Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Geek Gift List that Won't Break Your Bank

I know it's very close to Christmas, but if you're still doing your shopping and you have a geek or two to gift, I have a list for you.  So many gift lists for geeks are expensive and most people think geek and equate that with high-priced technology.  I'm here to tell you there are many wonderful things any geeky gal or guy would love.  Here are some.

Before I begin, actually, I'd like to say, in full disclosure that I am not paid by anyone mentioned here, nor have I been given any products.  Any products by these people that I own were bought by me.  I am speaking from consumer experience only.

1.  Let's just start with the Geek Toy mecca:  www.thinkgeek.com

They have an abundance of super things to choose from including t-shirts that range from $16 to $19 and cover every bent of geekdom:  manga, math and science, computer techie, gamers etc.  They also carry one of the most comprehensive inventories of weird and wonderful geek toys and gadgets like plush microbes and tribbles, trebuchets, magnetic cannons, slide rulers, office monkeys, I could go on and on.  And right now they have a Holiday Gift Guide so you can choose by price or category.

Everything you see here costs less than $40, most of it ranges at $20.

2.  I've never known a geek who didn't have a penchant for soda or USB devices.  How about a USB mini fridge?  These run in the range of $15 to $30 depending on the brand you buy.  Granted some people complain about the cooling power on these.  Here's the skinny, they keep an already can cool and are able to cool a room temp can but that takes quite awhile.  Let me just say that most of my codemonkey friends were getting their soda from a machine or the office provided cans in a fridge.  Keeping it cool at your desk = awesome.  Besides who wouldn't want one of these on their desks just to say they have one on their desks?
These can be found on amazon.com or thinkgeek.com or at many local big box computer stores.

3.  Speaking of soda.  Here's one that is so simple that many people don't even think of it.  Buy a case of your geek's favorite soda.  He or she will love you, I promise.

4.  Building your own electronics is pretty damn cool.  There are some basic tools you can get for this at very reasonable prices.  Take the multimeter - a device for measuring voltage, current and resistance.  Just this tool alone will bring hours of enjoyment for the electronically inclined.  You can get this in a fairly standard digital version for $15
Or you could go fancy for about $50
Or your best bet: buy them a kit to build one themselves for $20!
Check your local electronics store or online stores like www.sparkfun.com

5.  A couple of other great electronics gifts you could get are a solder vacuum ($5), soldering iron ($10), solder lead ($10), soldering iron stand ($6), head lamp ($10 - $20), MAKE magazine subscriptions (1 year print $35, or 1 year digital only $20), or gift cards to online electronics stores so they can build up their parts inventory.  Also, a lot of electronic geeks out there are getting into Arduino, check out some fun things using Arduino at www.adafruit.com.  You can buy kits, chips, and all sorts of electronic accessories for prices ranging from $5 to $100 or more.

6.  Back to the idea of soda.  Your geeky friend is probably a munchie junkie on top of loving soda.  A gift basket of munchie foods will be applauded.  If you're worried about the health of your geeky junkie, fill the basket with healthier options like juice, crackers, popcorn, they'll still love you.

7.  Don't forget coffee.  All geeks practically live on coffee.  In fact, let's just say that the four food groups for most geeks are:  soda, chips, coffee and coffee.  Don't think you have to go off half-cocked in the wind with your budget on this one either.  It doesn't take a giant 220V machine to make a great cup.  Bodum's been proving that wrong for years now.  As for espresso and latte, try stove-top moka pots ($10 to $40) for the espresso lover, or Mr. Coffee and Capresso both have machines in the $25 to $50 range that get high reviews on Amazon.

8.  For geeks that aren't translucent from being inside 24/7, you know the outdoorsy, hiking camping type, here are some great things you can shower them with.  A firesteel
costs around $12.  A self powered radio with solar power and cell phone charger costs around $35.  Or an outdoor kitchen set that includes things like portable cutting board, collapsible spatulas and spoons, small spice jars and s&p shakers can be found for around $40.  Or how about a set of two collapsible stainless steel wine glasses for $25 or stainless stemless wine glasses for $20?  You could throw in a bottle of wine if you felt inclined to spend a little more.

9.  For the girl geek specifically, check out www.etsy.com for great computer parts turned jewelry.  You'll find circuit board necklaces, capacitor earrings, and all sorts of geeky fun.  Just search computer jewelry, electronics jewelry or circuit jewelry.  Prices start as low as $5.

10.  Any geek loves his dry erase or chalk board.  These can be bought new in many ranges, or what I did was buy a used chalk board and repainted it with chalk board spray paint.  If you're handy enough, you could paint some board (chipboard or other appropriate medium), frame it and voila you've made one yourself.  Don't forget they need supplies for their boards.  So you could buy chalk or dry erase pens for great prices too!

Well, hope this helps.  Now go make a geek glow with happiness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten Links Tuesday and Poetry Friday

1.  Have you heard of the Elf on the Shelf?  I just ran into this idea the other day.  It sounds fun.

2.  I'm a day late making the Jello play dough for our Advent activities.  Oops.

3.  A word for Poetry Friday:  frost.

4.  Have you ever noticed that gift lists for the geeks in your life are riddled with rather expensive things?  I was thinking of making a geek gift list for those of us who love our tech-addicted geeks but still have budgets.

5.  I have done handmade gifts for the past few years.  It is fun and it promotes a less commercial side to holidays.  However, this year time ran out on me.  I'm becoming much more at ease with convenience as I get older.  Perhaps I am moving past that sense that I have to be the perfect mother.
(image found at MotiFake.com)

Which is nice.  Since I'm not perfect.  Seriously.

6.  I am off in search of Borax today.  We're making snowflakes for today's activity.  You know, I've never made crystals?  It seems like it's a staple of most childhoods, and yet somehow it eluded me.  So I guess today's activity is as much for me as for the twins.

7.  My grandmother always gave everyone socks for Christmas.  It wasn't the only gift she gave, but it was her tradition.  These were usually not your run-of-the-mill socks.  They were crazy.  I always waited eagerly to see what fabulous abomination of socks she would send.  I loved them all.  I couldn't let this tradition go away, so I'm picking up her torch and sending out some fun socks I hope are worthy of my grandmother's memory.

8.  Continuing with the sock theme, I'm making dino-socks for the twins for their sock gifts.  How fun is that?

9.  I have a Christmas playlist.  It sounds nothing like the stores.  Why do they always play the same things over and over?  There are so many great Christmas songs out there like Relient K's 12 Days of Christmas (believe me, it's not the traditional song), or The Feature's Father Christmas, or Barenaked Ladies' Footprints.  Actually Barenaked Ladies whole album Barenaked for the Holidays is great.

10.  What is your favorite Christmas movie?  I think I'd have to go with a 'Capra-corn' classic, It's a Wonderful Life.  But I would say that Love, Actually and A Christmas Story run a close second.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poetry Friday Word

Guess what's happening on Friday?  Sherlock Holmes a Game of Shadows releases.  Guess what we're going to be doing?  Having a date night!  Oh yeah.

And, do you know what else?

It's Tuesday.  Last week worked so well with the word announced on Tuesday instead of Wednesday that I'd like to do it again.

Let's mash up Friday date and Friday word...and use...SHADOWS.

There you go.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Poetry Friday: Party

I have three sections for today's post.  First a poem.



background music

hubbub in the room
behind the door
she flounces through
blatantly pink and sufficiently glittered
she holds the party
on the tip of her finger
her spellbound laughter
draws the room inward
she is the background music
the open window of air
they're all caught in her pupils
locked in to her
every movement flows
like newspaper in the wind

__________________________________________________
Second a photo montage.

Pajama Party


Dance Party


Cocktail Party


Political Party


Geek Party

__________________________________________________________
Third a video.

Philadelphia Story Jimmy Stewart and Carey Grant

(It was pointed out to me that the video I had posted wasn't working - use this link instead.  Sorry about that.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Name that Character

My biggest hang up as a writer is naming my characters.  Nothing stops me faster or longer than introducing a new character.  Suddenly it becomes paramount to find the perfect name.  I think about the character, what fits the image in my head, I research names on baby naming sites.  I have spent days looking for the perfect name for even minor characters.  My last manuscript still doesn't have a name for, guess who, my main protagonist no less.  But, when I hit on the one that feels right it sticks.  In the manuscript I'm currently writing, my main character had his name long before I wrote the first sentence.

In most cases, I don't feel comfortable continuing with a story until whatever character I'm working with has a name.  I had a name for my main character in the first manuscript and three-quarters of the way through the book realized it was annoying to read.  That's a major problem.  The last thing you want to do is turn off your readers with a name.  That goes for naming just about anything I think - a character, a place, the book itself.  I'll bet you've read a book that irritated you because a name used often enough tripped your tongue every time you read it.  Even an astounding book will suffer that way.

I've experienced writer's block for plot only once or twice.  This may or may not be a positive sign, I prefer to look at it as positive.  I usually know where I'm headed.  However, naming things just waves a red flag into my brain and stops the train dead.

I've been thinking about this problem and wishing I could build a repository of pre-thought out characters with full backgrounds and names.  The problem with an approach like that is that the character has to fit the story and incidentally the world you're describing.  It might work to modify a character into the story but that seems so forced.  Characters have a habit of popping out of nowhere and demanding to be given their spotlight.  I prefer to allow this freedom, it perpetuates creativity.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Wednesday again

It seems I have only time for Poetry Friday posts right now.  I'm busy busy with my Christmas to-do list, and enjoying every minute of it.  I just love Christmas.  We put up the tree this weekend and the kids had a blast putting on the ornaments.  It's snowing outside today and supposed to snow all week.  Could a romantic like me ask for more in December?  Doubt it.

(oops I forgot to upload this)

My husband told me last week that my poems are all sad.  This week I'm going to attempt to write something more upbeat.  We'll see.  In that vein then, I'm thinking we could use a word that at least leans that way.  Like party.  Yeah PARTY!

P.S. You may have noticed that blogger so kindly shows the date I post and yet my mind had so made up that it was Wednesday it completely ignored blogger's kind reminder.  But yes, today is Tuesday.  So the title of my post is a blatant lie.  For shame, for shame.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Poetry Friday: Sore

I'm putting up two entries for this Friday's poetry post.  The first is a short free verse and the second is a Haiku in the english haiku tradition (based on syllables).  The word for this week is sore.  

No Rainbow

Doctors diagnosed
Mr. Earth, contracted
Planetary Fatal Disease,
call it PFD.
They say it's carried
in the human parasite
causing sore trees and fevered waters
oozing of foul colored liquids
and onslaught of extinction.
Have you seen the sky burning?
That's no rainbow, that's radiation.


Haiku:

vehemence of faith
throbbing pain of a sore tooth
gnawing at their gums

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Word for Poetry Friday

It's that time again!  A word to use for Poetry Friday.  Come Friday, make a post, a list, a poem, a drawing and post it up on your blog, webpage, facebook page etc.  Then leave a comment here or tweet it using the #poetryfridayword!

What is the word you ask?  In honor of my excruciatingly aching muscles, the word is sore.  I hope to see some fun stuff out there.  And spread the word.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Tuesday - Ten Things

So I've seen this Ten Things Tuesday for a long time.  Thinking back, I can't recall having ever done one.  Well, why not?

1.   It's amazing how the idea of gathering ten random thoughts has rendered my brain incapable of having any thoughts.  What is that? (Actually, that's number one, that's what that is!)

2.  I tried my hand at making a tiered, layered, decorated cake this weekend for a family birthday party.  It tasted great.  It looked, I'll say cute, but I will never be a professional cake decorator.  I'll stick to writing.

3.  I've been grappling with my current manuscript and how dark I can go in a kids' book.  Neil Gaiman is a master at this.  I however, constantly question whether I'm being too bubble gum, so I let myself go dark the way I'm inclined and then wonder if I've gone too far.  Dilemmas.

4.  I hate peripheral noise.  I'm no good at writing when there is a flurry of activity happening in my vicinity.  I can't even listen to music with words while writing - most of the time.  I like to immerse myself in the story, it washes out the physical world.  But when the physical world forces its way back in, it irritates me.

5.  Holiday crafting is in full swing.  I've got 25 days of advent to finish preparing, and gifts to make.  I'm running late as usual.  It wouldn't be any fun if I wasn't rushed right?  Right?

6.  I have a wish list for Santa: a better year in 2012.  It's a short list.

7.  I might also want an iMac.  But I'm thinking the short list is enough for Santa to handle.

8.  It is raining.  It is almost December and it is raining.  I realize that by February I'm going to be sick of snow and counting the weeks (yes weeks) until it stops snowing and melts away.  But right now, my Christmas heart wants snow, darnit.

9.  We've opened the vault of our Christmas movies.  OK we don't really have a vault, but we've allowed ourselves to start watching them now.  My two favorites that we own are The Elf and Love Actually.  Of course, the others are wonderful too.  What is your favorite Christmas movie?  I'm always looking for new ones to add to the collection.

10.  The kids and I were reading some of our winter and Christmas books.  Here are a couple of great books to read to your kids this time of year:  When Will It Snow by Marty Crisp (which apparently is no longer in print?),

 of course Dr. Suess's How the Grinch Stole Christmas,

one of our all time favorites by Margie Palatini Mooseltoe,


and for older kids I enjoy Gary Paulsen's Brian's Winter.

Lastly, this is a book that is not necessarily wintery or Christmasy but it always makes me think of Christmas: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

Tell me some of your favorite books to read for the holiday season.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Poetry Friday: Exclusive

I remembered today that I used to post up audio of me reading these poems.  That was fun.  I'm thinking I might start making video readings of the poetry.  But for today, it is exclusively print.  Without further ado:


The Little Hammer


Here is a stone set on a stone
and a million others
building reverence where
men are still men.
An exclusive world of gray rooms and gray-haired
lords strolling in the confidence of
black.  Here is a stack of floors
holding all the sorrows of a city.
Here are the people caught
in all the nets of imperfection.

Here are the echoes of isolation.

Here the little hammer will fall.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Poetry Friday - words words words

I have my random word generator working as I type (read: husband).

I have been told the word for Friday is decreed as supercalifragilisticexpiali.... just kidding.

It is exclusive. Not as in only some people get to know the word, but as in, it is the word.  Spread it around.  Let's get some posts from lots of people.  Shoot me a comment here or twitter the link with #poetryfridayword (I've changed since #poetryfriday seems to be being used for someone else's friday poetry activities.  just so we know who we are, you see.)  Post a poem, drawing, honeydo list, prose - you can post up anything, include the word exclusive, post it on Friday and what do you know, you're in on Poetry Friday.

See you there.

P.S. it dawned on me that some people do not have blogs or would prefer to post up in different forums. Please - by all means.  Just give the link or tell where to find it.  Facebook, twitter, your own website, youtube video, get creative, heck make a commercial on the tele!  I'd love to see them all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Understanding Grief and Happiness and Guilt - The Soup of Defeat

When we first encountered grief, it was a state of shock.  It was difficult to breathe.  It was difficult to accept that people everywhere were continuing to do things like work, play, eat meals, have normal days.  That passed.  Eventually we started working, playing, eating and having days without feeling like robots.  Then I remember the first time I laughed spontaneously.  I felt foreign to myself in that moment.  As time has passed, we have experienced happy moments, good days, waves of sadness, the gamut.

It's the happy days I find the hardest.  During the happy I get caught up in the happy.  But afterwards, the guilt creeps in.  I'm not supposed to be happy.  After all, we lost something so big that it stopped our lives for several months.  So with the guilt, I throw myself back into the grief.  Self-defeatist.

I would tell myself, I should be happy, I have kids who deserve a happy mom.  But they are words in my head and the guilt monster has a louder voice.  So the circle of the soup of defeat spins around me.  Each time though, I get a little bit better at being ok with happiness.  Happiness and I are getting to know each other again, starting anew.

In the end, I feel that the secret to grief is two things:  surrender and forgiveness.  When I surrender to my emotions I push through.  When I fight my emotions it is merely an exercise in clutching to them so tight, they can only pile up inside feeding the fire.  Forgiveness, I'd like to write about again in more depth, but the main thing here is to forgive anything that guilt tries to tsk tsk.  I can forgive me, and thumb my nose at guilt.  If there's one thing I love, it's the freedom to be stubborn.  I scorn guilt.  I invite happiness to cross my threshold, I'll enjoy its visit if I can.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Idea Sought and Found. Two TED Talks to Reinforce Belief in Humans

Often times you hear young or new writers being advised to write what you know, or write the book you want to read.  Excellent advice, fairly logical.  But writing doesn't just happen because you know certain things or love to read certain things.  Something more comes into play.  Ideas, original ideas.  After that the work begins, crafting the idea, prodding your characters to come into the limelight, learning to allow your characters to tell you their story, to interact with people naturally.  Often these ideas that start a story are more than one idea that have collided into each other and that lightbulb moment clicks.  Aha!

I am a big fan of Jane Austen.  I have read all of her well-known completed books.  I love them all.  I enjoy period movies, especially the Regency ones.  But I felt I could never write a Regency period book because they are basically romances and there's plenty of that already out there.  I needed something more original.  This has been lurking on the back-burner of my brain for years.  I left it there purposely, feeling that someday the right two ideas would meet and then I'd have a novel in the making.  The other day, two ideas crashed head on in my brain and I sat up in bed feverish to get notes down.  (I most often have these ideas in the wee hours of morning for some reason).  And now, added to my list of books in the queue is a Regency period which will of course be a romance (my first attempt at that genre to boot), but I am hoping to take it beyond the typical romance formula, push it further toward literary fiction.  We will see.

As a writer, I have learned never to throw out an idea all together.  You would not believe the amount of paper scraps, leather bound journals, and random documents in the computer, I have scattered throughout my existence with the slightest phrase or inkling jotted in them.  I keep them all.  I revisit them periodically.  Some of them turn into poems.  Some of them blossom into short stories or full novels.  So, I believe, no matter how terrible the idea seems, keep it.  Tuck it away.  Let your unconscious brain do the work of mulling on it, even if for years at a time.  You may never use it, but it may catapult you into some other idea, or it may one day throw itself on a train track and derail another thought, blending and meshing into the aha moment.

----------------------------------------------------
and now for something completely different:

a TED talk I love.
Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity | Video on TED.com

I was planning to only post up one TED talk today but this one, you just have to watch:
Thomas Suarez: A 12-year-old app developer | Video on TED.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Poetry Friday Word

Wow we're back to Poetry Friday already!  I'm posting up the word today to give us all a little more time to boot it around before creating our masterpieces.

Last night I was staring at this art print that my husband gave me for my birthday.  I love this print.  It is quintessential Quebec to me.  Snow and children bundled to resemble little snowmen.



So I was staring at this print when the word FRAME popped in my head.  So let it be written, so let it be done.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Poetry Friday: Homemade

I'm feeling a bit rusty at the poetry under duress medium, but it sure feels good to do a Poetry Friday again.  What fun!


Good Intentions

She posts up her homemade pity;
she's taken pains to weave it.
She'll shoot a photograph
for her store front,
she holds it like a robin's egg
ready to be split and drained.
It's an admiring thing.

OOAK Pity Blanket

(she writes in all earnestness)

This is an OOAK piece woven
with all natural organic emotion.
If you look carefully you
will find a less fortunate hidden
directly in the weave.

(she picked this one out especially)

I'm calling this one Soup Kitchen,
as you'll notice the fresh
colors of poverty and strife
enthused with a warmth from
living in the open.

(Ah the greys, browns, and deep ochres of
shopping carts and old coats and setting suns!)

All amounts are in Good Intention Dollars.
Shipping to be calculated at check out.

__________________________________

***Don't forget to twitter your posts for Poetry Friday with the hashtag #poetryfriday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poetry Friday and the word is...

I consulted my word dispenser and he has informed me that we are going to be using the word:  homemade.  I hope to see some posts tomorrow with the word homemade in it.  Poems, prose, to-do list, knock yourself out.  Also, if you have a twitter account, tomorrow after you've posted your Poetry Friday post, twitter the url and use #poetryfriday so the word gets spread!  I'll be searching the tweetworld for you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Poetry Friday

I miss Poetry Friday.  So I'm going to do something about it.  Tomorrow I'm going to force my husband to randomly come up with some word and I'll post it up so that by Friday I'll also post up a new poem and anyone who wants to join in, just make a poetry (or any other kind for that matter, life is too short to be that picky) post Friday using the word.  See you back here tomorrow for the word!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

On Life Lists and Aging

I started making a Life List.  I didn't mean to.  It started out a short term goal thing, trying to move myself to action.  Then I stumbled across http://mylifelist.org and the thought of a list of the things I've always wanted to accomplish sounded cool.

"I'll write one and I'll get started on it right away!"  So I opened a blank document and put down number 1,  the thing on my mind in the first place, get in shape.  Then I blasted into the next four and stopped.  I thought a bit and eventually wrote down seven more.  Then I drew a complete blank.  Complete.  And to tell you the truth some of the things on my list are not all that extraordinary, but they are important to me.  Overall however, I stared at that list and thought, Jeez this is pathetic. I can only come up with 12 things?

I thought about when I was a kid and the things I would have said.  I realized that the list becomes much more constrained as I get older because 1) I realize some things just aren't possible, 2) I've achieved some of the things I would have written before and 3) I think I have forgotten how to dream big.  Forgetting how to truly dream is an occupational hazard of adulthood.

When I was 21 I remember being full of wonder and excitement because life was all about possibilities.  I told my grandmother, "I feel myself becoming a woman," and she smiled the most wonderful smile.  She told me she loved being with younger people because the world is open to them.  So why when we get older to possibilities dwindle?  They don't you know.

Check out this article about the life list of a seven year old.  Talk about dreaming big.  Maybe one of the items on my list should be to reconnect with my child dreamer.

What would you put on your life list?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Can I Lead the Argonauts?

I've been thinking about passion.  Successful people tend to be passionate about what they are doing.  You can hear it in their voice.  It doesn't have to be some lofty thing, or astounding.  Some people are so passionate about quilting that they make a great living out of it.  Some people are so passionate about programming that they invent new things.  Not only are these people successful, they love their jobs, they have fun.

Heroes are people with passion.  They believe with every fiber of their being.  Imagine Jason pursuing the golden fleece, sauntering through the countryside, whistling as he goes, tossing rocks and stopping in at every pub.  Not exactly the picture of drive.

I've been wondering if I am passionate enough.  I love writing.  I can't imagine doing anything else.  But am I actually passionate about it?  Life has interfered so often in this last year that I wonder if I am allowing it to.  I have begun to feel that living in a place where nuance of conversation is lost so that I have essentially one friend and three family members in my immediate surroundings to talk to, my own family in the wider circle, is this limiting my scope?  I wonder if my world view is becoming bent too far in the direction of the people I am able to talk to.

Is passion something like love at first sight?  Does it hit you over the head and you think, "Bazinga!  I know what I want to do"? (thank you Sheldon for the expletive)  Or is it something you've known all your life?  Is it a combination of the two?  Some element suddenly comes together with another and inside you feel you've found what you've been looking for all this time?  Or maybe it's just the act of sloughing off self-doubt.

I can see myself adrift at sea, not really rowing as hard as I should.  My little lifeboat sort of heads in a direction.  I wish for more passion, more drive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Becoming a Quebecoise Cook

It's not that Quebec is different than any other region of say, North America, or anywhere for that matter.  There are these simple, traditional dishes that you can find almost everywhere, but in each region they are done just a little bit different.  For that matter, each household diverges from the "standard" recipe as well.  When I first moved to Quebec, I spent a lot of fruitless time looking for familiar ingredients to make meals I particularly liked from the southwest region of the U.S.  Some of those ingredients are here, but let's face it, Quebecois are about as likely to regularly cook Mexican food as a country village in China.  My mistake was in holding too tightly to my food memories.

I did manage to make the things I loved, but many had to be altered.  For instance, I cannot find soft taco shells made from corn (or Masa Harina) here.  They are all flour based.  So I bought Masa Harina and thought, I'll just make my own.  Oh how I laugh now.  Not only did I have a dickens of a time just getting the dough right, pounding out and flattening and then pre-frying each one before even being able to fry them up for the actual meal proved far too intensive.  My stomach wasn't that picky.  So I switched to flour and though I still think corn tortillas are the best, I'd rather have my tacos than be prissy.

I think the transitive day as a cook living here for me was the aha moment of realizing there were so many wonderful dishes here that would be categorized as comfort food at its finest, and I could get the recipes with one phone call.  Duh.  Shepherd's pie in the states, in my opinion holds no candle to Pâté Chinois. Roast beef? Huh uh. Try Bouilli aux Legumes.  Sloppy Joes?  Nope.  Pain a la Viande.  It's not that they are fancier.  On the contrary, many are far simpler.  But all sorts of things make them so good.  Pâté Chinois for example is supposed to be made in a very particular order (as taught to me by my Mother in Law - who incidentally taught me all of these recipes, so they are bent to the particular household I have connection with of course.)  Bouilli aux Legumes is all about the right vegetables, the browning of the meat, deglazing with dark red wine and the specific herbs used.  I could go on and on and on.

Then of course there are the dishes that are just French.  You haven't tasted love till you've had a great bowl of Boeuf Bourgignon or big slice of Tourtiere.  I'm starting to salivate, excuse me.

I used to love to try all sorts of exotic dishes.  Lately, I'm in my "Aliment-reconfort" phase.  Bring on the butter, the mashed potatoes and gravy and don't forget the wine!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

School with a Learning Disability

School has been in full sway for two months.  We are finally finding our rhythm about homework.  Our daughter who has the learning disability (dysphasia) has struggled tremendously.  We were not able to get her into the special school for her disability due to a lack of space and her young age.  Therefore we (the school and my husband and I) decided to graduate her up to first grade this year even though we knew it would be difficult for her.  We couldn't justify keeping her in maternelle/kindergarten because she is perfectly mature for her age.  We believed that would have been even more discouraging, seeing her twin brother move forward and so forth.

The first two weeks of school were filled with a lot of tears.  Every morning, every evening, "I don't want to go to school."  This was a total turn around from last year.  Even though most of the time she didn't understand what was going on in her class, she loved school and wanted to participate.  But first grade is more academic than kindergarten and she is more self-aware.  Imagine that you are in a class and you cannot understand the teacher, the other people around you and you cannot express yourself to even let them know this.  Now remember being a child and the inherent cruelty of teasing that every kid seems to possess no matter how nice they are.  Yeah, that's a scary, dark place to be in.

So I met with the school and we decided that finishing all of her homework is not necessary (thank god because it was taking us about an hour and a half a night - that is definitely not encouraging to anyone at the age of 6, and who has been struggling all day all ready).  That the most important goal right now is to keep her engaged and happy at school.  The lucky girl has a team of eight people working with her:  my husband and I, her teacher, a learning technician, a speech therapist, a school psychologist, the principal, and a student who has been paired with her to help her understand what is going on in class and to help her socialize more with the other kids.  Sometimes I marvel at the beauty of people, especially in the teaching profession.  As if their jobs weren't hard enough, they go out of their way to spend extra time helping children like my daughter.  I am wholeheartedly grateful.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How Big are you, Baby?

I remember this Little Golden Book when I was a child called How Big?


Pictured here is the 4th printing, mine was the 5th.  Ah how long ago.  I still have it in fact.  My mother, bless her, saved many of the Little Golden Books we had as children.

My point.  I always loved this book, and this particular line: "And are you as big as your shadow? Now, Guess!  Well, sometimes no--and--sometimes yes!"

I don't know why but I was thinking about this today.  About being our shadow, hiding in it or claiming a space bigger than that.  A simple line from a child's book, and yet, it feels as though there lies a cavern of meaning.  I wonder if I am living in the comfort of my shadow when I am hesitant to write online, to put myself out there.  I find it rather ironic that I started here because I had such a difficult time talking to people in the real world, and now, the tables have turned.  Not that I've found some great oratorial level in my life, however people in general just aren't scary anymore.  Most of them are actually quite wonderful.  Excepting of course the strange drug like effect that driving has on us, most of us are decent humans.  So if online and real life aren't a match for me, where is the shadow?  How big am I?

I wish I knew.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Proof

I have definitive proof that technological devices are actually zombies:

1.  they decay faster than they regenerate

2.  their two main goals are to eat or keep going

3.  they eat brains

Monday, August 15, 2011

When the going gets tough

What do you do in the face of adversity?

I bake.  Over the last six months, I have baked countless batches of cookies, cinnamon rolls, zucchini bread, homemade breads, pies, cobblers, you name it. I probably could have salted everything with my tears - there's a Like Water for Chocolate moment for you.

I clean.  You should see my house.  Not only have I been cleaning and organizing, but I've been repairing walls and painting too.  Don't get me wrong, the house is still old and in need of tons of repair, but at least it has shiny surfaces and neat closets.


My husband and I quote movies.  We laughingly say that movie quotes got us through.  Whenever we're feeling especially unglued, we start quoting our favorite funny lines from movies.  Some of our best pick me ups:
       "Prepare to die obviously!" - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
       "With wove, twue wove" - The Princess Bride
       "There is some blue sky, let us chase it!" - Sense and Sensibility
       "I'm not going into the toilet. I'm going into show business!" - The Producers
       "If I am wrong, and I am never wrong." - The Princess Bride
       "Never go in against a Sicilian, especially when death is on the line." - The Princess Bride
       "But it's a talking dog!" - Up
       "Scott Pilgrim (or insert other name like our own) you have earned the power of love!" - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
       "Light bulb." - Despicable Me
       "We have to get out of here before they eat Guy." - Galaxy Quest
       "I don't even have a last name!" "You have a last name Guy." "Do I? Do I?" - Galaxy Quest

And lastly I sing. Very badly. Very off key. But I sing and it makes me feel free somehow.  I started out listening to the saddest songs including a lot of Damien Rice.  Then I made my Happy Songs playlist
and the sun started showing up in the kitchen.  Thank goodness my family loves me as much as they do, putting up with my out of tune embrace of life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pie Dreams

Craft Magazine just tweeted about hosting pie throwing parties, which reminded me of my dream last night.  I dreamt I was going to throw a pie in someone's face, but not just any pie.  I had a table full of different pies and I meticulously poured over each one making sure I chose exactly the right pie as the person waited patiently for me to prepare to pie him.  I don't even remember who the person was.

I wonder how Freudian this might be?

When you think about it, we associate pie in face as a joke, a lighthearted act of backwards camaraderie.  However, if you considered the actual ramifications of being the pie-er or the pie-ee, either way, it could be construed as rather passive aggressive.  You know how some psycho-professionals (not the kind that go postal, the kind that help the postal) say that expressing your anger is important, sometimes they even say having anger at all is important to your health?  I agree.  When we do not get angry, we do not protect ourselves.  I have lived this phenomenon for years.  In reality I was angry, but had trained myself for so long not to feel it that I would blatantly allow downright hurtful actions to be hurled at me.  When I finally figured out how to be angry without losing control, I began to understand the need to protect myself.  What surprises me to this day is how long that road has been.  At least 8 years, and I'm still working on it.

Back to the pie throwing and the healthy anger association.  I was thinking how insidious passive aggressive anger is.  I had flashed a thought wondering if passive aggressive could be healthy in any way, but analyzing it brings no discernible argument in its favor.  Passive aggressive is meant to be hurtful, I believe.  It is a sneaky way of jabbing at someone or something.  We all do it, on some level.  Too bad we don't have some phenomenon for being passive cheerful.  Then again, outright cheerful would be preferable anyways.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Many Happy Returns

After a long hiatus, I have decided to return.

I've had the worst year of my life this year. Honestly. And yet, I am happy, probably happier than ever. I've learned that every moment counts, every person I love is precious, and being an active member of the world going on outside my door is a must. I have largely shed my fear of people. I understand choosing happiness now. It doesn't mean I have to always be happy, it means I am always actively seeking that state. There are legitimate circumstances in life that will rob us of happiness, prevent it completely. But these forces cannot keep up their influence forever unless we allow them to. Not an easy battle, defeating the dark side, but absolutely possible. I've always believed in being a pillar of strength, protector for my children. That has been tested to its limit this year. At this point, I dubiously quote a former President, "Bring it on." I can't imagine it getting any worse, truly. I don't intend to either. I want my children to look back on the events that we've lived through and remember me as the bull-headed, smiling, singing, loving mother that got them through.

On the sunnier side of the street, my husband has a new job he is happily anticipating. The relief of his stress levels has brought a warmth back to this house that we've missed for two years now. We are growing and it comforts me to know it. An indication we are alive and kicking.

I'm not sure I'll have much more of weight to say here (then again I'm not sure I won't either). However, for what it's worth, I'd love to say something anyways. I have missed the uncertainty, the exhilaration of sending my voice out into the everywhere and waiting to see what pops into view. And though I guard my poetry mostly for publishing these days, I think I'll be offering it up again here. I miss sharing that too.

I've sensed a falling away of the blogging world. It has been gobbled up largely by a social media which I admit I frequent. But I believe the blog world still holds great value and I hope there are others still lurking around this place with the same feeling.