Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Día de los Muertos: A Perfect Crafty Holiday

crossposted from BlogHer.org
DOD Mural
Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, will be celebrated in Mexico, throughout southwestern US, and in many other Latin countries this week. An ancient tradition, Dia de los Muertos encourages families to remember those who have died, invite them to come visit the living and celebrate their lives. This is often done by building altars, or ofrendas, that commemorate those who have passed.

Altars can be very traditional or much more modern. Among the standard items are: orange marigolds, incense or candles, special foods, bread of the dead, photographs, favorite things and a glass of water (hey, it's thirsty work coming to visit the living!) Items that held meaning to the person in his/her life are displayed. Often the altar is edged in paper-cut decorations called papel picado. There are also sugar skulls with the loved one's name written across the forehead and fanciful decorations added. You can see examples of ofredas at this Flickr Photo Pool. For a fanciful look at an altar, check out the video on building an altar for Barry White.

You're thinking, fine and dandy, but what does this holiday have to crafts? According to azcentral, Handmade crafts and decorations are what Dia de los Muertos is all about. The site includes instructions for simple paper flowers, sugar skulls, reverse glass painting, and a truly charming Dia de los Muertos pin. I won't time to make one of these pins for this year, but next year? Look for me wearing a version of these. (now where do I find those milagros again??)

The Crafty Chica has a fun project idea for Funky Fantasy Skulls. and a fabulous bleach pen skull banner.

So this year, instead of feeding into the commercialism, candy and gore that is Halloween, why not try a different tradition?


The Crafty Chica explains the holiday.

Calamaty Kim loves the calaveras.

There have been several art quilt exhibits themed around Dia de los Muertos: in San Diego, in an online portfolio, the QuiltArt challenge,

You can go to Wonka.com, build your own altar and win a prize!

photocredit: my flickr photostream. This mural is at the entrance to the Dia de los Muertos exhibit this year at the Oakland Museum of California.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blog Birthday: Be Brave

I began this blog three years ago today with a simple quote:
Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
Cecil Beaton
Looking back, it is interesting:
  • I couldn't add blockquotes;
  • I couldn't upload photos;
  • I couldn't add links to the post;
  • I couldn't customize my template;
  • I didn't expand much on the quote as it applies to me.
  • I couldn't imagine anybody reading this.

Most of what I've done and become in these last 3 years are in large part because of starting this blog, though. And this quote from Cecil Beaton applies more to me today than it did then.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Web 2.0, I'm a traffic cop.

A second of enlightenment...
While driving home from She's Geeky, I started processing the conference. Truthfully what I was doing was talking veryfast to myself about impressions and feelings and fears and reactions I was experiencing after the 2 days.

A lot happened. I'm talking myself into/out of video blogging. I'm changing my perception of place in geek gatherings. I'm claiming my space and giving myself permission to expand and change that space. I'm also a little sad that most of the people I interact with in real life will have eyes glaze over if I mention any of this to them. Then they will wait for me to take a breath, jump on that second to change the topic. Such is my life.

OK. Some of the things I'm taking away:

When I was driving down, I felt like an island in the gathering community. Afterall I use Web 2.0 tools to write, but I write about craft, art, and gardening. I write about very un-techie stuff. So I figured that I was separated by them all by my area of concentration.

While talking to these wonderful women, though, I realized that many of them (the podcasters and bloggers and some of the women working in tech) were really just like me. Their lives were intersections of tech and something else. Instead of feeling isolated, I came away realizing that I'm one of the traffic cops for my intersection. I tell the tech where to get their great knitting content; I tell the quilter how to tell her story in a more compelling fashion and how to connect to others with her specific passion.

Turn right! Go straight! You're in the right space!!

The best part of the conference was a 2 hour session held Monday afternoon on Podcasting. The women were incredibly helpful and so amazingly sharing. (and I'm looking up their names and blogs right now). They talked about equipment, they shared links, they shared the entire work flow for a project. Wow! There is so much I couldn't have grasped on my own.

Ya see, I've been contemplating doing some video blogging. It seems to me that the "how-to" articles I write could be more easily presented as videos rather than hoping to remember to stop and photograph steps along the process. It scares me bit to think about this... but being scared is a good thing. It's how you know you're still living.

So I'm still doing a whole lot of the verbally "vomiting" of impressions and reactions. If I see you in the next few days, just pat me on the head and tell me to go on my way unless you really want me to chew your ear off. Today, in truth, it's getting better. I think I've processed most of it out.

But aren't you glad I'm not heading to BlogWorld where we'd have to go over this all again??

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Monday, October 22, 2007

She's Geeky: Women Are Cool

Photo: How Geeky Girls Eat Lunch. Laptops open and food barely fitting on the table in front. Yep, this is how I eat my lunch most days.

For the past couple months I've been helping Kaliya Hamlin with her conference She's Geeky. I figured that although I'm not very geeky, if I got involved I'd feel more comfortable attending and being part of the process.

It worked.

I got the "chore" of taking everyone's polaroid photo this morning. This means I got to meet everyone for a second, decide how to make them look good (black, blonde, brown or purple background) and assure them all that their photos were true representations of the women I was seeing. I know photographs. And even though I never take pictures of people, I really enjoyed taking polaroids of all these fabulous women.

I'm sitting here with women who have started businesses, women who work for large tech companies (like Google and Yahoo), and although I'm still not quite feeling "equal" I'm not feeling like a fish out of water.

I'm going to be writing a larger piece about this: about our internal insecurities, about feeling scared, about taking chances and how these are the way we remind ourselves that we are humans. That we've evolved above the basic animal survival skills. I started thinking about this on the drive down here to Mountain View; and I'll work about in spare moments throughout the conference and get it up soon.

In the meantime, know that women are smart. Women are strong and capable. Women are competant and compassionate.

Women are cool.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

So, Am I Weird??

I was chatting with the spouse this morning about how my trainer is working on my developing a way healthier regular way of eating (think flexitarian). He (the trainer, not the spouse) actually expects me to never eat fried chicken again in my life.

Now I don't eat fast food crap like hamburgers and egg/muffin sandwiches. I actually have some pretty good eating habits. But occasionally I do love me some fried chicken (a KFC 3 pc. dark meat original recipe box with biscuits. The other sides are horrid, but this I crave). And at the moment I don't think I can completely embrace the idea of never eating this again. Maybe someday, but not now.

However, I have learned that I can delay a craving for a very long time if I give myself permission to have a treat in a very specific way. The way that works best for me is to tie "permission" to have something with a predictable yet emotionally unattached action.

For example: I can have 2 donuts on the days that I get blood tests. Because I'm on a statin, I get a fasting blood tested every 6 months. Those are the 2 days a year that I allow myself to have a donut. I can choose not to, and often do. And I'm fine with delaying my next donut stop for those 6 months.

For the chicken? I've decided (and to me this seems oddly appropriate given the high fat nature of the meal) that on the days I get my oil changed in my VW (2 times a year), I can have fried chicken.

My spouse thinks this is the weirdest thing he's heard in years. I think it's effective, responsible and doesn't force me to do something I'm not quite willing to give up.

So what do you think?

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Moving Meditation

Every few months my trainer and I have a similar discussion. He sees me working out on the cardio equipment and thinks I should be working harder. He believes that because he can read me and know how warm I am, how hard my heart is working, how many calories I'm burning. He knows the physical and wants me to continue to excel.

I remind that often he's missing the more important part of the action.

Let me explain. When I wake up, I might have a clear thought of what I want to write. Some nugget has been growing in my subconscious and has finally sprung and blossomed like a daylily in the field. Usually, however, all I have is a sprout. Maybe a seed. Sometimes, I just have the cultivated dirt warming in my mind.

Not enough to work with.

I scratch through my half-written notes, check my blogrolls, and pray to the muse. That's when I head to the gym and cardio equipment. I learned decades ago that moving is the best way to think. I head for the treadmill most of the time because I can set the time and program then stop paying attention. After a few minutes, my left brain stops working; if I'm really lucky I can totally zone out. For the next 30-45 minutes my body is on auto-pilot.

After I work my body and take a shower, I head toward home. Usually about half-way there an idea springs into my consciousness fully formed. I can't wait to get home and hit the keyboard, where the words flow.

I know the secret is the moving. On those days, more important to me than burning calories is clearing the mind. Letting the subconscious work it's magic. I trust it. And it's seldom let me down. I just need to remind folks sometime that there are a variety of benefits that come from exercise. Calorie burning and heart health are only two. Moving meditation is also a legitimate one.

Do you have a secret way to incubate inspiration?

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gaining Energy

Several weeks ago, I was reading though back posts on Christine Kane's blog when I found a post on the energy drains that exist in many (all?) of our lives. She went on to suggest ways to deal with these so that we could live more in the present.

I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I knew I had several friends who were privately trying to deal with this issue. So, what the heck... I emailed them all and asked if they'd be willing to join together in a little 3 month working group to deal with the distractions that are wearing us down. I gambled a little and added a couple people who I wasn't sure would agree. Afterall, I was just putting the invitation out there. (OK, and kind of standing in as the instigator/facilitator). No big deal.

The past couple weeks I've been working on my list. It's not as easy as it sounds... I'd rather hang online placing scrabble or twittering or writing drafts for blog posts that never get published than organize my kitchen cabinets or clean my work room.

I've gotten to the point where I know the items on the list and when I can, I act on one or two of them. When dinner was cooking last night, I went and cleaned the dog snot off the car windows. When I ran to the pet store today, I took some time to walk down to my hair stylist's salon and got my eyebrows waxed. (they went from furry but thin catepillars on my face to oh-so-cute actual eyebrows!)

Crossing things off my list or dealing with things before I need to put them on the list is a great thing. I still have the BIG chore to deal with: my work room. But there will be a week in early December when my spouser is out of town. I've pencilled in this week to devote my energy to creating a workspace that makes me want to be in there and working. I can spend the time between now and then figuring out what I need to do.

One BIG factor: the room is too dark. It faces north east, with a wall of cyprus bushes (I think) that block most light. It's in constant shadow. It was built without a lighting box in the ceiling, so I can only put in lights that plug into a wall socket (I have a 60w. hanging light from IKEA off the ceiling now). Also.. the light switch is hidden behind the door.

IT NEEDS LIGHT. LOTS of LIGHT. Easy to turn on light. A major part of the planning now is trying to figure out how to increase the brightness in this room. Any and all suggestions completely welcome. Oh, and if you're an electrician who wants to give me better lightning... let's talk.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rules For My Life, part one.

Years ago I read Robert Heinlein's Time Enough For Love, the "biography" of Lazarus Long. It's still my favorite books. One of the repeating features are quotes from Long's "Notebooks." These are simple, or not so simple, explanations about everything in life. The one I remember most clearly: Always cut the cards. It can't hurt and it might help.

At my writing workshop Friday, one of the prompts was "I Always/I Never/I Believe" statements. The ones shared in class were wonderful and diverse and totally unlike anything that I had considered. The great thing about these writing prompts IS that each person will not only use their own words, but also create their own take.

I chose to think of the assignment as my chance to begin creating my own Notebook. So like the book, these will be scattered throughout the rest of the blog.


  1. Try to be present in the moment. Let the past and future live where they belong.
  2. Breathe in. . . . breathe out. (you can't imagine how hard this seems at times.)
  3. Look a person in the eye and call them by their name.
  4. Honor your commitments unless they cause harm to yourself or another. Then forgive yourself.
  5. When in doubt, DO SOMETHING.
  6. Drive within 10 miles of the speed limit. OK, if nobody can see you, make that 20.
  7. Proofread your work three times, hit post, then proofread again.
  8. Only tuck your shirt in if you're cold. Then put a vest or sweatshirt over it.
  9. Take risks. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: Make yourself a little scared at least once a day.
  10. Try to eat a new food or dish every month.
  11. S T R E T C H !
  12. Floss.
  13. When writing an email to a friend, smile. It will come out in the words.
  14. Go to bed and get up at almost the same time every day.
  15. If you lose count, do 5 more!
What are some of your Rules (I alwayses, I nevers, I believes)? If you choose to blog about them, please leave a link here so I can follow them.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

BEFORE THAT: A Writing Exercise. Lady of Leisure

Flat Leaf

Intermittently spreading my hands over my keyboard. Letting the electronic impulses that are my thoughts send these impulses through my nerves and muscles, creating keystrokes which send electronic impulses through the phone lines, through the ether, through the earth to recreate my thoughts in a way that you the reader might recognize.

Now I am watching WE ARE MARSHALL. Crying and laughing and cheering and trying to remember what it was like then (I was a freshman in college). Totally unimaginable to cope with the loss that this town experienced and come back with such spirit.

Before that: downloading and processing pictures. Like Flat Leaf, above.

Before that: The gym. I tried, I really did, to observe other people working out around me. To note the mannerisms and gestures that set one apart from the other. The unique little moves. (it's a writing homework assignment). But do you know how hard it is to write longhand while you are walking up a 15% hill at 3.5 MPH? Trying to decipher my scribbles...

Before that: Returning. Four pairs of pants to Lands'End because they are simply too wide in the hips. They resembled jodphurs. And a box too many of deck screws to Home Depot.

Before that: Safeway's Eating Right Lemongrass Chicken for lunch with a large glass of water.

Before that: Loading the dogs into the car and heading the 2.5 miles down to the Pinole Creek trailhead. One and half mile walk at 3.5 miles an hour pace. Encountered: 11 humans, 6 dogs (one loose), 3 bikes, 2 strollers, one cellphone.

Before that: struck by arrangement of fallen leaves on our driveway, I grab my camera and finally start taking pictures again.

Before that: I was coping with a closet monster the best way possible.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Grown Up Play Date

Today was a grown-up play date. I met my friend Janice and we headed to St. Mary's college to see theirnHearst Gallery's exhibit: Dreaming in Color: Aboriginal Art from Balgo.

The pieces were all acrylic paintings on canvases, much of the work done by dipping a stick into paint and dotting the canvas to create patterns, although some parts were obviously done with a fingertip. All of the work represented stories of the creation of the world (called The Dreaming) and the stories of the strong creatures who made the rivers, hills and water holes. The paintings appeared quite graphic in nature, but only by reading the descriptions of the pieces was it at all possible to know what they represented.

I had hoped for more of the skeletal work, more of the stuff that I've seen in fabrics, so I was a little disappointed, which is a bit silly. These pieces each offered something wonderful, but spending time trying to "unlock the mystery" of the piece was a bit frustrating.

Oh well, art ain't supposed to be easy.

I'm looking forward to one of their future exhibits: in January through April they will discuss the Retablo tradition that exists in Mexico and New Mexico.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Writing and Singing

Today was my first day of 6 week workshops on Writing Deeper and Singing for Pure Joy. Let me say: both classes were fabulous. I am so happy that I signed up for them.

The writing teacher gave us several exercises to do in class, and others to work on during the week. The intention is to write each day for atleast 15 minutes. I will share a number of these exercises on my two blogs during the weeks.

Our first warm-up exercise was: I Come From. The idea is write a personal, descriptive piece using the phrases: I Come From. I Come From. Once I Was. Now I Am. (in whatever natural pattern occurs in the writing). We had about 5 minutes. The italics phrases are really quite good.

I wrote:

I come from broken dreams and blue collar habits. I come rom peasant stock with a dash of noble blood. I come from burning rivers and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Once I was the sum total of hard work, now I am becoming the reward for working hard. I am the reckless child hanging from a limb. I am the wet-feet child playing in the stream. I come from innocence, now I am invunerable. I come from cold family, expectations and requirements. I come from defending myself against the world. Once I was scared and alone, unable to be touched. Now I am strong and accepting, able to hold the world. I come from You Must. I am coming to I Will.

This is a great exercise. There are so many ways to approach this exercise, so one could write it almost every day, yet write it totally differently.

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Monday, October 01, 2007


While reading a bit on the blogger home page, the guys who runs this pointed out a new public feature:

Blogger Play

As they describe it:
Shortly after Blogger launched photo uploading two years ago, one of our engineers whipped up a web page that would show us the pictures that were being uploaded in real time. The result was fun, often beautiful, but above all, compelling. We couldn’t stop watching.

Over the years we’ve kept this photo scroller as part of the Blogger offices, on a monitor or projector, as an interesting (distracting?) slideshow, and a reminder of the diversity and vivaciousness of Blogger blogs. The fame of the scroller spread within Google, until one day we were asked, “so, when are you launching this?”

“Um...,” we replied. But we knew a good idea when we heard one. We got our UI people to come up with buttons and fadey effects and we got our engineers to make the whole thing fast and robust. A bit of work later, and now we can share it with all of you.

It truly is entrancing...

I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.