Saturday, January 29, 2011


More than likely, every single one of us cut snowflakes out of white paper when we were in elementary school. What we didn't know was we were learning the art of kirigami. Or at least I didn't know that. Not until I got a kirigami kit for my birthday (thank you, Shannon!) had I even heard of the word. As you might guess, kirigami is a cousin to origami -- cut paper vs folded paper. My goal is to come up with a design for valentine cards. Here's my very first attempt at kirigami and my own design. The trick is cutting away enough and still leave those delicate borders. I got a little trapped between the middle and the outside edge, but all in all, I think it's lovely.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Observations on a Birthday

Today is my birthday. And even though I know at this point every day is one to celebrate, there's something special about a birthday. It makes me reflect some, a little like New Year's does. It makes me think about what I've learned in all these years,about what I'm still learning and what I need to keep reminding myself. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Little things really do matter. Whether it's little things I do or someone else does, I think they make a difference. When I was growing up, my mom played the piano and we had stacks of sheet music around. One that I used to love to peck at the piano and sing was "Little Things Mean a Lot." I still remember the lyrics.
Blow me a kiss from across the room,
Say I look nice when I'm not,
Touch my hair as you pass my chair,
Little things mean a lot
Sounds corny, perhaps, but I think when we can get out of ourselves and think about the other person, it counts.

Curiosity doesn't kill the cat, it keeps it alive. The more I'm curious about life, the better I feel. When I want to learn, when I want to know, when I'm not afraid to ask, when I'm not afraid to try, I feel better.

Random acts can make a day. Both yours and the other person's. I always end up smiling more when I do little random acts. Putting a newspaper on someone's porch, plugging an expired parking meter, letting someone make a left turn. And that karma comes back to me. Sometimes it's startling when it happens, and I wonder why people are so nice. It makes me want to be nicer.

Some days are a struggle, whether you like it or not. I've experienced this lately. Sometimes I give in to it, some days I fight like hell to get out of it. This is not new for me. I've had to fight this all my life. And my next point is . . .

I have a choice.
A favorite story of mine is when Henry, then about 6, was moaning, groaning, not wanting to do something and his mom said "It's your choice, you can be sad or you can be happy." Lucy, about 2, in all her exuberance piped up, "I choose happy, Henry. What do you choose?" A simple choice, when you think about it. I've been in and out of therapy several times in my life and the last guy thought I was a good candidate for Cognitive Behavior Therapy because I tend to analyze things so/too much. He was big on that choice thing. It works. Try it sometime.

Laugh. You've got to be able to see the irony and the humor in life. You can't take yourself so seriously that you fail to see humor in every day things.

This has turned out to be rather heavy, which is not what I intended when I started, but I've just let it roll.

I'm choosing to have a great day! Happy Birthday to Moi!

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Twist on Hummus

I made some hummus last night for a football playoff party. I brought most of it home with me. Who in their right mind takes something healthy to a football playoff party? The chili-cheese dips, little wieners wrapped in crescent rolls, buffalo chicken dip and brownies somehow were chosen over my two delicious hummus dips. Go figure.

I made two because I wanted to try both of them. Lucky for me, I made two "half" recipes. One, I used avocado instead of the tahini. The other, I substituted peanut butter for tahini. Neither of these are original. Nigella recommended the peanut butter at Christmas. The avocado recipe is from a friend of a friend of a friend. That recipe can be found here.

This afternoon, I tried sliced apples with the peanut butter version and I have one word for it. Yummy! This is a great alternative to eating peanut butter on celery, apples, crackers. I don't know if hummus is actually better for you than peanut butter, but since this has only 2T peanut butter to 1 cup garbanzos (or chickpeas), it seems like it should be. Aren't chickpeas supposed to be good for you?

The avocado dip would be a good substitute for guacamole if you needed one. I think mine could have used more salt and maybe a squeeze of lime.

I'm not including a hummus recipe since if you make it, you already have a recipe you like. Just experiment with peanut butter. You can actually use very little and have a nice nutty taste without the peanut flavor.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The caged bird

My neighbor Bill is a smoker and even in this cold, winter weather, he's out on his porch, bundled up, hat, gloves, bulky coat, smoking. He paces his porch, watches whatever is going on on the sidewalks and he always waves at me. It's a big wave that's more like the OSU Cowboy victory wave than a howdy-do. He has a ladder-back chair on the porch with a rug or towel on the seat, but he rarely sits down in the afternoon. In the morning he'll be sitting on the chair, drinking his coffee and smoking and he still waves. He lives downstairs next door; I am upstairs. My porch, which is enclosed, is where I have my office and studio and when I'm at the computer I face his porch.

Last night I sat here thinking the cardinal who had been hanging out in my front tree had moved to the bird cage on Bill's porch, maybe looking for a bit of protection. Today the bird is in the same position, hasn't moved, so I know it's fake. It's funny but I had a glimmer of hope yesterday that the bird who could fly free was taking refuge in a little cage on a porch.

There are so many references I could make now but I'm just not going there.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Film Festival

I love public libraries. I'm learning to love them more. My neighborhood library has an absolutely fabulous collection of movies. I've been able to see films that I would never have heard about, let alone have seen and so many are film festival winners. I love the DVD covers with those parenthetical laurels. That's always my first choice.

Being that it's been hovering between -2 and 11 degrees today, I worked on "the" quilt and watched a couple of movies today. Let me correct that. These two qualify as "films," not movies.

I can heartily recommend seeing "Music Within" and "Goodbye Solo" if you have the chance. Music Within is the true story of Richard Pimentel, a brilliant public speaker who returns from Vietnam severely hearing-impaired and is responsible for the landmark ADA act. He's not a politician, he's someone who truly cares about helping those whose voice may not be heard. It makes you remember, sad to say, the days when there were no wheelchair ramps and discrimination was abundant. A great movie, umm, I mean film.

"Goodbye Solo" was so different, but one of those movies that when it's over, you just pause and think about it. There are actually many unanswered questions, which may count as not being well developed, but all in all, a good movie.

If you have NetFlix, que it up. If not, wish you lived near my library.

When is giving too much?

It's -2 degrees this morning. I've been up a while sewing on a baby quilt I started yesterday. I modified the traditional log cabin and am using bold colors, no pastels. I am not a quilter, and I don't do a good job of keeping things square, but I'm enjoying this project, I think because I just love looking at these colors together. Chocolate, hot pink, golden orange, light pink, and a heart pattern with chocolate background.

I'm making it as a gift for a young woman I sorta kinda work with and the question has crossed my mind if I'm making it more for me than her. I mean, she's not a close colleague, I haven't spent hours working with her, and yet I wanted to do this. I wanted to make something, have my head have to figure out something. It feels silly to have thoughts in my head of rationalizing a gift. "Is it an over-the-top gift?" No, I say. It's her first child. "But you haven't done this for other people who are actually closer to you." The baby will be Aquarius. I am Aquarius. And so it goes.

I really hate it when those conversations go on inside my head.

Here's my progress. I think the back will be big blocks of the colors or maybe, solid brown if there's enough fabric without a trip to the store.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Phone Today

My phone died a quick, unexpected death yesterday and I'm incommunicado via telephono until late Tuesday due to it being a weekend and Monday being a holiday. It's a very strange feeling for some reason. I don't talk that much on the phone, but it has become a habit to check for email and texts constantly. I heard a comedian describe it as following the mailman around asking do you have anything for me now? Did something come in yet? And I had to plead guilty.

It's very strange what cell phones have done to us. I'm not THAT old, but I did grow up with a party line and listening in on other people's conversations was a little game kids would try to get away with. Now, I don't even have to try and I hear all about a stranger's problems. I marvel at how freely people talk (and how loudly) about very personal things. It's as if they forget they are not in the privacy of their home. And then, there's texting. I don't know what the parameters are for most people's texts, but sometimes I just want to comment or ask, but not necessarily carry on a conversation. I just want the facts, maybe. It's interesting how many back and forth texts I can have, when it really might have been quicker to have a conversation.

It would be easy to turn this into a cell phone rant, but I'm not going to let that happen. I just wanted to say that if you were inclined to call, I can't talk to you until Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh, That It Were True

I doubt the truth of this, but it's such a delight to believe.
A miniature monkey, traditionally a pet for Chinese scholars and thought to be extinct, has been discovered alive in southeastern China. According to Monday's People's Daily, the little creature, weighing only seven ounces, exists in the mountains of Fujian province just opposite Taiwan.

Known as Ink or Pen Monkeys because scholars kept them in their studies, where it is said they ground and prepared ink, passed brushes and turned pages, the monkeys slept in the drawers of scholars' desks or curled up in their brush pots.

The use of such a monkey as part of a mandarin's impedimenta fits in with traditional scholars' tastes for the exotic or the bizarre. Their desks were cluttered with brush holders and ink-grinding stones, and impractical but tactile things made of roots, jade, bones, and wood. They wrote and exchanged tales of deformed or mutant humans or animals, and prized unusual trees and plants. InkMonkey Press

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and at least one evolutionary primatologist at UT-Austin agree that there's no scientific proof that ink monkeys ever existed. Even the Web site of the Chinese Wuyi Mountain nature preserve (in the region where the ink monkey rediscovery supposedly occurred) acknowledges somewhat mournfully that ink monkeys are not among the wildlife found there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Scavenged Rabbit

Like I've admitted previously, I'm a scavenger. Can't help it. Last week was a good week as neighbors were committed to cleaning and tossing. I found a pair of rabbit lamps that I thought still had hope.



Plus, the paper I used was lovely paper that Shannon wrapped my Christmas presents in. How's that for a double dose of scavenging?

All that's left to do is get a black lamp shade and he's ready for his dining room debut.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Finished Card

Remember my start for the New Year's letter card? I finished it and hope to get these suckers in the mail this week still. What seemed like such a good idea at the time is now just hanging over my head.

I ended up cutting the art into pieces and scanning them as a patchwork, printed them out on a real soft handmade paper from Costa Rica, then zig-zagged the printed piece with the sewing machine, trimmed it, and glued the stitched image onto a Strathmore "create your own" that has a red deckle edge.

Here's the rub. Our list is too long to use these (time-consuming) cards which would probably end up in a trash can, so I think I'll save them for for birthday or more personal communications.

My solution was to scan the finished card, have photographs printed, trim and use the photo as the "art." Still says "pieces of our lives," and still has some hands-on work, but more manageable maybe? I picked up some smaller blank cards at Micheal's for $2.50, so I cut the photos in half. I'm making it work and will think twice about this project next year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bigger is Art

We visited the Andy Warhol museum today and here's my take-away: If you do anything big enough, it is art. Dear Andy was the absolute best at blurring the line between art and life. I like the idea, but some of it left a big question mark in my head, which, if I could paint it, would fit right into the exhibit.

I have to admit there was much more to it than I expected. Seven floors. Some floors were more like a gallery. Then there were a lot of materials from his accumulated time capsules that made for fascinating reads and made it feel exactly like a "museum." A wall of the (magazine) Interview covers.

A room of silver "pillows" filled with helium floating around, up and down. Fascinating. Motion as art is something I don't think many people consider, yet this definitely was both.

A floor of movie screens placed at random angles, almost floating around the room with black and white films playing constantly with no sound. All were his films. By that time, though, I was on overload and didn't have as much patience as it required. After all, I'd already processed the wall of copper, oxidized by artfully placed urination. The museum will require (and deserve) another visit.

His art was so big. I envy that expansiveness. That freedom that permits you to swing your arms wide and swash the canvas. Maybe that's on my Resolution list for 2011. Go big.