"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Challenges Can be, well, Challenging

December 31, 2009 is here and I only read 92 books this year, so I missed my 100-book Challenge.  Most of what I read turned out to be nonfiction writing guides or other research for my novel-in-progress.  Since TGAN (now "officially" titled Don't Trust the Rain) is set in Civil War New Orleans, my four memoirs for the "In Their Shoes" Challenge didn't get read either, much less the mysteries for the "On the Porch Swing" Challenge.

Usually, not succeeding in something like this--even though it was voluntary and "for fun"--would depress me tremendously.  This year, it has not.  Whether I am finally maturing in my attitudes (at 54, one would think I was already mature) or whether I am simply loving myself more these days I cannot say.  Perhaps both, with a healthy dose of Hacuna Matata and Que Sera Sera thrown in for good measure.

Just for today, I choose to close out the old year celebrating my accomplishments and not dwelling on what could have been done better.  After all, writing 50,000 words in November despite what life threw my way was a tremendous feat.  I did take a short break, but am back to writing on a regular basis.

I also started crafting regularly again, enough so that I re-established my sales relationship with Stampin' Up!  Not a lot of customers yet, but I joined primarily to collect their products at a discount and have fun using quality papers, inks and stamps.  Therefore, this venture is successful and can only grow from here.  For a personal challenge this coming year, I want to post at least a card or project here a month that uses exclusively SU! components.

And I posted much less here than I would have liked.  I missed opportunities to post my reviews of several fantastic books and even better movies (you HAVE to see "Sherlock Holmes" by the way, and they simply MUST make a sequel--preferably with Jason Isaacs or Ewan McGregor as Professor Moriarity; but I digress once more LOL). 

So, I'll end the decade on a positive note--I have a wonderful job and two fantastic avocations that are supported financially by the wonderful job.  I have my health.  I have great friends who support not only my paper crafting but my writing, and who even (usually) tolerate my reduce/reuse/recycle idealogies.

Here's a final toast to 2009--Thank you for the opportunities to learn and grow and develop into a better person!  Challenges are simply ways of expanding my horizons. 

This is a post to look back; tomorrow I will move forward.  Lots of exciting plans so check back often.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry White Christmas!

It's snowing here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and in some sections of the Metroplex, it is actually sticking!  I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl--I love snow!  And there is nothing more fun than watching "White Christmas" on Christmas Eve with it snowing outside LOL!

Of course, I've rescheduled my Christmas plans with friends due to the weather; I may love snow but it puts a crimp in traveling, even with public transportation.  No youngsters are involved with our plans, so we can see "Sherlock Holmes" on Sunday after the weather clears.  I also can watch a "Star Wars" marathon on Spike TV if I tire of AMC and "White Christmas".  I have food in the house and am off work tonight and tomorrow.  What else could someone ask for at Christmas?  (Well, I could ask for a lot actually--like world peace and increased participation in green living and better treatment for the mentally ill among us and increased literacy in Appalachia and other depressed areas of our country and the world, and--well, I am sure you get the drift LOL).

The gist of it all I guess wraps around the fact that I can ask for nothing more for Christmas than I already have--good friends, a home, food, my health, a job--and the ability to make healthy decisions in my life today.  Some folks don't have those things.  I am truly Blessed.

So again, to all you reading this--Have a Merry Christmas and may you be surrounded this holiday season by all you hold dear...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spread the Love!

Okay, NaNoWriMo is over and it is time to think of gifting to others...and no, I am not thinking of Christmas right this moment.  See, the troops far from home need Valentines to mail back home to their loved ones.  Since my red and white cardstocks are already out (because my Christmas cards aren't finished yet LOL), I am planning on getting together with friends Saturday and making Valentines for Operation Write Home.  (If my green cardstock is still out, I may throw in some St. Patrick's Day cards as well.)

In the hustle and bustle of this time of year, consider remembering those far from home because they are protecting our right to a safe and happy holiday season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

National Novel Writing Month--I Won!

I have been proud of several accomplishments in my life, but this one is major for me!  One of my dreams since childhood has been to write a novel, but challenges of life have somehow always taken center stage over writing.

As in any dream however, once a plan is put into action, things begin to happen.  This year, I dusted off a novel outline begun while living in New Orleans.  With some emotional distance from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I thought I could start writing again more seriously.  Then I found NaNoWriMo.  Voila, a kick in the seat of the pants! Simply get the words on paper and then edit later.  Write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Others have done it for years; why not me? 

I signed up and on November 1, 2009, I was ready to start.  All kinds of situations tried to get in the way, but at approximately 11:15 PM Central time on November 29, 2009 (a bit over 24 hours before deadline) I scrambled my novel-in-progress and downloaded it into the official word count validator.

Within moments, my badge of honor appeared on the official site.  I had validated 51,848 words! 

The novel is only about 1/3 finished and the storyline has grown to the point of needing a trilogy, but that is fine.  Now I have begun a new facet of my life and am loving every minute of this journey.  Thank you to everyone who has cheered me on each step of the way (you all know who you are) and thank you for letting me neglect you in favor of my writing. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abundant Blessings

Just a quick post as I am still 20K away from winning NaNoWriMo.  I just need to publicly express gratitude for friends who are supportive of my writing, family who allow me to be true to myself and my dreams, customers who support my Stampin'Up! business, co-workers who help make my telecommuting a success...the list of wonderful people in my life goes on and on.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

A quick update on a few things: 

First, NaNo is rocking along, especially now that I have a name for the mule (Jack, short for jackass--not original but it quite suits his personality).  The novel's title is now officially "Don't Trust the Rain" and the story outline has grown from one book to a trilogy (or more):  "Rain" is 1862, followed by "Thunder" in 1863 and "Lightning" in 1864...

Second, Stampin' Up! has a great beginning planned for 2010.  Some fantastic new products in the Occasions Mini Catalog and of course, the annual Sale-A-Bration event.  I hope to post links to the mini catalogs shortly after December 1 (obviously after NaNo).  Until then, various holiday specials are all featured on my website (the link above or to the right) and what's easier than shopping from home in your pajamas and having your order delivered to your door?

Third, a quick note about Operation Write Home.  Their next big push is for Valentines for the troops to send home, especially to their children.  Visit their site; the Valentine mailing deadline is January 5 and they could use all the support we can give.

Again, I am so very Blessed to have the life and friends I have; all of you are loved and cherished.  As we continue the holiday season, please take time to list the blessings in your own life--and may there be many!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Technology and Turmoil

I should be working.  I want to be working.  Instead, I am posting on my blog, cooking soup, semi-watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and when this post is finished, I'll go back to my NaNo novel.

Why?  Why am I not answering customer calls?  Because my work PC is sick and I'm far down on the triage line today.  We had major software issues on the job last week that affect the entire company and that are still being ironed out.  In the grand scheme of things, that of course means a single sick PC has to wait.  I feel a bit like I am sitting in the emergency room with a sprained ankle while all around me are victims of gunshots, stabbings, and beatings.

They hope to be able to remotely work on the issue later this afternoon.  Then, depending on the results, I may have to travel into the job.  Although it is only across the county from me, public transportation schedules mean it takes three crosstown busses and right at four hours one way.  Not a pleasant prospect.

The very thing that allows me the freedom to work from home is the very thing that has my emotions bent out of shape.  My brain feels as fried as I am afraid the hard drive is.  One lesson from it though--I am backing up all my files on my home PCs (especially my NaNo novel) to ensure no data loss if something like this should ever happen to either personal machine.  Here's to technology LOL!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

KERA mentions NaNoWriMo

I love KERA but never knew they had a blog--go figure LOL!  Here's a cool local write up on National Novel Writer's Month from someone who is participating with those of us insane enough to attempt this feat!

The word count widgets aren't available yet so you won't see one on my sidebar (maybe this weekend), but I have written 5687 through the first four days of the month--only 44,313 to go LOL!

(Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho, and back to writing I go...)

PS:  check out the rest of the KERA Art & Seek Blog...it's totally cool!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

50,000 words to go! National Novel Writing Month has begun!  The goal is 50,000 words from November 1st to 30th (approximately 1,667 words/day) which equates to around 170-175 pages of text.  My novel research has been coming along, my characters have taken on a life of their own, and now the story begins.  The working title?  TGAN, aka "The Great American Novel", what else?  I am nothing if not a wishful thinker LOL!

I had planned to have some blog posts set up in draft mode to publish throughout this month so that this space would not go dormant. That did not happen. When the word count widgets are available from the NaNo site, I'll add that here and I may stop in from time to time, but if I don't post a lot, it is because my writing time here has been taken up by writing time there.

I've bought the extra coffee beans; the gourmet trail mix (actually got my favorite flavor--Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Espresso--on sale at Target!); the soup mixes (I can start it on a work break and let it cook without a lot of time consuming preparation); the extra printer ink/paper (and yes, the paper is from sustainable forests and has a 30% post-consumer recycled content.  Check out Georgia-Pacific for more details; I get mine at WalMart for $3.97/ream and it is wonderful paper for everyday printing.  It even stands up to duplexing in my HP without bleed-thru).  Oops, back to my "supply list"...I also got an 8GB thumb drive and earphones for my laptop.  I put my PaperBack Swap account on vacation and have a friend coming over today to help me clean up/reorganize my studio for maximum creativity.  I'd really be set if I had Star Wars soundtracks to write by but they'll have to wait a bit (like until next payday).

Now for the words and inspiration...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Toilet Tissue Test

Okay, the test is over--or at least it is complete enough to give my results.  On my September 27, 2009 post, I talked about the three brands of toilet paper I purchased from recycled fibers (why cut down virgin forest for something that our ancestors did not have and most of the world still does not use?).  As stated before on any of my posts regarding product reviews--these are totally uncompensated personal opinions only.  If I find something I like, I'll tell about it.  If I find something I don't care for, hey, I'll tell you that as well (why should someone else repeat my buying mistake?)

Okay, I have not (yet) gone so green that I use rags--I have read of bloggers who do--but in all honesty, a rag might be softer than the Office Depot tissue LOL!  Actually, it is no worse than tissue used in commercial establishments (and better than some of the tissue I have been exposed to when using public facilities).  No softness; however it does not shred or pill easily and the rolls are sized nicely to last a while.  The rolls are individually wrapped (which does mean I can find odd storage places for them--a whole case takes a lot of room).

I had already talked about the Marcal tissue and roll size issues.  I purchased the 2-ply, double roll 4-pack in a case lot.  The paper itself is okay but I am spoiled more than I thought and changing the roll every other day is not only not fun, but I cannot help but think that the empty cardboard rolls seem to stack up fast LOL!  Sure they are recyclable but still, fewer is better, right?

So, the last is certainly NOT the least.  Overall, I love the Seventh Generation toilet tissue.  The roll size is good, the paper doesn't pill or shred as easily as some of the really soft "premium" tissue on the market, and the cost is quite acceptable.  Unfortunately, it was the paper I used first from this buying trip.  I need to use up the remainder of the Office Depot and Marcal stock.  Once that is done, however, my standard home toilet tissue will be Seventh Generation (at least until I choose to do as the ancestors did......)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Timely Tidbits and To-Do's

It's raining cats and dogs...I asked for this day off several months ago in the hopes that it would be not only a mental health day, but also a day to run the errands necessary to prepare for the upcoming NaNoWriMo month of November (badges and links to appear on my sidebar soon, as well as a complete post).

So, with the rain, and not having gotten my flu shot yet, I am choosing to stay home and do the indoor putzing around to get ready--let's see what's on the list:

1)  I need to sign a new lease, so I've let the office know I'll come up there if it ever slows up to a sprinkle (thank heavens the rent will not increase through December 2010).

2)  Labeling files and notebooks and sorting papers--recycling (AKA dumping) what I can and paying the "mini bills" that I sometimes procrastinate on--the magazine renewals for instance.  I also need to close out an auto-ship on classical music and reset my auto-ship coffee order (BTW, Boca Java is super stuff!).

3)  Making sure all of my writing aids and research materials are sorted in a fashion that allows me to "pre-plan" as much of the 50,000 word plot as I can...

4)  Realizing the my Stampin' Up! inks are not the ones closest at hand, I have decided to move some things around...I'm not willing to Freecycle (or even E-bay) all the crafting supplies I accumulated prior to selling SU! and will use them for Operation Write Home or other organizations as I make cards for donation, but if I want to build my SU! business, I need to post my crafted items here and they need to be SU! exclusive, so...those items that are not SU! will be moved to the less-accessible places in my studio...

5)  Playtime for a bit (after all, this IS supposed to be a vacation day LOL); I made an autumn card last night and may make a few bookmarks today if time permits...I am also vegging out with the laptop in front of Clean House while writing this post.

6)  My dining room doesn't work for me..I don't have company and I never have enough room for books and research; I also hate my table and chairs LOL!  I took pictures and will Freecycle the glass and metal set and have found a desk that can also serve (with the help of a tablecloth) as a dining table if I ever should need one..it'll be ordered from Target as soon as I can afford it or when I get my next perfect attendance award at work (whichever comes first).

7)  Finally, my blog header is driving me crazy!  I love the picture (it is my back porch view and it is gorgeous), but I cannot find a font color that is readable over the photo.  I'll be looking through all my clip art and image software programs and will find something that matches my vision...since the back porch photo will be leaving, here it is again  (I do love this view even if it is rain-soaked today LOL)...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2009 Reading Challenges Update

Sure haven't had as much time to read this year as I thought I would. My recent devouring of "An Echo In The Bone" by Diana Gabaldon should receive a post of its very own (out of a 5-star rating, it gets a 9 LOL!) but in the interest of time, I'll confine this post to its titled topic--an update of where I am with my challenges with less than three months left in the year.

For the 100-book challenge, I have read 89. I've spent many reading hours this year with young adult series (I have felt the need for light, amusing reading with a moral tone). Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series has become a new favorite series and I loved "The Chronicles of Narnia" earlier this year--how had I missed those as a child?

Daisy Dalrymple amused me five times so far this year with her spunky way of solving a cozy mystery.  One of her volumes solved the "book with summer/winter in the title" part of my "On The Porch Swing" Reading Challenge.

Many of my other 2009 reads thus far have been non-fiction:  various writing guides, New Orleans history and geography books, and extensive Civil War research.  All the writers I admire do the research necessary to have their settings and characters make sense.  If I ever want to be published, I need to follow that example.

I have writing guides from two of my favorite authors (Terry Brooks and Janet Evanovich) and a memoir from Rita Mae Brown (another of my favorites).  I'm wanting to count these as my other three memoirs for the "In Their Shoes" Challenge--I know the writing guides may be stretching the point a bit, but they do include biographical info along with explaining how they craft their books.  Sounds autobiographical to me LOL!

So, I guess it is time to stop posting and start reading maybe???

Thursday, October 1, 2009

'Tis The Hero Holiday Card Challenge

World Card Making Day is Saturday and what better way to celebrate than to make cards for our troops to use to keep in touch with their loved ones?

This is the new name for cardsforheroes.org and while they are specifically challenging all card makers to provide holiday cards, they have an ongoing need for all occasion cards as well--birthday, anniversary, cards to send to children--please spend a few minutes at their awesome site and if you can find it in your heart to make a few extra cards during any of your crafting sessions, this is a great place to send them.

I also want to challenge all the Stampin' Up! demonstrators out there who may have sample cards made up from discontinued products--if they are A2 size, why not send them to a soldier? You all know you do your best work on your samples; any soldier would be delighted to have those cards to send to their family back home.

My focus will be autumnal/Thanksgiving cards and a dear friend intends to make Christmas cards that day. Hopefully, I'll remember my camera and can post some of our results...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shop Smart, Save Forests

Since I live in an apartment and cannot install a bidet (unquestionably the most sanitary and least environmentally harmful way of taking care of personal cleanliness), I am constantly looking for the greenest way to handle personal hygiene and household cleaning.

I gave up paper towels and paper napkins last year, preferring rags, hand towels and cloth napkins. Just recently, I found (at Dollar General no less!) a package of women's cotton handkerchiefs--and remembered my great grandmother loving hers. Two packages (at $1 each) and I have four handkerchiefs at the start of the fall flu season...enough to start weaning myself from facial tissue. (Before any germophobes reading this faint, I want to remind you all I live alone. Facial tissue has its place when I am in public, and the sources listed in the article linked above will suffice for me to carry disposable tissues whenever away from home).

Recently, I purchased three separate brands of toilet paper made from recycled fibers--Marcal, Seventh Generation, and Office Depot Green--all from Office Depot at a per sheet price of <.02 and am in the process of evaluating each product. All three products are processed chlorine-free. I've purchased the Marcal before and my one complaint with them is the size of each roll. While a single person can make it through several days before the roll runs out, a family may find themselves using a roll a day (not exactly user-friendly for a busy household).

A full review will await the trial of all three products (I am using one brand at a time and taking notes to determine which brand--if any--reigns as superior), I do want to publicize the immense damage being done to old-growth forests simply to wipe our behinds (not only is this topic currently featured on Treehugger--one of my favorite "green" sites--even the Washington Post is covering the topic--pardon the pun).

As with any product recommendations seen on this blog, I am not being compensated by the companies listed here. These are personal opinions only. I've included company links so you may find your own sources; my use of Office Depot is based on the fact that I receive free delivery whenever I order over $50. They also have a Worklife Rewards program that provides me with periodic coupons and in this economic climate, every little bit helps.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mystery Lover's Kitchen

Okay, ya'll already know I love food (one look at me and I could never deny that fact LOL). Most of you know I am also a coffee addict, and anyone who has read my blog knows I love to read...so, what could be better than a blog that combines all three??? Cleo Coyle writes the Village Blend mystery series and they have a permanent spot on my keeper shelf. (She also writes another of my favorite series under her nom de plume Alice Kimberly; this set stars a ghostly PI who resides in a bookstore).

Not only is Cleo giving away a free excerpt of her soon-to-be-released Holiday Blend; signing up for her newsletter enters you into a weekly drawing for free coffee.

Then, a link sent me off to Mystery Lover's Kitchen...all the writers share their recipes and their links to their websites and other blogs they love. Go check it out, but beware, you'll want to eat and drink while reading LOL!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Playing with Plastic Wrap

One of my favorite things to use for making my own background paper is plain old plastic wrap from the kitchen. Actually, I often use the plastic from opening a new ink pad, or the bag that my Sunday paper comes in, or the plastic that some of my books are wrapped in when received through Paperback Swap. I have a container on my crafting table to keep these in so I don't have to use the kitchen wrap as my first choice.

I'm in a fall mood. I need fall cards and bookmarks. As I started going through my card stock stash, I made the horrid discovery that I have no orange, rusty, autumnal colors. My next SU! order isn't budgeted for another week, and even though I have one package of our great Autumn Meadows Designer Series Paper, it is currently reserved for another project.

What to do? Make my own autumn paper! Start with Very Vanilla card stock; add More Mustard and Really Rust using wadded plastic wrap to apply direct-to-paper. Voila!

Well, I thought I was okay...till I realized that as I was moving the paper around, the back got inked a bit. Not good for making a bookmark that would be seen on both sides. So, on the reverse, along with More Mustard and Really Rust smooshed with plastic wrap, I added some Taken with Teal by sponging and then just swiping the pad over the card stock. (Should have taken a picture then, but I was having too much fun to stop.) By the way--all the smooshing was done with the same piece of plastic wrap, which I did finally throw away (note to self--remove from trash and put in recycle bin).

Since I was having so much fun, I then took the flower (looks like a chrysanthemum to me) from the Kind & Caring Thoughts Level 3 Hostess set, and stamped it randomly using Chocolate Chip, Really Rust, and More Mustard.

Now all that is left is cutting it up and using it!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Change is Good

My blog will be changing somewhat over the next week or so. Changes in my demonstrator agreement with Stampin' Up! mean that some of my links and blinkies will be removed from my sidebar. This is not being done because of any negative transaction with those sites; it is being done to bring my blog in line with a contract I have signed. We all know there are many craft suppliers and paper artists out there. I am narrowing my focus to those who use SU! products so that both I and my readers can learn more about the great items my demonstrator website offers and be inspired to use SU! stamps, inks and papers in all my paper crafting.

I am a hobbyist demonstrator in many ways. Public transportation makes giving workshops difficult, but between my love of our products and a few friends who also love SU! stamps and inks, I manage to stay an active demonstrator.

I welcome the changes. They are making me look at my craft spending habits more seriously. I've owned my own business before. I understand non-compete clauses and realize that I have a responsibility to remain loyal to the company I represent.

Now that sections of the contract/agreement have been clarified for me, I feel free to correctly post pictures of items I have made. I can link to videos and blogs that are exclusively SU! and know I am following the rules ;-)

So as I make and share my holiday cards and bookmarks and "gifties", just know that all items are from Stampin' Up! and feel free to come on over to my website and place an order LOL!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T is Not Just a Song Title

I've been thinking of a post all day regarding respect for others. Last night, I caught a live town hall meeting on cable and watched it disintegrate into an old-fashioned barroom brawl. Today, looking at the "news" on my PC, I began reading totally vile posts from various "news" sites where people curse and call total strangers insulting names (language like that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap even into my late teens).

News writing--when I was in school--was not a place for opinion or conjecture. A news story (and I won awards for school newspaper writing) consisted of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW. Anything else went on the "op-ed" or editorial page. Somehow, those lines have become extremely blurred. News is buried under an avalanche of conjecture, supposition, and layers of "expert commentary". News reports are not meant to be entertainment--they are to inform. The "straight scoop" on any subject is extremely hard to find and (dare I say it) cannot be condensed into short sound-bites. So, the side who gets heard most is often the side who shouts loudest or pays best...

We can disagree without being childish boors, can't we? I can respect a studied opinion even if I don't agree with it--I have no respect for adults who revert to infantile behaviors such as shouting, name-calling and spitting on others.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Personal Progress Report

It is four years since Katrina. I got to Dallas with a small suitcase of clothes and my laptop (which was stolen before year's end). Having friends here meant a floor to sleep on but also made me ineligible for assistance from the American Red Cross (needless to say, they are not a charity I support).

I've moved twice due to apartment complexes being razed. It's funny; the first one is still boarded up and empty--they kicked us all out before getting their zoning variance--so I now have a bigger apartment for less rent (I am indeed Blessed).

I've re-gained the 130 pounds I had lost while living in New Orleans (basically because I am back to working a desk job and now don't even have a daily commute to keep me actively walking). My health is good even with the weight gain and I have purchased some exercise equipment; now all I need is motivation LOL!

In October, I will celebrate four years on the job I was Blessed to find. Steady raises and the ability to telecommute plus periodic recognition (like gift cards for each six months of perfect attendance) means I won't leave there unless they force me out ;-)

The stolen laptop has been replaced and I even found a hard copy of the novel I had started writing in New Orleans; I am writing again. My characters often have a mind of their own so I live part-time in their world (and what an exciting place it is turning out to be).

Replacing my craft supplies led me into selling Stampin' Up! for the discount (shameless plug here--I will not turn away online orders; my website is here and we have some great holiday items for sale for a limited time only).

My library lost in New Orleans has been more than replicated--thanks to Paperback Swap, I have all my annual re-reads available again and with friends who read voraciously and then pass their books along, my TBR "pile" has now become a TBR "mountain" (not complaining at all, mind you--I love to be surrounded by the written word).

Friends come and go as humans all grow in different directions; new friends appear to replace the old and life revolves around; I keep my plates spinning in the air--I am grateful for all my responsibilities today for they show just how far I have come in four short years...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Contemplating Camelot

"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot" (lyrics by Lerner and Loewe)

I have spent my life feeling a part of that American phenomenon known as "Camelot"...the generation who heard as children in grade school that we should, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country". As I entered my teens and began to look at my future and how I wanted to serve, I was told, "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why...I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"

I watched in horror as we lost first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Robert Kennedy. While losing my innocence in the way I viewed the world, I was still encouraged by the ideals that one person can, like a ripple from a pebble thrown in a pond, make a discernible difference.

As the decades passed, we saw our politicians fall from their pedestals with increasing rapidity. Even a U.S. President resigned. Camelot's children grew and we realized that the younger generation of Kennedys were just as fallible as we "ordinary" folks and that mental and physical problems did not discriminate.

I am not one who believes in "The Kennedy Curse" but I am convinced that the responsibility of a life dedicated to public service opens a person's life--in this media age--to immense amounts of pressure. Human mistakes are magnified. Society would rather publicize the negative and sensationalize those mistakes in judgement and forget the still, small, labor-intensive activities that day-by-day make an enormous impact on our future generations.

Younger Kennedys are still available and can keep the dreams of their dads and uncles alive. There is still hope for this great land. Caroline is an accomplished author. Maria serves as First Lady of California and still works in broadcast journalism, recently on a documentary for HBO on Alzheimer's. Patrick serves Rhode Island in the U.S. House. Kathleen served Virginia well as Lieutenant Governor. Timothy is the chairman of Special Olympics, the organization founded by his mother, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Robert Jr. is active in environmental projects, especially regarding water pollution.

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die."

Rest in peace, Senator Edward Moore Kennedy...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Khaki Kick

I'm on a khaki kick. I haven't posted lately because (believe it or not) I have actually been making cards!

World Cardmaking Day is coming up October 3 and three of us had originally decided to get together that day to make cards for the troops (we'd send them to Cards for Heroes to distribute). That plan fell thru because of work-related issues for our hostess, but in the meantime my brain must have thawed or something, because I have not only been in my studio, I have been producing cards (you may faint from surprise now LOL).

With troops in both the Middle East and Afghanistan, somehow khaki has become my current color of choice. Maybe it is because of desert and mountain locales; maybe it is because khaki is a fall color; maybe it is because I tend to think of khaki as masculine--whatever the reason, I'm on a khaki kick.

Want to join me?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fantastic Interview!


I know, I know--I never post twice in a day, but I just found this exclusive interview regarding the two Deathly Hallows movies coming in 2010 and 2011 and I just had to share!

(The posted photos from Half-Blood Prince are cool too LOL!) Guess it's time to go back for another showing this weekend...

Seniority Versus Complacency

Interesting discussion at work the past several days--should seniority on the job outrank productivity when bidding on shifts?

I've only had my present job just shy of four years (yikes--has it already been that long since Hurricane Katrina? I guess so--she devastated the Gulf Coast August 29, 2005). There are many people who have come and gone in that length of time; telephone customer service is not often a "job of choice" and subjecting yourself to possible daily verbal abuse is not for everyone.

When I was first hired, we had no shift bids and "prime" shifts were earned pretty much by seniority; if someone left, the next person in line received that shift if desired. That policy changed this year and we have just experienced our second bid process.

I try to ensure high productivity--since I am privileged to be able to work from home, I feel a distinct obligation to maintain my numbers; luckily, I am self-motivated enough to maintain that amount of discipline (at least where my employment is concerned; we all know my crafting life and my housework suffer often--see prior posts LOL).

My paycheck is not my only work-related blessing; I have no need for "office-quality" clothing nor do I spend hours commuting on public transportation (or worse horrors yet--money spent to buy/maintain an automobile). If high productivity ensures these blessings continue, I will do my best to maintain that productivity.

So, even though there are people in my department who have been there longer, I was blessed last bid to receive one of the two most-desired shifts. Although I lost a shift differential then, I gained all my evenings to run errands, go to the library for research, have dinner with friends--in short, have a great life after work.

Once I saw how enjoyable and productive my evenings could be, I vowed to maintain this shift. As of today's announcement, I have succeeded until the next bid. (A short pause here while I reach around and pat myself on the back LOL).

My senior colleagues have not been so lucky and I have heard through the grapevine that some in the office feel that we should honor seniority over productivity.

Past jobs (including one for local government) taught me that as a person "ages" in their job, they become complacent and lackadaisical in their work habits. Once past probation (and certainly once tenured), many employees in many companies believe they are secure in their positions simply because they've been there so long.

If this economic climate (coupled with my Katrina experience) has taught me anything, it has taught me that sitting on my laurels will give me nothing but a sore a**. Thankfully, I can learn from the experiences of others--while I appreciate my seniority as it shows stability in the job, I will count on my productivity to help me advance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paws Galore Shopping Bags

Paws Galore Shopping Bags - Set of 3 at The Animal Rescue Site

Aren't these the cutest bags? I believe in animal rescue and click this site as often as I can remember to do so (the other sites that are linked on this page are also worthwhile causes). Today, as I clicked to provide food, I found this ad and just had to share.

I love reusable bags, especially the kind that fold up until needed. I'm often teased by friends and cashiers alike because I carry quite an assortment whenever I shop. (My favorite tote ever is a Barnes & Noble tote with a quote by Erasmus, "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes".)

These are logo-less and a great size for picking up odds and ends on errand day. The colors are awesome, and 100% polyester means washable (even if not totally eco-friendly LOL).

Skip on over and take a look; the holidays are gonna be here faster that I want them to be, and my personal soapbox pledge is to make my few dollars spread as "pawsitively" as "pawsible"--if gifting to others will also help a wonderful cause, so much the better. Animal shelters and neglected animals appreciate the support.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great Green Products!

Ya'll know I'm a 3R's kinda gal (and yes, this post has a Texas twang to it; I don't feel "proper" today LOL!)

Anyway, I ran errands yesterday and realized that I am truly starting to put my money where my mouth is...recycled products are getting easier to find all the time and the price points are getting better.

School will be starting soon and I use this time of year to satisfy my cravings for office and crafting supplies on the cheap (is there anything more heavenly than the smell of a brand-new box of Crayola crayons?? Preferably the biggest box available LOL)

For the past couple of months, I have been buying Marcal toilet paper by the case from Staples (although it is available other places, I have it delivered along with other things as case lots of anything are hard to transport when you ride the bus). When I tell folks it is recycled, they really give me a strange look--I guess I should say it is made from 100% recycled paper. It is also safe for septic tanks and is processed without chlorine bleaching. (For people who use paper towels, I believe they also provide that product as well.)

I also needed aluminum foil and can no longer find the individual foil sheets by Reynolds that I have used for years ( I use foil very sparingly and one box would last me almost a full 365 days). When scrutinizing the paper products aisle at Walmart, I found the new recycled foil by Reynolds, made from 100% recycled aluminum. The box is 100% recycled paperboard, printed in soy inks and 50 feet cost me .48 more than the generic. (I should inject here that I usually will NOT buy generic foil--it is often so thin and tears so easily that for my purposes, one layer of "good" foil is cheaper in the long run than two layers of generic--YMMV).

Then I hit the school supplies. Many companies are jumping on the "green" bandwagon (finally--we who had parents/grandparents who lived through the Great Depression grew up with "use it until it wears out" and Girl Scouts were always environmentally conscious--but I digress...). Avery has a series of recycled chipboard 3-ring binders that are not only really nice but as they are chipboard, they are very easy to personalize. I found these at Walmart in a great muted red and a muted green. Staples had satisfied my binder needs earlier however, again with an Avery product--these are even cooler! Available in black, blue and green, they are not only recycled chipboard, but they are made in such a way that you can unscrew the metal rivets and recycle the ring assembly with your metals and the chipboard with your paper products! How awesome is that!!! And again, they are totally easy to personalize...I used sticker letters on the spine to categorize my novel notes--one binder for locales, one for battles, one for the Confederacy, etc. (Oops--digressing again LOL)

I guess I need to emphasize that I do NOT get any financial compensation for anything I endorse (or any links I post for products/companies; well, if you order through my Stampin' Up! website, I do receive compensation as a demonstrator, but that is not the focus of these other posts)...these are just products that excite me and I like to share my excitement...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Removing A Page Element I Love

With regret, I am taking my "This Day in History" widget from History.com off my blog. As much as I love the idea of having a widget that lets me find out what happened each day, I object to the fact that the ad page shows continually until the reader clicks it closed and only then can the history data be accessed.

I want to control what is advertised on my blog. It is not that I have a negative opinion of this widget's sponsor; I simply prefer to decide for myself what products appear on these pages.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Drop Dead Diva"

I am not a "chick flick" watcher and Lifetime is a network that is on my TV just slightly more often than the sports channels, so it totally amazes me I am posting about a new show on Lifetime.

I have never believed that blondes are born dumb, nor that skinny people are superior to us "fat" folks. Many ages of history have appreciated women who are size 12-14 (Betty Grable, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe all come very quickly to mind). Painters such as Peter Paul Rubens loved to see women as they are, not as society in recent decades has taught us we should be.

So, I had caught a commercial glimpse of this new show--a blonde, somewhat ditzy model dies and is sent back to earth as a plus-size attorney. She remembers her past life and is appalled to be thrust into the corporate world as a latte-drinking, donut-eating size 16. Since I love the idea of smart and successful female characters who do not resemble pencils, I thought I would try the pilot episode--what did I have to lose but an hour, right?

The show is fantastic! Laughs and tears and more laughs with a fantastic cast. The stereotypes are there primarily to be attacked. This is fluff that makes you think (if you are so inclined) and fluff that is enjoyable if all you want is clean comedy. The guest stars scheduled for future shows include Rosie O'Donnell and Paula Abdul; Margaret Cho is totally believable as Jane's assistant/right hand.

This country is undeniably obese. Weight loss is often important to improve health. However, self-worth should never be wrapped around outside appearance. Cleanliness on the other hand is important to self-esteem--grooming (or lack thereof) does present an impression to others and if the impression is negative, little to nothing can be done to change that person's mind, whether you are slender or not.

I am no dumber or poorer or less worthy of your attention simply because of my size; if you choose to give me that quick dismissal given so many simply due to their weight, you miss out on knowing a Fascinating, Accomplished, Talented human being.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dumb and Dumber--Where does it Stop?

Please help start a movement to save the English language!

Most of my friends are 40+ and I enjoy surrounding myself with people who read and enjoy the arts. Call us "old fogeys" if you will, but we enjoy intellectual discussion on many varied topics. Several of us will start reading a novel and get so engrossed with some aspect of the setting or timeline that we will head to the nearest encyclopedia for a deeper understanding.

Recently, we have noticed more slang in printed works. Slang has a place in creating characters or moods, but too much of an okay thing is not at all right. Then we began to notice books in which computer proofing caused grammar errors--"two" for "too" or "to"; "their" being used for "there" and vice-versa--need I go on?

And I could truly rant about the obnoxious spelling present in "tweets", text-messages and e-mails. What started as a few emoticons in e-mails from one friend to another has begun to steamroll into blatant disregard--even in professional environs--for intelligent written communication.

A noted magazine geared towards writers is having a lively discussion through the letters to the editor due to a contest-winning entry that could have benefited from better grammar and punctuation.

The editorial column in volume 11, issue 4 of North and South explains my angst much more coherently than I; please find a copy and read it.

Our President has challenged us to learn and to value education no matter our age. If we are to meet all the challenges inherent in keeping the United States as a world power throughout the next decades, we must be able to communicate. Writing, whether on paper or electronically produced, must make clear sense to those who read and act upon what was written. Creativity is transmitted best when it is concise and readable. This is true when talking to my boss. It is true when writing a blog post. It is true when discussing possible solutions to financial problems, global warming, cessation of hostilities across the world--imagine diplomacy without precise translation from one language to another...

I have forgotten grammar, syntax, and spelling more often than I care to admit, and this aspiring writer knows she will never be the next J.K. Rowling, Lincoln Childs, Diana Gabaldon or Kathy Lynn Emerson. I pray however, that my inevitable rejection letters will not come because of spelling or sloppy sentence structure.

I refuse to "dumb down" to increase my audience. Each day brings us another opportunity to stretch our imaginations and increase our communication skills, and I refuse to believe I am alone in holding true to traditional ideals of language. Our young people will rise to a challenge if we require it as we have in the past. They have begun to read again thanks to "Twilight" and "Harry Potter". Now we need to encourage them to write (thanks Christopher Paolini for proving it can be done!).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince--I Loved It!!!!!

Voracious fans of the book series are having discussions all over the Web regarding the storyline of the books versus the movies--it happens every time and will certainly happen with parts 1 & 2 of Deathly Hallows in 2010 and 2011.

Half-Blood Prince was different than I expected (not better and certainly not worse). On site reviews and preview videos showed me scenes not in the book so I knew something of what to expect. The movie left out parts of the master story line and yes, I walked out wondering how certain "necessary" parts of Deathly Hallows can be filmed if the essential back story was not.

Movie audiences are not always readers. My friend watching with me only knows Hogwarts and environs through the movies and has no desire to read the books. She was quite happy with the balance between the main story and the little sideline romances, and I agree. We were both pleasantly surprised that the darker tone was present but not overwhelming. Voldemort has returned and is causing havoc everywhere, yet the young people at Hogwarts still have time to fall in and out of "love" and there is much to laugh about. The comedic timing of Rupert Grint in so many scenes had me laughing far more than I had expected. Emma Watson also had moments that just floored you and showed a totally different side to the usually serious Hermione.

Not that there were not tears--there were many. I knew I would have sad moments throughout but I did not expect to feel sympathy for Tom Felton. Crying through the books was one thing--the tears were NOT shed for Draco. Watching the performance, I cried as much for Draco's plight as I did for Dumbledore.

Yes this post is long and was hard to write without spoilers, but please see the movie. We need morality tales today. We need to see the consequences of poor choices. We need accountability for our actions. Harry offers all this and more in a movie that entrances adults as well as older children and it does all this without fire and brimstone preachiness. Where else can you see honest affection and caring between young people today without seeing them jump into bed? Where else do we see that bad choices made in the past do not force a person into bad choices in the future?

I'm anxiously awaiting 2010 and Deathly Hallows #1...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Great Altered File Folder Portfolio!

I was lurking around some sites my friend Beverly suggested and came across this awesome video project for an altered file folder. This would make a wonderful teacher or co-worker gift and would be quite easy to mass-produce. Something tells me I will be joining scrapbookingcraftingfriends.ning.com very soon LOL! I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Studio Status--Will I ever stay organized?

Well, the studio was clean for a moment or two LOL! My office half has stacks of papers (novel research and magazines and bills to pay and filing and "stuff") while my work table has six partially finished projects (no one else works like that, right? )

One organizational tip I discovered is taking a plastic basket (like the ones sold to divide drawers) and using it to hold the current project pieces. I am trying to emulate my friend Beverly who makes more than one card at a time, so if I want to make a small series of very similar cards, I can put all the cut pieces of cardstock or patterned paper plus the embellishments for that series in the basket until they can be assembled. The baskets I am using are pretty colors, from the dollar store, and measure about 6" x 10". They will nest inside each other and if everything in them is flat, they can stack on top of each other while being used. The size works well for most card sizes and for my bookmarks and ATCs too. The baskets also will slip onto my shelves easily so I can keep more of my workspace clear, especially if doing direct-to-paper or other potentially messy work.

Since I work from home and my studio shares space with both my personal office and the desk/PC/phone I use for my paying job Monday-Friday, I have found I need to remove myself from that room once I am logged off for the day.

With the basket system, if I want to work in front of my TV, I can grab the wooden TV tray, some adhesive, my non-stick craft sheet or self-healing mat, and some card/ATC/bookmark blanks. Voila! Since the embellishments are already coordinated with the papers and the pieces are already cut and stamped, I can assemble a project easily.

Does anyone else work from home and have other ideas on organizing a shared office/studio?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Cuttlebug Spot "Drive for 500"

This is a cool challenge site my friend Beverly showed me and they are doing a membership/follower drive; go check out the July 6, 2009 post and see how to win neat prizes!

(Then stay and play; the challenges are really cute!)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reading Challenges Progress Report

Where has 2009 gone? We are almost halfway through, so I decided I had better look at my progress towards fulfilling my various reading challenges for 2009.

First things first--not counting the three new word guides/dictionaries that now reside very close to hand, I have read a total of 55 books so far. Some have been oriented towards paper crafts or studio design; others have been writing guides or computer software manuals. Several have been non-fiction on United States history or geography as I have continued my research for TGAN (aka The Great American Novel). A few have been on healthy eating and the dreaded four-letter word, "diet" (which should be a word more associated with healthy eating in general and less connected with weight-loss; but I digress....)

So, on to the specific challenges--here's what I have read and what is left for the second half of the year:

"On The Porch Swing" Challenge

1) A book with Married/Marriage/Marrying in the title: (this is not my normal genre, so I may have to really search the library for this one)

2) A book with Friends/Friendship in the title: (a similar situation as #1)

3) A book with Summer/Winter in the title: (well, looks as if I really need to study the card catalog LOL!)

4) A book with a Flower Name in the title: (I have some of Kate Collins' Flower Shop series of cozy mysteries in my TBR mountain and they are quite enjoyable, so this is doable soon)

"In Their Shoes" Challenge (this is any four memoirs)

1) "Harry, A History"

2) TBD

3) TBD

4) TBD

I actually have several memoirs here to choose from so this challenge will be met as long as I make the time to read...

"Mystery Reader Cafe" Challenge

1) A book with Murder in the title: "Maid for Murder"

2) A book set in my region: (I haven't quite decided how narrow my geographic area will be for this one; if I use something set in Texas, I have a couple of Susan Wittig Albert's great China Bayles series here that have not yet been read--although I was hoping to collect the whole series first. I believe there is also a debutante series set here in Dallas that while cute, don't seem to be keepers, so one of those may be my choice here)

3) A book that has been on my TBR shelf/mountain at least a year: (I have at least 100+ to choose from for this part of the challenge)

4) A book from a "new to you" author: "Wreath of Deception"

If all the links work right, my PBSwap reviews should show up for the few books that have met individual challenges. My friends tell me I work too hard and play too little, so I should read more for fun I suppose. Out of the 55 titles read so far this year, there have been "fun" titles: The Star Wars Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven volumes), three of the four Twilight books...and of course, before July 15, I simply must re-read Harry Potter 5 - 7 so I am ready for the new movie LOL!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weather Weary and A Case of the "Shoulds"

It has begun--summer in Texas. Freak thunderstorms this week followed by muggy and warm (I don't dare use the term "hot" yet; we have not hit 100 degrees).

Rubenesque women like me usually don't handle heat well, especially in the "change" years. I also don't like electric bills over $100, so setting the air conditioning below 80-82 is not an option. Fans help. So does the fact that by working from home, I can work in shorts and t-shirts. I seldom use the oven--summer brings lots of salads and meals cooked in the microwave. Grilling is out (our apartment complex does not allow a grill on your patio).

Lethargy sets in when it is hot. I now have hours of daylight when I get off work, which "should" help me accomplish many things in the evening. Of course, late afternoon is the hottest part of the day. These are days to write or research or craft, not days to take my too-fair, easily sunburned skin out into the heat--yet I feel I "should" be doing so much more.

I "should" walk to the library to return my books, but I pull up the website and renew them (again). I "should" walk across the street to buy the big bag of clear-tasting ice, but I pull out the old ice trays and fill them with tap water. I "should" take the books I need to mail for Paperback Swap up to the apartment office so they can go out today, but I print the postage for tomorrow's date because I can get a ride to the post office.

It is just June (and not even the Solstice for heaven's sake) so I cannot allow the summer heat to annihilate my plans. One day at a time and one step at a time, I will accomplish many small feats these next 3 months.

Let's see--what's on the To-Do list that can be done on the laptop in front of the fan?????

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Background Noise Challenge

I've followed Trish's posts as a lurker on Next Generation Stampers (a Yahoo Group) for a very long time. I lurk there because, like so many who have begun creating art as adults, I have a very active inner critic who states nothing I could create would be worthy of posting to show to others. Trish's creativity and inspiration allows me to think about art every day, even if I don't find time to actually produce any work.

In an effort to silence my inner critic, I am attempting to become more active artistically (maybe make something once a week?). This blog helps as does my novel-in-progress (lovingly called TGAN for "The Great American Novel").

Learning new backgrounds for my cards and bookmarks is yet another way to tell the critic to MYOB. This Background Noise Challenge has finally nagged at me to the point of playing. I am not yet quite ready to post on her blog, but don't be surprised if I post some backgrounds here soon (especially the watercolour wash backgrounds)...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Movie Mania

I love movies but I am frugal so movie going in the evening has not been a part of my life for a long time. I recently found (through a frugal friend) a Cinemark theatre here in the D/FW Metroplex that has $2.50 adult ticket prices (even on weekends) for any showing before 6 PM. Awesome!

Needless to say, Sunday was movie day. This summer will be a bumper crop of movies for me (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince anyone?) and I will be looking for Cinemark theatres for as many of them as possible: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; UP! (which was sold out Sunday and full of kids); Public Enemies (eye candy AKA Johnny Depp and Christian Bale); Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs...without cheap matinee prices, I'd go broke trying to see everything that is soon to hit the big screen.

BFF Ruth and I spent a wonderful day together; we started with Star Trek and then took a break for lunch at Luby's and ended with Angels and Demons. If we hadn't done lunch and a quick run through DeSoto (I grew up there and graduated from DHS; she lived there for many years), we might have had time for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I'm a bit glad we didn't as I am not sure I could have handled all the excitement LOL!

I'm really going to try for no spoilers here (sheepish grin). Star Trek had me crying before the opening title sequence. Fantastic movie and great casting. Yes, as stated in an earlier post, I am a die-hard Star Wars fan, but this Star Trek reminded me that I was once a fanatic Trekkie and I am now enjoying the various Trek incarnations on cable whenever possible. I found myself wondering what the surviving cast members of the original Trek (especially Nichelle Nichols) think about the way their characters are portrayed. I was personally quite excited and sitting on the edge of my seat for much of the film. This is a "buy the 2-disc + digital copy version the day the DVD comes out" film. And, are they filming the sequel yet?

Then, after that wonderful experience, what can I say about Angels and Demons? I had loved the book and can think of no better Robert Langdon than Tom Hanks. Ron Howard's direction is exacting and particularly suited for this material. The screenwriting was tight. We were able to get enough information about the Vatican's policies and procedures to understand the conclave (I really love to go to movies where I learn just enough about something that I am intrigued to go do further research on my own). I also had read the book long enough ago that I was totally engrossed in the ending. Of course, any movie with Ewan McGregor will hold my attention while he is on screen...and I'm saving my pennies for the 2-disc version of this movie as well.

Both movies were thrilling. They each had thought-provoking scenes and edge-of-your-seat moments, and I got to see them both for $5. Who could ever ask for more?

Live Long and Prosper!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Res-Q-Challenge

What an awesome blog! My friend Beverly turned me on to this blog because of the You Tube video done by the extremely talented young Gia who shows a very well designed birthday card (scroll down to Challenge 10 and be prepared to be amazed). Gia must have started stamping before she learned to walk. I know I will watch her career with interest. And many thanks to her "peeps" at Res-Q who are so encouraging to a young artist!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Musings

Our family has been quite Blessed. WWII saw my father in the Coast Guard and my uncle in the Air Force and they both made it home. Korea skipped us entirely. Vietnam saw service from my cousin and my second husband and again, both came home.

Many families have not had that experience and their loved ones are scattered from Normandy to Midway; from Osan to the Nakdong River; from Dong Xoai to Khe Sanh.

This is the best country in the world, even with its faults and foibles. A return to sensible spending seems to be imminent. The reduction of blatant consumerism may follow so that it is not what I own but what I have to offer humanity that is recognized. (Our parents and grandparents knew the value of Reduce/Reuse/Recycle long before the "3 R's" term or triangle were born.) Many people seem to forget that our free enterprise system was based on hard work and dedication to duty.

Our soldiers never forgot that basic tenet. They also never forgot that certain core values are worth fighting for--they are not to be easily laid aside for expediency. Even in war, there are rules to follow and consequences result if those rules are broken.

We have entered a new age and new rebirth in America. January 2009 brought great change, and for many Americans, a sense of optimism not seen or felt since the Camelot days of JFK. Thanks to our fighting men and women deployed around the world in places and conditions not of their choosing, we can enjoy what has become the new Memorial Day tradition--a day off work (often paid) where we can barbecue and swim and go to the park or the movies and enjoy our families.

Please take a moment and reflect on your loved ones lost in the service of the greater good...I thank each and every one of them for providing me with a country as great as this where I have endless opportunities for success.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stampin' Up! and Decor Elements

I love the Decor Elements! And since they are vinyl wall art, they are perfect for apartment dwellers (easily removable if moving and no need to re-paint to get your deposit back). Just check out the designs on my SU! website and if you have design ideas to suggest, I'll be happy to pass them along to the home office. I personally love the Manhattan Flower design. The Chocolate and Kraft sheets are on my wish list; I want to cut out coffee cups and saucers, then use the small Filigree with them to redecorate my kitchen and dining room in a coffee theme. Once it is done, I'll be sure to show it off!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yet Another Reading Challenge

Just what I need for all my "free" time...another Reading Challenge! This one is from one of my Yahoo Groups, and since it is short and sweet (only four books in a year), I should be able to finish it off (imagine a wink and a grin here, dear reader).

1. Read a mystery with the word "murder" in the title
2. Read a mystery set in your region
3. Read a mystery that has been on your shelf for at least a year
4. Read a mystery from a "new to you" author

I love reading the blog this came from...and I admire greatly the amount of time the author devotes not only to her blog, but to her many Yahoo reading groups...please go enjoy yourself at http://anotherbookonthestack.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Links on the Sidebar

I'm still not conversant in HTML so I have not yet upgraded my background or title bar, but I am learning how to add clickable buttons to my sidebar, especially to advertise great blogs and interesting sites.

I love words. My lists of books and authors and sites won't go away completely. I also like clean lines where page layout is concerned, but clickable pictures have their place. Here's hoping I can strike an appropriate balance...

(P.S., the studio is 95% complete and a post will appear here soon)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's Official! I Joined Stampin' Up!

I was a Stampin' Up! demonstrator years ago, but one of the many twists and turns along my life's journey made me give it up. Now they are 20 years old, and I have joined them once more.

Some of the colors and products remain from the old days and feel like trusted friends, but much is also different, fresh and new. I will admit to loving the die-cut stamp sets as much easier on my hands than trimming rubber. The new Decor Elements line is awesome and seems made for apartment dwellers who want wall decor but who are prohibited from painting. They have also been supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities for several years--take a look at this year's supporting stamp set Say It With Scallops and fall in love with the versatility. A purchase of this set donates $2.00 to RMHC.

Come check out the website (and feel free to order--your product will be shipped direct to you promptly and professionally packed).

I'm very close to finishing my studio re-do and will be posting pictures soon. One of the inspirations I want to post on my wall is actually the biggest reason I re-joined Stampin' Up! It is our Statement of the Heart and it so very eloquently describes one of my life's aspirations:

To love what we do and share what we love,
as we help others enjoy creativity and worthwhile accomplishments...
in this we make a difference!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paperback Swap is Fantastic!

Please, if you are a voracious reader, go spend some time at PBS PaperBackSwap.com - Our online book club offers free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books with other book club members for free.

I love this place (and so does my pocketbook LOL!) Music lovers can also join Swap-A-CD and video buffs have Swap-A-DVD. I've just joined the DVD site as well, although I seldom buy DVD's that aren't for my keeper shelf. They have a great selection and an intriguing way of managing your Wish List. We hope you join us at one or all of these sites!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Creativity Portal

In the language of "text", OMG!!! (translated as "Oh My God/dess")...this website is "da bomb!"

A bit difficult to navigate simply because of the ads on the page, the content is totally awesome. Everything is available--craft ideas for children, teaching aids, inspirational messages (especially those about listening to or ignoring your inner critic), artistic techniques, writing prompts--if it is related to creativity, it can be found here...

This is just another proof to my mind that "If you believe it, you can achieve it." The contributors to this site prove that axiom with every posted article.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fate of the Jedi

I have been remiss in not sharing my deep abiding love for all things Jedi. Perhaps my personally eclectic belief system feels a deep resonance with The Force, or perhaps I just love old-fashioned serial adventure stories, but Star Wars has become an often-visited alternate universe for me for several decades.

Unfortunately, until now, my travels to Tatooine, Courescant, and Endor have all been courtesy of video. I am quite ashamed to admit that reading the serials has never been a priority. Somehow, I keep hearing my mother's rather inane refrain that good girls did not read books written for boys. Mother, prepare to roll over in whatever domain you now inhabit--I intend to read Star Wars! As great as the newest chronicles look, I'm actually going to start with the original trilogy and move backwards and forwards as necessary--The Han Solo Trilogy, Lando Calrissian's tales, Luke's rebuilding of the Jedi Order...I have skirted around these for quite some time as I instinctively know I will want to collect them all and my apartment is already somewhat overrun with books.

So, since I have the Trilogy, I shall begin. Expect my book postings to be of this overall genre for a while--science fiction and fantasy will make a wonderful distraction from my novel research and the topics and styles differ enough from mystery that my novel's plot line shouldn't receive undue influence. (Stay tuned for more postings on learning to craft a novel--that is also a tremendous learning experience).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cuttlebug Challenge

What a cool blog! I'll be quite honest--I do not own a Cuttlebug; after months of research and using friends' various die cut machines, I decided a Big Kick fulfilled my personal needs better. Having said that, I must also say "I LOVE CUTTLEBUG FOLDERS AND DIE-CUTS!!!"

And, now, I love this blog! I cannot follow any blog as often as I would like...somehow things like a job and household chores take up more of my time than I would sometimes like ;-)

I do plan on spending time on this blog MAY 1-3 and hope you other Cuttlebug lovers will too--this Spa Weekend looks like a ton of fun and inspiration. Come out and play with us, won't you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Artful Blogging"

I've enjoyed past issues of this rather costly magazine before, but the most recent (Feb/Mar/Apr 2009) issue has just blown me away! Not only because of the creativity of the artists whose blogs are featured, but most especially for the sheer encouragement to "jump on in"--to start from where I am as an artist/writer. As long as I am continuing to learn/grow/develop, it is more important to enjoy the journey than to strive to reach a possibly artificial destination. There are no final destinations, only resting spots on the way to the next leg of the trip around the wheel of life.

This issue has encouraged me to add more art to my blog, to post more often, and to even learn how to add a banner (hopefully soon to come).

Some folks have multiple blogs for their multiple interests and I have often allowed the OCD side of my personality to run rampant with a self-induced guilt trip that I have not followed that trend. This blog runs the gamut from my political rants to my desire for increased environmental awareness; from my book reviews to my organizational challenges; from my papercrafting to my memories of simpler times. "Artful Blogging" freed me from these niggling OCD thoughts. This blog reflects me. Just as I am NOT a one-dimensional person, my blog is not a one-dimensional work-in-progress.

So, who knows what will be posted next? Bookmarks or cards I have created? A book review? A rant regarding the commercialization of a religious holiday? New tips for living a greener life? A product review? Whatever it is, it will reflect an aspect of me--Linda Kay--and whether someone else enjoys or agrees, it will be an honest aspect of where I am in that moment. I hope you come back for more...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Okay, I'll freely admit to being one of the few who like cozy mysteries as a genre but who just totally disliked this book (so much so I never read the rest of the series). After seeing the scenery and characters in the commercials for this HBO version, I decided to give tonight's pilot episode a shot.

Am I ever glad I did--the show is awesome! Very true to the book's storyline, this is a novel truly suited for adaptation to the small screen. What feels like a chopped up conglomeration of short tales when read are integrated much better on TV and the scenery is truly breathtaking. Jill Smith brings the main character Precious to life in such a believable way and the secretary is a true hoot! I may never go back and try the other novels, but the series is getting set into my DVR reminder/record list.

Network Nightmares

I am sometimes convinced that if there is an easy way to do something and a hard way, my genetic makeup will pick the hard way every time LOL! I recently crossed another item off my bucket list and replaced my laptop that had been stolen in 2005. Instead of a second TV for my apartment, I now have upgraded my home network to wireless and added this great HP G60-235DX laptop. You would think I would just unplug all the ethernet cables from the wired router and plug them into the wireless one, right? Not hardly.

Don't ask me how, but I managed to tangle almost five feet of three different ethernet cables into a knot when they were first installed last year (mind you the walls are back to back with only the width of the studs between). So, pulling them back into the office when relocating the router from the living became a much more involved task. Gratefully I had extra ethernet cables; when all was done, one cable had lost its end connector. But, most important of all, the network is up and running.

I cannot seem to get the printer/laptop connection using the desktop as a pass-through to work. For the time being, anything that needs printing from the laptop can be dropped to a flash drive or memory card and I can then plug into the desktop and print from there (much cheaper than a new printer or a print server).

What should have taken an hour at the most took over five (didn't talk about the fact that the file cabinet and 6 boxes of archived materials needed to be relocated in order to access the wiring and the hole in the back wall of the closet where I had passed the wiring through)....

Now maybe I can get back to organizing the studio half of the space?????

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Font are You?

This is a really cool little quiz...I'm a font collector, so when I found this I just had to share. Some of the questions were a bit weird for me, so I just picked the best of the bad and ended up being Helvetica (one of my least favorite fonts, believe it or not LOL!)

Hope you have fun and enjoy your font!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Countdown

Lisa Vollrath has done it again. Daily freebies to use in St. Patrick's Day projects, all with a distinct vintage feel. Go check them out; they don't stay around long after the holiday is over, and they print out beautifully.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Clutter Chaos aka Craft Studio Run Amok

Anybody ever find that to clean up and organize means to mess up more first? I must have been insane to agree to help a friend re-organize her studio last weekend. I had torn my living room up the week before because of assembling my new elliptical and needing to rearrange the room to accommodate it. See, I know me--I will not exercise if I don't have a TV to watch while I am doing it, and since the only TV is in the living room, that's where the elliptical had to go.

So, crazy work schedule + torn-up living room (which also meant stacks of books in the bedroom and dining room while moving the bookcase) = a totally chaotic mess, which I left for a full day to help a friend. Started off by falling in the tub and banging my knee. We did get much of her room done and I did get a wonderful steak dinner from Texas Land & Cattle (a totally terrific steakhouse). I even got to stop and get my shelving unit plus two bookcases and a lamp (using various Walmart gift cards earned through my job).

The problem was, by the time I got home and got all my stuff into my upstairs apartment (banging my bad knee on the stairs in the process), I was way too beat up and tired to do my own studio. It has been relegated to fits and starts/bits and pieces. The shelving unit is up, the lamp put together and in place, the studio bookcase is in place. Some of my embellishments have been reorganized (thanks to sorting and winding while watching a PBS Lawrence Welk retrospective and remembering how much my grandparents loved that show).

Won't post pictures here of the living room or bedroom bedlam, but to give you just a hint of what I am facing in the studio, here are a few "before" photos.

You can't tell here, but there are dowel rods on the wall (see the stringy things hanging down at the top of the picture?) They hold my ribbons on spools, but are overcrowded and a bit off-kilter. I have purchased cafe rods that I am going to mount onto 1x3 boards and then mount the boards on the wall; same basic idea in the same basic location but will look better and stick out just a bit farther to allow the ribbon to spin better.

The white shelves holding my ink pads are Ink Pad Palaces from Mother Rubber http://motherrubber.com/ and I absolutely love them! They ship fast, put together easily, are stackable and wall-mountable, and as you can tell with one of them, drawers are available. Yes, they are white corrugated cardboard, but they can't be beat for the price!

This is my new shelf unit from Walmart. I was quite surprised to get it home and find the black uprights are actually plastic. (what should I expect for under $30?) My "good" sewing machine (for quilting, etc.) that was given me by a friend of a very good friend (they were de-cluttering, yippee for me LOL!) is on the bottom shelf. Eventually, I want a toaster oven on the shelf that sits table height (setting on a heatproof mat)--I'll use it for polymer clay, shrink plastic, etc. My melting pot is also destined for these shelves once the chaos is cleared; that way it may finally get used. Currently, the little rolling file under the table holds various magazines, but it will be repurposed soon for cardstock and specialty papers. Eventually, the white wire shelves in the corner will be moved on top of one of the short bookcases on the other side of the room; they can then serve as a hutch for my other tabletop. This table will then be cleared off to hold my everyday sewing machine in such a way that I can begin to use it at the drop of a hat--set up and ready to sew on cards, altered art, collage, etc. I should also have space for a small pressing board for techniques requiring a craft iron (I certainly don't have space in this room for a full-sized ironing board).

Okay, can't justify lengthening this post anymore. Time to stop talking about organizing and start doing a bit more. This was a nice rest at the PC, but back to work for me. I'll post part two later...

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Okay, world, quit spinning a bit--I wanna catch my breath!

My work schedule has been topsy-turvy all through the holidays and beyond (the flip side of working from home often means scheduling changes to cover for other employees who take time off). Now, we are losing a person, and I have gone through a totally new experience--a shift bid.

I was lucky. My recent review had ranked me second in the department which virtually guaranteed I would receive my chosen shift, and I did. I am sacrificing a 4% shift differential to have weekends off and work from 7 AM to 3:30 PM, leaving evenings free for errands, socialization, work on my novel, crafting and all the other aspects of my very full life. (Maybe reading more to fulfill my challenges? LOL!)

It will take a week or so to acclimate myself to these hours (shift starting 2 hours earlier), but overall, I am happy. I've lived on a smaller salary before and am Blessed to be able to pay all my monthly obligations (consequences of screwing it up several times in the past and finally learning that 2+2 does NOT equal 5; therefore X amount of dollars cannot be stretched to pay Y amount of bills)..but this is not a soapbox (at the moment) for my rants on bailouts...

So, new posts will be coming soon---about my new exercise equipment and the resulting re-organization of my living room; the new healthy-eating program being sponsored at work; the de-cluttering of my TBR mountain; my adventures as a consultant for a friend setting up a craft studio...stay tuned--I'll either have you laughing your head off or snoring peacefully from boredom, but I promise it'll always be something happening. After all, the only thing constant about change is that it is always happening

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines at Go Make Something!

Lisa has done it again! This will be a quick post, so those of you reading it still have time to run over there and get these great linkware Valentine images! I need to be cleaning house, so all I did was quickly download them (before she takes them off the site! hurry on over!)...I want to play this evening, and who knows what I'll come up with (actually, playing may just mean wandering around Go Make Something http://gomakesomething.com/ for a few hours--lots of superb eye candy (check out the great tea bags)...and she's a genius with paint chips!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yet Another Challenge

Do you think I set my sights too high? Well, with this one, maybe not so much...

I ended up reading 125 books in 2008, so I am again joining the 100 Book Reading Challenge for 2009 (see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/100bookchallenge for details). These can be any genre and believe me, mine last year ran the gamut from self-help to crafting to sci-fi and fantasy. I enjoyed many cozy mysteries and added some time-travel and historical fiction to my "keeper" pile as well. Since my TBR mountain now numbers 655 volumes, I hope that 100+ will decrease that pile somewhat this year (I guess it would decrease even more if I would quit adding to it on an almost weekly basis LOL!)

This year has started well--eight books have been read so far (three were devoured--thank you Stephenie Meyer and your Twilight series!) I know I am not yet too old (and hope I never am) to read fiction targeted to young adults; after all, I read Tolkein's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings annually (and do not count those volumes in the 100-book challenge) and have started doing so with the Harry Potter series as well. I also do not count my annual re-read of the Outlander series; that pleasure is akin to vacationing at the same favorite location each year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Musing about Meyer

What can I say about Stephenie Meyer? Not much on the surface--I had to find her website to link to this post and haven't had a lot of time to explore it as of yet... http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/

I can talk about Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse however. Rarely do I add to my annual re-read list (friends say that if I keep re-reading the same books annually, I will sooner or later never get around to reading anything new LOL!) The Twilight series will become an annual re-read, even without having the privilege as yet of reading Breaking Dawn.

My dear BFF Ruth asked how I could read about vampires and still hate horror movies. Meyer, perhaps because of her targeted young adult audience, brilliantly walks the sometimes fine line between suspense and horror very gracefully. She kept me laughing and crying while sitting on the edge of my seat--pure, unadulterated, escapism entertainment. I remember being so very like Bella in high school--totally unaware of my true gifts and wanting desperately to fit in somewhere. I knew mean girls and dorky guys. A writer who can bring those memories to the surface again for me more than three decades after I left high school has true talent in captivating a wide audience.

Ms. Meyer, thank you for treating Native Americans with dignity and respecting their belief systems. Thank you for showing teens that sex and drugs are not foremost in every teenager's mind. Thank you for showing dedication of purpose and adherence to moral ideas. Thank you for showing that actions have consequences. Thank you for writing Twilight.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mesquite Mania

I can't believe I forgot my camera! The vendors at the Mesquite, Texas Stamp Scrap Art Tour this year are amazing! I'm a devoted veteran of the Grapevine, Texas semi-annual Rubber Stamp Convention provided to us by Heirloom Productions http://www.heirloompro.com/ (and recently learned some of their vendors only attend the January show--I wonder if it is related to the Texas heat in July? Hmmm...).

Let's back up a bit...while at Grapevine in July 2008, a group of us decided we wanted to experience the Mesquite show in January. Beverly and I had both been considering the idea for a while; Cheryl was a newbie stamper then with all the excitement of winning the Golden Ticket to explore Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory; and Doylene has been a scrapper for years who is just now branching more and more into stamping and cardmaking.

From stepping through the door and finding a treasure trove of techniques being taught all the way through the great prize drawings (and no, none of us won--the drawings were just exciting), it was a marvelous day. A bit of warning: the floors are concrete so wear very comfortable shoes and the food vendor left a lot to be desired both in selection and food quality. Luckily there are several fast-food options close by and with the wristband, you can come and go. The entrance fee also covers both days and some people were definitely going to attend that way so they could partake of the many demos in a more leisurely fashion.

It was a super day for everything but my wallet LOL! I went for a few specific things, but of course, came away with many more. Stand-out booths for me were:

Please consider coming down next year and having a great time...I know I plan on returning (and no, there is no compensation for me from any of this--just have to share the cool convention fun!)