Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 Goals (part 2)

In the last post, I went into detail on my monthly projects, such as November's Gratitude Journal, December's Minimalist Game, and this coming January's No Sweets Policy. In this post, I want to talk about the Goodreads' annual reading challenge, and some crafty projects and general progress goals I have for myself.

Reading Challenge
For the 2014 Reading Challenge, I set a goal to read 50 books. When 2014 ends, I will have read about 40 books. I won't quite have met my goal, but I'll still have read twice as many books for fun as I did during high school and college put together. The ones that stand out in my memory and which I would definitely recommend are Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future, Covencraft, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Good Omens, Uglies, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

For the 2015 Reading Challenge, I think I am going to make my goal 50 books again. It's about a book a week, and I really should be able to do it, but I won't be upset if I don't make it to 50 as long as I put out a good effort towards reading consistently. I've done some thinking about some books I want to read as part of the 50, so here's a nifty bullet list:

  • I want to re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Series.
  • I definitely want to finish Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the Harry Potter read-alouds, and if we can I really want to do Goblet of Fire as well.
  • I at least want to give The Satanic Verses my best shot. It's huge and dense and very different from Haroun, but I loved Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life both so much that I really want to read the book that made Salman Rushdie have to hide from his government. Plus, I already bought it.
  • I want to read some Terry Pratchett. I really enjoyed Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman) this year, and read it in a FLASH. If the rest of Pratchett's stuff is anything like that, I'll love it. I'll probably read some Discworld. Also I think he's written some stuff about witches that I'd really like to read. That may or may not actually be part of the nigh-infinite Discworld series.
  • I want to read The Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, and at least one Neil Gaiman novel. I loved Anansi Boys, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but I never finished Neverwhere or American Gods (didn't get very far in that one, even) back in high school, and I never even started Stardust. That's three big problems right there, and I know I can solve at least one of them this year.
I'm noticing a strange pattern: 2014 was definitely over 50% non-fiction for me (largely metaphysical), but everything I've written as a goal for 2015 has been a novel (or graphic novel).
There's two more:
  • This one's kind of iffy and I don't know if I mean it, but I kind of want to read the Game of Thrones series or whatever it's called. What that means is that I want to have read it, but I know what reading it is and what I would be getting into, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that level of committment given that I already definitely want to read The Satanic Verses and re-read LotR.
  • And let's throw one non-fiction in there to retain my sanity: I've got two Stephen Hawking books and I haven't read either one, so I'll try to read either The Universe In A Nutshell or The Grand Design. I'm leaning towards the latter.

As far as Crafty Stuff goes, here are some goals.

Abstract things to achieve:
  • Sell my wares at a market regularly.
  • Give Etsy a serious shot.
  • Repair my woodburner and do more woodburning
  • Get my craft room up and running
  • Teach Minimalist Girl to sew
  • Do more crafting than Pinteresting
Things to make:
  • Finish Britt's cloak
  • Finish my already-cut-out teal-blue linen Renaissance overdress
  • Make something to wear under it
  • Make a Spirit Quilt (I'll probably do a series of posts about my Spirit Quilt, as it will be my first quilt and a big project). This involves quilting, applique, embroidery, beading, and a lot of patience.
  • Quilted leaf potholder
  • Make a woven seed bead bracelet in a pattern of my own design (I'm about halfway done with my first one, actually, but it's got a lot of mistakes)
  • Anything (seriously, anything) out of all the fabric I have accumulated. I keep saying I need skirts--well, there are at least three different fabrics that I bought for the express purpose of making skirts. Make some skirts, goddammit.
And I know I already talked in-depth about my monthly projects for 2015, but here are a few more thoughts, general goals and stuff:

  • By the end of the year, have developed healthy habits for cooking, eating, exercising, and socializing (be less lazy and more accountable, cook more, eat better, exercise more often and get better at it, and don't be so gosh darn afraid to go out and do things and meet people)
  • Keep a clean, organized, and largely clutter-free home (hopefully a large part of this will come naturally out of having played The Minimalist Game)
  • Actually make enough money to contribute a full half of the rent
  • Build skills
  • I'm kind of thinking about doing weekly projects as well. For example, my monthly project for January is no sweets/sugary things; I may also have a week in January where I'm not allowed to use any prepared food from Trader Joe's or anywhere else and I have to cook everything from scratch, including packed lunches (I thought about that for a month, but with our schedule it is NOT realistic at this time). I might have a week where every day I have to practice a certain aria, or a week where I have to finish a Quilt block every day, or read a short story every day, or write a song every day. I like the idea of these shorter weekly projects for things like skill-building and creative productivity. Expect to see a January post soon

I think that's all for now (I know it was quite a lot).

Good night and Happy Almost New Year,
Lovely Wednesday

2015 Goals (part 1)

My New Year's Resolutions are going to be a bit funny in 2015.

In 2014, I made no New Year's Resolutions, but did a much better job of keeping the ones I would have made or had made in the past. This year I did more of what I wanted; I have had jobs, I broke free from a toxic system, I read more, I belly danced more, I did more art, I cooked and cleaned more, I was happier. I can't say I've ever had an unhappy year, but 2014 was a particularly happy one. I even get along better with my parents than I did before this year.

Towards the end of 2014, though, I tried a sort of resolutions project almost on accident... and it worked really well--at least, it worked far better than any New Year's resolutions I've ever made. What I did was for November and December, I gave myself monthly projects. They both happened spontaneously, but I like this pattern so much I'm going to keep it going less spontaneously. For November 2014, I kept a Gratitude Journal. The goal was to write at least one thing in it every day. I definitely missed days, but I also definitely ended up with way more than 30 things written out, an enhanced awareness of all the things I had to be grateful fore, and a habit that has carried through to at least late December. For December 2014, Boyfriend and I played the Minimalist Game, which you can read about by going back a few posts. I left town in the middle of the Minimalist Game, which made it difficult to finish throwing things away at my house, but Boyfriend and I fully intend to finish with a total of at least 496 things donated, recycled, trashed, used up, given away, or otherwise gotten rid of upon my return to the Lone Star State. That sounds like a lot, but when you take into account that we're two scatterbrained people who both hoard potential project materials and just condensed two households into one, it's really not. Even though we're pretty behind in the Minimalist Game right now, we still achieved a LOT towards our more relevant goal of having a neater, cleaner, more efficient, better organized, and more streamlined apartment, and our related goal of not being such materialistic hoarders. As proof, I helped my mom get rid of a shit-ton of Christmas decorations she probably hasn't used in the last decade (that's not to say there aren't still at least 6 big boxes worth of Christmas decorations in her house not including front-yard-reindeer, but every ornament counts). Even if we haven't yet gotten rid of 496 things this December, our attitudes towards "stuff" have changed. We're far less attached to it, and far more honest about what things we genuinely want to hang on to.

What I'm trying to say is that these monthly projects seem to work for me, and so I want to continue them: a different monthly project for every month of the year, with the goal of building habits that outlast the month. For example, I have decided that for January of 2015, I will have no sweets at all. No cookies, cake, candy, ice cream. No maple syrup, no sugar in my tea. Honey only for coughing or a sore throat, no soda, no juice with added sugar. Fruit is fine, and dried fruit as long as there's no added sugar. The worst will be no chocolate. I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and I pretty much always have at least one or two options around the house for sweet snacking. Usually it's a bar of dark chocolate to snack on and a box of non-dairy ice cream sandwiches for the evenings. If I don't pay attention, I can go an entire day eating nothing but sweets--every child's dream, and the quickest way to diabetes.

Diabetes runs in my family and, speaking of gratitude, I am seriously lucky that I don't have it by now given how much sugar I can consume if I don't watch myself, especially in combination with my tendency to enjoy stationary activities (piano, handicrafts, and the worst: cooking).

I've tried a couple times to set a strict, all-encompassing regimen for myself: only one small portion of a sweet thing once a day, eat all different colors of vegetables, and do a half hour of exercise every day. You'd think that would be easy enough (so did I), but I've found that when I add in so many new factors at once, it's just too much to keep track of and I lose motivation within two weeks or less. So, I want to build up these healthy habits one at a time, and I'm starting by cutting down on the sugar. I know I am not strong enough to refrain from sugary things completely for an indefinite period of time, so the month-long time limit gives me something to look forward to. I think it will be a hell of a lot easier to stay away from sweets altogether knowing I only have to do it for a month than it would be to limit myself to one serving of sweets per day for eternity. I guarantee eternity would not last very long. However, while a month is short enough to give me something to look forward to, it's also long enough to give me time to break my sugar addiction, flush it out of my system, and hopefully build a habit of not even wanting sugary things that often. I'll admit I picked January because I really didn't want to miss out on my mom's Christmas cookies, but I think that's totally within my rights. I'm actually looking forward to this no-sugar project.

I'm not sure yet what all my other monthly projects for 2015 will be, although I know a lot of them will focus on building habits of healthy eating and exercise, and you can bet you'll hear all about them right here on this blog.

This post was actually supposed to be mostly about the books I want to read and the crafts I want to do this coming year, but I think this post is too long and I am too tired to even include that now. That's the other half of my New Year's Resolutions this year, and I'll probably go into those tomorrow.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gratitude Journal

So I've been keeping my Gratitude Journal in an actual leather-bound journal, but it's at my mom's house and I'm at my Dad's house, so I wanted to make a few short entries here before I forget to write them down.

  1. Dads who, without asking why, will happily drive their daughters to Rite-Aid at 9pm on a Saturday are the best dads. I am lucky to have one of them.
  2. This particular Dad is also the sort who will make bread pudding for breakfast and Yorkshire pudding for dinner. I am grateful to have experienced this today, and grateful that I do not eat this way every day. It was delicious but my body is full of too much oil. On the other hand, that leftover Prime Rib from Christmas was just what my body needed today.
  3. I am grateful for the heated blanket my stepmom gave me for Christmas last year. It makes it much easier to be grateful that my family is energy conscious and refuses to turn on the heat until it's literally freezing, which, in Southern California, is never.
  4. I am grateful for 24-hour pharmacies. When I was in the Netherlands I really needed one and all the pharmacies were closed at 1am on a Wednesday for some reason, but in the U.S. (at least the parts I've lived in) that particular aspect of life is better, I think. Dutch breakfasts are something else, though.
These are just the few I was itching to write down. You may hear more gratitude later. 

Also, if you are considering keeping a gratitude journal, or even if you aren't, do it. It's one of the best things I've ever done. It has made me much more aware of all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for, many of which I could easily take for granted. This isn't even about God or anything, although it could be if that's what you're into--it's just about really appreciating every moment and living it to its fullest potential, and realizing how amazing this world and our lives are. More than once since I started this have I found myself breaking down in tears of joy and gratitude that I just can't hold in. Even if all I am is alive, I have more than someone else, and I have that much to be grateful for... and every moment, I am so much more than alive. It's amazing, it's just amazing.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 9

December 14th is boring and I suggest you skip it and move on.

  1. Boyfriend and I found three redundant textbooks in our collection, so we're selling Fiero 4,
  2. Fiero 5,
  3. and Fiero 6. They're actually called something more complicated than that, but I'm not looking at them right now so whatever.
  4. We donated a houndstooth sheet set, including a sheet,
  5. a fitted sheet,
  6. and a pillowcase.
  7. Boyfriend is donating one of his strobe lights. Yes, you read that correctly: one of his strobe lights. That is to say, he has a second strobe light which he is keeping. Well, I can't really blame him.
  8. We found a DKNY glasses case with no glasses in it, so we donated it just in case someone who has DKNY glasses (or really any glasses) and has lost their case can have another one.
  9. Here's another thing I got rid of by using up, although I might as well have thrown it away: I had a little box of lavender bath salts, one of those things that you want to save for a special occasion, but then the day never comes. Well, I used it up, only they didn't smell like anything at all. At least I only paid, like, a dollar for them.
  10. We also threw out some expired cortaid.
  11. Finally, here are one,
  12. two,
  13. three,
  14. and four more neckties we donated.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 8

We cleaned last night and this morning. Our dining room table looks like a table instead of an obstacle course, and our big cozy armchair is a chair now instead of a coat rack. I'm so proud.

We forgot to drop off some of the things that were on the list last night, but Boyfriend wanted to run to the music store, so he's taking the things right now.

December 13th
  1. I'm finally saying good-bye to two pieces of art I like very much, but which cannot have a place in our home currently. The first one is a very beautiful framed print of a photograph of a gorgeous dress by Jean Paul Gaultier. I think I paid $20 for the print, plus probably another $20 for the frame. This is the photo in the print:

    It's quite large, which is one of the reasons we don't have a place for it. The other reason is it just doesn't feel right in this home--boyfriend likes it as a photograph and as a dress, but doesn't want it on the walls, and I would only want it on the walls in the bedroom (which is really his territory, as it's also the music room & recording studio) or the closet (which is not a luxurious powder room and therefore all the wallspace is clothes. So, it's just been taking up space on a table in my room. You might be wondering why I didn't put it up in my room--well, my room is the study in our one-bedroom-one-study apartment, and it's supposed to be for my altar and my crafting. Right now it's a storage room. This is one of my main motivations for this Minimalist Game. We're paying rent on a craft room, so I want to be able to use it. We've got a more public and less personal altar in the living room on top of one of the short bookcases. It's mostly just a bunch of candles, some seasonal items from nature, some stones, my wand and my kitchen witch spoon, and an incense burner under our big sun clock. It's really beautiful and I love it, but I want a more personal and magical altar in my room, too. I want a space where I can just meditate, or craft, or write, or just be, and there are some old things getting in the way of that. One of the things that's keeping that from happening is a lack of furniture--everything is on the floor instead of in drawers or on shelves, because I don't have enough drawers or shelves. The other thing that's keeping that from happening is too much junk in the way.
  2. The second piece of art is something my good sense tells me I should never have spent $30 on in the first place, but I love it so much anyway. It's a carpet art version of The Last Supper, in a wooden frame that is positively falling apart. In fact, when I had it on the wall in my last apartment, I just nailed it straight into the wall through the carpet (I may or may not have hammered nails through Jesus' wrists for the hell of it--hell being a very appropriate word here). It hung over our dining room table and it was beautiful. If I were sole ruler of this household, it would still be hanging over our dining room table, but Boyfriend (who is usually pretty good about liking things ironically) says I can hang it in my room or not at all, and since I don't really want a carpet-art-Jesus-and-Friends hanging on the wall of my Pagan-altar-and-craft-room, The Last Supper is over and it's time for dessert.
  3. Those were the things we had already decided to get rid of, but forgot to drop off last night because they were way in the back of my room. Some new things we found today include a pair of orange plastic Caltech sunglasses that really do display my Caltech pride but which I just can't wear because they don't fit over the glasses I use to see;
  4. and a Barbie fashion illustration wall calendar from a couple years ago. I only ever buy wall calendars because I like the art--I hardly ever write on them, and I certainly never check them for appointments--that's what Google Calendar is for, Silly. Anyhow, I still like the art, but if I haven't come up with anything to do with it yet, I'm not ever going to. Also, I'm trying to get rid of those things that I'm nostalgically attached to but don't want my children to be nostalgically attached to. Like, you know, Barbies. I probably won't ever be able to say goodbye to my collectible Barbies... the Bob Mackies, Scarlett O'Hara, Scheherezade, Dolls of the World... but any progress is progress, right?
    This reminds me! Yesterday, my Lammily Doll came in the mail! I backed Lammily on Kickstarter almost a year ago when that was something I could afford to do, because it was a really awesome project. At that point, I didn't know if my $25 would ever materialize into a real thing, but it did! If you don't know, Lammily is a teen fashion doll in the general vein of Barbie, except that she has the proportions of an average 19-year-old girl. In other words, if Lammily were life-size, she would actually be able to support herself on her posable feet, and her average waist and spine would have no trouble supporting her average chest. In fact, her body looks a lot like mine (except healthier), and I think she's beautiful.

    Plus, she comes in this gorgeous watercolor box with a pamphlet about her world travels. I seriously don't even want to take her out of the box because I'm afraid I'll hurt the box. I feel a little silly, but I'm probably going to keep her collectible and new-in-box. The exclusive first edition is still available for the same $25 I paid months ago (except you probably have to pay shipping now), AND you can get additional non-scanty outfits inspired by cities around the world, and this really cool thing called Lammily marks, which are these vinyl stickers you can put on her that look like freckles or grass stains or acne or stretch marks or blush. She's super cute and I love her so much and if you like dolls that look like real people, or you have children who like dolls and you would like them to grow up with a less deranged body image than most people my age did, you should buy them a Lammily. I am not being paid or compensated in any way to say these things about Lammily, I just legitimately think that the idea and the product are THAT AWESOME. Here is the website:
  5. Boyfriend threw out a strange piece of packing foam, probably for sound equipment,
  6. an old, bad microphone,
  7. some old, bad headphones,
  8. a broken flashlight that was very good before it was broken,
  9. a clear acrylic box that I would have kept if it had a latch or closure of any kind to keep it from opening,
  10. a pocket-size flathead screwdriver,
  11. a handy tool kit case with no tools in it,
  12. and an empty hearos box.
  13. He also went and donated an old (but working) digital watch along with my art pieces, calendar, and sunglasses.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 7

It's getting harder to keep up with this game simply because of the time it takes to hunt things down. On days when Boyfriend and I both have work, it's almost impossible to find the time to pick 10 or so things to get rid of. Today is December 12th, but we were so tired last night that I just said, "Don't worry about the Minimalist Game tonight, let's just go to bed and I'll find 23 things tomorrow while you're at work." It's amazing how those numbers add up.

December 11th

  1. We used up a Trader Joe's Gift Card. This is our first item we've gotten rid of by using up, because we came up with an addendum to the rule about whether using up counts: if you are planning on replacing the item, it doesn't count. If it's a one-time purchase or gift that you had sitting around waiting for the perfect occasion and you finally used it up, it counts. My mom gave me this for my birthday, and I sent it with the Boyfriend a few days ago, and he picked up a bunch of things from TJ's. For some reason, though, the gift card is still sitting on our table. This means it needs to be thrown away.
  2. Boyfriend tried to throw out his Usher cologne the other day, and I fought him over it. He hasn't worn it in months, but it just smells SO GOOD on him. "It's just not part of my lifestyle anymore," he said, referring to how we've gone much more natural with the things we'll put in or on our bodies. Boyfriend's brother laughed, "It's funny because it's Usher and it really shouldn't, but it does smell SO GOOD." Then, yesterday I tried to spray it on myself in a moment of heated if-he-won't-wear-it-then-at-least-I-still-can, only to find that it was EMPTY, and the way cool bottle that it came in DOES NOT EVEN OPEN so therefore is TOTALLY USELESS. So, in short, Boyfriend wins, we're throwing it away today.
  3. There was a toothbrush that we had used to clean the GameCube controller, but it was actually really bad at that job, so we threw it away.
  4. We had a Mexican Hot Chocolate stirrer thing that is actually super cool looking, and it is the traditional tool for the purpose, but truth be told, a blender works better and we have a pretty great blender.
  5. I had a pink half-burned votive candle in a glass votive holder that was very nice, but the last time I burned it the flame got super big and it was all liquid wax in the glass holder and I was terrified that the thing was going to break from the heat and get hot wax everywhere and catch fire and burn the house down, so I decided it was safer to just get rid of it.
  6. Minimalist Girl gave me a black sequin flower headband for her Minimalist Game, but it was too small for me so I donated it.
  7. Boyfriend donated his keyboard because Minimalist Girl gave him a better one. I think this counts?
  8. I got rid of a long black skirt that was all the way ripped open down both sides. It was a hand-me down and I wore it mostly-ripped for a while, and then wore it totally ripped for my Hel costume for Halloween 2013, and now it's days are done.
  9. There was a sheer colorful blouse in my closet that must have been a hand-me-down because I don't remember ever even trying it on, and it was sharing a hanger with a shirt I like better so I donated it.
  10. Another hand-me-down shirt I've never worn--a short-sleeved, white button-down shirt with a black sweater vest sewn on to it. I've never even tried it on because I can't stand when two garments that really ought to be separate garments are attached to each other. Also I'm pretty sure it's too big for me, and it looks utterly unflattering on the hanger.
  11. ...and, I'm finally parting ways with my Caltech polka-dot pajama pants. I loved them literally to death: they're completely frayed apart down the back seam, so I just threw them away. I actually really do want another pair of those, though, if they still make them.
Let's just say this game would be a lot easier if we hadn't already gotten into the habit of making frequent thrift shop drop-offs. Every time we go to pick things to throw away, we think, "But we just got rid of four pairs of shoes and six hats before we started playing!" or, "We could totally count all those dishes and things we got rid of in November if we had just waited." These thoughts are not in the spirit of the Minimalist Game. When I think about it, the way I see it is this: the harder this game is for us, the more rewarding it will be when we are done. So, today I have to do a bunch of cleaning to uncover things we might want to get rid of. That's harder than just looking around me. Great! Cleaning is good! Then, at the end of the day, I'll have 23 fewer things AND my apartment will be cleaner! Awesome! 

Also, today I plan to do our first actual drop-off of the things we've been piling up to get rid of, so we will actually have fewer things, instead of just feeling like it in a somewhat abstract sense.


I wrote those paragraphs and the first three things on that list this morning, and I'm finishing this this evening. Today I went around the house--through the closet and through the linens hamper, mostly--and made a big pile without counting of all the things that caught my eye to get rid of. Then, I wrote out a numbered list before we loaded everything up into the car to go to Savers and donate it (except for a few things which I just trashed). So, we're actually a couple days ahead right now. I'm still going to write these things out in lists by the day, because I'm hoping we can get rid of as close to the exact right amount of things possible, and that seems like the best way to keep track. So, here's the list of 12 for today:

December 12th
  1. I had this really awesome golden-yellow, black, and white vertical-striped '60s dress that I bought from a thrift shop and wore once. It made me really sad to get rid of it, but it has a kinda big stain on the skirt and so I just can't wear it. It had the stain when I bought it, but the one time I wore it was in really low light.
  2. I also got rid of this asymmetrical, Victorian/Edwardian-inspired blouse that was clearly sewn by somebody's grandmother in the 1970s because they did a really bad job on the thread buttonhole (why anyone even does thread buttonholes is beyond me, I've never seen one that I could honestly say was done well) and they made the extremely bad decision to sew it out of non-breathable polyester. The only way those 19th century women survived under all that fabric was because it was cotton or some other breathable, natural fabric.
  3. I donated a wide-brimmed, red straw hat that's pretty cool but just really difficult to wear...
  4. ...and a straw cowboy hat that I got at the Grand Canyon and actually wore all the time when I lived in California but now that I live in Texas I would feel like a poser wearing it next to all these people that seriously wear serious cowboy hats for serious.
  5. We threw out a gross brown tablecloth that we burned a hole in with some hookah coals a year or so ago. Boyfriend was super sad when we burned it, so he held onto it, but when it was destroyed I silently cheered for the death of the polyester, gross-textured, gross brown tablecloth. It was gross. Now it's gone.
  6. We also got rid of a necktie,
  7. a necktie,
  8. a necktie,
  9. a necktie,
  10. a necktie,
  11. another necktie,
  12. and yet another necktie. Picture of the seven neckties below.

You're going to be seeing a batch of neckties every day for the next couple of posts, ye be warned. 
So far, we've gotten rid of 78 things.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 6

December 10th

  1. Boyfriend is growing his hair out, so he no longer heeds his hair gel,
  2. his hair mousse,
  3. or his comb (he uses a brush now),
  4. and on a totally unrelated note is ditching his old deodorant because we switched to all-natural deodorants a couple of months ago, and now the regular ones make us break out. We were using Nerys Naturals Bergamot Deodorant and it was the best thing ever, but we haven't been able to get more of it for a while so now we're using Twysted Thystle. I'm using Keep the Peace (lavender, bergamot, and tea tree) and he's using Power to the Pits (patchouli). I love them.
  5. I've got an issue of taproot magazine, which is pretty cool but probably more someone else's thing than mine, so I'm gifting it to a friend.
  6. We're getting rid of another of those things that Boyfriend is unjustifiably embarrassed about and won't let me tell you what it is. It's blue and green and white and has stripes.
  7. We totally just got rid of a giant bag of spinach, half a lemon, six sweet potatoes, and four kentucky bourbon sausages, but Boyfriend says none of those count since I just bought most of those things for the express purpose of getting rid of them with our stomachs. I should clarify that we had two friends to help--Boyfriend's brother and Minimalist Girl. The real seventh thing that we're getting rid of is a fake pearl necklace that I've had for some time and is quite pretty, but it's just not as pretty as some of my others so I never pick it to wear. I put it in the box of potential gifts.
  8. We have two little bottles that came in a sample set of different whiskeys from Balvenie. They're lovely and we've been holding on to them so we remember the name of the one we want to buy a full size of, but it turns out we can remember the phrase "Balvenie Portwood," so we're getting rid of the first bottle...
  9. ...and the second bottle, too.
  10. Once Upon A Time... I bought a sugarbowl at the Goodwill Outlet. You know, the place that sells by weight the stuff that Goodwill couldn't sell. I also bought a non-matching lid for this sugarbowl. Today, I decided I was DONE with that shit, and kissed those suckas goodbye.

The Minimalist Game, Part 5

December 8th
  1. I have two little bud vases on our living room altar/bookshelf. It's fitting that the altar is a bookshelf. There's a green ceramic one that I really like, but that doesn't change the fact that I never use it, it's taking up valuable space, and it only cost a dollar or something so if I ever have a bigger house and want it back I can do that at Walmart, but I hate Walmart so I probably won't and shouldn't, and really if I ever want another green ceramic bud vase I could finish this sentence but I'm just not
  2. The other one is clear glass and nowhere near as pretty as the other one I already decided to get rid of, so bye-bye clear glass bud vase.
  3. We've got one of those desk lamps that turn off and on just by touch, which is really cool until you try to use it on a small desk and you keep turning it off or making it brighter on accident. Plus, it's taking up valuable space on a desk that is way too full. It's time to say good-bye.
  4. I'm getting rid of one of my teacups, as it doesn't have a matching saucer and therefore I'll never use it. Bye-bye, teacup.
  5. I found a great big hair bow I made back in the early days of college. It's pretty cool, actually, but not my style anymore. It's giant (like probably 10 inches wide) and pink with black skulls on it and a great big (maybe 2 inches tall) black emerald-cut plastic gemstone in the middle. It's in the giveaway box.
  6. I also found an old watch. I don't know where I got it, it doesn't work, and I don't think I've ever worn it, so it's going.
  7. We had one of those stick-to-the-wall-bar-of-soap-holder-things, but it didn't stick to the wall and it didn't hold soap, so we're getting rid of it.
  8. We fell a little behind, so for our final thing for the 8th, we're pulling a tie from the tie pile. This particular necktie is really, really horrid. It's kind of maroon, and it looks like the carpet in a dentist's office, a hospital waiting room, or perhaps an elementary school library. It's covered in a mix of triangles and those shapes that look vaguely like brushstrokes. A truly awful tie is now out of our hands.
December 9th
  1. I thought they were dress shoes, but Boyfriend says they're costume shoes. They're way cool--faux snakeskin or patent alligator leather or something with gold toes and gold around the edges of the soles... but they are in way bad condition, so Boyfriend tossed 'em.
  2. I've got a CD of contemporary Country Western Swing made by the brother of a friend of mine. I hadn't opened it, so I googled it to see if I could listen to it online and find out if it's any good. It turns out that for what it is, it's pretty darn good, so I'll guess I'll advertise it: Tom Hunter's Square the Deal and you can listen to it/find it at Like I said, it's still in the plastic, and since it's actually pretty good but I know someone who will appreciate it more, I think I'm going to give it as a Christmas gift. Now that I've heard it, though, I'm actually feeling a little sad parting with it.
  3. I threw out two little paper pennant banners which I'm counting as one item. They're from when my shop was called Enchanted Treasures, but I'm revamping the whole thing and it's now called The Wandering Witch, so I have no use for little pennant banners that say "Enchanted Treasures."
  4. Boyfriend has a tape of Loafers' Late Bloomer and is ready to part with it.
  5. We have at least three large fuzzy blankets, so I think I'm getting rid of the lime green one. Lime green is one of my favorite colors, but on a blanket this electric shade of it is actually rather offensive. It doesn't look cuddly, even though it definitely is... but there are plenty more cuddly blankets. I think we own, like, twenty blankets.
  6. Which brings me to the next item. There's a kind of scratchy blue and white striped blanket that is a great combination of keeps you warm and isn't too suffocating, but like I said, it is really scratchy. We're getting rid of it.
  7. We've got some Japanglish Cram Cream Deco Tape with Ducks on it. That's all you need to know. That, and that the Boyfriend will use it up at work tomorrow.
  8. We're getting rid of a really shitty, broken multi-tool.
  9. I chucked a milk glass bud vase that I didn't even know I had because it was hiding behind a bunch of other things I probably don't need, like canola oil and a canister of utensils.
This is starting to get a little bit difficult, but not a lot. We've gotten rid of 9+8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1=45 things so far.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 4

  1. December 7th (I don't know why this is numbered, but I can't get rid of it.)

    1. We have a French Press and a Drip Coffee Maker. The French Press makes better coffee and we use it more often; the Coffee Maker takes up four times the counter space. The obvious decision here was to get rid of the Coffee Maker.
    2. I have a tiered cupcake stand. I got it at the Barter Fair and I really do kind of love it, but in light of the fact that I've had it for four and a half months, since then made muffins only twice and cupcakes not at all, and only used the stand to display one of those two batches of muffins, I'm willing to admit that the wiser decision is to get rid of it.
    3. Boyfriend has more Gamecube Controllers than we need, and one of our friends needs more Gamecube Controllers than he has, so we took one of ours apart, thoroughly cleaned it, and I painted it to be way cooler than it was and put it back together. I had a lot of fun putting it back together--it was like a puzzle box, because I had all the pieces and I really did pretty much know how they all went in (except the z button, which was tricky), but I had to very carefully reassemble it so nothing got broken and everything fit together like it was factory-fresh.
    4. I'm giving away the Deer Skull I painted to a dear friend for Christmas. I posted a picture of it before which you can find if you have more dedication than I do.
    5. We're getting rid of Boyfriend's Blue Bible. He says, and I quote, "Hail Satan."
    6. There's a beer bottle that I picked to be our candleholder for drip candles because it has a cool Mexican-Folk-Art-ish skull on it, and I guess it looks pretty cool, but who am I kidding? It's a beer bottle, and it's sitting right next to a real candleholder that I like way better.
    7. I got up to throw away the beer bottle covered in wax, and it was stuck to the saucer it was sitting on, so the seventh and final item for today is the saucer. It was part of a six-cup/six-saucer espresso set that's super cute, but one of the cups broke so I used the matching saucer to catch the wax. Now both parts are gone. Also, it didn't do a very good job of catching the wax. Drip candles are really messy. I'm probably going to have to spend the better part of an hour scraping wax off the top of that bookshelf tomorrow... or someday soon.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 3

We fell asleep on December 5th before we remembered to get rid of 5 things, so this morning (December 6th), we're getting rid of 11 things. Even so, I'll list them under their respective dates.

December 5th

  1. A charger and battery set we never use;
  2. another charger we never use;
  3. Boyfriend got rid of one miscellaneous item...
  4. ...and one other miscellaneous item...
  5. ...and a bag of old pipe tobacco.
He doesn't want me to tell you what 3 & 4 were, but there's no reasonable cause for him to be ashamed, he just thinks there is. And anyhow, now they're gone, so that's that.

December 6th
  1. I was actually not going to ask Boyfriend to get rid of his newly-acquired cookie monster hat, but I shot one glance at it and the stupidity of the item is so strong that my glance reflected off of it, and before I could say anything, Boyfriend said, "that hat can be one of our things."
  2. So Boyfriend did all 5 of yesterday's things AND the first of today's things before I could even open my mouth to steal the show, so the other 5 things for today have got to be me. I'm getting rid of my old laptop. Don't ask me why I still had it sitting around--this is why we're playing The Minimalist Game.
  3. I'm throwing out a book of photographs of antique bisque dolls that I had gotten for practically free and intended to use for collage purposes. I got as far as cutting out all the pictures, but I never did use any of them. I have set aside a few of my favorite pictures in a craft drawer, but the book itself is gone.
  4. I found a large river rock that some kid gave me at the Barter Fair, and threw it into the front yard.
  5. I have this really cool compact mirror that's printed like a purple eyeball, but the actual mirror is cracked and distorted, so I tossed it into the giveaway pile.
  6. I had this bag of non-smelly trash in my room that wasn't very full so I had kept it there thinking, "I'll take it out when it's full," but it's really just taking up valuable walking space, so I chucked it.
We're gone for the weekend, so the update for the 7th will probably come on the 8th, but that's how this has been going anyway.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Minimalist Game, Part 2

I said I wanted to keep you updated on The Minimalist Game, so here's what we've been getting rid of:

December 3rd

  1. I got rid of another clear glass vase that was just sitting out on a bookshelf...
  2. ...and a tiny white candleholder that was sitting next to it, for which I have never found a candle small enough to fit. Birthday candles are TOO small, chime candles are too big.
  3. Boyfriend got rid of a dead microphone that's probably been dead for at least 30 years.
This is easy now. I'm actually really excited for when it starts to get hard.

December 4th
  1. I had bought this organize-y thing at a thrift shop to hold my eyeshadow palettes, but the sections are too thin or my palettes are too thick, so it's just been sitting around. We do not have counterspace to waste, so I threw that in the box.
  2. We put on a vinyl of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain this morning, and it was unfortunately in terrible condition. The crackles were louder than the music, so that's gone. We tend to listen to the same favorite records over and over, so we've been going through our thrifted record pile and listening to the ones we bought for a dollar but have never listened to to see if they're any good, so a few more records may show up in the giveaway pile.
  3. I'm getting rid of a Santa necktie. I know what you're thinking--you can't get rid of one of Boyfriend's neckties and call it one of your things!--it's my necktie. My tie collection might be bigger than his. One of the reasons we moved in together was so that he could have access to my tie collection. There are ties I won't be getting rid of--my Linux tie, my Beatles Birthday tie, my Tabasco tie... and then there are the ties that I will be getting rid of. I went through all the ties today (his and mine) and picked out the ones that we don't like/never wear/only have because Boyfriend ended up with ALL of his dad's old ties from the '80s. Lots of geometric stuff. We'll draw from that pile throughout the Minimalist Game, but I chose to get rid of the Santa one first because I figure this is the time of year someone might actually want it. Boyfriend is supposed to be asking coworkers about it today. It's in great condition, but as neither Boyfriend nor I are Christian/particularly buy in to the whole Santa thing, I decided it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye, Santa tie.
  4. We threw out our bathroom trash can. Trash can in the trash. This is because Boyfriend never wants to put a trash bag in it and I'm never motivated enough to do it myself so a) it's gross and b) it's easier to just use a stand-up paper bag like we do for all our other trash cans. 

Boyfriend's brother has requested that he get first pick of the things we're getting rid of, but I don't think he'll want any of the early things. The pickings may start to get good later on in the month.

I did the math in my head last night, and we're getting rid of (32*15)+16=496 things. At least, if we make it the whole month. Looking at that number, I'm not sure we will make it that long, but we'll see. I happen to know that we have about 450 books, so I can kind of visualize that number in things... but we'll just have to see where the game takes us.

Our friend who's playing with us texted me last night to ask, if she got rid of a pack of blank CDs, did each individual CD count as an item. I said no, Boyfriend said yes. Since doing the math, I am inclined to say yes as well, at least for her. She's already a minimalist, so I'm not even sure why she's playing this game. She'll probably win before we do because a) she's only one person and b) she's one very minimalist person. Seriously, she's selling her computer and cancelling her internet for this game. That's the sort of thing I admire at a level that I cannot comprehend. She also moved here a year ago on a one-way trip in a sedan, and only just bought her first pieces of furniture. I think she's kind of convinced an economic apocalypse is coming, and is preparing accordingly.

I've long wanted to do a book-interview project where I record and transcribe interesting stories from the mouths and lives of apparently ordinary people who've had extraordinary experiences. Minimalist Girl is not an ordinary person--but if you worked with her you might never know she's a naturally lucid-dreaming, mildly psychic synesthete. You'd just know that she's brilliant, and perhaps that she's an extreme individual. I hope to include her in this future project.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Minimalist Game

Let's be clear: I am not a minimalist, and I don't really want to be a minimalist. I make jewelry, I craft, I sew. I like to acquire things, and I like to acquire other things to help me make more things. Things, things, things, things, things. I love making things and I really like having things... but here's the thing: I have too many things.

I've gotten into a habit of acquiring things as though I live in my mother's house. My mother's house is quite large and quite full of things. My mother likes things, too. I think I got it from her. While my mom's house is a bit disorganized and full of crap, you don't really notice because she has closets, boxes, a garage, cabinets, drawers, and a sewing room to store all that crap. All those things, I mean.

I don't live in my mother's house. I live in a one-bedroom, one-study apartment with my wonderful, loving boyfriend, and he likes things, too. Especially dead musical equipment. And with his love of dead musical equipment, working musical equipment, and beer bottles, and my love of cookware, clothes, candles, and things that could someday possibly be turned into other things, and our shared love of books, records, art, and weird neckties, we have TOO MANY GOSH DARN THINGS.

I love my things. This is what I have often told myself when I have started to feel that maybe I have too many things. It's not true, though. I do love some of my things, but I don't love all of my things, and this is something that aforementioned boyfriend has pointed out to me: when you have a bunch of things that fall anywhere on the spectrum between "vaguely cool" and "I don't even know why I have this," the actually awesome things get lost in the forest of not-so-awesome things and all you see is "things." When you get rid of the things you don't care about so much, the really cool things that you DO care about really get to SHINE. For this and many other reasons, I want to be a little bit more of a minimalist, which really means I want to be more honest with myself about which things are special to me/do I use versus which things could disappear and I would probably never even notice they were gone.

Aforementioned boyfriend told me about something called The Minimalist Game, and we started playing December 1st. The way it works is this: the first day you play, you get rid of one thing; the second day, you get rid of two more things; the third day, you get rid of three more things. You can donate, sell, use up, give away, throw away, or recycle the things. This probably sounds pretty easy, except that it keeps going. We intend to play for the entire month of December, which mean that there will come a day on which we get rid of 31 things--hopefully. Boyfriend and I are playing together, and there's another friend who's playing with us (she actually told us about the game). We may not get to the end of December, but I feel like if there comes a day where we look around and we really can't find a single thing we would be okay with getting rid of, then we will have won. So, you win when you can't play anymore. The only way you can really lose is by not playing. :)

We don't want to do a thrift shop run every day, so we're putting the things we choose to get rid of in boxes or bags to do a drop-off probably once a week.

I want to update you periodically letting you know what we choose to get rid of each day. So far, we've done December 1st and December 2nd, since we usually do this together in the evening.

December 1st: 

  1. I chose to get rid of an old glass vase. I originally paid probably less than a dollar for it at a thrift store because it was cheap and I was in a period of collecting clear and/or white dishes. To be fair, I'm still kind of collecting clear and/or white dishes, but I've started being picky. I haven't bought any for... three months? I'm feeling good about this.

December 2nd: 

  1. I suggested that Boyfriend get rid of a bottle that once contained a beer called Black Metal (I think) from Jester King Brewery (I think). The beer was extremely rare and probably delicious, but it's been gone from the bottle for several years now. The bottle was one of those things that's like, pretty cool for a beer bottle, but not actually that cool in its own right. Now it's gone. 
  2. Then, Boyfriend procured a fake rock from out of nowhere. We don't even have a spare key (he has one, I have one), so we certainly have no need for a fake rock. I don't even know where he got it, but it's gone now.
The biggest challenge so far has been waiting to get rid of things, because it's easy to find things now, but I suspect that it will start to get hard around December 15th.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pretty Pictures and Strange Prose

I am pleased to report that I am at a point in my computer graphics skills where I can turn a poorly lit photograph of a pencil-on-lined-paper sketch into this...
...which I can then turn into...

...a beautiful, full-color, fully-scalable vector image!
I know I'm tooting my own horn, but I feel pretty proud of myself.
Besides, who else's horn would I toot?

All this is over one of the textbooks I'm writing for the Three Sisters Learning Path, and my bad decision to start formatting it even though I'm only halfway through the content. I do tend to get carried away with formatting, which is what happened here. Any book needs a title page, so I looked up sample book title pages, only to find that they all had the publisher's logo displayed at the bottom! I knew I would be self-publishing, which meant... Three Sisters needed a logo that would look good on a title page. Well, here we are.

So now you know my secret. I'm writing a word family reader! But not a gross one... I hope.
I'm kind of disgusted by most of the word family readers out there. They all seem to be full of strange themes and garish pictures. I want this one to be fun to read, and without too much to distract from the words. Plus, I can't turn down thirty-something prompts for fun poetic exercises.

I know you're just itching to here some of the things I've written for the book. I'm not sure whether these are prose or poetry--I think they're something in between--but they're fun to write and read (at least I think so). Here are a few of my favorites:

Once there was a cat called Kate. Kate went on a date with a rat. The rat was late to the date. When the rat came, he sat on Kate's plate. Kate the cat ate the rat.

A sailor called Bill told a whale of a tale. He said he got his ship on sale and ate nothing but stale bread, kale, and pale ale. He sleeps on a bale of hay.

The Monster Mash is quite a bash. It's a bash I'd like to crash! Monsters flash and gnash their teeth, and all wear clothes that clash! They thrash on the dance floor and splash in the punch. You've never seen monsters act so brash! It's a mad dash to pay cash for a ticket to the Monster Mash.

I just hope my sense-of-humor is appropriate for first graders.
You'll be hearing more from me soon.

Three Sisters Learning Path

I've stated before that I'm writing a curriculum for private and home school whether Rainbow Spirit Academy happens or not, but I've been doing a lot of thinking on it lately and wanted to share my work with you.

I wrote a bunch about it a while ago, but just kept it to myself. Here are my original thoughts:


In a garden, weeds creep in to steal the nutrients the gardener gives to the plants he planted himself. The weeds must be removed so that the plants can grow. Many systems of education treat the arts as a weed which must be removed from the garden so that the intellect can flourish--or, at best, as an unnecessary luxury which drains resources from more important things.

At Rainbow Spirit Academy, we like to think of the arts as one of the three sisters--the three plants (corn, beans, and squash) which Native Americans often planted together to take advantage of their mutualistic relationships. The corn provides a trellis for the beans to grow on, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and the squash's big, floppy leaves shade the roots of all three, providing a living mulch for the soil in which its sisters grow.

The core curriculum most schools teach is merely the beans--just the facts, with maybe a sprinkling of practical experience and creative thought. At Rainbow Spirit Academy, we like facts--but they do not constitute a complete education. To really be prepared for life beyond school (and not just for the next tier of school!), you need a strong moral, spiritual, and creative backbone for the facts to grow on, as well as a thorough foundation of practical know-how to protect and make use of all that information and creativity.

The Three Sisters Curriculum and Educational Philosophy stems from that idea, so we focus on all three aspects of human learning and development. Each aspect is symbolically linked to one of the three sisters from Native American agriculture:

In a system where each of these aspects is treated as a crucial and inseparable part of a whole, individuals are encouraged to blossom into happy and productive members of their community.


I've decided to call it the Three Sisters Learning Path, though, instead of Three Sisters Curriculum. It sounds friendlier, more welcoming, and I think it's evocative of trailblazing, exploration, self-motivation, and self-guidance, whereas the word curriculum is so harsh. It IS a curriculum, but it's also definitely a way of learning... a learning path. 

More on 3Sisters soon.

Calavera Quartet

Ace of Spades - spraypaint and acrylic on canvas
Did you know American soldiers in the Vietnam War would leave battlefields littered with Bicycle Aces of Spades? Bicycle made them custom decks and everything, 52 aces of spades in every deck. Psychological warfare, yo. Talk about creepy.

Kishi Kaisei - spraypaint and acrylic on canvas
I took at least fifty pictures of this painting alone in various locations and lighting setups. I played with them in photo editors for HOURS. STILL the red looks too pale and the skull looks too blue, and the blacks are not dark enough.
This is named for the Japanese phrase that is repeated over and over in the background. It means "Out of death, into life."

Surprise Party - spraypaint and acrylic on canvas
I forget who it was that said death is a surprise party, but I liked the phrase enough to name a painting after it. This one might be my favorite of the set, but I think they're all my favorite for different reasons.

Widow Paris - acrylic and spraypaint on canvas
Named for Marie Laveau because the colors reminded me of New Orleans.
The crackles happened because I piled on the white paint super thick and then got really impatient and used a hairdryer to make it dry too fast, but I like to tell people I made it crackle on purpose. It ended up being one of my favorite aspects of this painting.

Project Update (with pictures!)

My rotating mini-gallery.
I call it rotating, but that's based on the assumption that I will make more paintings in this size and want to switch them out, or will maybe decide to sell one of these and be forced to paint something else or endure a gaping hole in the gallery. I've got a few more in this size but I don't like them as well, or the orientation is wrong, or they're not finished, or they just don't go together as well. I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.
It's worth noting that the mini-gallery is separate from the gallery wall in the hall. The gallery wall in the hall is mostly work that OTHER people have done, although it currently includes two pieces by me, both of which are pictured below.

Meditation 1 - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished
This is what started my whole recent painting binge. I saw this rainbow of colors in my head and I knew I wanted to paint it, so I pulled out my canvases and paints, and poured out a rainbow of colors. I blended them all together on the canvas, and before they had time to dry I painted whatever came to mind over it in white. I love the wet-onto-wet process, because the painter is definitely not in control--the paint is. It makes the whole process really relaxing and freeing. I'm not as happy with the end result of this one as I'd imagined, but I still like it and I want to try more like it in the future. 

Meditation 2 - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished
It's a shame I didn't get this one from a better angle, because I like it much better than Meditation 1.

Mountain Moon - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished

The Seaweed is Always Greener (In Somebody Else's Lake) - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished

Tree in Winter - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished
This painting and its partner (below) evolved by themselves. I knew I wanted to paint a black and white wet-onto-wet, so I coated the already-white canvas in white paint, got out my black, and started painting. I love the misty swirls that appeared in the air. I don't remember why I thought to do that. I say it's finished, but the crescent moon still bothers me because of how jaggedy it is. I will probably smooth it out, even though that will make it not totally wet-onto-wet.

Tree in Summer - wet-on-wet acrylic on canvas - finished

Squares - acrylic on canvas - finished (but unsigned?)
This canvas had a bunch of smeared paint on it because I was using it as a palette for another painting. Then I started using it as a palette for itself because I wanted to paint some colored squares (I was on a square kick from the black and white trees). I wasn't sure where this was going, but as it developed I fell in love with it. I think it's my favorite piece in my mini art gallery right now. The colors are much nicer in person, I promise.

Magic Hand - acrylic on canvas - finished
This was another one of those canvases that gets a background painted on it because I have a ton of leftover paint from something else, and then doesn't get touched again for several months. When I pulled it out, I somehow knew exactly what to do with it.

Widow Paris - 1 of 4 - finished
I made four beautiful calavera paintings but only photographed the one that's on my gallery wall in the hall. I have photographs of the others from before. Maybe I'll post those next. This one is called Widow Paris because that is what is written on Marie Laveau's gravestone, and the colors in this one remind me of New Orleans, and thus of the queen herself.

Tiger - Acrylic on Canvas - finished
At first I didn't like this one but it's been a few months and I've changed my mind. This was all wet-into-wet and all painted with one HUGE flat brush. I painted this a few months ago before my recent painting binge, and I remember sitting down with a photo of a tiger, a square canvas, some paints, and a paintbrush, thinking "I'm gonna paint this. I'm gonna paint this now, and I'm not gonna use any other brush, and I'm not gonna take a break. I'm going to do the whole thing right now." That was my challenge to myself. I had hoped it would have a little more texture, especially above the nose, but it bothers me less now than it did then.

Altered Bridal Ad - black and white acrylic paint - finished

Dr. Camelton - acrylic on canvas - unfinished
This one merits some explanation. This is a picture of an unfinished work (which is now finished but unphotographed) that is a commission for a text-based video game which is currently in development. The game is called Dinosaurs in Pakistan and you should play it on your iPhone when it comes out (and tell me all about it since I don't have an iPhone). This character is called Dr. Camelton, and he wears dual monocles. If you think the camel in the painting is crazy, you should see the written description I had to base him off of. For that, you'll have to play Dinosaurs in Pakistan. 

Goat Skull with Celtic-style knotwork - gold and black acrylic on bone - 3/4 view - finished

Goat Skull with Celtic-style knotwork - gold and black acrylic on bone - side view - finished

Goat Skull with Celtic-style knotwork - gold and black acrylic on bone - top view - finished

Deer Skull with Paint - peach, green, gold, and white acrylic on bone - finished

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tarot Deck Review - Mystic Faerie Tarot by Linda Ravenscroft & Barbara Moore

I am not the sort of person who usually likes the lighter Tarot decks on the market (lighter in mood or in color); I am also not the sort of person who ever buys a Tarot deck without having researched it and read thoroughly its reviews on However, I bought the Mystic Faerie Tarot deck and book set by Linda Ravenscroft and Barbara Moore on total impulse (before I realized it was a full moon!) and I could not be happier with my purchase.

First let me say that the colors on my printed set are richer by far than the washed-out colors I see in the scans on this site. Don't get me wrong, the art is watercolor after all, but the scans to me look to be overexposed, and the card art is stunningly beautiful. The borders are gold ink, which I thought was a really nice touch.

The box seems pretty solid for a folded paper tarot box, but I don't know yet how it will hold up over time. The gold organza bag for the cards is lovely and the perfect size--not so small you can't properly draw it closed or easily get the cards in and out; not so big the cards shuffle themselves around or get bent in it. The size of the book was a very nice surprise--I hate having to flip through the tiny booklets that come with most decks, and they're a pain to keep open when you're trying to read them. The Mystic Faerie Tarot companion book is the same size as the big box the whole set comes in, I would guess (but haven't measured) about 8x5 inches. It's a sturdy paperback with a nice, shiny, color-printed cover, and the text inside does not require a magnifying glass to read. Each card is printed at fully size or nearly full size before its accompanying text in the book, but they are all in black and white.

This purchase was a bit of a leap of faith for me, because (like I said) I hadn't heard of the deck, read reviews, or researched it at all, and the pictures on the box only showed major arcana cards, so I was a little afraid that the minors might not be fully illustrated. It felt right, however, so I bought the set, and was beyond pleased to find that not only are the minors fully illustrated with scenes, they might be my favorite thing this set has to offer. Let me explain.

Each suit of the minor arcana is designed around a faerie tale specific to that suit. The suit of Wands (represented by actual wands) tells a tale of enterprise, two faeries who embark on an adventure in search of a phoenix; the suit of swords (represented by rose thorns) tells a story of a magical blue rose and the faeries who care for it; the suit of cups (represented by water lily flowers) follows a nymph and an elf (two fae of different races) through their trying romance; and the suit of pentacles (represented by actual pentacles) follows a fae woman who, unable to find her village after getting lost in the forest, starts over on her own and is befriended by mice. The four stories do not all have strictly happy endings, which I did not expect from a faerie deck, but they do all have pretty much universally applicable morals, and they can be applied to the world of humans realistically. Sometimes it seems as if the meaning of a minor lines up with the Rider-Waite meaning of that minor, but I do not think this is the case across the board.

What this faerie tale layout means for the minors is that, because they are essentially illustrations to a story, they will be pretty difficult to read if you have not read (or do not remember) the faerie tales; happily, the stories are short, sweet, and easy to read. What I'm saying is you SHOULD read this companion book cover to cover, and you should do so before trying to read with the cards, which is not something I recommend with most companion books (or booklets, rather).

The concept of the deck as a whole, and the artist & author's stated reason for creating a faerie tarot deck is roughly this: the fae are in perfect balance with nature, which is (or should be) our goal as humans; but we are humans, not fae, and that is not something we can ever completely achieve. However, the fae can teach us what the ideal is, and how we as humans can come closer to achieving that, how we can live in better (if not perfect) balance with nature. This concept is incredibly well executed.

As the daughter of a doctor and a scientist, I have days where I begin to feel skeptical even about the Tarot (these days are rare and this always goes away, but still, they do come). It speaks to the quality of the concept and execution of this deck and book set that not once in my reading of the book or the cards did I feel the least bit silly taking and giving advice from faeries.

Now for the majors. The majors are also beautifully illustrated in rich watercolor and exquisite detail. There is a Priestess instead of a High Priestess, a Priest instead of a Hierophant, and The Hanged Fae instead of The Hanged Man. The meanings in this deck are slightly different than traditional Rider-Waite, so DO read the book first, but they make an immense amount of sense and will be easy to remember. My favorite cards from the majors in this deck are Strength (numbered 8, not 11), the Tower, The Moon & The Sun, and Judgement. This deck's Strength rides a dragon, which is related to the dragon in the story for the suit of wands. In this Tower, the structure is being taken over by nature in ALL directions, and the book offers one of the best explanations for the Tower I have ever read. The Moon & Sun have a beautiful parallel structure (both are represented by women fae whose hair becomes the orb they represent, and the book offers a beautiful explanation for this parallel structure that may change the way I read with other decks. The same sort of parallel structure thing happens with Priestess and Priest, and it is also really well done). I feel that the Judgement card in this deck is particularly strong because of the description offered with it in the book--judgement is a card that has always been difficult for me to relate to on a personal (rather than a bare mathematical understanding of the meaning), but this book makes it easy. This is the case for the whole deck--the cards are stunningly beautiful, and the book makes them ten times better by fulfilling your other four or five senses so that the meanings are forever linked in your imagination and memory. The slight twists on traditional card meanings which make them more appropriate to the world of the fae make them, I think, more relatable to me as well.

The court cards use Knave instead of Page, so you have: Knave, Knight, Queen, King. These run very true to traditional tarot meanings with each suit governing a particular part of human experience, and each rank possessing a certain level of maturity and experience in that realm.

The introduction to the book provides a really good basic understanding of Tarot and even introduces a few things that were good for me to hear again. At the end of the book are included a few original spreads, and I am especially interested to try Acorn to Oak (designed to show the best way to accomplish a goal) and the Birthday Sunflower Spread (meant to be read yearly and provide a general overview).

Overall, I highly recommend this deck for children and tarot beginners (the symbolism is easy to understand and really well explained in the accompanying stories and descriptions, and the stories will make learning the tarot easier and more fun) as well as for more experienced readers looking for a refreshing new perspective on tarot.

I wrote this review for its original appearance on

Tarot Deck Review - Gilded Reverie Lenormand by Ciro Marchetti

 The Gilded Reverie Lenormand by Ciro Marchetti is a stunningly beautiful, very solid, digitally-painted deck. The cards are 2.75 by 4 inches, bigger than poker size playing cards (2.5 by 3.5 inches), but not by much—and they are incredibly thick. The 36 cards together stack up to almost an inch. I think this is really nice. The cards have enough give that I believe they could be shuffled the way one shuffles playing cards, but I can't honestly say I've tried it—I prefer not to bend the cards I read with, personally. The gilded edges on the cards are absolutely stunning. I've heard some people refer to gold borders on these cards--this is incorrect. The borders are just as shown in the pictures here on Aeclectic: they fade to black. It is the edges of the card, the actual sides of the stock, that are gilded, not the border. That is to say, the gilding is on the third dimension. The gilding is more beautiful in person than I imagined, and is very reflective. The only downside to the gilding is that straight out of the box it is helping my cards stick together a little more than I would like them to for ideal shuffling. I assume this will fade with time (it's gotten better just over the past day or two), so I'm not worried, but I thought I should mention it.

There is also gold in the color printing on the cards' fronts (the numbered circle, playing card suit and number, and filigree corners) and backs (the circle and filigree ornamentation), but the gold on the faces of the cards is well-done photoshop artistry rather than gold ink or gold leafing. The whole of each card (front and back) is very glossy, but the gold-colored parts are no more shiny/glossy/reflective/etc than the other parts. In one final attempt at clarity, the gold on the faces of the cards, just like all the other imagery on the faces of the cards, is made up merely of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK).This is impressive rather than disappointing.

The card backs are perfectly reversible except for the (C)2013 US GAMES copyright text that appears only in the lower right corner. The backs have a beautiful, deep red, diagonally-checkered design that pairs beautifully with the same design in goldenrod tones on the inside of the box. The box, by the way, is one of the better examples of packaging for a deck (Lenormand, Tarot, or otherwise) that I have ever seen. It's a very sturdy cardboard box with magnetic closure that opens like a book. The paper used to print the box artwork has a smooth, leathery feel that I'm just about in love with. The cover of the box has a version of Marchetti's artwork for the Birds card, and the box (unlike the faces of the cards) DOES have gold foil accents on the birdhouse, lace border, the “G” and “R” in “Gilded Reverie,” et cetera. The box is exactly the right size to hold the cards, the 48-page LWB (Little White Book), and nothing else, which I think is perfect. There's no cardboard support inside for the sole purpose of taking up space, which is good because it means there's no cardboard support to get smushed and let your cards move around all over the place. This is also good because it means the box is small enough to fit comfortably in even a rather small purse or a large clutch.
The included LWB is good enough for most purposes—I'm certainly totally happy to accept it instead of a full-size book, the tradeoff being the beautiful, condensed packaging. It starts with an introduction by Tali Goodwin, followed by a note from Ciro Marchetti. Each card description has a short vignette (some of them with some rather poorly-written rhymes, but I'm willing to ignore that) written in the first person from the card's point of view (by Rana George), followed by a further description written by Tali Goodwin. The vignettes and descriptions have been edited and approved by Ciro Marchetti to reflect his personal feelings on the deck. Here, as an example, is the text for card 1, The Rider:

“I am always bringing news, look around me to see what it includes. I might be coming to visit or bringing you some changes. I am fast and always on the move. If you see a negative card close by, you will probably not enjoy the reply.

“The Rider of the Lenormand brings news. It is the first card and announces new things. In the Gilded Reverie deck, we behold a dreamy female Rider who sits astride a carousel horse; the horse who in fairy-tale stories is the conveyer of messages. She may even be Iris, the Greek messenger of the Gods.

“The fastened messenger bag across her shoulder may be suggestive of additional messages for different destinations along her night's voyage. In her hands she grasps a white envelope, a letter that is out of the bag and ready to be delivered for the current reading. The carousel is the ideal metaphor, as this card is a new cycle being initiated and an ending of the old state. The ups and downs of the carousel also symbolize the magical flight that powers this messenger to its destination. Freed from the ever revolving 'merry-go-round of life,' whose circular motion is also defined by the laws of physics as acceleration, our rider symbolically reflects the pace and speed of information by which our lives are increasingly affected.”

The LWB finishes with three spreads, each with an accompanying sample reading: the “Simple Nine-Card Spread” by Tali Goodwin, “The Fortune-Telling Day Spread” by Tali Goodwin, and “The Chocolate Bar Spread” by Rana George. The Nine-Card Spread is particularly useful for readers just getting used to Lenormand, and The Fortune-Telling Day Spread is meant to help you track and improve your reading accuracy with daily readings each morning. The Chocolate Bar Spread is one of those spreads that seems totally valid and sensical except that I can find not a single explanation for what it has to do with chocolate, so the whole thing ends up feeling kind of odd to me. You may find this useful or endearing—to each his/her own. Should you be unsatisfied with the included LWB, a 140-page .pdf companion book in full-color is available for purchase and download on Marchetti's own website ($1.50, I have not purchased it, but am likely to do so soon.

One final note on the LWB—this would normally be a note about the cards, but the cards themselves are only numbered, not named, so the names of the cards only appear in the LWB. For the cards that sometimes vary in exact name, I give their names here: card 9 is “Flowers,” 11 is “Birch/Broom,” 20 is “Park,” 22 is “Choice,” 28 is “Man,” 29 is “Lady,” and 30 is “Lilies” (plural). Now for the actual cards!

The art on the cards is absolutely gorgeous. I am not partial to digital artwork, and while much of Ciro Marchetti's other work is objectively beautiful and well-done, I don't feel drawn to it or necessarily like it. This deck is different. There is something more traditional, I think, about the basic imagery in this deck, that makes for something very beautiful when that traditional imagery is treated the way Marchetti has done. The images seem simultaneously to pop off the surface of the cards and to lie behind the surface of the cards, as if in a diorama or behind a window. Someone else said these cards almost appeared to glow as if they were lit from behind. It is true.

A note to those who rely on the playing card correspondences on Lenormand cards: card 18, the Dog, is incorrectly attributed in this deck to the 10 of Spades, rather than the 10 of Hearts. The 10 of Spades is also (correctly) attributed to card 3, the Ship. I am given to understand that future printings of this deck will have this corrected, but if this bothers you greatly, you may want to hold off for now and wait for a later printing. I personally am not bothered by this small error, and I find it rather endearing that the error occurred on the Dog, so loyal and eager-to-please. I have actually let the knowledge of this error color my impression of the dog card and the way I interpret it in readings, and I like that. It could also make for a very interesting interpretation if and when both 10s of Spades show up in combination.

The illustrations on each card are very detailed, in addition to being very beautiful. The Clouds card, 6, is a particularly great example of this, with the bright half of the clouds being dotted with soaring birds, and the dark half broken with lightning striking the tree of the previous card. What this has meant in my readings so far is that while the key to reading these cards is usually in being very literal and reading right off the surface, the layers of imagery underneath can also contribute meaning when the top layer isn't quite enough. For example, behind the Key (33) sits a birdcage which houses a rose; and the Child (13) contemplates a storybook from which blooms a castle, a rainbow, a doll, a ball, a spinning top, and several blocks, which display the letters CM and GRL—standing for Ciro Marchetti and Gilded Reverie Lenormand. You might guess from this that Marchetti has hidden his initials (CM) in every card, and you would be correct.

On top of being very detailed and very beautiful, this deck is very enjoyable and easy to read. I have performed several successful readings for myself and others since receiving this deck, and I look forward to a long journey together.
I wrote this review for its original appearance on