Thursday, July 31, 2008


Yeah, things have been a lot quiet here. Prep for BlogHer, the flu and some personal things have zapped my brain of any energy possible to put together a readable blog post. I'm tired of putting up crap just to have something here. It lessens my value and it dishonors you.

I'm taking a short sabbatical from blogging here. It may be a week, it may be month. Wish I could say more.

In the meantime, for those friends who check here just to know if I'm ok and what I'm doing. I will install a twitter widget on my sidebar. While I cannot think in full sentences and paragraphs, I am capable of something approaching 140 characters. and I promise to twitter atleast once a day. Kind of like microblogging checking in.

See ya on the other side.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Building a Crafty Online Community

This year, when you talk to a knitter with any kind of online presence, they mention Ravelry. I can't remember a time when an online community developed such strength and following as quickly. I've talked with a number of crafters who speak wistfully about the hope of building a similar community that might include other activities. A site like Ravelry for quilters, jewelry makers or all those paper crafts.

While I cannot suggest an exact duplicate, I have found a crafting community for you to explore that might satisfy your community seeking: CraftStylish and one that just started in beta is CraftyNation.

A Magazine With More Online

Craft Stylish is a quarterly "special edition" magazine from Taunton Press (the same people who publish Threads magazine and number of wonderful craft books). It is also a community site that brings all the crafting knowledge of the publisher online and invited each reader to get involved. The website provides the choice to discover which articles exist on the website, share your own projects through a photo gallery and the ability to create a profile and write your own posts for the site.

I found a number of wonderful how-to articles including Know Your Hand Sewing Needles. This article was written by Diane Gilleland, (aka Sister Diane from the Church of Craft) and will help you recognize your sharps from the straws and everything between.

The website currently running the The Tote-ally Crafty Bag Challenge (you have until 7/31/08 to enter). Looking through the gallery, there are a number of creative entries already.

This site is new, and while it does not let you share stash or search for patterns like Ravelry does, there is the beginning of a sense of community building and the opportunity to blog your projects there might make it more appealling to some of us who never find the time to photograph our entire yarn inventory.

In other crafty news:

Vickie Howell is looking for crafters who'd like to Join the Craft Corps.
I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Photographing Crafts

(crossposted at BlogHer)

Let's shoot crafts

One of the best things about finding a good craft blog, whether it's someone using yarn, fabric, paper, tin, or plastic, is seeing the photographs of a person's work. When an item is well-photographed, the hand of the creator can be seen in the work. It's almost like touching the product.

However, taking a great photograph is not the easiest thing to do.

Deb Lacativa spent two days trying to photograph her latest work and running into frustration:
Getting good digital images of textiles is a struggle on a good day but throw anything shiny like metallic thread or paint or damask fabric into the mix and be prepared for hair pulling, crude cursing and lots of sweat.

Part of my problem is not being able to decide if I want the digital image of the work to highlight the basic elements of the design - the shapes, colors, lines and energy of each piece, to speak first and loudest, or do I want the textures of the fabric and the textures created by the stitching to have an equal voice.
Like her commentors, I think the piece taken in natural light, highlighting all the stitching she's put into the piece, is the better of the two. What's your opinion.

Reading her post reminded me that Stephanie Barnes (she of Little Birds Handmade and 3191 photoblog fame) once wrote a piece with advice on taking photos of crafts. Her piece of advice #2:
Natural light is your friend! Always use natural light, if at all possible, to take your photos. This means turn your flash off, folks.
Riffing off some of her other advice, here's some of my own suggestions for great shots:

Outdoor light in direct sun might be too harsh. Find a spot with dappled shade, or an indoor area close to a window.

Use or make a tripod. It limits the possible blur of the photograph.

Get even with your subject. If you place a softie on a table to shoot, bend down to the table's height instead of standing above it and shooting at an angle. Square flat pieces can start to look like parallellograms when shot at an angle. (there is a technical term for this, someone tell me? The edges begin to drift off the to horizon point?...)

Take more than one picture. Take pictures from different angles, different sides, if you can different speeds and aperatures. With digital cameras, you have nothign to lose. Then pick the best 2-3, edit them, and publish the very best one or two.

Style your photo. Nobody wants to see yesterday's dirty dishes piled in the sink in the background of your photo. See you can include objects to help "tell the story" of the craft.

Come in close. Some of the best pictures I've seen have been super-close ups. These allow us to see the fineness of the stitching, the detail of the work. They pull us in and make us want to stay there.

Crop. Crop everything out of your photo that isn't perfectly relavent to the subject. Don't be afraid to leave part of the picture go beyond the frame.

Consider building a photo studio. It might be a box you place objects in to get a good bouncy light; or a a stage that consistently lets you fold a nice piece of knitting. To take a good series of "how-to" photos, I built a custom boom (photo above) to attach to my tripod. It allows the camera to hang over the work surface, I do a project as I normally would (well, I try to do it with a little less mess), reach up and snap a photo at regular intervals. It took all of $5, a trip to the hardware store and about half hour of fitting nuts and bolts.

The author of Vikatikkeja understand the challenges of lighting crafts. Living in Finland, she has very dark winters.Ph On January 1st, she wrote:

I haven't blogged much recently, but that doesn't mean that I haven been busy with needles. I've knitted lots of basic socks and mittens for kids and four pairs of Kerttu-socks, and few Minttumaari-scarfs. Here in the north is so little daylight at this time of the year, that photographing crafts is almost impossible.

Normally I read all my blogs through BlogLines, but I have a list of favorite crafters who I make a point of visiting because of their photographs. Yes, BlogLines now pulls in the photos, but it still doesn't feel like the same thing. Who are your favorite craft photographers? And what tips would you share?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ok, so screw Nablopomo

I managed to keep my blog rolling through the 4 days of BlogHer, but coming home and getting sick?? Completely did me in. So I'm giving up on the idea of NaBloPoMo for the future. Instead, I'm personally aiming for 3-4 quality posts a week about what I'm reading, what I'm doing.

I sit here feeling sorry for myself because I'm coughing and tired and lonely and sick and I hate it. Until Sunday afternoon, I was surrounded by positive energy and lots of love. Now I'm home alone with nobody with whom to interact. No energy to draw from. No discussions of how lives are similar or different.

I really miss the energy.

I'm thinking I need to find a job as much for the interaction as for the income. I miss that positive flow. I missed it last year, but this year feels very different mainly because BlogHerbola has drained so much energy from me.

If I could, I'd go back in time a week and change things. Drink more water, make better food choices, use the hand sterilizer they gave us more religiously. Enjoy each moment more. Be present more.

I'd still feel down and depressed this week, but I'd the energy to start going about changing things to bring that power toward me more often.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BlogHer Notes: Good, Bad and Whatever

Things I Loved About BlogHer this year:

I could get there by BART. Walking the 2.5 blocks up Geary wasn't hard, and my whole transportation bill was about $10.

My room was one floor above the conference. I left my computer set up on the desk, and would just pop up there and check Twitter and email.

Free wifi (after the guy on the phone spelled the password).

A decadantly comfortable bed.

A bathtub longer than I am high.

Hugs and smiles and seeing folk I have seen in a while, or ever.

The Community Keynote Speech was worth the entire weekend.

Break-out Sessions! If the panel I was in wasn't what I expected, I just used the law of 2 feet, and headed over to the break-out session (bird of a feather, etc.). Didn't feel rude leaving or sliding into a panel at the half-way mark.

Playing Wii. Almost makes me want to buy one.

Laurie, Genie, Erin, Maria, Genie, Liz, Kaliya, Lisa, Kalyn, Virginia, Kerry, Shannon, Jane, Jane, Jane, Dana, Elizabeth, Catherine, Liz, Minnie, Liz and Minnie's Mom, Catherine's mom, Heather, and whoever I forgot.

Getting to wear my totally cute nearly sleeveless dress for an entire evening! Swirly-girly fun! I'm sure there's a pix of it somewhere.

The Less than Good

The ambient noise level. I must investigate noise-cancelling earphones before the next conference. Not only was it painful, but I could not hear most of the key notes because the constant chatter in the room drowned out the speakers.

The cold mezzanine floor (I mean it was chilly whenever I had to spend time there). I don't think they were ever successful at keeping it a temperature that was comfortable.

The carbo-pallooza catered food. The words protein or vegetable seldom crossed the caterer's lips. White flour, however, was in abundant supply.

Dropping my second Green-tini. It was delish.. and my last drink ticket.

Getting a frakkin' cold from the weekend.


I am just jaded, or was the swag just not that exciting this year? There was a lot of it, but was most of it worth bringing home? I think not.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Apple Cake

I'm continuing to go through some of my hand-written recipes off grease-stained pieces of scrap paper. I'm not sure how long I've had this one, but it's a favorite goodie on a cool day.

Apple Cake

This is a simple snack cake, not to be confused with the type of cake that one would frost.

Beat 2 eggs.
Add 1 C sugar and beat again.
Sift together, then add to egg/sugar and beat:

2 tsp. each of baking powder and baking soda
2/3 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Fold into this:
2 Cups diced apples
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Cup nuts chopped
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Spoon this mix into a greased square cake pan. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. The cake will be lumpy and moist and there is no great way to test for doneness. It more resembles a baked apple fritter than the traditional idea of a cake. You may wish to dust the finished squares with a little powdered sugar.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Good Wife Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

A couple summers ago an online friend was bemoaning the fact that she could not be a good wife. "The sign of a good wife," she sighed, "is making a good lemon bar." And her lemon bars were far less than good.

I sent her my recipe, sure that the problem was with her ingredients not her technique. When I heard back from her later, she confirmed that one ingredient change did make all the difference. She can, indeed, now proudly call herself a good wife. Wish I remembered who it was, but the recipe has been changed to:

Good Wife Lemon Bars

1-1/4 Cups of all purpose flour
1 Cup of sugar
1/3 cup of butter, softened
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
3 TBS. Minute Made Premium Lemon Juice (found in the freezer case) or fresh.
Confectioner's sugar

Combine 1 C. flour and 1/4C sugarp cut in butter until mixtue resembles course crmbs. Press mixture onto bottom of 8x8x2 pan. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Blend eggs, lemon juice, and remaining flour and sugar; pour over pastry crust. Bake 15 minutes more or until set. Cool slight; sprinkle with confection's sugar if desired (it is desired!). Cool completely; cut into 1x2" bars.

makes 32 bars (if you can cut accurately. Mine are somewhat less)
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes.

Now the secret to these bars is the lemon juice (well, duh!) If you are tempted to use the reconstituted stuff in the big green bottle, be prepared to fail in the "good wife" area. That stuff is foul and should not be touched. It will ruin your lemon bars. If you are unable to get fresh juice, take the time to search out the Minute Made stuff. You will be glad you did.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Linky Love: 7/18 Edition

Y'all know I'm actively participating in BlogHerCon this weekend, right? Can I say thank goodness for the publish in the future feature on Blogger? It let's me keep up with my great Friday linky lovin'!

So on with it:

Science Daily reported on a University of Missouri study comparing Weight Watchers to gym membership weight loss programs.
While the WW participants lost about 5% body weight, this was mostly comprised of lean muscle mass. The gym participants, in contrast, did not lose much weight, but did lose significant amounts of intra-abdominal fat. While this makes the gym program sound more successful, they researchers also found that without support, the gym participants quit, while the support of meetings from WW kept it's participants in the program.
“These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets,” Ball said. “Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months.”

“This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight.” Ball said. “I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs.”

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Writing From San Francisco

Ok, so it's 11:30 pm on Thursday night, and I've finally gotten online at our hotel. Only17 emails, so I'm lucky.

I started talking about 5 pm, and lost my voice by 10.

The hotel management must think that we BlogHers are smokin' hot, because the AC on the meeting levels was turning me into an icicle. A really cute icicile, but still...

Time to get some zzzs...

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

See Ya! I'm Outta Here!

Gone to BlogHer 08

I've got a couple things pre-published so there will be posts, but I'm not certain that I'll be blogging at the conference about the conference.

You can check out what I've got to say on twitter, and likely find some photos on Flickr (just search on BlogHer08).

See ya all after the insanity.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sewing Machines, old and new.

coffee cup
(crossposted at BlogHer)

I was going to write about sewing today. That was my plan. I've spent the weekend sewing on a purse I've been designing, ripping and redo-ing as each little problem with my no-pattern-all-in-my-head piece became apparent. It seemed logical to simply search for fellow bloggers doing the same thing. Right?


And it's not that folks aren't sewing and blogging about it.

Cottage 46 Knitter just starting sewing and has several of the beginner's projects that she shared. Reclaiming the Home has started sewing clothes for school (with tutorials!) already. So cute!
DIY Maven at Curbly even wrote a nice tutorial on making an apron out of napkins.

There is a basis to write about sewing projects. But as I wandered through blogs, I found a greater theme: sewing machines.

Cottage 46 Knitter, besides knitting, started sewing after acquiring several sewing machines, including this vintage Singer 99 in a bent-wood carrying case. (From personal experience, let me tell you these things only make the "portable" class because they are not in tables. Mine weighted a ton!) Hers, from 1928 will be unelectrified and turned into a hand-crank machine. Sewing during "power down" days will not be a problem for her!

Idyllic Chick was gifted a nice Singer 301 In honor of receiving her wonderful gift, she posted a great gif on how a sewing machine works. Go check it out! After I posted about her machine at BlogHer, she even posted photos of her beauty!

I used to own a number of vintage Singers, including a Feather Weight constructed near my birthdate, about 5 of the 99 - most made in the 50s- and one of these 301s (in the more contemporary tan color). Believe me, it's one of the very best Singers ever made. I would pick this hands-down over a Feather Weight any day. (gasps from the readers change weather around the northern hemisphere).

The 301 is slightly larger and slightly heavier than the revered FW, but this is a gear-driven machine where the FW is belt-driven. The difference? Besides the obvious fact that you don't have to keep trying to locate and replace belts for the machine, a gear-driven machine doesn't transfer any of it's kinetic energy like a belt-driven machine does. Every little bit goes right into the act of sewing, which makes this a strong silent workhouse. This is a machine that can power through upholstery fabrics, heavy denims and even machine quilt with ease.

And the 301 and 99s are 3/4 sized machines. This means they are a bit shorter than their full-sized sisters (like the 201) but not quite as tiny as the 1/2 sized Feather weight. Sometimes having just an inch or more room in the throat plate region makes a big difference in what you can sew

If you're at a garage sale or auction house, and need to choose between these machines. don't hesitate. Grab your self the 301.

Not everybody is going vintage, however, in their sewing machine acquisition. Minnie's old "big box sewing machine" died on her a couple weeks ago, and she went out and purchased herself a shiny new Bernina! Does she love it? I think so:

Already i have completed a bunch of basic mending tasks that have been sitting around in my sewing room waiting for me. Some for actual YEARS have been waiting to completed. Also many of the decorative stitches have been tested and gloated over.

I swear.. sewing with this thing is sweet!
We sewers do have a dedication to our equipment. We split into camps of "Classic Singers", "Pfaffies" and "'Nina heads". Many women promise that the first item out the door in an emergency evacuation would be their sewing machine. Yet some anonymous woman chose to go a step further and bring her machine with her to eternity. Check out this Flickr photo of a sewing machine etched on a headstone.

I sold or gave away all my vintage machines about 10 years ago, when I purchased a (then) near top-of-the-line Pfaff. It's far from the newest machines of today, but it still keeps me in stitches.

Do you have a sewing machine love story or a photo you'd love to share?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Crafting A Life: Carnivals, Influence, and Crafty Lit

(crossposted at BlogHer)

There has been a bit a good news breaking that involves the crafty-blog scene. A new craft carnival has been announced, a knitter is named one of the most influential women bloggers, and the crafty chica pairs beach-reading lit with crafting fun!

Let's look closer:

Carnival of Green Crafts

The folks over at Crafting a Green Life announced the kick-off a new blog carnival: The Carnival of Green Crafts.
The Carnival of Green Crafts is a twice monthly online celebration of all things eco and crafty. Whether it’s a full-fledged tutorial or your personal musings, photos of projects in progress or completed, great thrift store finds that are destined for a craft project, or a love letter to your favorite environmentally friendly craft supplies, we want it! We hope that this Carnival is a place to show off, inspire, rant, rave, learn, and support each other as we find ways to create beautiful things while protecting the Earth.

If you're unfamiliar with this concept, wikipedia defines a blog carnival this way:
A blog carnival is a type of blog event. It is similar to a magazine, in that it is dedicated to a particular topic, and is published on a regular schedule, often weekly or monthly. Each edition of a blog carnival is in the form of a blog article that contains permalinks links to other blog articles on the particular topic.
CAGW has published a bi-weekly schedule for thier carnival with one even a month being run through thier website; the alternate carnivals will be run through individual blogs. If you make, photograph, or simply find about a great green craft project remember to submit it to the COGC list. And consider hosting a round of the carnival yourself.

This week Jarkko Laine published NxE's Fifty Most Influential 'Female' Bloggers (look who's #1!) and coming in at #15:

Stephanie Perl-McPhee (aka Yarn Harlot)

Yarn Harlot -
Why She Matters:

Known as the ‘Knitting Sensei’, Pearl-McPhee might not be the most important figure to everyone, but the knitting world pays close attention to what she says and does. Pearl-McPhee is not only the most influential knitter online, but also a knitter who uses her position for greater good through her non-profit organization. Her blog was also recently voted the ‘Best Canadian Blog‘ of 2007, as well as the ‘Best Hobby Blog‘ on Blogger’s Choice Awards.
Funny, as I read through this list, I had to admit that I knew very few of the women listed. I know a couple of them from Twitter, or from attending She's Geeky or BarCamp last year. I'd even read a post or three on some of their blogs. But most of these other women have no influence on me, my online experience or my life. Most of the other women did not matter to me.

However, when I spotted a familiar face among the crowd, it did effect me. While 3 out of 4 American households admit that they spend some time each week crafting and many more have added gardening to their lives, and while there are a significant number of these people who blog about these activites, I always feel like we live in a private little corner unknown to the wider blogosphere. To have a knitter ranked as #15 on this list is a step toward feeling validated as a genre. For me.

Now on to something that's just plain fun!

Just in time for wonderful beach reading season and with carefree evenings of simple creative fun in mind, Kathy Cano-Murillo wrote 10 Creative Projects Inspired by Crafty Lit. From Terry McMillan's The Interruption of Everything to Lois Winston's Talk Gertie to Me there is a book and accompanying craft for any taste or beach stay!

Time to increase my "wish list" at the library and start inventorying my on-hand supplies. Think I'll pick my books based upon the supply list.. which should really shake up my summer reading style!

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Busy Day?

Busy Day

Only a slightly uncommon look at the table when I'm working. Where and why I picked up two coffee mugs, I do not know, but some fruit to munch on (looks like I munched all the mango!), a cup of something, and the cell completes the picture.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Linky Love

Crafting A Green World announced a new Carnival of Green Crafts. Want to host a round of the carnival? Let them know.

Dabbled kind of turned the tables and interviewed Sister Diane of CraftyPod.

Things I never knew: 163 Things You Can Compost.

Syperella photo-demoed a wonderful Shoe Re-fab!

Jen, from painted fish studio, used an Ikea Gronos lamp as the basis for a group pARTy. Each participant had two lamps, gel medium, and beautiful papers. The results are stunning. This was one of several "hacks" found via Ikea hacks.

That's Fit listed 5 supplements that may be right for you.

Bakerina give a recipe for the Cake For What Ails Ya. It includes a generous portion of cardemom, which some believe has great health benefits.

Dark Roasted Blend gave us perhaps TMI about geoducks.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where Have All the Seed Gone?

Where have all the seeds gone?

Where have all the sunflower seeds gone?
Just filled this yesterday.

Where have all the sunflower seeds gone?
I think I know.

Where have all the sunflower seeds gone?
Gone to hungry vermin squirrels.

When will I ever learn?
When will I ever learn?
I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Trying to Be My Own Life Saver

Boat on Bay at Sunset
lights on San Pablo Bay.

I've read this several times, probably getting it in my email inbox or quoted on a blog somewhere. Today I'm thinking that I envy this woman whoever she is.

Age 3: She looks at herself and sees a queen.

Age 8: She looks at herself and sees Cinderella.

Age 15: She looks at herself and sees an Ugly Step Sister and says "I can't go anywhere looking like this!"

Age 20: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, tto straight/too curly" -but decides to go out anyway.

Age 30: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, tto straight/too curly" -but decides she doesn't have time to fix it, and goes out anyway.

Age 40: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, tto straight/too curly" -but thinks "Hey, at least I'm clean!" and goes out anyway.

Age 50: She looks at herself and sees "I am" and goes wherever she damn well pleases.

I know that when I was little I did consider myself a princess. The only girl in the family made that easy.

As I grew older, my mother returned to work. As the only girl, I had to assume her tasks around the house: cooking, cleaning, laundry. So Cinderella seems like another apt description. The responsibility to get this work done meant that I seldom had the opportunity to go out anywhere. I learned to hole up in my house, hidden and quiet. I learned that the world got along just fine without me.

It was a bad lesson to learn.

While there were times in my 20s where I did "just go out anyway" as I got older, the tendency to remove myself from society, to hide away from public grew stronger. There were factors that made it easy for me to do. Part of me thought " I was too something to go..." so I didn't. Probably too boring or too invisible.

There came a point in my life when running away became easier than not. When going out and making contact and engaging in life became too much of risk. I wasn't enough to go out among others and engage with them. I had a home, a spouse, a couple dogs. While it wasn't enough, I could push it to fill my time.

People were surprised how many quilts I made, how much I cooked, how devoted I was to walking my dogs (ok, still am). They didn't seem to guess that this was all I had to do.

The internet and the birth of social media makes it possible for me to both and appear to be participating in life. I can sit in my secluded home, twittering and blogging and flickring. Look at how social I'm being. Still I am sitting here alone, isolated from the world.

I have a friend (let's call friend Q) going down this road. Running away from the world. I want to reach out and grab Q, pull Q out into the sunlight, and push Q into the biggest, noisiest crowd I can find.

I want to join Q there.

Engage in life. Get all bumped and frazzled and ego-bruised, hugged and over-looked, smiled at and flirted with, admired and dismissed and talked to and yelled at. Loved. Ignored. Caught as a glimpse.

I want us both to learn about people deeply and with passion. I want us to trust that we are not invisible. That we are not so fragile that the world will crumple our souls and toss us away like so much litter.

It's funny in a way that I can wish this deeply for another and be willing to risk this for another, yet I'm still paralized to go forward on my own. I need to be my own life saver.

When I lay in bed tonight and imagine tomorrow or next week, I will imagine myself taking a small quiet step out into the world. Where I will go, I am not sure. That I need to go, I'm certain.

Edit to add:

I just checked my Yahoo horoscope for today. And I must share, in light of the writing above, how strange and wrong and ironic it was:
Recently, you've been sacrificing too much of your own free time for the sake of other people. Whenever someone has asked you to come to anything you've said yes, and that has got to stop. Are you too uncomfortable having holes in your social calendar? Those holes are a great gift to give yourself -- time to relax and do whatever it is you feel like doing. By being so social, you are losing some of your independence. Make sure you get some alone time soon.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Garden Full of Possibilities

(crossposted at BlogHer)

Pom Potential

We are at the height of summer vegetable gardening across the northern hemisphere. Plants are established in their spaces and we, the gardeners, are starting see the rewards for our work. Surely a garden tour is in order, right? Keep in mind, that my garden is mostly potential at the moment, not edible produce.

The pomegranate fruit above is one of several hanging on the tree still. This bush/tree is only 2 years old, and colorfully packed with blossoms. So few of them turn into actual fruit, though. I have yet to figure out why.

Tomatoes Standing By

All My tomatoes have set fruit. This San Francisco Fog was the best producer last summer, giving me tomatoes inspite of loss to scrub jays and pocket gophers. Ah, the pocket gophers! They are becoming the bane of my garden existence.

Pepper Potential

Bell Peppers. While I can find little fruit, the blossoms are thick on this plant. The heat from a week ago encouraged it to nearly double in size in a week! (it was a sickly thing before). The ripe peppers promise to be yellow and orange, which means they will probably still end up red. But I can't wait until they blister on my grill, bathe in Balsamic vinegar, and show up in almost every dish later this summer!

Pumpkin Potential

You can't tell by the scale, but this Pumpkin plant is completely dwarfing the pepper growing next to it. It should yield better than a dozen 8-10# pumpkins perfect for carving or making into pies and puddings. Again, I can't wait!

PGs prefer Colorful Chard
Now to the sadder parts of the garden. Those darned gophers seem to be picking off my Swiss Chard by color! Gone are the gorgeous golden stalks, and the red (as you can see) is withering away. They have eaten the roots and the base of the plant. Next they will pull the remains down into their tunnel and devour that too. So far the white has remained immune, and while not as colorful on the plate, is quite a tasty treat at dinner for me.

One experiment for the summer was to plant two soybean plants. The picture of snacking on freshly picked edamame from my own garden? Irresistible. Alas, I may need to adjust my expectations. The first plant is puny and doesn't promise more yield that these several pods.

And the second plant? Disappeared overnight, the victim of plant predators. I'm suspecting that durned pocket gopher again.

Meyer Lemon Tree
At least my citrus trees are all full of fruit for the fall and winter. One of my navel orange trees kept us fed for over a month last year; it promises to do the same again. And the Meyer lemon growing on my deck is full of blooming promises! These should be ripe just in time for hot September day lemonade into throat-soothing late fall teas.

What are other Bloggers reporting about thier own gardens?

My Bit of Earth picked a great head of cabbage from her garden, and shared her recipe for cole slaw.

Seedling shares her own veggie garden's potential in photos.

My California Garden in Zone 23 got her veggies started during our last heat wave. With heat late into fall, she should still be able to get a great return for all her rock-picking efforts.

Thanks to Farmgirl Fare, I know something new to do with my Swiss Chard. Make her fresh, lowfat twist on Cole Slaw!

Daisy at Compost Happens wrote about "found water."

Nikki mentioned blue berries and a cool caterpillar.

Susan Harris warns that hardy kiwi's great if it doesn't eat your home. And she's still waiting for some fruit!

Photo credits: Debra Roby's Flickrstream.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Cooking Simple

come cook

It happened again last night. I twittered my dinner (I often twitter what I've prepared for myself) and got the above reply.

Now, I am not a fancy cook.

I prepare fairly simple, plain fare with fresh ingredients.

The meal that got the response above? Trader Joe's (thawed) frozen scallops cooked in butter/olive oil with a squeeze of lemon juice at the end of the cooking. Heirloom tomatoes sliced along side. And a small amount of farfalle afterward to soak up the sauce.

A meal that took about 10 minutes to prepare and not much more time to plan.

Other meals that have gotten comments?
  • Irish oatmeal with strawberries.
  • Vegetables, coated with olive oil, grilled, then splashed with balsamic vinegar.
  • A salad of mixed greens, 5 strawberries, deli turkey breast dressed with (guess now..) olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Left over grilled veggies warmed in chicken stock and coconut milk and served over brown rice.
Nothing complicated. Nothing requiring me to consult with a cookbook. Nothing that took long to prepare.

Everything fresh and healthy, but simple still.

So I wonder, why do I get these comments? Is simple cooking so rare these days that simply reporting it is remarkable? Are my food combinations so unusual? Is that I cook at all, instead of relying on take out and dine in?

You tell me.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Eating My Way Healthy

Mid-morning salad snack

It's 10:30 am and I'm digging into my mid-morning snack as I type this. Curious? It's a small plate of mixed baby greens, with 5 sliced strawberries and 3 ozs of Oscar Mayer 98% fat free shaved turkey breast. The whole thing is topped with .5 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbs. of balsamic vinegar. (Calories: 156. Fat:9 g. Carbs:8g. Protein 14g) Not quite in my target range (25%/ 35%/ 40%) but close enough for government work. I'll drink a tleast 12 ozs. of water with this.

This followed a breakfast 3 hours ago of Red Mill Muesli which had soaked overnight in Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk. I stirred in a scoop of protein powder before eating it. (Fat 7g, Carbs 30g. Protein 39) and, of course had coffee with a little more soymilk with it.

My meals balance out to be right on target for my goals. For those who question the soy milk, I'm allergic to cow and Silk is the only brand I've found that makes a version without extra sugar. Don't know why Almond, Rice and most Soy milks have to have sugar in them, but it makes them unpalatable to me. So Silk it is.

If you are just starting out on a healthy eating plan, hoping to lose more than 10# or just beginning to exercise again, your dietary goals will be different than mine. You should probably be eating 20% fat (good fats, though: olive oil and nuts), 50% carbs, and 30% protein.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Still Lovin' the Lichen

Deck Rail, yellow gray

OK. The yellow stuff is a lichen.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Feels Like the Weekend with Links

Yellow gray#1
Algae? growing on my deck railing.

Links for the week:

Jill hubby was clearing out his wardrobe; she grabbed old t-shirts and refashioned them for thier son.

Craft Stylish has a great demo on Weaving on a Card Loom.

Stuart Robinson asks: How Long Have You Been Gardening?

Knitorious posted this color-inspiration photo.

Belinda at Ninja Poodles is dedicating this month of NaBloPoMo to Slow, Local and Thoughtful Food.

Taylor Ryan, from Real Women Lift offered a healthy Blueberry French Toast Casserole. Can't wait to make this!

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Just a Duck of the Head...

It was just a duck of the head.

Katy, my lab mix, was licking the remains out of my morning oatmeal bowl and she merely ducked her head a bit to side. Suddenly I reminded of my old dog Woody. Movements are one of the most powerful triggers to memory.

Woody was a shy, bit obssessive Border Collie/Lab mix we rescued from the county humane service. While not the runt of his litter, he was runt+1. Definitely the lowest male in his birth pack. When he came to our house, he also became the lowest rung male, below my spouse and our adult male dog, Prince.

Because of his status, he developed some interesting quirks; Katy's simple duck of her head this morning reminded me of one: he'd try to bury bones, treat and toys to keep them safe from status animals.

Being an inside dog, Woody's most common act would be to try and bury his special thing in a blanket, quilt or lap throw. He'd place it gently on the cloth, then scrape the edges over his treat with his front paws. Final perfection of the bury was always done with nose scraping cloth, teeth tugging cloth, paws kneading cloth to make a perfect hide. He'd inspect his work and often destroy it and begin again.

Scratch, scrape, tug, knead, scrape, tug, knead again.

Eventually, he'd be satisfied with the work, lay down on top of his prize and take a nap.

Sometimes, however, his burying "gene" would kick in strangely. He'd have a rawhide treat or a particularly flavorful tennis ball and decide right that minute that it must be buried where it was. Which was usually on a carpeted floor.

Thankfully, his unique brain would recognize that this must be a very stealthy bury. No scratching of the soil could take place; it might signal to the world that something is buried here. Instead, he would quietly rub his face against the carpeting, moving his muzzle in a mounding fashion, trying to get the nap of the carpet to cover his work. He'd gently knead the area, rub some more, gently knead.

Usually he could decide for himself that this prize was safe. Then he'd retrieve it, destroy it, or carry away, perhaps to bury it again in a quilt.

We have two dogs today still, but Woody was lost just over 5 years ago. (a sad tale I shall not transmit today). I still occasionally miss his goofy mannerisms, though the BC we adopted after his loss has plenty of his own.

None of them involve imaginary burying.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Craft Blog is Dead!Part Two

It still is rather looking like Social Media is killing the blog stars...but

There were a couple responses to my original post that made me think. They mentioned the quantity of the blogs supporting Etsy artists and the habit of communicating on Ravelry or Craftster, but still blogging. I think they missed the point of the original article. So I responded:

The arguments being made are not that there is a dramatic drop in the quantity of blogs that exist. That was not the point. New blogs spring up every day in scrapping, quilting, crafting, and knitting, everywhere!

It was rather that the number of blog posts on individual blogs have declined in number. Instead of writing 4-7 times a week, many only blog 2-3.

It was partly that the conversations do not travel from blog to blog anymore. After Cara's post Sunday, it used to be that half a dozen or more readers would take the discussion to their own blogs, writing posts responding to the original statement. Conversation. Community. As of this morning, KnitNuts post cited above and one other: Ravelry Killed the Knitting Blog Star by Expat Knitter are the only examples of the community carrying the conversation further.

It was strongly that the conversation and community that was built on these blogs (and I've seen it in knitting, quilting and crafting) has nearly disappeared. This is exhibited in declining cross-blog conversations and declining comments on blogs.

It was rather that some of the quality of the writing has declined. Instead of talking about the joys and challenges encountered while creating something, the posts tend to be drier: I finished this; it's for honey bear. I used supplies A, B, C. (BTW, if you don't explain in your side bar, or somewhere who "honey bear" is? I care less about the fact he/she/it is getting it, no matter how precious it is.)

It was rather that many "A" list bloggers have now gotten designing jobs and book deals and blog about "I'm working on project X which you will love when I can show it to you."

It was in part the monetization of the blog post:
"Here are 5 earrings I finished for my Etsy shop. Click here to buy them."
"This is my latest scrap lay-out, to download the specifics click on the paypal button at the end of the post. "

Again these are not posts that lead to community building or conversation. If they do, I'm not seeing it. Please feel free to point specific examples out to me so I can be enlightened.

Now that you've read my entire spiel (sorry for verbiage. Well, no I'm not!), what do you think? Has there been a decline in blog quantity and quality? Has it merely shifted to newer bloggers I haven't found yet? Is simply that life changes create blog changes? Or is that social media sites (like ravelry, burda-style and Ning communities) have taken over some of the roles that the blogs used to fill?

also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Craft Blog is Dead! Long Live the Craft Blog!

Lucky you, today. I wrote this yesterday for BlogHer, got a couple responses there that made me think and formulate a response. Today, you get the article. Tomorrow comes my additional response.

Maybe it's just summertime, I think. Posting on craft blogs always slows way down in the summertime. That's the likely explanation.

Except the slowdown began way before summertime.
Except the slowdown includes blogs just going away.
Except the slowdown includes bloggers lowering blog posts because of book deals.
Except the slowdown includes a lack of interesting posts on the blogs that are there.

Which makes some wonder, is the craft blog dead?

Cara Davis of January One, was considering the same thing this weekend when she wrote KnitBlogs. New knitblog webring software was requiring everyone to re-register. From an active ring with firm rules, the ring has now dramatically relaxed its rules: only one knit-related post a month is required. Yet many of the original 1300 members will probably not join the ring or not qualify to join the ring.

But what does this mean?

It might mean that blogging has evolved beyond the "common interest" ring. Early in blogging, the blogrings were a way to find new members, to connect to those with common interest, to build that blog-community that we all rave about. Now, with RSS feeds do we really need blogrings? Is that the part of the formula that's become archaic?

For myself, I've got to say yes. I think I may belong to several rings, though I never click through one anymore. I have my quilting blogs in my BlogLines and Google reader; clicking through a ring to find something new takes too much time.

Davis suspects it's more than our simply outgrowing the "technology" of blogrings. Looking back over the past year, she believes that the dramatic shift away from a blog-based community began with the birth of Ravelry.
There are many many blogs on my bloglines list that post very sporadically and when they do, they blatantly say they've been on Ravelry. It's MY OPINION that the interesting discussions about knitting and projects that used to be on the blogs have moved over there - instead of many in-depth posts about a project we generally get one wrap up post that says the details are over on Ravelry. No doubt, Ravelry is an extraordinary tool in this community, but the social aspects of it have had a huge impact on what I loved about knitblogs.
The same thing has been written about Twitter and Facebook and Fill-in-the-blank-latest-social-media-site. Yes, it's easier to connect on one of these sites. On blogs, often we feel alone in the woods or lost among the masses. There seems to be no in between ground anymore. You write and occasionally get one or two comments, or you write and always get 50 or more. On a network sites there is the impression that you are always involved in the conversations and the community.

I'm not certain that this is indeed true, but is it even a valid observation? The comments (68 and still growing) keep the discussion going:

Amber summed up part of my feeling about the decline in craft(knit)-based blogs:
I think you're right that Ravelry has had a huge impact. In some ways though, I think that's good. A lot of blogs were just like here's the specs - and didn't really write about the process or their thoughts. Sort of like what one blogger once referred to as a "Cheese sandwich blog" (Dear Blog: Today, I ate a cheese sandwich. The end.) I felt like the same old big names were always writing the more involved posts everyone would talk about (I think that's still true); there's just fewer basic stats out in blogland.
"Cheese sandwich blogs"... I'm going to have to remember that. I've admitted that the draw for me in any craft blog is the author explaining their personal process. What they did, why they chose to do that one thing, how they feel about it's outcome. (If you need a great example of a knitting process blogger, look no further than Grumperina. All process. All the time. And one of the best damn knit blogs in my reader.) Many's the day that I click through 50-100 blog posts searching for that one unexpected process post without success. I used to find them all the time. Now, frequently I find a simple "Here it is. I finished project XYZ." No thought, no analysis. Simple news.

BeadKnitter was the first to state the other main argument, that lives change and blogs change with them:
Blogs change because peoples lives change. There are blogs that I used to read religiously that I don't even visit anymore, and new blogs that I new read religiously. It's part of the human condition. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same.

As for Ravelry being to blame for this, I disagree with that. The blogs I stopped reading didn't change because of Ravelry. They changed cos the authors life/interests did.

Alice points out another problem with knit blog successes:
Another factor is purely commercial. A lot of the most popular bloggers have gotten book contracts. Design details that might previously have been discussed on their blogs are now saved for their books.

KnitNut's Wool & Words,took the discussion to her blog with The KnitBlog is Dead! Long Live the KnitBlog! She mentioned another factor missing from many knitblog communities that was like ants at a picnic 2 years ago: The Knit A Long (KAL). I had noticed a decided gap in KALs on blogs, but thought I was just missing them somehow. Perhaps not.

However, in one of the clearest distinctions between her interaction on Ravelry and her reading/writing of blogs, however, she states (emphasis, mine):
The blogs I read are the ones where I feel a connection to or have an interest in the personality of the blogger behind it. I go to Ravelry to find the information I'm seeking about projects, yarns, patterns, communities. I go to blogs for people.
So lives change, the internets change, successes change. It all leads to a decrease in quantity or quality of blogging. We shall see if this is a temporary or permanant change. While Davis acknowledges her own blog has changed dramatically in the last year with a pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, I sense we all believe that eventually she will return to blogging obsessive series of posts on mitred squares and we will check back through our readers for every word.

What do you think? Have you seen a decided change in the craft blogs recently? Do you believe that other social media sites have taken some of the action? Or is it just life coming between the blogger and the page? And who are the new bloggers that are replacing those that have left?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.