Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar


Yesterday afternoon, we went to see Avatar. The Young One, especially had expressed interest in seeing it after we saw the trailer. Himself ordered tickets online to the Imax 3D theater. I'm so glad we got the tickets ahead of time because the movie has been sold out, every show this week until New Year's Day. Even though we got to the theater with plenty of time to spare, the theater was packed, and we ended up having to sit down front.


I was a little worried the movie wouldn't live up to all the hype, but it did. In one word, it was wicked!
The Young One is heavily into computer games and graphics. She thought the movie was Halo2 and 3, and Assassin's Creed rolled into one. The movie also liberally borrowed from The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.
All in all great special effects and CGI. The Imax seats were equipped with an individual sound system called a butt kicker. You felt the movie as well as watched it. I was a little worried about watching the movie in 3D as I am prone to vertigo, but I didn't really have much to worry about. I think if we were sitting further up, I might have felt the theater start spinning, but sitting in the third row, I was able to look at the bottom of the screen to ground me.
If you can't get enough of the movie or just want to play, you can Avatarize yourself. I just love me as one of The People. My favorite color for skin tone, and no double chin! I haven't been that thin in some 25 years though I never had a graceful swan neck.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Favorite Quote


This month has been pretty wild and wooly. I decided to add an appropriate quote to my email signature from one of my favorite movies: This business will get out of control. It will get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it. - Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October.

What's your favorite quote?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Friday Five


Merry Christmas! This is a quiet day for us. No running here and there visiting relatives and delivering gifts. Today is a relaxing, family day. A pj day for those who wish. What could be more relaxing than watching movies while lounging in your pjs? Christmas movies to while the day away: (and not just for Christmas)

1. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The real one. The animated one. Can't get any better than Boris Karloff as The Narrator/Grinch. Not to mention the Chuck Jones' (from Bugs Bunny fame) direction.

2. It's A Wonderful Life. It's not Christmas until you've seen this film at least once during the season. Even though the film is in "dog view" (The Eldest's description for black and white) this is a true classic. Jimmy Stewart with the help of a bumbling angel learns how one's life effects others. And he gets to tell off the formidable Lionel Barrymore to boot.

3. Miracle on 34th Street, the "dog view" 1947 version with Maureen O'Hara and a little Natalie Wood. The lesson: one just has to believe

4. A Christmas Story, Ralphie tries to convince the adult world that a Red Ryder BB Gun is the ultimate Christmas gift and he won't shoot his eye out.

5. Another "dog view" movie. (Can't help it, I love the old movies) The Bishop's Wife. Dudley the angel as only Cary Grant can play him comes to answer the bishop's (David Niven) prayer for help.

I know it's supposed to be the Friday Five, but there's another movie or two to add. A Christmas Carol. I know lots of folks feel the movie with Alistair Sim as Scrooge is the definitive Carol, but I also love two other versions. The 1984 made for tv version starring Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present and George C Scott as Scrooge. And try not to laugh, but I also love The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine as Scrooge.

A new favorite is Elf. I'm not a huge Will Farrell fan, but this movie is just too funny and sweet at the same time. No matter how out of place we feel we are with the rest of the world, we all have something important to contribute.

What's your favorite Christmas movie?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Minute Wrapping


It's been a hectic two weeks for me with a family problem and I'm woefully behind with holiday preparations. I had a couple of gift cards but needed something to put them in. I was hunting on the Internet for some sort of paper craft stocking or bag. Came across how to make gift bags from envelopes. Very easy to make with items I already had on hand. Envelopes, ribbon, glue. I printed some clip art to decorate the front of the bags. "Didn't they turn out cute?" she asked shamelessly fishing for compliments.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3D Snowflake


Look what The Young One made! A 3D snowflake. The way the paper is shaped reminds me of Mobius strips. I thought this must have been a project in the AP Calculus class she's in. Nope, they made the snowflakes in psychology.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas

Heard this on the radio the other day. It's by the group Straight No Chaser. I thought their arrangement was pretty clever. What do you think?

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Honor of Mistletoe


Romance author, Katie Ganshert, has declared today the Official Kissing Day blogfest! Post your favorite kissing or almost-kiss scene. This can be from your own writing, or from a favorite book or movie.

Since I'm not a writer, my favorite kissing scene comes from a movie. I'm not really one for romantic movies. I prefer action and adventure, especially Westerns. I think one of the most romantic and sexy scenes comes from the movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. There is something electric whenever this couple is on screen. In this scene in the graveyard, Sean and Mary Kate have just shared a deep kiss. She turns to him for comfort and strength during a thunderstorm, and he realizes how much he loves her. Add The Duke's bulging muscles gleaming through the wet, silk, Arrow shirt and THUD!

Do you have a favorite romantic scene?

Here is what to do if you want to participate in the Official Kissing Day Blogfest:
1. Write a post telling about the Official Kissing Day Blogfest. This way more writer/bloggers will get the word and be able to participate on Monday, Dec. 21st.

2. Tweet about it, using the hash tag: #kissingdayblogfest (I don't know if this will help get the word out, but I thought it might be fun to try.)

3. On Monday, December 21st, post on your blog an excerpt from your current WIP, or write a new scene that spotlights a kiss or an "almost kiss".

4. If you are not a writer, or are uncomfortable sharing your work online, post your favorite kissing scene or almost-kissing scene from any book or movie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Friday Five


Five Christmas memories that were rather tragic at the time, but now are rather funny.

1a. When I was very little, we had a small, silver tinsel Christmas tree that stood on top of the coffee table. The ornaments were all the same. 4 dozen fushia with silver glitter balls. No lights. We had a spotlight that had a disk fitted over it. The disk was cut into 4 different colored quarters so whatever was illuminated would turn colors: red, green, yellow, blue. Like some psychedlic crack house.

1b. The reason we had the artificial tree was because The Brother (6 years my senior) climbed the real live Christmas tree at the age of two. Or rather he tried to climb it and the tree toppled over. Broken lights, broken ornaments, frightened baby. You would think by the time I arrived and was out of the toddler phase, the parents would have figured no one was going to try to scale the tree and gotten a real Christmas tree.

2. When I was 9 or 10 years old, Ma decorated the living room in what a fellow Italian once described to me as Nouvea Guinea. The sofa was white and gold and covered in plastic. Moss green and gold accents for curtains and throw pillows. The silver tree got dumped for one exactly like it in white. Four dozen gold ornaments, all the same, replaced the four dozen fushia and silver ornaments all the same. That year, I received a white and gold parka. A picture of me wearing the jacket was taken in front of the tree. I'm camoflaged.

3. Even though I felt bad about breaking some of the fuschia ornaments, I broke some on purpose. I wasn't fond of those pink ornaments.

4. When I was five years old and my cousin, Denise, was six. We had identical organza party dresses my mother bought for us. Hers was peach and mine was turqouise. We were visiting over her house (a triple decker in E. Boston). It was pretty close to Christmas and excitement and tension was high. I don't remember the cause, but we had a knock down, drag out, cat fight. Ruffled panties and petticoats whirling. Yelling and screaming as we yanked on each other's banana curls. Amid all this caterwalling in walked Santa Clause. Hand to God, the man himself! Red velvet coat, shiny black boots and belt, red hat with white pompom and his snowy white beard. He yelled at us for being naughty and fighting. Threatened us with coal in our stockings. We instantly stopped fighting and started hugging each other, crying and consoling each other because we were getting coal for Christmas.

5a. Because The Brother was so much older than me, he must have gotten annoyed that he couldn't snoop around to see what gifts he was getting. I was 7 when he spilled the beans. Being the good friend I was, I decided to share the news with Himself. We grew up next door to each other. He's a year younger than me. I'm not sure he's quite forgiven me yet.

5b. To take the sting out of the news, The Brother took me on the Christmas gift fishing trip. He found where Ma had hidden the stash. All the gifts were wrapped. With infinite patience, he showed me how to carefully remove the tape, open one end of the package, and gingerly remove the item. We'd open things up oooh and aaah. Then he would slide the item back in the wrapping paper without tearing the paper! and seal the gift up. Ma had no idea the packages had ever been tampered with. On Christmas morning, we would act surprised in all the right places. By the way, my ma worked outside the home full time so we were left alone to our own devices. What your mama don't know, your mama don't mind. It's the reason I decided to stay home to raise my girls.

Do you have any funny Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stress


It's been a pretty stressful week. To cope, I've turned to two tried and true therapies: stress eating and shopping.


I tend to look for chocolate as my feel good food. (Actually chocolate any time is a pleaser. I think it should be considered a food group and moved to the base of the Food Pyramid) Since it's Christmas, the candy house has been well stocked. We went through a bag or two of Hershey Kisses and are now working on M&Ms which are not only extremely portable, can be easily gulped by the handful, and have no wrapper that has to be dealt with.


I hadn't planned on turning to shopping as another coping mechanism, but Fate intervened. Some women shop for clothes or shoes, I tend towards books, DVDs, and electronics. I've been having problems with my cell phone, actually the battery to the phone, not holding a charge for more than one call. As luck would have it, my telephone up and died. I was hoping the phone would limp along until May when the contract would allow me to upgrade the phone. The battery for the phone would cost as much as the telephone did so I wasn't too keen on buying a new battery. I was less keen on getting a new phone and then getting whacked with all sorts of penalties for "breaking the contract"


Here's where Fate stepped in. The telephone company sent me a cheerful email telling me I was eligble for an early upgrade. I don't know whether this was to stimulate the economy, increase telephone company profits or make me feel better, but I rushed to the phone store and bought a beautiful new, sleek, slim Samsung Omnia II touch screen smartphone. A handful of M&Ms and the phone in the palm of my hand just melted away the stress.


That was until I tried syncing the smartphone with my computer. The two devices aren't talking to each other. The instruction booklet just said to plug the phone into the computer USB port and voila! The instruction booklet lied. No problem, I'm back to inhaling M&Ms by the handful and playing with phone.


What coping mechanisms do you use for stress?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wreaths


Finally got the wreaths made for my folks, my elderly neighbor, and my door. Had tons of baubles and ribbon in the dollar bucket so didn't need to make a trip to the dollar store. Still had two rolls of sumptuous ribbon with holly on it and decided this year that would be the ribbon for my wreath instead of blue ribbon. Found some pine cones and a few sticks of cinnamon and some berries to go along with my black bears.


The layout of the wreaths doesn't change much from year to year. I prefer to think of it as tradition as opposed to lack of imagination.


Do you make any Christmas or holiday decorations?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event


Last Friday, I had the opportunity to be a performing artist. I participated in the Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event held at the Providence, RI store. Management and the sales associates went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I had a lovely set up in the Holiday Lane/Trim Department. Displays were moved and a 6ft rectangular table covered with a red table covering was placed under an ornament festooned arch. I had plenty of elbow room to work and to spread my materials out.


I wasn't sure what the set up would be so I brought some scrap paper and a set of watercolor pencils along with my inks, pens, and markers. As it turned out, there wasn't any signage. So in the lull I quickly made a couple of quick and dirty signs to let people know I wasn't trying to sell them something or collect for a charity.


The illumintated initials are Kiesel caps (by Sherri Kiesel) They're very spontaneous and I thought would add a festive touch.


Some people came by to watch me work. Others stopped by to have ornaments personalized. Everyone was giving me compliments on my work. A two cowboy hat afternoon. A few people asked me how I got into this line of work. Rather than say the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. I said I got my start writing on walls when I was four years old. LOL. I was also asked how I was so steady and could write so straight. Ah, the benefits of a parochial school education and a ruler. Snicker.


Seems the trend in ornaments this year was either fabric or glitter or glittered fabric. All of which I couldn't write on. Still there were plenty of ornaments to choose from. The cutest ornaments I got to personalize were bells shaped like a funky Santa and a snowman. They had dangly legs which were the clappers and beads all around the bottom which not only added color but sound. I did three Santas and a snowman for a woman who wanted her nieces and nephews names on the ornaments. The snowman was for a baby's first Christmas so she asked if I could write Baby's First Christmas on the back. I asked her if she wanted the year too.


"Can you do that?"


"For you, I can do anything." I added the year to the Santas too. The customer seemed quite pleased.


By far the easiest ornaments to write on were tiny Snow Baby ornaments meant to be personalized. Some Snow Babys had names stamped on a small envelope the baby was holding. If you couldn't find the name of your child/spouse/favorite person, there were blank ornaments available. These were quite popular. Because they were bisque, they took the gold ink quite well and looked very nice.


At the same time I was working, the Tassimo representative was in the kitchen department next door giving free samples of lattes. One of the sales associates got me a delicious hot chocolate which was a nice perc.


There was also some excitement in the store. Seems an elderly gentleman had some sort of procedure in the morning and stitches broke loose. EMS was called and 6 technicians swarmed over the department like a swat team. The man was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.


Shortly after the EMTs came by, an alarm went off and shouts of "Stop that kid" could be heard. Several people ran from the mall entrance behind the kitchen department through the main corridor towards the escalators. Some bright spark had tried lifting a phone from one of the phone kiosks in the mall and tried to make a getaway through Macy's. It didn't look like he got far.


The floor manager later told me, it was a pretty quiet day.


My four hour shift went by quickly. I had a pleasant time. Hope I get called back again next year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Friday Five


Last week, I ranted about some of my pet peeves during the Christmas season. Today, five things I like about the Christmas season.


1. Ornaments. Wood. Glass. Home-made. Expensive. Inexpensive. Because my mother decorated our Christmas trees with 3 or 4 dozen of the same ornaments, I love variety. I started collecting ornaments when I was 15 yrs old when a friend made some ornaments for me. When I travel, I try to find a souvenir that can be hung from the Christmas tree. The most precious ornaments I have are the ones my girlies made for me when they were little.


2. Lights. Even though I whine about the electricity bill, I enjoy the display Himself puts up especially the candles in the window with the blue "flame". Looks like a Bunsen burner. What else would a chemist have? I love taking a ride to look at the houses decked out in lights. There's a house at the five corners, owned by an electrician, that has a zillion lights and figures in the yard. The lights are choreographed to music. He has his own radio station so you can sit in your car, watch the light show and listen to the music. He didn't put up his lights last year. I drove by the house before Thanksgiving and he was setting things up.


3. Making wreaths. I look forward to this activity. I make wreaths for my elderly neighbor, my folks, my home, and one for Himself to place at the cemetery for his folks. The layout of the wreaths tend to be the same year after year. Call it tradition instead of lack of imagination.


4. Christmas cards. Home-made, store bought, religious, secular. I look forward to making them and receiving them.


5. Cookies. I think this is the best part of the season. Making them and eating them.


What do you love best about Christmas?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weathergram


A weathergram is a small work of art done on a 10" x 2 1/2" strip of Kraft paper or paper bag. It's meant to be hung outside from a solstice to solstice or equinox to equinox. It's meant to weather, become one with nature, and ephemeral. Weathergrams were introduced to the US by Oregon calligrapher, Lloyd Reynolds back in the late 1970's. They are based on an Oriental tradition.


Traditional weathergrams have a short poem or quote written on them. The topic usually is something to do with weather or nature. The poem begins with a versal, usually in red, freely written Italic and the artist includes his/her chop.


The weathergram pictured is not traditional. (I rarely make traditional weathergrams). It was made in memory of Ann of the Tassels who passed away last month after a long battle with breast cancer. Her family has requested them and they will be displayed in the family yard. Ann would have liked that.

Like most calligraphers, I first met Ann through Cyberscribes, an online calligraphy discussion group. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at Odyssey 2001, the international calligraphy conference in Boston, Massachusetts and again at Legacies 2005 in Dallas, Texas. The weathergram captures my first impression of Ann. She was such a free spirit. Her red hair was quite short except for a small braid at the nape of her neck. The weathergram reads "Free Spirit" done in Cardinal Red Ziller's Ink, Weaver Writing using a Nikko G nib.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snowflakes


In case some of you can't get enough of snowflakes, you can make your own at Make-A-Flake All the fun of making paper snowflakes without the mess of paper schnibbles.
The Young One drew a name from the cowboy hat. And the winner of the Ornament Giveaway is....
LINDA!
Congratulations, Linda! And a thank you to all who played.
Linda, please email me and we can get the particulars down.
Today turned out to be a snow day for the Young One. We're happy dancing! Do you like snow? Snow days? Do you do anything special to celebrate?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ornament Give Away


I'm on a roll! The past couple of weeks, I've won some wonderful blog contest prizes. Thank you to: Myra Johnson for her novel Autumn Rains. A lovely story and a delightful read. The contest for the book was sponsored by Erica Vetsch. Thanks to Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey for their exciting novel The Swiss Courier. I'm almost to the middle of this page turning novel. This contest was sponsored by Georgiana Daniels . Saturday I found I won an Old Farmer's Almanac calendar from the ladies at Seekerville. My head is so big from these wins, I'll have to wear two cowboy hats!

I had so much fun, I thought I'd pass the fun along. Leave a comment, and you'll have a chance of winning a lovely Christmas ornament suitable for gift giving. ("Mom", "Grandma", "Grandpa", "Nana", "Joy", "Baby" also available. Designs and colors may vary.) Names will be drawn from the cowboy hat and the winner will be announced on Wednesday's blog. I have no problem sending the ornament outside US borders, but I can't guarantee you will have it in time for gift giving.

What do you think of blog contests? Do you like them? Hate them? Let me know.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Performing Artist


Several years ago, I created a line of personalized Christmas ornaments for a few craft fairs. I'd personalize ornaments while people did their shopping. Looks like I'll be calling on the skill of writing on glass again. You may remember me mentioning I had an assignment coming up where I would be asked to write on different materials. I'm happy to say, the details of the assignment have been worked out.


I'll be performing at Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event at the Providence, RI store on Friday, 11. December 2009 from 3pm - 7pm.


Stop by the third floor, Holiday Lane/Trim Department to say hello and watch me work. Purchase an ornament from Macy's, and I'll personalize it with a name for free.


Hope to see you there!
What are you working on this week?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow


The weather moves from one extreme to the other. From warm temps. and blooming geraniums to cold temps and snow. We got a couple of inches of snow last night. I'll grudgingly admit it looks pretty outside my front window, but is it July yet?


What's outside your window?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hanging On


The weather Thursday was ridiculously warm at 63o F and also very welcome. I needed no further encouragement,opened the door to the sunroom, and sank into my chair. Bliss. Looking out the window I saw the geranium The Brother and his wife gave me for Mother's Day. I did a double take. It was blooming! In December! Several pink flowers and buds all over the plant. In December!
Made me think how I cling to those last days of warm temps. I brought the plant inside. Hopefully, I won't kill it and will have the reminder of warmer weather when I look out the kitchen window and see snow.


What's the weather been like in your neck of the woods?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Friday Five


I'm a grinch and the first to admit it. This time of the year can see me at my grinchiest. Five things about the holiday season, I could do without.


1. Why do some of the radio stations (e.g. Oldies 103) insist on playing Christmas music a week after Halloween? Geeze, Louise, at least wait until Thanksgiving is over and done with.


2. In the same vein, why do stores have to put up their Christmas decorations before Halloween is over? I was buying Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and Target managers were filling up the seasonal aisle with Christmas trees and lights. Hello? How about putting out the cornucopias, Indian corn, and pumpkins first?


3. Then there's the hoopla about Black Friday. I know some people adore the thrill of the hunt. But I can't possibly think of anything I want or need badly enough to camp out in front of a store Thanksgiving night so I can be first in line. That goes for getting up in the middle of the night to be ready for the dawn deal breakers. Thanks, but no thanks. You go have fun and tell me all about it. I'm going to wallow in bed.


4. This might be a hot button. Why do I have to be politically correct and wish you Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays? Why can't I say Merry Christmas? I celebrate Christmas. Why can't you accept my Merry Christmas greeting in the good spirit it is given? If you don't celebrate Christmas, can't you just smile politely and move on? I wouldn't be offended to be wished Happy Chanuka, Happy Kwanza, Blessed Be or any other holiday well wishes. I would smile politely. Thank you for including me in the joy of your celebration.


5. Another pet peeve, and possibly another hot button topic, is being asked what I want for Christmas. This also extends to asking me what my family members want. You know what Himself and I want? College tuition payments. You know what my girls need? College tuition payments. Truthfully, beyond the age of 10, I think gift giving should be dropped. It just seems to get so out of hand. The pressure to buy the perftect gift. The expense. The worry you will be underwhelmed with my gift. Seems we've lost the real meaning of the season. How about we get together and share each other's company over a cup of tea or hot chocolate? How about you make a donation to your favorite charity, school, or worthy cause and I'll make a donation to mine?


I warned you I was a grinch. What about you? Are you a grinch? Are there things about this season that bother you?


By the way, Merry Thanksgivoween to you and yours.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time


The other night, I watched the movie Multiplicity where Michael Keaton clones himself so he could have more time to get things done. Wouldn't that be great to have an extra you or two? One to clean the house, one to look in on elders, one to shuttle kids, one to work...You'd end up gaining time to do the things you wanted.


I had an appointment scheduled today, but it was cancelled and rescheduled. I feel like I've gained an entire day!


What would you do if you had extra time?




Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Tree


December 1. Time to put out the Advent tree. From the time my girlies were little, I had a tiny, Christmas tree with tiny ornaments. Each day, the girls would take turns hanging a little ornament on the tree to countdown to Christmas.

The girls are grown now. The excitement of the little tree with its ornaments has long since worn off though The Young One still indulges me. The little tree gets me in the mood to drag out the Christmas decorations later in the month. I secretly wish the little tree was our Christmas tree. Small, doesn't take up much room. Easily fits on a table. Easily moved. and Easily taken down and put away.

Do you have any pre-holiday traditions?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Letter Play


Time to crank up the production of the annual Christmas card. The illustration is done. I wanted a playful lettering style to letter the sentiment. I started playing around with these round, spiral shapes. I was using a lovely, walnut ink to play with because it happened to be in the inkwell on the drafting table. The swirly brown reminded me of my friend, Lambie's, delicious cinnamon buns. So, that's what I called this lettering. Cinnamon Bun.I won't use the walnut ink for the card. Will debate between black or blue ink.


I've also been deciding on how to color the cards. I'm leaning towards the watercolor pencil as that showed up fairly true to color on the scan. I'll add a touch of hand coloring after I print the cards.


That's what I'm working on. What's on your drafting table or to do list?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Friday Five


I have a project coming up in a few weeks. I'll be required to write on various materials. I have no idea what I'll be given. I've been running around the house finding different things to write on. Feels a bit naughty. Five things I've been practicing writing on:


1a. Glass. As expected feels like ice. Must make sure not to overload the pen and use a very light touch.
1b. Glass with a satin finish. Mmmm, very nice.
2. Wood. Treated worked fine. Untreated feathered and bled. May have to resort to a Sharpie marker and monoline on untreated wood.


3. Metal. Yup, like glass


4. Rubber like plastic. Had a nice tooth without causing the pen to catch


5. Leather, faux leather. Nice to work on.


The writing was done using Dr. P.H. Martin's Spectralite Gold, Silver and Ziller Glossy Black and a Nikko G nib. The gold ink was old and blobbed more than giving happy results. I've ordered a new bottle along with some other pens that may be more suitable to writing on surfaces that are too slick or will feather and bleed.


The most unusual item I've written on has been sand dollars. Very delicate items. Have you written on any unusual items?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


"Nick, would you say the blessing, please?"
"Yes, Mother. Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat."
"Nick!"
"Oh yeah. Sorry. Amen."
Thank you all for stopping by and leaving comments. Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Last Name Game




This was a meme that was passed to me by a friend. It's not as easy as it looks. You're supposed to pass it on to 10 friends, but that's the hardest part of the game.




Rules: Use the First letter of your Last name to answer each of the following questions. They have to be real places, names, or things. Nothing made up! Try to use different answers is your last initial is the same as mine. You can't use your name for the boy/girl question.


1. Last Name: Kennedy
2. 4 letter word: kite
3. Boy's name: Kevin
4. Girl's name: Kathleen
5. Occupation: Kindergarten teacher
6. Color: Kelly Green
7. Something you wear: kilt
8. A beverage: Kalte Ente (Cold Duck, a German punch made with Moselle wine and champagne)
9. A food: Kielbasa (Polish sausage)
10. Something found in the bathroom: Keri Lotion
11. A place: Kansas
12. A reason for being late: Kidnapped
Want to play?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ann!

Red hair, tiny braid, free spirit, TX, calligraphed shoes and a chocolate oatmeal breakfast cookie recipe. "Hey! If it has oatmeal in it, it must be healthy."

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Hamlet, Act V, Scene II

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's In A Name?


In trying to reinvent myself and expand what I do, I needed a new title to put on my business card. Calligrapher - Lettering Artist wouldn't cover the expansion into web design and computer graphics.

Princess Grace of Monaco had a cool title. She was to be addressed as Her Serene Highness. Very classy and very fitting for the former Grace Kelley. I don't think I could get people to address me as such.

Another title I always liked was Charge (accent acute) d'affaires, the person in charge of an embassy or consulate when the ambassador is not there. Though I'm in charge of lots of things, a diplomatic mission is not one of them.

During the marketing study, one of the teams came up with Interactive Graphic Media Specialist. Coming from a computer background and having a fondness for acronyms this one really appealed to me. Interactive Graphic Media Specialist. I.M.G.S. Images. Pretty neat. A friend recently asked if it stood for "I Make Good Stuff." That works too!

What's your title? If you could pick a title for yourself, what would it be?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Friday Five


While at the dentist's office yesterday, the hygienist and I made small talk about the Thanksgiving holiday. She's baking 9 pies for her holiday table. We both agreed turkey is meh, but pie makes the celebration. My five favorite pies are:


1. Cherry, with the lattice crust and bright, red, cherries peeking through so pretty.


2. Apple, a can't go wrong classic especially with a side of vanilla ice cream.


3. Pecan Pie and a dollop of whipped cream


4. Lemon Meringue piled high with fluffy meringue


5. I couldn't decide so a tie between Blueberry and Coconut Custard.


What's your favorite pie?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh Fudge!




As part of her 3 Ingredient Thursday, Erica at On The Write Path, has posted a recipe I had given her, Raspberry Fudge. The recipe was given to me by a colleague from NC, but I've also seen the recipe in cookbooks and also at the Eagle Brand site.

I made batches of this fudge for a school fund raiser. The Raspberry Fudge was hugely popular. I earned an hour towards a 30 hr. (mandatory) volunteer commitment for each batch of fudge. The recipe is ridunculously easy to make, and I guarded this recipe so I could have a monopoly on the fudge table an easily wrack up my hours!

The beauty of this fudge recipe is there are so many variations. You are only limited by your imagination, and you don't have to stick to the 3 ingredient rule.

The Basic Recipe

2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips (you may also use milk chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips whichever you prefer)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk. Evaporated milk yields unhappy results)
2 T. flavoring. (You may want to use 1 T. vanilla and 1 T. other flavoring. The Eagle brand site uses a lot less flavoring usually 1 1/2 tsp. You may want to adjust the flavoring to suit your taste.)
Nuts (optional: walnut, pecan, hazelnut, peanut, etc.)

This recipe uses the microwave to melt the chocolate. Microwave intensity varies so you may have to adjust the time to suit your microwave.

1. Spray an 8 x 8" pan with cooking spray and set aside

2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the two bags of chocolate chips and the sweetened condensed milk for 1 minute.

2. Stir.

3. Melt for 1 minute more until thoroughly melted.

4. Add flavoring (and nuts, if desired.)

5. Spread in the prepared pan. Chill until set.

6. Bring to room temperature to cut. Cut into 1" x 1" pieces. Enjoy!

7. Refrigerate leftovers if there are any.

Variations:

Raspberry Fudge
2 bags raspberry chocolate chips (these are sometimes difficult to find, but make all the difference)
2 T. raspberry extract or raspberry syrup
(optional: 1 cup walnuts for Raspberry Walnut Fudge)

Mint Chocolate
2 bags of mint chocolate chips
2 T. mint extract (I'm not a huge mint fan. If this is too minty, you can use 1 T. vanilla extract and 1 T. mint extract)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. peanut butter flavored chips

Grand Marnier Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. orange extract (or if not serving to children, 2 T. of Grand Marnier liqueur)

Heath Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. crushed Heath bar candy or brickle chips

Rocky Road Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1/2 c. nuts
1/2 c. mini-marshmallows

Chocolate Almond Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. almond extract
(1 cup almonds)

Chocolate Cherry Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped candied cherry

Chunky Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped peanuts
1/2 c. raisins

M & M Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. mini-M&M candies

Candy Bar Fudge
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. favorite candy bar chopped (Milky Way, Snickers, Mounds)

Whew! That's enough fudge to make your dentist happy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Friday Five


This week was filled with news, some good, some not so good. Five new things that happened this week:


1. I found some new software for creating blog templates and webpages. I just love new toys so I downloaded the trial software and played.


2. I bought the software and played for real


3. I gave my blog a make-over


4. The Young One invited me to play a new game with her on Facebook. Fishville. This morning, a whole bunch of my fish, which were perfectly fine last night before I shutdown and said they didn't need to be fed for 20 hrs, were floating belly up when I looked in on them this morning while having my first cup of tea. I'm a very poor fish farmer though it was nice to be asked to play.


5. The Eldest received news she was granted a fellowship to go on a trip to Rome in the Spring with her school. The fellowship will cover half of the cost of the trip. She'll just have to come up with money for meals, spending, and some new wardrobe items.


What's new with you this week?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tradition


The Charlestown Navy Yard is home to the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, The USS Constitution. "Old Ironsides" is a living history museum and one of the stops on Boston's Freedom Trail, a 2 1/2 mile stretch of historical locations in Boston (like Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church).
This summer my family and I and a friend from Iowa spent a day in Boston walking the Freedom Trail and standing and waiting for hours in the hot July sun to tour the USS Constitution. It was an honor to be allowed to stand on her deck, to go below to see how our 18th c. sailors lived. It was a privilege to hear the sailor guides serving on the Constitution tell the history of their ship. These young people showed so much pride to duty and honor.


In a recent news story (see clip), seems some residents in Charlestown that live in condos across from the frigate are upset. As usual on a military installation, the colors (i.e. the flag of the US) are raised in the morning and lowered at sundown. The officers of "Old Ironsides" perform this time honored ritual. The ship's cannons are fired in salute and the National anthem is played. That's what has some of the residents up in arms, the firing of the cannon and the playing of the National anthem.


The Constitution has been berthed at this site since the 1790's, a lot longer than the condos have been there. Sure, the cannon fire must be deafening, but what did these people expect moving next door to a military installation? Posting and retiring the colors is an integral part of any military base. It's tradition. It's patriotic. The ceremony honors our country, our service men and women (past, present, and future), and our freedom.


In July 2010, the Constitution will be turned around on her annual Fourth of July voyage. The cannon will be facing out in the harbor (Though the following year the ship will be turned again and her cannon will be facing the same direction now). The Navy is looking into using less gun powder, but I'm pretty sure they won't give up their tradition entirely. Nor should they in my opinion.


What do you think? Should the Navy cease and desist or should residents who don't like living next to a historical Naval base move?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Friday Five


I'm a minimalist when it comes to carrying purses (pockabooks in Bostonian). I like small almost tiny bags. My favorite is this saddlebag which attaches to a belt or belt loop. I don't always carry a purse, usually stuffing the things I need in my jacket pockets. I always get jackets with inside pockets. Five things I carry with me:


1. My phone. If I'm away from home longer than an hour, I transfer home calls to the cell phone.


2. Wallet. A very thin wallet.


3. Business card case. A very easy marketing tool to haul around.


4. Pack of tissues. I'm a mom it's a habit.


5. Eye drops for allergy eyes.


What do you carry in your purse or pockets?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prep Work


It's that time of year again. The annual race to get the Christmas cards finished and mailed before the holiday.


I'll spend today doing the prep work before the actual card is made. Today, I'll decide what size the card will be. Do I want a large card made by folding a standard sheet of paper in half? Do I want a smaller card made by folding a standard sheet in quarters? If I go with a smaller card (4 1/4" x 5 1/2") I can get two cards out of one sheet of paper. If I cut the sheet to the size of a business size envelope (#10), I can get 3 cards out of one sheet of paper. With the price of postage, I can save stamp money if I cut the sheet in quarters and mail four postcards instead of a card with an envelope. I'm opting for the post cards.


I had cut a piece of cardstock (heavy weight) paper to size and brought it to the post office to check on size. Was told it could go as a postcard.


Another paper decision to be made is the color. I've had the illustration and greeting rolling around in my head since last year. Trying to decide whether to print the cards on a dark blue paper with white ink or go with white paper, black illustration and hand color. I'm leaning toward the dark blue just to be different.


I tried digitally drawing my illustration, but when printed out it printed white on a black square. Not pretty. I'll draw the illustration in white ink, scan it in and see how it prints on dark paper. If it looks ugly, I have the reliable standby of a black illustration on white paper with touches of hand color. And then there's always store bought, boxed cards to send.


What's on your drawing board today?

Monday, November 2, 2009

All About Me


This meme came from Facebook.


If you are reading this, whether we do or don't speak often, please post a comment of the first memory of you and me that pops into your head. When you've finished, post this paragraph on your own status; You will be surprised what people remember about you!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog Tour Book Giveaway Winner


The Young One drew a name from the Pony Express cowboy hat. And the winner is... Nutterone!
Congratualtions Nutterone! You've won a copy of Erica Vetsch's debut novel, The Bartered Bride. What a treat! We'll get that right out to you.
Thank you all for visiting my blog this week. Don't be a stranger now.
A big thank you to Erica for including me on her blog tour and for her generous giveaway.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blog Tour with Erica Vetsch - Day 5




Today is the last blog tour day with Erica Vetsch.







CJ: What has been the reaction when people ask what you do for a living?




Erica: The reactions have been as varied as the people who ask. One lady asked me if I was a millionaire now. Um...no! Some people are excited, some are disinterested, and some give the impression of sour grapes. By and large, the response has been positive. A lot of folks say they've always wanted to write a novel. I say, "Go for it!"





Today is the last day to leave a comment to have your name entered in a drawing for Erica's debut novel The Bartered Bride. The winner will be announced at noon EDT on 31. October 2009


A big thank you to Erica for including The Pony Express in her blog tour. I enjoyed chatting with you and also having a week's worth of blog posts! (-;

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blog Tour with Erica Vetsch - Day 4

All this week, author, Erica Vetsch is visiting The Pony Express and answering questions about writing and working.

CJ: Sometimes I wish I had a studio to go to instead of working at home. Sometimes there are too many distractions or reasons to procrastinate (like the refrigerator needs to be cleaned this minute). Do you find it difficult working from home?

Erica: I do find it a challenge to write fiction here at home. My office is where I do the [family] company bookkeeping and also homeschool, so it is moe utilitarian in my mind than a place to be creative. Taht being said, if I didn't have the means to venture out to my local coffee shop, I'd just make myself write here at home. I'm blessed, howerver, to have a loving, generous husband who encourages me to go to the library, the coffee shop, or wherever I need to in order to get the words onto the page.

What about you? If you work from home do you wish you had a studio or place to go so you could be creative instead of distracted by the call of laundry?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Erica's book, The Bartered Bride. If you leave a comment each day, you will increase your chances of winning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Tour with Erica Vetsch - Day 3


More of my conversation with author, Erica Vetsch


CJ: You mentioned you love the invisible threads that evolve in the story. How do you keep track of all the threads and characters to maintain continuity?


Erica: I'm blessed to have a lot of help when I write stories. The fist line of defense is my daughter, Heather, who hears the plot many times as it grows and gets more layers. Then I send it to my 'first reader' who lets me know when things aren't consistent. Then I send it to my crit partners, and finally my content and copy editors. As tedious as all those layers of editing can get, I do feel reassured that not much is going to get through everyone.


Anything you would like to ask Erica? Don't forget leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Erica's book The Bartered Bride. Leave a comment each day to increase your chances of winning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blog Tour with Erica Vetsch - Day 2


Today, I continue my interview with author, Erica Vetsch.

CJ: Are you a seat of the pants writer or do you follow an outline?

Erica: Today as I was working on a synopsis for a proposal, I was wondering if there is such a thing as a seat-of-the-plotter :-) I like to have a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, bit I don't like to flesh it out to the point where there is no serendipity, nothing exciting and unknown that can happen while I write. I love those invisible connections that are threaded throught the story that I don't know are there until the words flow out. That's when the writing feels the most alive, the most vibrant for me. If I don't have that, then the writing feels flat to me, and I get consumed by writer's doubt. That's a killer. So, I try to avoid it by always leaving some breathing room in my synopsis for the unexpected to happen.

Do you have any questions for Erica? Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Erica's book The Bartered Bride. Leave a comment each day to increase your chances of winning. The winner will be announced on Saturday. Won't that make a nice treat for Halloween?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog Tour with Erica Vetsch - Day 1



I'm pleased to have as my guest, Erica Vetsch. Erica's first published novel, The Bartered Bride debuted this month. Congratulations, Erica. Squeee!

Erica will be here all this week as we chat about how we met, writing, working from home, and people's perceptions. Erica will be giving away a copy of her book. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. Comment each day to increase your chances to win! The winner will be announced on Saturday. A nice treat for Halloween.

Erica and I met in a forum for Western fan fiction writers. Actually, we met in the chatroom where I was loudly whining about The Young One's Roman Fair Project. (on the scope of a science fair, but about Rome)

Erica is married to Peter Vetsch and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A homeschool mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a bachelor's degree from Calvary Bible College in secondary education: social studies. You can visit Erica at On The Write Path

From the inside cover of The Bartered Bride: Melissa's grip tightened on Jonathan's arm.
He looked down at her, her face pale to the lips, her eyes wide.
"Oh no," she moaned.
"My wife and I" - Almina had joined Lawrence Brooke, tucking her arm into his elbow and beaming on the crowd, her gaze lingering longest on Jonathan and Melissa - "are pleased to announce the engagement of our daughter, Melissa, to Mr. Jonathan Kennebrae. Please join us in congratulating the happy couple." He lifted the glass in their direction.
A polite wave of applause welled up.
Melissa stood, knocking her chair over onto the grass. She put her hand to her mouth , turning her head wildly from Jonathan to her parents then back again.
Jonathan rose up slowly, easing up on numb legs.
"Kennebrae?" She whispered so low he had to stoop to hear her. "Your name is Kennebrae?"
"Of course it is. What else would it be?"
She blinked, staring at him. "But I thought -" Her throat spasmed as she tried to swallow. "I thought..."
He caught her just before she hit the grass in a dead faint.




How's that for a show stopper?




CJ: You write historical romance. Can you define the genre for us? Historical. That must mean you have to do research. Which comes first, the plot idea for a story or do you just comb through history books looking for something interesting?




Erica: Historical Romance = a romance set in historical times. In order to be a romance, the story must be about the growing love between the hero and heroine, and it must deliver a happy and satisfying ending to the reader. Historical is generally considered anything from Creation to World War II, though some are now saing the Korean War or even the Vietnam War. Romance readers are a dedicated group, and they know what they want. You have to deliver on their expectations, but do it in a new and fresh way that makes it seem like they are falling in love all over again.




The ideas for stories sort of come from all over. I do a lot of research. A total history geek, I love reading history books, and I'm constantly on the watch for interesting bits taht I might work into a story. Setting and an historical event usually come first, though character or situation of my own making might pop into my head. I ask a few 'What If' qustions, and then my mind just races with story ideas.




Don't forget. Leave a comment for a chance to win Erica's book, The Bartered Bride.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Friday Five




Five exciting things that will happen next week:




1. The Pony Express is participating in a world-wide blog tour! How cool is that?




2. Next week's blog will feature a guest blogger. Wonder who it will be?




3. The blog will feature interview questions and answers. Fascinating!




4. The tour will end on Friday with a surprise give-away!




5. Curious? Visit us here at The Pony Express during the week of 26 - 30. October to find out what's going on!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drawing Class - Second Portait


After the critique and the model's break, we were back to drawing. The model was sitting with her head downand downcast eyes. I tried to draw her in large scale, but couldn't seem to get the proportions right. So I scaled down and was gently reprimanded for going back to my comfort zone. Lol.
While working close to my drawing, I was convinced I had the correct tilt to the head , but stepping back saw that was not so.
This drawing is "better". Recognizable as human though seems to have a china doll or Stepford wife quality. Still did an awesome job with her hair. Lol.
Have you ever tried to do something out of your comfort zone, but then reverted to your old, comfortable ways?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Drawing Class - First Portrait


We had a live model to draw. She was a very attractive, young woman with the most beautiful big, dark eyes. She sat in a chair at the front of the room. The instructor had a spotlight and adjusted the lighting on the girl's face.


We had easels arranged in a semi-circle in front of the model. We were to draw her portrait. That's when a ripple of panic went through me. This was my first ever drawing class. The work method and the tools were so foreign to me. I've never drawn a live model, and I don't work standing up. Not usually. I work sitting at a drafting table. I sit on a tall stool so I am over my work usually a piece of paper small than 16" x 20". I work with various inks, paints, and pens. Here I was standing in front of a wall! (The 18" x24" drawing pad looked huge!)


After a few minutes of dithering, I got my trusty and comfortable, blue mechanical pencil and began making timid, light sketch marks. Then with a 4B graphite pencil tried to work on shape of her face. Oval but not too pointed at the chin, and not quite square. Add the eyes, nose, lips. Add shading for depth and to bring out the features.


We worked for an hour or so and then had a critique session. We talked about problems we had. I had lots of problems: depth perception, proportion, shading. Most recognized the drawing as looking sort of human. I was pleased with that. The class did like the way I drew her hair. Guess I could always specialize and draw hair. The eyes drew the biggest comments. The models eyes looked so big and dark to me. Someone said I made an emotional drawing.


At first, I did not like this drawing. But then it started growing on me. The large eyes remind me of the eyes drawn in anime (Japanese style comic book [manga]). My young woman looks moon face. Like some woman in the moon.


But I think I should go back to drawing pears.
Did you do something outside your comfort zone this week?