News for the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thinking about new things has got me thinking about news. (Get it? NEWS for the NEW year? Haha? Ok, so not so funny.) It occurred to me that I should create a page to list all my posts that have been featured in the news and various other media, complete with linky goodness. And there it is, up there at the top. See? Tab on the right. 

Also, if you are on my blogpage instead of using a feeder you will see that I have made some minor tweaks to the blog appearance.

Still not sure about this whole random font changing when I make posts and new pages, though. Sorry. Maybe I'll learn to fix that eventually... ?

Have fun and stay safe tonight!


Snow and Ice? Power Outtages? No problem!

Predictions of another potential Christmas-time snow storm brings forth recollections of other storms *ahemBlizzard09ahem*. I remember, in particular, one lovely ice storm that led to a 3-day power outage in a rather drafty townhouse apartment. Not only were we out of power… we were also out of water, because our apartments sat below street level and needed an electric pump to move water up to the city pipes.

Despite this, we (and our friend who had gotten iced in with us) stayed toasty warm and happy using what I call “Grandma’s Energy Efficiency”… which is really just common sense from the olden days. Stuff like...

Pick a room and stay there!

Pick one location and focus on making it as comfortable as possible, then don’t leave. Focusing your efforts on conserving heat in one room is easier than trying to do it across the entire house. Then you want to stay put because going in and out lets the warmth you’ve saved out and lets the cold in. Also, if everyone is staying together in one space, that’s more body heat to warm up the room.

Control the Drafts

the buddies playing rummy during an ice-pocalypse
Stuff draft dodgers, towels, sheets, blankets, or whatever you have along the bottoms and sides of doors and around windows. If you aren’t going to open them for a while, you can even tape across the seams – this is survival! Hang blankets over the doors and windows using nails or a staple gun (we used a staple gun). We also hung blankets from the ceiling to create extra doors to restrict airflow leading into our warm room – for example, one blocked off the hallway and another was hung to block off the stairs.

Burn, baby, burn!

 Use the fireplace and burn candles in your “warm room” to build up heat.  

Have a Lock-In 

Unless you absolutely must, DON’T open the door! Do whatever you have to do that will allow you to leave it closed! Or else – there goes your heat. And it may not be easy to get back.

Sit Tight

And then… after this is all done… sit back and relax. The hubby and I actually enjoy being snowed in, even without electricity, because it can be the epitome of downtime. Play some cards with your roommates, take a snuggly nap, or read a book by candlelight. Preferably while wearing a knit hat and thick socks!

That being said... I hope you are safe and warm, home off the roads, with all the electricity you need this Christmas!

(PS - If anyone can break the magic secret of why Blogger's posting software is so mysterious with formatting and fonts and weird disconnect between editing screen and preview screen, Santa will bring you extra presents.)


Why Every Day is the End of the World… and the Beginning

Are you are surprised that you are breathing and checking email today?

Yesterday was the end of the Baktun, the Mayan long count calendar. For some reason modern people think this means it was going to be the end of the world? It was just the end of a unit of time. As in, December 31st is the end of our Gregorian Calendar, not the end of the world, and the calendar starts over on January 1. Same exact thing with the Mayan long count calendar. So basically… 12/21/2012 is one of the biggest New Year’s Eve parties ever… for the Mayans.

Photo from my backyard telescope: lunar eclipse, 2010 winter solstice
 December 21st is nothing to sniff at, because it does happen to be the winter solstice (for the Northern hemisphere), the shortest day of the year.  If you feel connected to earth cycles this would be important to you on any year. Aside from that any significance (for me) quickly fades.

Why? Because:

Every day is a present to be unwrapped. It’s a clean slate. This isn’t hokey New Agey feel good mumbo jumbo. This is true. If you haven’t lived it yet, the new day can be anything. You can make it the end of something – the end of anything you want. The last day you smoked a cigarette. The last day you went with or without a cold beer. The last day of your old job. The last day of living in your hometown. The last day you could see the world as a cold, mean place. It can be the beginning of whatever you like. The first day of the rest of your life – the first day of finding a new job. The first day of learning to like Brussels sprouts. The first day you were happy and comfortable in the company of strangers. The first day you stood up for what you believed in. The first day you recognized your body as precious and complete. The first day of whatever you wanted. Your first day down the path to be the next President of the United States.

Tray of bubbly from our 2010 winter solstice celebration
 Every day is equally likely to have some horrible tragedy – equally likely that you’ll be murdered for no good reason, equally likely you’ll be hit by an asteroid from space, equally likely you’ll contract cancer. But it is also equally likely you’ll buy your first jackpot-winning lottery ticket, be gifted with a random act of kindness, come up with the next great invention, taste or see or do something incredible, or learn something about yourself that will make you stronger for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t matter where this day falls on the calendar. It doesn’t matter what the statistics are. It doesn’t matter what your track record is. Any day – any day – could be anything.

I think one of the reasons that people feel New Year’s Day is so great is that they feel it is a clean slate, that they can start over, that anything can happen. Well, I will let you in on this – there is nothing magical about New Year’s Day, or New Year’s Resolutions, or the year ticking up to another number.

Every day is a New Day.
Every day is time for a New Resolution.
Every day you make or break your future.
Every day your fate is up for grabs against the forces of nature.
Every day.

Even on a so-called apocalypse day.


EcoHoma Gifting 2012

You might remember this post from last year in which I am thinking a bit too hard about what it means to give gifts and what is and is not an appropriate way to go about it, unnecessarily strategizing and maybe sounding just a tad irritated.

Well, I'm not doing that sort of heavy analysis over gifting anymore. When it comes down to it, I really am just trying to think about what a person would most appreciate, which I can afford, which they may not get otherwise. 

This year, it just so happened that several of the gifts still were win-win on the eco-ethics, sustainability front. Yay! And I got to do some early gifting, so it's ok to share some of them here. This year, I leaned way towards the handmade and food side. I figured anyone can go to the store and get what they like, so making something myself seems more special and more personal. I even opted, purposefully, to hand write everything. Because we seem overwhelmed with professional computer-made products these days. Handwriting almost feels cozy and fun to me since I now see it less frequently. 

1. Home made tea blends (using unbleached coffee filters and garden herbs)

2. Jars of flower seed (collected from my garden, with planting instructions)

3. Magnet boards (made from old cookie sheets and leftover paint - I was excited - I got this one to come out kind of speckled looking!)

4. Handmade floral sachets (using flower petals collected during the growing season and pretty fabric scraps)

5. Re-used neat cloth sacks from other purchases for gift bags (here: bags from flour and rice)

6. Bottles of Oklahoma Wine - No pic for this one, but when buying for others I always choose Sparks' Deep Fork Red, because I have never met anyone who didn't like it! Well. No one who likes alcoholic beverages, that is (my only friend who does not like Deep Fork Red simply does not like alcohol) . This wine has now been an official hit at two holiday potluck dinners and one game of Dirty Santa.


Confessions of a Grinch - the Battle Plan

Notice a difference in my December postings? There's a reason for that, and it's time I came clean.

Hi. I’m a Grinch.

I know, no one likes a Grinch (not even Grinches), but I’m being honest here.

I didn’t used to be this way. But lately, every year, I have become just a little bit more… and then a little bit more… well, Grinchy. Until this year I began to get my Grinch on in early October. That’s when I knew it was time to make a battle plan. So far the Battle Plan has been doing a passable job. I feel less stressed about the holidays now than I did a month ago (thank goodness!) This is the battle plan:

1.       Try new ways of thinking

 One of the first things I noticed is that if I make a negative comment about the holidays, even a positive-minded person will respond with their own negative comment! We’ll have a supportive, sympathetic, mini-gripe fest. In the end this is not helpful to me. I don’t want to re-enforce my negative thoughts! I have enough of them without trading them around like baseball cards. Besides, I feel guilty for giving them my crappy baseball card. So the first order of business became: Quit complaining!

The second order of business became seeking patience and gratitude… which is easier said than done when it comes to emotional responses and perceived-to-be-stressful situations.
File:Giant Wild Goose Pagoda - Laughing Buddha.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
So that led me to utilize some of my Paperback Swap credits to get books on meditation and anxiety reduction. I go through them slowly, doing every exercise on the way, whether or not I think it will work, and whether or not I’ve tried it before.  Because hey – you never know – this part of the battle plan is about the trying. One of the exercises even helped me refine my anti-Grinch battle plan.

I also found a free lunch-time class on meditation at the Downtown Library, graciously offered by Wayne McEvilly. I am trying out the tools he taught us on using mantras.

My husband casually reminded me a few weeks ago about the studies that suggest smiling makes you happy, even if you weren’t already. Something about smiling triggering your brain to make the happies. Well. I have tried – when no one is looking, say, in the car for example, just smiling for no reason at all. Like a crazy person. I keep practicing it. (Don’t tell my husband; he might think I pay attention to him!)

2.       Remember my yoga

One of the reasons for my Grinching is that I hold a long to-do list in my head at all times. If not careful, I lose track of my linear perception of time. I feel that everything on my to-do list has to be done NOW, that all the parties and events are happening tomorrow. In short, my brain will condense all the activity over the three-month holiday marathon into one finite perpetual moment. I forget to Be Present.  I forget to Be Now.

So I am making a more concerted effort to be fully in the moment – to remember that all I have to do right now – is what I am doing right now. And all I have to worry about right now – is what I am doing right now. Now. Now. Now. Be present now.

3.       If I don’t have to… I don’t have to!

I’m usually a “Git ‘er done” kind of gal, but in honor of the holidays I’ve given myself Permission to Slack. I’ve bowed down from most of my usual holiday cooking and I’ve pushed several tasks and decisions off until January. So if it doesn’t need to be done right away… it’s not gonna. Less to worry about. If I earn some free time through this process, I spend it on Yours Truly, lazily and selfishly.

4.       Loads of extra exercise

Extra exercise not only reduces my concerns about becoming less healthy as a result of holiday temptations, it also naturally increases mood and energy levels.

...from my former life as a yoga teacher
I have been taking an exercise class almost every day. My goal is 5 days a week. I’ve also hit 6 days some weeks. I’m going to have to be gracious on other weeks and accept less-strenuous alternatives or breaks as the holidays make more time demands. During Thanksgiving, for example, I had to count walks around the neighborhood as my daily exercise.

I’m taking classes from three different exercise businesses – a yoga studio, a dance studio, and a pilates studio. The constant changes in how I move my body on a daily basis is helping minimize muscle fatigue and it’s keeping me interested and motivated. 

I’m going to be honest here – I can’t afford to live like this. I calculated that, full price, taking so many classes from so many facilities would cost me something like $3000 a year to maintain. I am doing it now through a combination of regular cash, trade, and Living Social vouchers. But I like it so much I think I’ll treat myself like this every November and December.  I feel like this is helping me behave like a sane person more than any of my other devised Grinch medicines.


Handmade Goodies this Weekend!

If you aren't one of those early-shoppers (and even if you are!) you may want to consider stopping by Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar this weekend!  It's really amazing - stuffed with unique, quality handmade items from artisans all over the state. One year I bought nearly ALL of my Christmas gifts here - they have things for all budgets.

Shopping at Deluxe supports Okie economy and Okie artists... AND makes you one of the coolest gifters around. ;-)

For more info, visit: