Thursday, December 5, 2013

#78 & #83 - Feeling thankful for what I have

The combination of these two goals plus the previous one that I posted on has made me stop to consider how fortunate I am. It's so easy to get caught up in drama of one thing or another and feel like life is out of control.  It's harder to take a step back and appreciate what you already have.

Giving compliments to other people is not something that comes easily to me.  I might notice that a certain color makes someone look fabulous or see a positive action that a friend does with no thought of repayment; however, I often don't take the step of verbalizing those reflections.  This is something that I am trying to be more mindful about as I think it makes the world a better, happier place.  On the flip side, I am equally bad at receiving compliments and am trying to be more graceful about my reception of them.

The 30 Day Facebook Photo Challenge is a list of items to post once per day for a month.  I'm not quite sure why I chose to include this when I was making up my goal list.  I think that it is usually geared more towards people who have casual acquaintances as Facebook friends; however, the majority of mine are people that I know fairly well.  So, the challenge for me became more introspective - thinking each day of the topic and how it related to me.  Some of my challenge answers were a bit harder to transfer into photos than others - an example: something you wish you could change - my answer was bullying.  (Sidenote: this answer was in part inspired because of some recent events in my life that brought home that bullying doesn't just stop when you get out of school - as bullies age, those who don't change their ways just change their tactics).  Other challenge answers were hard to narrow down to one photo - an example: somewhere you'd love to travel - yeah, I put up a photo of the pyramids, but I'd love to go lots of places.

The last day of the challenge was the one that really made me appreciate my life ... a photo of someone you miss.  I miss my grandma (and my grandpa too), but I am so lucky to have my parents, my siblings, my friends, my nieces and nephews (an ever-expanding crew), and so many other people in my life.  Many people that I know do not have that luxury - there are gaps and holes that will never be refilled in their circle.  I know that those gaps will come to me in time as well, but, today, I appreciate all that is there for me right now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

#34 - Less complaining

If you have read my blog since I started doing DayZero, you may recognize this goal from my first 101 list - Don't Complain about Anything for a Week.  My first experience was such an interesting lesson in being mindful about my words that I wanted to try it again - you can read the first post here.

The experience was different this time, but I learned some equally valuable lessons.  I did find it encouraging that this time around I only needed to start the week over twice (as opposed to three starts last time).  However, I feel like I made a lot more borderline comments this time around.  And, due to the restarts, I ended up having a significant portion of the complaint-free period occur when I was not at work - which lowered the bar significantly.

The biggest change was where I felt the seeds of complaints starting from.  Last time, I noticed how many negative comments I hear randomly (often about things that I have no control over) during the course of my day.  This time, I heard the negativity inside myself.  My inner critic has certainly been quite vocal recently - telling me all of the things that I am doing wrong myself, worrying over stuff that I can't change, and generally crabbing about the minor inconveniences of any particular day.  I know that negative inside voice has been getting louder for various reasons - stress and burnout at work, frustrations with a plateau in my weight loss strategy, etc. - but taking the time to listen to what I say and how I express it for a week showed me that I am not very happy with what's happening in my life right now.

At the same time that I was making this discovery, one of my friends posted something on Facebook (thanks, Thad!) that helped me stop and think about one of the areas that I generally criticize myself on fairly severely - my appearance.  Take a look at this great video that he posted of Amanda Trusty dancing (note that it is burlesque, the clothes come off); I am inspired by this woman's courage in freeing herself of the labels that come along with not being society's ideal image.  And, I think she looks great!

It was a great reminder that all of those critical thoughts that I hear when I look in the mirror aren't necessarily what everyone else is thinking when they see me.  In fact, I challenged myself to go glamorous for Halloween this year and received tons of positive feedback on how great I looked.  I tried to find a shots for before/after to add to this blog post and realized that I have been so uncomfortable with my weight that it has been quite a long time since I've allowed anyone to take a photo of me that I could use as a "before", so you're only going to get the after ...

How I look now (the glamour version)
I'm not where I want to be with my weight, but I'm telling myself that I've come a long way and need to recognize that and shut up that little voice that says "but you haven't lost any more in the last two months".  And, I need to take a look at some of the other areas of my life that I'm criticizing myself for and decide on steps to make myself either happier or more accepting of what is happening in those areas so I don't drive myself nuts.  It's easy to complain; it's harder to change ... but I think the changes will make me a lot happier in the long run.

Monday, November 11, 2013

#58 - Wardrobe purge

I don't think of myself as a fashionista or even a girly-girl, so I am always appalled when I realize how many clothes I have.  Since I have recently been losing weight, my closet has been even more crammed than usual with 4 - yes, you read that right - sizes of clothes accumulating since the last time I even briefly looked through more than just the stuff on hangers by the door.  People seem to fall into the categories of "tosser" and "hoarder"; I am in the latter camp.

This goal was to motivate myself to get rid of some (at least 25) items that I no longer wear.  Over the last month, I have spent over 6 hours simply cycling through trying on clothes - one drawer or closet bar at a time - to see what fits.  I probably have twice my goal in the boxes to go to Goodwill (I stopped counting at the 25 mark), and I took out of the closet and dresser a number of things too worn to go in those boxes as well.  I still have far more clothes than I probably need.

However, doing this sort of purge when you are losing weight is more emotionally rewarding than the opposite - I thought I had one pair of jeans that I could currently fit into; I have seven.  Plus, it was good to reflect on the fact that I used to wear skirts and dresses fairly regularly to work.  I'm not sure why I stopped; I did get compliments when I wore them.  So, I moved some of those items towards the front where I would see them (and consequently wear them more often).  And, though I don't plan to wear it soon, it was fun to realize that there are items like my (graduate school era) interview suit that I can fit into again after 20 years.  Plus, I now have many extra hangers, so I won't need to spend time searching for empty ones each time that I do laundry.

I still am not quite finished, though I am counting the goal as done.  There are 10 items I'm calling "maybes" that I'm going to get a friend's opinion on to decide whether to keep.  And, I did not go through my t-shirt/sweatshirts that I wear around the house - perhaps later in the winter ...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

#40 - Kickstarter

I discovered the Kickstarter community about a year ago and was instantly addicted.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept ... the Kickstarter site allows individuals to help fund projects that they are interested in.  First, a person with a project writes a campaign pitch and posts it on the site.  Then, people from all over the world can contribute if they desire to help the project succeed.  If the pitch does not raise a specific amount of money in the time frame, none of the contributions are given to the project.  If the monetary pledge goal is met or exceeded, all backers are automatically charged for their pledge.  Often, backers receive some sort of incentive based on their level of support to the project.

I first heard about Kickstarter through a game company that I follow - Looney Labs.  They were doing a campaign to make a better version of one of their games.  I started looking through the site and found MANY campaigns that looked interesting.  Over the past year, I've mostly been supporting gaming campaigns (and have gotten an advance line on some great new games as a result) with a few publishing, food, and design projects in the mix.

The site uses a wheel graphic to show what sort of campaigns you have supported, and when I was writing this set of DayZero goals, I decided it would be fun to fill all the colors in on my personal wheel with a donation in each category.  Today, I pledged to my last two unfilled categories: dance: supporting a non-profit dance program for children with physical disabilities and film: where I'm backing a short animated film about Tesla (the inventor).  Although neither campaign has ended yet, both are above their minimum funding levels, so I am confident that they will go forward.

Kickstarter is a lot of fun.  Even if you don't choose to fund a project, it's a great way of seeing ideas that people are working on.  I usually can't afford the design or technology category projects at the level to get the incentive level I'd like, but some of them are fabulous things.  Also, if you are interested in the arts, there are many projects in those categories that may spark interesting ideas for your own work.  Plus, there are a few great humanitarian ideas mixed in as well - one of the projects I supported early this year was building a remoter controlled sensor to find forgotten active landmines in previously war-torn areas.  Take a look at what's out there ...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

#79 - Hither to the Renaissance!

I used to make a point of going to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival every year.  However, it's been harder to get there since I moved a five hour drive away.  I realized at the end of this summer that a huge (for me) gap of seven years had gone by since I last got my fix of Festival!

I was so impressed by this tortoise.  He was moving along at quite a pace every time I saw him.  Where was he so determined to go?
There have been a lot of changes since my last visit.  Some expected ... food prices have doubled. Some sad ... no combat chess this year.  Some unexpected ... many of the artisan booths that I remember being there for years have left.  Quite a few have been replaced by more food and wine booths.  I wish that they would have been able to get new artisans to replace ALL of the old ones.   The festival also offers many more activities for children than they did in the past; however, I didn't see a change in the proportion of children to adults in the crowd.  Kids could take short rides in the jousting ring between meets (the horses didn't seem thrilled by this change).  Basically, things are becoming less quirky and more commercial.
The joust master lets people greet his horse.

There were still many things I love there.  My favorite mind picture of the day (I couldn't get my camera out quickly enough) is of a little girl in a pink princess dress and sparkly sunglasses twirling around until she got dizzy in a small patch of grass. The artisans were friendly even though they had been out there for several weekends and had to be tired of it.  One of the glass workers even made a custom piece on the spot for my sister.  The Wacky Chickens can still amuse the crowd with whistles, clucks and no real words ... true showmanship to get the crowd involved with no speech cues.  And, my favorite magicians were still at the riddle booth challenging the wits of the crowd.  I have to apologize to Janet since I think we stayed there about three riddles past when she was ready to leave.
Glass worker at Raven's Glass makes a custom piece on the spot

And, there were a few new finds as well.  I hadn't been fairy dusted before: warning to those who may want to try this:  lots of glitter was involved!  We found a fabulous new product - bodice warmers/coolers!  And, I think that HoneyStix may be my new go-to, low calorie snack.

Overall, I had a good time and hope to do it again next year.

#62 - Having my palm read

It's always interesting to guess what the future holds.  Equally interesting is to gain some new insights into one's own personality.  This weekend, I decided to try something that might have both of these aspects - I had my palm read.

My sister, Janet, and I were at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (more on that in the next post), and I asked her if she was interested in stopping at one of the astrology booths for fun.   She agreed, and we both had our palms read by the same woman.  The process was quite interesting ... both hands examined at once, only the palms (not the back or the fingers), and words washing over us at an incredible speed.  I will leave Janet's reading private to her and only comment on my own.

One of the spot on comments that she made was that, in the last 5-6 years, I have experienced a lot of turmoil in my job, and it has drained me emotionally to the point of threatening my health.  Sadly, this is true; I am working to keep a better balance between work and personal life because of it.  An off-base comment was that I had experienced a great loss or traumatic event when I was 11-12.  While I did have my share of ups and downs growing up, they were all what I would consider normal events.  Also something that didn't happen ... a romantic relationship in my mid20s that changed me.  My mid20s were devoted to finishing graduate school and starting my career; I didn't have much time or inclination for romance at that point.

The most interesting thing she said (multiple times) was that I have a very strong psychic sense and that I am probably using it in my daily life even if I'm not aware of that fact.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  The only thing that I could think of in my job that might match is my skill at giving book recommendations to people.  However, I mentioned this to a friend today, and she said that she thought I was very intuitive and good at reading people.

So, an interlude that gave me something to think on ... even if I'm not sure how much I believe it ...

Friday, August 30, 2013

#4 & #86 - One Trip, Two Goals

American Icon
The goal of taking a trip in the US was one that I transferred over from my first DayZero list.  Originally, it was specifically a solo road trip, but I made it a bit more open when I was writing goals for the second round.  However, it did end up being just me and the car, so I fulfilled the initial intent as well.

A trip to see Mount Rushmore has always seemed to be part of the standard family vacation roster.  My family did, in fact, take this journey ... with my older siblings five years before I was born.  So, seeing this area is something that I've always felt I still needed to do (hence its inclusion on my bucket list).  Going alone was a very different experience ... I got several odd looks when paying my admission to places, and I said "one" ... but, I think that there was some family spirit with me as well.  I found myself bringing fresh fruit and making sandwiches the first night to put in my cooler for the next day; totally something that I remember from family car trips of my youth.  The fruit, especially, was welcome over the next few days.  And, I found myself playing car games to make the drive more interesting along the way - also a remembrance of traveling with my family.
The guide shows a technique to view rock carvings in full sun - see the thunderbird

I had some other stops along the way.  The first was the Jeffers Petroglyphs.  These rock carvings are in south western Minnesota, and some are estimated to be older than the pyramids.  It was a popular picnic spot for the early settlers, so there is more recent rock "graffiti" as well.  It was quite windy and hot, so I didn't take the full prairie trail walk.  One of the ironic things I noticed here was that there is a rock company located less than half a mile away crushing stone into gravel.  You have to wonder if more carvings are disappearing there just to make gravel; the guide at Jeffers did say that the same rock ridge located on other properties in the area also held more petroglyphs.
Walking trail at Pipestone National Monument

The next stop was Pipestone National Monument.  I was really impressed with this one.  By a fluke, it happened to be "Founder's Day" which meant my admission was free.  Despite this fact, there were not many people there.  After lots of time in the car, the walking trail provided a lovely chance to stretch my legs as well as cool shade and the sound of cicadas and water.  My family always jokes about the need to have a vacation include rocks and waterfalls ... well, there were rocks as an attraction in most places where I stopped on this trip, but this site provided the requisite waterfall.

This sign on the trail was labeled "Oracle - look through the hole" ... here's what you could see.
I also got a chance to see more prairie ... this area (as well as the Jeffers site) is close to some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder settings.  It was interesting to look off across landscape (ignoring more recent signs of civilization) and try to imagine what it must have been like in the 1880s with no air-conditioning, highways, or grocery stores ... truly makes one appreciate some aspects of modern life.  On the other hand, the quiet sounds of the wind in the grass, insects, birds, etc. were very relaxing and provided a great break from the noise of driving.
Can you see the face in the rock?

Along with the trails, the museum had more petrogylphs (found locally and removed from their original site) and some Native Americans carving pipe bowls.  The catlinite (pipestone) is very soft ... there were some small pieces on display along with files and saws that visitors could try ... it was quite easy to score.  The carver that I spoke briefly with said that it took 2-3 hours to carve a simple pipe - longer for more complex items.  Only Native Americans are allowed quarrying permits, but the gift shop sold a wide variety of articles made with local stone.

My first day of driving ended with a gorgeous sunset as seen from the parking lot of my hotel.  The colors changed in front of me for the last half an hour of my driving time; it was like driving into a very subtle kaleidoscope.  I planned an early morning start, so I didn't do much sightseeing in Mitchell.  Just a quick look the next morning at the famed Corn Palace.  There had been an event in the area the previous night, so I shared my view of the exterior with the crews that were cleaning the street and picking up items like tables and porta potties ... made for some interesting camera angles to keep them out of my tourist pictures.
My favorite panel on the Corn Palace

I do confess that I stopped at some rather tacky tourist spots during this trip ... including the famous/infamous (your choice) Wall Drug.  I didn't try the ice water, but the T-Rex was amusing (mostly to watch the reaction of the kids as it "attacked").  I imagine that I would find the T-Rex less amusing if I had to listen to it attack every 12 minutes all day long.  I could tell that I hit a few quieter days of the summer ... there were still families around, but not as many young children as I expected anywhere.  One of the store clerks told me that South Dakota schools had mostly already started for the summer.  The gold mine that I visited in Keystone had children on the tour, but that family was also from Minnesota.  Generally, my fellow tourists seemed to be in their 60s and to have all of the time in the world.
Current state of Crazy Horse carving

My next big stop was the Crazy Horse Memorial.  I would highly recommend a visit here to anyone coming to the Black Hills.  Unlike its better known neighbor - Mount Rushmore - carving on this mountain has been going on for 60 years with NO federal funding.  The initial stages were done primarily by one man (Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski); work is now handled mostly by his family members.  The whole complex is a tribute not only to the Native Americans, but also how idealism can bring great things into being.  I would definitely consider coming back in a decade to see how much progress has been made on the mountain.

And, of course, the primary goal of the trip was to see Mount Rushmore.  It was very much what I expected ... not sure if that's good or bad.  I was interested to learn that the reason there is an area carved out by Lincoln's face was that it was planned to hold a brief history of the United States.  I had also heard about the unfinished Hall of Records behind the faces, but didn't realize how elaborate those plans were until listening to the audio tour.  How different would our understanding of the Egyptians or the people who created Stonehenge be if they had left something similar near their sites.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

#36 - Writing a Murder Mystery Party

Parasol row

Patty Kakes, local restaurant owner

Maid to the heiress

The prospector

The school marm in her best dress (photo credit to Janet Swanson)
I have often used murder mystery dinner kits with my friends, and a good time was had by all.  For my 40th birthday, I wrote one myself because I planned to have such a variety of guests involved and couldn't find a kit with enough roles.  Unfortunately, only one member of my family was able to make it to that party (my niece Jenni), and I knew that several family members were quite disappointed to miss out.  Fast forward a couple of years to this summer ... my Mom had a big birthday on the horizon.  My siblings and I asked her what she wanted - her answer:  everyone to come home at once and NO PRESENT!
The blacksmith shop

The milliner with her hats

The laundress and her shop

It took some arranging for all of us to get a summer weekend off at the same time.  Sadly, the weekend that worked for myself and siblings did not work for two of my nephews' families, but everyone else could be there (at least for Saturday).  I suggested that I could write another murder mystery for the family - set in the old west, Mom's favorite historical period.

Handing out the packets (photo credit to Mandy Heinrich)

Getting started with the clues

I did what?!

Checking on what to do next
It sounded so easy!  Ummm ... coming up with the characters went just fine, but then I started running into problems.  I decided on the character who was the culprit before anyone else saw the names, but I made the mistake of letting people choose their own roles.  And, I gave them a long lead time to make the decision.  Not so helpful from the writing standpoint as people didn't choose the roles that I thought would be the most interesting.  So, I kept having to move minor characters to more major roles.  My second stumbling block was the crime; I had thought to have it be the theft of a silver tea set.  I kept running into the problem of motive though ... if everyone just wanted to sell it (well, everyone but the prospector, who had other plans for the raw silver content), all of the clues sounded the same.

The school marm cries over her broken heart (photo credit Janet Swanson)

Much discussion of cakes, surveying, and laundry (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The best way to get lots of clues - lurk on the edges of a group (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The prospector asks the blacksmith about fixing equipment

The mail-order bride confers with the heiress

The mayor has a proposition for the saloon owner

Confrontation between the bride and the heiress

The dogs just wanted to be able to get into the saloon
So, I needed to sacrifice a character to turn it into a murder mystery.  I made that decision less than a week before the party - goodbye, sheriff Justin Case.  Talk about cutting it close.  I wrote 90% of the clues in one day and spent 4 hours the next evening printing things off and assembling the packets.

The heiress concentrates her thoughts (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The mayor is concerned about his reputation (photo credit Janet Swanson)

It's so hard ...

The cowboy rechecks his notes on clues

However, the party was a splendid success (as you may see from the photos).  My Mom seemed to have a grand time.  Everyone hammed it up - some in costumes - a few even set up little shops in the yard to go with their character.  Wild rumors started ... just why did the mayor ask about washing ladies' delicates, how many women was the cowboy juggling, did the heiress have money or not, why was the seamstress so sleepy, what was in the cakes served in the local restaurant, and where did the baby appear from?  All those questions and a murder too ...
This was my favorite photo of the day ... my parents and their dog having a grand time

All of the people at the party

And, yes, there was cake :)

#50 - Hammock Time

Several years ago, I purchased a hammock with a stand on a whim.  I have found that often such impulse purchases don't necessarily cause buyer's remorse; however, I usually don't end up actually using the item very often.  The hammock has been a happy exception to this rule.  I love spending time in my backyard watching the clouds or listening to music or reading or trying (yet again) to fool the hummingbirds into coming close enough that I can take a good photo.

I've found, though, that no matter what I go out to the hammock to do, within 15 minutes I've fallen asleep. I think, perhaps, that may be a comment on the fact that I tend to be chronically short on sleep.  But, it also shows that my hammock is comfortable enough that I can fall asleep outside where there is a fair amount of background noise, and I am fairly exposed to people walking by in the alley.  And, I am definitely not a napper normally.

I wanted to try actually sleeping (as opposed to random naps) in my hammock as an experiment.  So, last weekend, I was at my parent's farm for a family event (more on that in my next post) and brought my hammock instead of a sleeping bag for my bedding.  The experiment was a great success.  The hammock took up much less car space than a sleeping bag, foam mat, pillow, etc.  It was cool - which was very nice after the heat of the day - perhaps even a bit too cool since I only had a sheet for a cover.  I did sleep inside of a building not under the stars, but I could see the moon shining brightly through one windows and stars through another as I drifted off.  I would definitely do this again.

#99 - Contest Results

A few weeks/posts ago, I offered a contest for someone who could identify the object in the photograph.  My friend Nina guessed correctly that it was the mouthpiece used in my CPR training course.  And, here's what I've made for her prize ...
Salted Chocolate Caramels

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#57 - "I couldn't have been more surprised if a zebra would have knocked on my door!"

My friend Annette has a business that I sometimes envy (like 9 months out of the year).  During that period of the year, she spends her time making art out of pressed flowers.  Here's one of her designs ...
A Morning Glory Creation

In the summer months, she travels to art fairs around the state selling her work.  That part I don't envy at all as it involves things like making small talk to hundreds of people in a day and sleeping in her van with all of her stock.  Sometimes the weather is beautiful, but there are storms and incredibly hot days to deal with as well.

This past weekend, she was selling at a festival which is in the town where we both live - a nice change for her since it means for that weekend she can go home to her own house for the night.  The weather on Saturday was not pleasant.  I had my woodstove going for much of the day in my house since it was rainy and in the low 50 degrees - not normal for the end of July at all!  Guessing that sales might not be the greatest in these circumstances and thinking that she might like a nice surprise, I went online to order her some flowers for delivery in a few days.

She did figure out (by process of elimination) that the flowers came from me, and I got to hear the whole story of their arrival.  The quote in the title of this post is her response.  She was sure that the driver had the wrong house, and the flowers were meant for her neighbor.  And, she told me that she didn't EVER remember having flowers delivered to her in the past.  I am so happy that they came at a good time to cheer her up.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

#25 - Knowledge you hope you never have to use

It had been a long time - embarrassingly long - since the last time I took CPR.  As someone who works in a public place with people of all ages and health conditions, I was feeling like perhaps I should brush up on emergency skills when I wrote my first set of DayZero goals.  And, three years went by without having a good opportunity to participate in a first aid/CPR refresher course.  This year, I decided that I just needed to make the opportunity.  So, when the city scheduled its annual refresher course, I made the decision to close the library and send ALL of us to attend this year.

The first aid portion held no surprises.  Although, the photos of brown recluse spider bites were sobering.  I'm not fond of spiders to begin with, so I'd never really looked at what those bites can do.  The instructions for the use of an AED (automatic external defibrillator) seem to really be as simple as turn the power on and do what the machine tells you.  The library I work for acquired one of these devices within the past year, so it was new to me.

CPR, however, has had some changes in recommended technique since the last time I took the course.  First, dispensing with most of the preliminary exam (taking the pulse, etc) and going straight to CPR if the person does not respond to you ... this was a surprise though I can see that seconds count and a pulse is sometimes hard to find.  The second change was that now chest compressions are done before breaths, and the ratio is 30 (fast) compressions to 2 breaths.  I remember the ratio as being 15 to 2 before.  However, the most interesting change was when the instructor said that it would be acceptable to ONLY do the chest compressions without stopping for breaths.

Definitely some valuable information reviewed in a few hours time ... but of a type that I hope I will never need to use.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#74 - Fire / Ice - Direwolves / Dragons - Lannister / Stark

The Song of Fire and Ice books by George R. R. Martin

4,705 pages later (plus one very intense weekend of video-watching), I finally know what all of the buzz is about.  The miniseries of these books is one of the most popular shows in my library and THE one that people ask me if I've watched wanting to get my opinion.  I had been putting off the visual rendition until I read the books though.  Now I can discuss...

If you know epic fantasy novels or even historical fiction of certain eras, you will recognize many of the plots and themes in this series.  The biggest variation from standard epic fantasy is that characters who the reader early on identifies as "major" can suddenly die - no last minute rescues, no reappearance after they've fallen off a cliff fighting some bad guy - totally and irrevocably dead.  In some ways, I liked not being able to count on the "good guy" winning through; however, I will also admit that I became frustrated with the introduction of new plot lines that I didn't really care about started because of the cessation of another character's line (because that character was, yes, dead) that I was rooting for. 

Another item of patron comment has been the amount of sex in the story.  Hmmm... I will admit that the first season (all I've watched yet) does have much nudity that doesn't really seem relevant.  The books do a better job - there are some pretty graphic sexual descriptions (especially for those only used to the fantasy genre - romance readers will not be shocked at all), but all are consistent with the characters involved and what's happening in their lives.

The third area I heard and read comments about is the depiction of women in the series.  To this I say HUZZAH!  As a female reader of fantasy, it gets hard to read one adult novel after another with only a token female character or none onstage - only lingering in the background as an inspiration for the male heroes (Arwen, I'm looking at you!).  In juvenile fantasy literature, the balance of genders is much more equal.  I would much rather read an accurate range of women in the world the author has built (from queens to whores) than not have any at all.  Yes, the women in this series do not get a fair shake when you consider today's morals, but the novels are not set in a contemporary world.  And, many of the female characters actually have many more options available to them than historical women of our world have.  Brienne of Tarth may be mocked by the men, but she isn't burned at the stake like Joan of Arc.  Plus, Arya Stark is definitely my favorite character in the entire series.

So, that's my take on the Game of Thrones / Song of Fire and Ice.

On a different subject,  I also completed another goal today (which I will blog about in my next post) which led to an idea for the completion of a third goal ...  the next part of this post is a contest (for goal #99).  If you are the first person identify what the item in the photo below is used for and post that use in the comments, I will send you an item that I have made as a prize.  The prize will depend on how far I need to ship it.  I will give you a hint on the item ... I used it in completing one of my goals.
In front of the basket is ?????

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#37 - Family History in Snapshots

Do you ever have those days where you have a whole list of things to do and somewhere along the way you find yourself totally absorbed in a project that wasn't on the list wondering what happened to the original plan?  Today was one of those types of days for me.  I started off thinking that I would spend a good portion of my day off working on writing mystery clues (a DayZero goal) for the party that my siblings and I are planning for my Mom's 80th birthday party later this summer.  It was a great plan - a visit to the park with a friend and her boys in the morning (accomplished before it got too hot), another friend stopping by for drinks and conversation tonight (the mead is chilling in the frig), a few chores and the clues in between ... but then I remembered that I had promised to send some photos to my sister for something she's working on for the same party.  No problem!  How long could that take?

Well, some of it didn't take long at all - choosing photos from my own collection.  But then I thought of my DayZero goal to transfer some of my parent's old slides to digital files.  And, I had the two earliest reels of photos at my house just waiting (for, ahem, the past 3 years) for me to transfer them to files using a nifty device that I purchased 3 years ago when I brought the slides home.  I hadn't even opened the shipping box for it until this afternoon. Yikes!  I knew that those reels contained the photos from my parents' wedding and that Janet was looking for things like that.  So, I was only going to do a few ... just the wedding ones.  Yep, my love of old photos took over, and I scanned all 200 that I have at my house.  Which completed this goal ... even though there are probably another thousand or so still at the farm to scan.

I've tried to get these slides into digital form before - with a jury-rigged set-up that consisted of taking photos of the slides when they were projected onto a screen.  It wasn't the most successful endeavor - particularly with those photos that were dark - which is why I decided to try again.  I really want all of my siblings (and nieces and nephews that are interested) to have access to all of our family photos.  I don't think of myself as a visual learner sort of a person, but those snapshots bring back a cascade of great memories.  I don't want anyone in the family cut off from them.

To show you the difference in my first attempt and today's project, here's an example of first try/second try shot.  (A photo of me doing needlework on a family camping trip at age 6).  And, I hope this inspires some of you to pull out some family albums of your own to reminisce ...
projected on a screen

using the proper scanning device

Sunday, June 30, 2013

#81 - 10 new musical artists

I am lazy in my musical listening habits.  Although I have a huge variety on my iTunes library, I generally only listen to a couple of different playlists regularly.  Also, I stopped listening to the radio while I was in college - too busy and generally spending loads time in libraries as I finished getting my MLIS and started my career.

Last summer, I realized at the weddings that I attended that I only knew the songs being played if they were ones from the 1980s and before.  And, that some of the new things I was hearing were interesting.  I've noticed this lately with movie soundtracks as well.  So, because I still don't have the time to listen to the radio much, I asked for assistance in finding something new.  And, I quickly got responses (gotta say that I LOVE having my first goal completed for this round in a week)!  Friends from Facebook, friends I see regularly, my sisters, and even a fellow PostCrosser all gave me ideas - about 30 new artists to listen to in a wide variety of styles.  It was fascinating to see how the songs meshed with what I knew of personalities (especially from the people that I didn't know as well).

This afternoon, I added 17 new songs to my iTunes library.  There is one more that I can't add to iTunes yet ... a new group that, ironically, started me on this goal ... because the album hasn't been released yet.  When my nephew Dan married last summer, his new brother-in-law sang during the ceremony ... and I was astounded by his gorgeous voice.  This isn't what he sang for the ceremony (obviously, if you listen to the words), but here's my recommendation to all of you ...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New goals, or 101 take 2!

I finally told myself 5 minutes ago that I need to stop adding goals to my new list (because I was starting to think about bending the rules around to make it 111 goals in 1111 days) and decide just what made the cut.  So, here it goes ... I challenge myself to ...

101 Things in 1001 days – Take 2

1.     Make a will and get it notarized
2.     Lose 25 pounds ($5 for the fun jar for each 5 pounds I lose)
3.     Finish the online Latin course I started
4.     Take a trip in the US
5.     Visit Canada (more than just past the border)
6.     Visit a country I haven’t seen before
7.     Do something nice without being asked for someone each day for a month
8.     Make and mail care packages to each of my siblings
9.     Finish reading the “essential” section of Proulx’s “Books for a Well Educated Adult” list
10.                        Finish my Christmas stocking that was supposed  to be done several years ago
11.                        Visit each of my siblings and invite them to visit me
12.                        Host a wine tasting party
13.                        Finish my Dewey classification reading goal
14.                        Read 10 popular authors (new to me) that I normally wouldn’t to keep up with trends
15.                        Make myself three new costumes for fun
16.                        Cook an ethnic meal from each continent (excluding Antarctica)
17.                        Use each herb in my garden in a different dish over the course of a summer
18.                        Start writing poetry again – at least 10 new poems
19.                        Memorize 5 more poems to add to my “library in my head”
20.                        Attempt to become better at drawing by completely filling the pages of a sketchbook with my own efforts
21.                        Finish the photo course I’m taking
22.                        Learn how to do video editing
23.                        Write to 3 people who’ve changed my life to thank them
24.                        Take Mom and Dad on a vacation
25.                        Take a First Aid/CPR refresher course
26.                        Geocache at least 25 finds
27.                        Repaint the porch trim and garage
28.                        Go berry or fruit picking at least 5 times
29.                        Invite friends over for 10 game nights
30.                        Take 10 new frame worthy photos to display in my home
31.                        Visit 5 new places in Minnesota
32.                        See 10 live theater productions
33.                        Reduce my morning walk time to 35 minutes without losing distance
34.                        Don’t complain about anything for one week ($5 for the fun jar for each time I have to restart this goal!)
35.                        Watch 10 movies from my “someday” list
36.                        Write a murder mystery dinner party
37.                        Convert 2 reels of Mom & Dad’s slides to digital files
38.                        Learn to identify 5 new constellations
39.                        Go to 10 different museums
40.                        Finish my Kickstarter wheel by making a pledge in every category
41.                        Play my harp at least 40 times
42.                        Play my keyboard at least 20 times
43.                        Play my flute at least 10 times
44.                        Make a life soundtrack playlist
45.                        Try 3 new photography techniques / equipment items
46.                        Make 10 new recipes (not baked goods)
47.                        Make family traditions book
48.                        Make a project with one of the specialty yarns I have
49.                        Finish the Renaissance cross-stich project
50.                        Spend a night sleeping in my hammock (can be inside in front of the fire during the winter)
51.                        Identify 100 things that make me happy
52.                        Leave 10 operation beautiful notes
53.                        Take a picture for each letter of the alphabet
54.                        Attend the midnight premiere of a movie
55.                        Go to a baseball game
56.                        Write a fan letter
57.                        Send someone flowers anonymously
58.                        Purge 25 items from my wardrobe that I no longer wear
59.                        Hike on five trails that are new to me or I haven’t been on in over 20 years
60.                        Get a henna tattoo
61.                        Spend a night stargazing / watch a meteor shower / watch a lunar eclipse
62.                        Have my palm read / tarot cards read
63.                        Enter a photography contest
64.                        Make 5 microloans on
65.                        Release 10 books through
66.                        Finish Eowyn’s Challenge
67.                        Work up to doing 100 consecutive sit-ups
68.                        Host a Mardi Gras party
69.                        Make 5 recipes that were sent to me through PostCrossing
70.                        Choose 10 countries and watch a movie from each
71.                        Go to a roller derby match
72.                        Answer the “50 Questions that Will Free Your Mind”
73.                        Reread the first books and complete reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
74.                        Read the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. Martin
75.                        Learn to say “hello”, “goodbye”, “yes”, “no”, and “where’s the bathroom” in 10 languages
76.                        Write a letter to myself to be opened in 10 years
77.                        Buy a piece of original art
78.                        Compliment at least five people in one week
79.                        Go to a Renaissance Fair ($5 extra for the fun jar if one or both of my sisters goes with me)
80.                        Learn how to maintain my bike
81.                        Listen to 10 new musical artists ($5extra for the fun jar for each of these who is recommended to me by a niece or nephew)
82.                        Host a menu mystery party
83.                        Do the 30 Day Photo Challenge on Facebook
84.                        Color at least 5 pages from one of my upscale coloring books
85.                        Go horseback riding or ride in a horsedrawn carriage
86.                        Do something from my bucket list
87.                        Make a pie on pi day
88.                        Taste 10 new types of tea
89.                        Take a 2 week Facebook break
90.                        Wear every piece of jewelry I own at least once
91.                        Drop my body fat % by at least 5 points
92.                        Have a face to face visit with at least five friends that are no longer part of my daily life
93.                        Redo my “why I do this” photos in my office
94.                        Do the 5K training part of ZombiesRun! App while running or walking (not on the exercise bike)
95.                        Learn a new method of braiding my hair
96.                        Take a staycation with at least 3 consecutive days of not doing any chores
97.                        Buy a little black dress
98.                        Do The Pocket Scavenger book
99.                        Have a contest on my blog with a prize of something that I’ve made
100.                   Donate 1 million grains of rice to
101.                   Save $10 in cash for each goal I complete – use this money for something fun (aka “the fun jar”).  Plus, donate $10 to charity for each item that I don’t accomplish by the last day – March 19th, 2016