Monthly Archives: October 2011

Halloween 2011 Update

We finished decorating for Halloween today (nothing like waiting until the last minute!) and got pretty much everything done we wanted to get done today. We put the green lights behind the hedges in the front of the house again because I really like how eerie the shadowy green light looks shining up on the front of the white house. We also hung up the new strings of pumpkin lights, set the tombstones up on one side of the lawn, and moved our zombie into the front yard to look like he’s coming up from in front of his very own tombstone. We need to get more lights in the front yard for next year, though, because although the house looks pretty good in the daylight, at night it is just a little bit too dark to really see all the decorations. We’ve got a big pile of glow sticks that will get us through tomorrow, but we need better lighting.

I’ve been wanting to do a Nightmare Before Christmas theme since we moved into this house three years ago (on Halloween Night, natch!) but we haven’t been able to pull it off yet. When Liam and I make our annual trek down to Disneyland the week after Thanksgiving, I’m going to take a bazillion pictures of the front of the Haunted Mansion to get some ideas of how we can make our own “haunted holiday” decorations, because how cool would it be to decorate the entire house October 1st and leave it up until January1st?

We carved our pumpkins this evening too. I picked out two medium-sized pumpkins to go in front of the two columns on the porch, but Liam picked out a strange, gourd-like one that is sort of yellowish with vertical orange stripes. At my suggestion, he decided to use the “Pickled Brains” template from the Pumpkin Masters book since the design looks like a brain floating in liquid. Unfortunately, the stripey pattern on the gourd made it really hard to see the design imprint when it was time to carve, so after he and I took turns trying to make it work, Grif took over and fortunately saved the day. It doesn’t look exactly like the design on the template, but it is pretty cool, especially with the color-changing flashing light my sister bought him to put inside it. The strangest thing about it, though, is that it smells for all the world like cucumber-melon body wash. I’m calling it the spa pumpkin.

Now that I know how to add pictures to the blog, I’ll take lots of pictures of the house in the daylight and at night and post them tomorrow.

Steampunk Halloween 2011

Our steampunk outfits for a Halloween party

Grif, Liam and I went to a steampunk-themed Halloween party this evening. I’ve heard it said that steampunk happened when the goths discovered brown, and I definitely fall into that category, being a big fan of all things neo-Victorian and goth. I didn’t really have a chance to cosplay goth much in my younger days because I was too busy doing the Elizabethan/Renaissance/pirate scene, but now that there are so many resources for neo-Victorian, goth and steampunk costumes, accessories, and ephemera, I’m having a marvelous time.

I’m so glad Liam and Grif like to play dress up with me because, as Winnie the Pooh once said, it’s much friendlier with two (or more). Liam and Grif have their top hats from Thomas and Shannon’s Victorian-themed wedding a few years ago, and they both look so dapper in their suit pants and collarless shirts. I bought an extravagant hat from Victorian Trading Company a few years ago (the one I’m wearing in my profile picture), and I try to build outfits around it and a gorgeous, black wool riding coat from the same company that I wore to officiate the same wedding. And yes, I wore the black leather bustier.

I’m still learning my way around WordPress’s bells and whistles, but I’ll post a picture of the three of us if I can figure out how to do it.

Flow

I am fascinated with the concept of flow. For those unfamiliar with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s work in positive psychology, I recommend doing a quick Wikipedia search on “flow (psychology).” In short, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

I’m especially interested in flow as it applies to the concept of time, which suggests that although we measure the passage of time in an orderly, linear, discreet, quantitative system, we experience the passage of time in a much more fluid, subjective fashion. When I’m “in the zone,” whether it’s on a walk or immersed in a knitting project or sucked into a particularly engaging computer game, the experience of time passing is very fluid to me. We’ve all had experiences that seemed to drag on forever (dental appointments, for me) and we’ve all experienced the old adage “time flies when you’re having fun.” That, to me, is an example of the fluidity of time.

During those times I experience flow, it is almost a bell curve-like process. For example, during my half-marathon training walk this afternoon, for the first mile I was sore, stiff, slow and looking for a reason to stop walking. My thoughts were generally along the lines of “I’m tired. It’s hot. My back hurts. I’m bored with my workout music. I don’t have anyone to talk to or walk with. Six and a half miles is a long way. This is taking too long.” Then, somewhere around the second mile/lap, I started warming up, settling into a rhythm and getting into the zone. I began focusing on my technique, enjoying my workout music, thinking about solutions to a few problems I’ve been facing recently, and generally not minding the physical discomforts of walking fast outside. As a result, I experienced a state of flow during Miles 2-5. Somewhere around the fifth mile, however, I started being more aware of the time that had elapsed and came back to the present. My noticed how long I’d been walking, how tired my feet felt, how dry my mouth felt, and a host of other small discomforts that disrupted my state of flow.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts and feelings on flow, especially how and when you experience it. If you’re interested in learning more about flow, I highly recommend my friend Sam Spurlin and his blog at http://www.samspurlin.com/. We is currently studying Positive Psychology and is one of my favorite writers/thinkers on the subject.

Upcoming Travel

I’ve been doing a little travel research today because we have a lot of trips coming up in the next several months. Since Liam is a competitive TnT gymnast (tumbling and trampoline, for the non-gymnastics-savvy reader), we will be traveling to San Diego, San Jose, Poway, Costa Mesa, Bakersfield and Long Beach for meets this season (plus one additional meet whose location has not been announced yet). We also have a couple of trips to Disneyland planned and several trips to Tehachapi to visit my mom and sister. We may also work in another trip to Sacramento over spring break to stay with dear friends and visit some local historical sites. Whew! That’s a lot of time on the road!

I am a big fan of public transportation and try to use it as much as possible, but it seems as though travel in California is specifically designed not to work with public transportation. I’m especially fond of traveling by train, but sometimes it just doesn’t go where I need to go at the times I need to be there. We’re currently a one-car family, so this gets even more tricky since Grif, being new to his job, will most likely only be able to travel with us on the weekends.

I enjoy the adventure of travel, but to borrow a line from Sesame Street, sometimes a wee, little adventure is just right!

Half Marathon Training Update

I walked five miles this morning and another mile this afternoon. Six miles is not quite half the distance of a 13.1 mile half-marathon for those playing along at home, but I’m right on track as far as my training schedule goes.

My regular walking buddy is recovering from an injury, so I walked by myself this morning and really struggled with it. Why is it so much harder walking by myself? I’m pretty self-motivated when I set my mind to something, so I knew I was going to do it, but I didn’t enjoy it. Some days the workout is easy and some days you just slog through it and hope you survive.

Normally, I don’t mind being alone. I’m naturally an introvert (I know, weird, right?) and don’t really need a lot of company or to constantly be around people. My walking buddy is one of my BFFs, and I enjoy her company in the morning. When we walk together, we can usually keep a pace of under 15 minutes per mile, but when I walk alone I struggle to make 15 to 15.5 minutes per mile. I’m not normally very competitive, but maybe having someone to walk with encourages me to walk faster. Maybe I don’t notice the faster pace or the distance because I’m so involved in our conversation that I’m not thinking about it. Maybe I need to get better music on my phone for when I walk alone. (I have plenty of upbeat songs, but haven’t figured out how to set up a playlist that only plays the workout-appropriate stuff, so I spend a lot of time the less motivational stuff.)

I’m definitely a quick-and-easy sort of gal, so maybe I just get bored walking laps around the same block for more than and hour. Whatever the reason, it is something I’ve definitely noticed and something I want to explore as I increase my distance and my time walking alone.

Glitch

Does anyone out there play Glitch? Glitch is an online game that Grif discovered many months ago while it was still in beta. It is live now and I’ve become totally addicted to it.

I’m not sure how to describe Glitch. It is an online virtual world, but it’s more than that. To shamelessly steal from their website, Glitch is “a web-based massively-multiplayer game which takes place inside the minds of eleven peculiarly imaginative Giants. You choose how to grow and shape the world: building and developing, learning new skills, collaborating or competing with everyone else in one enormous, ever-changing, persistent world.”

I don’t have a lot of time to play computer games these days, but something about this game keeps drawing me back in. Maybe it’s the creative artwork or the lack of things trying to kill me or the instant gratification factor of completing the in-game quests, but I am really enjoying playing and would love to find other friends in-world to play with. Let me know if you Glitch, too!

Blogging in a Coffee Shop

I’m sitting in Elements coffee shop in Camarillo right now writing the blog post. Is that cliche? I feel so hipster.

I really like Elements because it is a small, independent coffee shop in Old Town Camarillo. The owner is here every day and is the only barista (or employee, for that matter) I’ve ever seen here when I come in. The shop itself isn’t very big, with a few tables covered in butcher paper for drawing upon and a couple of comfy couches. I’m usually here in the afternoons during the week, and it’s usually pretty full of studying college students, guitar-playing hipsters, young adults working feverishly on their laptops, and the occasional professional-looking older person checking their smart phones. I’m surprised at how many people seem to know each other here, because almost everyone seems to stop and chat at each other’s tables about everything and nothing.

I’m envious of those who can work in busy, crowded, noisy coffee shops and cafes. I am always amazed at how Grif can read or study when he and Liam hang out at our local Starbucks. I find it hard to concentrate on my work in public places because I’m easily distracted by conversations happening around me and I enjoy people watching too much. Even as I write this, there are two earnest young men at the table next to me discussing their fledging business (something Web 2.0, from the sound of it), and what they’re talking about is infinitely more interesting than the blog post I’m trying to write. Still, there’s something about the vibe of this place – it doesn’t feel pretentious or stuffy or fashionable – that lends itself to getting work done. It has a comfortable, relaxed but focused feel to it that seems to work for me.

Elements also has the added bonus of being a short walk from Liam’s gym, so I can stroll over while he’s working out and get some work done too. I hate the idea of losing 4+ hours of productivity three days per week, and not having to sit on those hard bleachers at the gym all that time is a huge plus.

So yeah, I’m sipping one of the best cafe lattes (with a touch of Splenda) I’ve ever had and writing a blog post on my laptop while sitting on a comfy couch in a little, independent coffee shop that offers free wi-fi. And I’m okay with that.

Age Appropriate

I’ve been thinking a Iot lately about the concept of age-appropriateness or what makes something age-appropriate, particularly in reference to me and my clothes. Three things have really brought the issue into focus for me this past week: 1) I have lost almost 25 pounds since starting my new healthy eating and exercise program, and I’m starting to be able to wear some clothes I haven’t been able to fit into for awhile; 2) Now that all the holiday catalogs are starting to come in, I’ve been thumbing through them and getting ideas about how to update my wardrobe; and 3) I’ve been invited to a steampunk-themed Halloween party this weekend and I need to rifle through my closet to see what, if any, of my costume pieces currently fit and what I can throw together if they don’t fit.

I’ve always had a fairly individual sense of style and have never been shy about wearing what I want to wear regardless of whether or not it is fashionable or “in.” My closet currently holds everything from flowy broomstick skirts to thread-bare blue jeans to cardigan sweaters to fitted sheath dresses, with a wide range of shoes and accessories that (sort of) coordinate. As an overweight, broke, stay-at-home mom, I’ve tended to stick with jeans, sweatpants, t-shirts and sneakers over the past few years, but now that I’m getting healthier and feeling better about myself, I’m ready to start expanding my wardrobe and dressing a little nicer.

This is where I’m stuck, though. I’m 46 years old and not getting any younger. I know that age is only a number and I really don’t feel old most of the time, but just because I will soon be able to wear the same size and style of clothes I wore in my 20s doesn’t mean I should wear those things. I’m not ready for elastic-waist, polyester pants and sensible shoes, but I think I’ll leave the mini-skirts and 4-inch stilettos to the younger gals. I’m not ready to be old or look old, but I don’t want to desperately cling to my youth either. I’d like to age gracefully and move into this more mature phase of my life with humor, style and good taste, and I’m not really sure what that means for me right now.

I guess what I really want to know is if the leather bustier fits, should I wear it to the Halloween party? And if it doesn’t, what should I wear (that I currently own and that currently fits) instead?

Halloween

I love Halloween. What’s not to love? Cosplay, creepiness and candy are some of my favorite things! Luckily, we live in a neighborhood that goes all out for Halloween and usually has between 750-1000 trick-or-treaters come through, so to say I’m in heaven would be an understatement.

I don’t really have a theme for my Halloween decor other than “old fashioned witches.” My go-to outfit over the past several years has been my witch costume and since I’ve collected lots of witchy-themed items over the course of my adulthood, this is the one time of year I can put them all on display without frightening the neighbors too badly. (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, mind you.) But I’ve been thinking about going with a different theme this year and in the future. I’m torn between a Nightmare Before Christmas theme (which has the added bonus of working for Christmas as well!) or a Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead, for the Spanish language impaired) theme.

The Nightmare Before Christmas theme would be great for two reasons. One, which I’ve already mentioned, is that we could put up the decorations October 1st and leave them up through December 31st. The other reason is that, if done well, a Nightmare Before Christmas theme would seriously tweak the neighbors, since most of our neighborhood turns into Candy Cane Lane for the entire month of December. We have a big, white house on the corner with columns in the front, so we could totally pull off a Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday theme with the right props and decor, and I think we’d be one of the most popular houses in the neighborhood.

The other theme I’d love to do is Dia De Los Muertos. I really love the idea behind this Mexican holiday (death and our dearly departed loved ones are to be celebrated, honored and remembered fondly) and no one in the neighborhood is using bright colors, flowers, and grinning calaveras (skeletons) in their Halloween decorations currently. It would be a nice contrast from all the orange and black and it really celebrates what I feel is the reason for the season.

One thing I don’t get about Halloween decorations lately is how gruesome is supposed to be frightening. Dismembered body parts covered in blood are indeed horrible, but when I see that stuff I feel more nauseous than terrified. Why does gross equal scary?

So, if you’re trick-or-treating in our neighborhood this year, stop by and say, “Hi!” I’ll be the one in the witch outfit handing out candy, grinning from ear to ear and thoroughly enjoying my favorite holiday of the year.

Charity Knitting

I took up loom knitting a few years ago and really enjoy it. I’m not very good at it (at least, I don’t think I’m very good at it), but it is relaxing and the perfect hobby for an impatient crafter like me because I can whip out a hat or a scarf or even a shawl relatively quickly (i.e., before I get bored with a project that is taking too long).

When I first started knitting, I went way overboard buying yarn on eBay and now have a never-ending stash of acrylic, worsted weight yarn that I feel obligated to work my way through before I buy more yarn. I was looking for patterns online (before all the cool books came out with loom knitting patterns in them) and stumbled across a charity group that encourages crafters who knit or crochet to make prayer shawls.

The idea behind a prayer shawl is that it is created by a knitter (or crocheter) who prays for the recipient during the creation of the shawl and then blesses the shawl before giving it to the recipient. The shawl is intended to offer comfort to the ill, the infirm, the aged, the bereaved, or anyone who would appreciate the comfort of a warm shawl wrapped lovingly around them. The prayers, good thoughts and well wishes are, in a sense, knit directly into the weave of the shawl. The knitter doesn’t accept any money for the shawl, and is instructed to include some information about the creation of the shawl and the Prayer Shawl ministry (usually in the form of a printout supplied by the ministry). This is right up my alley because it combines my love of loom knitting with my healing work.

I’ve knit several prayer shawls for friends, family members and complete strangers who were recommended to me by mutual acquaintances. Knitting is very calming, relaxing and meditative for me anyway, so I found it very easy to hold positive, healing thoughts for the recipients in my mind while I was knitting the shawls. My only frustration was that it usually takes me several weeks to knit a prayer shawl and I’d like to be able to get them out more quickly than that.

I also found a few charities that collect knitted hats for chemotherapy patients, premature babies, and homeless shelters. I really enjoy donating to these organizations because I can turn out hats very quickly (baby hats can be knit up in about an hour!) and it is easy to use up small bits of yarn that would otherwise go to waste.

Recently, I’ve become involved in a charity that accepts donations of 8″x8″ knitted or crocheted squares that they assemble into wonderful, multicolored blankets for orphanages in Africa. The photos of children who’ve been orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic there sleeping on bare linoleum floors are just heart-rending, and an 8″x8″ square is so easy and quick for me to knit that I can almost send them an entire blanket’s worth of squares in a month.

If you knit or crochet and would like more information on any of these charities, let me know in the comments and I’ll pass the info along to you. Also, if you know of people or organizations who would benefit from donated shawls, hats or blankets, let me know that as well. I am happy to share the (loom knitted) love.