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January 2007 Archives

January 6, 2007

Bear with me...

... the site is undergoing change as I make a visual shift to mark my renewed return to the blog but my expanded focus... partly knitting, but not just knitting. I'm working on the revised framework, but I also think I may have to move everything to one of my other servers... which scares me a bit but shouldn't be that bad (in theory). So, I'm coming. And, my "goals" for the new year are floating around on a USB stick in the bag I carry around day to day. Hopefully, they'll migrate here this weekend!

January 7, 2007

Goals for the New Year

So, the New Year has come and gone. We got home the day before New Year’s Eve from two weeks with my family in KY. We had a wonderful time, and we all arrived home strangely jetlagged and sleep deprived. We arrived home 1 tooth less than when we’d left. We arrived home 1 suitcase more. We arrived home several pounds heavier. We arrived home and waited forever for our luggage to show. We must have been the last people at the carousel. We arrived home via Taxi after the very attitude-ridden Taxi coordinator deigned to put us in a Van cab to deal with all our luggage, the two car seats, the four backpacks, and the four passengers. We arrived home to an empty and milk-less fridge, which demanded a trek to the grocery. We arrived home to find the fish still swimming (though the one still swims most of his day upside down). We arrived home to an overflowing box of mail to sort. We arrived home to the familiar insides of our living room, to which the youngest gleefully proclaimed, “A table! My favorite table!” as he walked into the house the first time.

I arrived home with many, many new creative tools and toys, including two Rotring Art Pens, a beautiful graphite holder, an amazing Tornado fountain pen that reminds me of a cross between stained glass and fractured opals, two little bags of new watercolor pencils, a trio of water brushes, origami papers, and an assortment of other goodies. My Mom, M., and I have a small exchange we call the “special” gifts, one of which has to be made, and we set up some “themes” this year. One of mine was the “Illuminated Life.” And I don’t think there could have been a better theme for me or to kick off this year. It really is a new year for me. With the youngest now in preschool, it’s a year full of new possibility and opportunity, and a bit of time reclaimed. I’m hoping to make the most of it.

We were low key for New Year’s Eve. We stayed in and made nachos (can’t really go wrong with that, and everyone is happy – one just likes to dip cheese and black olive nachos in sour cream, one just likes to dip his in black beans, one likes the nachos with black beans, sour cream, and guacamole, and one likes all of that plus salsa). After nachos, we watches My Totoro, by the director of Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service, two of our all-time favorites. I’d wanted to watch Kiki, feeling that it’s “art” and “believe in yourself” theme was perfect for the New Year. But I was outvoted. I’ll watch it later this week. We watched the movie, and I brought out a little plate of treats I’d cut into small squares. There’s something about cutting even the basic chocolate bar into small pieces and putting it on a plate that makes it feel special and decadent.

One child saw the ball drop at 9PM on QVC as it fell live in NYC. The other saw it drop at 10PM on CNN as it was replayed again. We then watched a few episodes (strange) of Resolutionaries on TLC and caught the last 5 or 10 minutes with Carson D at midnight before completely crashing (at least I did). It’s awful to be so sedate. Or is it? Maybe it’s nice.

I don’t really make resolutions. But I do always jot down “goals” for the year, things I hope to make happen, commitments I hope to make a part of my routine, traditions I hope to start, changes I hope to bring about in our day to day.

For years, every January I vowed to learn more about classical music so that I can “recognize” songs by composer/title when I hear them. M. always knows what is playing after hearing just a phrase or a few notes. I always know that I “know” that song but never know what it is. I’ve given up. It’s not on this year’s list of goals. It doesn’t stick in my head. I think I may love music more than most. But I’m somehow not wired in such a way that the “labels” that go along with a piece stick in my brain.

So, that’s off the list. But other things appear now. Especially since beginning the CMP last June, I’ve been on a new path of creativity, tapping into part of me that has always been there and always been key but somehow feels really new and vital. Thinking about goals for this year, “creative goals” dominate even more clearly in my head. That doesn’t mean that standard and archetypal goals (like lose weight) don’t make my list. They do, but I balance that out with the desire to sketch daily, for example. And, while both are on my list, I know that when push comes to shove, if I have an extra 30 minutes in the day, I’m going to opt to sketch or create rather than exercise. It’s a reality I’ve come to accept.

So, here it is… it’s an ever-growing list, and a few things on my own copy of this list (which started out in the final pages of the journal I wrapped up last week, jotted down haphazardly in multi colored pencil leads from the new 8-color Pentel pencil my Mom gave me)… a few things from my master list don’t appear here. They are either too honest or too pathetic or too sad or too real to be public on a blog. But, here’s a version of my self-imposed obligatory, "first week of January goals for the New Year" list:

List temporarily removed. I'm having a sort of New Year's goals list crisis this year and just couldn't bear having them here.

Creature of Habit

starbucks card

I am such a creature of habit. I was browsing some blogs on my Palm while my youngest finally dropped off to sleep and catching up on the many New Year's "goals" lists ("resolutions" do seem to have gone out of style). I read some great ones. I had read Cheryl's last week and found myself really inspired by it, too, and in awe of her goal of "52 weeks of giving." That's a fabulous idea and sentiment. It's wonderful.

My list of goals fall on the practical side, rather than the philosophical. The run the risk of blending right into the other list I typed up last week... 'projects' for the year. But, I'm a creature of habit, I guess. Well, actually, as soon as that thought crossed my brain and I typed it, I flashed back on my goals list from last January, and I think it was quite short. (Okay, I just went and pulled the list up from my email; I'd shared it with my Mom to keep me honest and make it feel more real. If you think up goals or resolutions and don't tell anyone or share them, it's sort of like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, don't you think? So, I just looked... last year's "goals" list had 10 - some of which also appear on this year's list. Yep. Creature of habit.)

Being a creature of habit can be hard. I am known to order the same thing (or from a limited set of things) every time we go to favorite restaurants, even if something on the specials menu sounds particularly tempting. The reality is that if I order something "new" or "different" and don't like it, it's really upsetting.

See, a better goal for this year might be to "live each moment and then let them go" (instead of letting bad ones hang on and eat at me).

Just a few nights ago, we ate out, and I'd actually achieved a huge household compromise in getting everyone to agree to go to Max's (Opera Cafe although we were there well before the piano began). We haven't been there forever because we are all creatures of habit and tend to go to the same 3 places all the time. So, we went to Max's, and things had changed a little, including the menu. So I didn't just get the new version of my standby (tuna melt). Instead, I went with something different. Not good.

And it was upsetting. Although I didn't get to focus on it too much because the squirming one next to me was up and down and up and down until he finally needed a diaper change. (He, too, is a creature of habit. Unfortunately, since he was a baby, he's found eating out the perfect time to poop.)

Starbuck's has a new sugar-free syrup... used in the Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Sounds really good. But, I'm a creature of habit - and most of the baristas know what to start making for me as soon as they see me walk in. So, I haven't tried the new one yet. I hate to mess with a good thing! But, gee, it sounds good.

Oh, and, if you're a collector of Starbuck's cards (like me), then run don't walk for the new one. The deco flower in turquoise, pinks, and greens is awesome.

Art for Your Cup

While I was out grabbing appropriate Starbucks links, I spotted this page of downloadable/printable inserts for the Memory Tumbler. I hope if you have one of these that you're designing wonderful works of art to go in them – or having your children design them (even better). But, if you need a backdrop onto which to begin say a visual journal page to line your coffee cup for the month of January, one of these might do the trick and give you an anchor around which to branch out or build up.

Hey, that'd be a cool project for the year… design a new memory cup insert for each month of the year.

(I don't have a memory cup…. Just an idea for those of you that do!)

January 8, 2007

Transparent PNG's?

Need some advice... I'm working on a project for/with my mom for her Red Hat group, and I really need to be able to create transparent PNG's. Because I was working heavily with web development and design, I've always been a Photoshop user. But, as the boys came along, I stopped working so much... and stopped upgrading my software (directly related to diminished income stream, of course). So, I've got Photoshop 5 installed. While it supports transparent gifts, that won't really give me the quality I need. And Photoshop 5 doesn't handle transparent PNG's. So, I'm left with the need to upgrade to the current version of Photoshop - or, it looks like I could go with Photoshop Elements. But, I don't know anything about Elements. It looks like it's geared towards helping with photo collections, but what I've read is that it should enable me to make the transparent PNG's. Are any of you Photoshop Elements users? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Because I work so much with photography, I'm curious about it... Advice needed.

Diamond Fantasy Shawl


I finished the Diamond Fantasy Shawl for my mother for Christmas 2006. I love it - and I love the colors. Yes, it's Koigu. I'm a fan, I can't help it. I upped the needle size by 1 to account for the heavier weight yarn. When I was finished, I wasn't sure it would be big enough. As it came off the needles, it looked really short and wide, but blocking transformed it, and it's actually quite large - larger than my Charlotte 35, I think. The pattern is fabulous to work. Really, it's wonderful, and the fact that you are working the little edge points as you go along is fascinating and amazing and perfect and a true joy to do. The "diamonds" don't really show up in the photo all that well. But, I love the set, still. The pose is similar to the one I captured when taking photos of the Charlotte's Web I made for her two Christmases ago. She's not really comfortable in front of the camera this way. But I think they're beautiful shots.

By the way, thanks to Sharlene (AKA Mommio) for the heads up that parts of the new layout were not rendering properly in Safari (and, as I discovered, Firefox). Hopefully things are shaping up now, but if you run into problems using the browser you use, please do let me know. And, check out Mommio's rockin' newly completed Socks that Rock socks. I have to get me some of that!

January 10, 2007

Sad state of publishing

Reading this on Danny Gregory's site earlier this week made me very sad about the state of the publishing industry:

"The Creative License, has done phenomenally well for a book of its type, outselling my others by a factor of four or five, my huge publisher, Hyperion (part of Disney) wanted it to sell millions of copies and when it didn't, they said they couldn't do another color illustrated book with me."

As anyone who listens to the Creative Mom Podcast knows, I think this is a must-read book for every creative type (whether you draw or paint or journal... or just want to do and try those things). Danny's great... his work is great... his sketches, drawings, and paintings are great. His perspective is powerful. It sounds, from his post, like there's something in the works for the new year, but still, the note about the expectations a publisher has of this type of book seems a sad reflection on the publishing industry - and maybe society's values as a whole.

On another note... his earlier book, Everyday Matters just got reprinted in paperback. I just got my hardcover copy over the holidays... it's great!

January 12, 2007

Didn't they turn out cute?


These are fingerless mittens I made both boys during our holiday trip, December 2006. Already, they've come very much in handy during a cold snap we're having here in SF. And even the littlest finds them easy to put on - though he always immediately turns them the wrong way and asks, "This way, Mama" (jokingly trying to stick his hand through the top).

January 14, 2007

New Pens


Aren't these pretty? They were gifts from two different sources, but it's amazing how similar they are in concept in terms of barrel design - though one is very bold and one is more opalescent. I love them both. (One is a Retro 51 Tornado fountain pen. One is a Monteverde Grafica 5.6MM pencil.)

I've become addicted to the fountain pen - for journaling, though, not sketching. And I'm loving the graphite holder, too!

January 18, 2007

Spencer at the Gate


Three days a week, Spencer goes to preschool. Drop-off for kindergarten is at 7:50 AM, which means we stand outside on the "circle" for announcements until right around 8:00 AM. Preschool drop-off doesn't start until 8:30, so we have 30 minutes to pass. We walk the long way, down all the stairs and around the block and back up the hill to the car to help pass the time. We also walk the long way in hopes that we'll see a neighborhood dog (and companion) that has become a treasured part of our morning routine. (I won't say a lot right now because I hope to write and talk about this more this spring. Just suffice it to say meeting this person and dog has been very important to us in ways I'm not sure have totally become clear.) The dog (and companion) are mostly on the same schedule we are, which is how rituals and routines are born, of course. But, some days, the dog isn't there when we get to the gate. And so we wait and hope. And, some days, when the dog isn't there, we go on and walk the rest of the way up the block, hoping to maybe see the dog (and companion) coming down the street next to the elementary school on their way to the dog park.

On this day, that is exactly what happened. As we rounded the corner to look up the street, Spencer took off running, shrieking something as he ran. The dog was nowhere in sight, so I wasn't sure what had elicited such a response. Seeing that he wasn't stopping, I nodded a vague "hello" to a mother as I passed, and started jogging after him up the hill. He was still running headlong uphill and saying "something."

I finally figure out that the "something" was "Christmas lights." But there were no Christmas lights in sight.

And then he stopped, right smack in front of a bush of yellow flowers.

And he looked at me, puzzled. "Christmas lights?"

From afar, he'd thought the yellow flowers were lights on a bush, and he'd run, excitedly towards them.

But then, as he got close enough, there were no lights.

But, he plucked two flowers... one for himself and one for his brother (because that's the way he does things). And we headed back on down the hill where we did, in fact, meet up with the dog (and companion).

When printers go bad

Just so that you are prepared in the event that something like this should ever happen to you, know that if you are having strange problems with your printer, problems that mean your printer still prints but believes its cartridges need to be aligned, and you think it may be right because both the uber-cool postcard design you've been working on to say 'hello' and 'thanks' (as the case may be) to stauch supporters of your creative show (and of your creative side) and the very 'powerful' invitation to the 'turning 6' birthday party both printed out in colors that were just not "quite" right... if you are having those problems but every time you say, "okay, go ahead and align the cartridges," it spit the paper back out at you saying, "paper too narrow. Please load wider paper," and you finally decide to log on to the manufacturers site and take advantage of online chat help... and they pop a web page up in your browser that tells you to perform a bunch of steps while they wait... and one of those steps involves checking the little plastic cover that hides and protects the media sensor...

don't do it!

I say this because, I did just that. While my nice customer service person waited, I started going through the steps. And as I got to the one about the media sensor cover, I moved to my printer, saying, "well, this must be it" (while M says, from the other side of the office, "no, not that, surely"). And, as I say it, I struggle to remove the cover, and it finally goes "pop" and flies off...

never to be seen again.

We search and search. I stick my fingers into the hidden right side of the printer only to pull them out covered in squishy black ink (which, ummm, I don't think should be there).

My customer service person is still waiting, and for the next half hour... maybe closer to an hour... I sit with the printer (which must weigh 30 pounds) and turn it this way and that and shake it and pound on it. I use q-tips to try and get the puddles of goopy ink from the side in case the little cover somehow flipped into there and stuck. We can't find a flash light, but we find a small lanternlike flashlight to try and shine more light into the inside. We search on the floor and try to enlist the boys' help in searching. I take the printer and shake and pound on it some more. I finally give up and plug it all back in only to repeatedly have it tell me it's jammed, stalled, or there is a carriage problem. I'm sure my shaking, pounding, and whacking haven't helped matters.

Every so often, I see the help box on my screen flicker as the help person retypes... "I'm still waiting. Have you completed those steps yet?"

If they ask you to check the media sensor cover, be very careful. Mine vanished. Completely. It's gone.

January 20, 2007

Sunrise through Double Panes


I don't know why I've been so struck this month by the first hints of sun I see in the distance through my kitchen window (it's actually the Bay I see), but I've been moved repeatedly now to take photos through the kitchen window to try and capture the wonderful colors of early morning. I think part of it may be how "clear" it's been. We're usually blanketed in fog up here on the hill, and this month has had many, many, crisp, clear, and very cold mornings - which have yielded amazing early morning views. As I pour my first coffee, I start seeing hints of light coming up. Later, as I'm making breakfast for the boys, the colors are in full bloom. I don't think I ever notice the big trees that stand out so boldly here against the color, but they're so beautiful in this light.

January 23, 2007

Enough said?


January 29, 2007

The Force


The boys have been in heavy LEGO mode, and Star Wars figures have been in high demand. I saw this little Yoda with its cool multi-colored sabre lying on the table the other day and thought he was just so cute. Yoda has always been my favorite, and when I spotted this little guy, I felt like I'd found the perfect talisman.

Do you think they'll notice if I steal him away to my office and stand him on a shelf. I'd actually like to stick him right on the top edge of my monitor. But then they'd notice for sure...

January 31, 2007

Reminder to partner...


Reminder should you ever need to use one of these again and find yourself grabbing the first appropriately shaped orange and white tool you find in the pen holder... these two may look alike. But there are differences. One will take away stains on the sweater you are wearing. One is designed to reveal hidden images in a puzzle book and will turn your stains into orange stains. (There is a reason the detergent company puts its name on the barrel!)


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