Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wii Fit Review

I'm going on day 35 of using my Wii Fit and I've at least weighed in all but 5 days. I'm also eating a lot better and I'm tracking diet and activity with a great Internet program called Fit Day. Results: I'm down almost 8 lbs. since I started the diet (a week before I got the Wii fit).

Thinking of getting one? I do recommend it, more for the balance board than the program itself, which leaves some to be desired. First, it's quite obnoxious about telling you how fat you are (every day you start out as a twig and then your Mii ballooons up to your weight, which looks fat even if you're normal, and if you're in the "obese" range it makes this roly-poly circus elephant tune and the board proclaims "That's obese!" as if it's surprised), and isn't terribly encouraging. The trainers are repetitive and uninspiring - the best trainer in the game is the punching bag on Rhythm Boxing. Every day it wants you to do balance and agility tests, but it doesn't track actual results, only the esoteric "Wii Fit Age" (a concept I never understood - I surely don't feel the 30ish it tells me I am). I would also prefer on a lot of the games to be able to look at MY best scores, not the best my 16-year-old tennis playing son can do. The other thing that annoys me is the fact that I can't just set up a workout and do it. I have to stand around clicking the A button while I listen to the trainer say the same things he/she has said the last 35 days, or I move in and out of aerobic games while my heart rate drops.

Still, every day I warm up with my favorite yoga and strength exercises, and then go to aerobics to do a little hula hoop (very little, my knees don't like it at all), regular and advanced step, and then Rhythm Boxing (my favorite) workouts, all of them in order, and then cool down with a balance game or two. It gives me about 40 to 60 minutes of exercise, 20 to 30 of it aerobic.

Great things about Wii Fit -
  • The balance board has tremendous potential. More on this later.
  • It's nice to have a way to track your weight, and your activity, although the FitDay program linked above has much better options for this, including a line that tracks what your progress should be to reach your goal.
  • It's fun. Even if you only do balance games, you're up and moving. Fun while exercising is not something I've had a lot of, excepting things like hiking, dancing and horseback riding, which I can't do on a daily basis really.
  • It gets you thinking about exercise. Even if you don't want to play games for exercise every day, you want to get your exercise in, so you go for a walk, take the stairs, get your family moving with you.
All that said, I am VERY much looking forward to a new exercise system coming out for Wii that uses the balance board (although the preview vid doesn't show much of that) and also seems more comprehensive in targeting body areas and cardio. You strap a nunchuk to your leg so it tracks what your lower body is doing and isn't as focused on balance as Wii Fit is. It's called EA Sports Active. Check out the preview on Amazon. A "new 20-minute workout every day" sounds great to me. I've also heard that My Fitness Coach is a good program, and I hope to pick that up at some point too, to give me some variety when the Tennessee summers get too hot and humid to think about exercising outside much.

Monday, March 30, 2009

FAE Calendar

You really need to check out the Fantasy Artists of Etsy 2009 Calendar available from Cafe Press. Each month has a beautiful background picture done by one of our artists, along with feature work from several others, from chainmaille to art dolls to fairy doors to potions to really just about anything fantasy-related. In short, you're getting a whole bunch of beautiful works of art for only $15.99.

Search "faeteam" on Etsy for a glimpse of the amazing talent the team has to offer.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Teams Rule!

I really am going to do this one weekly. No really. See, I belong to some of the awesomest teams on Etsy and I thought I'd feature one item from each of them weekly. Since I'm on an odd number of teams I'm throwing one in at the end that I wish I was cool enough to be on.

Wire Artisans Guild - Twelve Rays Ring by Pippi Jewelry (go LOOK at the band! It's amazing!)
Chainmaillers' Guild - Rainbow Necklace Spiral Weave by Fun Toys For Kids (this is a new guild member... I am SO impressed with his work and photography. He's 11.)
Fantasy Artists of Etsy - Empress Wrist Cuff by Craisfrod Leather (I want half the stuff in this shop!)
Twitter Team - Ferns and Daisies Card by RoseBushDesigns (cute!)
Etsy Bloggers - Sally the Seal Bead by NanjoDogz (not only the most adorable critters, but one of the nicest people on Etsy)

[Cool team of the week that I'm not on] WHOA team - Draft Horse in Harness Print by Cindy Price Art (WHOA team sneaks in because I won the giveaway on their blog! Look at the pretty Saddlebred ACEO I won from Gail Ragsdale, and definitely check out her shop :) ]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Want... Wednesday

I want for the week: What do you want to change about the medical industry?

Oh lordy. Where to begin on that one. Well, for starters, I've worked in the medical industry as a transcriptionist for the past 12 years. In those years, I've seen control of patient care go from doctors to insurance companies. Your doctor doesn't decide what medications you take anymore, the almighty dollar does. And your doctor has to fight them if you need something else.

I haven't got insurance. I have a dozen things I'd have gone to a doctor for months or years ago if I had insurance. My #1 issue in the last presidential primary and election was definitely health care. So...

1) I want insurance!

I want to find out why I'm tired all the time. I want to get the sore in my mouth I keep biting taken off, I want my broken Achilles' tendon fixed so I can be active again without pain. I want to not live in fear that if something awful happens to me or any of us my family will never recover financially.

2) I want insurance for everyone.

No one should be denied health care. I just finished this book, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (fantastic read by the way). It's a childhood horror story of poverty and a father who couldn't keep a job for a drinking problem. But by golly, when they got sick they went to the doctor, both in America and Ireland. Health care is a basic human right. Yes, I'm talking socialist health care for those who can't afford their own policies. Yes, I said the S word. Yes, I'm willing to contribute to the pot so people who are less well off than I am can get taken care of.

3) Drug companies are out of control. I wish they would be reined in, and drug advertising was seriously regulated and possibly banned.

Not everybody who's sad needs an antidepressant. Not everyone who has high blood pressure needs high blood pressure medication (diet and exercise do wonders!). Not every child who misbehaves needs ADD medication (discipline is a great thing!). But you can hardly watch a TV show without some drug company telling you that you need their medication to make your life better. Sci fi has had a field day with this mentality many times over. If we could drug away all our problems, would it be a good thing? Don't get me wrong, I believe pharmaceuticals are a great thing in their place. I just think it should be my doctor's idea for me to have it, not some industry's.

Now we get into stuff that's more "I wish" than reality.

4) I wish research didn't have to be driven completely by money.

Alternative medicines and therapies are bashed because their efficacy isn't scientifically proven. But no one's going to get rich off scientifically proving the efficacy of most of them, and as a result no one will fund the research to prove it. So they'll remain off the radar, sometimes somewhat shady. But a lot of people could probably benefit from some of them. I wish (want) research to be done sometimes for the good of mankind, not for profit. I know, it's a silly dream.

I wasn't sure what to write about today so I went over to I Want... Wednesday (click the icon to go to the site). The topics are usually the kind of stuff I can write dreamy, poetic posts. Not today. But it's been a while since I assaulted you with public service announcements, so there you are.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fairy Garden

I said I'd do a weekly installment for a few weeks on gardening.  This week, I'm going to suggest a few things that might be perfect for a garden to attract the wee folk. 

Gardening moss?  Never heard of such a thing.  But when I read the listing... cool!  You can use it to fill in unsightly cracks in your driveway, between stepping stones on a walkway to your door, or make a pretty little rock garden with fairy houses in a bed by your front door that will require very little maintenance.  I LOVE this idea.

The seller's daughter says these look like fairy wands.  I must agree.  Wonder if they'd grow in my moss garden?   Best thing:  they're annual.  (I really hate things I have to buy every year).

Tough call, here... there are lots of really cool fairy doors on Etsy (try a search some time... they're fascinating to me).  In choosing I wanted:  1)  Something that can go outside, 2)  Something that didn't look like a dollhouse door, something sort of organic and fae, and 3)  Love to feature one of my fellow FAE team members.  This pretty door by TaraLinnea fills the bill perfectly (although I had a hard time choosing from the several in her shop!)

I went on a hunt for a green man.  You can't have a fairy garden without a green man.  I was actually surprised at the lack of green man plaques (what I initially intended to feature here) on Etsy.  But this... this is PERFECT.   Want to grow some mint in your fairy garden without it taking over the garden?  Put it in here.  He'll take good care of it.  I absolutely adore the earthy, natural look of this pot. 

There are lots of other treasures on Etsy in this theme.  Take a look for yourself!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Student Work

Yesterday I taught my first wire wrapping workshop with a lady I know from craft fairs (she does face painting) and two of her friends. They had some experience tinkering with wire but, in her words "we always end up gluing it." I'm proud to say none of these were glued :) They are all stones that they had and wanted to do something with. Turns out most of their problem was that they were using half-hard wire. Maggie was so excited "I finally made something pretty!" and that's a great feeling, for me and for her.

I think I have contributed three more addicts to the wiring world.

I'll probably be getting together with these ladies on a regular basis to teach various techniques. I also have an opportunity to join a gallery that is opening here in White County and to use the facilities they intend to have for teaching crafting classes - and participate in learning other crafts (the company that is opening it is a pottery company and I think I'd love to play with clay on a wheel - everyone knows there's no end to my creating ambition). Frankly, I feel like somewhat of a newbie myself so I'm not sure I'm qualified, but I am eager to share what I know and partake in that incomparable feeling of a creativity-charged atmosphere. Anyone who's taken an art or craft class with other willing participants (meaning, not in high school) will know what I'm talking about.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Muse's Return

Tangaroa by Second Renaissance

Well, I finally got an idea for my Emerald Isle contribution this month. It's still in progress and I'm not telling what it is :) I also got the urge to maille a whole lot and have been cranking out bracelets (why is it, whenever I try a new weave, it turns into a bracelet?). I can't find my sketch book but the doodle sheet at my desk is working overtime. And I signed up for CWJ's Year of Jewelry inspirations and have ideas for the first several. Ideas, yay! I also finally settled down and photographed a bunch of my stuff yesterday so expect to see lots of new listings in both shops over the next few days (including the bangle above, named after a Maori god of the sea, and the cuff below).

Aurelia by Second Renaissance

My shops are undergoing something of a re-organization. I've decided to move most of the wire work to Second Renaissance (except for ear cuffs, circlets, and anything else that has more of a Renaissance feel... I know, it's kind of ironic). There they'll be joined by Obsession Number Three -- bead weaving. I've done four of these peyote cuffs in other people's patterns, and the next one I do will be my own design. Like chainmaille, these have to be touched to be fully appreciated. I'm also doing some net-weave chokers that will have a very Victorian feel.

Projects on the bench and in the doodle pad:
1) Secret Emerald Isle item - See The Wire Artisans Guild blog and be blown away by the ones already there, or the guild Flickr page
2) Secret Romance Blossoms entry for The Chainmaillers' Guild spring contest
3) More braided wire bangles and viking knit in colors, copper and silver
4) My first Year of Jewelry contribution, based on this painting by Katushika Hokusai
5) In the process of graphing my first original design peyote cuff
6) Finishing a net-woven necklace with Swarovski crystals in amber and wine - ordered the wrong color crystals though.
7) Whatever chainmaille strikes my fancy :) I'm doing a beaded choker in electric blue enameled copper at the moment.

For sneak previews of all the new items that will be headed to my shops in the near future, check out my Flickr page.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


DragonFire copyright Cari Buziak of Aon Celtic Art

You might not be wearing green, and you might not be having corned beef and Irish whiskey (or green beer) for dinner, but if you're at all artistic I'm willing to bet you've admired Celtic knotwork. I've bought a lot of books on illumination and knotwork, but so far none of them are as good as Cari Buziak's site, Aon Celtic Art.

If you've ever wanted to learn to do knotwork (I DO!!), there are fantastic free tutorials at Aon, and if you're serious about it you can do a distance-learning apprenticeship to learn how to do amazing stuff like she does. Or, if you think you just haven't got the patience and talent to do it yourself, you can order her clip art CD. If you'd like to incorporate some knotwork into your craft but don't want to spend the time to draw it yourself, she also has cross stitch and bead weaving patterns (the spiral bracelet is freeware!).

Or, just buy yourself something pretty for St. Patrick's Day. Check out her Celtic jewelry, t-shirts and posters (and more!)

By the way, the Gaelic toast "Slainte" is pronounced roughly "slancha" and means "good health." In closing I give you a few good Irish blessings:

May you get all your wishes but one,
So you always have something to strive for.

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The insight to know where you are,
and the foresight to know when you've gone too far.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March's Etsy Blogger: Designs by Nora

Mabel's Purse by Designs by Nora

There's a purse worthy of bashing some uppity youngster over the head a la Vicki Lawrence! :)

Designs by Nora has handcrafted leather purses (the one above is not representative of all of them), and really cute stud earrings made of polymer clay. Check out her shop, and also her blog, which is full of interesting musings, and a recipe for Napoleons. I am thankful the Napoleons aren't in the room right now, because the diet would go out the window.

Congrats Nora :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mary Mary, Quite Contrary

The first in a weekly series.

Eating better and exercising, along with the first breath of spring that has swept over Tennessee this week, has caused the gardening bug to bite.  (Update:  after less than a month I'm down 6 pounds and 1 pants size, yay!)  I got my Burpee seed catalog last week, and I confess I love Richter's herbs, but it occurred to me to take a peek at what Etsy has to offer potential gardeners.  As it turns out, quite a bit.  This week I'm going to highlight heirloom vegetables and herbs, but in future weeks look for posts on flowers, the fruits of garden labors, and gardening gadgets.

What the heck's an heirloom vegetable?  It can be any cultivar (variety) of a plant that was grown during earlier periods in human history.  I first heard this term when my (step) grandfather found his family's heirloom tomato in a seed catalog.  For me, the Soldacki tomato was just what homegrown tomatoes looked like, but grandpa has been cultivating the seeds of the same tomatoes his family brought from Poland around 1910.  About ten years ago he gave some seeds to someone, and now they're available from many seed distributors and even on  Go figure :)  For the record, they're a meaty "beefsteak" variety that slices really well and is great on sandwiches and burgers. 

I'm dreaming of salads made colorful and tasty with this romaine variety.  Is it not gorgeous?  I'll quote from the listing for this:  "The nice thing about growing an heirloom variety of seed is that you can save some of these seeds, and they will grow "true to type" for future use."

Mamaw's Sweetest Cantaloupe Heirloom Seeds from Smokymist Gardens

I'm a little afraid to try to grow cantaloupe, mostly because I can pretty easily eat a whole one in a sitting.  This picture has me craving it badly!  The seller tells a story about trading seeds with her mom and finding this gem.  Wow, that's so cool!  Cantaloupe is the nectar of the gods, I think.  I might have to pick up a few of these seeds if I can carve out the space for a melon patch.

These aren't your perfectly round, perfectly red-orange, mostly flavorless grocery store tomatoes.  These are massive, lumpy, tasty, home grown tomatoes.  And think how cool they'd look in a salad, or on a burger, or best yet -- salsa!  Like my grandfather's tomatoes, these are hefty (though not quite as hefty - the description says 8 to 12 oz. whereas Soldackis are generally a meaty one pound).  Best of all, they're higher in antioxidants than orange tomatoes.  And if you grow them right, free of pesticides.  Check out The Bearfoot Shaman's other heirloom varieties, too.

Not strictly heirloom, I had to add some herbs because I don't grow a garden without them.  If you do, reconsider.  There is NOTHING like fresh basil and oregano and parsley to jazz up the flavor of a salad.  Mint tea is amazing iced.  You can't do your own salsa (which I highly recommend over the jar variety) without fresh cilantro.  Sage is made for chicken, and rosemary for potatoes.  This mix has all but the rosemary and mint.  The great thing about growing herbs is that you don't need a garden.  A sunny window or a few pots on the patio will do just fine.  Just make sure they get their water every day.

Happy gardening, and happy spring (almost).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, I Hate You

Love her or hate her, no one can deny that Barbie dolls are a successful business. Today is Barbie's 50th birthday. She doesn't look like she's aged a day. She's not sagging ANYWHERE. No grays, either. (50th anniversary Barbie pictured above).

That chick's been everywhere and done everything, too. Check out where you can see a gallery of collectible Barbies (I confess, the world culture Barbies are kind of cool).

I personally have had a love-hate relationship with her for most of my life. I've never been much of a doll person, really. Dolls' function for me was to ride my model horses, and that was NOT Barbie's strong suit; her legs would invariably fall off and her skin-tight pants are a PAIN to get on and off to perform emergency hip surgery. I had a few other dolls with rotating hip sockets that rode sometimes, but more often than not my Breyers had imaginary riders (although very real tack and feed, for which cream of wheat and dried grass were great).

Anyway, back to Barbie. Some fun Barbie facts for you:

  • Barbie's had more careers than you have fingers and toes, reportedly more than 80. They include rock star (of course), astronaut and more surprisingly, presidential candidate.
  • Army Barbie was meant to be a sergeant in Desert Storm and came out in 1992.
  • She's sold in 150 nations.
  • If you put Barbie and her buxom and genderless-male pals head to toe (all the ones sold in the last 50 years), they'd circle the earth 7 times.
  • Two of these blondies are sold every SECOND somewhere in the world. Yikes.
  • Barbie didn't make African-American or Hispanic friends till 1980.
  • She has 43 pets including 21 dogs, 12 horses, 3 ponies, 6 cats, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a panda, a lion cub, a giraffe and a zebra. Don't try transporting that chimp over state lines, Barbie. Not legal anymore. And why the heck you have 15 equines, when you cant ride them, and I have none?
  • Her full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. Millicent? No wonder you don't tell.
  • Doll collecting is second only to stamp collecting on the collecting scene.
  • She's had close to one billion fashions made for her, which makes Mattel one of the largest apparel manufacturers in the world (which means this dosen't count off brand clothes, yikes!). Unfortunately, when her clothes get to her new house, nine times out of ten one shoe is lost.
  • Barbie pink is really a color.
  • The first Barbie sold for $3. An original collectible in mint condition has gone for $10,000. Did you save those Barbies you had when you were a kid? Mint condition? All the shoes?
  • She got a belly button in 2000, making her the only person to be born without one, I imagine.
  • If you enlarged Barbie to the size of a normal human, she'd be 7 feet tall, weigh 125 lbs., and have a shape of 32-2o-42. As a result she's been criticized for creating an unrealistic body image as ideal in the minds of millions (billions?) of girls. This didn't happen to me. I'd rather be able to ride a horse (and not be 7 feet tall!).
In closing I'll just say I don't REALLY hate Barbie. I don't particularly care for the unrealistic body image thing, although I don't give it a lot of responsibility for creating the body image problem that exists for women. On the plus side, she has been a lot better than Disney has for portraying women as capable humans who can do just about anything. She gets two thumbs down for the race thing, though (really, Mattel, what took you so long?).

Thursday, March 5, 2009


My son Brandon turned 16 today. I took him to the driver's testing station. He passed with pretty much flying colors. The top picture was taken about 2 years ago, the second recently. Wow. My baby (I don't really think of him as my baby, but remembering when he was is so easy) is driving, talking about college and careers... where did the years go?

Big transitions make you think about that time in your life. I can almost remember what it felt like the first time I got in the car and took off by myself. It was freedom in its purest essence. Alone, and with all the world within my reach. As long as I stopped at the store and picked up the flour mom needed on the way back.

Soon enough that road will take him to his future and out of the nest. If you have little ones, don't waste any time that you could spend with them. Even without missed opportunities, the years are gone in a blink.

As he stood in line waiting for his license to print, he grinned at me and said, "I'm free." "Not yet you're not," I said, but in reality, those years with a car of your own, before you take on a bunch of bills of your own (and kids of your own) are about as free as a human being ever gets.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


We're all just flickers against the backdrop of the world turning slowly in space. What will you do with your flicker of time, this day, this lifetime?

(Check out more of this amazing Dutch photographer's work by clicking on the link at the bottom of the video)