A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

All Free Wi-Fi is not Equal

I have been traveling for 10 days now, and every night when I find a motel I make sure it offers free Wi-Fi. All but one of my motels has been in the $60 to $100 range and all of them have had signal that varied between low and non-existant. The one motel I paid $130 for (it was Moving-In week at MSU in Bozeman and I was lucky to find a bed anywhere) had a good signal. So it is clear, you get what you pay for.

Starbucks is my drink of choice and traveling through Montana can be trying for those of us Seattleites addicted to their particular taste & menu. There aren't a dozen Starbucks locations in all of Montana and I have that many within 5 miles of my home. I know Starbucks is an expensive way to quench your thirst, but I also know that when I sat down at the Missoula Starbucks on North Reserve the free Wi-Fi signal read excellent. Same thing at the Starbucks on South Reserve. Evidently coffee is like free Wi-Fi...you get what you pay for.

None of this would be so important if the replacement phone I got from Sprint two months ago hadn't crapped out as soon as I crossed the border into Montana. Using my little notebook and the nightly free Wi-Fi was my only way to communicate with home - where my 97 yr old mother is failing and my family worries about a 67 yr old woman traveling alone with a thirteen year old Toyota. I passed 120,000 miles on this trip and took took my Camry to the top of more than one mountain and it never missed a beat.

So the verdict is in...Starbucks & Toyota - YES!  Sprint - NO! Free Wi-Fi - you get what you pay for.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Love Doing My Laundry

One of the positive things about living alone, and with very little expectation of that changing, is that you can decorate any way you wish. This is even more positive if your taste in decorating leans toward the whimsical or the cluttered. In both cases, that would be me.

When I moved into my condo, faced with the normal problems of storage in such cases, I decided to put shelves in my laundry closet and paint it a lovely Cornish Blue. The shelves then became home to parts of my collections of Nippon China and Cornishware.

I firmly believe that collections should be displayed where you can enjoy them, this is in keeping with the philosophy that you shouldn't collect anything unless you love it. I do love both my Cornishware and my Nippon. Everytime I open the doors to do a load of laundry, I am delighted by the sight. Most people cannot say this.

Last week I was looking for a particular roll of tape in my tape drawer (yes, I have a tape drawer) and when I looked at the roll of blue painter's tape, I realized how close it is to the blue used in Cornishware. I thought, surely, there must be something clever I can do with this. It wasn't until I sat at my son-in-law's table and saw his roll of painter's tape that it hit me. My tape was the normal 5/8” tape, his was 2-3 times as wide. I asked him if I could have it. And being the lovely boy he is, he said yes, without even asking why. I am sure he could tell by the look on my face that I wouldn't tell him anyway.

And so.....here we are!

Soon, I will tell you what I did with my guest bathroom.

Sunshine Comes Softly

"Sunshine comes softly through my window today."  (Now those of you old enough to remember Donovan can sing it, if only in your heads.)

Rarely do I wake up to sunshine coming through my window without that line running through my head. In fact, rarely do I wake up with sunshine coming through my window - full stop. Here in the Pacific Northwest, even lovely sunshiney spring days rarely start first thing in the morning. There is usually an hour or two of fog, or high clouds, or "overcast", before it burns away and the sun is well and truly shining.

We've had a few lovely spring days this year, but this morning I opened my eyes (a little before 7:) to actual rays of sunshine. For a few moments, I simply laid there, feeling the warmth on my skin. Then I opened my eyes, looked to the window, and realized how incredibly dirty my bedroom window is.  While I waited for my coffee, I walked to the sliding doors, gazed out the window, then back again to my desk...covered with a fine layer of dust...okay, not so fine, a pretty thick layer of dust. Now, as I sit at my computer, the sun is shining through the very dirty glass on the door to the deck.

The sunshine may come softly, but it carries a big stick - Time to do some Spring Cleaning!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Social Media I: Shortcut to Self Esteem

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way right here at the beginning. I am on Twitter - I check it about twice a week or if something important is going on in the world and I Tweet about once a month. I am on Facebook - I only check it when someone contacts me direct which is rare and I never post anything but the odd birthday greetings.  I spend a great deal of time on Flickr - it is so much more than a place to park your pics! And my latest time-waster is Pinterest.

This post is not intended to be an advertisement for Pinterest, I will just say it is addictive as well as functional. However a recent experience on Pinterest is what brought me here, so I will give a brief idea of how it functions for the uninitiated. One can pull photos from almost anywhere on the web and post them on your own 'bulletin boards' (such as recipes, craft patterns, color schemes, travel ideas). The brilliant part is that when you - or anyone else - click on that photo, it takes you to the original website. In short, it does away with the massive list of 'favorites' that are pretty much wasted by those who surf a great deal.

In addition to finding treasures on the web, there is an enormous amount of pinned material to sift through should you so choose. The challenge is to find people and boards with similar tastes and interests and follow their boards - thus ensuring a steady supply of treasures mined by other like minds. And now to the story...

Last night I was scrolling through Pinterest and found a pin of a work by Beryl Taylor, an extremely talented  mixed media artist I have been tracking for at least five years. As I traced back through the pinnings, I came to the artist herself. She was on Pinterest and it goes without saying that I loved practically all of her pinnings and was pleased to find that she had pinned some of the same things I had. Of course, I opted to follow all of her boards.

The next day, when I glanced through the regular email I receive from Pinterest showing repinnings of your items, I found this sentence..."Beryl Taylor started following all of your pinboards". I was so excited I called my daughter to tell her that THE Beryl Taylor was following ME!

And that is why people have hundreds of Facebook friends that they haven't spoken to in real life for twenty years or more, why Stephen Fry has 3,821,365 Twitter followers, and why there is a Flickr group called 'Dogs on Roofs' that has 1,540 members who have posted a total of 821 pictures of - you guessed it - dogs on roofs.

For every sad, lonely person who has locked themselves away in a room and lurks around the edges of forums and special interest sites, there is someone who is making a connection with someone else that was simply not possible before the internet. I am happy to say, that sometimes that person is me. Last week, someone on Pinterest pinned one of my Flickr photos onto her board for miniatures. Foolish though it may seem, I was thrilled.

I think a case could be made that ebay was the first of the mega-successful social media. I remember when ebay first took off, I shopped early and often. Payments were usually made by check through the mails, which necessitated a personal interaction of sorts and your feedback was an important element. One day, after a hard and personally depressing day at work, I logged onto ebay and read through my feedback.  There I discovered I was "an A++++ buyer", a "valued buyer", I was "friendly and great to deal with". Ha! Take that Michelle! (All these years later, I still remember what a bitch she was - I'm sure Beryl Taylor wouldn't follow her anywhere!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Day? Not So Much...

I just got an update on the thrill of a Snow Day from my daughter. Turns out that in a great many cases, a Snow Day does not mean you get to stay home and do jigsaw puzzles. It just means you get on your computer, log in, and do the same work at home that you normally do in the office.

It seems that progress almost always comes with an upside...and a downside.

As I write this, I see the snow has started again, and it's coming down pretty hard.  That means I should be able to finish the Windsor Castle jigsaw tomorrow morning and start the North Devon Harbour one.

I can't help myself...Yippee!

Snow Day!

I am living proof that you never outgrow Snow Days. Unemployed/retired for nearly three years and out of school for years beyond counting, Snow Days still never fail to thrill...even though they make no real difference to my daily life whatsoever. Unless I have neglected to stock up on groceries when the TV weathermen start their doom and gloom in advance of what usually turns out to be half a dozen picturesque flakes that fall unerringly during the evening commute, then it makes a difference.

In a effort to remain functional for as long as possible, I try to chip away a little at all my chores, tasks, and projects each day. For the most part, I have been quite successful at it and so my laundry is usually caught up, my sink is empty of dirty dishes, my sewing machine is warm, and postcards continue to be sorted and logged. I may have projects midstream on every table in my condo, but I make a little progress on each one every day. It is not unusual for me to go two days without home -  I keep busy, and therefore, relatively happy.

But as soon as the parking lot turnss white, my mind declares a Snow Day. I have nowhere to go, but I am thrilled to have an excuse for not going there. So I have spent most of the last two days doing jigsaw puzzles. And if the weathermen are right, I will get a couple more done in the next two days. Yippee!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Need some Post-Holiday De-stressing?

I don't know about you, but whenever I can steal some time to just sit and read, it improves my outlook on life. If it's something dark and humorless I feel better about my own life. If it's a bit dry and boring, I am usually being educated along the way. This doesn't count reading in bed, which for one thing, isn't sitting and for another, it just puts me to sleep. But that stolen hour mid-day, ah, that's the luxury. So it comes as no surprise that reasearch shows that reading improves mental wellbeing and reduces stress by 67%.

Acknowledging this fact, the Reading Agency in England has come up with a list of 'mood enhancing' books which will be promoted in libraries all over England in 2012. I assume that anyone with time to check out my blog, also must have time to read – or at the least should be making time – so as a public service here is the list...with my comments in parentheses.

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond (chick-lit)
Being Human by Neil Astley (poetry)
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (detective humor – one of my very favorite authors, although I prefer his Thursday Next series)
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (part of a relationship series)
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (memoir)
Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy by Philippa Perry (graphic novel)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (children's)
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (novel)
Life According to Lubka by Laurie Graham (humorous fiction)
Life with the Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson (memoir)
A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich (children's – but a good place for those of us without degrees in history to start)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (fiction)
Men at Work by Mike Gayle (chick-lit)
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (travel – ANYTHING by this man will make you smile out loud)
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (classic fiction – if you like this, go right straight to Love in a Cold Climate)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (children's)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (fantasy)
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (humor)
Stop What You're Doing and Read This! By Charlie Oatway (essays)
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (fiction)
That Awkward Age by Roger McGouch (poetry)
To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (chick-lit)
Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones (Humor)
Waterlog by Roger Deakin (nature – just went to the top of my must read list)
A Winter Book by Tove Jansson (autobiographical stories)

You will note that this is not just a list of funny books, books that will make you laugh out loud or giggle, but books that will make you feel better about yourself, or the world. It's a wonderful genre-bending list and I particularly appreciate the inclusion of poetry and children's fiction. Some of my favorite books (such as Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series) are considered children's or young adult. I like to think that I am a young adult, it's all a matter of perspective. Somewhere there must be a list of “Children's Books for Adults”, and when I find it, I will pass it on.

I would have added something (anything) by PG Wodehouse to this list. Also, something from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, or one of the Miss Read books. All of these have been functional de-stressers for me at some point in my life.

I have only read about a quarter of the books on this list, but I can testify that they were all well chosen, so I tend to trust the rest of it. If I ever finish the stack of books beside my bed, and the stack next to my sofa, and the metaphorical stack on my Kindle, and (I must admit it) the stack in my bathroom...I'll know where to go next.