Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Twelve Days of Crochet



With a little less than 2 weeks until Christmas, I got it into my head to make some Amigurumi dolls for my kids. By some, I mean 4. I don't know why I thought this was a good idea, or that I'd be able to do it in the time I had available (which was late at night so they didn't see me working). But I did. Maybe it was to fight some of the icky feeling I get when I spend too much time in malls and superstores. Maybe it was left over NaNoWriMo, I-can-do-anything feelings, Maybe it was just getting home from the hospital with my kiddo that had her appendix out and feeling all maternal and protective. Making cute things from yarn helps with those types of feeling, you know.

So, anyway, I didn't finish in time. In fact, I'm still not finished, but the last one is almost done. For my oldest, I made a Pokemon with a poke ball. For the younger kiddo, I wanted a Scooby Doo, but could only find a knitting pattern, so I went with Little Red Riding Hood and wolf instead.

For the Mew Pokemon and poke ball amigurumi, I found both patterns at the WolfDreamer: Off the Hook blog. She has a ton of free Pokemon amigurumi patterns as well as some Mario Brothers ones and other cute characters. She also has a WolfDreamer Zibbet shop.

The wolf I found at the Lion Yarn website. They have some free patterns too, but you have to sign up for a free account to get access to them. Yes, I know he doesn't look exactly like a wolf. Something went wrong with the ears I think. So far, most people think he's an aardvark or a mouse. Some see him as a sort of generic quadruped and one could argue convincingly that he is any number of little creatures. Even so, I still think he's cute, darn it! And I believe when he is standing next to a Little red Riding Hood doll, it will be clear he is a wolf. It's all about the context.

I broke down a bought a pattern for Little Red Riding Hood, since the free ones I found weren't quite what I was looking for. That's the one I don't have finished yet, although she is coming along nicely and I'll post my finished doll here when I get done. (Which, if my wrist holds out will be very soon.) To see what she will hopefully look like, the pattern is here.

Hope everyone had a great holiday, and is ready for 2011 to get here.

Go make something!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Did It At Last!


*play 'Chariots of Fire' here*

After 3 years of NaNoWriMo failure, this year I hit the 50,000 word mark.

*applause*

Thank you, thank you.

My novel isn't quite done, but it's getting close to a climax I think. It is also really awful, but that's okay. I had no plan when I began except for a general idea of a very unstructured plot. I didn't have any characters ahead of time. The first 20k or so words are mostly me learning who my characters are. It isn't riveting reading. They spend a lot of time wandering around the space ship thinking stuff. But that's what it took for me to know enough about them to stat making stuff happen. Now that exciting stuff is happening, NaNoWriMo is over. I'm not stopping though. I probably won't keep up the pace I have been, because - well- it's really hard, and I'm really sleepy, but I'm going to do my best to keep working on it every day until it's done.

I've really written so much more this month than I thought I was capable of. I started on Nov 1st planing to lose again this year. I don't know where my attitude shifted, but I'm so happy it did. I think some credit should go to my friend Amanda. She signed up for NaNoWriMo this year too, and her encouragement and the cometition of having someone to keep up with was a very helpful motivational boost, especially in the beginning when I still thought it was going to be impossible.

So to all the other NaNoWriMo winners out there - a big high five to you! And to any who didn't hit 50k this year, a high five to you too for trying, and for writing whatever you did. It's still more than most people do. Yea for us!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm A guest with LK Hunsaker Thoughts and Sketches

LK Hunsaker invited me to write a guest post for her blog Thoughts and Sketches. She's doing a series of guest posts on the subject of NaNoWriMo. At first I didn't think I had anything worthwhile to add to a discussion of NaNo. I've failed every year I tried it after all. But as I thought about those failing years, and the fact that, even so, here I was, back at it again, I began to see that I actually did have an opinion or two on the subject.

So a big "Thank You" to LK for the push to do some deep thinking about my NaNo journey. Also, she's a terrific author. I've enjoyed every book I've read from her, and am reading Off the Moon right now. I highly encourage you to poke around her website and pick up one of her published novels if you get the chance.

Kara's NaNoWRiMo guest blog post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo Widget

Just wanted an excuse to use one of the widgets. Plus, I just love the word 'widget'.




P.S. to my writer friends: they have word war widgets too if you're game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning to Ride: No pedals required

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess this isn't a new idea, but I'd never heard about it before. Learning to ride a bike without any pedals on it. Frankly, it sounded like a stupid idea to me when I first heard about it, but now I'm a believer.

My brother in law thought this would be a great way to teach my oldest daughter to ride a bike. I'd had no luck getting her to try learning at all, she was pretty fearful about the whole thing, so I said, "Why not?" Now in an amazingly short amount of time, she is riding all over the place, with pedals now - no training wheels ever.

The concept is that learning to ride a bike with no pedals separates the steering and balancing part of the learning process from the peddling part. Training wheels do that too, but they teach balancing last, whereas a bike with no wheels teaches peddling last. I learned to ride with training wheels, and I remember how terrified I was at the idea of those trainers coming off. I think that peddling is nothing compared to the difficulty of learning to balance. After watching my daughter learn to ride this way, I wonder why anyone tries to learn to peddle before they can balance.

An important key I should mention is that when her bike had no pedals, her seat was low, so she could easily stop herself by putting her feet down, and she had good brakes. So she'd scoot around on this thing, looking kinda silly, but when she came to a little downhill area, she'd coast, and keep her feet up. Just a second at first, but gradually longer and longer (actually not all that gradually, she extended her coasting time with feet up quite a bit in a matter of days) until she could turn, and stay balanced the whole time.

So when her uncle put the pedals back on, now she didn't need a downhill to ride anymore. She had power to go uphill too if she wanted. And that's all there was to it. She was riding. What I noticed was that when she came to an uphill that forced her to go slowly, and she began to wobble - this is the part where I distinctly remember panicking as a child learning to ride, and I'd stop to put my feet down from fear of falling over - but she didn't. She wasn't concerned at all. She knew how to stay up just fine. She even knew, on her own from her coasting practice, that all she needed was to get up a little more speed to make the balancing even easier. It was so cool to watch.

This kid is quite a little creature of habit, and I'm so thankful that we will never have to break her from relying on training wheels. I fought tooth and nail to keep mine when I was learning, and I'm thrilled not to have to live that again from the other side.

I was looking for a link about this concept to include (I decided it wasn't necessary - just google for info if you want to know more), and was surprised to find a bunch of places selling special bikes with no pedals on them for this purpose. So in case anyone doesn't know it - you can take the pedals off a regular bike. No need to buy a special 'balance training' bike or anything like that. But I highly recommend this method!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Health Check In

So I promised to check in with a little accountability on my quest for better health.

Our scale broke during our move, so I can't comment about any weight loss (but if I had to put money on it, I'd say there isn't any loss to comment on anyway). I confess my eating habits have been pretty awful. I'm still juggling too many activities, especially too many that happen around dinner time, so I'm frequently not home to cook real food. That should be changing in the coming weeks, but I know if could put more effort into being more prepared too. It's just exhausting. That's my only excuse.

On the exercising front, things are in better shape (pun intended.) My oldest daughter and I have begun the couch to 5 k program. We just ran day 4 today. This is the second time into the program for me, and I'm excited to be doing it again. I have never been an athletic person, so running 3 miles straight was such a huge accomplishment for me. I am SO looking forward to that feeling again. We may go slower in the program than I did before. My kiddo is still little, and I want this to be fun for her, and I don't want to push too fast. My youngest even ran the first day with us, but I knew she couldn't keep going beyond that. As tough as she is, that's a ton of work for those tiny little legs. But thanks to the wonders of Craigslist, I got a used running stroller for super cheap. It was only partly for her. Mainly it was a way to keep me from having excuse to skip a running day. No need wait around until someone else is free to stay home with her.

So the goals for the coming month are to keep on schedule with our runs, and to fit in more home cooking. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Syzygy the Novel


Syzygy (pronounced sizz-uh-gee) the novel by the charming Amanda Borenstadt is published and available for download at Smashwords, or for the Kindle at Amazon. It would probably fall in the category now called, 'urban fantasy' but it has strong romance elements too.

From Amanda: It's the story of Finn Wilde, a super strong mobster who can leap tall buildings as well as hack computer networks, falls in love with Bea Jones, the girl he's sent to kidnap. She's immune to the virus that infects Finn's race, therefore her blood holds the key to the antiserum which can cure him of the bloodthirsty madness that overtakes him for twelve hours each month.

The story is told by a patient at a mental hospital. His narration is sometimes dark and sometimes humorous. Little by little we learn clues about his identity as he grows closer to the widow he befriends in the hospital.

Amanda was kind enough to do a little blog interview for me to tell us a little about her book and her writing in general. She also has created some other fun projects online that go along with the Syzygy novel.

I highly recommend checking out this novel. A mere $1.99 will get you many hours of entertainment that you will not regret one bit. Amanda also has a short story up at Smashwords for free if you've never tried an e-book before and want to see how the whole process works first. I'm fairly new to the e-book experience myself, so it was great to download and read these. Now I feel like a pro.

Now, onto the interview!

How long have you been writing? Both in general, and how long did you
work on Syzygy?

Well, I wrote my first story when I was in sixth grade and decided to be a writer. Then, in seventh grade I realized I would never be as good as Ray Bradbury and gave up the dream.

Cut to a giga-billion years later- An artist friend of mine read our kids a book by Peter Reynolds called *Ish* which basically gave the message that things you draw don't have to look exactly like they really are. It's tree-ish. Car-ish. Etc. So, I grew the courage to start drawing.

I drew little comics of my teenage daughter going on adventures with Sirius Black and Doctor Who and other little cartoons. My stories got more complicated than I could draw, so I started writing full-blown fan fiction. My husband challenged me to write something I could legitimately publish for money. So, I started searching for my novel. I found it on a BART train on the way to San Francisco in 2007.

I saw this scruffy guy standing by the train door looking all moody and slouchy. I thought, "He sure is trying to look tough." Then I thought, "What if he really is tough and has good reason to be moody? What if he has a fantastic back-story?" So, Finn was born.

Did you have the story planned out ahead of time, or did it evolve as you wrote?

For sure it evolved as I wrote. The narration completely changed. Ugh! I don't want to give away any spoilers, but just know that the whole mental hospital part was not in the original plan. And I didn't even know how it was going to end until I was well into the project.

When I learned the end of the story, I went back and changed how I narrated and added the mental hospital scenes. Then the patient had to go through the whole novel with me and infuse his voice into the narration. It's there, very subtly at first and grows as time goes on.

I definably saw little bits of your personality in the book, like your fun, quirky sense of humor, but not focused in one character. Do you identify with any one character more? Or does one feel more similar to your own personality?

Thanks. I love quirky! No, I don't think I identify with any particular character personality-wise. I can identify with Lucas because he's trying so hard to protect and guide the young people. But our personalities are very different. He's wiser, has more patience, and is a lot braver than I am. He's also perhaps the least quirky of the bunch. Some of his phrases came from my husband's mouth. Like when he answers "Yes," to Bea's question, which wasn't a "yes" or "no" question. My husband can be maddening like that.

Did you intentionally avoid creating a character that shared too much of your personality?

No, I didn't intentionally avoid creating a character with my personality. What a fascinating question. I guess I felt I was behind the camera while writing rather than in front of it. I incorporated bits of people I know and situations I saw. Even the characters who began loosely based on a person didn't stay that way. They grew their own uniqueness.

Do you have plans for a sequel, or for any other stories featuring the same characters? (Hint, hint - I think Uncle Lucas has some fun stories to tell.)

Yes, he sure would. And Collin too! I have a vision of a sequel in that I know what happens to every character, but I don't know if I'll write it. We'll see if the world demands a Syzygy Two. Then, maybe a Syzygy III in 3D.

I've written a handful of short stories set before the time of the novel. You can see one on my blog. Those characters just won't leave me be. Hey, if it gets popular maybe people will write Syzygy fan fiction.

Can you tell us about any other writing projects you're working on now?

Besides the occasional short story, I'm working on a zombie-apocalypse novel, because, as you know, the world is short of those. It's a romance called, *The Last Guy on Earth Who's Not a Zombie*. And my niece, Jasmine, and I may collaborate on a graphic novel called *Twelve Keys*, set in a California transformed by mysterious forces that bring modern day, the gold-mining era, and the magical realm together. This is the same niece who created the cover and promotional artwork for Syzygy. We'll see how it goes. We've never published anything like this before. I downloaded the guidelines from Dark Horse Comics, so I figure we're experts, right?

I've heard all kinds of opinions about traditional publishing vs. e-publishing, and it seems like something that will continue to change for awhile. How has the process of publishing an e-book been for you? Now that you've gone through it, would you do it the same way if you had it to do over?

No, I would run the other direction and slam headlong into the nearest wall. I'm kidding. Smashwords- well, Mark Coker at Smashwords, made it as painless as possible. I ran into snags because of technical stuff, but really, it's not very difficult and I'm a technical idiot. There is a lot of waiting involved- waiting for files to upload and be distributed, but I guess that's the case in regular publishing too.

I'm just grateful that Smashwords and Amazon make it so easy to epublish. Some go a more tech-savvy route and create actual apps for Apple and all of that, but I am happy with the shortcut way.

I love your YouTube channel for Finn. The search especially is so well tied into the Syzygy novel. It may be more fun for those who have already read the book than a promotional tool though. Can you tell us a little about how you came to make these fun videos?

Oh, the Search Stories? Yeah, they are fun. I stumbled on one somebody had done for Ron Weasley preparing for going off to Hogwarts and it was hecka funny. I saw at the end that YouTube had a program where you can simply plug in your search and pick music. It creates the video for you.

My character, Finn, does in fact conduct on-line searches to find Bea, so naturally I had to make a Search Story for him. The one I did for Sam was just a whim. I included some details from the novel as well as some things I knew about him that never made it into the book.

Aside from Sygyzy, where can folks read more of your work?

I have a cute werewolf story at "Lightning Flash Magazine," a vampire story at "Shadowcast Audio Anthology," and there's a freebie urban fantasy on my Smashwords page. For the full list of my stories with links you can go to the sidebar of my blog http://afortnightofmustard.blogspot.com/

Thanks so much for giving us this great interview!

Thank you. This has been so much fun! Interview me any time. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peanut Butter and Pickles and Squirrels

We went camping (in a cabin with a bathroom, so not too rough) last weekend. After lunch one day we left our jar of peanut butter out on the table. I didn't think about it since some other members or our group were still eating when I left to take a kiddo to the potty, and everyone was leaving when we came out, I didn't think to check if they cleaned up (I'm a trusting soul that way).

So everyone knows what happens to food left out at a campsite, right? But since I thought it was packed away, I didn't look for it later.

Fast forward to the following morning.

The kids were playing with a ball that fell down into a small ravine that ran next to our picnic tables. Auntie bravely trekked down the slope to retrieve the ball, and said, "Hey Kara, your peanut butter is down here!" So I climbed down there too. We'd seen squirrels watching us during mealtimes from the ravine, and from the looks of the jar I got back, that's who made off with the peanut butter. Which is pretty impressive since the jar probably weighed as much as the squirrel.

Looks like they were frustrated by the jar though, and eventually gave up. There were a couple of small scratches on the bottom of the jar, but nothing like what you see here on the lid. That makes me wonder - were these squirrels (who live at a campsite and are no strangers to human food containers) familiar enough with peanut butter jars to know that they could get in through the lid, or did the lid end just smell better? Because it occurs to me that if they chewed at the bottom as much as they chewed at the lid, they probably could have made it through the much thinner plastic on that part of the jar. But they didn't. Silly squirrels.

Oh, and the pickles. . . Well, Grandma made a comment (when she went into the ravine after the ball on a separate occasion) about all the weed prickles that got stuck in her socks. There were all sorts of burs, spores, and foxtails down there. My littlest spent some time thereafter concerned about getting pickles (that's how she said it) in her own socks, and had to examine everyone's feet frequently in constant worry, lest the pickles attack someone else. Gotta watch out for those darn pickles.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I'm Up To

So I keep thinking about ideas for blog posts that I never actually write. Trying to remedy that little problem and get into a better schedule. To begin with I'm just going to do a little roundup of where I'm at on my various projects I've talked about on the bog so far.

* I haven't done anything more with the remaining silk from our silkworms. I didn't have enough of it done in time for the county fair, and I'm still undecided about what exactly I want to do with it. I ended up with maybe half a dozen or so cocoons that never hatched, so I want to try reeling those in the more traditional way, but probably not right away. Have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now.

* I finished an approximately 7000 word short story, and am in the process of editing it. I'm excited because it's the first fiction project I've finished that's more than 100 words in a really, REALLY long time. Yea!

* After our trip earlier in the summer, I never got back into working on The Artist's Way. I've done a little journaling, but really, I should try to do that more regularly too. Or maybe not since I used what used to be journaling time for working on my story. Humm. . .

* I'm inspired by my the blog of my favorite amigurumi designer (If you either don't know what that is or don't have a favorite, go look - all kinds of cuteness and fun.) I'm going to start sharing a little of my fitness journey. Don't worry, I'm thinking just once a month saying a little something about how my exercise and weight are doing. Hopefully this will keep me paying attention (I'm distractable if you couldn't tell.) Also by keeping it to only once a month I want to avoid obsessively weighing several times a day and the kind of OCD crap I'm prone to. Generally I have a tendency to all sorts of unhealthy habits on both ends of the dieting/exercising spectrum when I think no one will notice. Maybe if I pretend people are watching, I can keep myself more moderate and honest.

* The self-led writing class is plodding along. Mostly reading so far, although I did join the Internet Writing Workshop; I haven't really participated yet. The format isn't instinctual to me, and there's a lot of messages to get through, so that's a learning curve. I need to give myself an assignment I think.

* I've gotten the nicest and most encouraging rejections for two flash fiction pieces I sent out awhile back and I was torn about reworking them (as the editors encouraged me to do) or just send to other markets. So they've just been sitting here. I think I've decided on sending them out for another round. I just can't think of anything more to do with them. They say all I'm really interested in saying, and I think if I try to expand they'll just ramble. If they don't find a home soon, you'll see them here!

* I'm making an I-spy quilt for my littlest. Seems kinda a shame to make a simple square quilt with my snazy new machine, but I have a plan for a little wall hanging that maybe I can get fancy on next.

Now, time to do dishes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making My Own Writing Class

I was at the bookstore shopping for a gift, but because I can't help myself, I also visited the writing advice book section. I've been hesitant to sign up for a writing class because I don't really have the time to get to one (unless my kids could come with me - ha!) and I don't want to spend the money. I've looked at a few online classes, but about a year and a half ago I took an online writing class and, frankly, it was a waste of my time and money. I had books at home that gave me the same information. What I had hoped the class would give me that a book could not was feedback about my writing. At best I got "This is fine." or "Good work." Not what I'd needed.

So there I am looking at writing books, thinking that a few of these will probably tell me what I need to know to move to the next level in my writing. A good friend at A Fortnight of Mustard told me about an online critique group she likes. So there's some feedback for me. Lastly, I've redoubled my efforts to write every day. I've let my journaling slide a little in this effort, but I feel okay about that. If I've had the kind of day where I can only squeeze in 20 min of writing time, I'd rather work on an article or a story that I'm excited about than a journal entry.

That's my plan. Read books. Join a writing critique group. Write more.

I guess time will tell if my plan will work in helping me become a better (and more confident) writer. I'd love to hear how other writers handle their own continuing education, or if you think there's something I should add to my plan.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What the Silkmoths and I are up to. . .

A few dozen of the silkmoths are still wandering around their box, done laying eggs, wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. I can sympathize a little. Most have passed on, and around 15 cocoons still haven't hatched yet. Is hatched the right word? It feels like the right word, but it's not quite the same as an egg. The cocoon has hatched: the silkmoth has emerged. That's the terminology that sounds good to me.

Anyhow, of the cocoons that haven't hatched yet, 4 of them look like bad cocoons to me, and I'm suspicious that they may not ever do anything. By 'bad' I mean, they don't look like the other cocoons: they're shaped strange, or feel soft instead of hard, and then there's that one that is see through as it was never completed.

I'm not really sure how long to wait on these last cocoons before deciding that the moths will never emerge from them, but I suppose there's no downside to waiting it out a little longer. After a nice long wait, if there are still several unhatched cocoons, I may try the silk reeling method used when the cocoons are stifled (that's the nice way of saying the larva is killed.) Once I'm sure no moth will ever come out, I'll give that method a try, but not just yet. So many of the caterpillars started spinning late, I feel better giving them a little more time.

In my research about silkmoth lifespan, I found two estimates: 3 to 5 days, and up to a week. From our little group, I'd agree more with the second. From the time our first silkmoths began emerging from their cocoons, to the first dead moth I found, it was a week at the very least. I sort of expected them to not last more then a day or so after egg laying, but they've all hung around quite awhile. I'm not real happy with the box I'm housing them in. They've kinda beaten themselves up flapping around and trying to hook up into pairs. Wormspit.com recommends separating them into pairs, then isolating the pairs and that's what I'm going to do next year. Hopefully they'll not bang themselves up so much that way, and the eggs should be easier to clean up.

That's what the silkmoths are up to, as for me, I've started a new short story. I felt a little guilty about it since I still haven't worked much on my novel, but I got an idea that I was excited about. I'm doing way more writing on it than I was on my novel, so it's hard to argue with progress. I'm toying with the idea of taking a writing class, probably online, but trying to decide what type of class I'd like the best (and when I'm going to fit it into my schedule).

My sewing machine is sitting covered, and hasn't seen the light in months, although I have almost as many projects I want to sew as I have story ideas. Last month I thought that when summer came, I'd have all this free time to do my writing and sewing. Why isn't that working out?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Learning To Handspin Silk

I really goofed up.

Here I was, with a bunch of hatched silk cocoons. I'd found good instructions for cleaning and de-gumming the cocoons, and was excited to try spinning the silk. I treated the silk like wool, and carded it in preparation for spinning.

Don't do that.

It was clear to me right away as I was carding the silk that something wasn't right. When I spun, the results were lumpy, irregular and just not pretty. So I consulted my good friend Google (as I probably should have done in the first place.)

Wormspit.com came to my rescue again, with the best instructions I've found for preparing hatched silk moth cocoons for hand-spinning. Another nice resource when it comes to actually spinning the silk is this article on Knitty.

You can see in my photo, the yarn on the right was my first attempt to spin the silk, and to the left was my second try, after my research. Probably still not the best silk spinning ever, but a huge improvement, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Silkworms, Day 56 - Silkmoths!

There she is! (At least I think it's a she from the books. . .) I woke up this morning and found this little moth sitting in the cocoon box. So cute! But a lot smaller than I thought she'd be. Most of the photos are so zoomed in and blown up, I thought she'd be bigger.

I looked up about that red liquid you can see in the foreground. Silkmoth pee. She also squirted some sort of tan liquid on me when I picked her up to move her off the cocoon and onto a paper roll. Don't know if that was more pee, or the pheromones I've read about, but it sure came out in a violent jet!

I've decided this these are the biggest and smallest cocoons in our set. I'm still amazed with how different they are in size, but almost all the others are just a little smaller than the big one. These are really the unusual ones.

As I was searching for the big and small cocoons, a second moth emerged. Here you can compare how they look fresh out of the cocoon, with their little smooshed, wet wings, compared to the one that had been out for hours already.

As a sort of sad follow up to the last silkworm post, one of those two straggler caterpillars died later that day. The other finally started spinning his cocoon, but didn't complete it. I suspect he's dead inside the partial cocoon he started, but I haven't been motivated to investigate inside it to make sure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And Then There Were Two: Silkworms, Day 51




When the silkworm eggs started hatching, they all hatched together. Within 24 hours of each other anyway. I'd made the mistaken assumption that they would all spin their cocoons at about the same time as well. The first spinners started on May 12th, at 38 days old. Four started spinning that morning, by the time I went to bed, about 12 or so were working away at their cocoons. And now, 13 days later, 2 are sill hanging around. Kinda eating, kinda sitting. I'm a little worried about them really. I don't know if they're not eating much because there s something wrong with them, or if it's because there are only 2 of them, so it just seems like they aren't eating much (compared to trying to feed 180 caterpillars a few weeks ago.) Either way, I think they're in trouble. They're either unwell, or just fine, but still going to spin and thus emerge from their cocoons two weeks after most of their buddies. Not good for their mating prospects methinks. Then again, if the emerge the way they spun, then a few new ones should come along each day. Maybe it won't be so bad for them after all. Time will tell.

I worry I may have made another mistake as well. To make more spinning space, I removed some cocoons as they looked finished and put them into a box. I'd seen pictures of cocoons collected like this, so thought it was fine to do. Then as I thought about it, most of these places also kill the larva inside. I'm not going to do that. I hope disturbing and moving the cocoons won't have any ill affects to their metamorphosis and ability to emerge. Again, I suppose time will tell.

I'd also read that if the caterpillars were too small they would be unable to spin at all, and would just turn brown and die. Thankfully, our smaller silkworms just spun smaller cocoons. Cute, huh?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Artist's Way, week 7

I promised an update on how my journey with "The Artist's Way" has been going. I'm only in week 7 right now because while I was away on vacation, I just stayed in week 6 instead of bringing my book along. I did continue with my journaling however.


The journal writing is what I think I'm now enjoying the most. For several years now I've tried to keep a journal, and I always let it slide. I never felt like I had anything important enough to write about. I saw it as a way for later generations to know something about me. In retrospect, I think that idea is what crippled my ability to actually write anything. If it didn't feel big enough to tell all of my future descendants, it didn't feel worth writing in my journal. So I just didn't write anything at all.

With the assignment from the book to just fill up 3 pages every day no matter what I wrote about, that pressure to be important was lifted. Now I babble in my journal. Navel-gazing gibberish or dull details about what errands I ran that day. 3 pages of it. Every day. Heaven help anyone who tries to read it, they'll be put to sleep in seconds.

But for me, it's been a sort of therapy. I guess that's the idea. Somehow it's easier to let things go once they're written down. I remember my favorite class that I took in college also required daily free writing. I think we only had to do one or two pages though, or maybe it was just 15 minutes of writing. . . anyway, as I'm rediscovering the fun of stupid writings I think that assignment might be part of what I liked so much about that class.

So what have I really gained so far? Well, I'm starting to think that I'm having so much trouble finishing a story for the same reason I was having trouble keeping a journal. I worry WAY too early in the process about what others might think about it. About where I might try to submit it. Then anything I'm working on instantly doesn't seem good enough and I stop. No one needs (or would want) to read my rambling journal, and no one needs to read my first drafts. After editing and rewrites, I can decided if I ever want anyone to see a story. Until then, they don't. I can just have fun.

This is what I think I need to learn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Silkworms - Day 38

Early this morning (the morning of this photo that is) a few of the silkworm caterpillars started spinning their cocoons. When I got up in the morning, 4 of our 180 silkworms were working on their cocoons, by the evening, about 12 were working at it. The rest are still eating up a storm.

As you can see, we gave them some egg cartons and toilet paper rolls to use to attach their cocoons to. They seemed to go for the toilet paper rolls first, but one used the egg carton. I'll have to come up with more space for the others when they start spinning because there aren't enough compartments for them all right now. I plan to build a grid out of cardboard strips for them.

Since I'm getting close to being finished with the feeding phase of silkworm rearing, I started to do some research tonight about what to do with the silk. I found a really fabulous website about silkworm care and how to harvest the silk. Wormspit.com . It's the only source I've found so far that gives great detailed explanations of how to harvest and use silk without killing the pupae. I do my best to avoid killing things, so I'm excited to have found this reference.

Silkworms - Day 36


Here are the silkworms (aka silk caterpillars) at 36 days old. The information that came with our eggs said that they would start spinning at around 30 days old. I'm happy that they waited for us to get home from our trip though.


At this point they are eating like crazy. I just read that in the last phase as a caterpillar (called the fifth instar) they eat 90% of the food they'll eat in their entire lives. Wow. And I believe it from the way they were putting food away here! (Sorry Amanda for leaving you with them when they were the most hungry ever. Big thanks!)

Silkworms - Day 15

Sorry for the delay in silkworm updates. We were away for awhile. So I've got 3 silkworm posts all at once here now. They've been busy little caterpillars!


So here they are at about 15 days after hatching. They are about an inch or so long, but several are much smaller. Still just eating and pooping.
The one book I read that mentioned how to handle them said that at around this big it's okay to pick them up by hand (when they're smaller it recommended using a paint brush to move then if needed) but when I tried picking them up, they still felt awful small and fragile. I didn't want to let my 3 year old handle them yet, because I'm sure she could have easily hurt them without meaning to.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm it.

Amanda over at A Fortnight of Mustard tagged me. So looks like I'm supposed to answer the following questions five times each.

Where were you five years ago?

1. Bouncing around the California Bay Area. Just like now.
2. Much thinner.
3. At the same job I'm at now.
4. Mothering the cutest little toddler around.
5. Full of dreams.

Where would you like to be in five years?

1. In a house with a backyard.
2. Working from home.
3. Much thinner.
4. Much calmer in mind.
5. Having written at least one complete novel.

What is on your To-Do list today?

1. 2 workshops
2. A fund raising dinner.
3. Writing.
4. Dishes and laundry
5. A little Wii Fit.

What snacks do you enjoy?

It's late, I'm tired and I'm not going to open my evening snacking can of worms by thinking too hard about crap I don't need to eat.

What would you do with a billion dollars?

1. Move to a house with a backyard.
2. Give up my job.
3. See if the Russians would let me go to the International Space Station.
4. Help any family who needs money.
5. Buy one of those big looms and learn how to weave.

I'm supposed to tag other bloggers, but I'm a party pooper about doing that. Sorry. If you haven't done this yet and want to, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Silkworms, Day 8


From my very zoomed in photos, I don't how well you can tell how much they have grown so far, but they look like real little caterpillars now. From my observations, and my research, I think I've been feeding them too much. I'd heard that they can really eat a lot, so I was afraid of underfeeding, but I guess I could have waited until they were out of the microscopic phase before I worried about leaving their tiny tummies too empty.

I wanted to keep giving fresh, pretty leaves to them, but was surprised that many of them wouldn't leave the old, pitiful looking leaves. Then I read that you shouldn't give them new leaves until the ones they have are totally dry. And this matches what I'm seeing in their behavior so far. The only leaves with no caterpillars on them that I can remove, are the super dry leaves. The ones that are still flexible, no matter how sad in other respects, all have some silkworms still clinging to them (and they are super hard to scoot off onto a better leaf. I've given up trying.)

But I also think that these stubborn silkworms that won't move onto the better leaves are making bad decisions. Guess that's why "As clever as a silkworm" isn't a phrase you hear much. There is a growing variance in the size of the caterpillars. I'm assuming the big, beefy ones are the ones that hop onto the new food right away. Does the size difference show here? Pretty dramatic, I think.

I also found this little pocket of silk today. That's one other thing I didn't really expect - that they would make a little silk so early. I first discovered they could when I tried scooting them onto the good leaves, I could see them tethered to their crappy leaf by some invisible line. One even fell off and appeared to dangle in the air, like a spider that hangs by a bit of silk you can't really see, but can watch them climb on it. Cool, huh?

A few online resources I've found helpful so far:
(but still no book. I may take Amanda's suggestion and write my own mini guide at the end of this, 'cause there's still a lot of info I want but am having trouble finding. Like how to harvest the silk - without killing the larva of course - and cleaning the silk, and all that good stuff.) I may be forced into - *shudder* - asking someone about it, and if I go to all that work, I'd like to share what I learn.

http://lawrencehallofscience.org/foss/fossweb/teachers/materials/plantanimal/silkwormmoths.html

http://www.silkwormshop.com/silkworm_info.html (This is also where I bought our eggs. Thumbs up to their service.)

http://www.permaculturevisions.com/silkworms.htm

http://www.insectlore.com/xinsectucational_stuff/instructions/silkworm_city.html

Friday, April 9, 2010

SIlkworms, Day 1



Our silkworms started hatching Easter evening, and by Monday morning, almost all of them had hatched. Aren't they cute! They were about 1/2 a centimeter long when they first hatched.

I really want to call them silk caterpillars, because they aren't really "worms", but since most folks know them as silkworms, I guess I'll stick with it. Or should I try to start a movement to change the terminology?

I'm on the hunt for a good book about silkworms (aka silk caterpillars) and silk moths to learn more about these little guys and gals that we now have. I was very disappointed when I was unable to find a good book in our local children's library (or any book at all for that matter) Raising silkworms is popular enough that I would have thought finding reading materials about them would have been a cinch. I found a few decent websites, but books are just so much easier to look together as a family. So, I'm open to suggestions.

I'll have new pictures tomorrow to show off their growth for the week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Artist's Way

So, one of my favorite writing podcasts, I Should Be Writing is working through a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron together. It's a kind of workbook for unblocking creativity. I wasn't feeling particularly blocked or anything, so I'm not sure why exactly why I decided to join it, but I did. So I'm doing the exercises and stuff. I'm in week 3 of the program. There's a total of. . . hang on let me look it up. . . 12 weeks. I guess I felt like since I don't get as much writing and other creative time in as I'd like, maybe it would help me to do that.

So far, it isn't helping me get more writing done. In fact, I'm actually getting less done. The program requires me to write 3 pages (longhand writing) every morning about. . . just whatever. Stream of consciousness stuff. I usually can't even get dressed in the morning before kids and cats and husbands (okay, just the one husband) need me for something, so I moved the page writing to evening. But evening is when I usually sneak in the little bit of writing I already did. So now I'm writing what feels like pointless ramblings (the book assures me it isn't pointless) instead of working on my novel, or my newsletter, or my blog. Not loving the program yet.

Another problem I'm having, is that it's difficult for me to view myself as an 'artist'. That label doesn't feel like it fits me. I write about alien fish and robots, and sew quilts that are made to snuggle with, not be hung on walls. Yet I feel like it's strange that the name should bug me. Artist. Fine. So what? Don't know why I don't like it.

But I shall plow forward with this thing for a little while longer at least. If I gain any great insights that I feel are worthwhile, I shall come and report in about it. If any of you have ever heard of this book, or gone through the steps, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rainbows



We had a beautiful rainbow here today.
I got to wondering. . . are there any old mythological stories about rainbows? They are so beautiful, so amazing, I believe there must be, but I've never heard of one. There are myths from so many cultures about the sun, moon, planets, and even the wind and rain. So there must be some great rainbow stories out there, right?

I just wonder why I haven't heard any.

I'm sure my curiosity will get the better of me eventually, and I'll search out some rainbow myths and stories, but I thought I'd ask here first, if anyone wants to share a favorite rainbow story.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On Vampires

I remember saying that I'm not into vampire stories. But the last few I've read, I've really enjoyed, so I guess I need to rethink that generalization. Back in college some of my friends were into the Ann Rice vampire books, and they were too dark for my tastes. I never really cared for any of the versions of Dracula I've seen over the years either. That's probably why I thought it must be the vampires I didn't like.

Then with the popularity of the Twilight series, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I think it took me three weeks to read all four books, I was so into them, and they were easy reading. Shortly thereafter I was sad to hear one of my favorite writing podcasts routinely making fun of the series, and putting it down in almost every episode. Some of it, I think, is that when anything gets to be too big, too popular, some will always have to come with negativity to balance things out. But, I listened to their criticisms anyway, hoping to learn.

Just this week I listened to an episode in which the host admitted, to my disgust, that he had never actually read any of the Twilight books. All his criticisms were based on watching the first movie. I would have thought that a writer would know better than to judge a book by its movie.

Anyway, one complaint I've heard from a few sources is that the vampires are too tame. Vampires, some feel, are monsters, not just dead people who may be nice or may be jerks. Since vampires are made up creatures, I guess they can be whatever any of us want to imagine them to be. It's really a matter of personal preference, right? So then I thought that maybe that's what I like. Nice vampires. I don't like monster stories.

Then again maybe not.

My good friend Amanda just had a vampire story produced on the Shadowcast podcast. I think it definitely falls into the 'vampires are monsters' camp, and I loved it anyway. Maybe because I was pulled along with the heroine's hope to find the nice vampires. I wanted a nice vampire as much as she did, even though her limited experience with a vampire was definitely of the 'monster' variety. I won't tell you what she found at last, so you can enjoy listening to the podcast or reading the story:
Letty by Amanda B. on Shadowcast.

The moral of this post is that I've learned not to make blanket statements like, I don't like fill-in-the-blank stories. If I'd stuck to my guns against vampires, I would have missed out on an awful lot of enjoyment. Each story should be judged on its own merits (but remember a story should never EVER be judged on its movie!)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's That Time Again

I'm starting a diet tomorrow.

Again.

I decided this last night, and not on New Years day, or late in December like I normally do. But it's time.

I haven't decided what diet I'm going to start, though. I've used several with happy results over the years. Richard Simmons, Sperkpeople.com, Trim Advantage (one sold by Amway and if my understanding is right, it's kinda South Beach-ish). Then there was the plan from the nutritionist from when I was pregnant. Although that wasn't for weight loss, I did stop gaining for the rest of my pregnancy, so my tummy got bigger, and the rest of me got smaller.

I've thought about asking to see that nutritionist again actually. But I feel like after 2 visits with her, and becoming a dieting expert over the years, I shouldn't need help again. But none of the plans out there are designed for vegetarians, so I have to change them all. The plans she gave me were for pregnancy, so they aren't right for me now.

And, honestly, even after all these years, and after all I've learned, I do still feel like I need some help. And that makes me sad.

I don't know if I've put it off because it makes me sad, or because, having been here before, I know the work I'm getting myself in for. To stick to a diet is to spend an awful lot of time thinking about food. You'd think I'd like that, but I don't. Planning, and measuring, and planning some more. Then heaven forbid, plans change and I'm stuck having to improvise something to eat away from home. Oh the horror.

But it can't be helped.

And it's never as bad as it seems like it will be. That's the part I need to remind myself about. I'm always happy I did the work. Everything worthwhile is like that, isn't it?