Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year, A New Milestone!

Hello!  Guess what?  A new milestone!

It’s been very exciting to watch the pageviews on the website rise! 

It's also been neat to watch the pace pick up.  It probably won't surprise any of you to hear that most of my recent pageviews were from NaNoWriMo and ROW80-related posts...Hello, supportive fellow writers!

1000: May-April (approx. 11 months)
2000: April-September (approx. 5 months)
3000: September-December (approx. 3 months)

A final look at my ROW80 goals for November and December, 2014:

1. Blog Sketches: These were definitely done in fits and spurts.  It was fun to draw more regularly again, and I would often find I wanted to do another sketch for a specific post.
2. Blog Posts (10+ blog posts for November & December Two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  I was mostly able to keep up, although life definitely happened.  It's been nice posting more regularly again, though. I need to remember that I can post shorter ideas or updates, too--there's a lot of pressure to complete a long, photographed tutorial or idea piece, which can prevent me from working on new posts sometimes.  And it was much easier to do three posts a week during NaNoWriMo/DigiWriMo, when I had specific word count goals hanging over my head.  By the end of this month, I was (usually) posting one writing update and one crafts post per week, with some short sketch/history posts for random holidays or astronomical events thrown in.
3. Vlog Idea: The vlog idea has not advanced at all; I've been too distracted, and I have poor lighting around here.  I have not devoted much thought to this since a practice video around Halloween.
4. Creative Writing: I have sadly not written any more for my November NaNoWriMo fiction project.  I really liked my characters and their world, so I would like to help them resolve their situation before I forget their personalities and the plot details.  But the holidays and various life things have all taken precedence in December...
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to at least one ROW80 post or comment per update interval.
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals (3/3/3: 3 sets of 3 exercises, 3 days in a row).
These two goals have been easier to keep up with.  I think in part because social media participation is something I've been wanting to do, anyway, and in part because the exercise goals have been so small.  When I am busy, the exercise definitely falls by the wayside, though.  I skip a few days or do the bare minimum, which is less than ideal.  I had been hoping to increase that goal, not barely meet it.  And I want it to become a way of life, so that I can be healthier and have more energy, so I have to figure out how to increase my fitness in a better and more consistent way.

I have enjoyed the ROW80 system, in that it gives me small, feasible goals to work towards.  But I do think that the goals that got met more regularly were the ones I WANTED to do at the time...And the smaller goals...The other goals got regularly shunted to the side for various reasons.  Life, social gatherings, but also perhaps the fact that those goals were too broad? 

Now that's fine that I didn't meet all the bullets.  Goals change when you actually try to meet them, as you discover what actually interests you as you move from theory to practice, etc.  But for things like fitness and regular creativity, I still want to make sure that those happen, no matter how I am feeling.  So I need to ponder how to restructure my goals for the next round

By the way, the new round starts January 5th, if you feel like participating! There is a sign-up page at the start, but really you can start participating at any time--I joined this last October-December round when I started NaNoWriMo in November and wanted to expand my supportive online community.  There are no obligations except the ones you impose on yourself--most members post updates on both Wednesdays and Sundays, to increase accountability and community engagement, but you can really just post whenever you have something new to say, as I have been doing in December...It still increased my overall enthusiasm and output...Feel free to check the FAQs out!

Thank you for stopping by!

I hope you have all had a great December.  And here's looking to a hopeful 2015!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays!

It's the last night of

And tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

Whether you celebrate these holidays or others, or none at all, I hope you enjoy the rest of 2014.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

12/21/14: Winter Solstice

Did you know that the Northern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice is today?  It might interest you to know that our Winter season started at 11:03PM (UT)...  Welcome to the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  Brr!

It's probably not a surprise that many cultures and religions have incorporated these seasonal changes into their traditions throughout history.  The Winter Solstice marked a significant annual moment in Europe (see the Stonehenge and Newgrange monuments, which are aligned with the winter solstice sunrise and sunset, as well-known examples), and probably all over the world.  It was believed to mark the last feast of the year, a time of food rationing and reversal, the annual rebirth of the sun gods, and the year itself.  Some people in the United States celebrate a special Mass during this evening, since it falls so close to Christmas. 

Here's a link to a few scientific facts about the Winter Solstice, if you want to understand more about what a solstice actually is.

If you're too cold (or hot), the Summer Solstice will be on June 21st, 2015, at 4:38PM (UT).

This solstice has many names, depending on where you are seasonally and globally.

Happy Hibernal Solstice, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere,
and Happy December Solstice, wherever you may be!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Barn Quilt Trails of North America (Kentucky)

Whenever I visit Kentucky, I am struck by the beautiful "painted quilts" that can be seen featured on barns that sit along the smaller highways.  More of these quilt murals can be seen on city businesses, the lovely colorful tributes to handmade crafts and Appalachian culture providing an interesting contrast to the colonial architecture of the area.  If you often drive on country roads through mainland U.S. or Canada, you may have seen these so-called "Barn Quilts."  They are large square pieces of  wood or metal that have been painted to resemble a traditional quilt block.  A few are more ambitious, and incorporate tiny blocks or try to create the illusion of flowing drapery, but most of the ones that I have seen were simple, beautiful, brightly-painted blocks that are easy to see at a distance.  Some lovely examples of the different kinds of Barn Quilts can be found here.

The “Quilt Trail” tradition is believed to have begun in Ohio in 2001, with a set of 20 quilts along a trail. A woman named Donna Sue Groves wanted to find a unique way to celebrate her mother and her Appalachian roots, and worked with several committees to create the first official route of painted quilts. She ended up starting a tradition that spread throughout North America.   Many of these Quilt Trails are now sponsored by entire communities, or by arts-based organizations.  For just two examples, here are the lovely websites dedicated to the "Quilt Trails" of McDowell County, North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.

You can read a little more about the history of Barn Quilts on Wikipedia, although it looks like there are some disagreements between websites about the origin of the trails, and about just how many states feature Quilt Trails at this point.  There are also links to some lovely maps that have been made that incorporate barn quilt thumbnails if you wish to design your own Quilt Trail Tour.   The set of maps that I've found is from 2011, but there are probably more recent maps available.  Here is the map for the Barn Quilts in Madison County, KY, which is where I was visiting. 

Here are some photographs of the Barn Quilts that I was able to see while I was in Madison County (apologies for the darker images):

On Barns:

That same barn, close up:
Painted quilts on local businesses:

 Some musicians playing in front of the gallery during a "First Friday" event:
 And this one looks like a pixelated weaving draft:

It's fun to drive around and find these painted quilts.  It's sort of like an Easter Egg hunt on a country drive.  And I think it encourages me to look at familiar crafts and techniques as inspiration for a wide range of media.  Don't you want to paint quilt blocks or turn textile patterns into stationery now?

Friday, December 19, 2014

The "Lord of the Rings" Epoch

This week debuted the final installment of the "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" movies.  That means that I've been going to see these movies with the same group of friends for OVER a decade!  In that time, we've graduated from college, moved in and out of the area, and marked several personal milestones.  While we may not be up at midnight for the first showing of the next "Harry Potter" or "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" movie anymore, it's really cool that those of us who are in the area still try to follow these cinematic stories together wherever possible.  It's crazy how many life experiences those movies bookend.

I first heard "The Hobbit" as a series of cassette tapes (housed in a lovely wooden box) during elementary school.  I brought those cassettes to 6th grade to share the audio experience with my classmates while we all labored over giant maps of Bilbo's journey through Middle Earth.  But it wasn't until college that I both read and watched "The Lord of the Rings."  The two series were pivotal literary and cinematic experiences that I still value.  Each version has its own merits.

I've gotten so used to waiting between "chapters" of movies.  I'm enjoying each installment of the Marvel/"Avengers" saga, and I hope the new "Star Wars" movies are good.  But I will continue to cherish the now-finished glimpses into the world of Middle Earth.  That world has its own special category, and I look forward to watching the extended versions in chronological order some time in the future.

ROW80 Update: Life has been a bit of a whirlwind of holiday and travel preparations.
I have not done any more writing for my story.  BUT. I have continued to draw and to be creative, in preparing for each blog entry.  I finished two stuffed animals.  And I baked.  And roasted nuts and rolled them in chocolate.  So in that sense, I continue to be productive and creative.
Goals: I need to write a couple more scenes for my story each week, while the characters remain fresh.  I need to continue prepping blog entries, so that I can keep up with my 1 Update/1 crafts post per week goal.  And I need to get back into my "3+ sets of 3 exercises for 3 days straight" goal, which lagged during November.  The vlogging idea can wait.

I hope you are all having a lovely holiday season, however, wherever, or whatever you may celebrate!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy 12/13/14!

In the United States, where we put the month first in our dates, it is December 13th, 2014 (12/13/14). 
This is going to be the LAST sequential date for this century (for Americans, anyway)!
There's even articles about the date (and math) on the Time and Smithsonian websites. 
The next sequential date won't be until January 2nd, 2103 (01/02/03). 
See you then?

Kentucky Summer

Southern California continues to be unseasonably warm and beautiful this Fall/Winter.  We are currently having our second or third rainstorm, however, which can make things chillier for a few days.  The rain is very welcome for such a drought-stricken area--hopefully it continues for a bit longer!
When I was visiting family in Kentucky this summer, there were thunderstorms every couple of days, and the countryside was thriving and green from the alternating rain and humidity.  I wanted to share some of those photos with you.  Perhaps they will help those of us in the midst of Winter feel warmer!

The entrance to Climax Springs, up near Big Hill and Berea, KY.  Climax sells a popular spring water, and locals can fill their bottles for free. 
 There is also this cute little church up the road from the spring:
All of the country roads are beautiful and green compared to Southern California.
 I love when there is a strong contrast between nature and the human structures:


All of the weathered barns and fences along the country roads provide a beautiful contrast to the lush fields:

These walls remind me of castles:

 It's fun when you can get up close to animals:

Next week, I'll show you another road-side attraction in Kentucky: Barn Quilts!  See you then!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life Post-NaNoWriMo

This blog post was begun on Sunday, November 30th—the last day of NaNoWriMo and DigiWriMo (Note: at the time of writing that sentence, I still needed about 4,000 words!  So close but so far…But I made it! 54,200 words by Sunday evening!).  One of my friends challenged me to three 1,000 word sprints, which really helped.  She has informed me that for that challenge, out of all her current writing ideas, what she settled on writing was a “Harry Potter/Discworld” fanfiction.  So the world is a funner place, no matter which of us finished each set first. 

On Saturday, November 29th, I had only written about 2,000 words towards NaNoWriMO.  I had also gotten (happily) sucked into watching the entire 1999 Mini-Series adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters (it is impossible to watch just one episode...).  I was able to turn that time into "research" by writing a review of the mini-series the next afternoon, though!

Full disclosure: I have watched the mini-series, but I have not read the book yet.  So I can't compare them.

But I had really enjoyed Elizabeth Gaskell’s short novel Cranford, as well as the TV mini-series that was based on that book and on some of Gaskell’s other stories and her letters and essays about her hometown.  And I think that “Cranford,” both the novella and the mini-series, each of which is made up of several everyday scenes in a little town that is threatened by change, was an inspiration for my NaNoWriMo creative writing project.  My piece focuses on the every day activities in a small town and in a city library, and how both react when a mysterious “Sleep Sickness” starts spreading.  And the mysterious bracelet that one character acquires:

My ROW80 Update for the week:
1, 3. Blog Sketches, Vlog Idea: I still like the idea of having an alternative creative outlet, but the vlog idea has still been pushed to the side.  I did 10 sketches in the last week and a half, and am beginning a "Book to Art" wearable piece inspired by Cranford.
2. Blog Posts (10+ blog posts for November & December (Two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  My writing has definitely slowed down post-NaNoWriMo.  And I think that with NaNoWriMo over, I may only aim for one ROW80 post and one crafts post each week.  But I wrote two posts today, so that's great.
4. Creative Writing:  I still have several points that have not been resolved in my story.  But several more scenes were written during the final November weekend push, which was exciting.  Having to focus on the story and think of more scenes to up my word count for NaNoWriMo and DigiWriMo really helped me stay focused on this story and its possibilities.  Now that the time pressure is off me, I need to figure out how to resolve my story gaps--and keep the momentum.  So I need a new fiction goal to aim for.  And I would like to continue fleshing out my novella before I think of revision or anything like that.
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to at least one ROW80 post or comment per update interval.  This was not a challenge to keep up with.  I enjoyed browsing other people’s progress, and engaging in little supportive conversations.  And it helped me to keep writing when I could see other people’s writing challenges being dealt with or just acknowledged.  Now that we're in December, there haven't been hourly NaNoWriMo updates on Twitter or in the writing forums to keep encouraging me to just write that little bit extra during each writing session, so I will have to rely on myself more…
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: I have gotten back into this (a little), now that I’m not sitting in the easy chair attempting to write a couple blocks of a thousand words every day…Small surprise, I'm sure.  I still need to get back into regular activity and increase my overall fitness.

I finished  the last evening of NaNoWriMo in a friend’s living room with the same group of people on laptops that had kicked off my 2014 NaNoWriMo jaunt on November 1st.  So that was a lovely writing bookend to finish off the month!