windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
This week, the New York Public Library released their Top 10 favorite YA books of 2015 list and it included my best friend and high school savior, Shaun's, anthology Violent Ends. (Huzzah!) The library also compiled a list of their 51 favorite YA reads of the year, with all kinds of searchable filters. It was great fun to navigate through. I'm trying to outwait an uncomfortable headcold, so this was perfect timing to find some new books to read.

Based on my interest in historical fiction with female protagonists, it steered me towards The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz and The Wrath and the Dawn by debut author Renee Ahdieh. I've been quite happy with the recommendations!

How do you keep up with new releases or decide what to read next? Are there any websites you follow that I should know about? I use a massively imprecise system of word-of-mouth, cover-art-snap-judgements, and chance encounters at the book store. There must be a better way! :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Why I'm Here and Not There
You may wonder why my entire journal teleported over to Dreamwidth. It is a long story, I guess, that I don't know if I have the right to share with any great detail. What I can say is that two years ago, I had a terrible fight with someone I love and respect a tremendous amount. Both of us were hurt by it and our relationship has been altered by it. What I learned in an email this week, though, is that she is still greatly wounded by that phone call and the experiences that led to it...so much that seeing me or reading about me on social media was leading her to continually relive that sense of heartbreak and betrayal and hurt. And, you know, that's about the worst thing I could hear about someone I love that much. The years on LiveJournal have knitted a complicated tapestry of friends and mutual friends that has spilled over onto all kinds of platforms--Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook, Good Reads, blogs--all parts of the social glue of my long-distance friendships. I'm everywhere and connected to so many of her people, her support system, that secretly feeling this way for this long must have been pretty unbearable. And it is weird, too, because I'm left wondering who my true friends are in the midst of all this bottled bad feeling. Were they both hating and loving me all this time, too? I don't know. What I do think, though, is that the only thing I can do, beyond the apologies I've sent for the pain I've caused (intentionally or not), is to give her some space without me in it. I've deleted my LJ, my Twitter, and my Instagram presence. I've moved here to an out-of-the-way corner on Dreamwidth. I'd rather my friendship be an 'opt-in' sort of thing instead of a 'there's no nice way to unfriend Rachel and I don't want to hurt her after all the history we've had'.

It really sucks, though. I have this mental image that there was a land mine and someone's leg is shattered and hanging on with shreds of skin and muscle and ligaments. Like, there's no repairing that damned leg and it is hurting you with every step and it has been for two years. I've been that lower leg and I needed to be amputated and all this time I just didn't know.

So that's what's brought me here to Dreamwidth.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pentacle heart)
I wrote this back in 2012 for Nature Nurtured. That website will be dissolving into the ether in the not-too-distant future, so I wanted to preserve this here. I believe it more than ever.

I wish you a weekend filled with the peace and serenity of being with those who truly love and support you. <3

And, also, maybe some mashed potatoes. :D

~*~

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Backing Away from Black Friday
Growing up, my parents had a gift closet. The storage cubby operated eleven months of the year as a wonderful lightless cave of flashlight shadow puppets, glow sticks and Lite Brite peg placement but in December, it became the domain of Santa’s helpers and therefore entirely off-limits to me and my older brother. Around that time, I’d be flipping through the catalogs of big chain toy stores and creating elaborate lists of what I wanted, starred and circled with varying degrees of excitement. We were a comfortably middle class household and Christmas, in addition to some quiet carols about Jesus and the presence of the very breakable nativity pieces on the sofa table, was mostly about toys descending en masse down our chimney. Our family photo albums have page after page of me showing off the latest arrivals—the Cabbage Patch doll that looked like me (and which my mom won a foot race against another shopper to snatch up), the big plastic playsets for my armies of plastic toys, and an ever-increasing library of video games for our Atari and, later, Nintendo systems. We had so much that our spare bedroom was a dedicated toy room.

That sort of consumer-driven holiday seemed perfectly natural to me. As a teenager, I spent hours in the mall (and an impressive amount of discretionary income) to ensure that I’d bought a lotion and bubble bath basket, a classic red sweater, a heating pad, a reading light, a gift card, or somethinganything—for every member of my family and my circle of friends and acquaintances. Only a Scrooge would forego that time-honored tradition of giving!

As a pagan parent, though, I’m beginning to doubt the whole endeavor. I’m the sucker who cries at every ‘spirit of Christmas’ movie that’s ever been created and yet, I wonder what the myth of Santa does to the hearts of children whose parents and caretakers can’t afford piles of presents. Do they worry, even subconsciously, that they’ve ended up on Santa’s naughty list when they get a package of dollar store crayons instead of the bike they’d asked him for? Do they feel abandoned by the Divine when the all-knowing, all-seeing jolly old elf fails to appear at their home? Can Santa’s largesse feel exclusionary to those who witness classmates bragging about what they got under the tree? These are questions I’ve really struggled with.

I tried keeping Santa out of our home, along with Christianity, and I discovered just how omnipresent the guy in the red suit is. He seeped into my son’s life when I wasn’t looking—in stores, on packaging, and even through playground conversations with other, Santa-savvier toddlers and preschoolers. I’d loved the part the Christmas myth had played in my own childhood—was I right to try and bar it from my son’s? Maybe some happy middle ground was called for.

I’m ever a work-in-progress when it comes to parenting according to my values as a pagan, living mindfully enough that my choices line up with my beliefs. Some years, I’m better at avoiding the trap of heightened name-brand consumption and some years, it is too tempting and feels infinitely easier to visit Target to buy something mass-produced for every loved one on my list. I don’t always meet my goal of giving thought-filled gifts of true value and significance. I don’t always get around to making something or finding just the right artisan to purchase from, but there is one simple thing that I’ve done that makes sure I start the holiday season with an act of powerful intention.

I’ve ditched Black Friday completely–that day of attractive sales, early hours, and shopping mania that occurs right after Thanksgiving’s feasting. I don’t read the sale flyers. I ignore the ‘door buster deals’ and the free-with-purchase snow globes and lap blankets and dancing, burping reindeer toys. I choose not to participate in the frenzy of buying. I’ve happily opted out of the whole experience. Instead, I enjoy the entire holiday weekend with my family in the cozy comfort of our own home. I have enough to be thankful for without needing to fill the car with more. I embrace the holiday by decorating my house, putting out corn for the deer, and watching those Santa films that make me cry instead of waiting restlessly outside a store to snag the latest in things-I’m-told-I-can’t-live-without. I choose to slow down, instead of speed up, and to give myself the chance to make different, more soul-fulfilling choices in how I express my love, my thanks, and my friendship to those around me. I want my son to experience winter as something sacred, spiritual, and special. I want Yule to be the warmth of a shared meal, the dawn of newfound hope and goodwill, the crackle of a comforting fire and the solidarity of a renewed family bond. Those are the things I’ve never felt amidst the loud bustle and over-bright displays of retailers vying for my money.

I wonder if it’d do us all a world of good if we, as a community, backed away from Black Friday…if we dumped the catalogs into the recycling bins and started from scratch with our children on their winter wish lists. What do they really want? Do they want a Dora the Explorer backpack or do they really want to go on adventures in the out of doors? Do they want a karaoke set or do they really want a way to feel their voices are heard? Do they want the latest greatest video game system or just a way to spend time together with someone? Do our loved ones really need whatever the big companies are selling this year—or do they simply need to know that we value their place in our lives?

In my family, we’ve chosen to believe in the spirit of Santa. He isn’t at the mall, for us, but rather part of our home, our hearth, and our hearts. He doesn’t buy the magic he distributes each year—he makes it.

This year, I’m attempting to do the same. I aspire to staying out of the big stores and making different choices with my money and my time. I might not succeed, entirely, but I’ll start by embracing Thanksgiving weekend as an opportunity to spend a gloriously long weekend at home with my family and all that we have, already, to be thankful for.

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Grow)
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This week, I'm reading Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience by pagan theologist Gus diZerega. It's the kind of book that I'm slowly reading with pencil in hand, circling passages and writing notes in the margins. I love the way that he insightfully and sensitively distills both religious traditions into some key essentials that explain the many barriers of understanding between us. There have been a lot of "a-ha!" moments where I realize that something he's saying makes so much sense but that I'd never thought of it in those terms. There's been something sweet and healing about those discoveries while I'm hosting so many Christian houseguests! :)

This passage, though, from a section on living within a pagan worldview, has been my favorite thus far:

Of all the world's peoples, we moderns have traveled farthest from the harmony of the world and spirit, and a daily perception that our world is sacred. We are almost completely surrounded by our own artifacts, and we see them through the lenses of our own preoccupations with power, profit, and pride. We also feel the emptiness that results.

Our situation is not really so bleak. While our society has obscured the sacred with everything it touches, we moderns can still reconnect with Spirit, with the sacred and divine, in honoring and pondering the lessons contained within what is most timeless in nature, and therefore least susceptible to our manipulation. It is here that Wiccans, and most other Pagans, find their scripture, a scripture that is renewed with every seed that sprouts, every droplet of rain that falls, and every day that dawns.

In seeking to experience genuine spiritual value we are increasingly drawn outside human society, into the timeless cycles of nature, and of life, in order to grasp that which is larger than us all. Doing so puts the frantic hustle and bustle of our lives into a different, and more fitting, context. So long as we are infatuated with the promise of technology and power, we remain largely deaf to the realm of Spirit. We are entranced, instead, by the narrow realm of ego, a fragment thinking it stands alone and seeking endlessly to be a whole while simultaneously turning its back on that from which it manifests and which sustains it.

Once we realize the ultimate emptiness of seeking power and possession, we are open once again to the more subtle but infinitely deeper truths graspable through nature and nature's cycles. We discover the true and sacred context which gives meaning to our lives. This context encompasses not only the cycles of nature where in many cases they are most apparent, but underlies all existence, even enobling and lifting up the secular world as well.

As a manifestation of Spirit, Nature becomes a source of wisdom. The cycles of the seasons are owned by neither corporation nor government. The phases of the moon are unrelated to either Madison Avenue or Washington, D.C. No human purpose mediates our encounter with them. They are available to all. They directly manifest value, and we need no access to copyright or cash in order to perceive it.

...

For us, it is in and through nature's processes that we most directly find our inspiration and our home. Those of us who have been blessed by the Goddess's presence know beyond doubt that this world is sacred, that it is permeated by Her love, and that this path can be one of shining beauty and profound wisdom.


Reading that is giving me a kick-in-the-butt. Like, "I should shut off Netflix and the Internet and de-activate my iPhone, avoid all non-essential shopping, and spend the entire summer outside somewhere!" The call of the Walden Ponds of the world is strong. <3

What's inspiring you lately? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (heart family)
On Saturday, Graeme turned 7 years old. He doesn't have much in the way of friends in the area, so we decided to make a weekend trip out of his birthday in lieu of a party. We had a wonderful time together!

Saturday our trip was delayed while Graeme attended his ballet class and then rehearsals for his roles in The Nutcracker. (I can't remember if I mentioned here or only on Facebook, but he was cast as a Party Boy, as a Toy Soldier, and as a Gingerbread Boy which means pretty much all day, every Saturday from now until December, he'll be at the studio.) Each week's rehearsal schedule is different and this time, he was in class from 9-10am and then went back from 1:30-4:15pm. Daniel and I split up. While Daniel and Elena ran errands, wrapped presents, and finished packing the car for our trip, I manned a chair in the lobby of the studio, scrambling to get Graeme fed, watered, and properly dressed in the short (sometimes non-existent) breaks between rehearsals in various rooms. There was a lot of shoe fixing and tights hitching up. :D It felt like being a boxing trainer--quick pep talks, a stool to sit on, and a water bottle. And not that it's anything all that strenuous but for Graeme, at his age, it's pretty much the most committed, hard-work kinda thing he's ever done. I'm proud that he'd trade his Saturdays to tackle something so big. <3

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Once he was done, he changed into street clothes and we loaded into the hybrid for the drive up to Orlando--about two and half hours northwest of us. Graeme wanted to go to Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum as he's obsessively interested in all those bizarre facts and "did you know" kinda books lately. We got the the museum around 7pm (it was open until Midnight, so no worries there). The building is constructed to look like it is sinking into a sinkhole. (Though impossible to get a decent photo of it unless you're dodging traffic on International Drive.) Graeme had a great time. It was a strange place. The galleries held a mixture of things from African fertility statues to shrunken heads to clothes worn by some of the world's tiniest (and biggest) people. There were iconic coin operated machines--like the Zoltan fortune teller--and there was weird art like a massive image of The Last Supper created entirely with dryer lint. There was a Mona Lisa mosaic made of carefully cut tiles of toasted bread in various shades of doneness and another mosaic of Frankenstein's monster made with computer keys. I don't know what to make of the combination of optical illusions and wax figures of people with unusual talents, the oversized wooden chair and the tiny starfish under glass. Weird. Sometimes interesting but weird. :D

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More odd Ripley's stuff under the cut... )

After the museum, we checked into our nearby Homewood Suites (free thanks to all of Daniel's business travel!) and ordered Thai food from @Siam, a place we've tried before and liked. Graeme got to open his presents over pad thai and cupcakes, quite happily. (We'd bought him a few books filled with interesting facts and a giant Scooby Doo pillow pet sort of thing. My sister-in-law sent him some Scooby Doo chapter books and my Mom sent some of those toy spy gadgets including room alarms and eavesdropping headphones, etc. :) ) I ordered a mango yellow curry with tofu and mango sticky rice for dessert and it was so happy.

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~*~

On Sunday, we got out the door and drove to Magic Kingdom around 9am. We have season passes through February (and Elena's free until she turns 3), so it was fun to take advantage of that to extend Graeme's birthday celebration with a couple low-cost days at Disney World. Everything was decorated autumnally for their Not-So-Spooky Halloween party later that night. The park attendance was surprisingly light for a weekend, so we were able to get on a lot of rides with minimal waiting. We'd reserved Fast Passes for Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear, and The Haunted Mansion--which we walked right on--and we also had time for It's A Small World, Peoplemover, Barnstormer, the Carousel, and lunch at Columbia Harbour House. By about 2pm, Elena had conked out from the heat and we were ready to call it a day. We got back to the hotel, doled out snacks and television shows to the kids in their room and then Daniel and I conked out for a two hour nap. (Divine.) That night Graeme opened the second half of his presents (including a rock painting kit and a book to help memorize state capitals and presidents from his other grandparents) and we ate leftover Thai food and watched HGTV together. (Beachfront Bargains).

On Monday, the Magic Kingdom was nutso-banana-pants. We'd packed all our gear up into the car in the morning and arrived about 9:30am to crowds two or three times what they'd been on Sunday. The UV index was an 8, high enough that we could actively feel our skin frying outside despite our thick coatings of heavy duty sunscreen, and the humidity had the 'feels like' temperature up to 96 degrees. It was pretty miserable. The lines were so long for the Monorail and the Ferry boat into the park that we were directed into the line for the *buses*. That sucked. More people than buses, standing room only, everyone cram on and try to keep your children from being trampled in the rush for the doors. :/

We reminded ourselves that we were there to do a couple things and to go home when we wanted. So, we had Fast Passes to meet Tinkerbell (Elena had spent two days carrying her talking Captain Hook doll around and Tinkerbell was adorably offended at her loyalties. Graeme just stared at her dress, kinda starstruck, and insisted he was not a pirate despite his blue and white striped shirt.) We also got to ride Winnie the Pooh's honeypot cars and then Peter Pan on Fast Passes. We opted for things with short lines as we found them--Pirates of the Caribbean first thing in the morning, two rounds of Barnstormer, a trip around Magic Kingdom on the train, Aladdin's flying carpets and pineapple Dole Whips for the overheated kids. We bought a few souvenirs in the Emporium and then headed home around 2pm when the heat was unbearable.

We got home early enough for the kids to work on their chalk art in the driveway while I caught up on dishes and laundry. And, once the kids were in bed, Daniel and I had dinner and watched the finale to The Quest together! :D

Late last night, Graeme developed a fever of 102 out of nowhere. He was miserable and it was climbing, so we did the parenting scramble of Tylenol, Motrin, and a cool bath to bring his temperature down. Today, after some sleep, he's back to normal and ready to resume his busy seven year-old life.

Disney photos under the cut! )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (mlp witch)
Last week, the kids were signed up for an end-of-summer hurrah in the form of a day camp together at MyGym. I packed their lunch each day, dropped them off at 9:00am and then picked them back up at 2:00pm. As a homeschooling stay-at-home Mom, it was the kind of childfree time I never get and I felt like I had acres and acres and acres of freedom! So, I took advantage of those hours by overhauling my Pony Room--the office of all things My Little Pony at the end of the upstairs hall. I cleared out the walk-in closet in there, removing most of the wire shelving and bought (and assembled) three white melamine bookcases to use as display space. I found frames for most of my large Pony Fair posters and got my Pony Fair banners hung up with double-sided contact squares. By cobbling together shelving and drawer space from all over the house, I was finally able to clear enough space to unbox *all* of my G1 collection, all of my G4 collection, and a good percentage of my G2 and G4 collections. It isn't the final product I have envisioned, where I'd like lighted and glass-fronted built-ins for everything, but it is a comfortable stopping point for now. I've got my vintage stuff out of the room's sunlight, I've got most everything out where it can breathe and be assessed and fixed and seen, and it's just a very happy, very pony-rific spot.

It does change the vibe of the room, though, to have most everything G1 hidden away in a closet while the bolder, brighter colors of G3 and G4 are on display. And while I am an all-generations fan, the vintage stuff is/will always be my favorite. Not sure what to do about that, short of bricking up the window, but for now it works.

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(My new closet displays. There are a lot of ponies in there that need some serious hair care.)

Care to see more? )
I'd been holding off until I could afford the cases, the paint, the chandelier, the slipper chair, the everything I'd envisioned for the room. But, for about $150 in frames/bookcases and scrounging the rest from what we already had, I've got something I'm quite happy working with in the meantime. :) <3

It's 100% me. Super happy, a little silly, faintly embarrassing...but mine. :)
windinthemaples: (kind)
In October 2009, two magical things happened in my life. One, I discovered the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life and I also came upon an old metal newspaper box that had been repurposed as a community book box and chained out in the elements on our Chicago neighborhood's sidewalk. It was covered in graffiti and heavily battered, held more trash than books, but it was still glorious to discover. I started making it a regular stop on Graeme's daily tricycle ride. We'd stock the back basket of his trike with books to donate and transfer all the wadded up newspapers, fast food wrappers, and empty Starbucks cups from the bookshelves to the nearby trash can. We loved being part of that project--even though we never met any of the people who were leaving or taking books. I don't know who created the box and stuck it out there on Chicago Avenue but they brought me such joy.

And so, while I've contributed to coffee shop book shelves and other little community book swaps in the past, I'd not heard of the Little Free Library movement until [livejournal.com profile] mrsbrewer started stewarding her own book box outside her home. It was wonderful--an organization that promotes and registers all these tiny independent book philanthropists, a searchable map on their website studded with little free libraries all over the world. I wanted one, so much, and so entirely lacking in carpentry skills, I started saving up money from holiday and birthday gifts to buy a ready-made box that I could plant right outside our new home in Florida once we moved.

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That pine box arrived and smelled divinely of fresh-sawed wood. I painted and stained it a buttery yellow color, to honor the spirit of our Sunshine House, and then it sat in our laundry room for seven long months because, frankly, I can no more install a library than I can build one. Finally, last week, I posted to our local town residents' page on Facebook asking for someone who had a post hole digger that I could hire for the job. To my surprise, within an hour, a team of five or six people had volunteered themselves to bring the supplies and show up for a sort of tiny barn-raising party on Sunday. Friday, another neighbor called me to talk about how best to install the box. In the end, he was so eager to help that he and his wife showed up with all the tools necessary on Saturday and found a way to tie the box into our preexisting fenceline so we didn't have to install a post at all. "You're in the library business", he said as he ran the last screw through. The Little Sunshine Book Box was born! :)

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Instead of having a post-hole digging party on Sunday, we gave out donuts to everyone who came by to donate books. In two hours we had about ten families come by and they gave a total of just under 200 books. We've got visitors to the box every day and up to 124 likes on the book box's Facebook Page. It's all pretty wonderful. :)

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So, we are now happily hosting a book box and it is JOY to drive by it in our comings and goings, to restock the shelves and to see what's been taken and what's been given.

I got the box up and running before I realized my father's last gift to me, the check he'd sent at Yuletide, had paid for most of the Little Sunshine Book Box.

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That's heartbreaking and soul-warming both. My father was ever on my side when it came to my hare-brained philanthropic projects. (Thanks, Dad. Whether I was collecting storybooks or warm pajamas or holiday gifts or canned goods, you always made me feel like it was the right thing to do and you were always the first to pitch in to help. I cannot tell you how much I'm missing that.)

The Little Sunshine Book Box was a gift from him to me. May it be a gift to the community, as well.

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (heart family)
I was invited to Influenster by [livejournal.com profile] wanderlustlover. It is a product review company that pairs people up with products they might like (in a collection called a "VoxBox") and, in exchange for a box of full-size samples of things, asks for feedback on those freebies. I signed up on Valentine's Day, answered all kinds of simple survey questions to see what sorts of hobbies I have, what I do with my day, whether I have pets or children, whether I like to travel or drink wine or play video games or lift weights.

A few months later, I was selected to be one of 10,000 recipients of the TLC VoxBox, intended for Moms. My first box! It was pretty thrilling. I imagined that it would either be TLC for Moms (bubble bath) or TLC for babies (diaper rash cream). When I got the little adorable lavender box in the mail I was surprised to have received neither bubble bath *nor* diaper rash cream. I'll tell you what I got!

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Neosporin: Neo to Go!
I've seen this product before in stores and it never made any sense. Portable antibiotic ointment. The standard tubes are small enough, and secure enough with their screw-on caps, I thought surely it would fit in any Mom's purse. My daughter, being a 2 year-old daredevil and amateur walker, has frequent knee scrapes. I was happy to have another bottle of Neosporin, regardless of how silly I thought the whole "on the go" thing is. But here's the thing I just realized--the Neo to Go packaging takes one finger to operate. There's no cap to unscrew while you're holding a Band-Aid (all the while trying to keep it sterile) and pinning down a wailing child's bloody leg. There's no little cap to roll under the bathroom cabinets and down into the floor register to never be seen again. It's just a one finger trigger--squeeze and go. It's a genius invention that only makes sense if you're a parent. I'm not going to carry it in my purse. I don't carry bandages with me, that'd be a slippery slope if I started to pack for any and all potential injuries, but this is a pretty smart product for at-home injured child wrangling.

Breyers Gelato Indulgences
I remember, in my youth, when Breyers ice cream seemed high quality. Eventually they've been pushed aside by other companies like Ben & Jerry's and Talenti. My TLCVoxBox included a coupon for a free tub (28.5 oz) of the new Breyers Gelato Indulgences. The new line, at least in my local Publix, isn't shelved with the rest of the Breyers ice cream and the $5.00-$6.00 price point seemed to signal that it was a vastly different product. It was advertised as having three different textures in each carton--sauce swirls, gelato, chocolate shavings on top.

I think gelato is magical. And while Breyers did produce something with the ultra rich and creamy texture of gelato, it did so with food science trickery. Gelato, an Italian form of ice cream, is (supposed to be) created with a special gelato machine that creates the extra dense frozen treat through a slow process that reduces the amount of incorporated air. My local gelato shop had to import all their machines from Italy to get the production right. It should be made of milk, sugar, cream, natural flavorings. Simple ingredients to get the freshest flavors.

Breyers Gelato Indulgences' Vanilla Caramel flavor contained all kinds of crap that doesn't belong in any self-respecting gelato including corn syrup in the 'caramel sauce', corn syrup in the ice cream base itself, three artificial food colorings in the 'caramelly curls', and all kinds of bullshit thickeners to simulate gelato without actually making it. There are almost forty ingredients in a tub of this stuff. Compare that to a tub of Talenti Gelato which ranges from about five ingredients to fifteen per flavor.

Has Breyers forgotten, in this world of laboratories and vile food additives, how to make real ice cream? If they want to compete with smaller companies that are going back to the roots of artisanal ice cream production--why not use real ingredients instead of chemical cocktails to achieve texture and taste?

It's absurd...and exactly how I'd expect a Unilever company to act.

Ivory Bar Soap
I got a full bar of Ivory Soap ("99.44% pure!") in a historic throwback packaging. (I wonder if it still floats?) I can appreciate that this is a product that hasn't really been messed with since 1879. An airy, non-glycerin soap that produces good mudpie dissolving suds and isn't soaked through with dyes or perfumes. But, you know, buying a bar at a farmer's market that isn't stocked with Proctor & Gamble products would be far more satisfying.

AVON Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother
This $30 compact contains a little round reservoir of product promising to "BLUR the look of WRINKLES on the forehead & around the eyes INSTANTLY!". The compact slides open in a very cool way, looks nifty, and has a sufficiently impressive/scary ratio of multisyllabic chemical ingredients to balm volume. It even smelled like it was potent. I have no doubt that, unlike a lot of other moisturizing wrinkle creams, that this stuff probably does something to your skin to beat those wrinkles into submission. The box even had instructions on how to dab, not rub, the balm into the wrinkles.

Is that the kind of TLC I need as a Mom? I decided not and gave it to my Mom, who is less concerned with what might be going into her body or onto her skin.

Puffs To Go
I got a travel pack of Puffs Plus Lotion. The tissues are impregnated with all kinds of stuff: mineral oil, alcohol, paraffin, aloe, shea butter. I normally buy tissues without lotion, but these have proved pretty handy at removing stubbornly dried-on spaghetti sauce from children's faces and hands. And hey, I need more stuff in my purse. ;)

Shell Fuel Rewards Network Card
This 'product' baffles me. It is a Shell gas station loyalty card. It can track my Shell station purchases and issue me seemingly random and untrackable discounts on fuel. If I buy enough 20 oz. Cokes in the convenience store, I might save 3 cents or 5 cents or 10 cents or who knows how much off who knows how many gallons of fuel at my next refill. It would make sense if it was simple. If, every time I used it, I got a discount of $0.xx/gallon...that'd be a thing. But it is needlessly complicated, expensive, and shady--just like the petroleum industry in general. Instead, I'm going to save up for my electric car, solar panels, and shred this dumb card. It isn't a gift for anyone to loan back pennies of the billions in dirty profits you've made destroying our planet's ecosystems and harming its inhabitants.

~*~

If you have any interest in getting an invitation to Influenster and trying your luck with their products to review--please email me with your preferred email address or responding with it in the comments.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean heart)
I didn't get my brother's phone calls, I was sick and had turned my phone to silent. Yesterday afternoon, though, I got an email from Daniel that I needed to call my brother. I called him and he said, "Oh, hey Rachel. How are you doing?" and I said, "I'm alright, sick though. Is something wrong?" and he said, "Yes, something is wrong. Dad passed away."

As I understand it, staff at the assisted living facility he's at found him yesterday morning, having died in his bed. The coroner expects it is a cardiac issue, and given my father's medical history that is very likely. He was 69 years old.

My father weathered (and at times miraculously survived) a series of health crises. He has been code blue and resuscitated, on ventilators and then revived. We have sat at his hospital bed, in vigil, more than once and in more than one city. It is just unbelievable that he is gone, truly and irrevocably gone, and we didn't even get a phone call as warning. It feels like there has been a mistake. I didn't know that our last phone call was going to be our last.

He was really down last week. He only picked up my phone call because I left a rambling message that began with "Dad, are you there? If you're there, pick up! Pick up, pick up, pick up! Well, I'll tell you about me..." He hadn't seen much of my brother and was isolating himself in his room. He was having all his meals delivered so he didn't have to get out of bed or socialize with anyone. I bullied him, albeit good-naturedly, to take a shower, put on fresh clothes, and to take his next meal in the cafeteria with the rest of the residents of the assisted care facility. He said something about how he had nothing in common with those old people, those infirm and forgetful. I lashed back, in disbelief at his snobbery, saying he had everything in common with those people--he also had trouble moving around, needed care, was in poor health. (It turns out they all outlived him.) He said he had to go to the bathroom and he'd talk to me later. He was cagey, never promised to get out of bed, and I said, "Okay, well call me back if you want to talk."

Those were the last words I ever spoke to my Dad. His spirits did improve, though, and he went to dinner at my brother's mother-in-law's house on Saturday and then ran errands with my brother on Sunday. Things were fine, we never expected to lose him this week, no matter how fragile we knew his health to be.

I wish I'd been kinder, in my words and in my thoughts. I wish I'd known the last time we talked was going to be the last time. I wish he'd gotten to see our new home, the one we'd be staying in here in Florida. I wish he'd been able to go to Disney World with us, to experience it with his grandchildren after so many adventures there with his children. I wish his life had been better and more fulfilling. It is tragic that he died after decades of waiting for renewed health in order to live. The tragedy wasn't his death, as that was something he yearned for as a perfect respite from suffering, but in the waste of his life and his potential all the years before. What a shame, what a shame, what a shame how much mental illness stole from us all.

I was digging through boxes of old photographs, looking for something appropriate for the obituary or the visitation. A letter from my father, written on the back of a piece of church bulletin dated July 15, 2002, fell out onto the table and was overlooked until I'd repacked the rest of the box. His scrawled handwriting leaps off the page. It wasn't one of his cruel letters, but one of his kind. It says, in part,

"You are very special and a wonderful daughter--I am proud of you! If you get a little discouraged, just get healthy and think of Michener's quote on character!!!!"

(Which, with a little Googling, I believe is this quote from my birth year--"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth times.")

He went on to say, "(never give up, you have great genes) (you have Viking and Scottish Highlander blood--great potential) (not to mention Irish grit and determination) (BRAINS +)".

He wrote about Vietnam after that before closing:
"LOVE,
FOREVER,
DAD."

It was kind of an extraordinary find yesterday, a letter I never remember receiving saying everything you'd want a Dad, forever gone, to have said.

He was so sick, so, so sick, and yet I know that he loved me. He really did.

IMG_6931

~*~
I had no idea how devastating his loss would be. I couldn't have imagined that I'd be surprised when he died, that it'd be so sudden, so unannounced, so final.

IMG_8764
windinthemaples: (kind)
The Fable Tribe had a small update today of Doctor Who inspired Glamourkin pendants and TARDIS blue star-filled blessing bowls. It's pretty spectacularly happy and inspiring stuff. This year's cash crunch has eased quite a bit, now that we're in the process of moving and have sold off our (disastrously money-sapping) rental properties here in Illinois. I splurged this afternoon and bought myself two pieces I really, really love.

The Fable Tribe
This blessing bowl, for ever returning, was perfect for me. Doctor Who, yes, but also an affirmation of my belief in reincarnation, in the knowledge that I, too, am for ever returning, and maybe, if that's true, I can be forgiven for my flaws, given space and compassion to grow and transform and return again.

The Fable Tribe
I bought this book shaped Glamourkin. I love everything about it. I don't know if it's me doing the shining or me being promised some reinforcing light (probably both), but I love the Sun magick of it all and that's very much what this move and the past year or two feel like to me. Lots and lots of sun magick, of sovereignty and light and growth and sustaining warmth.

Did anything from the update catch your eye? If so, are you a Doctor Who fan, too? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (mlp witch)
Yesterday, I hosted another big MLP collector here at my home. She drove from Wisconsin to hand deliver a big private swap box she'd put together for me. I got some awesome stuff! :D <3 I can only hope she was happy with what I gave her, too.

Including, the most exciting, Sunburst--a UK/Euro exclusive Mountain Boy Pony. I only need to find two more of these guys to complete my set. :)

photo(417)

Lots more ponies under the cut! )

This weekend, Daniel is celebrating my birthday and so I've got the place all ponified and decorated now. It's certainly feeling a lot more festive than it was this time *last* week. :)

Also, sometime this week the Fair staff will be announcing the host city for the 2014 Pony Fair. There was a lot of talk about remaining in Indianapolis but I am guessing that, given my luck and the fact that I'm moving before it, that it'll be in the Chicagoland area this year. You never know, though. The past few years have been Rhode Island (at the Hasbro Headquarters), Orlando, and Indianapolis.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (mlp witch)
I'm experimenting with offering some of my ponies up for sale via Livejournal before they go to eBay or elsewhere. If you're interested in any of the following, please leave me a comment. I'll get back to you, we can figure out shipping costs, and move on from there. :D

In future, you can check all my Pony Sales by clicking my "pony sales" tag. :) But this is the first, so this is all I have right now.

G3 Breezies (US Release)
Click here to see better example photographs of Breezies.

photo(264)
To give you an idea of their size, here's one next to a blind bag G4. :)

In 2006 and 2007, Hasbro released a series of teeny-tiny fabric-winged and fairy-type pony figures as friends and companions to the larger G3 ponies. They lived in flowers and rode around in little floral wagon/train cars. I've got a bunch of them that have been jumbled in a box for far too long. They need loving homes and a hair brushing. :D They *do not* include their crowns or petal cars. Any flaws (besides messy hair and rumpled wings) will be noted individually.

photo(265)
Breezies for Sale

More photos and prices under the cut! )
windinthemaples: (kind)
Something has been percolating in my brain for awhile now. Bits and pieces of thoughts and experiences that, surprisingly, are becoming one giant, all-encompassing whole. My nostalgic, wistful missing of handwriting letters and Daniel and I's love for paper maps and spontaneous road trips. My summer memories of playing kick-the-can with whatever neighbor kids happened to be within earshot. My iPhone's now ubiquitous presence in my life--the curse and the blessing it is to have. The (sad) state of food today--all processed and convenience-first design.

I'm thinking of embarking on a little project. A throwback summer--some as-yet-undetermined amount of time where I toss out 30 years of technological advances. Where I turn off the internet and put my mobile phone in a box and where I make everything without the microwave. Where we (ideally) ditch television, computers, and other digital entertainments for simpler ones. Where I go to stores to buy things instead of to Amazon. Where I pay cash and visit the bank tellers. Use and develop film camera photos. Use a paper calendar, a paper journal, and paper grocery lists. Have a phone line (corded) without an answering machine.

Of course, the irony is that I'd want it to become a blog-like experience, so I'd have to allow for some internet/computer time each week. What if, that was an hour or two a week and it had to be done while sitting in a library--not at my own home?

Just something percolating. I remember our family's first remote control, our first microwave, our first experience with an ATM--but my son doesn't know a world without those things is even possible. And THAT, ultimately, is what is fueling my desire to see another world again to see what of our new world is really worthwhile.

How about you? What would your 'throwback summers' include? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (meadow fae)
I didn't get any submissions for the May issue of Nature Nurtured. But, despite the lack of an issue, there IS still a prize giveaway this month.

Basically, win three books of your choice for you, your children, your family. Now, I'm hoping they'll be somewhat related to the mission of Nature Nurtured to craft and nurture a more magickal home life. Maybe a book on crocheting or a book of Buddhist philosophy or some books on herbal remedies or paganism or divinatory practices. Your call. One randomly chosen commenter will win their three book selections!

The only rules are, for legal reasons, that the winner must be at least 18 years old and have a United States address they can use for shipping.

Please, I hope you'll consider entering.

:) That'd make something good out of something sad. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (i saw that)
Is your Friends List kind of quiet these days? Are you open to adding to it and inviting more LiveJournalers into your circle?

I know some spectacular people from LiveJournal and I'd like you to know them, too. If you're reading this and willing to welcome and explore more connections on your Friends List, please post in the comments. Do you know some great people that we don't? Direct them to this post to comment, too.

Tell us:

I am...

I like...

I journal about...

At LiveJournal, I'm looking for...

Or, create your own introduction as best suits you. We look forward to meeting you!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (meadow fae)
After a week of working on wrapping up loose ends, I'm finally done with the Ostara-themed March issue of Nature Nurtured.

I hope that you'll go read it, comment where you feel so moved, and enter the prize giveaway.

I'm really proud of this little seedling of mine and where it is growing. <3
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Today was a big day. Nature Nurtured my family-oriented web site for a pagan and earth-reverent lifestyle launched with its debut 'issue', The Warmth of Winter. I'm very happy with it as a start and have a ton of ideas for where to go in future months. I hope you'll wish me luck and, if you are pagan, give it a look. :)

I've got monthly giveaways on the site and from now until December 10th, we're taking entries in sweepstakes to win one of three handmade "Merry Meet" altar plates from Sweetwater Pottery.

So yeah...that's my baby. :D <3 It only took me five years to get a move on and make it happen. :)

If you know anyone who'd be benefited by the site--whether as a paid contributor or as a reader, please let them know about it. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean heart)
header-winter

Laura ([livejournal.com profile] twelvepetals) has done an amazing job this month putting together not only the utilitarian framework for my pagan family site, NatureNurtured.com, but also crafting a serene, modern, and welcoming look for it with her graphic design. It is everything I'd hoped for and more. The collaboration has poured magic into my big, vague ideas and steered me towards more inclusivity and bigger potential audiences. She, very rightly, encouraged the change towards 'family' instead of simply 'parenting' on the assumption that many families may want to live a magical home life filled with glitter-dusted pinecones and handmade wrapping paper and they don't all have young children like I do. I hadn't ever considered that what I had to say, what I wanted to share and find and strive to embody for my children might have a bigger appeal. But maybe it will if I don't limit my scope quite so intentionally.

The doors will open, with advertising space on the main page of The Wild Hunt, on December 1st and I need help to make it a page worth visiting and worth remembering to visit again. If it is big and beautiful and interesting, I believe it will grow and attract great monthly submissions from more and more like-minded and lovely folks that I don't yet know are out there. I think it can kindle the comfort of community in the hearts of solitaries currently going it alone and I wholeheartedly believe it can pour good and mutual benefit throughout pagandom. But for any of that to happen, I need to take a running jump at the launch and make it the best start I can muster. I desperately need and want your help. You, who inspire me with your hearts, your insights, and your many varied talents, you are the secret to this whole ambitious plan taking off. I've got hold of an awfully big kite and I need a lot of help right now. Will you run with me, into flight?

I'm looking for submissions. Photos you took that make your heart rise, artwork that you or your children have made that celebrate the Earth and Her many Mysteries, insights into your life as a forest-wandering spellwalker or devoted kitchen witch. I'm looking for fond memories and rich traditions and the crafts that bring joy to an afternoon's free time. I'm hoping for windows into your pagan homeschool practices and the work you do, as priests and priestesses and builders of community to welcome children into your midst. I'm looking to find people whose passions fuel and are fueled by their spiritual journey. I'm looking for you...with all that you have to contribute to the whole.

~*~

Please, I hope you'll consider contributing to our community with your unique perspective. We are taking submissions focusing on Winter, the holiday season, and Yule right now, but we are always open to anything you have to share. There are no contracts or exclusivity agreements. If you submit your work, and I choose to post it, I'll offer you $5-$20 for that piece. You decide whether you want to proceed and you're free to redistribute your work, as you will, forevermore. I'm not buying rights to anything that you've created--I'm just saying, "Thank you for taking the time. We couldn't do this without you."

We are taking submissions for the launch between now and November 20th. Please mail what you have, if you're interested, to us at submissions@naturenurtured.com. If you know of someone that should be part of our site--pagan parents, artisans, writers, bloggers, photographers, artists, or simply nature-hearted--please feel free to refer them to me. <3
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (hairflower)
I'm never there to catch their reactions. I'll never know the impact of my action, but for several weeks now I've been paying for other people's food. Driving through Starbucks with two sleeping kids in the car or cruising through Taco Bell for a last-minute mealtime, I've made it a point when I get to the window to say, "I'll pay for the car behind me, too."

The cashiers don't question me. It is surprisingly simple to do. I collect my order and drive off without looking back.

I'll never know, but I often wonder about what people think. Do they think someone in the car ahead of them was flirting? Does it make them smile and reengage with their day in a new, more positive way? It probably doesn't matter, financially, to someone able to afford the luxury of fast food, but does it help them in ways they didn't realize they needed help? Does it make them think, each time they return to that place, of the one time they arrived at the window to discover a stranger had paid for their meal? Will they think to pay for someone behind them someday?

I'll never know. I hope, though, that they might rethink their opinion of the world and its inhabitants. I hope they feel a moment, no matter how miniscule, of wonder.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (tvd:  I'll save you)
The Vampire Diaries
Season Four of The Vampire Diaries is underway and I'm still loving it. Some of the cast pairings, in terms of who gets scenes with who--not necessarily romantically, are switching up which makes for a really interesting dynamic on such a big ensemble show. Is anyone else up-to-date and watching the show every week? My favorite weekly recaps are done by [livejournal.com profile] woodwitch, at her blog. I don't always agree with her, but she has a great sense of humor, is fiercely loyal to the show without being slavishly accepting of the missteps and plotfails, and she often says what I'm thinking about the episode developments. And, you know, she's really a fun writer to follow no matter what she's talking about.

Arrow
Because I have Hulu Plus and a teething-instead-of-sleeping baby, I started watching Arrow--a new series based on the Green Arrow. He was never on my comic book radar, so I have no preconceptions about the show, the character, or anything. I'm three episodes in and still on-the-fence about whether it will earn a regular place in my TV watching habits. The set-up is pretty simple--wealthy playboy is shipwrecked on an island for five years, presumed dead by everyone. The show starts when he is discovered and brought back to not-Gotham-City,where his family are Trumplike titans of business.

And there are some standard comic book tropes thrown in--the transformative life experience, the seemingly effortless construction of a top-secret high-tech super hero lair, expert tailoring of a leather/pleather fighting costume, the clueless love interest, and the gee-shucks alter-ego with a suspicious tendency to disappear from places just before things get interesting.

I'm just not sure if the cast, as a whole, is interesting enough for a series or if I can handle a 'new bad guy every week' format. What I love is that intercut with the present day are memories the main character has of his castaway days on the island. I, a sucker for all things survival and deserted island-y, want to see how a douche of a guy with minimal lifeskills survives and changes when he finds himself somewhere money doesn't buy him a pass (or even a sandwich). How does he go from his entrenched entitlement to a corruption-fighting superhero? I love that the answer to that might be strewn out, a little thread of insight at a time, episode to episode. So for now, I'm holding out hope for the show to grow on me. Anyone else watching it?

Beauty and the Beast
And, with all the cross-advertising on the CW, it was inevitable that I found myself watching the relaunch of Beauty and the Beast, too. I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast myths--my love for Damon and Elena evidence enough--so I was drawn into this one. I like that the 'beauty' is tough but it seems she is tough enough to defend herself for only enough time for the beast to show up to save her time and time again. Like, thank goodness he got there because she was going to eat it but geez--he could be a little speedier with his swooping in.

But really, this is probably going to drop off my watching list pretty quickly. I don't see the appeal of either main character and I can't quite figure out why I should value or even believe their instant chemistry. The man is gorgeous. Nothing beastly about him, unless he gets HULK-MAD but otherwise, this isn't the story of looking past the cover. No, he's gorgeous and he's intelligent and he's been cursed by the military like a lot of vets I know. He can't let other people see him, not because he's hideous or terrifying, but simply because he is supposed to be dead and can't be caught out and about, hale and hearty.

So it isn't Beauty and the Beast so much as it is Beauty and the Fugitive. If you've seen it--what do you think? :)

~*~

Other than that, I've been catching up on past episodes of So You Think You Can Dance and Master Chef here and there. (Don't tell me what happens, please.)

What are you watching? :)

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
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