The Year in Review

This post can take many forms.  I may talk about the world view in review but the original intent is to review the aspirations I have set for myself for this year that is soon coming to a close.

There were a lot of areas that I wanted to improve on for 2008.  There were a lot of new things that I did.  As I look back, I didn’t do a lot of things I really wanted to do also so my guess is the year is sort of a wash.

I have two budget/financial goals for 2008.  One was to pay down my debt.  That one did get taken care of rather well.  There is still some debt but it is minor compared to what it was at the beginning of the year.  The second was to put 10% of my pay into savings.  Well, this didn’t go so well.  I do have more in savings now, at almost the end of 2008, than I did at the end of 2007 but it is not nearly a large enough cushion.

I put my fitness aspirations for 2008 into three parts.  While I did not reach any of these goals, I worked towards two of them consistently.  I had a 1000 mile goal for my running.  I am at just under 800 at the moment with five days to go.  I know I will not reach 1000 but I also know that it is more than doable now that I have tallied up an entire year of running.  I did not manage to find and purchase a pedometer that I would wear all the time.  I have a real problem with pedometers and tend to break them.  I am still trying to find one that I can wear and it records properly and I don’t have to buy a new one after a month.  I have found a few strength training outlets.  I am not in love with any of them so this goal has not been accomplished.  I find I am good with my cardio workouts, not so good with my strength training.  This will have to push over into 2009.

I am looking right now for a CSA for 2009.  I did not find one in 2008 and was deeply disappointed in that aspect of my eating.  I must find one this coming year.  I, also, did not utilize menu planning as I should have.  Actually, I am not sure I used it at all.  I have to work on this as I know it makes for healthier food on the table and it also makes for better budgetting of food monies.

I did participate in the Triple 8 challenge.  I read 56 plus books this year but the problem lies in getting them into categories.  I did not necessarily read the books I had originally intended to read.

I did not remain faithful to Simple Abundance again this year.  I cannot even tell you when I stopped reading it so it was some time ago.  I will begin again on January 1 and attempt to read the entire year  in 2009.  It is a book that I love and will always work through.

The biggest push for 2009 is art.  I have worked on my art throughout 2008 but still did not submit anything for publication.  I will do that in the upcoming year.  I will create on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as it, like blogging, helps keep me grounded.

How do you exercise your brain?

We all spend a lot of time – because it is in the news a lot or because we care about our quality of life – worrying about exercising our bodies, making our bodies more fit and ready for aging (okay, so the teenager that exercises regularly probably doesn’t think of that).  The question today is do you do the same for your brain?

It has been shown through many studies that one way to help age gracefully, as far as our mental capacities are concerned, is to exercise our brains.  There are so many ways to do this but do you? 

For those of us out there that do physical exercise on a regular basis, it is great to know that studies show that physical exercise does help keep the brain in good shape also.  But, alas, like exercise needs nutrition to create a healthy body, physical exercise needs mental exercise to keep the brain healthy.

So brain exercises – sounds hard, right?  Not really.  Here is my daily brain exercise – which is on top of a rather lengthy reading list of which I am happy to recommend several books in different genre, just ask.  In the morning, I read the local paper and the blog section. 

I, then, do an online jigsaw puzzle.  I do the puzzle of the day in whatever number of pieces it is done in.  I have yet to conquer a 247 piece puzzle online but I do try to be sure I beat the average solve time.

Then, to make my brain think a bit more, I go to and do a word find game.  Days when work is slow, I sometimes scoot back over to and play a few times a day.

And then, I read.  I have, in the seven days that have passed in August, already finished two novels and one non-fiction and am a good way through a third novel.

So, today, when you have a few minutes, pick up a crossword.  Do a word find.  Tonight, play Scrabble with the family.  Exercise your brain.

Book Review – Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea

I started reading Three Cups of Tea as I took my 17 year old son for what we both hoped was his last orthopedist’s appointment due to a broken ankle.  I had picked it up in my summer reading pile.  I have read many books about life in the Middle East but most of my reading has been fiction, albeit fiction based on fact but novels none the less.  I was not sure that novels were the way our culture should see into the culture of societies that had become so linked with ours in not so good ways.  Hence, picking up Three Cups of Tea which, in paperback, bears the subtitle One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time.

The non-fiction book is written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  The story is all Mortenson’s.  He was a climber early in his life.  He tried to climb K2.  He climbed many other mountains in the region but his failed attempt is what changed his life forever.  The change was not because of the failure but because of where he wandered and ended up.  He wound up in the Pakistani village of Korphe in the Baltistan region.  He promised, as his recuperation ended and he prepared to return to what was his life, to return and build the village a school.

Throughout the book, the focus is always on the work that is being done in Pakistan and later Afghanistan.  The book is not about Mortenson, though he is the main character.  He was in Pakistan when 9/11 happened.  He knew, from the beginning, that not all Muslims were extremists.  He faced his share of problems in building schools in foreign lands, especially foreign lands that “we” – as in the US government – do not like.  His ability to fundraise was not innate.  It had to be nurtured.  His ability to live with death threats because he said that education, not war, was the answer to fighting terrorism was difficult to read about.   His belief that his work through the Central Asia Institute – established after his first school was built – would change the world and definitely the fate of young women in Pakistan never wavered.

Throughout his fundraising efforts for CAI, Mortenson has raised money in many ways.  As a former developement director for a non-profit, I know how difficult it is to raise monies and my job was probably easier as it was for something nearby.  Pennies for Peace is one way that there has been money raised to go to CAI and its schools.

Please read the book.  It is essential in our, as US citizens, living in a global community.  It is definitely a story that needs support.  We need to realize that what we should be fearing is not terrorism but ignorance – ignorance by us of the pain we have inflicted around Central Asia, ignorance by us of the fact that those who are educated, and not necessarily to US standards, are bettering their own lives and don’t want to harm us.


Patina – by definition – is a film or incrustation, usually green, produced by oxidation on the surface of old bronze and often esteemed as being of ornamental value.   I have always loved those “fake” patinas that artists create.  I was so excited when I saw that learning to create a patina look was one of the “projects” in the year-long workshop I am doing online of Julia Andrus’s Paper Transformed

Unfortunately, my acrylic selection/collection is not all that wide.  It consists of three tubes of color – turquoise, green and crimson, a tube of pearlescent tint and a collection of craft acrylics that have been used to paint Pinewood Derby cars over the years – which means black, blue, yellow, cream … not a very good combination.

My stamp pad collection, though, includes copper and many different greens and blues so off I went to make some patinad – is that even a word? – tags.  My first attempt was with stamp pads.  I first put a stippled layer of Cosmic Copper Brilliance on both sides of the tag.  Then, I stippled in some different colored Fresco chalk inks – formerly from Stampa Rosa so you know these are old.  I used Giovanni’s Garden, Velvet Indigo and Blue Grotto.  I also embossed the entire tag with an irridescent embossing powder from Stampin’ Up!

Patina One

I really wanted to try doing patina with acrylics.  I sat down with what I have and started mixing to see if I could get the colorings I wanted.  I, again, stippled the entire tag with Cosmic Copper Brilliance ink.  The I used a mixture from the green and the turquoise with pearlescent tint and craft acrylics to get a different tone of the color.  I decided I wasn’t sure I liked the look so I then took UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel) in interference green – don’t ask as I don’t remember why I have this – and put some on each tag where the acrylics were still wet enough for sticking.

Patina Two

Sand in Gesso

As those of you who visit often might recall, I am doing a year long workshop based on Mary Todd Beam’s book Celebrate Your Creative Self.  I am tad bit behind the group but was catching up by doing a painting using sand in gesso.

I agree with Todd Beam in that the one thing that always annoyed me about painting was the lack of texture.  You can add some texture with brush strokes and such but no real relief or three dimensional-ness to the painting.  This is not true when you add sand – or other products – to either your gesso or your paint directly.

The first thing I did – after mixing sand into my gesso – was to put some artist’s tape on the canvas as I wanted some border to where I was doing this.  I, then layered in the sand/gesso mixture.

Step One

Once I did this step, I then mixed a little green acrylic from my tube with the left over gesso and sand to start the leafing of the tree.  Back a few weeks ago, I talked about how everything was suddenly green and  still have this thought in my mind.  Overnight, I let the canvas sit and dry.

Step Two

I could not find a color that I wanted to paint over the gesso/sand.  I wanted a brown.  I tried stippling on Adirondack ink in Espresso.  I do not have a brown acrylic paint.  I decided to take the Espresso re-inker – yes, it is a dye ink – and add it to gesso and paint over the gesso/sand.

I, then, used the acrylic green that I had added to the leftover gesso/sand the night before without any additives to make the grass and the remaining tree leaves.

I took a turquoise acrylic and added both a pearlescent tint and then a red and plain paint to make the varying sky colors.  Where I wanted clouds or white, I painted with just the pearlescent tint.

Final Piece

Summer Reading

Not only do I love to read, I really think that is what summers are all about – friends, family, maybe a beach or two, tons of music and good reads!

Some of my favorite summer reads have been discovered by accident.  I love Jimmy Buffet’s novels.  Two summers ago was the discovery of this wonderful author – who also tends to get me going with is music too – when I picked up A Salty Piece of Land at the local WaldenBooks.  While it was a thick paperback, I hated to put it down each night.  I would work all day.  Grill dinner and sit in the waning sun with a glass of white wine and this wonderful piece of fiction until the bugs would drive me inside – or, as happened many times, the darkness made staying outside to read reasonable any longer.

This summer I have a list of summer reads.  I had sort of forgotten about them until my weekly list from Borders came to my email and there, in the email, was a link to what Borders buyers are reading this summer.  I didn’t match up a lot of the reads but I have rather eclectic reading taste.  I love non-fiction but not for summer.  I want light and airy to go with the wonderful summer weather.

So far, and remember summer hasn’t officially started yet, I have taken full advantage of what may be the only summer we get here in upstate NY.  If it was hot, I was at the grill cooking dinner and then reading.

I have re-read Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore – yes, she is related to Al, his second daughter.  I cannot wait to find a copy of Sammy’s House.  This is a recent re-read as it was hot this past weekend and I was in the mood for sun and reading.

I visited with another old friend when I picked up The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.  I first read Kingsolver when I delved into The Poisonwood Bible years ago.  The Bean Trees did not leave me disappointed in the least.  It was like listening to an old friend tell a new story.

Buffet brings me to big belly laughs with some of his writings.  Where Is Joe Merchant? is no different.  It sets you up in the Carribean and makes you want to make margaritas every night.  Until I can afford to have a big bottle of Patron around, that little scenario will have to wait.  I want to run out and pick up a few more Buffet books.  I have also recently read Swine Not? and, while not a tropical setting, it is definitely a Buffet original and worth the time to sit down and read it.  

While a lot of people think of Meg Cabot and The Princess Diaries – which, by the way, I have never read – I think of Size 12 Is Not Fat.  This is my first encounter with Cabot and made me run out looking for Size 14 Is Not Fat Either.   While both of these were last year’s reads, I saw Queen of Babble at my local Sam’s Club and grabbed at it.  I love the way Cabot’s mind works and Queen of Babble did not disappoint.  It is definitely a beach read and a book that leaves me waiting for more about the protagonist Lizzie, as did Cabot’s Size books about protagonist Heather.

I also decided, while i was book hunting, that I needed to try some new authors.  I decide to pick up Mrs. Kimble.  What a marvelous book!  It takes you through the life of one man from the point of view of his wives – all three of them.

My second new author was to pick up Alphabet Weekends.  Not only do I now want to find someone willing to give me 26 weekends of their life to do something having to do with each letter of the alphabet, I want to read more by Elizabeth Noble.

Here’s to summer reading!  More there be many more books to come.