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Happy Halloween!

29 Oct

I’m currently at work, where we had a Superhero dress up theme for Halloween, and I wanted to share my costume.

Wonder Woman!

I didn’t get dressed in front of a mirror (I used an empty office) and I probably should have, but you can get the gist.  This will be worn at least once more (but probably on Saturday and Sunday both).  It’s totally homemade and cost about $15.

The skirt was from Old Navy (their clearance section, for $1.97) and the top was from JC Penney (also on clearance, it cost less than $4).  I had some dark fabric iron on transfers left over from a friend’s birthday party that I used to get the logo and stars on the outfit.

The headpiece is a $1.99 foam tiara from Michael’s that I cut the spiky bits off of and stuck a pretty red star onto (the star came in a package of 25 for $2), and the bracelets and belt are made from the same foam material – three pieces set me back about $5.  I got a belt to wear underneath everything from Ross on clearance for $5.  I also have a golden lasso but left it at home.  Darn!  The boots are the only things that cost more but I’ll be wearing them later so they don’t count!

Wonder Woman is easily my favorite superhero, so it was a no-brainer when I heard that was our theme.  When I was itty-bitty, my mom made me a Wonder Woman costume for Halloween.  I wore it until I couldn’t fit into it anymore!

Yes this is me about 27 or 28 years ago...

We have a full weekend ahead of us, with a party to attend tomorrow night and a mini-gathering at our house Sunday.  I have to keep this costume looking fresh and clean so I can wear it again (and hopefully sew on the belt properly!).  My husband is going as Clark Kent, complete with a Superman shirt underneath his suit…  That I made from an iron-on too!  Yay creativity and thriftiness!

 

Have a Happy Halloween!

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Words, Words, Words…

13 Sep

This is not a post about food.  It’s not even a post about my garden, although I promise to have one of those very very soon.  It shouldn’t be too long, but I had to share a little bit.

I’ve always always been addicted the written word*.  There’s an audio tape somewhere in the depths of my parents’ house of me, at 22 months old, playing with my mother; we go through making my dad’s birthday cake and I recite “The Three Little Kittens” (yes, the whole thing) and sing “White Coral Bells” (a song I didn’t remember until I heard the tape as a teenager) and, using the magnets my parents bought for our refrigerator, identify the whole alphabet and name off things that start with the letter.  For example, “J is for Father Joe” (the priest at our church at the time) “and Jenny!” (my grandmother’s dog – which is far more impressive when you realize we lived 2000 miles away from my grandmother at the time and we’d visited her once since I was old enough to understand English).

There’s another tape, a video this time, that exists.  I’m 5 years old, in Kindergarten, reading a picture book (the kind with a story and lots of words, not the kind with a single word on a page) to the camera.  Hammy to a fault (I complain to my parents when the camera is focused on my baby sister and keep looking at myself in the television), I stumble over only a single word (and correct it in short order).

My mother says I just picked up a book one day, at 3 1/2 or so, and started reading.  I credit endless hours of Sesame Street and nightly bedtime stories and parents who love books so much that our shelves were always overflowing.  I never lacked for reading material, whether it was a gift lovingly picked out for me by a family member or the product of our sometimes-more-than-weekly library outings (thank goodness there was a branch only a few blocks away, since I was known to finish chapter books in a few hours).

I fancied myself a writer from a very young age too, sometimes composing in my head a little narrative about what was happening.  I remember vividly a day when my grade school crush fell from the top of the slide; in my head it was as though I was reading what was happening on a page.  It wasn’t that I was detatched, I just liked narrating.

I kept a “regular” journal from the age of seven or eight, and then a separate one for poetry (the third one, for song lyrics and basic melodies, was started around age ten).  I liked experimenting with words and more than once would use an archaic form of something just because I liked it (“whence” anyone?).  My poems were most definitely not genius material (although I did win a few awards at school and have them published in our school paper, much to my delight).  Most of them were really, truly BAD.  But I wrote them just the same, and enjoyed the process of writing them.

As a teenager I increasingly wrote songs to express my feelings – these were also pretty bad.  I’m not too handy with a piano keyboard, despite my five years of lessons, so the tunes were written out as a series of letters.  “A, B, E#, C”, etc.  Most of these revolved around my teenage crush, who at the time was “just a friend”.  I think I wrote the last one when we (finally!) decided to date.  That one was the worst of the bunch!

In young adulthood, I worked for my alma mater, in the Adult Education department.  It was a pretty basic administrative job; I had to do a ton of accounting work, and some collections calling, but I never felt consumed by the process and could easily go home and expend creative energy.  I wrote a lot at this time – mostly scenes from Women’s Fiction novels (not bodice-ripping romances, but the larger, mass market paperback sized ones that repeatedly get made into romantic comedy “chick flicks”).  I never wrote a whole novel, or even a whole story, and I never could figure out the whole plot of anything.  More than once I’d wake up in the morning with a line or two in my head and just write until I couldn’t write anymore.  Sometimes it would be the beginning of a novel, but more often than not it would be a scene in the middle.  Rarely did the same character inspire more than two scenes.  I loved this free form of expression and sometimes I even loved what I wrote.  I still think I could come up with a pretty decent story if I ever followed one of those through.

I took a Personal Narrative class about 6 years ago.  Our assignments were simple – write a 3-5 page essay about something in your life.  I wrote about people I met on the bus during the two years I took it daily.  I wrote about my first lady-doctor appointment.  I wrote about my grandmother’s house, and the memories I had of being a child there.  I wrote about my Great Uncle, and how much my boyfriend (now my husband) was like him.

I planned to take more writing classes, and soon.  But life got in the way, as it frequently does, and I decided it was high time for me to get a “real” job, one that used my degree and my skills.  So I took some “real” classes – in copyediting, of all things, and event management, and started sending out resumes.  I got a job that ended up being very stressful, and another one after that that started off fun but soon was like a vampire with my time, energy, and creativity.

I’ve not had that job for nearly a year.  It wasn’t my intention nor was it my doing.  I’ve been working myself to the bone looking for another one, and I’m hoping that the end of this longer-than-anticipated tunnel is in sight.  But in the interim I found myself increasingly returning to the things I loved – cooking, obviously, and gardening, and tons of crafts I forgot I was good at, and singing, and photography, and writing.

Oh, the writing.

At first it was just this blog – and I’d started it years ago, when I was still at the stressful time-sucking job.  But recently I’ve found myself travelling with a pen and paper.  I have a notebook specifically for ideas, with a list in the back and pages in the front filled with stories.  To date I’ve written three full (and one partial) manuscripts.  Now, these aren’t novels, and they’re not filled with archaic words.  In fact, they’re not particularly complicated overall.  But they’ve made me incredibly happy.

Last month I read one of my childhood favorite stories to the students at the preschool where my husband teaches, and I went in again two weeks ago to read another.  About a week later I realized I had a story stuck in my head.  This wasn’t a scene from a potentially-blockbuster romantic comedy, but rather a short story for children, using poetry as a storytelling device (I’d tell you more but it would give things away!).  That’s actually the partially-written manuscript, since the poetry proved to be more difficult than anticipated (it needed a little time to percolate and will eventually be written in entirety).  The next day I had another, completely different, story.  I took an hour to myself and wrote it all down in my notebook.

Yesterday I shut myself in the office, away from my husband’s football game, and sat in his great-grandfather’s comfortable armchair and wrote and wrote.  Lists of ideas, scraps of stories, and another full manuscript.  This was the first one about humans, coincidentally – the rest were all about animals.  (You may recall I said I had three full manuscripts written – the last was a mostly-finished story about a bird who fell out of his nest, penned originally three summers ago when I found a tiny, bald baby mockingbird in my backyard; I edited it last week, and typed it out.)

Why am I sharing?  I’m not really sure, exactly, except that it makes me happy.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something, gotten back to my roots, enjoyed the creative process.  I’m actually going to be going to a Children’s Book Writing lecture next month, and I may even attempt to get these stories published professionally (even if I don’t, I’ll probably try my hand at some primitive illustrations and get them printed up in a photo book).

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to be writing in the future – I’m waiting for word about a potential part-time opportunity right now – but I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished. 

*Oh yes, I stole this line completely, from Ever After. 🙂

Holy Links, Batman!

23 Jul

I’ve been linked!  I can’t help it…  I’m so excited!!!!

Do you like photography?

12 Mar

Specifically nature photography?  Are you a flower geek?

Okay, probably not.  But I am.  So I started another blog (not to replace this one, but as a totally separate thing so I can do the personal stuff and the recipes here and do the photography stuff there).  I know I’m no professional, and I know I’d probably do better with a more expensive camera (oh, digital SLR cameras, why must you be so pricey?).  But I started this site nonetheless.  I hope you’ll go and check it out!

http://inbloomsandiego.wordpress.com

I’m Dreaming of a Crafty Christmas…

14 Dec

I’ve been neglecting my blog the last week or so for one major reason – I’ve been SO busy!

Between cooking – making marshmallows from scratch, and batches and batches of graham crackers, and three or four sets of various breads, and a big Asian-inspired feast complete with boba tea (oh yeah if you make Chinese steamed buns, make sure you put parchment paper on the bottoms or you’ll be cleaning your steamer for a week…  I know first-hand!) – and crafting – cards, ornaments, basically anything anyone will let me near – and decorating – our house, the neighbor’s house – and nursing a very sore knee (dangit I have no clue what I did), I’m pooped!

I wanted to share some of my handiwork!

First, the Christmas lights (yes, this is technically mostly my hubby’s handiwork, since the’s the monkey who gets on the top of the ladders)…

On our house:

Big chunky colored lights on the top, net lights on the bushes, and my $5 thrift store vintage light-up Santa that I adore 🙂

And our neighbor’s house:

This is the fourth year we've helped the neighbor across the street with her lights. She really goes all out and we benefit because we get to see our handiwork from this vantage point every night!

And our tree:

We went out to a tree farm in Potrero to pick our tree this year. They didn't have my Noble Fir - only Monterey Pines. It's pretty and it smells good, but this tree is DROOPY now, despite having been cut the day we got it and put it up (we think it's just the type of tree because it's taking in lots of water). Anyway this is the night we put it up.

Last night we went to hubby’s work Christmas party.  They do a gift exchange there.  One of our gifts was these “Super-Special Star-Shaped S’mores”:

Homemade s'mores kit!

I finally made the marshmallows and graham crackers from Smitten Kitchen (and trust me, it’s totally worth it, they’re amazing!) and we packed them up in little cellophane baggies with skewers and instructions and everything.  In one of the baggies, we also put this baby:

S'mores ornament!

I know it’s a pretty horrible photo – to tell you the truth, I’d have sworn I took a better one until I went looking throug my recent photos to put this post up.  Now I’m sad because it was a really cool ornament.  It was shaped just like the s’mores in the kit – with the same star-shaped cookie cutter – and the “marshmallow” had a thin webbing on it that looked just like it was melty and roasty.  I put a lot of work into that thing!

Speaking of putting work into ornaments, here are a few others I’m working on (they’re all Christmas gifts, so if you’re family please look away or at least don’t give away the surprise!):

"Home 2009"woodgrain detail - the mantle has the same woodgrain, made from smooshing and stretching together several colors of brown all at once.

the stockings, hung by the chimney with care (with mini candy canes!)

Mistletoe Mooses

Moose details 🙂

Snow Family 200

Snowgirl detail

Teddy bear!

He's beary cute (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Puppy!

I'm totally proud of this killer bow!

Penguin - I love his body but I'm not totally sold on his eyes...

OK - this one's not a gift. It's for me. Eeyore, because he reminds me of my sweet kitty who died in '05

I love this tail!!!

I’m seriously wishing I’d gotten my start sooner.  I’ll barely have time to finish family presents.  I’d hoped to start an Etsy shop, because this is really fun and they’re turning out really, really cute.  I am having an easier time with every piece (these were not posted in order of when they were finished) and getting details and technique down.  Model Magic is kind of a pain in the butt, because it’s very sticky – you can probably see in the moose details shot where her face stuck to his sweater – but it’s also very malleable, incredibly blendable (I mixed most of the subtle colors), and very light.  Which means even the big ornaments won’t fall because they are too heavy.  The other thing is that it glues well – so even though I’ve had a couple of oopsies (like Eeyore’s ears, that fell right off the day after I made him), they were easily fixed with plain old Elmer’s.

Now on to the cards…  We have 84 people on our Christmas card list this year.  I don’t even know HOW I got that many people to send cards to!!!  A few of them will be getting special cards – parents, siblings, great aunt and uncle, grandma, grandpa – but most will be getting “regular” cards.  Except that our regular cards this year – with the exception of the two I gave out when I saw some family members before we were finished making these – will be handmade by us!

We actually made cards in 2007 – we picked up a kit and put the cards together in all sorts of ways – but this year we went one step further.  Most of the cards we made this year were from scrapbooking supplies, not a kit (16 of them were kit cards, though).  I made about 90% of the cards – hubby was busy and just wasn’t “feeling” it, but he came in and made a few, with his unique creativity, in the end.  These are some of my favorites (but don’t feel badly if you don’t get a favorite, because I love them all and every single one is unique):

Joy

Snowball Fight! (the snowballs are bits of glitter glue... I had fun)

Just For You

Do Not Open Until Dec. 25th

And because I’m a total nerd, I took fancy photos of all the cards we made:

Hubby's handmade cards (including one featuring a dog trying to get the cat who climbed the tree and one featuring a cat sitting in front of - but looking like it's being incinerated by - a fireplace) 🙂

The "kit" cards - red-and-green style (I actually used a bunch of stickers and embellishments from other sources on these cards, but the cards themselves were colored and are quite a bit smaller)

Blue "kit" cards

A duo of cards featuring my hand-done art. Yeah, there's a reason why there were only two!

"Scrap" cards - where I took bits of paper from other sources and sort of stuck it all together. I really love the one featuring the penguin (on the left).

Dark blue cards

Light blue cards

Muted colors

Red and Green cards

White cards (I made the poinsettia on the right side out of scraps of red cardboard!)

 

Today’s assignment?  Lots of dishes, some laundry, and (hopefully) finishing up the Christmas shopping and wrapping, making the last of the ornaments that we’re planning to ship, getting the Christmas list ready to merge, and finishing signing Christmas cards!  Tomorrow we’d like to get the cards and the package to the East Coast sent off…  Whew!

It’s Mine!!

24 Jun

Okay, you have to understand a few things, first off.  I played with Barbies until I was 12 or 13.  Secondly, I collected them for a few years after that.  I love Barbies, bad rap for screwing with little girls’ body image and all (I think I turned out okay after playing with them, no matter about their origins as German sex toys).  But I haven’t bought a Barbie, or had one bought for me, in probably 12 or 13 years, at least.  There was a point, though, where I had each of the holiday editions and some of the other fun ones (Wonder Woman, Lucy, etc.).

There was this particular Barbie that I really, really wanted.  She came out in 1993 or ’94 and she was the object of my desire.  I was a bit obsessive over ancient Egypt, not just that year (although it was right after I read Mara, Daughter of the Nile, admittedly not the best book in my childhood repertoire, but it piqued my interest) but for a long time.  I could recite the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, read some hyroglyphics, etc.  For this reason I had to go to the King Tut exhibit when it was in Los Angeles a few years ago (and was sorely disappointed – the British Museum was SO much better and cheaper!).  But I digress.

This Barbie was all the gorgeousness of the world’s most popular fashion doll with all the incredible Egyptian mythology mixed in.  She was part of the “Great Eras” series of dolls, and I think originally sold for something around $60.  My mom had thought to buy her for me for Christmas that year and for some reason didn’t (we just had this discussion and she can’t even remember anymore).  I am pretty sure that the story is that the doll was on sale, but I was out shopping with my mom; she decided to come back to the store when I wasn’t with her (to surprise me) and when she got back all the dolls were sold.  Even years later, my mom would say “Remember that Egyptian Barbie?  I should have gotten her for you…”

Since then, I’ve seen her a few times.  I think we even looked her up once.  She was priced at over $100.  “Collector” Barbies can get quite expensive, and as much as I thought she was just gorgeous I had no desire to spend that kind of money.  I stopped collecting a long time ago and just didn’t think about her since.

But yesterday I stopped into the toy shop here in La Jolla.  It’s moving to the mall and selling off all the old stock.  I walked carefully through the aisles, looking for something interesting (for hubby’s class, or a niece, or a cousin, or a friend’s baby, or just a fun art project for yours truly).  But it was mostly cleaned out.  I stopped in the Barbie aisle (hey, I can still look!) and noticed some of my favorite old dolls.  There was the Holiday Barbie from 1996 (yes, I have her)…  And then I saw the Grecian Goddess Barbie.

Now, the Grecian Goddess Barbie was in the “Great Eras” collection too.  I looked down the shelf and they had the Chinese one, but no Egyptian Barbie.  Still…

“Do you happen to have the Egyptian one?” I asked the owner, thinking he’d say “No, everything’s out on the shelves” and I’d leave.  “Hang on,” he said instead.  “Let me check.”

He walked into the back and I walked down another aisle, trying not to hover.  I wondered if it would still be exciting, 15 years later.  He was in the back room a while and when he returned, he was carrying a little box.  “Is this it?” he asked.

Egyptian Barbie smiled up at me.  I tried not to squeal.  Yup.  Felt the same.  “How much?”  I asked, trying to restrain myself.  “Well, they’re normally $60, but it’s half off.  So $30,” he answered.  “I’ll take it!” I said.  “I loved it so much when it first came out and never got it!”

So…  Here’s my find, photo courtesy of Wow Dolls (where Egyptian Barbie is currently being sold for $89…  yeah, I got a good deal!).

I finally got my Egyptian Barbie!

I finally got my Egyptian Barbie!

Triumph Over the Machine

20 May

I’ve got this tiny problem at home called too much data for my computer.  I thought I’d solved it about a year and a half ago when I found a SeaGate FreeAgent external hard drive on sale at Amazon.com – it was 500 GB (as opposed to my 80 GB hard drive that seemed so ginormous when I built my computer in 2003) and under $100.  So I bought it.

For a while, it worked fantastically.  I’d take it everywhere with me, and had all sorts of things – .mp3s, photos, video clips, all manner of written projects – stored on there.  Then, after a marathon session of wedding photo editing during which the hard drive was used heavily, it started acting strange.  It would stop connecting, start making grinding noises, act like it was working and then suddenly freak out (and often left the computer in such a state of confusion that it required a hard shut-down).  I tried it on my desktop at home, our laptop, even my desktop at work.  I discovered that it couldn’t stay connected for more than a few megabytes’ worth of copying/pasting/saving.

I was seriously pissed.

What’s a girl to do when she’s saved everything on an external hard drive that’s now refusing to play nice?

I went searching on the internet for a solution to my problem.  This was back in November or December and I found a blog where several dozen people had commented about their issues with this particular external hard drive (leave it to me to buy a piece of junk).  A few had come up with solutions – disconnecting the internal LED light for some reason seemed to help, and everyone agreed that the casing was not allowing the thing to cool down – but most of them involved breaking into the hard drive casing.  Which I was too chicken/busy to do.

Until this weekend.

On Sunday, I decided I had nothing better to do.  I pulled up the blog I’d found, with its instructions about dismantling the thing, and grabbed a screwdriver, a hammer, and the new casing I’d bought.  And took a deep breath.

Now, for reference, this is what I started with:

What a hunk of junk

What a hunk of junk

It looks perfectly nice, a sleek black casing with a friendly yellow LED.  All you have to do to make it work is plug it in to the wall and the computer.  It springs to life and connects without any special drivers or programs.  Easy peasy.  Except when it’s not.

The instructions on the blog (which I can find and post if you’re interested, but more than likely you weren’t as dumb as me and didn’t buy this junky hard drive, and if you did…  well, good luck) were to get some sort of wedge-like tool and “spudge” the plastic base apart.

This was easier said than done, since there were several plastic clips that kept getting in the way.  Eventually I wedged the screwdriver (not really the weapon of choice, according to the blog, since jamming a piece of metal into an electrical component can theoretically ruin the electrical component beyond repair, but it was what I had available) between the two pieces of plastic and the bottom came off and flew across the room.  Success!

Then it was no simple feat to disconnect the curiously-tight-fitting wires from their plugs on the hard drive’s computer chip and unscrew the metal plate from the bottom of the upright part of the casing.  Someone on the blog I was reading said to bash the chip into a million pieces for giving you so much trouble.  I didn’t.  But I was tempted to.

Of course, the task was only begun, since there was a whole other plastic case that needed popping off – screwdriver wedged between plastic clips and all.  The screwdriver needed wedging in between the plastic bits all the way around the case this time, and in the process I gave myself a nasty scrape on the finger.  The plastic finally gave way and broke apart, the troublesome LED tumbling out.

There was, of course, yet another layer of seemingly impenetrable casing, a metal cage around the hard drive itself.  I’d have never realized that this wasn’t just part of the component if it wasn’t for four little rubber “feet” sticking out from the sides.  I went to fit the hard drive into the new case and found that it wasn’t quite going in.  At first, I figured I’d just gotten the wrong size case, so I took a drive to Fry’s.  Luckily, the salesperson I talked to described how a hard drive should look, and I realized that I needed to remove the cage.

This was, of course, not easily done.  In fact, my husband was truly scared to see me poking at the thing with a screwdriver and trying to get underneath the tightly-closed metal flaps.  I had to wedge my screwdriver under a bit of metal and bend it back, like peeling a particularly stubborn orange.  I ended up with a mangled metal piece and one finally free hard drive, which I popped into the new casing with nary another issue.  I plugged it in and – voila! – it hummed to life, finally giving me access to the files I’d thought I might never see again.  I’m not sure whether this new casing is a whole lot better, even though it’s supposed to be, so I’m not sure how long it’ll last.  But it felt like such an accomplishment when, after two hours of poking, prying, unscrewing, wedging, and popping, I had a working hard drive!!!  YEAH!

And I also had an interesting pile of discarded pieces.  Rather like modern art.

Blog Photos - May 09 001

 

Blog Photos - May 09 002

 

Blog Photos - May 09 003

 

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