Saturday, November 30, 2013

Graciousness and Doctor Who

The lovely Freema Agyeman, aka Martha Jones in Doctor Who, Alesha from Law and Order UK, and Larissa from the Carrie Diaries.

I apologize for not posting for #30daysofthanks the last couple days. I've been at Chicago TARDIS, a Doctor Who convention and Thanksgiving was thrown in the mix.

At Chicago TARDIS, I've been attending a lot of panels and have been disappointed in how many people are set on casting Doctor Who as a racist, sexist show with terrible character development and rampant offensive behavior. My husband and I attended one called "Moffat's Girls" today which quite frankly, turned into a complaint session, not a constructive criticism or discussion about writing and character development in the series.

So the thing that has really struck me is the true graciousness of the people who come up as the icons of Doctor Who. Peter Davison. Sarah Sutton. Terry Malloy. Colin Baker. Nicola Bryant. Freema Agyeman. All of them took photos and signed autographs beyond their allotted hours, and Freema even put up with a ton of questions (way beyond her session time) about the "problems" with her character and was gracious, kind to everyone, and smart in her answers. She's quite funny, something I don't necessarily think gets highlighted very often.

On our way out today, we managed to get into the parking garage elevator with Freema and her agent. I managed to eke out a "hello" and she smiled at me and went back to discussing cereal with her agent (seriously, she loves her cereal!). I was really struck by how nice she is, how gracious she is, and she's rich and famous - at this point, she doesn't have to be, but she's conscientious about herself as a role model and overall luck.

So that's what I've been thankful for the last couple days - even in the face of negativity, the celebrities of the Who world are gracious, kind, and accepting of everyone. Its an attitude I think everyone can happily emulate!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YouTube replaced the underground market

Be forewarned, the Bear and the Hare makes me cry every time I see it.

YouTube has really changed the world. I remember when I was younger the underground market that existed in order to get music from other countries and videos traded on message boards and mixtapes. With YouTube, two clicks later and I've got the UK only John Lewis advertisement with the exclusive Lilly Allen song. Kids these days don't have much resistance or trouble getting just about anything they want these days and I have to wonder if its part of what's behind the change in attitude that they have - they're used to having the world at their fingertips, so they think differently about it than those of us who had to painstakingly search out and create content of our favorite artists if they weren't on the top 40. In fact, in reading the comments on YouTube videos for Lorde, I'm beginning to think that a lot of people don't like her concepts and her music because she's from this new generation that can create an underground vibe and simultaneously be EVERYWHERE.

Generations interacting together = conflict, I guess. In thinking about tomorrow (today's Thanksgiving Eve here in the US), I guess I feel like the Internet should have brought people together because you can find more people everywhere who like and want the same things, whether they be 10 or 100 and located in the back 40 in Arkansas or the uber-hip Tokyo neighborhood Harajuku. And it seems like more people agree with me than don't - check out this quote from Geekscape article "Death of a Local Record Store" in talking about having conversations about great employees with music knowledge and passion:

"As much as we like to say that the internet has brought the world closer together (and I believe that it has in some ways), we’ll never get this kind of true interaction here. Not really. Sure, there are plenty of music websites that sort of do it, but not with personality or, well, ANYthing but clicks and links. All we will truly ever get from a website is a call and response sort of “If…then…” statement."

That's how I feel. Like we're not really interacting with people as well as we could using the Internet and I miss the spontaneous "I threw this tape in the swap package because if you like Sneaker Pimps, you'll probably like Smoke City too". YouTube comes the closest to this idea with its "recommended" section, but if you get a few million people who randomly wander the YouTube, your recommendations will be influenced by screwy stuff. (Ever watch pimple extraction? Strange, gross, yet can't-look-away kind of video that can be strangely satisfying to watch without having to squeeze your own). Facebook helps too because it helps you keep in contact with people, but ... not quite either. I always go back to YouTube. And now that the comments are from real people and not just "Ilikemusic656785", you can find real friends to chat with regularly, and make real interaction happen via Google Hangouts, Skype, and other internet video tools.

Thanks YouTube for changing the music world. Its not perfect, but its way easier to use than the old days!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I want an Osgood Scarf!

I want an Osgood scarf! No, it is NOT the fourth Doctor's scarf. I think she's supposed to be a knitter and made it in homage to the Doctor! Its stockinette, I'm thinking 20-25 stitches in the round, and fringe at the ends.

Something like:


for the striping pattern, maybe 8-10 feet long rather than the 18 feet the 4th Doctor's scarf is?

Most of the time, I'm screaming at Steven Moffat, but today, I thank him for doing an astoundingly amazing job on the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who show.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sometimes thanks are simple

When the world looks like this outside, I'm thankful that my work has a parking garage and I don't have to clean off my car at lunch time or after work gets out! Yea!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Changing your world view (fiberists = makars)

(Isn't this lovely? Photo by Kellie on Flickr)

Karie Bookish wrote a short blog post that a bunch of my knitterly friends are sharing on Facebook about the devaluing of handknits (although, it could really be said for knitting, crocheting, or weaving). She reminded me of a scene at a local craft fair: two hand fiberists (crocheters and knitters, if I recall, this was earlier in November) were literally spying on one another and marking their costs down over and over so that by the end of the fair, both of them were charging $5 for items that were previously marked $30-$40 each.

Yes, I've written about this topic before so I'll cut to the chase - I think the end of the article is the most important: " I’m probably more of an artisan makar. “Makar” is an old Scottish word for “poet” or “bard” – and I think of my knitting designs as a way of telling stories with stitches."

I think this is the difference between complaining and circling inaction - she is actively hoping for better and has changed her view so that she is not just a peon making things for pennies in a factory, she is moving her thoughts into a process that is beautiful and luxurious and of high demand (seriously, take a look at her designer Michael Kors or Georgina Chapman would say, the items look expensive and chic, not arts and crafts projects by any means!)

In moving the description of her work, she is elevating knitting and crocheting from being the work that gets people paid very little when they were poor in the 18th and 19th century into something that takes skill and knowledge and has more of a connection to the work then a mass produced piece. If you ask a knitter or crocheter about a piece, they're likely to start by telling you about the yarn and the fun they had making it (or not), but inevitably, the discussion normally starts to delve into how they made this with their friends over a night of Sherlock Holmes and wine, or that they painstakingly did this under their Ott Lite with over 200 hours of beading and they are SO proud of it (as they should be). The fun is not just in the item for them, its in the process and the story of how it was made. When you have a mass made piece, you don't say "Oh, I got this at Target and it was so much fun to shop for..." and go on and on. You lack that connection to the item.

The problem is, most people don't realize this connection until they have become a knitter, crocheter, or weaver. They don't realize that they've lost this connection to the process of the piece, and therefore, they have no concept of value for it. What can you do to change this? Tell people YOUR story. Tell them about every piece you make and how lovingly you made every stitch in that dishcloth. Tell people how much time and attention that lovely shawl took, about how thrilled you are with the results. Use YOUR voice. Become a makar rather than just a crafter.

On this day, I give thanks that there continue to be people out there who are makars, artisans, and are working to help the world value the skills and knowledge that fiberists and sewers everywhere have acquired. After all, y'all are going to need us after the zombie apocalypse when you need clothes to wear.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chicken is tasty (Guest post by Luke the Labrador) - Gluten Free Chicken Recipes

Hi all! I've come back to write a post about my favorite food, chicken. Concetta (my owner) says I have to make it gluten free, too. I guess I can do that.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course!

Why did the turkey cross the road? The chickens were too busy laying eggs. 

Why did the duck cross the road? It was the chicken's day off. 

ROTFLAO! Silly things, chickens. Yet oh so tasty! So here's a list of my favorite recipes from the last month or so of eating chicken. My humans say they won't eat chicken every night, but I wish they would!

Paleo Pan Fried Chicken - I don't know what Paleo means, but pan frying anything is good. 

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Light and crispy skin that's lovely to bite into

Hobo Chicken - Whatever hobos are, they have great taste in cooking. Foil packets keep the chicken nice and juicy!

Slow Cooker Chicken - baked slow throughout the day, this is great entertainment to watch for me! 

Cornish Hens - these are like mini chickens, kind of like how I'm a mini dog. 

Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes - my owner is Italian, so she makes stuff like this a lot. Simple and easy to chow down!

Cumin Chicken with Black Beans - this reminds me of the burrito bowls at Chipotle, my favorite! 

Kung Pao Chicken and Rosemary Chicken - this article has TWO great chicken recipes. I love the Denver Post! 

We love enchiladas in our house - there's an abundance of great, traditional Mexican restaurants where we live. But this recipe is one that makes a high rotation for being tasty. Authentic Chicken Enchiladas. This one does gluten free well, because it has you make a sauce, rather than the storebought sauces which all contain gluten.

My humans watch a lot of Alton Brown, and two of their favorite recipes have chicken in them: Buffalo Wings and Broiled, Butterflied Chicken.

My owner also loves her Martha Stewart although I think she takes FOREVER to explain something. Get to the chicken already! Herb Roasted Chicken with Vegetables is easy and tasty! 

Another Martha Stewart is Spatchcocked Chicken with Tomatoes. Spatchcocking sound funny! He he. "I'm gonna spatchcock you!" LOL

Martha also does some good things with rubs. Crispy Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes and Paprika Rubbed Chicken with Roasted Garlic is also tasty. My humans like smoked paprika, but sometimes they do it with the hot, Hungarian paprika. Then I have to drink a lot of water!

We watch a lot of Cooks Country and America's Test Kitchen in our house so I think I've had every chicken recipe ever from their show (as long as it was gluten free or fixable to be gluten free). Their website isn't super friendly to use though so its harder to link to their recipes. 

My humans also do this thing call Whole30 a couple times a year. I say, eat like a dog, you'll be fine. But it did inspire them to try some new chicken recipes, like Chicken Rolls with Asparagus, Brined Chicken, and Almond Crusted Chicken Breast.

Now I will stare at you as you cook dinner until you give me some! MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, November 22, 2013

There is a holiday for EVERYTHING now (some funny, some serious)

Did you know yesterday was Alascattalo Day?

Yeah, neither did I. Apparently its an Alaskan thing. A cross between a walrus and a moose is something that's celebrated. Strange. But I guess they'd probably look at Pulaski Day as something very strange in Alaska.
Kazimierz Pułaski.PNG
(That's U.S. Brigadier General Pulaski, by the way)

But some holidays really mean something. Today is Humane Society Anniversary Day. Humane Societies are wonderful things - helping the creatures that get lost in poor decisions, sudden allergies, cruel and inhumane conditions, and the wild creatures that can't survive in the urban environment.
Isn't that a wonderful sight? This picture of the assistance of two pups in the desert was taken by Wonderlane, a flickr user.

So today I thank the people that volunteer, donate and manage the humane societies around the world, for doing such a wonderful service.
Look at that face! Can you imagine taking him home? Photo taken by AScappatura.

Instead of buying a pet, try to find one that needs a home. Donate to your local humane society. This holiday is for real and should be celebrated by everyone in the world. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gift buying

Ah, Andy Williams. This is one of the few Christmas songs I think I could listen to ad nauseam and never get annoyed with it. I remember working on the mall and this was the song that I could hum along with and people would always wish me "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" and I'd smile back and say "Thanks". The holiday season always brought out the worst in people - pushing, shoving, rudeness to the cashiers, and I'd always feel the best approach was the be as nice as possible because they really didn't mean it. Its the Southern hospitality approach, right? Kill 'em with kindness?

People working around me have been in the shopping mode before work, after work, on their breaks. Scouting the Black Friday ads, I listen to the folks around me shopping for people and the most common lament is "Gosh, X person is soooooooo hard to buy for".

If you think about that, it should be turned around. X person is hard to buy for because they have been blessed with everything they need and want already (and blessed can be religious or not, take your own meaning), and its hard to come up with something to gift because they already have their needs met. We live in an unprecedented time in history - more people have full, rich lives than in any other century. Even the people who are poor today have more than poor people in any other time period.

Instead of thinking hard to buy for people are a lament, turn your thinking around to how happy you are to think about them so much this time of year, and the gift buying process will be much more pleasant. And for the people that do this, I thank them today, on behalf of the many cashiers, store clerks, and myself, who will have a much happier time shopping because of it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Google "Search by Image"

This might seem silly to some of you, but today, I am thankful for the Search by Image extension in Google Chrome. Do you know how much money it has saved me over the years? I can't think of a free computer feature that has saved me so much in recent weeks.

For example:

$35.99 on a 1774 survey of the Kanawha Valley. Found free from the Library of Congress with one search.

$74.99 on a 1903 edition of the Times Dispatch from Richmond, VA. Found free from the Library of Congress with one search.

This gorgeous photo is by flickr user sgatto.

$38.99 on an image of Vittorio Veneto, Italy. Found an equivalent, modern image on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

And that was just in one day! And if I forget where I downloaded something from, I can go to and upload it, and Google will find the image and help me track it down.

Isn't that just freaking brilliant? They are doing a great job of helping make the world's photos more accessible to the every day person and making it infinitely easier to find ways to enhance my family tree with more video, photos, and documents than ever before.

Thanks Google!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A dark place

Yes, readers, even I am not a boundless end of optimism. But I keep on keeping on, and eventually something comes to me. I've been doing a lot of thinking about life in general (thank you, therapist) and I've realized that sometimes it takes 3-4 days for my brain to really work through something especially when I've been wounded badly by something that was uncovered.

To many people, that would be the end. The loss and despair they feel would drown them in a sea so painful they could never get out of it and contemplate suicide* or other ways of ending it (perma-medication of the prescription or illegal sort) or, if you believe Supernatural (tv), find a super specialized angel to blow you to smithereens. But where I've realized my strength is that my brain needs to work its way through the bits and pieces....but it always comes out of it.

Hope is what keeps us going on the journey, and hope is something that we need to find in order to keep moving forward. Elton John once said that "Love lifts us up where we belong" except that's not exactly it - love provides a shelter and a trampoline to bounce us back up where we can hope for the future and make life better, no matter what the circumstances.

So with that, my thanks today is that my brain can stumble through these realizations, and that I can keep moving forward, and that I have my love and my hope to keep going.

*If you are in a place like this, don't let your journey end. In the US, call 1-800-273-8255 and get through it. Because your journey should continue to find your hope and healing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Writing can be done by anyone.

Since I've started writing more again, I've been getting a lot of personal emails from friends and friends of friends who say they admire what I write but could never do it themselves. It astounds me that the attitude of so many is that they just "can't" do something without trying.

Here's a shocker for you: I'm not a Pulitzer prize winner. I don't write professionally. 80% of the regular readers are here for the knitting and crocheting patterns, not for the writing.

Heck, by the reader numbers, I doubt most people even see a lot of the columns I write. But I think that its important to keep writing as often as I can and when I feel I have something to say. Why? Because of things like this. I doubt this poor child thought that her diary was anything other than a outlet for her frustrations and dreams in the time she wrote it, and now its a historical gem, teaching people about child labor in the factories. Or this. Or this. Or this.

It was just their life. Not prize winning literature, not the best writing ever,

When I think about today, so many things are fleeting. Technology is changing life faster than anyone could have imagined years ago. Just last week we were saying how no one will have seen a phone with a cord on it anymore, as cordless phones (if one still has a landline) and mobile phones are status quo now just about everywhere. The joys of being able to stretch the long cord into a bathroom, closet, or nook to get some privacy are something that children today will not feel. Even an elegantly worded letter has went from paper to fax to email to 140 character tweets. Its hard to wax poetic about a bundle of tweets, but hey, I'm old fashioned.

My point? Just write and share your experience with the world. It doesn't matter what your viewpoint, your IQ, your writing ability, or your writing experience is. Just start somewhere, and do it regularly. Many authors participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) in November because it forces them into a daily spout of creativity and the goal is to have a novel finished in exactly one month. It may sound daunting but I know many people who start there or go participate in it to give them a firm deadline to force the creativity out of their head.

Today I give thanks for the ability to share my experience with the world, no matter how few people read it. The important thing is that I did it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Penny, Heidi, Angel, and other dogs we've lost

I saw this image today on Tumblr, and it reminded me of my dear sweet Penny. Penny loved bubbles and we could blow them for hours at her, jumping up and down with the joy of a young puppy no matter how old she was.  She was one of those dogs that was one in a million, where she was kind, generous with her time and her affection, and always seemed to live each day profoundly grateful that she had such a loving home.

Her sister Heidi, on the other hand, is best represented by this photo. Very intense, very observant, and always interested in something. Heidi had an obsession with eating bumblebees and very small insects like flies and spiders. She was always the epitome of the "fire dog" - strong, focused, and aloof. And yet, she had her own soft side, she loved to sit with you, she loved to warm herself under the covers and she loved to sit in the sun, soaking up what Minnesota heat she could.

Angel, on the other hand, was not my dog, but felt like part of the family. She was exuberance personified - fun loving, affectionate and wanting to play ALL the time. Every time I saw her it felt like she was very happy, and she indulgently put up with whatever her humans demanded, including dress up (here she's wearing a favorite bandanna). Her joy spread throughout my husband's family.

Bat Bat and Cocoa were Pekingese that were my mother's when I was young. I don't remember much of them, but I remember their fondness for mischief, long naps, and letting me pet them even though I was probably too rough on them as a young child.

On this day, I would like to give thanks for those fleeting moments that stay with one for a lifetime when one allows the companionship of a pet of any kind into your life. They have such an impact on your life that you hardly realize it while its happening. With my dog companions over time I have learned patience, enjoyment of the simple things in life, and to be calm even in crisis. They have also taught me how to enjoy joy and fun, and when to display restraint even when something doesn't particularly feel good.

Is there a dog or cat that you miss?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanking Friends and Family

There are a lot of stereotypical posts about how people love their friends and family. Sorry folks, I'm going to add to the pile! :-) Without the support network that I have of friends, family, virtual, live, close, remote, and everything in between, I doubt I would be here today. And I've ever sought out new and interesting people to add to my experiences and expand my worldview. They are people I've never met in real life to people I can't live a day without. Rather than try to do each of them justice, I thought it would be better to let them tell their story. Across my social media presence - Twitter, Facebook, Ravelry, LinkedIn, Email, Blogs, YouTube - I asked them to tell me what they were thankful for. Blessings run the gamut from the serious (safety from violence) to the silly (eating overcooked veggies - Jenna, I have got to have you watch more Alton Brown!) and everything in between.

I've removed their last names (and tried to translate where necessary) - so really, they could be anyone - your friend, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you. If you get a chance this weekend, ask the people around you: "What are you thankful for?"

MaryJane "I'm thankful for being able to work at home and make an income from something I absolutely love to do - crochet! I give God all the credit for my ability to be able to do this."

Kate "I have been thankful this month for the nice people at the TSA. They do so much work and a few bad ones give them all a bad wrap. And then they get shot for their effort out in LA. I've been trying to thank each one for doing such thankless work."

Nina "Estoy agradecido por la creatividad y Ravelry!"
(I am grateful for creativity and Ravelry!)

Aadi "I am thankful for good beer, Chicago deep dish, and good company. Its a blessing to be back home!"

Joanna "Hmm...I'm thankful that the holidays are starting and that I can go and see my family!"

Silvana "Eu agradeço a Deus que eu possa ganhar a vida fazendo tricô e crochê."
(I praise God that I can make a living knitting and crocheting)

Cleo "I am thankful for Kickstarter giving me something to look forward to in my inbox every week instead of just spam!"
(Side note: I just got my alpaca from a Kickstarter investment. That totally makes me thankful for them!)

Hellen "Hmm...I am thankful I got my computer updated and my Mac updated and everything's all patched up and works! So much effort..."

David "Friends and family to keep me warm on these cold, wintery days."

John "I like that one, David. I am especially happy to have Facebook and Google Hangouts to reach the family back in Italy."

Ruth מאז דוד הוא עכשיו בצבא, אני מודה שאין אלימות ושהוא ייעשה עם השירות שלו בשנה הבאה.
(With David in the military, I am thankful that there is no violence and that he will be done with his service next year.)

Tuuvi "I am happy in the digital world that I am still able to be young at heart and play games, listen to music, and chat with people from all over the world."

Leesa "I'm thankful for Matthew!!! He does more for me than any other person I know! He is what makes want to be more!"

Naomi "Sono grato che Dio provvede per me, e che i miei amici e parenti sono vivi."
(I am thankful God provides for the life of myself and my family)

Valerie "I am thankful for my friends who share their lives with me."

Ruthie "I am Thankful for my children and grandchildren! For my family and friends! Most of all for our Millitary for all of their hard work protecting us all. Thank you and God Bless Everyone!"

Tyee "I'm thankful to wake up everyday and be alive"

Yoshi "私は人生のために感謝しています"
(I am thankful for life)

Wanda "Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and all my FB friends and relatives. And my husband without him my life would have no meaning."

Maliann "Ben dünyanın yüz her gün benimle olmak benim hayatımın aşkı için teşekkür ediyorum."
(I am thankful for the love of my life being with me every day to face the world.)

Dana "I am thankful to be given another day to spend with my family and friends."

Marie "Jag älskar Skype så att jag kan vara tacksam för familj och vänner över hela världen."
(umm..if I remember enough Swedish I think this says she's thankful for Skype (or is it Norwegian?))

Beverly "I'm thankful for my husband, daughter, and friends…and thankful for fairly good health."

Hilde "Jeg elsker positive tanker som kommer fra denne amerikanske tradisjonen med Thanksgiving!"
(I love the happy/positive thoughts that come from American Thanksgiving traditions!)

Mardee "I am thankful for friends/fellow bloggers who post gluten-free Italian recipes!"

Acela "Agradeço a Deus por meus amigos e familiares todos os dias!"
(I thank god for my friends and family every day)

Romeo "I am grateful my wonderful wife Samantha puts up with me every day."

Marinda "Thank you for thinking of this! I thank Mother Earth for inspiring us with beauty."

Anna "I am thankful for cheese, which makes any of my mother's overcooked vegetables palatable"
(Side note: Jenna...I will follow up on this one!)

Laura "Along Amy's line of thought, I am thankful for Glutino! I don't eat much processed food anymore, but sometimes a girl just needs a cookie."

Barb "I am thankful I don't have any food allergies like you and Laura!"

Jackie: "Я рад, что мы переехали в большие города, где легко, чтобы получить одежду, продукты питания и лекарства."
(It makes me happy that we moved to a large city where we can get clothes, food, and medicine)

Jose "I'm grateful I get to stay in the US a little longer with my beautiful wife and children."

Natalia "Sono grato che ho finito il mio maglione!"
(I am grateful I finished my sweater!) (side note: she's been working on the same sweater for two years...)

Katie "I bless God for Alton Brown, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray, who improved my cooking over the past year"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On the image of poor and black people

First off, I'm going to start this out by saying I'm not African American, black, brown, or any minority. But I do have a lot of friend who are the colors of the rainbow - African, African American, Asian, Asian American, Indian, Indian American, Native American, European, Southern and Northern Italian, Liberian, Lithuanian, Russian, Caribbean,  and all sorts of beautiful combinations in between. I have friends and family that live all over the world, including Turkey, China, England, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, South Africa, Egypt, Chile, Peru, and more. You can feel free to tune out now if that bothers you that I'm not one of those folks writing about this piece.

Talking Points Memos often get passed around my friends and I noted with interest that amongst my friends on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, one particular article was getting a lot of discussion. "Why Do Poor People 'Waste' Money On Luxury Goods?"

I read the article. Its brilliant. It describes, in a nutshell, everything that is wrong with people today, even in a society that claims everyone is equal. This passage is particularly poignant for me:

"...There is empirical evidence that women and people of color are judged by appearances differently and more harshly than are white men. What is remarkable is that these gatekeepers told me the story. They wanted me to know how I had properly signaled that I was not a typical black or a typical woman, two identities that in combination are almost always conflated with being poor..."

Yes. This has happened to me more than half a dozen times myself. I've gotten second interviews because people thought I expressed myself so intelligently and managed to dress well, act at a higher class than I was, even when my husband and I were eating ramen noodles and PB&J every night. Honestly, I still do it, trying to find ways to fit in yet another item that is typically bought by people that are in a higher income level than my own because I know if I can play at being one of those higher income folks, one of them is more likely to bring me up with them, leading to a point where things are going to be more affordable.

A man can come into work in jeans and flip flops and not get told their attire is wrong nor get moved into the "not promotable group". A woman wears a skirt too short, happens to show a bit too much of their cleavage, wears the wrong fragrance, and poof! the impression of them is changed forever and they get moved to the "non-trustable" pile as they aren't showing that they are part of the club.

But the thing is that the article assumes that people are buying these things at full retail price (or even on sale). The thing is, I don't know many people who actually buy 100% of these items. Purses can be rented. Clothes can be rented. Outlet stores help with buying classics like suits, button downs, and classic accessories. Borrowed Clothes, Gwynnie Bee, and other "Netflix" services of fashion make it possible to borrow clothes, try them out, and return them frequently. BaubleBar makes jewelry affordable. ShoeDazzle makes knockoffs of the runway shoes within the realm of affordability. Zara, Charming Charlie, Bare Minerals, Julep, H&M, and others make jewelry, makeup, and accessories that help you look like you're in better financial shape than you are. Cricket, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and others are helping folks acquire tech gadgets with affordable monthly price tags. Heck, you can even get an iPad for buying satellite tv now! As long as you're up to date on what to say the labels actually are (and not mention where you got them), you can get away with a lot...

You really can't assume anymore that people are buying these things full prices at the expense of food, shelter, and power unless you physically see them do it, and then you really don't know if that woman worked an extra job, saved for two years, or got a surprise inheritance and decided to make an investment in making their life better. A good Coach, Kate Spade, or Louis can last for ten+ years with good care being taken of it.

So what am I grateful for today? That there are so many services, stores, websites, and borrowing rings now helping equalize the "luxury goods divide" and making it impossible to tell the lifestyle of anyone. You can dress any way you want within reason for most middle class people, and even if these services are a splurge for someone truly poor, its better to lay out $39.95 (an electric bill) than $3,995 (six months income) for an investment. Maybe this sounds completely shallow, but people continue to make judgments of women by how they look, so you have to fight with every tool in your toolbox to make mobility happen.

[Side note: I really am rooting for anyone who is poor. Truly. It is difficult in today's day and age to pull yourself up and out of the many financial holes that develop over life than I think it was for our grandparents and great-grandparents. This column was written 11/10/13 at 2:00 pm.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Diet Coke

When I said I was going to write one of my 30 days of thanks columns about Diet Coke, the people I told kinda laughed and said I must be running out of ideas if I'm thanking Diet Coke like its some sort of idol.

I'm not really thanking Diet Coke persay. But I do thank it for being the alternative. As a child and a type I diabetic, I was never allowed to have the birthday cake and ice cream, being such a high exchange load it would send me into ZOMG sugar issues even with my insulin shots (kids, this was before pumps were everywhere and carb counting was developed). So I didn't. But every birthday party and holiday, there would always be a supply of them for me. The caffeine would get me a bit buzzed and I'd be able to keep up with the sugar addled kids in the rest of the room and I would feel normal for just a bit.

As I grew older, it got to wear after awhile. Diet Coke AGAIN? No cake, no candy, etc. So when I was a teenager, I rebelled. I tried my first Skittles. I tried my first Starburst. I started drinking iced tea, Diet Dr Pepper, Diet Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, and other diet beverages as the 1990s anti-sugar and anti-fat campaign came into popularity. And it was glorious. Course, I still had the insulin shots to deal with but by then I was better at correcting for that. I still didn't have great control, but I had a much more flexible life. And I stopped drinking Diet Coke for a good ten years.

After college I found that the machines at work would have Diet Coke. It was always the cheapest at the convenience store. Since I'm a pretty light drinker, I also found most bars would have Diet Coke which was better than tap water. So I came back to it. It was like meeting up with an old friend and finding they hadn't changed at all. But I had changed. I had to migrate my relationship with Diet Coke from being the "alternative" to being the "mainstay", much like the can design changed from its original style to an updated version. My relationship with this beverage had reached its mature stage, much like Diet Coke reached the mature point of the product life cycle.

I still don't "love" or really "like" Diet Coke all that much. I tend to drink the alternative versions of it - Diet Coke with Splenda, Diet Coke Plus, Cherry Coke Zero, Coke Zero, etc. But its always there when you need it, helping out whenever there's nothing diet to drink (or really bad water/tea). I still don't like to dose insulin in my pump for drinks. And because Coca Cola's been around forever and will probably be around forever, I can always reach for a trusty Diet Coke when I need one.

So here's to you: Diet Coke. Thanks for being there.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fighting Homophobia

A strange title, I admit, for a 30 days of thanks post. Yet I feel there are thanks to be given to the people that do this on a daily basis. 

Last week, Informare Per Resistere put this on their Facebook status:

"« Mio figlio ha voluto un bracciale con le borchie. Ha nove anni e lo ha messo a scuola. Il giorno dopo mi ha raccontato che i compagni lo hanno deriso chiamandolo gay. E che non sanno neanche cosa significhi. 

Io gli ho chiesto: e tu invece lo sai? Ricordi cosa significa? 

Lui mi ha risposto: certo mamma, gay e' una persona che si mette con un'altra dello stesso sesso. E allora non devi ritenerla un'offesa, gli ho detto. Il giorno dopo ha rimesso fieramente il bracciale per andare a scuola.

Io a mio figlio insegno il rispetto per la persona umana. Cosa insegnano i genitori di quei compagni che lo hanno deriso?
L'omofobia si combatte soprattutto in famiglia. »
― Monica C."

For those of you that don't read Italian, this is a rough translation of my own (probably some errors along the way, but close enough):

"My son wanted a bracelet with studs. He is nine years old and in school. The next day he told me that his companions laughed at him calling him gay. And that they do not even know what that means.

I asked him: and what about you do you know? Do you remember what that means?

He replied: Sure mom, gay means they are a person who lives with another of the same sex. And then you must not feel it an insult, I told him. The next day he proudly put the bracelet on before going to school.

I teach my son to respect for the human person. What do they teach the parents of those comrades who have mocked?
Homophobia is fought mainly in the family. »
- Monica C."

"“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”" New York Times, 7/30/13

When Illinois passed the gay marriage bill Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tweeted his reaction: “With one vote, countless couples will be acknowledged for what they are under the law — families just like everyone else. Great day!”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had a number 1 hit with Same Love, and it calls people out for calling people out for insulting gay people from behind the anonymity of message boards and YouTube. 

These are all normal people - Monica, Pope Francis, Rahm Emanuel, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis - who are all part of the effort to stand up for people who are just like everyone else except for one small aspect of their lives. Its all these small actions that they've taken that make a big influence - Pope Francis, heard by billions, Monica, heard by over 750,000 people, Rahm Emanuel, heard by millions, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, heard by billions. that help change the actions and thoughts of every day people.

I also want to throw in that its pretty awesome the Senate passed NDA. Since John Boehner hates the bill, who knows if it will ever see the light of day in the House, but I hope and pray that the good people of the House bring it to a vote

For that, I give thanks. There are decent people out there. You might not hear about them on Facebook or Twitter every day with the overwhelming negativity out there, but they are there. I give thanks that these folks seek out the positive message to deliver and try to make the world a better place.

[Side note: I am not Catholic but greatly admire Pope Francis. I've followed Rahm Emanuel's career since he was in the White House. I do have family and friends who are LGBT and they are as normal as anyone hetero I know. I wrote this post on 11/09/13 at 4:00 pm.]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you to our veterans

There are many veterans out there without faces and without remembrance. That's why, regardless of country of origin today, I'm giving recognition to all the veterans in my family. There are countless more without images, from England, Canada, the USA, Italy, and more.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Have you seen how freaking awesome Nature is? (and how its the same as it was in 1836...)

Isn't that lovely? Ivy on the walls of the Stronghold Castle in Oregon, Illinois. This is my favorite season, fall. I give thanks every year that I live in an area that has lovely, distinct seasons, and the transition between the heat of summer and the snows of winter (or more often, rains in Chicago) is my favorite time of year. Sometimes its short, sometimes its long, but its the end of the riding season for me by the end of the fall, and I love what I get to enjoy of it.

I don't often post photos of the Vespa (there on the right) but riding season is always the highlight of the year. It starts out cold and wet, gets nice, gets too hot, starts to cool, gets to be cold and wet before I finally cease riding for the year. That doesn't stop my husband, of course, he has much more gear than I do ( heated vest, pants, boots, etc.) so he usually rides much longer (and is incredibly gleeful when he gets to do something like ride in January because the weather is cold but not wet and snowy and icy). 

Riding around when you see beautiful colors like this just puts a smile on my face, even when its a bit chilly.

I know some people might be thankful they live in Florida or Hawaii or Arizona or something so that they never feel the cold nor realize when its spring, summer, fall, or winter, but I am thankful that I live in a place that has all these distinct seasons. And coming from a hardy line of ancestors that made their way from New York to here, I think my ancestors really appreciated nature's bounty as well. 

When I think about the fact that there's a centennial farm in Michigan for my grandmother's family, it blows my mind that the Snell family was in Michigan just after it became a state, and is still there. The last name changed, but the descendants of Sylvanus Snell and Susan Tunison still live in the exact same location that they purchased in 1836! 

I took this over the summer, of course, but I can just imagine the trees changing color, the soybeans and corn stalks in the fields turning yellow and decaying back into the land, and the wondrous changes of Michigan in the fall. 

So I give thanks that my ancestors had the foresight to move to an area with such lovely seasons, and I that I am blessed to continue to live in the region and enjoy many of the same sights and sounds that they did.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


30 days of thanks doesn't have to be serious, of course, so I thought I would start out the continuing series on the Adventures of Luke by giving thanks for Luke. Do you see him above? Luke is my constant travel companion.

Luke is a Beanie Baby keychain (sorry Annie!) that comes with me wherever I go. He like chicken and guard duty (his "job" is guarding my keys"), car rides, riding on the Vespa, and running through the grass. Often he escapes my pocket and decides to go for a walk on his own - or so he "says". 

He even occasionally takes his own "selfie" with my cell phone camera.

Many people ask me what a grown adult is doing with a stuffed animal. I look at them and say "Why don't you have one?". Here's the thing: this little dog helps me get out of my own head. Suffering from anxiety, I often need to look outside myself to realize I'm worrying over nothing and need to stop the cycle. At the same time, sometimes you need to escape to help yourself to see a solution to a problem that you're facing.

For example, I was recently working on a new weighted scoring model for work. Instead of thinking about it from my perspective, as a member of the design team, I put myself into Luke's place as a scorer. By thinking that way, I designed a scoring model for the leader of the design team to present that met the needs of the scorers so that the solution would work, rather than just be "designed". Yes, it might be silly to think of a stuffed dog as using a scoring model but the concept is better than just telling someone to abstractly think of the end user - this way gives them something identifiable to use and makes the concept more concrete. You don't want to disappoint a cute little doggie! How would he feel if you designed something that didn't work? This little dog has made it much easier for me to think outside the box and put myself solely into the role of an end user in many of my projects, and that's a valuable skill to have.

Adults too often lose the skills that we develop as children. Sometimes you need to hold onto those to make yourself a better adult, and that's what makes me thankful for a silly little dog named Luke.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Say NO to Cheap and YES to fabulous Art

I had a conversation with a friend about it getting harder and harder for people to charge what their work is worth in the world. A Facebook friend actually posted a writer's article in the New York Times about being frustrated with how many times they are asked to give away their work for free this week.

And yet, my friend told me that she was dismayed to find more people posting work on Etsy that's under $2 with as little as $2 for shipping. Let's say that your average dishcloth takes about 50 yards of yarn. Using the typical pricing for a commercial crocheter, 10 cents per yard is $5.00 per item [Note: this was the last figure I heard kicked around, it may even be lower now.]. Add in 50 cents for US shipping and you're at $5.50 per item. Several of the entries I noticed said they ship USPS priority mail for all items, which means you're at $10.50 per item. At $2 (plus $2 shipping), you're underpricing your costs by as much as $6.50.

 "But...but I do this for fun! It's a hobby! I do it for yarn money!"

Here's the thing. People have a tendency to remember those prices that they see. Every sock knitter I think I've ever met has said someone will go up to them and say "You know you can get those for $1.67 a pair a Walmart, right?" So when someone does something like a set of dishcloths and charges $27.00 for them (likely the "true" cost of making and selling them), there's outrage! Oh my gosh! $27.00! I could get those for $2 at Walmart.

'Tis true. The Walmart effect is huge. But when people start to say "this seller on Etsy says they're only $4.00!" that's when the effect starts to put a real chill on the market. People can no longer sell at the true cost of things, only what people will give them, and the market goes into a downhill slope.

If you search for the word cheap on Pinterest, an alarming number of items show up that are crochet or knit. Cheap gifts. Cheap clothes. Cheap, Cheap, Cheap.

Cheap cowls. Cheap hats. Cheap crafts. Cheap skill. Cheap People. Cheap Life.

So what am I grateful for today? People are fighting back.

There are more artists today using fiber as a medium than there have ever been before. People are elevating the craft from the household item to a dizzying array of mediums, methods, and techniques. People are pushing boundaries...and they're being respected.

Do yourself a favor and hit up the last link. If you're in the Chicago area, go to the show November 8-10. See how much people actually RESPECT knitters and crocheters and fiberers. Buy Gwen's book and see the wonder that is art in our chosen craft.

[Side note: Really, go to this show. I wrote this post 11/6/13 at 8:00 pm.]

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Io Sono Celiaco (I am Celiac) - Italian food in the celiac world

People freak out about Italian food when they first get the diagnosis. OMG! No more spaghetti and meatballs? No more fried chicken parmigiana? No more macaroni?


Nothing could be further from the truth. Further, a real Italian would scream at them! That's only one part of Italian cuisine - its not ALL Italian! In fact, many of these foods are actually Americanizations of originally Italian dishes. Donna R. Gabaccia wrote a great article about Pizza, Pasta, and Red Sauce way back in 2006 that you should read. No really, I'll wait. Macaroni and cheese, that American staple, is actually from England-by-way-of-France so it will be saved for another day.

I've had this draft sitting in my blogger inbox for over a year, and I thought it time it see the light of day. Part of 30 days of gratitude has been rekindling my writing on a regular basis.

What I am grateful for is that there are people in the overall food community who have made gluten free food mainstream. Its not uncommon to see gluten free food in Epicurious, Pioneer Woman, Martha Stewart, Food Network, Williams Sonoma, Food52, Allrecipes, and the other big foodie sites - sometimes purposely and sometimes because they get back to what the dish was meant to be without all those gluteny additives. These folks really do help those of us with a major allergy eat, drink, and be merry with the best of them!

Here's a list of recipes that are in my rotation and are Italian without all that crazy gluten in them. And I didn't even scratch the surface - I didn't even add any of my family's own recipes in! Perhaps for a future column. I may keep adding to this list as I find more and republish as I go, too.

Chicken Parmesan


Farinata Genovese

Wedding Soup Italian wedding soup is likely a mistranslation of the original word for it, but its still a really good soup!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Chicken Puttanesca



Chicken Saltimbocca

Chicken Marsala

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto Primavera

Roasted Branzino with Fennel and Lemon


Herbed Spaghetti Squash

Crispy Prosciutto Bites

Cannelloni Bean Soup with Escarole and Italian Sausage

Ricotta Fritters

Snapper with Bruschetta / Italian Style Salsa

Italian Beef Sandwiches (American Italian, but I live in Chicago, so I can't do an Italian column without it)

Strawberry Gelato


Italian Cheesecake

Ricotta Marscapone Mousse with Balsamic Strawberries

Strawberry & Marscapone Budini *note: see the next recipe for the cookies to use!

Amaretti Hard to find store bought and oh-so-tasty!


Panna Cotta

Piccolo Affogato al Caffe

Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto 

Gluten Free, Vegan Tiramisu

Gluten Free Regular Tiramisu

[Side note: this post was written back in 2012! Goodness. I polished off the rest of it 11/6/13 at 8:00 pm. I hope you like the recipes!]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cosmic Awareness

My husband is currently reading The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick. We're both big fans of the podcast and he's been finding a lot of insight in what Chris has to say, and found Chris to be an inspirational figure (we're not talking like Gandi, or Mother Theresa, but on a different level). One of the passages that particularly struck him was a part about how the Universe really isn't out to get you and the world is not set up against you.

"To think that the Universe (a) is sentient and (b) would focus all or even part of its energy to ensure your unhappiness is laughable and more than a little self-centered. But it's not all the Nerd's fault. It's human nature to attach reasoning to events in an attempt to understand an otherwise reasonless world, no matter how ridiculous."

Seriously. Go out and get this book even if you're not a Nerd. The guy makes sense and is remarkably on target for a lot of people even when he's not cracking a joke. Anyway, getting back to what I was thinking. Sometimes its really hard to remember that the Universe isn't sentient. Especially if you read your horoscope. Monday I got this:

"Spending time at home sounds like a good idea, but you may have to go in to work anyway. In fact, you might have many things to do now that require you to head out into the world. Keep in mind that your words can make all the difference between success and failure, so don't complain about your professional obligations or social commitments. Instead, be as positive as possible when talking about your plans today and then try to manifest what's most important to you throughout the day."

I really had to think hard to remember that horoscopes are generic, not-written-specifically for me writings that are probably prepared by some horoscope algorithm "Statement 1: feel lazy Statement 2: don't Statement 3: insert generic platitude here" in some data center floating on a barge across the world, even if it does feel sometimes like they have a pulse on who you are. What it comes down to is that our experiences are hardly unique in the world. Most people have a day in their life where they feel lazy and don't want to do anything. Most people have professional obligations and social commitments. And contrary to this blog post, most of us don't have "Special Snowflake Syndrome" even if we are in the right age range. We know are experiences are not unique, and yet, we feel alone in the world.

That's why so many people rail against the universe. They feel it gives them common cause, a uniting of faith. Because everyone at some point in their life has felt that things just aren't going well and they can't do anything about it. And then they don't feel so alone in the world.

The better way to come together is to be aware that the universe is there. It just is. It doesn't move. It doesn't think about any particular part of it. It really doesn't matter what happens with it until it isn't.
And as Futurama told us, that's not going to happen until year 1 billion. So we, uh, have awhile to come to terms with it.

Today what I am grateful for is that there are people, the Interwebs, things, and pets in this world that give us those common experiences so that we don't need to rail against the universe but promote harmony, peace, justice, and happiness throughout.

[Side note: this post written 11/4/13 10:00 pm. I apologize if my language or thoughts offends you in any way. And note that we will get back to talking about fiber and genealogy. Eventually.]