Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bracing For the Next Wave of Winter

Okay, last time I wrote about what a fun little snow overnight that I had with my buddy from work. And I know some parts of the country have it far worse - winter has been a real bear this year for folks nearly everywhere.

But honest to Pete, it's getting pretty wearing already. January is really locking us in very cold temps and threats of major "snow events" not to mention ice. Which is worse? Not sure. Snow is pretty and sparkly the first few times and then it gets annoying. Still I'd ten times prefer winter over summer. We had ONE warm springlike day (yesterday) where it got up in the 50's - that was a mere tease, because winter is returning with revenge.

The thing that most annoys me about winter is that everytime I plan to go someplace, my plans are subject to derailment. Like last weekend when I was going to an Artyarn workshop in Harveyville, KS, I ended up coming home early. Scardy cat of being stuck in the middle of Kansas with an ice threat. (Plus I missed sleeping in my warm bed - as you get older and more set in your ways, you miss your own house more than you might imagine).

Anyhow, I attended one day of Jacey Boggs' artyarn class and then came home Saturday night - so I missed the whole second day of class. The day attended was great - well the instruction was at least. I had a bit of technical difficulty, when the little piece that acts as the delta orifice flipped off Rhoda the Roadbug (my spinning wheel) and I didn't have any superglue to reattach it. That's all it would have taken - a few drops of superglue. So note to self: add superglue to my spinning supplies.

At least I had a chance to experience Nikol's delicious cooking. Someday that girl is going to come out with a Yarn School cookbook, and when she does, by gosh, I'm going to get it. Nikol is the owner of the school and host to those of us who visit.

Here's my friend Christine, who was kind enough to drive us to Harveyville.

I learned a lot about art yarn - which is now more appropriately called "textured yarn" - Jacey's term and I like it better than "art yarn" because textured yarn is really what it is. It's all art yarn right, we're all fiber artists making art? But some of us try our hand at making big, funky, yarn with texture. I don't honestly know how much I'll be spinning this type of yarn in the future, because I tend to more traditional yarn. But then again, it really does help make you a better spinner overall to learn new techniques. Plus, I love corespinning.

I see much, much corespinning in my fiber future.

So now as we face this next week - with a long three days of extended "snow and ice events" leading into my work week, I wish you all a nice fire to curl in front of with your spinning wheel, favorite novel, or kntting/crochet project. Enjoy and try not to get too stressed about all the activities you are missing. This will just help us appreciate spring all the more when it DOES come, right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Day Hen's Party

Well last night through this morning, we had about a 9 inch snowstorm. It came down fast and pelted us. This is only the second major snow of the season so far.

It was a really slick and BIG storm - the roads were a mess. Luckily I'd packed some extra work clothes in my car for just this kind of snow emergency. My plan was to stay at a nearby hotel, as I've sometimes done before. But a coworker friend of mine, Diane, invited me stay at her house overnight. I was reluctant to do this, because frankly, it just felt "weird" staying at someone's house - encroaching on their personal space. But she insisted she didn't mind - so she drove me home.

Let me just say, it was a fantastic idea. We had a blast! What is usually a hum-drum mid-week evening turned into one of the most spontaneous FUN sleepovers I've ever had since I was ten years old.

We started by cooking a delicious casserole for dinner. It was a recipe she'd never tried but had found on the internet. It's called "Fiesta Chicken Casserole." It has chicken (we used frozen chicken), salsa sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, black beans and Campbell's condensed chicken soup. The recipe called for pie crust as a topping, but instead, we decided on crumbled tortilla chips for a crunchy topping. Then we baked it in a 13 X 9" casserole dish for 40 minutes. It came out SO delicious! Piping hot comfort food, and I bet it could be made to be less fattening by choosing the low-fat versions of the ingredients. My kind of cooking, inexpensive, and delicious.

Since she likes to sew, she showed me gifts and things she's made for family members. She is a really craft-oriented kind of person that can make fancy gift packages with a theme. She makes diaper cakes for expectant mothers full of all sorts of baby stuff. And she makes just really clever things. I enjoyed sitting in her sewing room and brainstorming cute sewing, knitting and quilting ideas - she doesn't know how to knit (yet) but I have a feeling our craft obsessions might rub off on one another eventually.

Her home is one of those homes that is just COMFORTABLE. From the moment you step in, you feel at ease. Not fancy - just clean, comfortable and welcoming. Before night fell, we watched the birds as they scurried from the snow and into her bird feeders. She has different feeding stations for different birds.

Then after dinner, we sat up and watched her favorite sit-coms - her current favorites are "The Middle" and "Hot in Cincinnati" - while we watched, I snuggled in a warm blanket on her couch and finished knitting the Gimme Five Vest from an old issue of Knitters that I was finishing up using some art yarn I spun. I haven't had time to block it yet, but here's an idea of what it looks like. Pretty cute for a fast knit. It's a drop stitch design.

We stayed up until 11:30 just giggling, talking and watching the snow fall down, covering the deck, the driveway, the road. It was a real hen party. She had a comfy guest bedroom for me and a guest bath - just perfect.

The roads weren't well plowed in the morning, but by afternoon, the streets were clear so I could return home. But I was SO glad I stayed with her rather than risking a long commute at best, or an accident at worst.

And this snow slumber party also made me glad I'd said "yes" to one of those serendipitous
opportunities to open up my world to happy everyday adventures.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

Well, I already am working on making this a more exciting, fulfilling year.

Starting with one of my resolutions to take more vacations - we just got back from a Las Vegas vacation. What a blast! Bob and I haven't been away together in far too long. It was an anniversary trip - so we wanted a romantic getaway.

It was so fun to escape sub zero temperatures and 5 inches of snow to go away to Vegas and just step off the everyday world for a while. The glitz, the glamour, the "over the top" nature of Vegas was just what our heads and hearts needed right now.

Although Bob is very tolerant of my knitting and fiber obsession, I decided to leave it behind for this trip. I just wanted to focus on our relationship, seeing the scenary, being together and vegging out. We became children for 5 days - being goofy, silly and just doing whatever we felt like as the mood hit us.

We haven't been to Vegas since Emily was in kindergarten and boy has it changed in all those years!

We tried to do something different everyday. We went to the Pawn Shop store where the History chanel TV show is filmed with Rick and his dad the "Old Man" and Chumley and the son "Big Hoss." Though we didn't get to see the stars in person, we saw them taping out in the parking lot as we drove by one day. Another day, we went in and toured their shop. Yes, there is a line waiting to get in. We spotted a few items in the shop that have been featured on their show.

We absolutely LOVED the Freemont Street Experience - it's in downtown Las Vegas night activity. They've taken 5 blocks of streets and put up a big 90 foot lighted ceiling overhead to link them together and turned it into a place where you can go, shop, walk around, eat, drink, gamble, and just have fun. The whole area is ablaze with people dressed up, with outdoor musicians, including one really talented saxophone player named Carl Ferris. That guy is amazing. It really puts me in mind of a Mardi Gras type atmosphere, even though I've never been to New Orleans to accurately compare the two.

I'm no fashionista - but one thing I noticed was that many MANY women there, tourists and locals alike, were wearing these quilted jacket/vests. Though I've seen them around for years, I've never seen so many in one place - it's like EVERYONE was wearing them. So I went to Ross's discount clothing store - and they have those shops everywhere in Vegas, and bought one for myself. If you are cold, wear a whole jacket or sweater, right? But these somehow keep the core part of your body warm and so all you need to wear under it is a long sleeve blouse and you stay pretty darn warm without the bulkiness of a full coat or jacket. Really neat. Now I know why they are so popular.

We had a chance to see several shows - including Cher's Farewell Tour. Oh my gosh, that woman is a knockout at whatever age she is now. She gave an amazing performance and I'm so impressed with her talent. I always watched her Sonny and Cher show on TV when I was a kid, and what a chance to see her live.

Of course, we ate and ate and ate. But we tried to eat two meals a day instead of three. We ate most mornings at a favorite place called Arizona Charlie's - having the $3.99 egg and steak special. Delish!! That's what we're eating in the photo at the top.

Well anyway, we are back to reality. Wah!!! But it's okay, really. In fact, going back to a normal routine wasn't half bad, and we came back really refreshed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Artist's Way to a Great New Year

Many many years ago, in 1995 in fact, I discovered Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY. It was a fad back then, and since I was working as a paid freelance writer as a career, in addition to being a stay-at-home Mom at that time, the program was one that naturally appealed to me. Nearly every writer, artist, musician and free spirit who I encountered during the mid-90's was reading and doing, and discussing the 12 week Artist Way program.

The way it works is each week, there is a corresponding weekly chapter that you read about in the book, and then exercises related to whatever the theme for the week happens to be. In addition to the weekly reading and activities, there were two over-arching activities that a person does regularly throughout.

Two overarching and critical activities:

Morning Pages - each day, you write 3 pages of freehand journaling per day, preferably in the morning, before you go about your morning rountine - it's a first of the morning "mind dump" and is a mental dump not unlike the physical dump that happens each day in the bathroom. Rather gross, and I apologize, but it's true. Instead of the sweet little diary entries that many of us learned to write as kids, this is a release of all the mental stuff that is clogging up one's creativity - all the gripes, complaints, annoyances, fears and mental limitations that are preventing you from moving forward in every area of your life. You flush these negative feelings about your career, your relationships, your friendships, your finances and anything else into your Morning Pages and then release them, freeing yourself to move forward with your day less encumbered and hopefully freerer.

My feelings about this used to be mixed - I believed in "postive thinking" at the time, and was worried writing these bad, negative things would make me a negative person, since I tend to lean toward the negative anyway. Well, contrary to my fears, doing these Morning Pages each day really did make me feel better and perform more effectively. It truly DID seem to foster my creativity. Don't know why but it sure did. Just to be safe, I counterbalanced the Morning Pages with a separate small notebook I called "Evening Pages" and they were just a short list of 3 things I was grateful for that day - the good things that happened that I could appreciate and thus end the day on a high note.
Just to clarify: the Morning Pages aren't ALL negative - it is simply stream-of-consciousness writing - you write about absolutely anything that occurs to you until you write 3 complete pages - it can be about anything. But it's yours and should be totally uncensored. One thing that I used to do was write, at the beginning of the notebook, a caveat for my loved ones, just in case anything catastrophic ever happened to me and they read it. If I were concerned that something seriously might be miscontrued that I'd written in anger, then I might considered tearing up or removing those pages after the vent was complete. Kind of like writing a letter or email just to get the thoughts out - but never mailing it.

Artist's Date. Once each week, you plan something fun, creative and enriching to do to enhance your creativity. Rather it be coloring in a coloring book with crayons, spending the afternoon sitting in the park listening to classical music, spinning or knitting, or touring a museum or gallery - whatever it is, lofty or mundane, you do it unfailingly each week - preferably a different activity to add variety of stimulation into your life. Julia Cameron suggests the importance of doing this activity individually and not with spouse, friends, children, etc. However, this activity is so vital that I find myself sharing it with loved ones sometimes and find it enriches both my creativity AND my relationships with others.

In order to get back "into" the Artist Way mindset, I decided to buy The Artist's Way CDs so that I can listen to them in the car. Anyway, I am going to be starting The Artist Way program again as part of my new year's routine - so feel free to join in if you like.
In case you are put off by the word "Artist" and find yourself thinking, "But I'm not an Artist (with a capital "A") - why yes you are! We all are.