstone shapes (about 1 1/2 by 3 in.; cut bottom edges at an angle to make them easier to poke into the pots de crème), and place slightly apart on ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle generously with sugar.
  4. Bake cookies until edges are lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool completely before handling.
  5. Using a pastry bag with a very fine tip, pipe the letters "RIP" in chocolate on at least 8 of the cookies. Stick these cookies into the Dark Chocolate Graveyard Pots de Crème and serve the rest of the cookies alongside.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

The search for nibs was extensive and ultimately not very successful. We found a candy bar with nibs and cinnamon oil so the cookies had a definite cinnamon flavor so I dubbed ours Mexican Tombstone Cookies. I did like the cookies and they are terribly appropriate for Halloween. Next time I make these I think I will first purchase nibs online.

One last thing: Happy Halloween!!! Eat a little candy, watch a spooky movie, wear a wig and just delight in a holiday were you can let your inner demon out to party!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spooktacular Souper Part I

I promised a few (very few!) pictures of the Spooktacular Souper held this past Saturday and I would hate to disappoint my myriad of readers! Above was the tablescape--there is a lot of room for improvement next year, but the hurricanes came out great. Yes, dear reader, I am already thinking of ways to add and better the party for next year. I need to begin purchasing and decorating months in advance! If anything got shortchanged it was the decorating. You need at least a weekend to properly alter a house into a sinister showcase. It also helps when you build upon what you amassed and learned the year before. Since this was Year 1, next year can only be more gruesomely elegant!



We spent Thursday night, Friday night and most of Saturday cooking and the food turned out tasty (already have an idea for making goulash next year). Nearly everyone tried all three soups which we served in order in small bowls like it was a soup tasting (the cream soup with bacon on top first, chili next with fixings & last the onion soup with a gruyere cheese toast). The hit of the party was the witch's fingers (something that obviously must come back next year). The Swamp Sip drink also was liked by all. Say all you want against Martha Stewart, but she (and her team) know how to do Halloween!


Do you like the above image? That was how the hurricanes looked like from above. We filled them with dried beans, peas, a little white pumpkin & then lots of spiders and the eyeballs!


We ended up sticking spiders everywhere: on the walls, going up the cabinets, all over the stairwell, in the powder room including a roach on the powder room toilet that made people wonder.... The best happy accident was that the glue dots didn't keep up the spiders so there were spiders and other bugs falling at weird intervals. At least one person did a double take when that happened!

I have a few more images, but I am not sure I am pleased with how they turned out. I may add more images later to make this more interesting....

We gave out little goodie bags to our guests which included their own colorful web & spider, tombstone erasers, these awesome napkins we found from Target (all the guests are into art), candy bone bracelets and best of all mini containers of Halloween colored Play Doh. Who doesn't love Play Doh? I do!!

Next up will be a couple of images of some of the more spooky foods (like the witch's fingers) we made and some recipes, but not today, dear reader!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Busy!

I have a feeling there will be a little delay (a couple of days, I hope) before I can write the post about the party (in short it went really, really well) with a few pictures and recipes to share with you. I am so very grateful for all of the more than kind responses of late (they are all incredible!!) . I had plans to respond to each of them yesterday as they warrant such consideration, but instead I took the day off from nearly everything. There is a time when good intentions meet reality and reality wins. This week I will get back to my correspondence which includes responding to a lovely email or two from my oldest friend.

I only wanted to let you, dear reader, know that I am temporarily occupied, but will be filling you in on the Spooktacular Souper and some other exciting things (how is that for a cliffhanger!)....

Friday, October 26, 2007

With Cauldrons Bubbling


Last night we began on the cooking for the party tomorrow night. We are doing a Spooktacular Souper--meaning we are feeding our guests a trio of soups along with appetizers and ghoulish desserts. Last night we cooked up the Devilish Chili, tonight we are making the French Onion soup (to be renamed with an appropriately gross name which is easy with how onions can look like worms), tomorrow is the last soup a Chicken, Leek & Celery cream soup (another one that needs a different name).

Last night I also worked on the dough for the Witch's Fingers and made the Salt & Pepper Puffs (we are adding olives to a few to make them appear like eyeballs). Tonight along with the French Onion Soup is the making of the desserts: Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème Graveyards with Tombstone Cookies and miniature caramel apples. For our drink we are going with something a lovely slimy, swampy green.

Additionally, last night my sister also finished up the spider sacks...they are as disgusting as we had hoped!! We still have to web everything in sight and add the hundreds of spiders and insects, make spider toothpicks, mummify some candles (saw this in a magazine and a blog, Ma Vie en rose--check out how awesome it looks), and the like. I need to buy a spooky cd of music too in addition to some fresh bread Saturday, go to the liquor store for tonight....

I will try my mightiest to take pictures of the food and some of the decorations and post them next week. Hope, dear reader, you are likewise enchanted by the coming holiday!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Michelle Ward's Get Gothic


There is an artist--Michelle Ward--I have mentioned before. I have expressed my love of her art--see the image at left which she designed. If you have a chance please look through her site and her Green Pepper Press unmounted stamps. From her Wayward Collection I am especially taken with Graven, In Vogue, Crow About & Printed Matters, but I could swoon over it all!

Michelle Ward also has a street team--GPP (Green Pepper Press) Network Street Team--where she has monthly artistic challenges for those so inclined to participate. Michelle Ward and her Street Team are truly gifted!! I have been meaning to participate for ages. Finally! I am going to participate this time around for Crusade No. 13 (magical, perfect number). Crusade No. 13 also celebrates the year anniversary of the GPP Network Street Team. Below is the header Michelle Ward designed which explains this particular challenge:


For my "entry" I have my redesigned blog and I also wished to share with you the invitation I sent out or gave for the Halloween party coming up. I also made a simple matching envelope and filled it with black spider confetti and a little tombstone eraser from Target. With the ribbon I tied on one of those fun spider rings. Michelle Ward designed the "Invitation" stamp you see at center.

Here is the front:


And here is the back with all the information:


The information was printed out on vellum so you could see the incredible orange damask pattern (it is actually paper napkins) attached with black photo corners.
I will try to post some pictures of the decorations, but I am not promising anything, dear reader!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Going to the Draft Pile

I have 69 posts in various stages of completion. 51 (soon to be 52) of them are posted (and therefore it is to be hoped completed), but I also have 17 posts that are partially done. Sometimes when I am having an off day (like today) I will harvest these draft posts, fill in the holes (like add links and images) or use them to create a new post. Some of them I am not sure will ever see the light of day--they are either too much work to refine or going nowhere. Today I was thinking I would post some images of cards I have made for family for their birthdays in the past couple of months, but it requires more work and energy than I have today.

For your reading pleasure or displeasure here is an example of one of these half-baked posts entitled "A Search" written late at night on October 17, 2007:

I had a sudden compulsion to revisit some of the music (it began with one of my favorite songs from 1996: Cake's "The Distance"--by the way there is a lot of interesting tribute videos for this song you can watch if you have some time to kill) from my first year of college and find one of the songs which used to get under my skin every time I heard it, but I could never remember who it was by or the name. I just spent more than hour scouring the hits from 1995 & 1996 to find it and in the process basically went through a musical time warp. I was finally successful by typing in a list of names of bands that usually sandwiched this particular song on the radio like Cake, Tonic, Local H and Fuel. I found a list here of this person's cd collection and I searched until something hit a chord (no pun intended). Here is the result: "Stuck on You" by Failure (I then stumbled over this cover of Failure's song by Paramore--I like her voice).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I have taken over Sunday dinner. Actually that sounds like I was proactive when in fact I was told I was in charge of Sunday dinner and I have tried to do my best to create meals that will be well rounded, complete and delicious.

During the week I now wade through my magazines, cookbooks and clippings (and also peruse the web) for recipes I want to make on Sunday (or for entertaining or experimentation). I write down the name of the recipes, the source & page number in a journal for future reference. This whole process weirdly enough fills me with a sense of profound satisfaction and fills my need for organization, planning and order (yes, I do have deep, although often ignored anal-tendencies).

The last two weeks I had two head of cabbage I needed to use. The first Sunday I made a cabbage and apple salad (a cold salad with the addition of dates and a cider vinegar dressing--I will try to post the recipe later) and then this week I cooked red cabbage with apples--similar ingredients, but different products. Since one vegetable is not enough and I have been craving white beans, I chose a Warm Bean Salad as my second side dish. For the star of the meal I had pork chops to work with and I found a peach glazed grilled pork chop recipe, but since I had no peaches nor do I grill (yet) I had to improvise. I did have dried apricots and another recipe that had directions for how to pan cook pork chops. I am going to share my improvised recipe, but as fair warning the amounts of dried apricots, lemon juice and water is approximate.

Sunday, October 21, 2007 Dinner
Red Cabbage with Apple
Warm White Bean Salad
Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops

{RED CABBAGE WITH APPLE}

(from Everyday Food October 2003)

Preparation: 10 minutes Total: 1 hour
Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 green apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • coarse salt and ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon until browned, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add onion; cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add cabbage, apple, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring, until cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Cover; cook, stirring occassionally, over medium-low heat to desired softness (if sticking, add water), 45 minutes to an hour. Serve.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

For the Red Cabbage with Apple I had half a red cabbage and half a green cabbage and so I just used what I had and although it wasn't the jewel bright ameythst of all red cabbage it was a pretty medium shade of purple as red cabbage's color bleeds onto surrounding foods (green & red cabbage have the same taste). I also decided not to peel the apples--most of the nutrients and flavor is in the apple peel. I did not have green apples, so I used the pink lady variety instead (and I used two apples). Another change I made to the recipe was that I used far more vinegar than it called for because I had so much cabbage and I prefer a more of a bite to my food. The final product was much better than I thought--the cabbage was infused with the flavors of the vinegar, bacon, apple and onion with the result that the cabbage was savory with a slight sweet undertone and a nice lively tart twist. 5 out of 5 would eat it again & 2 raved about it.

===============

{WARM WHITE BEAN SALAD}

(from Everyday Food May 2005)

Preparation: 15 minutes Total: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, slivered
  • 1 can (19 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic; cook, stirring, until pepper is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

  2. Stir in beans, lemon zest, and 1 cup water, and season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until beans have absorbed most of the liquid, about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; season again with salt and pepper. Serve.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

I used a yellow onion as I did not have a red onion (I don't believe this changes the character of the salad all that much) and used more lemon zest and lemon juice than asked as I personally love lemon. This salad was another winner--it was colorful, healthy, tasty, fresh tasting (thanks to the lemon) and added some more vegetables. 4 out 4 who ate it would eat it again & 2 out of 4 raved about it.

===============

{APRICOT-GLAZED PORK CHOPS}

(adapted from Peach-Glazed Grilled Pork Chops, Cook's Country August/September 2007 & Garlic-Rosemary Pork Chops, Cook's Country October/November 2007)

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup - 1 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 bone in rib or center-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Simmer preserves, vinegar, thyme, and cayenne in saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup glaze. Add apricots and 1/4 cup water to saucepan with remaining glaze and simmer until apricots are soft and glaze is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in mustard. Cover and keep warm.

  2. Pat chops dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chops until well browned and meat registers 145 degrees, about 5 minutes per side. Brush with reserved glaze on both sides of the chops and cook about 1 minute per side. Transfer pork chops to platter and let rest 5 minutes. Transfer apricot mixture into the pork chop skillet with the drippings and lower heat, adding lemon juice and water as needed. Stir and cook until drippings incorporated into apricot mixture. Pour apricot mixture over chops. Serve.

MY DEVIATIONS, VARIATIONS & RESULTS

These pork chops came out full of flavor, moist and the apricots paired wonderfully with the pork. Next time I am trying cherry. 4 out 4 who ate it would eat it again & 2 out of 4 raved about it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Change

I thought this blog needed to be refreshed a bit--I was getting bored and needed something that fit with this time of year (can you guess I was inspired by Halloween?). What do you think, dear reader? I am not sure if I am completely satisfied, but it is certainly different!

Plus, I am excited because this is my 50th post! Yes, I have somehow stretched my little thoughts and experiences that much. I am impressed with my abilities to embellish and ramble on.

An Admirable Woman

For over two months I have had "The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio" to watch. I believe that to fully appreciate some movies and books, you must be ready for them. Not to say that "The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio" is a hard movie to watch, in fact it's tone is fun and spunky even when dealing with harsh realities because Evelyn Ryan, the woman Julianne Moore (one of my favorite current actresses) portrays in the film, was like that. What I mean is that I tried watching this film nearly a year ago at a friend's house and it did not work out (cable problems) and I have a feeling I was meant to wait to see the film when I was more receptive of just what an amazing woman Evelyn Ryan was.

I should mention I had heard an interview with Terry "Tuff" Ryan, the daughter of Evelyn Ryan who wrote the memoir, The Prizewinner of Definance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less on The Diane Rehm Show years before (probably around 2001 when the memoir was released. Sadly, Terry Ryan died of cancer earlier this year) and was struck by how remarkable Evelyn Ryan seemed. I think Julianne Moore described what was so admirable about Evelyn Ryan best in her commentary of the film (I am paraphrasing at the moment): She refused to be defeated by the shortcomings in her life--she dealt with her life with strength, resolve and an amazing positive mood and lived without bitterness or regrets. She was someone who appreciated what she had rather than dwell on what she did not. She also defused others' anger with laughter and did not allow it to faze her. Additionally, she was clever, resourceful and bursting with life and love. I plan on finding the memoir and reading it in between all the other things I read (starting Love in the Time of Cholera, various magazines & cookbooks and about 12 step programs to name a few things--do you ever feel like you are bursting with all you could do and wish to do?).

I have no idea how Evelyn Ryan remained so unruffled by the negative in her life (including an alcoholic husband that drank much of his earnings), but maybe the memoir will help me to find out and emulate such an attitude. I realize that I waste too much energy on anger, which only perpetuates the worst, rather than best in others and me. I want to cultivate laughter, growth, creativity, friendship, connection, warmth and understanding....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday for the TCM Girl


I haven't a clue what to write...on these days I wish I had a prompt (I wonder if anyone has thought of writing 365 blogging prompts yet? If you use the idea I want my cut....). Or maybe I am questioning the megalomania I must be exhibiting to write this blog and continue to write a blog that is dedicated to me and my life (not to mention the desire for people to read the damn thing!). One day I am going to count how many "I's" are in just one entry. It is startling! Most days I blithely write away ignoring the inherent problem and I guess I will continue on in my little bubble....

Tonight, TCM has a series of movies on by director Tod Browning. The subject matter of his movies are usually bizarre, the characters often twisted and bent on a path of lustful revenge and they are absolutely, positively perfect for an October evening when all things seem possible and the mind suddenly is suspicious of every shadow. These are movies that take you back to deep dark black and pure pristine white and all the glorious shades of grey in between...these movies invoke these words for me: "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!".

Does it make me a sad sack to be so excited about watching movies on a Friday night instead of having a social life? Quite possibly. I just don't care--I love my movies and I am a homebody. If I could find someone who liked watching such movies, read, made me laugh, is crazy, sincere, intelligent, sly, tolerant, patient!, quirky & nerdy (would have to be to deal with me), liked odd girls, was generous with his time and energy, innovative & open-minded, loved animals and family, could converse about crap one moment and the meaning of life the next, loved all sorts of food, had cahunas and isn’t picky at all about looks I would be a happy camper, but I think I am asking WAY too much. Is it any wonder I am perpetually single (it certainly doesn't help that I prefer trips to the dentist's office to dating)? But, dear reader, if you think you know a guy who is like that, please let me know. All applications will be carefully considered.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finding Muse, or the Gorgeous TCM Promotion


One of the reasons I love Turner Classic Movies is because of their promos and the creative people who work for them (perhaps they don't make everything, but they've got excellent taste and a dramatic flair!). Check this one out from September of last year...my sister described it to me how awesome it was and also said how much she loved the song. I had never seen the promo nor heard the song and by sheer luck I found the band Muse on my second or third attempt in the music section (of an evil store I will not name) right after she was describing the song to me. Crazy how some things work out like that. I had never heard Muse before (yes, I am living under a rock) but I was drawn to their cover for Black Holes and Revelations (image to the right), but then picked up their earlier album Absolution (which had the song on it) and I promptly bought both CD's. Tangent: For a totally cool classical version of the Muse song used ("Time is Running Out") listen to The String Quartet's tribute. For your listening pleasure here is the String Quartet's tribute to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and another of Radiohead's "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (I adore this song in it's original form).

Here is another excellent promo from the wizards at TCM for detective movies. A Christmas promo from last December for you to enjoy. An incredible promo for Tear themed films (have I mentioned how much I love Beck?). Here is another promo for the 31 days of Oscar this year. Here is the original promotion for TCM's Underground (originally hosted by Rob Zombie). A Tribute to Betty Hutton earlier this year...promo for Cannes films and yet another excellent promotion from November of last year. For even more promotions go to the source--raygun (they are all luscious, powerful and evocative).

Are you a TCM convert yet?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dark (Expensive) Preparations

I spent $40.00 on insects, shiver-worthy animals and eyeballs last night. That says Halloween to me. I have bought so many spiders, ants and flies it will be incredibly creepy at the ol' abode. Spiders are the theme this year especially after my sister found a particular decoration that she found frightfully gross which incorporates spiders (and thereby perfect). I hope next year to add mad scientist touches by purchasing beakers and test tubes to hold drinks.

For those wanting a little sinister elegance for Halloween I recommend going over to Target and looking around at their Grim Gables line. They have a black rose wreath, gargoyles, headstones, ornate black candles and other lovely, but entirely not needed things. I plan on hitting the store again right after Halloween to see if I can purchase any of the more expensive (and less expensive) items on clearance. Even the napkins and paper plates were the right mix of beautiful macabre (skull image with flourishes, jack-o-lanterns, spiders and such in blacks and deep, rich oranges). At Michael's they had these incredible resin pedestals that looked like stone with a raven or crow perched on top that I wanted, but alas it was too expensive for this year.

The amount of money you can spend on decorating for Halloween reminds me of a little headline I read recently on msn that mentioned how expensive Halloween is...Halloween has become BIG business. Think about the candy, the costumes, the decorations. As I was entering a party store last night a woman and her son were exiting and she (I think she had yellow heels which matched one of the flowers found on her dress) exclaimed with exasperation, "And Christmas is only around the corner!" as if to say she could not believe how much she just spent on his costume and the like. Upon entering the swarming store I was a bit floored by just how people were there purchasing their costumes and other Halloween necessaries. My very blasé sister told me how Halloween was their busiest time of the year (didn't you know that obvious fact, idiot was her tone and I am afraid I hadn't really given it enough thought to formulate that conclusion).

All this spending of money has me wondering--why? Why do I have this need to purchase all this stuff? Why do I have a somewhat guilty feeling about spending rather than being more creative and improvising? I think part of the reason why I feel like a child run amok in a candy store (actually me in a candy store can be equally as bad--I squeal, I dance about, I have the short attention span, I clap, you get the idea--I have no dignity) is because I haven't been doing anything for Halloween for ages and I do love the holiday. I need to fully celebrate this holiday and the upcoming ones to appreciate the passage of time and to have something special to look forward to each year. It is the same reason why I used to mark the dates of when books (or movies or music) would be released--I like to keep myself reminded of how much new (or repackaged) is being created and yet to be.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rose China

Many different things have been flying through my head today: family values, abortion, politics, medical care, organized religion, obligation, responsibility, aging, friendship, horror movies, Halloween, how to find friends, how to figure out what someone's passions are, money, class divisions, writing, books, generosity, examination, ignorance, strength, beauty, ugliness, female vs. male, walking around woods in crisp autumn air and a few other things. This is not an unusual day. There is a lot to think about and I often wonder how I can ever be bored....

I also thought of the women of my family before me. This Saturday I was unpacking my great grandmother's and great great grandmother's china, many pieces I have never seen before as they have been packed up for nearly 3 decades. I thought about the legacy of having something from ancestors I have never met, much like genes I have inherited from them. What did they think about when they washed the dishes that I will no doubt wash? Who ate at their table when they used those dishes? How did this cup get chipped or that plate? What did they eat? Did they ever wonder about who would eat on the china when they were gone? Did perhaps they think of my mom--the only girl of her generation?

The colors of the dishes and even the roses found on each set meld together and also somehow remind me of my mom. My mom's favorite flower is the rose and her favorite color is blue, first and foremost, but I think pink is her second--both of those colors are in the china. Did that china leave an undeniable mark on my mom's preferences? How much of who I am is because of those before me?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Music to Have Your Teeth Cleaned to

Yesterday I was at the dentist's office getting my teeth cleaned when I heard this song I had forgotten about from the credits of Kingdom Hospital, a short lived horror television show adapted by Stephen King: Worry About You by Ivy. I believed there was a magical partnership between the song and images to make the opening credits. The link will take you to those intriguing opening credits and this link Worry About You will take you to the complete song. Following this song (or was it before? I don't recall now, but I do know that before this set of songs was Rosanna by Toto which always will be associated to my mom for me and I thought, "Oh, no what annoying song will come on next?") was another I had never heard before but made me think about how some songs are so calm and even that they are perfect for the dentist's office especially when played at just the right volume. They don't intrude on your thoughts at all, just accompany them in pleasant, if uninspired, harmony. I did some searching for the song and I happened upon it: Again & Again by The Bird and the Bee.

On the subject of remembering music, Wednesday night on Dirty Sexy Money (a guilty pleasure show I am enjoying--I am especially amused by the obnoxious, incredibly flawed, ill-tempered son who happens to be a man of the cloth) was Everybody Knows as performed by Concrete Blonde. The lead singer, Johnette Napolitano, has such a wonderful, distinctive voice and one of my favorites by Concrete Blonde is Caroline.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shattering Amber

Today heralded the announcement of this year's Noble Prize for literature. The winner is Doris Lessing whose most famous work is The Golden Notebook. Have I ever read The Golden Notebook? Regrettably no...at least not yet. I plan on reading it not because of Ms. Lessing winning the Noble Prize, but since it delves into the internal dialogue of the characters and also for the fact that Ms. Lessing's formal education ended at the age of 13.

In my years since college some of the smartest and most innovative people I have met have not gone to college. I think it is important to remember that college is not for everyone nor does it instantly make someone intelligent or successful. Education is more about constantly being open to new ideas, thoughts and being willing to learn everyday from the multitude of teachers and learning experiences life throws into our path. To be an enlightened person you have to seek knowledge and also take an active role in your own education--you can't be passive or lethargic about evolving.

In days of old great thinkers wrote numerous letters to other great thinkers in order to exchange information and broaden the scope of each other's thoughts. You must remain engaged with the world at all times to glean the most from living in such a world. I am constantly reminded of this fact. I don't wish to remain static. As I age I don't wish to be like one of those insects captured in one moment in time indefinitely in amber. As much as I enjoy writing, my passion really is in research, which is not so extraordinary when I think how much I gravitate towards reading and collecting. Writing in many ways is the way of sharing amassed knowledge. Creative writing for me is a way of sharing amassed knowledge filtered through myths, dreams and fantasies.

The old maxim of learning something new everyday remains a thread of hope and promise for me and casts light upon looming darkness. My perspective shifts into one of anticipation and joy in the discovery. The prospect that at least one new piece of information or that I may see something or someone in a different way each and every day means that every day is full of surprise and mystery...that all things are possible...that we can grow, change, enrich and blossom....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why, Radiohead, Why?!?

Maybe you are aware that today Radiohead has released their latest album, In Rainbows, via download on their website and you name the price...any price. Sounds great, right? Wrong. I can't get on the site and I am conflicted about what to spend. I think I may go with $10.00, but am I being too cheap? Should I spend $11.99 - $14.99 like I would in a store? What is the price which balances the worth of their album (which I think is pretty damn high) and what I can afford? Oh, the ethical dilemma! I love you, but why do you need to make a simple purchase into yet another moment for me to question what I do and why?

October 11th Update:

After some hassle, I finally purchased the download for £ 6.00 and they then tacked on a £ 0.45 surcharge for use of a credit card (was I supposed to send them a check?). Remember that the current exchange rate is 2.0334 American dollars per British pound. I therefore paid approximately $13.12 for the download. Yet another example of how I am being screwed by the declining value of the dollar!

Melancholy Delusions

Last night I dreamt of a middle school/high school friend of mine. I stopped him by grabbing his elbow and I excitedly said his name. He smiled, said hi and promptly went on his way. He was terribly important to me in that moment and yet I was just a vague and distant memory to him. I realize that is the way it works in real life as well. I believe for most people others are interchangeable, as they don't see another as an individual so much as what they do for them. When you begin to really get to know someone, no matter what their quirks or issues, you see what makes them unique (and hopefully you celebrate it). When that person is no longer in your life, you miss them and they can't be replaced. I have many holes in my life where once there was a friend.

Another friend of mine told me I would forget him when he left my life like he assumes everyone else has in the past. He had no idea of who I am. In some ways I wish I could forget and easily get over it like most people seem to be able to do. I suppose there are those of us who are meant to remember, as our wounds never fully heal. I sometimes feel like Miss Haversham frozen in her decaying and brittle past. I am haunted by who I have lost and occasionally overwhelmed by the bursting of distilled emotion. Maybe my purpose in life is to be a witness.

It is amazing how quickly I can feel completely alone as if somehow everyone else in the world are separated from me by an invisible barrier. I realize that this is all in my mind. Why should one moment I feel connected, in touch and the next isolated? I have friends and good friends at that, but still I don't feel I have anyone I can turn to when I am in certain moods as either the bonds of friendship only go too far or they simply are unavailable.

An extended family member once called me aloof and another said I was cold. Perhaps I am both things because there is a fundamental truth that causes me to remain remote: I don't trust anyone entirely with my emotions. I believe at a young age I realized an inequality of feeling and meaning. I was overly sensitive and overly attached.

Perhaps that was a mistaken interpretation on my part? Perhaps I am still living under false presumptions? Do I give myself too much credit and others too little? It would be funny, but not entirely surprising, if I have been living life according to childish delusions.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Belated Congratulations

I received a lovely email from a good friend of mine last night in my dabblerextraordinaire inbox. She conveyed a surge of support for this little blog. I happened to be chatting with another friend of mine when the email came through and this friend I was chatting with also expressed appreciation for the blog. There are moments when you can feel enveloped by your friends' regard for you--that was one such moment. I can't thank my friends enough for their continued support of me and for all the wonderful compliments about this blog.

My friend who emailed me also brought to my attention how I haven't congratulated her yet on the addition of her first nephew into her family. Funny she should mention it because I have tried twice to do just that on this blog. The first time I began a post with the sentiment but somehow it became very maudlin, therefore it is still in the draft stage. The other time I attempted to congratulate her about the birth of her nephew I second guessed myself (because I thought it might be bad manners) and edited it out. I guess in the world we live in you express something in whatever medium you have at your disposal.

So, my dear friend, I congratulate you for becoming an aunt to an undoubtedly adorable nephew. He is a most fortunate baby boy to be surrounded with so much love and acceptance. More particularly I know that your nephew is blessed to have such a warm, caring and nurturing aunt.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbus Day

Poor Columbus Day gets no respect. I find myself at work instead of celebrating this great day because my boss questions the holiday. "What is Columbus Day?" he asks with incredulity. I stutter over an answer which will enlighten and humble him and fail miserably because I don't wholeheartedly believe in Columbus Day nor fully understand why we are celebrating Columbus "discovering" the Americas and the future colonization and exploitation of resources, lands and indigenous peoples by Europeans. Still, it is a reason (no matter how questionable) to get off work or school and have a three-day weekend.

Perhaps I could properly defend such a holiday if it was packaged as a day of discovery or even rediscovery. We could give people gifts of maps and educational tools like books (anything to encourage reading and love of books I am all for), make local trips, spend time with a family member, learn something about another culture or even about indigenous cultures, perhaps try a new hobby.

Maybe next year, dear reader, you may find an envelope waiting for you before Columbus Day (as there is no mail on Columbus Day) with a map enclosed and it will remind you of all the things you have yet to explore. Until then hopefully you enjoy a day off to relax.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Follow Through

I am trying to keep on top of my correspondence. There are people to write by email, others to send a birthday card, belated wedding card (yes, that is on my list and I have a clue about the design), anniversary cards, etc. Then there are the phone calls. I have a mental list of people to call. I enjoy phone calls, but don't talk too often on them because of the fact that when I do I can talk for hours. I am not sure how appreciative people are of this proclivity so I tend to call rarely.

Correspondence in whatever mode or medium you use is terribly important to remaining connected with not only friends, family and acquaintances, but the community and world at large. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post I am aware of my own responsibility of maintaining relationships, redeveloping those that have slipped away and fostering new ones. I have quite a few more friends from my past to reconnect with or at least attempt to reconnect with as our lives may have moved in too disparate of directions to be any thing more than an acquaintance now. Still, it is worth the effort to convey to someone that they still remain in your thoughts and to acknowledge the meaning they have or had in your life.

In an effort to be prepared for the upcoming holiday card-making extravaganza I am making an effort to be organized and most importantly REMAIN organized. In the past I have been a sprinter making a mad-dash-beginning but falling short of the end, but I am working on becoming a marathon runner who paces herself. I think I become so seduced and dazzled with a larger-than-life image of myself by doing tasks in such a spectacular way that I loose energy, momentum and heart in face of the looming monumental goals I set up for myself. I then let others and myself down. Being an all or nothing sort, one missed birthday and the whole dream falls apart for me. Erosion of self-image, etc. ensues until I feel so embarrassed or ashamed of my inability to complete something I may go so far as not communicate with the person I feel I have disappointed.

For instance, a friend from college had a lovely child more than two years ago (actually he shares a birthday with my sister and another friend of mine). I took a class at my favorite store to learn how to make this certain little scrapbook for the little man as a gift. I began it and it remains incomplete and so now two years have passed without me making a gesture to celebrate this friend's son and instead of just remaining in touch, I did the cowardly thing and remained silent stewing in my guilt and causing perhaps irreparable harm to an important relationship. I forgive myself for being dumb. Now, it is time to actually do something!

When I was in middle school and still went to Sunday School (something I really dreaded), I had this lovely teacher...I can't remember what exactly she taught (we had several classes with different teachers much like regular school), but I remember her saying how she hated the word "sin" and preferred using the euphemism of "missing the mark". I liked that then and I still do. I miss the mark a whole hell of a lot and I am learning how to forgive myself for it and then to make amends. It is all well and good I feel guilty, but what good is the guilt if doesn't motivate me to do better? A therapist told me that my intentions are good, but do I want to have people constantly give me a break because I meant well? It is a pattern I have relied too much on...people usually want to give people a chance for whatever reason and I have taken advantage of that.

I believe I have skated by a lot in life because I have been blessed by too much good fortune. So many things come too easily to me that when I actually had to work for something I didn't know what to do. Rather than work, I often would blame myself for not having the natural ability or avoid it entirely. It was a cop out and it is still something I find myself wanting to do. In the end, it is best to deal with things head on than let them build until they become issues, therefore the need to communicate and follow through.

Tomorrow happens to be World Card Making Day and I, dear reader, plan on making some of those cards that I have intended to make, but haven't done yet.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Love, love, lovE, LOVE


Last night I watched the show I had most anticipated this season: "Pushing Daisies". If you want a summary about the show follow the link as I am pretty atrocious at summarizing (see post about dreams below as evidence). What I can tell you is that I love the luscious, Technicolor look of the show reminiscent to the saturated intensity found in movies like "Nanny McPhee" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". There is a sense you are watching a slightly morbid children's fairy tale which is reinforced by the voice of the narrator (Jim Dale who is the voice for all of the Harry Potter audio books here in the States).

The hero, Ned, is a pie maker with special powers and so very isolated from the world of the living. The heroine, Chuck (aka Charlotte Charles) was Ned's childhood sweetheart (only sweetheart for what I can tell) whom he brought back from the dead in order to solve her murder. There are several other interesting supporting characters. The love story at the heart of the show is sweet and tragic as they can never touch and I think we all wonder (or at least those who watched the show) how they will express their affection without contact. As on critic said, this show is going to explore aspects of love not often touched upon (no pun intended) and perhaps even the nature of love.

I am always curious about love (of all types, but for purposes of this post the romantic variety) the way only a person who hasn't experienced the much lauded emotion can be. I have seen friends and family in love, I have heard the tales of love from friends and family and I have witnessed the erosion of love. Love is as unique as those that experience it. Sometimes the love is selfish or self-serving. Sometimes the love is selfless. Sometimes is seems surprising. Sometimes it seems inevitable in hindsight. Sometimes love is soft and gentle like pale sunshine on a spring day. Sometimes love is harsh and powerful. Sometimes love is nourishing. Sometimes love is harrowing. Sometimes love is affirming. Sometimes love is eternal. Sometimes love is temporary. Sometimes love is without limits. Sometimes love is conditional. Sometimes love is abrasive. Sometimes love is a balm. Sometimes love is suffocating. Sometimes love is freeing. Sometimes love is safe. Sometimes love is dangerous.

Is it little wonder everyone can write so much about such a many-faceted emotion? Is it little wonder that people remain ever fascinated? I have thought long and hard about love because I want to write about it (and if I am honest would like to experience at least once, although I am no good with emotion). How can someone who has never experienced love write about it? Since love is so very different for everyone would it matter if I experienced it when I have to ascribe it to characters that aren't even remotely me? I still have to imagine how a particular character of a certain disposition, experiences, time and place would feel and express love. For anyone who thinks writing a romance of depth, sensitivity and feeling is easy, think again. A few historical romance genre authors surpass others in their ability: Judith Ivory (also known as Judy Cuevas), Laura Kinsale and Patricia Gaffney (she no longer writes historical romance, but her Wyckerley Trilogy is excellent) to name a few.

Asking about love can meet with jubilant and effusive talk, silence or a rant. I always wish to ask about it, to learn how love is for that particular person, but love is personal and some people don't want to discuss it. I wonder if there is a site dedicated to sharing stories about love? That would be fascinating....

By the way, the image found above is of a card I am sending one of my uncles for his birthday. It is a bit feminine, yet I think he will appreciate it nonetheless. I used extra bits I had on my table from making my orange artist trading cards earlier this week and since my uncle likes blue I went with blue and orange. I always wonder what the woman is thinking with her sweet smile...perhaps she is remembering her first kiss or dreaming about who she will love? Then again maybe she is thinking about running through the meadow or dancing or doing sums or she solved a riddle....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dabbling into Dreaming

I was thinking in the shower again this morning reviewing some of the nebulous dreams of the previous night and early morning hours. I remember quite a few of my dreams and there are periods when I seem to exert a great deal of energy into dreaming as I will awake exhausted. I wish (like many) I knew what exactly the function of dreaming is...sometimes they are ordinary dreams, others are twisted everyday life and then there are the outright outlandish and fantastical dreams.

My dreaming usually involves many, many strangers with a few people from real life sprinkled in. Sometimes the strangers have reoccurring roles, sometimes not. Sometimes people from real life are themselves as I know them and sometimes not. There seems to be no real rules or boundaries or logic in dreaming. Ghost-possessed dogs are just as acceptable as having friends laugh at you as walk through school only in a short t-shirt that you have your hands tugging down. I rarely remember names or numbers from dreams even when they are significant, so if I do remember I wonder what they mean. Schafer was a name that remained with me this morning, as did some of the images, plot and emotions from the dreams I could recall. Retelling dreams is nearly always a frustrating and baffling effort because dreams aren't like real life that can be encapsulated into the logic of words. Dreaming often involves cues known only to the dreamer. Still, I am going to try (mayhap futilely) to share at least some of what transpired in my dreams last night.

I can tell you one dream began fairly inanely enough. I was searching with my sister for a rug for the studio (which we really are doing) and we went into a store which I believe I have been to before whilst dreaming (the clerk was certainly someone I had dreamt of before and she remembered me and asked me to say hello to two people) where we found a wonderful rug with an orange background and pink, yellow, green and turquoise accents marked down from a large price to under $20. Even in dreams I should have known this was too good to be true. So, we ended up purchasing the rug only to be told that we would have to go to the warehouse to pick up the rug. As we had no idea where the warehouse was a man (who I assumed worked for the store) offered to take me. I became separated from my sister at this point. We drove to the warehouse, which did not look anything like a warehouse, and he went inside with me following. This is when the dream changed...inside the so-called warehouse was dozens of people, very eerily placid and slack-mouth people. I find out the warehouse housed the town's zombies too and they didn't remain docile for long and I found myself running with another normal person (some guy who appeared I guess) and we hid behind boxes, etc. in a room chose at random. Luckily this guy also knew how to find outlets to other rooms through boxes. We climbed in boxes only to appear in another room, finding the rug on the way (I think) and somehow we made it out of the warehouse of horror (that part I don't really recall but it involved some plan). I have skipped some of the more gruesome aspects of the dream that I can vaguely picture. Strangely, enough I don't classify this dream as a nightmare as I have had too many dreams like this one and I realize whilst dreaming it is only a dream....

Another dream though bothers me because of the emotions involved and because I became confused as I began to buy into the dream. In this dream I was talking to a girl when I told her something about myself I suddenly remembered: I was married and divorced at a very young age. My dream self thought wow, I should really include that in my 100 Things (a list I really did do this past week) because it is a really interesting tidbit about my life. In conjunction with this memory of a failed marriage at a VERY young age is also the revelation to me that I had lost a baby (the impetus for such a marriage). Now, I know this didn't really happen, but I have dreamt about this early marriage in a previous dream and every time I think of this hidden past it triggers an emotional amalgamation that is incredibly real: I feel claustrophobic, trapped, confused, pressured, ashamed, afraid, out of control, etc. It is the emotion profile that disturbs me because I have felt it before in real life and yet I can't figure out where or when.

There are two other dreams I remember from this past night/morning concerning a couple of college friends, but they make even less sense than the dreams above...they are more like vignettes that seem to have no real purpose. One involved my friend in Texas, a bedspread from my childhood I lent her in my dream and her passing me her hairbrush that I then cleaned out. I thought about how dark her hair was as I threw it away. The other dream involved my friend in Ohio in which she said how much she hated eating alone (we each were in a station with a computer which reminds me of when I vote, but this time you had to fill in family & personal information rather than which candidate you wished to vote for and we ate at the individual stations) as she was too social and she didn’t like the chorizo that they served. She said next time we eat together (I had the impression that this was some sort of reunion—there were other details in this dream, but they are about the journey from the computers to another place in which my friend disclosed her opinions and they involve a hill, sweeping vistas, and how berries or flowers were planted there—blue on one side of the trail and red on the other).

I wonder what the heck it all means? If you, dear reader, have an idea (and I haven't completely confused you) please let me know or if you just want to share some of your dreams or dream theory, I would love to hear about any of it....

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Repetition & Reminders

You know I am a neophyte to the world of blogging (and it has been around for years) so (I hope) you will forgive me for being excited that I added a subscription function to this blog. This means you can be informed via email (and other ways I believe) of when I post and also the content of the latest posts. I am not sure if anyone will subscribe, but I use that option when available on blogs I enjoy reading so that I am reminded of them (I do tend to have odd memory problems).

It seems I have a lot more to learn about blogging, but I am going slowly. This is all an experiment for me (much like life): to discover if I have anything to say; to work on my communication skills; to see patterns in all things; to express myself; to play around with ideas and concepts; to connect with others; to find value in the mundane; to keep up with something; to learn; to explore; to find focus and meaning....

I imagine I am reiterating a lot of what I have already written concerning my reason for this blog, but often we need repetition to create a rhythm of memory...a beat our minds can attune to in order to remember a thought or even a conglomeration of ideas creating an ideology. I wonder how much these things are fermented in our dreams? Perhaps images become bookmarks or placeholders.

With time, effort and patience I think I may just learn how to create a dynamic blog. I have found that it takes me a while to find my way, but once I do the possibilities are endless. I hope you remain around for the journey, dear reader. I know you will expand my horizons and maybe--just maybe--I may expand yours.

If you wish to have a reminder about this blog, please subscribe at left.