Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bobisms ~ Assassin's Creed

We are both seated on the living room couch as my dear husband plays Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, enjoying a lovely afternoon. Then this occurs.

Random NPC: "You can't go around doing things like that! Someone could get hurt!":
Bob: "Yeah I can. It's called Assassin's Creed. Not Some Asshole In The Street's Creed."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Introspection Forced by Abundance

With so many changes happening together so suddenly, a lot of things are being dragged up and dragged in to the background in a way I was not prepared for. Not a bad thing, per se, but it's a bad time to need introspection with all of the hoorah going on.
A new house! We found one, we bid on it, we got it a week later (on Bob's b'day, of all things. And we move in the day before Xmas eve, so I'm hoping you'll pardon me if I think all of this seems very auspicious.) and now we are packing madly and transferring things over. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt if Bob were not here to handle this that we would already be 3 months behind in paperwork, packing and switching utilities over. Introspective moment #1? I am never going to be a competent adult. I had to marry one to get my life in gear. It's sad, but it's what I am. And there's a chance I may yet learn my way out of it, so I'm not despondent over it.
I also was officially hired by the place I've been contracting at... it made for a MUCH better raise in pay, nice benefits, and I will get to have paid vacation. I miss paid vacation. Should I find myself pregnant suddenly I will also have maternity leave. So that's nice. Downside to that? I will be moving to second shift, which brought me to introspective moment #2. I always thought I was somewhat distant. Friendly, pleasant, but distant. I didn't think I got attached to people and that people didn't really notice or get attached to me. With news that I was hired I was shocked at the number of people who came up to shake my hand and congratulate me. I was also surprised at the number of people disappointed that I'd be leaving, and how excited the people on 2nd shift seemed to have me coming to join them. (Although having seen them cheer at someone's arrival after trashing them for 10 minutes prior, I am dubious as to the truth of that reaction.) I didn't meant to, and I went and got attached to people who could leave at any minute or be switched around. In fact, I got attached to people that I'm not even sure would bother to keep in touch with me if I moved on. And I can't help but think that this is how I get hurt, because I decide to like people and somehow disappointment strikes and stabs me. But then, hiding out in one's house leads to loneliness and trolldom and the inability to remember how to interact with the rest of your species. I have failed walking the fine line. Or perhaps been brave and stepped over it, we'll see.
Introspective moment #3. How good is my intuition?? There was someone that I enjoyed talking to, though it happened infrequently. Then suddenly it stopped. And I can't help but feeling a little bit... dare I say hurt? That's what it feels like. They just stopped. No idea why, either, as I can't pick anything up off of them. I thought they seemed friendly enough. In fact, I thought they were probably a pretty nice person. Now I'm doubting what little I picked up, and it has me wondering just how wrong I am about other things I pick up off of people. I suck at talking with people, so the ability hear what they're saying in between the words is vitally important. I find the doubting of that very, very necessary ability to be causing me a bit of a mental crisis. And if I pissed them off or offended them, I'd really like to be able to apologize. For now I'm just trying to write them off as another person that will fall in to the shadows that I hoped might become a friend. Such things suck. Not trusting your intuition? Sucks.
And the other night (and the final introspection, I believe) I was getting dressed to go out to dinner as a celebration for my new job. I was in high heels. I was in a nice dress. I had on earrings, and bracelets, and my hair was styled. And when I looked in the mirror I realized that a few short years ago I couldn't even have conceived of walking in to as nice a place as the one we were going. I would have fought against the high heels, snorted at the dress, and tried to get away with pants and a sweater. The contrast between the girl who just wanted to be in a T-shirt and jeans every day and the face looking back at me was a shock. I wondered if I had somehow "gone soft", that the hard living girl of the teens and 20's had folded under the comforts of a stable place with money. I haven't tasted ramen in years. I have enough to get new jeans before I can wear holes in to them now. I put on makeup, I fuss with my hair. This is not the girl that used to get in bar fights up on Capitol Hill on the weekends and walked away bruised and grinning. This isn't the girl that collected cans out of the trash to afford the aforementioned ramen every day just so she had something to eat.
I don't know why this bothers me. I guess I had so much emotionally invested in that image, in that tough girl that could survive anything, that realizing she's been peeled away with no solid thing to replace it makes me feel ghostlike. What am I now? A wife, an artist, a fixer of computer problems? Am I domesticated? Will I wile away my time in suburbia birthing offspring and having Tupperware parties to the point of spiritual suicide? Or am I wild enough to transform the thing that wore steel toed boots and a nose ring in to something more refined, perhaps subtler and more dangerous for the subtlety in a purely wit-tastic way. Do I have it in me to find the subversive among the suburban and not become a tame member of WASP-y middle class America? And perhaps more importantly, do I want to? Do I need to?
I've seen what it's like to NOT do things the mainstream way. I've lived the consequences. I'm 10 years behind others of my generation in getting in to this whole game as a by-product. Thankfully there's no huge penalty for that, simply the loss of time. Is this way better, or just different? It makes me wonder.
The feeling is compounded as I go over things from my childhood and college, locked in our garage and awaiting tossing or transport to the new place. It's painful to look back at the girl I was at times. I know she was necessary, formative. But the drawings, the poems, the notes to friends that I still remember the answers to, all feel fresh. The same would happen if I still had anything from my days in Seattle, I'm sure. I would wince at that angry, angry thing pierced up to high heaven and wanting to prove she couldn't be hurt. But she, too, was formative.
Perhaps it's just evolution. Perhaps eventually we are what we didn't think we would be as a matter of course. Perhaps what we were makes peace and seeps through the edges of things when its needed for our survival and learning. In the end, it doesn't matter how it falls. I am here and it is now.
This girl wears dresses and lipstick. She is soft, allows herself to be hurt for the sake of feeling. She draws and paints and for the most part isn't afraid to be the free-spirit in the art she wants to create. But she is certainly not what I thought I would become a decade ago.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Actual Conversation #102- Wherein dealing with family issues is not really addressed.

Me: "I can't remember the last time I was this drunk."
Bob: "That's okay, you won't remember this time either."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bobisms ~ Applying Smoke to Bees for Transport

Bob on transporting insects to a new hive: "Officer, we are hotboxing bees here. Everything's fine."

Bobisms ~ Roadtrip Scenery

Bob, while driving: "More cows. Slow moving fat locusts of the hills..."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Actual Conversation #101 - Internet memes are exercised.

We are standing in the kitchen while I am packing up for my work day, when I slide my purse in to my messenger bag and decide to make verbal note of the ridiculousness of the gesture.
Me: It's just a fun little mini=game.
*Bob pauses*
Bob: You dawg, I heard you like bags....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mustard Seed

A long time ago there was a woman by the name of Kisa Gotami. Stories vary on who she was or where she came from, but this is what happened next - she married and gave birth to a baby boy that gave her great joy.
In time the boy grew and she delighted in him like no other thing. But one day the boy grew ill and died. In her grief, Kisa Gotami could not accept this and began to travel from house to house begging her neighbors for medicine to cure him.
No one, of course, had this medicine. They sent her away telling her this, but again her grief was so deep she could not comprehend. Finally she came to a doctor who realized what was occuring. He said to her "Go see the Buddha. He will have what you need."
She thanked him and hurried off, carrying the body of her dead son.
Buddha saw her approaching and knew immediately of her great suffering. He listened to her as she begged him to bring her child back to life, provide her with some medicine to cure him. Knowing that death was not reversible, he set her to the following task-
"Go find for me a mustard seed, and I will heal your child. But it must come from a household where no one has died or it will not work."
She eagerly did so, traveling from house to house within her village. Each door that she visited revealed that this household and that household had all experienced a death. She then traveled further to other nearby villages to beg for the same miraculous mustard seed. And every time was the same, with each household explaining that it had known death in some form.
After a time Kisa Gotami realized that there was nowhere that she could go to ask for a mustard seed that death had not touched. Thus enlightened, she returned to the Buddha at peace with the death of her son and began to study the Buddha's teachings.

Today a friend of mine died unexpectedly, and not for any of the reasons we feared she might, having been ill for quite some time with several ailments. It is most assuredly a shock to the system and one that I am still processing. I suspect she is probably just fine in Whatever Comes Next and it is us left behind having the most hard time of things. But in the meantime each time I begin to feel overwhelmed, or the thought "It isn't fair" crosses my mind, I will try to picture a tiny mustard seed, and gain comfort that this is the one common experience we all have. Everybody knows loss and death. This is not unique and we will live through it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Actual Conversation #100 -wherein lifetime accumulations of words are covered.

Bob: I found this website that tests your vocabulary. It says that I know 29,000. You need to take this, I want to know what you get.
Me: What's the website?
Bob: testyourvocab.com.
Me: Okay, one sec.
Me: Is there a "select all" button for this first part?
Bob: *chuckle*
*still testing*
*Bob looks over shoulder*
Me: Crap. What does 'strop' mean? Now I gotta look that up.
Bob: AFTER the test!
Bob: What the heck does inveigle mean?? How do you know that??
Me: It means to make stuff vague.
*testing, hits submit*
*mutual blink*
Bob: 36,200 words??
*I blink again*
Me; I has wordz!
Bob: Bob read good, but Helen read gooder!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm not dead yet! (...again?)

Though I have not been making entries, I HAVE been working on this trying to keep it going. It’s been long enough, however, that I could not give a detailed littany of what was done for every week. I just know that when I lose track of things I tend to over-compensate by doing them far more often, and I’m probably good until the end of the year in terms of good deeds at this point.
Every chance I have gotten I have dropped $1-$2 on the “hey, while you’re buying something from eBay, donate to a good cause!” thing they have going on at Paypal. I like that. I don’t have to balk at giving out a HUGE chunk of change, and I know they’re working the crowd-sourcing thing so chances are a lot of those charities are getting a great deal of funding. That sort of thing makes me happy. They’re like Kiva loans. :)
I’ve also done more in terms of cleaning up and donating (I found a bunch of old purses and shoes that could go to other homes) as well as funded a few more little things on Kickstarter. And, of course, the ubiquitous being nice in traffic trick that I try to practice nearly every day since I know the other commuters around me are very stressed.
I have on my plate to gather up and give a donation to the Shakespeare Theatre of Philly’s summer education program, as they recently delighted the hell out of me with their production of A Comedy of Errors. I look forwqrd to being able to help fund that.
All in all I think that the hidden agenda of this goal to make me more mindful of the needs of others and responsive to them even if it is just in some small way is accomplished. I have become infinitely more compassionate and willing to just wait half a second in line if it means someone who looks very stressed out gets to go through the line faster. It also means that I am far more aware of when acts of kindness are done towards me. I not only feel like I’m a better person for doing this, I feel like a happier person. And I like to think that those around me also experience side benefits from this.
In fact, I’m going to go set myself a new goal, as a sub-set off of this… to be a Vector of Awesome. It seems like an equally good goal, and one that could be applied in multiple circumstances. _

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Creative Mind at Work

...or perhaps at mid-stall, depending on how you look at things.
I just wanted to show what my art desk looks like about once every 2 weeks before I go insane and clean it off... NOW with shiny, happy labels to document everything on there!
I'm sorta hoping this proves to people I really am doing work... I mean, if I can be in the middle of THAT many projects....right?

I hope to have this littered with sketches and character studies in the upcoming months. My brain has finally released the poor Muse in charge of the written word in my head and the rest of the story line for the 1st story arc is pouring in to my head with the ferocity of.... a lot of stuff pouring very fast. I am thrilled, because now I can begin to focus on research again on what I know I don't know... and watch police crime dramas. No seriously. THIS IS FOR RESEARCH PEOPLE.
I love my second job. ^_^

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Fine Frenemy You Are...

Things are moving along, if for no other reason than sheer force of will fueled by adrenaline that seeps out every time I have a panic attack thinking about what I'm about to do.
Mostly I keep thinking WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING TRYING THIS?!?! and then I realize... well... I'm trying to do something I love. And that calms my nerves for a bit. But then I remember that I'm the only one running this sideshow, and my heart skips a few beats faster and I start to think about getting behind deadlines I haven't even set for myself yet and and and.....
Last night I bought the website. I'm trying to negotiate with some of my many lovely coding friends to create something for me to use. The last time I tried to do this, husband dear did a lovely job putting together something for the Zombie Nation comic. But I simply cannot put him through that again. We'll see what I can wrangle. I know some pretty awesome people, after all.
It has become more important as of late to work on scripting (first iteration's story arc MUST be done in 8 days... no pressure) as I wanted to have 20 pages drawn, with 5-10 to upload immediately for the purpose of establishing the story. I finally sat down, looked at a calendar, and decided that would be November 1st. So as of November 1st, I want to have 20 pages ready to go. I keep saying 30, but really if I have 20 ready to go I'll be more than thrilled with the whole thing. The struggle will be to keep that 5-week lead going and churning more out to cover for when I do things like go to convention season, something I'm planning on doing (at least one or two, to see what they're like and teach myself the ropes)
It truly has become like a second job, and while I love it, it is most certainly stressful. I have to script, read up about police procedures because THE FIRST THING in my comic involves a crime scene, and go through and practice on everything I'm discovering I have serious problems with. Profiles for one. Keeping faces looking the same no matter what angle the head is tilted at. You know, important things that make or break the art on a story. Nothing big.
I've got my fingers crossed and my hopes up. So far things are going along slowly but surely and I am watching myself commit the wonder of Improved Learning Under Time Constraints that has saved me on several occasions.
I've decided I'll only be releasing pages Tuesday and Friday, giving me a minimum of 3 days to work on each page. If I have the script done, if I have the pencils down and if I have the ink ready to go, then it will all fall in to place. I just have to keep working at all of this and forgive myself for the learning bumps ahead.
On that note, I am starving and there are sour cream and onion chips downstairs. I claim them for Spain. Or, well, for me really.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Actual Conversation #99 - Wherein Kissin' Cousins are discussed

(For any of you that have actually seen Superman/Batman Apocalypse, this rides on the heels of my watching that last week...)

Me: It was just inappropriate! Kara-El is in bed in a little nightgown and Superman is sitting there on the bed looking down at her lovingly... then she reaches up and caresses his face cuz he's hurt! And it wasn't a little caress, it was like... sex face! You can't do that! He's your COUSIN! THIS IS NOT ALABAMA!
Bob: Well, maybe on Krypton that kind of thing is okay....
Me; They were on THEMYSCIRA.
Bob: *pauses* ....was it Southern Themyscira?


As of late I have been ingesting what one might see as a high level of comics and cartoons in the vein of DC, Marvel and other graphic novel makers. I have read I don't know how many disjointed Wonder Woman story lines I now have in my head, and the Ultimate Avengers have strangely fascinated me yet pissed me off in their rendition of story. I'm now up to date on the in-universe origin story of Firestar, and I'm well aware that Batman started out not as an ass-kicking crime fighter but as a detective. The boy wonder was not in original danger because he was there for sleuthing, not pwning.
I have consumed news about the comics industry (including that stupid fiasco about there not being enough women working on the Batgirl thing. Or the relaunch thing. Or whatever it all is. Like I said, I've read a LOT of stuff and I'm not really retaining it at this point.) and with SDCC having just occured along with ChicagoCon on its tail, there has been a LOT of news to digest.
Needless to say, I sorta hit my overload point on the way home today with my husband. I sort of, how shall we say? Exploderated. Badly.
Let it be stated here that I have never claimed to be, nor will I ever be so foolish in teh future as to make the claim, that I am any sort of expert on the subject of comics. Yours truly for years only read Cry for Dawn, Death and Sandman. There was a touch of Lady Death and Spawn followed by some hard core time with Witchblade and the Darkness, but for the most part I have not been privy to the voracity with which people bark about Marvel vs. DC, nor have I taken up in their camps. I simply don't know enough. I didn't really grow up with these things the way others had, and I understand I'm at a loss. To look at the tangle of story lines, cross-overs, offshoots and ret-cons I know that I will never EVER EVER EVER have a full grasp of any universe out there.
Pretty much I just know I love Iron Man, Wonderwoman, Batman and Firestar. Death is my hero. And if I ever get skinny enough, I am going to cosplay the ever-livin' hell out of Dawn. That's good enough for me.
Which is why, when I suddenly launched in to a conversation about all the inconsistencies I saw in the Avengers cartoons I'd been watching, that the floodgates spilled forth and I spent 30 minutes just ranting and spewing out inconsistencies and strangeness that I had come across in the past 3 weeks. 30 minutes. My voice rose, and is, in fact, still sore from me complaining about a particular panel where Wonderwoman from Earth 1 is at home with Wonderwoman from Earth 2, and they're both in their Amazonian steel-boned bustiers complete with magic lasso seated around a dinner table consuming meatloaf. I got shrill, in fact. Because it was ridiculous and I was simply unable to get past it. (I actually closed the comic and stashed it, so great was my loss of belief in the story line. Over meatloaf.)
When I was done and my husband looked at me with concern and said "Okay, so do you need to take a break?" that I realized.... yeah, I probably did. In my usual fervor to try and intake as much information as possible, to make up for that learning curve that others half my age had already danced through and mastered on my new chosen love and art form, I was making it No Fun. Or rather, I was simply overloading my brain, and because I felt like there was no outlet to discuss this, it had begun to crumple for lack of an outlet to bounce thoughts off of.
Thank the many gods for spouses, because he sat and listened. Then he listened to me apologize for venting. Then he listened to me talk about how there's nobody to talk with this stuff about. And he was supportive and kind and told me I could talk to him any time about all of this.
Suddenly I felt like I could move on from all of this and start fresh with a second round of reading and learning. AFter all, I'd made the mistake of actually ~reading~ the stories instead of using them for what I'd snagged them for... examples of pacing, foreshortening, language, perspective, etc. I had not taken from them what I disliked and tried to figure out how to do it better (as I will not be limited by 32 pages, or "editions"), I'd just jumped right on to the "WTF IS WITH THIS? THIS IS STUPID!? mode of thinking and not let go.
Seriously. Meatloaf in a comic book and seeing winged faeries in Alfheim on TV. It brought me to utmost distraction. It's almost embarrassing, really.
So I'm done trying to do the meta-learning thing and simply figure out what ~I~ want to do with things... my current stack of resource material is unnaturally predisposed to the DC way of telling a story anyway, and it's my goal to develop my own flow through this.
It's funny that in the first few weeks of this, I very nearly killed it dead by over-consumption of it. I didn't leave space to study as I'd planned. Now that I can see this, I can go in a bit wiser and learn more. Perhaps even this is something initially that has to happen to anybody that gets in to this stuff. Who knows, but it's done now.
I am now looking at my Wonderwoman comics, #600-613, currently unread, and thought I know I woud probably enjoy the story line I am not touching them. I don't want to get pissed off by the reboot or the costume change or any of that. Instead, I am going to pick randomly from the stack and learn to draw Wonderwoman's iconic eyes. I will pull out my other material and learn to draw male jawlines and hairstyles, and finally really see how a suit falls across a man's shoulders properly.
And I absolutely, positively, will not get pissed off if Wonderwoman decides to eat dinner dressed in her bustier and magic lasso again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

People on the Internet are Assholes and Other Things I Should Really Know By Now

A very important thing happened today, one of those moments where I get smacked upside the head by my own brain. Because I absolutely KNEW this was going to happen and I did it anyway.
It is an ongoing battle between my fear of what I can do and what I will come up against that I finally ~cannot~ do, and my desire to create things. I have, in truth, wanted to create comics ever since I was 7. I'm not sure what made me decide, but I'm pretty sure it was spurred on by Linda Carter as Wonder Woman and Saturday Morning cartoons with Firestar and the Spidey Friends.
I'd attempted it once before and loved the wrinkled, balding, toothless bastard child I gave birth to that showed me all of the things I needed to learned - my beloved Zombie Nation, which I might redraw and go back to some day if I were paid to do such things. But for now it was a lovely experiment that taught me I have an innate love for telling -and drawing- a good story that I can share with others. On some level I want that intimacy and freedom to project a part of myself and my creativity out in to the world and have it be received and run with by others. There's nothing like it.
So it was with immense trepidation that I began to work on a new comic... although comic is not exactly appropriate as there's the undercurrent of something amusing. So for now we're saying "graphic novel" and hoping it doesn't come across as trying to be an artiste.
It actually looks as if I might be able to pull this off. I might've learned enough about pacing, angles, visual clues and whatnot to tell a decent story. And when I realized that all it might take is a ton of practice and I could do it this time around, well.... I got a little excited.
And then I did the dumbest thing EVAR and posted my excitement to the internet.
I post a lot and my friends generally pick and choose what of my babblations they are interested in to respond to. I'm in to many varied things, so there's a little for everybody. But then there's the people who are friends with me and only ever make negative comments, or who basically ignore and don't interact until they see an opportunity to point out when someone is Wrong On The Internet.
And this happened. I posted what I was planning, and somebody snarked me. The ONLY response to my excitement, in fact, was this snark.
The entire thing has since been deleted because I don't want it in there. I am an unnaturally sensitive creature despite this fantastic overlay of brusqueness I have cultured. Was it cowardly? Does it make me thin skinned? I don't know. It's already done. That is not the important thing that happened in all of this, so I'm done devoting thought to it.
What I realized was twofold; the first is that people on the internet are assholes. My husband looked at me incredulously when I told him what happened and used those very words, as if he could not believe I was caught off guard or surprised at the thing. And he's right. When you throw an idea out to a large group of mixed people, SOMEONE is going to say something. A few may even dogpile it and slam it to the ground. It is the nature of not having to look someone in the face when you comment, and it is the nature of incomplete communication and understanding. I have lived this so many times it makes my teeth hurt, and I should've known better.
The second is that it is VERY important early on in the birthing process of an idea, a project, anything being created, to keep it close to one's chest. It's very fragile and needs nurturing and light and hope to grow. It will never get that if you leave it out for the general public to trod upon. Ideas are ephemeral beasts even when fully formed and able to stand on their own. A newborn idea may never have a chance.
In the end I realized that this individual, soon to be unfriended on the Facebookz, had done me an amazing public service. They had reminded me that my energy should be inward facing right now, working on this project that I want so badly to create. Talking about it, sharing it, dissipates the creative energy in this intangible way that I've seen over the years. A quick snark and all of this knowledge came back to me in sharp focus, as if the Universe were saying "Look, if you want this to succeed mebbe you keep your mouth shut for now."
I am a believer that all interactions can be learned from, it is only the capacity of the individual in the situation to do the learning that shapes or limits it. It may have started negative, but what this person does not realize is that their boot stomp just made me twice as determined to finish them. I am grateful for the lesson, and I am moving on. There's too much to do now to dwell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

And now for something completely different....

It's been a long time since we just sat down and talked, hasn't it?
The Mix Tape journal is in the mail as of an hour ago, and I am truly sad to see it go although there was literally nothing more I could do with it. I think it has finally primed me to take on the Sketchbook Project 2012 booklet that has been sitting, unloved, on my drawing table out in the cubby.
The theme for this year that I chose was "Along the line" and in my head I have these grand dreams of drawing entire landscapes out of a single squiggly line, a journey of a little girl with a crayon from early morning to late at night when she's finally in bed. It's really involved and in a style I've never worked with before, so we'll have to see how it turns out. I guess the best course of action, as always, is simply to take a deep breath and just leap. worse case scenario is that there's a public record of my developing art skills when they Weren't So Good. And that's just the ego talking, wanting to appear as if I was formed of earth and walked in perfection in every action and skill. Yeeeeah... not realistic.
I'm also looking forward to drawing up the mascot for a friend's platoon. I have the base sketches down and he's said it looks fairly awesome, so really it's just a matter of putting it down on paper. Special Copics paper, in this case (Deleter brand, for those of you who are aficionados) since I feel it would be the perfect opportunity to work with Copic markers and produce an excellent palette for the image. Plus, you know, it's our troops. I would be terribly remiss if I didn't put at least 110% impossible percent in to making sure it looked awesome.
Very little has changed with the job but for the fact I've made peace with being there. Not long term, mind you. Just enough to get myself in to something else that doesn't involve answering telephones and being screamed at by self-important doctors. I really don't want to be in a job where my inability to help someone out might mean someone's suffering in a hospital bed because they can't get charts or meds can't be dispensed. That would kill me inside.
I've come to terms with my thorough love of programming again, as well as rediscovered the excitement of learning something for use later on. I plan to sit down later today and smash out a few things for practice and practical use (a mortgage calculator, for one... and again. I already made one but apparently my last computer crash ate the files. MEH.) And my poor, patient father's website. I can't do exactly what I want, so I'll do a fair approximation and get something up there, then work on it more later on to improve it. I've learned to get a little creative high off of going back and redoing a project to make it prettier/more efficient/more elegant in construction/just overall BETTER and I've heard this will serve me well in life.
I have a new haircut.... scratch that, hair STYLE... and I'm wearing hats. I'm painting my fingernails, even, and wearing sandals on feet that are well cared for. I've lost 24 pounds since the start of the year and the drive to keep going is fierce. It seems like I have to move somehow, and if I can't do it with my job then I will do it in my personal life, damnit.

I will let you in on a secret... I want to put comics up online. Not web comics. Not the standard 3-paneler with a punchline. I want to stick real honest-to-god graphic novels up online, with adult content and themes and some really abstract concepts that aren't the usual testosterone-driven crap of the mainstream comics. ("Ugh, me love woman and want to save world. Me good guy so me get girl and shrunken testicles from obvious steroid use. Me big muscles guy.") Alas, even my beloved heroines, Pezzini and Dawn, are a product of a male mind and have the back-breaking double-Ds to show for it. I want to make a world where there's no super-powers, no ultimate evils, no black and white. I want people to read my stuff and go oh shit... did she really say that? I want it to give people great pause. There isn't always going to be a happy ending, and quite often the characters will be miserable wretches. There are corners of the world like that, and this is what I want to portray... that unhappy shadow world that doesn't get visited by Martha Stewart and Anthony Bourdain, or the Bachelorette. The world where people are just surviving, not living, and life isn't a place where your parents really told you your dreams could be achieved. I've seen it, and beyond the emo faux-hell some put themselves in without imagining what it's like to truly have to live Without, this place deserves a little bit of time in the light.
My name is Helen, and I've wanted to draw comic books for a living ever since I was 7.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Mix Tape Journal

Yours truly is a fan of having a reason to draw... you might have noticed this given my penchant for drawing and then donating it for projects, especially charities. It gives me an excuse and a deadline, so I leap at such things. This is why I've decided to try a second year of The Sketchbook Project, but holy wow is that a post for another time.
Twitter being the wonderful resource that it is, I stumbled across a few people chatting over a traveling art journal project they'd come up with. I went to the blog of one Brown Paper Bunny who was instigating the entire thing and read over the rules/guidelines to see what it was all about. And then, in a moment of OHMYGODIWANNADOTHATTOO!!!!!1!one!!11!eleven .... I submitted my name.
And they said yes, we would love to have you.
And I thought oh crap, what have I gotten myself in to? Some of these volunteers are professional illustrators...... oh god....
Well, I had enough time between then and about 2 weeks ago to forget A.) that I had volunteered and B.) that I thought I was not a good artist. I'd had plenty of time to get mildly cocky regarding that whole thing, so that when the official Mix Tape Journal showed up, I squealed with delight and bounced up and down in my kitchen with all the fury of a 3rd graders on pop rocks and Mountain Dew. My husband kept his distance and said he was excited for me, bless his soul.
I'll be honest, I let the journal sit for a good 2 weeks just pondering what I wanted to draw. I'd put thought in to it initially and had a really good idea for both my double-page spreads I was supposed to work on, but after seeing the previous drawings in it (6 total to date, done by 3 different individuals) I was a bit intimidated. There was a 3-D paper piano on one page, and everybody was following the theme of blue beautifully. I wanted to do something that held on to the idea of blue, but also had a little sway. I also wanted to draw my favorite place I'd ever been, seeing as this was a "traveling" journal.
What resulted were the following 2 images. I took one day each to do the pencils, then to "ink" them in sakura pigma markers, and then a final day to apply colors with pitt artist markers. IT WAS A BLAST.

and also...

So I found a way to slip in my favorite city/mountain in the world AND my favorite flowers even though they weren't blue.
It was a ton of fun, and I'm sad to see the journal go. It makes me want to work on my own traveling journal, except that perhaps I focus on images from all the places I've been.... it would need to be thick and the paper sturdy, let us say that. I was quite the gypsy in my day. And perhaps best of all, I got to improve my technique when coloring with pitt markers, which I've had but hesitated to use out of inexperience.
It now moves on to the next individual, as all objects that travel must. I really look forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with and how they apply the guidelines. And in the end, I'm really hoping that my efforts have added artistic value to the journal as a whole. That's all I really want to get out of this endeavor.

By the way, Brown Paper Bunny is quite a lovely lady and if you are of the crafting sort she has a most lovely blog. Clicky the name and you shall be there!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I drew this.

And it scared the shit out of me to do it. I used materials i’d never touched before, paper I’d never worked with (Bristol) and used techniques I’d never even heard of. But she was there in my head begging to get out, being as compelling as anything with her eyes and I HAD to do it. I was terrified with each pencil strokes I laid down to create her, then with each ink dab and line…. but when I was done she was there on the paper exactly as I pictured. I was shocked. And then I realized there is no pain in not doing something perfectly,especially in art. They make more paper. You can get more graphite or more ink… so from here on out there is no excuse not to just F* DO IT.
And suddenly I feel freer in that knowledge.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Week 19 - saving a life

I adopted a cat. She had a biting problem, so no one was adopting her. I took her off the rescue’s hands (I’ve worked with rescue/foster kittyes before) and she is already broken of the biting habit. All she does is purr and rub on us like a love-monster. We have no idea how old she is, or why she was dumped in the pound in SC, but we’re glad she’s here and she’s part of our family. Everyone’s warmed up to her and it’ll only get better from there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

-Ira Glass

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Peach Dandy

The other day while talking with friends in my favorite giant time-suck, World of Warcraft, we started naming off what we were drinking/what we would like to drink/the craziest drink they'd ever had/heard of/watched commit a crime...
...basically a giant conversation about alcohol. I don't remember how it started, I don't remember how it ended. And I don't even remember how we got to this point, but it was determined that a Peach Dandy would make a ~lovely~ name for a cocktail, and that if it did not exist, it should.
I googled it. It does not, in fact exist. So I went about making sure that it would, since I loved the idea of holding up a glass, grinning and saying "Sippin' on my Peach Dandy here!" Believe it or not, these sort of random notions actually form most of my existence. I decide something should exist, usually ridiculous in nature, and then work to make it so.
So I set about thinking what might really make a Peach dandy work. And of course, somehow there had to be peaches in it in some fashion because it's in the name and I didn't want to be accused of false advertising. But frozen fruit? Puree? Juice from the fruit itself? Peach liquor?? These were the things deviling my mind. And then, because a cocktail is mixed usually I decided to throw something else in. And I was lame about it and decided it should be brandy for the singularly stupid reason that it, yes, rhymed with "dandy".
After some more thought and the arrival of my latest addiction, a batch of Monin syrups (no high fructose corn syrup for the win!!) I realized that I could create something that wouldn't be disgustingly sweet, would taste like peaches, and would probably be something nobody had concocted before. So last night I set about crafting Round One of the Peach Dandy Experiment.

It was started with 1 oz. of Monin raspberry syrup (I got it in my head that raspberry and peach made awesome desserts, so they would go nicely here), 1 oz. of the 99 Peaches peach schnapps, a bunch of ice, and enough sparkling club soda to fill the glass. Upon sipping it I discovered this was actually a reeeally good concoction, but because it was in a bigger glass I lost the taste of raspberry and nearly the taste of peaches.
Cut to tonight when the husband officially requests I make him this drink I have been thinking about for a week, and I spring in to action. This is the official recipe for making your own Peach Dandy:

~1 oz. raspberry syrup
~1 oz. peach schnapps
~1/2 oz. brandy
~ice to fill bottom third of glass
~3 oz. club soda (NO QUININE OR SALT!) or enough to fill to top of glass

Stir with a spoon to mix together, sip liberally. If you make this up in a highball glass, double everything in the recipe. It will be slightly sweet, with a definite flavor of peaches, a more subtle flavor of raspberry, and a slight touch of depth from the brandy. If you're feeling creative, go ahead and put a full ounce in, but it might overpower everything else, so I only did enough to compliment.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Further Adventures in Buddhist FAIL

It is time to talk about the real world and real-time application of skills that we think we might've learned well...and discovering that we have not.

First off, yours truly grabbed a job! I know! After 12 months and only 3.5 weeks of playing The Game, I managed to snag a job as a call center monkey! It makes money, we'll be able to afford things again and save money for once, and it gets me off unemployment.
However, I would be lying if I didn't say I hated the idea of going back to a job as a phone monkey. I know we should be grateful and whatnot, but I was already on serious burnout when I was laid off from my last job and this one will be twice the stress of that. I need a surefire plan to get me out of this place and in to my new chosen profession as a programmer.

This aside, however, you needed to know that to understand why I was in training with 3 other strangers.

So yeah, I was in training with 3 other strangers.
It is my most recent understanding that the best policy is to shut up and listen, and this has served me VERY well each time it has been instituted. You learn about people, and if you aren't thinking about what you're going to say or a similar story then you start to get that deeper hearing that sneaks in and tells you what they're not saying, what the odd inflection means, and most of all, when words seem put together oddly that don't really say what they were trying to say. You start to understand what's going on.
I really do like two of the people that I'm with, and so far just about everybody has been really nice to chat with. I think it'll be a good group of people to work with, even if I don't plan to stay there forever (or possibly even more than a year)
But, bless his soul, there is this one gentleman...
He is above all things very eager to help. There are many theories on this that have flopped through my head, such as - he's older and wants to prove he is useful and knowledgable, or that he's simply of the opinion that he's been around and knows answers to just about everything. He tells stories, he laughs, but about halfway through the second day there was something about him starting to get on my nerves.
I finally pinpointed it when he kept insisting that our soon-to-be manager was watching us constantly, and that she was out to nab us for the slightest infraction; he was afraid. I think all of us were, as we'd had some half-truths plied on us by the contracting group that had gotten us in the door with them.
At one point he was talking about how he was certain (he is ALWAYS certain, he knows these things in his bones apparently) that we were going to tracked and recorded and yelled at at every turn. Oh, not to worry! I told him, happy to try and assuage the fear I was sensing, I had it in writing that there were no call metrics! He could relax about that.
And he looked at me, and raised his metaphysical thumb, jammed it on that metaphysical button that I had and said "You don't know what you're talking about, they're going to record us, otherwise why would they bother to keep statistics?"
Well, there are a TON of reasons to keep statistics, the least of which is to know how many more people you need to hire in order to lower call times. But I realized it would take too long to explain it, so I said simply that it was a condition of my employment that I be told exaclty what the metrics were, and I was told there were no metrics.
I was then informed that I was lied to, and the button got jammed in further.
At this point I decided I hated this indvidual, who had very little positive to say and did nothing but speak out of his fear. I could see it infecting the others, as well, which was what was really starting to get to me. I had answers. I could calm them down with some of the answers I had. But this man would not let me because it went against his need to live in the middle of his fear.
I came home, spewed my vitriol about this man and how he'd been nothing but negative, taken up the time complaining about his scheduling and voicing his fears, how he'd questioned my competence and wouldn't listen to me... and my husband curled up in a corner and said let's order pizza, it's been a bad day and I can't think.
We had pizza, and I did my best not to spew more vitriol on him. But we ended that day both afraid that this job would be a bad one, because the man (who I came to call Ex-Military) had gotten to me, and had made me realize how many holes there were in the information we were given, how much our stories didn't jive. I went to bed with my stomach roiling, whispering to myself "tomorrow will be better... tomorrow will be better... tomorrow will answer more questions".
I did a breathing exercise on the way to work in the car, trying ot ignore the fact that traffic was going to make me later than the 15 minutes early I desired to be. The GPS conspired against me to take me down a one way street with a turn that didn't let me pull in to work as I desired. I was a wreck when I got in the door... top that off with setting off the door alarm as I walked in to the call center area, and my morning seemed shot. I had to listen to ex-military spout his stuff about how we would all be busted, how everybody was on the ball and seemed worried about not doing well (um... possibly a side affect of wanting to be good at your job? Nope, not here apparently.)
This day went MUCH better, as we got to talk with more people and my sphere of understanding expanded as I'd hoped it would. I opted not to eat lunch with the group as I'd busted my feet up marching around in high heels the day before and I had welts on the balls of my feet from it. Also, I needed a break from Ex-military, as I couldn't take his know-it-all negativity while I was trying to enjoy my food. Instead, I sat in the atrium and had lunch, talked iwth several coworkers who were outside the call center, and was complimented on my Hello Kitty bento box. I got a very good feeling about all of this and began to think that this could be a good place to work long term.
I want it to be known that during this time I tried, I REALLY tried, to generate compassion and loving-kindness for this guy. He was obviously worried, felt he needed to prove something, and was only hearing his fears in what was being said around him. If there was a case for compassion, this man was the poster child.
I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I wanted to smile and understand and not let it get to me, and perhaps the fact that I have decided there was a way my compassion should manifest itself doomed it to come out the way it would be expressed by me.
At one point I knocked my tea over on to my notebook then snagged it. Ex-military made a big deal about the fact that it had happened, sighing and getting up saying "You're going to need a paper towel, here, I'll go get it..."
And I snapped. I snapped that he was taking his angst and making such a simple accident in to a big thing, within which he was martyring himself in some fashion. I snapped. I looked up at him, informed him he needed to sit down immediately, and then I pulled out tissues. When the rest of the people (including both instructors) voiced surprise I tried to play it off with a smile and a simple mumbling that I didn't want to take a bunch of time away from training. But they knew, they saw, and I imagine it stuck with them.
This was not the right way to handle it, and I was upset at myself for barking in the middle of training like that. It wasn't representative of who I really was, and it certainly didn't do anything to change the dynamic between this gentleman's negativity and my irritation. It didn't even relieve it, and the logical part of my brain immediately calculated using Fuzzy Math that it was an unnecessary expenditure of emotion and energy with pretty much no return.
At this point I was feeling much better and let my husband know, who perked up immediately now that he knew his lovely wife would not be in a living hell (self-inflicted or otherwise) for the purpose of paying the bills. I explained I was still having trouble with the same individual, and that in addition to his usual shenanigans, he had actually stopped our training dead for an entire half hour demanding to get clarification on his part time schedule. More fear, yes, but also a survival-esque self preservation selfishness rang from this act, and I think perhaps in this case I would not be the only one that wanted to exit it. My loving husband hugged me and said it sounded like it sucked, and we talked about how scared he must be, then we moved on to talking about training and interesting things to come.
I tried once more and finally to generate compassion for this individual that drove me nuts to listen to, and something miraculous happened while I was parking my car in the building's garage and heading in on Friday morning. I realized... I had it. I had compassion for the guy. I could hear in his voice and his words why he was doing what he was doing. I had the deeper hearing, and knew perfectly well that everything he said came out of a desire to NOT be afraid, but being unable to escape it. I also knew that there was nothing I could say or do that would change that state. He was the only one who could do that, and I was powerless. I could have this compassion for him... and I did not have to put up with it, either! A favorite phrase of mine is empathize but do not condone... that is to say, understand it, but you don't have to agree with it. It was okay that I wasn't smiley happy peaceful with this guy. I didn't have to be. I just had ot understand, and i had to understand that I had no control, and to just give it up. Let go.
He was the first person I met in the morning, and with this understanding tucked under my arm with my lunch bag, I smiled and watched and listened. I realized how miserable it must be to be that worried constantly. I realized he was probably trying to make conversation, and possibly thought that we would all have an empathic meeting of minds over fears about being disciplined at work. At one point I watched him literally shut his mouth and refuse to talk when our manager's manager came in to the room. He was midway through a story and we were waiting for our instructor to show up. There was no reason at all to be afraid of chatting, as we weren't expected to be doing anything. But he wouldn't talk until she left. I was surprised by this level of fear. And at that time I also realized that he had a fully formed world around him that I could not penetrate - things were a very specific way, a way that he had seen and understood or dreamt horrible things about. And at that point I stopped talking to him unless directly engaged, as I was simply a puppet in this setup and there was no need to really do anything but what he expected. Anything else would simply confuse him, and he would forget it immediately if it didn't fit in.
The final straw came at lunch. I had taken great pains to pack a lunch in one of my beloved bento boxes. I took great pride in today's preparation, as it was particularly cute and entirely pink. Thinking that some might think the Hello Kitty top was a bit childish, I covered it with a napkin, and proceeded to eat.
As this meal was taken with my fellow trainees, they joined me a bit in to it. A few minutes later and Ex-military asked, with a voice obviously full of an upturned nose, what the "purple things" were. Crackers, I advised. Then my other fellow trainee asked about the entire thing, so I happily explained to him about Bento boxes in Japan and how lunches are put together, and how it wasn't ~quite~ complete but it was Friday and I'd decided I wanted an all pink lunch box. My other fellow trainee smiled and nodded and seemed interested in the notion.
The moment I finished, however, since it wasn't familiar to him and because the table didn't seem to agree with him, he promptly began tearing apart the contents, saying that the "brown stuff" looked gross, and that the whole thing didn't make sense, but I was free to do whatever floated my boat.
Thank you, I do, I informed him. Also, the brown stuff was hummus, which I'd made myself, and it was actually a really wonderful lunch and I was enjoying it. I smiled at him. Smiled him down, in fact, and he dropped his head and began to eat, silenced.
I couldn't help it. You can make fun of a few things about me, but for the love of god don't tell me I'm stupid or make fun of something I've created. I will destroy you. It's a serious and major character flaw. And since he had stuck his thumb on the button for mocking something I had created, I chewed him up and spit him out.
While still seething a bit over being told my lunch looked stupid, the last of the trainees sat down, told me it was really cute, and that she really needed to start packing her lunches like that. We got to talking about the logistics of getting stuff together, and about how it was cheapre and healthier. Ex-military just ate quietly and watched the back and forth, his control over- and distribution of negativity in to- the situation completely unseated.
I told myself that it was the final day, that after that I would never have to see him again unless I found myself working the weekend at highly unusual hours. I lit out of there with a singular joy, happy that I would be free of someone so ruled by fear (it wouldn't bother me if I didn't recognize myself in it, yes, this I know...) but there was one parting shot. As we were leaving, Ex-military turned around to us and said that all he had heard from people was about being afraid of being busted. And that was it. The bitch in me could not let this go, because it was my Friday and the last thing I heard was not going to be negative shit from some delusional miserable person.
No, I said, I had not noticed that. And one of the other trainees nodded at me and said that had been their impression as well, that people were pretty mellow. He spoke up to argue again and I cut him down, stating that it was just regular chatter you hear at any workplace. He spoke one last time to argue and at that moment it occurred to me that I didn't have to actually listen to him at that point. So I piped up cheerfully that I hoped everybody had a really awesome weekend, that I was parked upstairs and I would see them all Monday. And then I high-tailed it out of there.
Fail. Fail, fail, fail.
Understanding of something and actual practice are two different things. I let this person get to me, and in retrospect I realized it was because I needed for them to be a certain way, I had an expectation that things would be a certain way and that what he did broke up those expectations. I don't know that I could calmly allow for negative Nancys in my day in the future far more easily, but at least I have a grasp on why this failed so heavily. It went beyond compassion right down to me and my mindset and my personal world view. So in this, perhaps he was delusional but I was certainly operating under my own unbreaking views. I was the one that could bend. I did not. I became miserable as a result. Cause and affect pretty much directly realized right thar.
I don't know if this is something I'll be clever enough to internalize for later, but I really hope I do. It got so bad it affected my sleep, my emotions and my physical health (by the end of the 3rd day the emotionally roiling stomach became a tumultous digestive tract) and no one should have that kind of power over me when I know better. It's moments like these where being utterly skooled liek a n00b becomes my M.O., and all the calmness I thought I had generated, all the things I was utterly sure I had perfected for dealing with the world, completely fall apart. I suppose these are good things to see, and to know that one is that vulnerable and delicate in the hands of others still.
I had a serious fail. It's embarassing. But the only way to deal with it is to acknowledge it, forgive myself, and move on. And perhas sit in loving-kindness meditation and try to send some out, especially to the poor guy who is so afraid that his interactions with the rest of the world are spoken entirely out of his fears right now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Actual Conversation # 98 -wherein the synchronicity of dreams isn't really discussed

(Scene: We are on our way in to a restaurant to share dinner and somehow we have come around to the topic of being in each other's lives. Naturally, I take the non-macabre route, and...)

Me: You know, I used to have nightmares once a week where I was crying at your funeral *said with great fervor, hoping to impart to spouse their importance to my psyche to have such a horrible thing happen in recurring fashion*
Bob: That's so weird, because once a week I used to have dreams where I would hide inside a coffin and listen to you cry....

*husband crosses street without missing a beat*
*yours truly doubles over laughing and cannot walk for 30 seconds*

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In honor of Portal 2-liday...

...it seems only fitting that the game most people are seriously buzzing about (and apparently staying home from work to download based on the slowness of my current dl via Steam) should have a celebration of its opening. To that end I invite you to find yourself a slice of lovely cake, kick your feet up, and enjoy the musical stylings of GlaDOS in what is probably the most famous song to come out of a video game EVAR.

My husband and I will be bashing our way through co-op as part of date night tonight. And yes, there WILL be cake.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sketchbook Project 2012

I have no idea how this came across my field of consciousness, but somehow I saw that they'd opened up registration for the Sketchbook Project for 2012. I had a LOT of fun last year, and would've had an absolute blast if A.) I'd had more time and B.) hadn't had to choose from what was left of the topics. As soon as I heard, I rushed to the website to put my claim in on a decent topic. Mine will be "along the line", and I'm going to do what probably just about everybody is going to do, which is draw a line from one page to the next and draw stories around it.
I'm looking forward to it because I will have a LOT more time to focus on this and there will be no last minute craziness............ okay, there will be. Some. But far less than last year! At least that's my intention.
I was surprised at how excited I got to see it again, especially after how tough it was to get it together the last time. But I guess I like the idea of having outside projects to work on. Gives me focus and impetus, which is lovely.
Forthcoming sketchinations shall be shared.

Week 16 - done already!

There was one tiny project left on Kickstarter to get funding, and it was to cut puzzles out of leftover 33 and 45 records. I thought it sounded fun, plus they were going to make raptors (I love dinosaurs) so how could I not help with this?
Funding went through this morning, and I am seriously happy about that.

I also took the time to donate some fundage while using paypal… that cute little “Do you want to donate a dollar to help X?” It had something to do with animals, so yes… yes I did.

And per usual, I ran around Orgrimmar and Dalaran dumping arcane intellect buffs on every player that could make use of it… and then once, just to be a dick, I put it on a rogue and told him he could read now. But he was being a jerk and deserved it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Origami paper love

This is what 40 cranes shoved in to an undersized envelope looks like! They're off to Paper Cranes for Japan!

For anyone else interested in at least following (as the deadline for getting these mailed out is today) you can see how it does here: http://studentsrebuild.org/japan/

The website also has a lot of other projects going on such as one for schools in Haiti.

The Post Where We Do NOT Talk About Cooking

There has been an abnormally high number of posts about food on this blog lately, and I truly hate not being balanced in the coverage of topics. To that end, we're going to babble about something else entirely. At least at first. IT might segway in to food later, but it won't be the main thrust, I promise.
For some reason yours truly was very burnt out on knitting for a bit. The very thought of picking up needles made me cranky in the extreme. Given how many projects I have going currently, this is really odd. I normally love to knit or crochet. It's just that some of these projects are taking a while and are boring and repetitive. I needed a break to do something else, except that I was so burnt out that I couldn't even really handle the thought of yarn with anything else either.
Somehow in the midst of all of this I managed to finish a nalbinded hat for my husband, probably because it was already 95% done and I just wanted it OVER with.
Instead, I changed tack and decided to work on something else entirely, in this case it was paper. I have been trying to fold cranes for the Paper Cranes for Japan project, wherein 2 dollars is donated for every one origami crane they receive. There is a monstrous flock of 30-something origami cranes bouncing around the house right now. I was hoping to shoot for 50, but didn't realize the deadline was today. So I'll be rounding them up, dropping them in an envelope, and firing them off to the post office as fast as I can. At least I'll end up helping $60 worth or so. :)
I also set up an art trade with a gal I chat at over Twitter a lot, and right now I'm in the midst of making her a charm bracelet out of beads and paper, folding up some awesome zakka lucky stars, and working on a small watercolor painting. I'm also going to try to fold up an origami snail to send her way, since she lives in the Pacific Northwest and all they ever see are slugs. I figure the break might be nice.
There has also been A Massive Spring Cleanination of this place, and I must say that I am seriously loving getting all of our crap organized. We went through our books, our DVDs and our video games and culled things we would never play or never use again. 2 large boxes of DVDs, one box of games and three boxes of books later, and I feel like that moment in Poltergeist where Tangina sighs and proclaims "This house... is clean."
That is, if we ignore all the clutter in the newly deigned Craft Cubby in the hallway and the mounds of various PS2 and USB cables tumbling out of boxes in the computer closet in the office.... oh sweet baby Jesus I am not looking forward to going through that mess, but that's coming up next!
For our next trick there will be massive amounts of Donating Things going on, as I really really want to get this stuff out of my house, BUT ... I also really want other people to enjoy and have use of it as well. I found as I was going through my books that the idea of passing along manga for somebody else to enjoy put a huge grin on my face... so anything that I didn't just love and have an emotional attachment to went tumbling in to the pile.
As an aside, if anybody's looking for the first few volumes of Tokyo Mew Mew, Mail vols 1-3 or some of The Walking Dead, they will be at the Downingtown Public Library in the next week.
The DVDs are headed to Goodwill, where I'm hoping somebody really, really wants The Matrix: Reloaded, or Volumes 1 and 2 of Witchblade the Anime. There are some other ones in there that aren't quite so quirky, like Appleseed, Lucky Star and some Kung Fu movies. The videos are going to Gamestop, in the thought that perhaps not only would someone else like to play them, but we'll have enough to go get ice cream afterward.
All of this rearranging of things will be nice, because I HAVE A JOB! Out of the wide blue sky a recruiter called me and said they had a great opportunity... and they DID. I'm headed to a place with no call requirements and no time limits, and this'll be a super awesome change from previously. We just practice our mantra of "We are not what we do". I will not be a tech support phone monkey. I am a programmer and an artist who works as one.
The important thing about these two events, however, is that because of the job, we can now seriously start pondering buying a house again! And if we clear a bunch of junk out, then there's that much less that we have to move when the time comes. It is totally a win-win. :)
In the midst of all of this I am having a tea party, where I will be having a large group of people over in my house to talk about just about everything and, of course, to drink tea. Such things make me incredibly nervous as I am out of practice when it comes to entertaining. My house is like my cuddly, warm den where I create things and try new stuff out, and its where I retreat to when the world starts putting the hurt on my brain. I don't invite people over too much because it doesn't even occur to me to do it half the time. I'm hoping this will at least be fun for everybody, as well as letting me flex my creative mojo.
Speaking of flexing creative mojo, one last thing. Because I got hired, and I got hired so quickly on the heals of creating The Game (which we already detailed elsewhere) after 11 months of no action to speak of, I decided to send an email to the lovely Ms. Jane McGonigal, of whom I have already had fangirl ravings previously in this blog as well. I just explained when we saw her, how her words inspired me, and the logistics of the game itself. Then I thanked her for helping me to shift my mindset and turn an otherwise odious and depressing task in to something fun. I figured people like to know that their work is having an impact, so even if I never got a response at least she would know that her ideas had worked.
What I was NOT expecting was to receive a reply later that evening telling me that she thought my story was quite inspirational and asking me to introduce myself the next time we might find ourselves at the same event so she could meet me in person. Wow. How cool was that?
This was followed by an email a few minutes later from her asking me to post the details of The Game on to her "super secret HQ", Gameful, as there was a competition going on to make a game out of something incredibly boring and she thought mine had a very good shot. So I did! And wow, already I've been friended by a few folks already on the site and gotten to take a more serious look around than the first time I visited it. Seeing as my goal right now is just to get in on some creative collaborations (because let's face it, people are awesome and come up with awesome ideas, but GROUPS of people just raise the bar up and beyond when it comes to creating stuff.) this seemed like a nice place to dip my toes in the water. Who knows what might come of it?
I'm sitting in the midst of a nice, creative warm happy and I really like it. The house is getting cleaned up, we're tossing out old junk, and consolidating the current junk we have. There's a sense of movement to this place now that we didn't have even this morning before we started. Besides stirring up a lot of dust, it's also done a lot for our motivation to get organized, get rid of excess, and stay focused on what we truly want.
And tonight I will be baking Madeleines and matcha tea and lime cake. There. Almost a whole entry that did not talk about cooking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 15

Still folding paper cranes for the student project to donate money to Japan, I was hoping to fold 50 before I dropped it in the mail. We’re sitting somewhere around 30 right now, might cut it short and just mail out what I’ve got right now.

A really, really cool project went through on Kickstarter, one to help create artificial coral reefs using metal sculptures as the base. I’m so psyched that it’ll work! In my younger days I thought I might like to be a marine biologist, but my love of the ocean and its critters never left. You can read about the whoooole thing here:
It’s fascinating and really, really cool! I’m glad she’ll get a chance to do what she wants and help out the ocean folk as well.

This week actually turned out to be pretty cool. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures in Red #40 and Yellow #5

We bake a lot in this household, although we try really hard not too. That being mostly due to the fact that yours truly knows nothing of everyday bread baking such as rolls and, well, bread, and everything about cakes, cupcakes, brownies, tarts.... the sweet stuff.
So usually when the urge to bake arises it is shoved roughly to the side because it will eventually result in me putting on weight. This is an established pattern. It is known.
Well, I realized the ultimate way around this was to figure out something utterly irresistable and delcious to make and then give it away to other people. Brilliant! The urge gets satisfied, and people start to think that you're a pretty cool person because you just randomly bring cookies to work.
Well, I got it in my head that since my birthday was coming up, that everybody who I remotely know and comes in contact with me should have to suffer the merriment of the day with me. This means something fairly damned epic needed to occur, but only because (true story) I figured I'd be dead by this year. Don't ask. I lived a rather crazy life.
I promptly declared publicly that I was going to bake up "Rainbow Unicorn Cupcakes" complete with glitter and all that jazz. This, before I even knew if such a thing was possible or that I was even remotely equipped to pull it off.
So into this landscape comes THIS PICTURE (which I stumbled across on deviantArt):

I mean the name of it is ~literally~ Unicorn Cupcakes, after all...
Upon seeing it I realized that these lovely things were what I was making for my Birthday of Enforced Merriment. Couple that with other images I found after doing a search (you would be floored at how many people have done this technique) and I finally stumbled across a tutorial talking about how they went about making these things.
When I realized it was nothing more than sectioning out the batter and putting fish-growth stunting amounts of food coloring in there, I realized I absolutely had to give these things a go.
I didn't bother with the gel dye because I had little bottles of cheapie liquid dye hanging around already, and I wanted to give them a shot. One box of white cake mix and half an hour of arduous dye mixing and resampling later, and I ended up with batter that was a deep enough hue that I was okay with it. Sloppy spooning and uneven portion sizing later and I had some strange looking mounds of wet batter in really flimsy paper cups that didn't really hold them too well.
They smelled utterly DIVINE while baking, and I had to set a timer and go sit on my hands to not pull them out too early and start icing them just to get them done! My whole house smelled of awesome cakey goodness, and knowing that there were technicolor treats on the other side of that smell made it that much more awesome.
Finally cooled, I took some cream cheese frosting (already in a jar, just regular vanilla whipped in a jar) and added just barely enough food coloring to give it a lovely lavender color. That, some purple sprinkles, some irridescent edible glitter and silver star edible glitter later, and this was produced:

If you look close enough, you can see the silver stars on top. Unfortunately you don't really get a clear shot of the blue layer because the frosting is covering it and I had portioning issues toward the end. It tasted no less awesome, though!
Usually I don't bother to do a "test run" on things I decide to cook, but something told me this time if I didn't, I would be seriously sorry. And I'll be darned, but my intuition was right! There was a lot of chaos going in to this.
For next time -
1. Each color gets its own spoon. Screw not wanting to create more to wash, just using one fork and one spoon led to a total logistics nightmare.
2. Each color gets a much bigger bowl and a more precise portion measurement than "Um, that's 3 heaping spoonfuls slopped in there now". This will regulate color so we're not left with another entire cupcake's worth of red batter, but no other colors. :/
3. Better cups for these things! I got the Wilson paper cups and they are cheapo pieces of CRAP. They folded and buckled and put giant gouges in to my cupcakes because they wouldn't sit nice and flat in the cup (and yes, they were the correct size) so I'm going to go find something else... maybe some silver foil cups to compliment the silver stars. Something stronger, in the very least.
4. Seeing how long the stars last and how a few go a long way, I'm going to ease up on being a grinch with them and put a few more on each cupcake. They come in a very teeny tiny vial, and unless I knock them on the ground in a moment of pure flailingness, they'll last a long time.
These were a LOT of fun, and now I know that I'm probably better off making my own frosting (Able to control the flavor better that way. They claim it was cream cheese but I tasted nothing of the sort) and dying it, so there won't be half a can of light purple icing hanging out in my fridge looking at me with sad puppy eyes cuz I've got nothing else for it to do. Also of note was their odd little trick where all of the colors cooked up through the center, so if you took a bite there was almost a "tie-dye" affect to them. Behold, you can kind of see it in this picture.
That put me in mind of some other things that could be done later with more colorwork in foods, possibly by something as simple as dragging a chop stick through consecutive layers of color, doing small swirls, general agitation... good fun stuff.
As an aside, when I posted this to Twitter, someone asked me if they were earth day cupcakes. I now realize they do kind of look like little maps of global warming in an entirely delicious and unintentional way!
From the reactions I'm getting, it looks like these'll be quite popular. I'm going to bring them along for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival to pass out to folks, since many will be there. I'll also keep a few on hand in case people stop by, but definitely NOT for nomming myself. Oh no... this is one of those moments where I know I've got something really fun and that a lot of people will really enjoy getting to try on their own. I can't wait to pass these out.
Now if only I could make them as awesome as this last picture I found... multi-colored icing would only make it MORE awesome, but I think it's beyond me. For now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Moar Food for Thought... well, no, for Lunch, Really

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am a foodie. I've got a support group, I talk to a counselor. I only watch 5 hours of cooking shows during the week anymore and I try to be really selective and make sure it's not one where somebody's going to whip out a black truffle and start shaving away, causing me to go "OMG I MUST MAKE THAT!"
Hi, my name is Helen, and I am and addict....
...but I digress...
There are days when The Muse (aka The Bitch, aka She Who Disrupts my Afternoon by Making Me Obsess about Crochet Thread Width and Related Projects on Her Whim - true story) likes to have me play with pencils. There are other days when it's watercolors or ink. Still other days it's yarn and fabric, or film.
Today though, is a rare day. One of these usually only spins around about once every two weeks or so, sometimes only once a month. Today she decided I would be making food and it would be creatively done and tasty.
This meant when my husband got up, so did I. I constructed for him a lovely themed bento with lots of healthy things in it. I even pulled out and used my miniature cheese cutters to make a face for the meatball, and clouds for other things. It was awkward, but cute. I am now also assured via IM that it was completely delicious, even with awkward face placement!
But then... well, see, that wasn't enough. Generally speaking we have to do TWO projects, usually back to back, before the overwhelming need to create like some crazed maniac subsides. Today was no different, of course. But I needed to focus to work on a few things and tried to shove it aside.
A Convergence of Fortunate Events was also happening at this time, which I must now share so you understand just how neatly this all fit together.
The first is that I am currently experiencing the lovely feminine mysteries, and as such I am madly craving red meat and egg yolks. The craving of red meat has been historically documented, the egg yolks is a new thing. Healthier than downing chocolate, so I'm going with it for now. It's just unnerving that body seems to really want to absorb the very life force from formerly living things, like I'm some strange vaporous being sucking the breath from babies and wilting flowers as I pass. This hasn't started to happen yet... if it does, I'm locking myself in my room and never going out again, cuz that shit be freaky.
This led to me having a conversation with a friend in my World of Warcraft guild last night (an awesome group of folks, albeit given to repetitious jokes during raids) where we discussed our love of a good, warm, runny egg. I was already craving them, but that made it a lot worse. In fact, just thinking about it again my body is telling me it wants more. My cholesterol is going to be horrendous...
...but again, I digress...
As we talked, she told me about a breakfast her mom used to serve to her where she would put a runny egg on top of rice with soy sauce.
That image captured my mind even as I was busy eating a medium rare hamburger with a fried egg on top (blessings on you, Red Robin, for your small mercies toward my system) and I decided I would be having that in the very near future.
Fast forward to today, and insert giant grin here:
(I have already been chided for the chopsticks in the bowl... my apologies to my Asian friends, yes, I know better. IT just looked so nice when I was framing up the shot... I didn't mean to splash bad omens everywhere.)
This followed on a conversation about fried eggs, dippy eggs (the kind where you can break the yolk and dip your toast in, my normally preferred way to eat them outside of bizarre synchronistic food cravings) and scrambled eggs. My beloved admitted that he used to have his eggs fried and asked me to make him scrambled because it was easier. In a twist of irony of almost Magi-like proportions, I kept making scrambled eggs because I thought it was his prefered way of having them. It turns out he's used to fried.
Knowing this, I tried to remember how I'd seen them cooked, as it's probably been years since I attempted an egg that wasn't scrambled somehow. I do remember failing very badly at it, and thus resolved to figure out how to Do It Right.
A little too much margarine, a nice hot pan and a little rice cooker action later and we produced the awesome concoction to the right. Perfectly made, non-burnt eggs with the center still runny, over warm rice. I cheated and threw a touch of mirin in to the rice to cut the salt from the soy sauce, but otherwise it was no different than how it was described.
It was sublime. I had no idea that egg yolk would work so well with rice and soy to form a trifecta of awesome in my mouth. The soy was only really overpowering toward the bottom of the bowl where it had pooled and I started to run out of egg yolk. A lesson for next time, of course. Less soy!
So, yeah, that bowl of rice and egg disappeared in about 5 minutes. Because it was something I had to come up with ideas on as we went, the Muse seems happy for now. My egg craving is sated. AND, on top of that, I have a fast and delicious lunch to try, or something to make for dinner one night. Simplest is best, and I have been trying for simple lately. This is pretty much the epitome of simple.
And really... it is so nice to have that bitch of a Muse off my back so I can get back to focusing! I just wish all resolutions were so triply pleasing!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Because everything's better with cake (and cookies!)

I enjoy baking a lot. You mix together a strange concoction in a bowl, put it in a pan, then apply a lot of heat to it over a period of time. When you pull it out it becomes something awesome like breads or pies or cakes or something else equally nifty. I know there's complex chemistry involved, but really I don't care. I put dough in, I get warm baked good out. That is enough for me.

My downfall, though, is that I seriously enjoy taunting my friends with pictures of what I have baked so that they might drool while I enjoy a slice of it. It isn't nice, but I'm not always a super nice person, and it's nice to know that people would be interested in having cake if they come over to your place. Especially if it's something you ~made~.

Recently I posted several pictures of things I made and people asked me for the recipe. I happily promised them I would share it and then..... never did. Which is my bad, because they're very good recipes and I really did want other people to enjoy them. SO... to make up for that, and to promote more posting of pictures of baked goods on the internet, I am posting the recipes here for use! Trust me... these things are goooooood...

Our first recipe is for Honey Madeleines. These things are bitchin', and make for an excellent breakfast with a cup of coffee:

1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-powdered sugar for sifting

Preheat over to 378 degrees F. Lightly butter 12 madeleine molds. (or if you're me and have a mini-mold tin, you butter 18. There's enough to fill both equally well. If you don't have a madeleine pan, you can use a tartlet pan or butter the snot out of a muffin pan.) In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup butter. Cool.

In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar unti pale and thick (this may NEVER happen. As long as you start to get a nice blanket of bubbles and the sugar seems integrated in to the egg, you'll be fine) Stir in melted butter and honey. Sift flour and baking power onto egg mixture, then fold in.

Spoon mixture into prepared molds. Bake 10 minutes, until light golden-brown. Leave in molds for 2 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust them lightly with the powdered sugar. Makes 12 (or, once again, 18 if you're me)

The next recipe is for Green Tea Cake with Green Tea and Lime Buttercream, and even as I sit here typing this out, I'm having to brush the flour off of the pages from the last time I used it. This stuff is slightly less bitchin, but only because it takes longer and it leaves you with a LOT of baked good to get through. I would recommend making this when a big group of friends is coming over, because they will enjoy it and take all of it off your hands and not leave it around to tempt you constantly. Kind of like my trial-cake did with me. :D

For the cake~
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Matcha green tea powder
1 and 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oi
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain yogurt (greek yogurt is awesome for this)

For the buttercream frosting~
grated peel of 2 unwaxed limes, plus the freshly squeezed juice of 1
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar, plus extra to thicken
2 teaspoons Matcha green tea powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans, greased and lined with backing parchment or waxed paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and Matcha powder.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vegetable oil and eggs until smooth. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. (This is SERIOUSLY important. If you overmix, you will have a very flat, brownie-like cake. Once again, don't be like me kids!)
Pour the batter in to the prepared cake pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

To make the green tea and lime buttercream, beat together the (ROOM TEMPERATURE) cream cheese, lime peel and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Sift in the sugar, add the Matcha powder, and beat until smooth. (At this point your kitchen will smell fantastic and citrusy. It only gets better from there) Add enough lime juice until you have a thick, spreadable consistency. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Beat in a little more sugar if the mixture looks too thin.

Slice each cake in half horizontally with a serrated knife and remove the baking parchment. Place one layer on a plate and spread a little less than one quarter of the buttercream over it. Repeat with the remaining layers and spread the remaining buttercream over the top of the cake. (Of note... you will not have enough to frost around the sides at this point, which is okay. It's supposed to be more of a tea-cake -pardon the pun- than a birthday-style cake. If you really want those sides covered, make a double batch of the icing and have fun.) Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the buttercream. Serves 6 to 8 people.

~a quick note, if you have an Asian grocery store they will probably have powdered matcha in their store for you to use. If not, try buying some online via an import place or Amazon.com. Whatever you do, do NOT put regular green tea in your coffee grinder and pulverize it! The quality will be poor and the flavor will be bizarre. Matcha is an entirely different type of tea using different processes to make it that way. You really do need the powdered for this recipe.

I hope people have fun making a mess in the kitchen trying these things out, and I want to see PICTURES! Spam me with pictures! I love seeing what other people are making and how they get creative in different ways when using the same basic raw ingredients. And most of all, I hope everybody enjoys the hell out of these after they bake them and that it does not bring on any guilt or fits of jogging whatsoever following their consumption.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Actual Conversation #97 - wherein April Fool's Antics are discussed

me: You know... I realized I had no desire whatsoever to send out my usual "I have Hodgkins/I'm pregnant/I'm going to leave Bob and become an interpretive dance star" email like I usually do.
It feels empty, Bob, that space where being a shit used to reside....
gru: K, well fill it up with joy and teddy bears or something? :-)
me: Can it be kittens instead of teddy bears?
gru: That's fine
me: I'm sated.
gru: Yay!
me: How many kittens can I fill it up with before you get mad when you come home and find them?
gru: I don't know, sweetie.
me: Okay. It is now a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT!

(no kittens were harmed in the having of this discussion)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Au Mal Pan

I made an executive decision while I was out and about yesterday to remedy the Crappy Bread Cookbook situation. It has now been replaced with one that was on sale at Barnes and Noble, and this one uses a variety of measurements for each ingredient and decent descriptions. I also don't get the feeling that this was translated from some other language in to English and that something huge was lost in that transition!
Although I think it's a bit audacious of them to call themselves "The Best-Ever Book of Bread", they do have a LOT of recipes in there and the directions are quite different than the ones in my current book. I hold out hope that some day I might produce a lovely loaf of bread.
Also... it tells you how to make them in the oven AND in a bread machine, so that rocks.
Why all the big deal? you might say.... it's just bread! Just bread is something that I think some folks should be slapped for. There are people who subsist on the bread they manage to bake every day. There are no sushi bars or cocktail hours there, just a wood burning oven and whatever ingredients they have on hand to make their meal. Bread is seriously sacred stuff, and we forget that in an age where we can wander by an entire aisle of bread products that are of varying degrees of flavor and quality.
There is also the memories of my childhood when I had warm, homemade biscuits that my Mom pulled out of the oven. Anything that came out of the oven baked, honestly, and I wish to possess that magic. I want to hand my kid a totally awesome, warm biscuit so that they can get excited about putting honey and butter on it just like I used to.
And the other, final, darker reason... I must sometimes face up to the fact that I learn how to do things from scratch just in case the Zombie Apocalypse happens. With the loss of electricity and massive infrastructure to create all these goods that we rely on (and when you think about it, it is SCARY crap, how much we rely on others for our food and well being) the person who can do the basics and do them well is the one that's going to come out on top. So I learn to bake bread for my children, and to defeat the zombies before they've even arrived. And that is the truth.

It's public now...

...my Droid makes posts to Facebook each time I complete a workout, so people now know if I skipped one – especially those that I’m supposed to be exercising along with!

To that end, I am using public humiliation to get me back in the saddle, and starting today I completed Week 1, Day 1 (AGAIN) of C25K. It felt great, and having the pedometer on my iPod to monitor calories burned as well as steps taken in addition to the C25K app on my Droid made me realize what I was accomplishing. I actually kept walking an addition 5 minutes or so afterward so I could have a nice round 3,050 steps and 182 calories burned… and that was with accidentally resetting the pedometer during the warm up. Chances are good it was closer to 4,000 steps before everything was said and done!
I feel really good about this. I think having the company this time around truly will make all the difference, as well!