Sunday, October 31, 2010

Haiku and Halloween

Great party. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Another Dia de los Muertos Poetry Party success, thanks to Deborah and Thomas, who really know what a party is all about. Good food and drink, good friends, new friends, poetry, music, and some dancing to shake it all up. I, for one, had a blast.

The honored dead poet this year was Basho, and the poetry style, haiku. I like the concise, small, format of haiku. It's kind of like making jewelry out of words. I wrote a few in preparation for the party, but then I became timid when I found myself in a room full of real writers. So I wimped out and read a few silly poems I found on the Pirate Haiku webpage. It was totally cowardly of me, but Rick, my ever-lovin' hero, took my notebook from me and read a few of my own haiku for me. It was good to set them free. I wish I could have done it myself, but man, there were some heavy hitters in that room. Nobody threw rocks at me though, and I do enjoy writing those tiny morsels of poetry, so I guess I'll keep at it, just for fun. Here's a new one that came through today:

more for me than you
true--no perfect offering
this is all i have

Moving on...

The costume theme for this party really had me kerbobbled. I just could not figure out a way of "wearing the written word" that suited me. Finally, in a dream, mixed with the worm-faced-zombie theme from Friday, I came up with a silly idea that seemed just right, but actually turned out to be a bit too vague. Ah well...

I made big paper earrings using a deconstructed In-n-Out Burger logo, with cute little rubber worms woven through. One of the yellow arrows pointed IN one ear, and the other pointed OUT, as in "in one ear and out the other". That was the simple play on words. The more complex pun was sort of a vegetarian statement against meat-eating (or shall we call it flesh-eating, in the spirit of this zombie-ridden season?)

When someone would look at me puzzled, I'd go into sort of a ditzy dead-chick character, and say, The last thing I remember, I was eating a cheeseburger with my boyfriend. Now I'm not feeling very well, and I keep hearing that song that goes, "the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out..." Like I said, too vague. I'm not sure anybody got it even when I explained it. A lot of blank looks. Oh well... I thought I was terribly witty, but I realize my sense of humor doesn't always make it across the street.

Rick did better. He cut a jagged "crack" in a black t-shirt, and wrote a favorite Leonard Cohen quote on a white shirt to wear underneath, so it peeped out through the opening. There's a crack in everything--that's how the light gets in. Brilliant, as was his black band of makeup across his eyes. They got the poetry, and he even won a prize. Go Rick!

So here we are on actual Halloween. Our faces are tired of masks and makeup, but we still plan to go to the Plaza this evening to see all the kids in their costumes. I guess we get a break on Monday, but then Tuesday is the actual Dia de los Muertos, so I'm sure we'll be out and about again. I can't see any reason to miss the fun when there's fun to be had, and while we're still on this side of the "veil".

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taos Zombie Stagger

The Taos Zombie Stagger was a great success, especially for a first time event. We arrived to find a jam-packed Plaza, filled with creepy zombies and curious onlookers. Everyone milled around for a few minutes, and after some brief instructions, the parade began, right on time. That never happens in Taos, so a lot of people were late catching up. Straggling zombies ran after the pack, and befuddled locals with cameras murmured, It started on time...?

The best costumes made use of some pretty gruesome makeup techniques. And of course some of the kids were just too cool, and too beautiful, to make themselves look ugly on purpose.

Because this was a last minute decision for us, and because we don't know a thing about scary makeup, Rick and I decided to take the easy route and just wear masks. Being fond of embellishment, even if it's creepy, I added some rubber worms to my already hideous face, and wore a lavender wig, a fabulous hat, an old strand of toy pearls, and a freshly strung "bonehead" necklace. Rick's skull-face mask actually moved with his face, so he was able to open his mouth and groan loudly, and could also breathe better than I could. A lot of people stopped us to take our pictures, and we had a blast stumbling along in good zombie character, but I think next time we'll try makeup instead of masks. It was so hot inside that plastic face.

The parade ended at the TCA, where Michael Jackson's Thriller boomed from speakers in the parking lot. I was amazed at how many of the zombies actually knew the entire dance sequence. I am a humbled zombie, and I vow to learn The Dance, in case I should ever need it again.

So tonight is the Dia de los Muertos Poetry Party, where we will "wear the written word", eat good, warming food, drink Tasty Beverages, and when we're all brave enough, read haiku to each other. I'll have to modify my costume, but the lavender wig and fabulous hat must stay in the mix. More on all this tomorrow!

For now, I'm watching hot air balloons outside my window, and enjoying the smell of the strawberry oatmeal Rick is making for breakfast. I'm no poet, but a flash of haiku inspiration comes to me. Maybe I can use this tonight...

oatmeal and earl grey
sun on the old wood table
good morning sweetheart

Friday, October 29, 2010


To continue a bit on yesterday's topic, because I keep hearing from more and more discouraged friends, I think it's important to say that I know I'm one of the lucky ones. I have Rick, and my health, and not one, but two roofs (or rooves--I looked it up--both are correct) over my head. I have plenty to eat--you can tell that just by looking at me! And I really do have everything I need.

After reading my post yesterday, a friend called to talk about all this, and to relay yet more stories of friends who are "in it," as we like to say. In It, and in it together, even though it can feel pretty lonely at times. We came up with something that seems like it might be helpful, at least to us. When we're feeling discouraged or picked on or just plain surly, we need to recognize it as something temporary, acknowledge it as some sort of guidance, and then go do something else. The New Rule here is No Wallowing. Yep, times are tough. Let's have some fun anyway.

There are lots of ways to do that--some more healthy than others. Sifting through the options at hand, Rick and I are going with Participation this weekend. Getting out there in the community is fun, sure, and it can also open doors we hadn't thought of yet. Taos is one big party this weekend, with the Balloon Rally, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos. Some of our favorite events are still on the list, like the trick-or-treating frenzy hosted by the merchants of the John Dunn Shops and Taos Plaza, always held on Halloween, and who cares if it's a school night! And our friends Deborah and Thomas are hosting their famous Dia de los Muertos Poetry Party on Saturday night. The poetry theme this year is Haiku, and the honored dead poet is Basho. The costume theme for this particular party is "wear the written word." This, and attempting to come up with a passable haiku or two have really been great for keeping my mind busy. No time for worries. I have poetry to write! Maybe I'll share some after the party, along with pictures of my costume, which is just now starting to gel in my mind, after weeks of thought.

Looking through the Taos News yesterday, we spotted something about the first ever Taos Zombie Stagger, which is to be held tonight. Irresistible! Who wouldn't want to see a parade of zombies stumbling around the Plaza? And furthermore, who wouldn't want to participate? We are so in! We dashed over to the new Walgreen's, and picked up some scary masks. As soon as I got mine home, I started customizing it. I will be a most fabulous zombie. You'll see. I promise pictures!

We also thought about taking our dear little Heidi along. She loves a parade as much as anybody, but then I thought maybe it would be too scary for her. A zombie costume for a wiener dog is a little tricky too, but I did find her little bumble bee outfit in the Halloween Box we had in storage. I guess we could call her a Zom-Bee... (haha)... But what we'll probably do instead is take her with us on Sunday to see the town kids on the Plaza. Heidi loves kids, and they love her too, especially when she's all dressed up.

So here we go. Time to get out there and do some serious participating.  I know I said last year that Ashland does an even better Halloween than Taos, but I might have to eat my words after this weekend. Either way, I plan to dig in and enjoy myself. If you're hesitant about participating in your own town, I urge you to give it a try anyway. Put on a costume and go be silly. If you're feeling crummy, it will help you feel better. If you already feel good, it can still get better! And, if you wear a mask, nobody will ever know it was you out there dancing like Michael Jackson. 

Participation - Audio Version

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Rick got a job yesterday. It's just a temporary, part-time, fill-in sort of thing, back at the Sagebrush Inn, where he used to work. This should make me very happy, and on one level it does. He went out there and asked, and they said yes, and now we'll have some money coming in. Rick is my hero in so many ways. So the part of me that's not so thrilled has nothing to do with him. 

I guess it all feels sort of like a commitment to Taos, and in the past, that has also felt like entrapment. It's icky. That's my best word here. Icky. It's like a surrender, or even a defeat. We went away, we came back, and now we're stuck again. What we came here wanting, is not what we're getting. Isn't that the way it goes? How does anybody even know what they want?

I'm beginning to feel a little silly living in a trailer in my driveway, while our big house sits there empty. But we still have good reasons for doing it this way. We hold on to the hope that we'll sell our house soon. That would change everything. It would give us options. Moving back into the house would be yet another surrender. I'm not ready for that. And then there are the not so small issues of firewood, which we have none of, for a house that's heated with wood, and of furniture, which we mostly sold or gave away. We'd have to buy a bed for starters. And firewood. And we'd have to get stuff out of storage and move it all back in there, while still holding on to the hope of getting ourselves free of this great big expensive house that we just don't need anymore. Somebody else needs it, but where, oh where can they be?

I am at risk of Discouragement, the kind that starts with a small lack of faith in the System, and snowballs into Hopelessness and even Depression. I don't want that! I want to believe with every bit of me that everything is just as it should be, and that it's all working away behind the scenes to give us exactly what we need, if not what we think we want. Sometimes I get that. Sometimes I know it. And I imagine I'm not alone in feeling a loss of "control" over my life. So as I sift through all this, I hope maybe I'm helping someone else find some answers too. After all, we're all in this together, and "control" is one of our biggest illusions.

I read the other day about how we go through cycles of "moving forward" and "standing still". The standing still times can even feel like slipping backward. It's discouraging, yes, but there's another way to look at it. It's like the waking and sleeping parts of each day. We need both. One is no good without the other. Action and Rest are equal partners in Balance. So what I'm trying to do, rather than feeling discouraged by things not going as I "think" they should, is to look briefly back at all I've done, and all Rick and I have accomplished together, and then to come straight back to Right Now, where there's really nothing to be done, and to let it be OK to just Be for a while. I'm not very good at that. I know I need practice. But to allow my own dis-couragement would mean to surrender my own courage, and that's not something I'm willing to lose.

Looking at it that way, I can feel better about any little commitments we make here. It's not that we don't like it here, but if we stay, to any degree, I want it to be on purpose. So, Rick can go to work, and I'll probably have to too. However it works out--no, plays out--I have to trust that it's all what it's supposed to be. I know we don't have much control over the Big Things in life, but we do have control over how we see them and respond to them. I'm keeping my Courage, and my Trust. Those are choices I can make. I guess the rest of it will just have to take care of itself.

Discouragement - Audio Version

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exploring Taos - Part 2 - Dwellings Revisited

Halloween in Taos is more about the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos than trick-or-treat. Sure, the kids here dress up and demand candy, and a lot of adults get into the spirit of the season with costumes and parties. But the focus around town is really on Day of the Dead, a time when we celebrate and honor our departed loved ones, and also invite them to the party. Cemeteries are decorated with new brightly colored artificial flowers and tokens of a happy life on earth. Altars, called ofrendas, with photographs, flowers, candles, food, and special mementos, are set up everywhere from private homes to shops, restaurants, and galleries. Everywhere you go, there are reminders of the holiday, of the shortness of our stay here in this life, and of our connection to those who have passed before us. It's a holiday of celebration, not sadness.

One of the most festive shops in town is actually dressed for the holiday all year round. Dwellings Revisited, on Bent Street, is a fun place to visit any time of year. I was there the other day with my pal Deborah, helping her shop for a few things for her upcoming party. We were there for a long time, and I know we didn't see everything in the small but dazzling shop. We wandered around in a non-stop chatter of Look at this! Look at this! Look at this!

After a while, I couldn't take any more in, so I stooped to chat with the shop dog, Clyde, a talkative little terrier in a smart Pendelton Blanket coat, and then asked the woman working there if I could take a few pictures. A place like this is better described with images than words, so here you go! Enjoy!

 This beautiful ofrenda greets you as you walk in the door.

Oversized "sugar-skulls" make friendly greeters.

Skeleton figures known as Calacas, or El Catrin y La Catrina
depict the deceased as they might have been in life.

One small side room is filled with colorful Mexican folk art and crafts.

Another room holds some higher end art and home decor.

You can add special accents to your home, like beautifully primitive iron 
hardware, or intricately hammered tin switch plate covers.

You'll also find religious art, large and small milagros, and of course, jewelry.

Dwellings Revisited is located at 107 Bent Street, in the heart of downtown Taos, NM. There are so many wonderful shops to visit while you're here, it might be easy to overlook this one, tucked quietly into its little corner. Be sure to look for it! It's not to be missed! To contact them, call 575-758-3377, or email

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mud On My Hands

I spent the weekend playing with clay. It's something I haven't done in years, and it was a really fun change from glass. My friend, Deborah Rael-Buckley, is working on a large sculptural piece for a rapidly approaching show at the Parks Gallery, here in Taos, honoring the Daughters Of Juarez. Not the book, but the actual women, hundreds of them, who have been murdered there. Deborah's piece will be one of her large chair forms--which I really love--filled with a tangled, random pile of smaller chairs, representing bits of everyday life left behind by these women. Similar to the Holocaust Museum's photographs of huge piles of shoes, this will be a personal, haunting piece of sculpture, certain to have a powerful impact on those who see it.

With the November 1st opening coming up fast, Deborah mentioned the other evening that she could use some help making the small chairs. Maybe it was the martini talking, but I immediately volunteered. Sure I can make little chairs! My sculpting resume is pretty limited, but Deborah took me on anyway, and Rick too, who actually worked with clay quite a bit in college. My only real experience was way back in high school, and the only thing I remember making was a box that looked like a cheese burger. Not much to go by, but Deborah was desperate, so I got the gig.

On Saturday morning, Deborah brought over a big block of clay and a few tools. Her only instructions were to try not to trap air bubbles in the clay, and not to do any research on the Juarez murders. She didn't want us wrapped up in the story. Instead, we were to just make things that looked like they would come from someone's home. Pleasant little domestic bits of normal, simple lives.

So we set to it, working in my studio in the house, where there's still a large metal topped table. We loved every minute of it. I started timidly, with a tiny three-legged stool that amazingly looked exactly like a tiny three-legged stool. Before long I was making straight backed kitchen chairs, fluffy upholstered chairs, bar stools, and fan-backed butterfly chairs. Rick made a beautiful, cozy looking, overstuffed chair and a rocking chair, of all things, the big show off. So when I got to the point of adding the legs to my high chair, I handed it over to him to finish. Those spindly parts were just too intimidating for me, but he did it perfectly.

I made a few more chairs on Sunday, before Deborah came to pick them up. They still need to dry, and then be fired and glazed and assembled to fit the rest of the piece. Lining them up here on the table, it was like we'd made a tiny furniture show room. I'm really pleased, and I wanted to have pictures of them in this happy phase of their existence. I'm really honored to play my small part in getting this piece made, and I hope at least some of the chairs make the cut. I know when I see them in the finished piece, they'll have taken on a whole new, much sadder meaning. That's OK. At least I'll know, that like personal belongings of the women in Juarez, these started out as simple, mundane, everyday objects.

Maybe now I'll dig a little deeper into the story behind the sculpture. And maybe not. I only know a little bit, and maybe that's enough. It's so hard for me to deal with other people's pain, and with the insanity of the world. Maybe it's better if I don't know too much. I can't fix it by feeling the pain, but maybe I can help in some way if I'm able to shine my own little light, and add beauty to the world at every opportunity. I want the vibes I send out there to be of love and light, not sadness and fear. It might look like I'm hiding my head in the sand, but it's self-preservation, and it's better for all concerned. If I'm a mess, I'm no good to anybody. If I stop the daily download of bad news at just enough, I can better transform the information into inspiration. And that's how a block of mud becomes a table full of beautiful little chairs that will help carry a message to so many others.

Mud On My Hands - Audio Version

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Even If I Don't Get Paid - Audio Version

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Even If I Don't Get Paid

The first and only time I was fired from a job--and I've had many jobs--it was Rick, my own sweet husband, who fired me from our pizza shop. I've told this story before. He knew I was miserable making other people's dinner, and out of love, and maybe self preservation, he set me free to find something I'd love doing. It was terrifying. And that was when beadmaking found me. It was wonderful for a long time. Then it was less wonderful. And finally, recently, I got to where I couldn't stand the idea of sitting at that torch for another second. And so a few days ago, after months of wondering, I finally knew... it was time to fire myself.

There's a terrifying, thrilling freedom in cutting loose from something that's been part of me for a long time. Fourteen years, to be exact. A lot of people only know me as a beadmaker, but I'm so much more than that. I don't know exactly what I'll do next, but I know something at least as wonderful as beadmaking will find me. I also know that in order for that to happen, I had to make this scary break. "Jump and the net will be there" has always held true for me. It's also true that in order to fill a hole, you have to make a hole first. The only way to find what's next is to make a space for it, a void, a vacuum that will naturally be filled. It's all true, and really so simple. And yes, I'm a little freaked out.

I sent an email out to my mailing list of about 730 names, telling them that I'd decided to set beads aside for a time, and I have been warmed to my twinkly toes by the response. I asked them to please let me know if they want to stay on my mailing list, and the flood of emails has about knocked me over. There are countless messages of encouragement and friendship. I sit here reading them, thinking, Wow... this isn't about beads. These people are here for me... I know I won't have 730 names on my mailing list by the time this is done, but the ones who stay will be some of the best friends I've never met. They'll stick with me no matter what I do, and that means more to me than I could have imagined going into this, or coming out of it.

Another lovely side effect of firing myself from my "day job" is that the scarcity of beads now makes them more in demand. Huh. Go figure. It's been nice to make a few sales, since the bank account has dwindled to a dangerously low point over the last two years. I have a feeling I can always pull in a little extra cash by going through my personal bead stash and offering something for sale. And then there's still the possibility that the bead gods will speak to me again someday, and new work will emerge. I'm not depending on that though.

Just the other day, someone asked me what I really want to do now. My instant answer was, I want to write! As impractical as that may be from a financial standpoint, it's what makes my heart sing these days, and it's something I've wanted to do for most of my life. I don't know how to "be a writer", and I don't know if there's a book in me somewhere, as some people have suggested, or how to get it out if there is. For now, this blog is my focus. It's where I go every day to anchor myself to the earth, and to sift through my options until I find what I'm looking for somewhere in my own mental bucket of sludge. It would help if I knew what I was looking for, but I guess that would take some of the fun away.

Meanwhile, still living in the physical world, with a body and a house and all the things that require tending, I have to be at least a little bit practical about money. I hate that it keeps coming back to that. I would love for money to be a non-issue, and I know I'm not alone there. I know there are blogs that reel in a lot of cash through advertisers. I hope to get to that point. Soon would be good. So far, my pretty, hand-picked list of ads has brought in exactly three dollars and fifty-seven cents. It's a start! But it's not a mortgage payment. So when it was suggested by some online "blogging expert" that adding a donation button is actually socially acceptable in the blogging world, I decided to give it a try.

I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of hinting for money. On the other hand, much of my working life has been spent in jobs where tips were an important part of my income. I have no expectations here, but I'm open to the jingle of virtual change in the tip jar. I spend a lot of time on this every day, and while it's something I'll do even if I don't get paid, I still need to get paid for something. No pressure folks. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone. Like I said, I'll do this for free. That's how much I love it. I have had a couple of very nice donations sent my way, which really flatters and encourages me while it helps keep the electricity on.

Everyone else, please keep reading! That's the most important thing to me--that you come here to read! I have a feeling I'll be finding new ways of piecing together an income. I can't see how that will look yet, but I'm not worried. I live a charmed life, I have friends to cheer me on, and looking below me, I think I can almost see the net.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Rick Vanderburg

 I like the idea of inviting Guest Bloggers to join me here now and then. Who could be better as the first than my own beloved husband? I know you'll give him a warm welcome, and I hope you'll also become a regular visitor to his blog, Scattering Birdseed.


Kim has been asking me to be a guest writer on her blog for weeks. I've been trying to do my own blog for several years but can't seem to get going. So what's been the problem? Well I'm scared; I'm afraid of sounding like I think I know what I'm talking about when I don't. My passion is spirituality and I've been studying and exploring matters of the heart, awakening and expanding consciousness for years. There are plenty of books out there written by people who DO know what they're talking about and I don't what to try to sound like one of them. I'm only interested in sharing my experiences of this journey along the "long way home".

It seems to me that many of us are living on a roller coaster; one minute scared and confused, the next hopeful and full of faith. We sometimes feel excited and lost all before noon. I wanted to start blogging again when I realized that I did not want to be a soloist about these things but just a member of the choir, singing along with everyone else. And if we all begin to sing together... well let's give it a go.

It seems to me that many of us are on a journey that is moving us towards greater love, compassion, faith and a sense of connection to each other, to the earth, and to Life itself. We are also awakening to a higher order of life beyond what advertisers are selling us, insurance companies are telling us and what the news is scaring us with. And I think we are closer to a breakthrough than we think. I'm not talking about some 2012 theory of Blissful Ascension or anything. No, I believe that our true identity is here and now inside each of us, kicking andsquirming, to be born. For myself, I am much happier when I live closer to this moment and don't identify too much with my mind when it gets to projecting and fantasizing about the future, or worrying about the past. When I observe and witness my life without judging what is happening in and around me as much, I feel much more balanced. My mind still chews on stuff, but that, and the resulting emotions, are no longer the ultimate source of "who I am".

So I'll share with you my discoveries on my own blog "Scattering Birdseed" and occasionally guest blogging here on Kim's, as one of many voices. Hope you'll sing along.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rainy Day in Taos

Weather matters, doesn't it? It does to me. It's been absolutely, splendidly beautiful here in Taos since we arrived almost a month ago. Couldn't ask for better. Today is cloudy though, and it rained most of the night, but that's a good thing. It's a blessing, in the purest form. Water in the desert. Back in our Seattle days, and even last winter in Ashland, a rainy day was not a novelty, and certainly not a comfort. Not to me. But here, when we get these days, they're actually kind of nice.

As leaves turn yellow around town, hollyhocks and roses continue to bloom, and the small lawn we lost to the renter's chickens is sprouting new green shoots, thanks to a sprinkle of seeds and Rick's careful watering. But we all know that it could turn to winter any day now. Nights have gotten colder, and there's snow on the mountains this morning. I'm still wearing my flip flops, still in denial, but my boots and warm socks are close at hand.

A rainy day in Taos, or most anywhere really, is perfect for sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. I've been saving my lovely new, very heavy copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare for a day just like this. It was inexpensive, and purchased on a whim in Seattle, but I really do intend to read it. All of it. Eventually. So far I've only held it and looked at it and flipped through it. But I love the shiny gold-edged pages. I love the challenge of the language. I love that it reminds me of Seattle and my kids, and of Ashland and friends there, in a town we'd hoped to call home--closer to part of our big Earth Family--but a town that only seemed to embrace us for a short time.

A book like this, this book, can pull my heart back to the northwest. And reading it here in New Mexico, by my little electric fireplace, in the same trailer that was home in Oregon, it can also bridge the gap between the two places I want to live, and the people I miss when I'm in one place but not the other. A book like this makes me feel connected to something bigger than my little trailer life. All this, and I haven't even read a single word yet.

Today I want the clouds to hang around, and even rain some more if they feel like it. I don't want to be lured outside by sunshine and blue skies. I want to get my work done and settle in with Shakespeare. I want to get past the gold edges and dive headfirst into the words. I want to be in two places at once, or somehow balanced in between. The combination of a rainy day and Shakespeare feels like a recipe for time travel, and that would be very useful to me these days.

Rainy Day in Taos - Audio Version

Click the arrow on the left of the player to hear this audio blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

New Ideas will flow through like the Rio Grande if we let them. Some are worth grabbing with a net and pulling out for a closer look, while others are better left to drift on down to Mexico. I guess the trick is in knowing which is which. What works best for me is to try just about everything that presents itself, and to be willing to let it go if it doesn't seem "right" after a pretty short time. Forcing things never works. Allowing them to unfold often works beautifully. Without too many expectations or limits, sometimes a New Idea can take on a life of its own, and surprise us with what it really is.

My idea today has been treading water for about a week, and I think it's time to see if it can really swim... or even fly. I've been thinking about "audio blogging", which is also known as "podcasting", "voice blogging", and even "vogging", although I think maybe vogging includes video too. I'm really not sure. There's so much to learn! 

But back to the Idea. It occurs to me that there might be a lot of people who for one reason or another, would prefer to listen to a blog rather than read it. Maybe they're a slow reader (like me--I read every word as if in conversation--I don't want to miss anything). Or maybe they like to catch up on favorite blogs while making dinner or knitting or something. And then there are people who are visually impaired and can't read what's on the screen. I think of someone like my Aunt Camy, who despite her poor eyesight, still has great "vision" in life, and is still quite interested in the world. I think she might enjoy my blog if she could listen to it easily.

So I'm thinking it might work to do simple audio recordings, in my own voice, reading my own blogs, and then posting them here so they could be listened to with the simple click of a button. I've searched quite a bit for the right tools to do this, and actually turned up very little that falls into the "simple" and "inexpensive" categories. I can do a lot of things, and can figure out a lot of tech-stuff that baffles most people, but the audio thing seems mostly geared toward musicians, with too many tracks and adjustments and gizmos to even be useful to me. 

I did find one website though, that seems practically perfect for my humble needs. It's called Hipcast.  And while I don't care for the name--it sounds like a broken hip to me--I do like what it has to offer an audio novice such as myself. It's clear and simple, and best of all, cheap! I can create audio by simply speaking into the mic on my laptop, and post it to my blog. I can also create podcasts, which differ in ways I don't understand yet, and videos, which would mean having to look presentable on a much too regular basis. For now I think I'll stick to the most basic audio storytelling, and see where it leads.

So for Aunt Camy, and anyone else out there who's interested, here we go. When you click the button, you should be able to hear me reading everything that's written here. If it still seems like a good idea tomorrow, I'll start recording other posts and building a nice little audio library. Wish me luck. And thanks for listening!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sudden Apron Obsession

I don't know where it came from, this this sudden, urgent urge to shop for aprons. I recall Mom sometimes tying a pretty gathered half apron around her waist if she was prepping for a party, but it's not really something that's buried deep in my psyche. I don't recall grandmothers' aprons of any sort, but those are the ones I'm in search of today. The big crisscross kind you drop over your head, with lots of clothing coverage and big pockets. Maybe reversible. Certainly out of a beautiful fabric that's both washable and not too froufrou. Something like Auntie Em would wear, but with an edge, you know?

I am a messy cook, and I'm cooking a lot more these days, as the weather cools and food is part of the warmth and comfort that coaxes us through the winter months. A messy cook with a limited RV size wardrobe needs to cover up when the olive oil starts to splatter. I don't have a big closet full of changes, or a washing machine to toss a favorite top into if I should goop it up with red chile or bubbling polenta. I need an apron. That's all there is to it.

I tend to think of aprons as homely, frumpy, and utilitarian. They certainly can be that. But what I'm also finding "out there" are some good examples of how style and function can become friends. And because I'm thinking about aprons, of course they're popping up everywhere. This morning at breakfast, the waitress was wearing the very cutest apron ever. It was a tiny cocktail waitress sort of thing, tied low on her hips, with big pockets across the front, long ties in the back, and it was made of--get this--shiny gold faux leather with two little turquoise stone buttons for trim. OhDearGod, what a darling thing. It's not at all what I need, but I did take the time to ooh and ahh over it, and promised myself that one way or another, I will find my apron.

I've been searching Etsy, and coming close. I don't care for the kind that have a strap around the back of my neck. The strap hurts me. Something about the way it weighs on my neck. But there are some super cute ones out there, and in case they're what you're looking for, I'll share a few here.

This would be my favorite so far. I love the skully fabric. So perfect for October, and for New Mexico any time of year. You can get this one from Cococtions on Etsy.

A search for "retro aprons" turned up these next two from Boojiboo, also on Etsy. (The Pink Poodles are for you, Mitzi!) I love them. I really do. But I still hope to find one as nifty as these, without the neck strap.

Widening the Etsy search to "farm aprons", "canning aprons", and "grandma aprons" brought up the next bunch. This canning apron from MollyGrimsMom has the coverage I'm after, but I'd like it longer, and the fabric doesn't really do it for me.


This one from CreativeChics is in the running. No neck strap. Big pockets. A bit bright for my tastes, but  it would do the job and also be the most colorful thing in my wardrobe.

This crisscross "pinafore" from SummerFieldFarm is close. Very close. But I am not a "medium sized farm girl", and I don't want my apron to squeeze me in any way... If we could do a larger version of this in the skully fabric, then we'd really be talkin'.

And so, after hours and hours of hunting for the perfect apron, I start to think, Hey, I have a sewing machine... and a new search begins. I mean, why not make what I want, out of the fabric I want? Everything I'm finding out there it so cute. I appreciate cute, but I don't really want to wear it. I found two sites I particularly like for vintage-style patterns. One is ModestHandMaidens. And the other is CandleOnTheHill

I'm not much of a seamstress, but I do have a bit of time on my hands these days, and how hard could it be to make this one? Imagine it in some edgy fabric, or even made from a recycled French table cloth or a soft India bedspread. See where I'm heading?

And while this one is very sugary in pink, if I'm feeling confident and adventurous about my sewing skills, I think it would be pretty great with maybe skullies on one side, and red chile peppers on the other. Or how about basic black reversing to purple tie-dye?

If I'm honest with myself, I really don't love to sew, so finding something ready-made would be better. Still, if I really get into this Apron Project, who knows? Maybe there's a market for non-cute aprons. And I wonder what my friends and family would think if I stopped giving them beads for their birthdays, and started giving them aprons instead... My head is spinning! Oh, the possibilities! 

But back to my apron. I only need one. Maybe two. And there's no sense rushing this. An apron is a sensible garment, and I suppose it should be chosen carefully. I'm narrowing it down, but the search goes on. I do keep looking back at the skullies though... Maybe I can figure out how to convert that pesky neck strap...

Update! Cococtions is going to make me a pinafore style apron, as shown below, in the SKULLY fabric! I'm very pleased!

But before I found this out, I found another Etsy seller who makes dandy aprons, so I ordered this terrific red and black number, with its festive "bone heads". Get one for yourself at Momo's Retro Fashions.

So I'm all set. I'll have two perfect aprons, and I won't have to sew... unless the obsession continues...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Exploring Taos - Part 1 - Ranchos Church Plaza

This is the first in a series of small adventures in and around Taos, New Mexico. My idea is to go out and explore favorite places as well as places that are new to me--well known, and obscure, tourist spots, and local haunts--at my own pace, which is not necessarily that of a typical travel writer. I want to show you this wonderful place from the perspective of one who has lived here for years, and is still discovering it. My hope is not to make you feel that you've been here, but that you want to come here to see it for yourself. 

The old San Francisco de Asis church is a well known part of Taos history. It's the first stop to make at the south end of town, as you drive into Taos from Santa Fe. The subject of countless photographs and paintings, it's a must-see when visiting Taos. Living near it, I've stopped to look at it numerous times, usually with visiting friends in tow. The other day I decided to wander over by myself, to check out a local craft fair being held in the church plaza.

Something told me to park in the post office lot next door and walk over, and I was glad I listened. Along with traffic for the craft fair, there was also a wedding about to happen in the church. The parking lot was packed, and so the classic shot of the church from the back was cluttered by cars. You have to be patient to get that perfect picture, in the right light, with an empty parking lot.

It seems something has always stopped me from going inside the church. I'm not afraid of churches. I've been in many, growing up Catholic, touring Europe as a teenager, and in my wanderings since. But for some reason, I've never gone inside this one. Maybe the outside is so beautiful, it's enough for me. I actually intended to go in on this visit, but the wedding prevented it again, so I walked around the outside, enjoying the shape and texture of this lovely structure which has stood here since its completion in 1815.

If you look closely, you can see that it's actually made of adobe, or mud. Adobe is a mixture of earth, straw, and water, that's formed into large, sun baked blocks for building. Modern adobe houses, like mine, are made of the mud blocks, and then finished on the outside with a hard stucco sort of surface for durability. Traditional adobe buildings are finished with a mud-and-straw coating that weathers quickly, and needs to be repaired often. If left to nature, old adobe buildings will simply melt back into the earth, as some of the neglected surrounding structures are already doing.

The Ranchos Church, as we call it here, is still in good condition because volunteer parishioners re-mud the exterior every year or so. It wouldn't be nearly as beautiful if it were modernized with a stucco surface. As it is, it seems to breathe with a life of its own, standing tall beneath the blue New Mexico sky.

After my walk around the church, I went back to the small plaza adjacent to it. There's a restaurant that has good food, but doesn't serve alcohol of any kind, because of an old law concerning its proximity to the church. Restaurants in New Mexico must be over 300 feet from any church in order to get a liquor license. And while we're on the topic, you can't buy liquor on Sundays anywhere in New Mexico before noon. Even supermarket beer aisles are roped off until that time. Just so you know. Be sure to purchase your Sunday Brunch champagne on Saturday.

The craft fair on the plaza was small but nice. Vendors on the sidewalk, and in the small courtyard, were focused on fiber and textiles, but there was also beaded jewelry and an artist who sculpts 3D images such as skulls and sacred hearts with earth, and then paints them. Adobe art.

My friend, Katy George was there too, working at Two Graces, and also selling her fabulous hats and clothing. Katy was born in Texas, has lived in Paris, and has been in Taos for a long time. She's seen a lot of changes here, and she's always a great source of information and entertainment.

Frana Biederman, of Phi Beta Paca, came by with two delightful alpacas on leashes. They were a little shy, but let me pet them, and then Frana told me the smaller one might give me a kiss. Well, that offer doesn't come along every day, so I leaned down and puckered up, and sure enough, I got a soft little alpaca kiss, right on the lips. It made my day.

Leaving the plaza, I looked across the street to an old building that's being lovingly, expensively renovated. It's rumored to be a restaurant, but there's controversy over the liquor license and whether it's actually over or under the 300 foot requirement. I guess it depends on who does the measuring. 

At any rate, it's nice to see things being cared for. There have been times when I've questioned Taos's love for itself, but from what I saw on this one short outing, there are signs of a deep connection between community and place, a respect for the past, and clear intention for the future. I think there will be good reasons for visitors to come here for a long, long time.