Saturday, December 10, 2016

Navigating this new reality...

What's the use?
photo by Mary-Lynn via Flickr


Here's the thing: I don't know how to exist anymore.

I haven't felt like blogging lately. Nothing has really struck me as necessary. I think I heard that coconuts are heading for scarcity. My Magic Cookie Bars could suffer, but beyond that, who cares? This is existential depression, folks.

I made a nice top that I actually wore once and might wear again. But who wants to see pictures of my sewing projects? Writing has been a pain in the ass lately; I could whine about that. But nobody wants to hear losers talk about losing.

Still. I think I'm coming around. I have these moments of brightness and during those I think, maybe everything is going to be okay. And then...

Then I remember.

There's something very wrong going on but I'm not allowed to feel it, or fear it. Most people are acting like everything's okay. Nothing's changed. All the same shows are on television with all the same dumb commercials. There's still football. The radio DJs still gab about stupid stuff and play songs. They're still doing the celebrity awards shows. Everybody's going to work and eating out and doing chores. On Facebook, people are still posting their stupid platitudes about strength and positive thinking and happiness and peace--like nothing's happened. Ricky Gervais still makes silly faces. Robert Downey Jr. still makes Iron Man jokes.There are still plenty of cat pics and videos. The stores are open and it's Christmas time. Amazon looks exactly the same.

Me, too. I've got the Christmas tree up and I turn on the lights every morning. I shopped more this year and bought and wrapped presents that nobody will appreciate. I've got the cookie schedule set and plans are made for a family to-do. And I try every day to be a writer and fail.

Everything is normal.

But it's not.

I'm not stupid, but maybe I'm naive. I mean, I always knew there were people who were racist. I'm even related to some of them. And I've known that there are white nationalist militias out there. And I've always known that a lot of people were uneducated and gullible.

And I get that Hillary Clinton actually won the election, by a very large margin. I get that Donald Trump isn't all that popular with, perhaps, a majority of Americans. And yes, there are other people out there as outraged as I am.

But that doesn't help.

Because, as it turns out, the racists and the white nationalists and the stupid people aren't just a fringe element. There are a lot more of them than I thought. (It seems I went to school with a bunch of them back in the day.) And even if they're still a minority, they've been given a voice and signals to act out their racism and belligerent ignorance.

Sure, the comedians are making biting jokes at Trump's expense. There are some op-eds voicing concern. A few journalists are trying to sound alarms. But it all reeks of normalization. It's all done so casually, as if we've been here before. But we haven't.

It used to be that I could exist in this world with the idea that most people are decent and good. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I can't live like that anymore. And I can't do it because most people are just going on about their lives acting like everything is okay and I'm muddling through wondering why nobody is doing something about this. This tells me that they either like what's going on, or they don't care, or they're stupid. None of those things are honorable.

I used to think Republicans were okay, they just have different views than I do, about politics, religion, finance. But now I see that they're not okay. Not at all. They're awful people--people who didn't see the horror of what they were letting happen. The people who voted for Donald Trump, or voted for a third party candidate, or didn't vote at all are shameful, careless fools at best, and at worst, despicable. People who voted their "conscience," instead of doing what was necessary to keep Trump out of the White House...well, their consciences are deplorable.

I can't go on smiling and pretending that the vast majority of people around me are good and decent, because if they were, they'd be outraged. No. If they were, we wouldn't be here right now. They'd have stopped this from happening. But as it is, we are here. And if they were good people, they'd be doing something and I'd join them. But we're doing nothing. Nobody is doing anything to stop this.

The Republicans in power are chuckling and shrugging and defending the most stunningly vile man ever elected President. Paul Ryan is giddy. And where are the Democrats? Wandering around stunned and bloodied?

I'd abandon my middle road status and join the Democratic Party if I thought they had a plan--if I thought they were worthy. But they're not.

Nobody is.

On the one side there are the sick people who like what's going on. They tell me that if I'm not happy about it, I should leave the country. Well, you know what? If I could afford to leave the country, I would. On the other side are people telling me that we have to figure out a way to get along with white nationalists. That's insanity.

It's as if most people don't see it. When they look at Donald Trump, they see something completely different than I do. They're gullible. They love celebrity and hubris. They want a savior. They looked past his misogyny, his racism, his cruelty, his pettiness and lies. I can't fathom what's wrong in their heads that lets them do it. Whatever it is, it disgusts me.

Everybody is telling me to get off Facebook. Like, if I just pretend it isn't happening, it'll all go away. I'll be able to ignore it and act like there's nothing wrong, maybe even enjoy life, like they're doing. I'm told this doesn't affect me. What goes on in Washington has no bearing on my life. I'm told there's nothing I can do, so stop worrying about it. I'm supposed to just go on as if everything is okay.

Here's the thing: This has changed me. It has seriously fucked me up.

I can't respect the people I once respected. I can't trust anybody to be decent and kind. I've lost what little faith I had in people. I'm trying to see the humor in it. I'm trying to appreciate the people who are as outraged as I am.

But I still walk around knowing that this world is truly as awful as I ever imagined it could be.

And I don't know how to live with that.










Friday, September 30, 2016

Eleven Things I Ate Around You...

Well, we did it again! We pigged out around the world. I think we went into this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with lower expectations about our eating capabilities. We just can't eat as much as we think we can.

As usual, I printed up the list of food by booth. I highlighted eleven items in yellow. Those were our must-haves. I highlighted twelve items in blue. Those were our if-we-feel-like-its. The plan was to eat all of our yellows first and only go back for blues after we rode Frozen Ever After.

Here's how it all worked out.

Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley
$5.75
1.
First stop, France! Au chante, voulez vous. Le purrr.

They did snails a little differently this year, hiding them inside a buttery, garlic-y croissant. Oh. My. Heavens. Delicious! And packed with the rubbery little suckers. See one in there?


Nom nom. That's French for Yum yum.

Actually not rubbery. Just perfect. 

Hubs ate some of the croissant sans snails and declared it pretty good. I ate the whole thing! The whole friggin' thing. Which, you might think, is good. But it's not. Because we have a list with a lot of things highlighted and we've got to get through it. 

And checkout that translation. Croissant aux Escargots is French for Escargot Croissant. Thanks, Epcot. I never would have figured that one out.

We enjoyed our snails with a guest at our table.




He was a tiny little thing. I did my best to keep away. It was a long, long way to the ground and I didn't want him trying to jump.


Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce
$3.95


2. 
Next stop. Morocco.

Chocolate Baklava!

Baklava is good, right? Honey. Nutty. Flaky. So, chocolate baklava must be heaven. Eh. Not so much. Not bad. But not Chocgasm worthy. The chocolate tasted like an afterthought, or as hubs put it: like it's not supposed to be there. His exact word: Abomination. I agree that it was...different and not something I would eat again on purpose.

This did not stop me from eating more than my share.


Garlic Shrimp: Marinated Shrimp sauteed with Garlic and Butter and served over Rice.
$6.95

3. 
Japan!

This year, at the Japan booth, we tried Garlic Shrimp. Like...duh. Just say garlic and I'm there. The shrimp was tasty. Mildly garlic-y with a hint of soy sauce. The rice was tasteless, however, and the bean...it tasted green and had a nice starchy texture.

More garlic please.


Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento [sic] Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast
$5.25

4.
Hops & Barley.

I am a big fan, a YUGE fan, of pimiento cheese. (Ahem. Note the true and proper spelling, Epcot.) So, I knew I had to try this. And it was pretty gosh-darn good. Nummy, I'd say. Even hubs liked it. The brisket was mildly tasty and the salsa atop it tasted fresh and tomato-y. The toast was almost soggy underneath it all, but still held its own. Overall, it was spicy and full of flavor.

I'd eat that again.

Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce
$3.75

5. 
Germany. Okay. Let me explain.

I'd highlighted in yellow all the yummiest dessert things that I wanted to eat and I felt a tad selfish. So, I also put Germany's apple strudel in yellow. For hubs, you know. A bone.

As we approached the booth, however, I was informed that apple strudel was not a favorite. Still. Rules were rules. (Rules are one of hubs' favorite things.) Apple strudel was in yellow, therefore, it must be eaten. So we ate it.


Once deconstructed we found our strudel contained yellow raisins as well.

It was...well, it tasted...healthy. Is that normal for strudel? When you go at it, you...I mean I, as an American, expect something like apple pie. Sweet. Maybe too sweet. Strudel...this strudel anyway, was not sweet. So, I'd call it wholesome, except I also think sweet apple pie is wholesome. The dough wasn't flaky as it should be...if you ask me. But hubs said it was flaky on the top. Anyway, I'd give it a bland on the food scale.

Oh, and I could barely taste the raisins, too.


Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
$5.50

6. 
Next stop, China.

We grabbed some black pepper shrimp with garlic noodles and walked all the way over to Norway to find a spot to sit and enjoy. 

I must say. Fabulous! Just fabulous! Peppery and garlic-y. The shrimp had a bit of crustiness to its outer layer. Oh, yummy. I wanted to eat all of it. ALL of it! But I knew I still had so much left to eat. We at least ate all of the shrimp. The noodles were heavenly, though. 

As we ate, a couple of Vikings came around the corner chatting up guests and shaking hands. They just looked like guys in old clothes. So...authentic vikings! But if you listened carefully, you'd hear them saying...nonsense: "Yar! Yarm arr yar-yarr. Narm yar, yar arrgh." Disney is epic, isn't it?


Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle
$3.25

7. 
Then we went to The CHEW Collective (Yeah, I don't know what that is, either) for some peanut butter and white chocolate mousse. With caramel drizzle. Oh, yeah.

It was good. But very mild. It looks bigger than it was. Here, another picture for comparison: 






I don't know. It still looks bigger than I remember it. I kept the little container. Figured I could put something in it. Paper clips, maybe.


Duck Confit with Creamy Polenta and Fire-Roasted Salsa
$5.25

8.
Then we were off to the Greenhouse Guru Hosted by Village Farms. Another booth that just seemed unrelated to anything worldly. I really like the idea of eating foods representative of countries around the world. I think Epcot might be getting off its theme.

Here's the thing with the duck. I had some duck in a Tur-Duc-ken once and loved it. But every time I try it in any other form, it's just not the same. I guess I have to have my duck marinated in a turkey and stuffed with a chicken.

Anyway, the polenta was pretty good. Like cheesy grits. The salsa was bland. I guess I thought the "fire-roasted" part meant hot. But it was just tomato-y. And the duck could have been any pulled meat. Very mild.


Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel
$4.50
Red Wine Chocolate Truffle
$2.25
9. 
Off to the Chocolate Studio!
Again. Off theme.

Here we got the liquid nitro chocolate truffle with warm whiskey caramel. And as long as we were there, I decided to get one of my blue choices: a red wine chocolate truffle. This was against the rules. But I guess hubs was pretty full by that point and just didn't care.

The liquid nitro truffle was like hard, frozen chocolate mousse. Creamy like velvet as it melted in your mouth. I liked it, even though the chocolate was very mild.

The red wine truffle? Well, I thought it was awful. I made the gross! face with each try. I thought it tasted like wine. In fact, it was as if every time my mouth closed on it, I got a spurt of strong red wine. I don't like wine.

Hubs thought it tasted nothing like wine. He said it was just really bitter chocolate.

So, what do you think? Was I just so prepared to taste wine and hate it that I did? I don't know. I really don't know. But. Blech.

Spanakopita
$4.25

10.
Greece!

I had spanakopita highlighted in yellow. Hubs was suspicious.

"I looked it up," I told him.
"So, what is it?"
"I don't remember. But it must be good."
"It's eggplant," he said.
"I wouldn't have put it in yellow if it was eggplant."
"I'm telling you, it's eggplant."

It wasn't eggplant. It was like a spinach pastry. Very delicious! Cheesy and flaky. But sort of heavy. Could be that we were just getting really full.


Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard
$3.75

11.
Ireland.

You know what that means! That chocolate pudding cake with the booze sauce all over it! It was bigger this year. I said twice as big. Hubs said more than that.

Here's a picture of last year's cake:





Yeah, it was puny last year.

Anyway, I swear it wasn't as good. It was as if in making it so much bigger, they just spread out the flavor. It didn't pack quite as much punch as I thought it was going to...as I remembered it. Seemed a bit watered down. But it was still pretty good.

And that was it. That was all we could fit in. We spent an hour after that in line at Frozen Ever After. You can read my post about that, if you like. And when we came out into the light, it was pouring rain. We made our way into a little snack place so I could get a much needed dose of Diet Coke and then...left.

I think hubs would have gone around again after the rain let up to try some more of our blue choices. But I was satisfied. And maybe a little sick. I didn't feel very well on the ride home. Many of our choices this year were very rich and buttery. And we ate more desserts than usual.

But I'm all better now. Already formulating my plan for next year... mwuhahahaha!








Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Disney, You could do so much better...

I would like to be entertained now...
photo by C.P. Storm via Flickr


Yesterday, we made our annual trek to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival to sample delectable treats that we assume are representative of the countries each food dispensing booth is named for.

But on Monday, we visited--duh, Duh, DUH!--The Magic Kingdom! That's right. The Happiest Place on Earth. (I guess the whole Disney World is supposed to be the Happiest, but the Magic Kingdom is still my favorite.) We'd tried to visit last April but it was so crowded we could barely make our way through the throngs of bodies to get anywhere. So we left. This visit was much better. Sure, it was still crowded, but normal crowded, not I-feel-like-a-sardine crowded.

I still remember, many years ago, attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only did they give us free (scrumptious) cookies and hot chocolate, but the streets were wide open and welcoming. I have no idea if the experience is the same these days.

But this complaint isn't about crowds, really. The park is going to be crowded because it's a great place to go. That said, Walt Disney World could do a lot better job at entertaining the crowds. A LOT better.

You know the old joke, right? You stand in line for 90 minutes waiting for a 30-second ride.

It's funny because it's true. Sort of.

The lines are sometimes only 20 minutes. Sometimes they're over 90! And the rides really do only last a few. It's so imbalanced it's silly.

But it could be better.

Look what they've started with the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, for example. The first long stretch of line abuts a playground. While one person in the group holds their place in line, others can play. There were honey pot drums, some sort of pop-up ball thingie, Eeyore's lean-to to crawl through, etc. And then the line ran around both sides of a honey bee roller coaster that everyone could play with, moving the bees up and down and through honeycombs that buzzed with excitement. It was great!

And then it became a line again.

Oh, bother.

We had a Fast Pass for Space Mountain and as we passed fastly all those poor schmucks in the stand-by line, I noticed there were some games along the wall to amuse them. What a great idea!

When we were at Epcot, we prepared to wait in line for the new Frozen Ever After ride. We started just outside the door and the line time was 45 minutes. Not bad at all, for Disney. Amiright? But before we made it to the door, it changed to 60 minutes. Still not as bad as the hour-and-a-half I was expecting. So we plunged ahead full of Happiness and bravado (and full of a LOT of delectable treats we assumed were indicative of food from various countries around the world).

The bulk of our wait time (which turned out to be about an hour and ten minutes) was spent in a snake of a line, winding back and forth against itself, inside a big room the walls of which depicted a Norwegian (we can assume) village from the movie Frozen.

This was mind-numbing, back and feet aching tedium. And as I stood there, trying not to look yet again at that guy I kept passing, or getting out of the way of people making their way backwards, having given up, or trying not to step on that poor child with more energy than can be contained, I wanted to be entertained. I could only look at Facebook on my iPhone so often, after all. I read an article about politics. Watched some cat videos. But it was all still very clear that I was cattle.

At one point, my husband and I decided what it would take for the Frozen Ever After ride to be worth all that waiting and back-aching boredom.

A water slide, a bit of spinning, real live singers and dancers, being snowed on, a snowball fight between cars or boats* or whatever we'll be riding, a Popsicle, and a Diet Coke at the end. That's our bar.

While the ride was a lot of fun, and I was glad to have been on it, of course it didn't live up to the time expended in a herd of bodies walking past one another again and again.

The sad part is that Disney could have done it so much better. Not the ride. The line! 

The line could have been fabulous.

In that room, that little village, there was a black sky above us. A sky that could have been filled with fireworks from time to time. How about Donald Duck sky-writing Disney film quotes for us to guess at? Large screen TVs could have broadcast shorts, singalongs, Disney news, behind the scenes tours, facts and trivia. There could have been a balcony in that room on which employees entertained and engaged us a la the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

That line could have been so much fun! All the lines at Disney World, especially the ones they know will be extraordinarily long (like, what's the deal with Peter Pan's Flight? We didn't even try.), could be...well, AMAZING!

You're Disney World! What the heck? Where is your innovation? Where is your commitment to your guests? 

You could make the stand-by lines so much fun people will look forward to the wait. You could really make Disney World The Happiest Place on Earth.

So, why don't you?



*Now, ahem, about those boats. You went through all that time and expense to remake Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After. Shouldn't we have ridden SLEDS? On the snow? And that warm mist we went through...shouldn't it have been...oh, I don't know...SNOW?

Come on, Disney World. You can do better.





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Try to remember without watching the video...

Fall, is it?
Photo by Satoru via Flickr

At the end of this post I will make a yuge announcement! But everything leading up to it is very important. I can't tell you how important all of this is. But it's really, really important.

Some years ago, never mind how long precisely, Marie Osmond sang a song about September. Hold on a minute...let me see if I can find it...aren't the Tubes amazing? Don't we just live in the most amazing--barring Trump--time? Ah, here it is:



This song really has absolutely nothing to do with my post, except that, as I was thinking about writing it, I remembered it. This song, I think, is about getting old and dying, or falling in love with...wait that would a May/December thing...not a May/September thing. So, okay, it's about getting old and remembering when you were younger and then...following...followfollowfollow as Marie says. I don't know...is she saying to go into the light?

Whatever.

(I so wanted to write "whatevs" but that's a slippery slope.)

It has been quite a September so far, that's what I'm getting at. (Egad. I just tried to watch that video and couldn't get through it. That was a long time ago. Maybe we shouldn't look back after all.)

The first weekend of the month saw hubs and me in Atlanta for the Decatur Book Festival. What a fabulous time! Seriously. I sold so many books I started to feel...like an author! Like a real author. Don't worry, I got over it really fast. Like, the very next weekend when we hosted a table at Space Coast Comic Con.

I'm not sure where the idea to try comic cons came from, but it came, and we decided to give them a shot. We did Nerd Fest in Melbourne last spring and it was a good time so we chose a couple more. The results were less compelling. I don't think our set-up is really geared toward the comic con crowd. Not at this time, anyway.

But...to get back on track...

I made clothes specially for the occasion. I decided I would be Chai (pronounced "Kai" whether anyone likes it or not) Legend, a character from the book I'm writing next. I got a few compliments on the first one, the one with the dress. I didn't get any compliments on the second, with the pirate shirt, because I didn't get to wear that one.

Here they are:

























On the left is the dress. It looks like super thin leather. But it's not, of course. It's fabric coated with some kind of rubber, I think. In the back view, you can see that I added the buckle to cover the mistake I made in the over-yoke, which I created because the actual yoke is too wide for my chest. (An expert sewer, I am not...yet.) And on the right is the ensemble with the overcoat. The overcoat fabric also looks like animal skin. Very cool. Here are the fabrics up close:





The pouch is a story in itself. I want to make my own purses and the hardware is really expensive. So I went to Goodwill and found a bunch of super cheap bags. Then I cut them up and saved the hardware: buckles, zippers, D-rings, etc. And one purse not only had this weird front filled with grommets, but it matched the fabric of my dress perfectly. So, I made a pouch out of it. It's what Chai carries magic in.



And here is the pirate shirt. Believe it or not, I made the small and still had to take three inches off each side of the thing, just to get it to look like this.




You might be wondering if I plan to post pictures of all my sewing/craft projects on my blog. Yes. Yes, I do. Anyway, I didn't get the pirate shirt finished in time for Space Coast Comic Con and I worked my butt off getting it ready for Treasure Coast Comic Con which was the very next weekend!

But alas, that con was rather dead on Sunday and I just wasn't feeling the costume vibe, so I never changed into it. Pity. I may just have to dress up as Chai as a rule when doing these author gigs. I don't want to have spent all that time screaming at my sewing machine for nothing.

(Not to worry. I figured out what the problem was. My bad.)

Okay, so September thus far has been exhausting! So exhausting that I found myself at Cracker Barrel on Sunday evening scarfing down some Homestyle Chicken and biscuits. Nom nom. I was so emotionally worn out that I ordered some of their famous Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake to go. I get it without the ice cream so I can eat it whenever I'm ready. (I was ready surprisingly soon after eating the chicken and biscuits.)

Anyway, here is what it looks like on their menu. Beautiful, isn't it? You want to see what I got? Scroll, my friend. Scroll.




Yep. I got home and opened up my to-go container to have a look and this is what my eyes beheld:



Wtf?

Don't get me wrong. I ate it. It was goooooood. But...I can't help feeling it would have been better as the solid, fudgy, thick hunk it was supposed to be.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It's FALL! Do you know what happens every fall? No? Well, I will tell you.

The Epcot International Food & Wine (who cares about the wine part?) Festival!


That's right. This weekend I'll be printing up a list of all the countries with booths this year and highlighting the things I want to eat and new things I'm eager to try. And as usual, I will be blogging every scrumptious and awful detail shortly after, complete with pictures!

I don't care if you like it...it's one of my favorite things to blog about. So, prepare yourselves!

And Epcot! Here we come!






Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Are we all a bunch of fascists, or what?

Thor, Cool Cat Patriot
Photo by Don Graham via Flickr


I admit it freely. I don't get the uproar about Colin Kaepernick and Gabby Douglas. I don't get the craziness over kids not being forced to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Why do people care? Are we a cult? 

I think that's it. America is a cult. That would certainly explain a lot. Like public schools and Ronald Reagan.

I have to wonder about people who insist that other people make these particular gestures of national pride. And when people don't show enough of said pride, insist that said people "leave the country," or stupidly worse, "go back where they came from."

Where do they think Colin Kaepernick came from?

My father married a girl (she was younger than me, so, yes, a girl) from Thailand and one of the things she noticed most when visiting the U.S. with him was the flag. The U.S. flag is everywhere. Boy, we really, really love our country. From very early ages, we are taught that this is the greatest country in the world! And when we get older, if we say anything negative about our country, a lot of people will come out of the woodwork like roaches to shout us down. (It's much worse in the age of the Internet tubes.*)

At the risk of creating a meme or Internet law of debate, you know what other country teaches its citizens that it's the greatest on earth and punishes anyone who says different? North Korea. Just sayin'.

There have been suggestions of racism in all of this. People are pointing out that Gabby Douglas was attacked for not putting her hand over her heart, but neither did some hockey players, and nobody cared about that. So there. Riiiight. Like anybody paid any attention to hockey at the Rio Olympics. Remember the Dixie Chicks? Yeah, see, it's not so much about racism as it is about white nationalism. Those white nationalists will go after anybody who doesn't scream "AMERICA!!!!!" with enough pride.

I have two things to say about all of this.

One. Everybody standing up and reciting the pledge or singing the anthem can get a little bit creepy. It was worse just after 9/11. I will never forget attending this podunk church fair. You know the kind where they outsource the rides and game booths to what look like shady, criminal organizations? The whole family was sitting under the big food tent eating our fair food when the DJ put on Whitney Houston's (Yeah, I think she was still alive then) rendition of the National Anthem.

And everybody stopped eating and stood up and put their hands over their hearts. Except us. I was like, are you serious, people? We're trying to eat here.

First of all, we were not at a ball game. And second (and most important), it was Whitney Houston! Are we going to drop everything every time they play this god-awful abomination on the radio? No.

Just no.

All of this outward appearance of national pride is surface area only. If people really had pride in this country, they'd be championing Kaepernick (Gabby Douglas didn't intend anything). Because he's sitting down for something he believes in. They'd be telling school districts to stop forcing children into ridiculously hollow displays of nationalism and instead, petition the government to start making our schools teach our children things they need to know.

We pride ourselves on being rugged individualists and yet insist everyone conform. We have to all be rugged individualists in only the pre-approved ways: owning guns, flying Confederate (ie: loser) flags, crying whenever the anthem is played, and pledging to the flag.

That's right. All of this protesting and doing things your own way is downright Un-American! Seriously?

This country was supposedly built on freedom. That's what they keep telling us. But then they turn around and say, "Freedom isn't free, you know!" It's like a lot of people don't understand what the word freedom means. And they certainly don't understand what freedom looks like.

It's so stupid that I don't get it.

Which brings me to two.

Respect. These people don't understand respect any more than they do freedom.

I was at a family get together where there were some old people in the dining room and these old people were lamenting the lack of respect they were getting from the yoots of today.



"Back in our day," they said, "we were taught to respect our elders."

And I told them that respect has to be earned. You get young people to respect you by respecting them. When you treat others with respect, they will respect you in return.

As an aside, this reminds me of the time I was visiting my kids' school and I saw the principal and another adult or two trying to talk to an apparently misbehaving child. They stood over him, demanding that he explain himself. And he kept quiet. Poor kid. Get down on your knees, I wanted to say. Get on his level. Show him some damned respect and maybe he'll talk to you.

Anyway, it's the same with nations. Don't teach our children to blindly respect and honor this country. Teach our children to question and to criticize and to work to make things better.

When you think about it, it's kind of funny that many of the same people screaming about Colin Kaepernick not respecting this country, are the same people saying that this country isn't great anymore and needs to be made great again.

If they can say that by supporting the "Make America Great Again" candidate, why can't Colin say it by sitting out the National Anthem?

Oh, rightrightrightrightright. Because they want to make America great again by restricting the rights of others and Colin....okay.

I get it now.




*You see, the Internet is a series of tubes.




Monday, August 22, 2016

Pigs N' Taters: not so much pigs, as pig-flavored...

The requisite cat picture at the top of the blog
Photo by amberaccb via Flickr


I like chocolate covered potato chips. A lot. Last Christmas, Grimaldi Candy Company, located here in Melbourne, FL, started selling their chocolate covered potato chips at Publix. I must have gone through a dozen boxes. (They should have more in them, if you ask me.)




A long time ago, back when Hubs spent a few months in Iowa for work and I visited him, and we took a vacation around those parts, I bought a piece of bacon covered in chocolate at some shop in the Mall of America. Let's just say I was more impressed by the mall than by the bacon covered in chocolate.

I'm a very big fan of chocolate. And a very big fan of bacon. But I didn't think they went together all that well.

Still, when I came across this chocolate bar at the Cracker Barrel* today, I thought I should give it a try.



That's "Milk Chocolate with Crispy Bacon Flavored Bits & Potato Chips."

Hmmmmm.


It's impressively thick and smooth.



It doesn't look like anything's in there. But it tastes like...salty chocolate, with a hint of meaty, almost smokey flavor. It was just weird enough that I only ate a few of those chunky rectangles before I decided I didn't want to eat it anymore. I think they should have gone for actual bacon bits instead of generic bacon-flavored bits (whatever those might be). But maybe there's a shelf life issue there.

Unfortunately, the aftertaste was like spoiled meat...so, I had to finish off with a Dove Dark Chocolate.



It was tough, but it had to be done.





*Here's a question--Is the Cracker Barrel restaurant and store any relation to the Cracker Barrel cheese?

Nope. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (which a friend of one of my kids once didn't believe contained a restaurant) is not owned by Kraft, which owns the Cracker Barrel cheese label. They have apparently been at odds over some meat products that Cracker Barrel Old Country Store wanted to market using the Cracker Barrel label.

Whatever. As long as I have chocolate...




Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Another rambling post by an unfocused bonkers writer...


Photo by Mon OEII via Flickr


Do you ever think you have no idea what you're doing? Ever feel like you're floundering around, gasping for air, like a big blob of fish on the pier? And everybody's looking at you, wondering what the hell you're doing and why don't you just flop over the side into the ocean and swim already?

No?

Okay. Never mind then.

I haven't blogged in a while because I haven't felt like it. That's right. I just haven't felt like it.

I did write a really long blog post about this puffed up buffoon. A little bully child-man. I really hate that man. I didn't publish the post. But it felt really good to write it. I might still publish it. Hugh Howey pretty much gave me permission. He posted this on his Facebook page:


I know there are a lot of writers who won't speak their minds about politics or religion because they fear losing readers. My position was always that, if you're the kind of person who won't read an author's book because you don't like his opinions on politics and religion, you're not my target audience anyway.

And it's not like I haven't ventured into controversial topics before. I've talked about guns and the Confederate flag and feminists and misogynists and other things that bother me. But I've also talked about roaches and bananas and Epcot and The Easter Sunday blood and gore Peeps diorama competition...

I write about everything and anything.

This is the problem with being me. I don't have any real focus.

They say (they...the "experts") that your blog has to have a specific purpose, something readers are looking for. You have to show them something, or teach them something. Each post is supposed to be focused on that.

That's why a lot of writers have blogs about writing. How you write, how you publish, how you promote. Some people have blogs about books, or cats, or food. So, you subscribe to that blog because that's what you want to read about.

But not me. I don't blog that way. I just write whatever I feel like writing and if I don't feel like writing, I don't write anything. It's like, the Internet is my own personal diary space. I'm shouting out, into the void. Here's what I'm thinking at this particular time and if you don't want to read it, fine by me.

Clearly, this is not the path to the standard rich and famous contract. But that's just it. If the standard rich and famous contract has terms that say I can only write about this one thing, forget it. I'm a writer. Not a romance writer or a literary fiction writer or a fantasy writer or a non-fiction writer. I'm just a writer.

An unfocused, undisciplined, stubborn, bonkers writer. Works for me.

I posted my Red Velvet Cake recipe over on my personal website, if you're interested. I'm almost finished with the latest Dianna Dann downer fiction (aka literary) book. You can check out the cover at the Wayward Cat Publishing website. It's called Bury Me. Oh, what the hell, I'll post the cover here:



I bet you can't guess what it's about. Go on. Guess.

I have three finalists in the Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. Bookish Meets Boy by Dianna Dann in the women's fiction category. Zombie Cats by Dana Trantham in the middle grade fiction category. And a flash fiction piece called Witness.

What's funny is that I only entered Witness because you get two flash fiction entries for the price of one. The entry that was my favorite--the one I thought could win--didn't make it to finalist. Wtf? I'm working on a short story now (and by now I mean it's started and I'll get to it again from time to time) that I plan to enter next year.

That's all, then. I'll get that post on buffoonery ready to go and slap you with it.* And I promised a post on sewing vs. writing. That's a winner right there! Everybody wants to read that! I'm not unfocused after all, see? That should be my blog: Sewing vs. Writing.

It'll only work if I can manage to tie in politics, religion, and bananas.



*I posted it. And then I deleted it. I can do that. Anyway, I just thought it was too emotionally charged. Suffice it to say that I really, really hate that man.






Friday, June 10, 2016

Sewing 101--a writers block diversion

You said there was food up here...


A lot has happened since my last post on sewing. I bought a new serger. I took (and continue to take) online classes. I created a pattern from a favorite tee and made one. And I've done some other projects. I'm going to show it all off now. Well, except for the serger. It's a serger; nothing special.

And next week, or in a few days, maybe, I'm going to write another post about writing and sewing, because they have a lot in common, as it turns out.

Anyway, there was so much that I didn't remember about sewing when I made that first project. I'd even forgotten about clipping curves! Now that I look back at it, I don't think I'll wear that top. It's almost too awful to donate. But live and learn.

So, my next project (never being one to start slow) was to create a pattern from my favorite tee. I laid the shirt out on brown Kraft paper (laid atop my cardboard cutting mat) and poked pin holes outlining the front and back. Then I connected the dots, added seam allowances, and traced it all onto some fancy pattern paper I ordered from Amazon.

Here's the original tee:


I think I got it at Target or Kohl's. Unfortunately, I cut the tag off long ago so I can't applaud the company that made it. It's so comfortable and drapey. I love it! And I want more like it. I was...only somewhat successful. But of course, you have to choose the right fabric.

Here's what I made:


It's way too short because, well, I don't know why. It was just not even on the hem and I had to cut it a lot to make it even. The fabric I chose was a very loose, open-weave knit. Sewing it was a real pain in the ass. The fabric kept getting pulled down into the machine under the needle. I was taking classes by this time and learned that I could get stabilizer to put under it to keep that from happening. I did that for the hem. Luckily, you can't actually see the stitching on the neck and sleeves so you can't tell what an awful job I did!

Here's a close up of the fabric.


I used the wrong side of the fabric for the facing and turned up the sleeve hems that way, too. But I felt like it would cut my body in half if it had the black line at the bottom hem, so I turned that under. I really like this top and will wear it a lot.

After that, I took this dress I bought from Zulily by a company called Aster by Fermiana and turned it into a tunic.


It was not easy! The lace on the bottom was in two long pieces. I cut them off and pinned them up higher and just, well, did my best. It's not even, but it wasn't even when it was a dress. It's meant to look wonky. The band at the top, across the chest, was a strip of lace, so I took some of the fabric I'd cut off from the length and sewed it on--very sloppily--behind it, so it wasn't see-through.

I thought myself rather clever by this point. But held back on draping and designing my own tunic, figuring I still had quite a lot to learn. The more classes you take, the more you realize how clueless you are. 

I mean, not only had I forgotten about clipping curves, I didn't know there were different types of needles and pins for woven and knit fabrics. I didn't even know the difference really between the two. I kept calling woven fabric cotton, and knit, knit. But of course, knit fabrics are also made of cotton.

The classes at Craft University and Craftsy are excellent! Right now, I'm taking Teach Yourself to Sew on DVD from Threads magazine.

Anyway, so I thought I'd make some more projects from ready made patterns, hoping I would learn more before I made some more patterns of my own.

This was my next project: 




I really like how it turned out. Of course, I couldn't follow the instructions exactly because I wanted to serge the seams and put the sleeve in flat instead of in the round. I basted each set of seams first, and then tried it on. If it looked good, I took it to the serger. Below, you can see how I learned to use a strip of stabilizer for the shoulder seams.


And below is just some serged seams. They make it so much cleaner and professional. You can see that I used the typical right side of this jersey as the wrong side. At first, I thought this was the wrong side, but as I learned from my classes, the side with the ridges is actually the right, or knit, side. But this top looks much nicer with the pearl side as the right side.


I purchased a twin needle for the hem, but when I tried it out on some extra fabric, I couldn't get it to not leave a ridge between the two rows of stitching. One of my instructors explained how to keep it from doing that--you make sure the left needle is just off the raw edge of the fabric, but that didn't help at all. Luckily, I have this cool stretch stitch on my machine. Another instructor called it the jersey stitch. It's decorative, and allows for stretch. I love it!


I'll try out that twin needle on some other projects and see if I can't make some use of it.

Another thing I did was make a cover for my sewing machine.


The cover that came with the machine is a hard, molded piece of plastic. I stored it away in a closet. I wanted something that I could fold up and set aside and put back on easily. I'm going to make another for the serger in a bit.

I'm having a great time sewing. I think the biggest lesson I've learned is to go slow. 

My local Hancock Fabrics is going out of business. They all are, though, aren't they? I've been checking in every week or so, collecting fabrics at discounted prices. I ended up buying a storage cabinet to keep it all in. By the time they close, I'll have enough fabric for dozens of projects! The only problem now is that I don't think I'll have enough room in my closet for it all. 

I also discovered this super thick blanket yarn by Bernat at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft. When football season starts, I'm going to crochet another afghan. It still won't really be cool enough here in Florida to work with yarn on your lap, but I'm certainly not going to do it this summer.

This is all well and good. I'm being creative. And I am still writing. I think I may have gotten over the worst part of losing faith in the whole thing and I've made some headway on my latest manuscripts. I think the sewing helps, but it looks like I'll be lucky if I get two books out this year.

I hope all of your creative endeavors bring you happiness, too!






Saturday, April 30, 2016

Guns, hunting, and stupidity...

GIF by Joel Telling via Flickr

(I apologize in advance for insinuating that you are stupid. Sometimes I'm just in one of those moods. But then again, some of the times I call you stupid, I really mean it. Oh, and PS. I have no clue what that "bozo" was all about.)

I haven't blogged in a while so I thought I'd jump in with something controversial. GUNS! (da Da DA!) and HUNTING! (ooh)

I was going to start by saying this: I'm not against guns exactly; I'm against stupidity. And then I realized that probably all of my positions could be boiled down to being against stupidity--a truly viral infection among humans.

TL; DR version: Guns are bad and you're stupid. Hunting is okay to a point, after that you're stupid.

You want to know what I really think? I think that guns should absolutely be regulated. A person should have to take classes on using guns (think of the jobs that would create), take tests every so often, both written and practical, get a permit, etc. etc. You know, all of those things vocal Second Amendment Lovers are against.

Guns are, to put it succinctly, which isn't my strong suit, deadly weapons.

<high pitched whiny shrieking> So are knives and pencils and, and, this spoon! I could kill you with this spoon right now! 

Except of course, if we stop to look at it rationally, guns are more deadly than any of those things. Guns are designed to kill and they kill much more efficiently than knives, bows 'n arrows, swords, and even hand grenades because they're more precise than hand grenades. I mean, you pull the pin and toss a grenade and people run and who knows what you'll end up blowing up, right? A gun? You aim and you shoot and shoot and shoot. You hit people you weren't even aiming at! Even cops make that mistake sometimes.

So, stop saying stupid stuff like that.

<pitiful, angry whining> Cars kill more people than guns. 

For crying out loud. Not on purpose. And you have to take a test and pay fees to drive a car, bozo.

There are crazy people in this country right now (like, out in the open!) saying that we would all be safer if we ALL had guns! These people are out of their minds. Look, I get it. Some of you reading right now aren't stupid. (But, what are the chances, right?) But you have to know, being how smart you are and everything, that most of the people around you are not the sorts of people you want waving a gun around. Sure, making them take classes and tests might not solve the problem completely (look at some of the drivers on the road, amiright?) but it would go a long way to help. And that's all we can expect with all this stupid running around.

But seriously, if you think that arming every citizen is a good idea...I just...the stupid is ripe with you, my friend.

My first point, then, is this--owning a gun does not make you safer. If you think it does, well, you're wrong. There is no way in hell that owning a deadly weapon could, by any wild stretch of the imagination, which is basically what you're using, make you safer. And it certainly makes your entire family decidedly less safe.

Some time back, at least where I live, wrought iron bars on your windows were all the rage. People thought they made them safer. Turns out the bars on your windows raised your chances of dying in a house fire significantly more than they kept you safe from burglars, rapists, and murderers. But the bars made people feel safe, so screw facts. (I think they've finally made the bars easier to get through from the inside, but as anyone who's been in an overturned car filling with water will tell you, trying to get the latch undone in a panic sometimes leads to death.)

In the same way, owning a gun significantly increases your risk of being shot. Funny that. And not all of that risk can be linked to the fact that people who own guns tend to be more violent.

Does any of this mean you can't own a gun? No. You can own guns if you want. (And I can see that owning a gun might be necessary in certain circumstances.) But because of their very nature, you ought to have to prove you know what you're doing before you buy one. Oh, don't worry. That's never going to happen. Seriously, if that didn't happen after a bunch of little kids were murdered in a classroom, it's never going to happen. There are too many stupid, ignorant, crazy, immoral people in this country. So, pull your panties out of your butt.

Okay, so we're clear on that. Guns are dangerous and if you want to own one, you should know what you're doing. I think it's really funny that people actually think they do know what they're doing with guns. They have these grandiose, wild wild west scenarios in their heads where they respond to active shooter situations just like the trained professionals. In your dreams, buddy.

I don't know about you people, but I would absolutely prefer to take my chances waiting for the pros than have you running around shooting. And when the professionals arrive, where does that put you? It would be funny if it weren't so scary. I'll laugh about it later, I suppose.

And I have to say, people who own guns and talk about them as if they are toys make me pretty sick. "Oh, yeah, I just got a new gun. You should see this beauty." Please. This is the same mentality balding old men have concerning their cars. Grow up.

A lot of people want to own guns because they like to hunt. I'm okay with hunting to a certain degree. I mean, I get it. Venison is good. So if you want to go out and shoot a deer so you can have some, that's okay by me. Rabbit, duck, whatever. And if you want to hang out with your hunting buddies and get chummy and hide behind bushes or whatnot and aim and shoot (like it's an even match between you and the animal), yeah, go ahead. More power to you.

But when you cross that line from hunting because you want to eat some venison and you'd like to kill it yourself, over to hunting because you like to kill animals...yeah, well, that's creepy. It's human, I'll give you that. But it's still creepy.

And if you want to go to some preserve where all the animals are put inside a fence so you can pretend you're a great hunter and shoot some, that's just sad.

But worse, if you want to shoot an animal for no other reason than shooting and killing it, you're vile. Big game hunter? What the fuck is your problem?

I applaud your resistance to the ethical evolution of the human animal--I really do. <clap...clap...clap>

Let me tell you, if I had to wring a chicken's neck for dinner, I'd do it. If I had to hunt a rabbit or a deer to eat, I'd do it. If I lived on a farm and had to shoot the wolf going after my sheep, I'd do it. But I would do it with respect, because my first inclination on seeing a wild animal is little different from when I see a puppy.

What is wrong with you that you want to kill the puppy?

Pervert.

So, there you have it. As with pretty much everything else, I am a woman of nuance. I don't like black-and-white thinking. And I don't like stupid. But for some reason, I like to write about it.





Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sewing again...like riding a bike?

My first sewing project is finally finished. It's been ages since I sewed anything. So, I started with this super easy pattern.




Unfortunately, I didn't bother to fit the pattern. Well, I did hold a piece up to my dress form and think, "That might work." But it didn't. I used the bust size on the pattern package and it said I should make the medium. This was my first try:




It was ginormous! I think medium in pattern world must be XXL. So, I smallened it. I took an inch off either side, and then went ahead and hemmed it. But it was still too big! I also didn't like the way the neckline didn't lie flat.

So, I smallened it some more, this time taking two inches off either side. I used one of my favorite shirts as a guide. Then, I laid the pattern piece on it, to see what size I should have made and incredibly, it's a tad smaller in the waist and hips than the XXS! That's just stupid.

I folded the neck facing under and sewed it down with some top stitching.




And, instead of redoing the hem, or fudging it to make it even, I just folded under the little flap that was left hanging, and sewed some top stitching all the way up. That was a wild ride. I actually sewed down the seam allowance through the armhole! All the way down the garment. I was really thinking I was a genius. I mean, I'd seen that sort of thing done on the sewing shows, but I hardly dared to think I could do it. But I did!






So, here it is in its finality...maybe.





I say maybe because about two inches from the bottom edge, on the front, it looks like I burned it with the iron. You can't see it really, but I can. So, I might add two layers of ruffle, or some other embellishment. It's comfortable, so I might actually wear it!

Let's look at the before and after, side by side.


You can really see the difference in size. The neckline is much bigger than the pattern picture above, but that's no doubt because I started with medium instead of small, and then folded the facing under. If I ever use that pattern again, I'll start smaller.

The only things I remember making years ago were aprons for Christmas presents, and one very easy-to-sew top. And I remember using cotton. I know I must have used knit fabric at some point, but I don't remember it.

This knit was difficult to work with! For one thing, I never used to wash my fabric before using it, but I washed all of them this time (I bought enough for a lot of projects because I had to go all the way to Merritt Island to find a great fabric store). So, trying to refold this stuff and get it straight wasn't easy.

And sewing it was a bear. It curls on the edges. It slips and slides. But once I got into it, I managed pretty well. It's just a matter of practice.

I really love my new Husqvarna Opal 650!




The only problem I had was that I was working on a card table and whenever I got going at a nice speed, the machine bounced all over the place. I've ordered a new table/desk and it should arrive any day now.

I went with this Samber computer desk from Sauder:




It's sturdy and heavy, and didn't cost a fortune like most sewing tables do. For some reason, I don't care much for the inset thing with sewing machines. (Maybe because those sorts of tables run about $400!)

And this one is longer than it looks--almost 60 inches.

For my next project, I'm making my own pattern! I know, I know. I don't understand working my way up. I'll take pictures and blog again when I'm finished with it. Knowing how long it took me on this project, it'll be a while.