Sunday, May 22, 2011

That's right, folks! It's Blog Award time!

Wheeeee! I've got another blog award :) That makes me happy! Why? Because it means people are ACTUALLY READING these posts! Also, it makes me a little stressed... because people are actually reading these posts!!! What must you all be thinking?

But enough of that! Now on to the fun part! The award :)

Thanks a heap to my friend Julie over at her blog, rosewood pencil box., for giving me this award. She's a wonderful writer, a delightful friend and I enjoy following along with her on-line musings. You should all go visit her blog right now, say hi, and laugh at her jokes.

Now I'll perform the feat of mental gymnastics required to give you seven little known facts about me (that are different from the seven you got with the last award...)


1. I am a re-reader, and a re-watcher... if there is a story I like... and sometimes if there is a story I'm not sure I liked/understood, but that I feel like I should have liked/understood... I will revisit it many times. In fact, I try to absorb the story's characters, motifs, soundtrack (even books have a virtual soundtrack in my mind), everything I can about it. Some people find this habit amusing, others find it dull (if you already know what's going to happen, why bother, right?)... what can I say? It's that part of me that loves escapism in movies and literature...

2. I love movies with a heroine named Eli(s/z)abeth in them. And there are precious few, believe you me. The main movies I love with heroines named Eli(s/z)abeth are Pride and Prejudice (the BBC one with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. If you've never seen this, put it in your Netflix queue RIGHT NOW. I'm not kidding.) and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (Number 3, At World's End, is my favorite of those. Number four was a predictable let-down. It also did NOT have "Will" and "Elizabeth" in it).

3. I am incapable of being late. I mean... it's not a complete impossibility, but if I am late it usually has to do with circumstances outside my control... and results in me having a moderate to severe anxiety attack. I have tried to be late before... when this happens, I usually arrive at my destination EXACTLY on time... or 2 minutes early. Seriously, can't be late.

4. I don't like to share food. Actually, this is an urban legend. I don't mind sharing food. I just don't like sharing ... shall we say... unexpectedly.

5. Loosely related to number four... I love cooking for people. I think it's because I love having people in my house and making them feel at home. I greatly enjoy making way too much food and making sure everyone has eaten as much as they possibly can, with the left overs wrapped up for them to take home. I so much want people to enjoy what I make for them to eat that I will do a practice run on new recipes that I want to try before I feed them to people (unless you're Noah and Lori, and then you just have to suffer through the taste test... not too many duds yet, though).

6. I have a journal collection. You may be thinking to yourself, "She's a writer. Typical." But no... I don't have a collection of completely filled journals. I have a collection of journals that I have written a few pages in and then forgotten about (i.e., put on a shelf and not continued with). I have to audibly tell myself not to buy them when I'm in bookstores... or any place journals are sold. People around me probably think I'm crazy... and they're probably right. I think it's the unrealized potential of the blank pages in a prettily bound book that makes me desire them so. And it's the sting of having some unknown psycho actually read and leave written comments in them ( happened. broke into my room during college orientation, ransacked it and defaced my journal) that has kept me from actually being able to stick to writing in one since then. But I so want to... so I keep buying them... and hoping that one day I'll write in them again.

7. I like tofu. Never thought I'd actually say that... I mentioned in the last blog award list that I'm vegetarian. Have been for over a year... and I now regularly eat and enjoy tofu. :)

I have only started following a few new blogs in the past months. Of those, only two would likely receive/respond to this award. Of those, one (rosewood pencil box.) just presented me with this award. :) So that leaves one more.

Science and life and a small bucket of crazy... is a blog by a woman I greatly admire. She's a brilliant scientist, an awesome mom, and a talented horsewoman. I met her when she jumped in to fill an instructor role for my beginning riding class at UC Davis. She's a great teacher, and though we live on opposite sides of the continent now I'm glad to call her a friend. Make sure you stop by her blog and say hi.

(For a list of blogs I noted last time, see here.)

Alrighty then... off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday... I'm thinking nap. You?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Demon slaying

Something has been bothering me the past week or so, and I thought I'd just get it out there... see how other people react to what I have to say. Maybe I'm over reacting, but I'm so over that right now...

If you know me very well, you probably know that since I was young I have wanted to be a writer (also, a vet, a dolphin trainer, a horse breeder, a dog trainer, a  missionary, ... this list could be long). But seriously, I started creating stories in elementary school. I have a love for literary escapism that is seconded only by my love for my husband and the life I'm making with him... and it's a tough battle for that top spot. :)

About a year ago, Noah took a job that has allowed me the liberty to practice the craft I've been so eager to spend every waking second on. I really can't mention enough how amazing that is... to be given this opportunity to just be and to pursue my dreams... to figure out what those dreams are, even.

The thing is, it's been hard! The most consistent work I have done towards that dream of being a writer happened in November. November was a fantastic month (NaNoWriMo) when I got a LOT of copy written on a novel idea I've had since High School. (No seriously, I have the original spiral notebook, complete with pencil sketches) But it was tiring and frustrating as it was motivating, because I realized some things about my original manuscript, and about my own personal character that have made this particular work a challenge (no, sorry, not going to detail either of those realizations). I am determined to complete it, though... if for no other reason than to put it to bed and move on.


Someone tried to poke a hole in my ambition the other day by telling me that maybe I just wasn't suited to writing because it takes too much effort. And... that really bugs me. Because, as an American I've been raised to believe that I can do anything I put my mind to... in some ways I don't actually agree with that tenet of our society. If we could all be famous or geniuses at something we would all be ordinary... a self-defeating tenet it is that... But! If the journey is the object, then I think anyone willing to fail and try hard to do something they love or deeply desire to do should be encouraged to reach for their dreams.

Ok. So. Writing is not so easy for me right now. I don't wake up brimming with ideas and passion so searing that I have no choice but to sit down and pound out my innermost thoughts, creating fantasy and/or real worlds that I can't keep inside any longer. I think it's a flaw in my own character. A flaw that has made me somewhat reticent... which is not good for my writing mojo.

image borrowed from here.

That said, just because it's super hard for me right now does NOT mean that I should not be doing it... that because it doesn't come easy for me it's not what I'm meant to do. I refuse to believe that! I refuse to let go of the dream. Sure there are other things that come more easily to me. And instead of sitting here in front of a blank screen with a blinking cursor I will spend time on those things as well... to try and face the demons from an oblique angle. No point in beating my head against the wall.

But don't tell me it's just not for me... don't insult me by pointing out that my star is not shining as brightly as the rest. Because, baby, it's Shining. Period. And I'll make do with that for now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blogfest 2011 (aka another way to set and accomplish goals via virtual accountability)

Stolen directly from Miss Bess Weatherby's blog: "On June 6, 2011, I'm going to post my goals for this summer -- what I plan to get done between June and September while we turn on the fans, avoid the subway platforms and allow New York to fall in a sun-slumber."

I'm always looking for ways to move projects forward... to feel like I'm accomplishing something... and accountability/encouragement goes a long way. I'll look forward to your encouragement... and your accountability... and in the mean time I'll be pondering what my writing goals are for this summer, as well as my goals for those other projects I'd like to get rolling (... i.e. photography...). I'd love it if you joined in, too!

Of course, this is all provided the world doesn't end on Saturday. I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The time for sweaters is through

It's most definitely spring now... almost summer (except that we're a little behind on warming up here in the northeast). And so, of course, I have begun knitting a sweater! (in preparation for NEXT winter...). In all seriousness, I'm actually pretty excited about knitting my first sweater. I have had to overcome several hurdles already... one being that I knit far too loosely for the pattern. They call the # of stitches per inch x # of rows per inch your gauge... and when I do the recommended # of stitches and rows, my swatch is 2"x2" BIGGER than what it is supposed to be. I must be too relaxed...

So I had to do some pretty complicated math to make the pattern work. I don't know if that will work every time, either... but it's working this time... so far... so we'll see. I feel like it'll be an accomplishment either way... even if it only fits the dog :)

I've been enjoying being home the past couple of weeks. The weather has been lovely... I've relaxed in our hammock and read books (see my book list to the right of the blog), taken canoe rides with Noah, gone hiking a lot with the super awesome dog. Traveling and experiencing new places was most definitely fun. But Noah and I have made a nice home together... and I definitely don't like to be away from it for long.

N in canoe.

gratuitous puppy shot

gratuitous orange kitty shot

a new(ish) painting I'm working on

I'm thinking of starting a freelance photography business... photo sessions for people and animals, and maybe some product photography, as well... if you're from around here and you are interested in a photo shoot, send me an e-mail at fairbettyatgmaildotcom. It'll be fun :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Doolin, The Burren, and Dublin

We wrapped up our tour of Ireland with a visit to Doolin, stayed at a working farm B&B. It was pretty nice... the walls were paper thin and we had some noisy Americans staying the second night... they had no qualms shouting up and down the hall to each other. Our revenge? When we got down to breakfast we overheard them discussing what the darker of the two sausages on their plate was made out of :) and we DIDN'T tell them it was blood sausage... black pudding as it's referred to :). When our host filled them in they lost their appetites. Ha! You know... if you haven't bothered to look up what traditional Irish breakfast is before you order it... you can only blame yourself.

We stopped by the Cliffs of Moher, but were sorely disappointed in our experience there. The cliffs are basically not accessible. There's nowhere to walk, the visitor/information center is run down (trashed really) and there were hundreds of noisy tourists there. We ended up hopping a fence and walking a couple hundred yards to see some better views before we realized people were following us and my conscience said I didn't want to be responsible for someone else's irresponsibility; so we went back. There were signs posted everywhere with the number for the suicide hotline... eesh.

Next we tried to find a place to hike in "The Burren". It's another of Ireland's enigmatic national parks. We drove around for EVER, stopped at the information center even... and couldn't figure out where there  were acceptable places to park a car and walk. Eventually, we drove up to one of the tourist attractions, the Caves, and parked the car and just hiked up the side of the hill. It turned into a good scramble and we enjoyed ourselves.

We ate at the local pub in Doolin that evening and listened to some traditional Irish music from local musicians.

On the way to Dublin the next day we stopped for another walk down to the ocean. The terrain is mostly flat, with lots of limestone. It's really fun to walk across. I made one last rock stack for Noah... and then we moved on to our final destination... the Isaacs Hostel in Dublin.

So, the thing about Dublin is... it was Good Friday the day we were there... and everything was closed. No Guinness factory tours, no Jaimeson factory tours, no museums, no bars served alcohol... bummer. So, we contented ourselves with walking around looking at the statues and architecture (actually Lori went on a bike tour), ate some potato boxty for dinner... and flew home the next day.

This is the view from our B&B in Doolin. Donkeys!

Oh, and a castle turret :)

The Cliffs of Moher... were... disappointing. We expected hiking and vistas... what we got was an extremely run down visitors' center, about 750 m of walled walks and a LOT of noisy tourists. Bummer

But there was this cool harpist

And we climbed over the fence and past the sign that says "do not pass" to get this shot.

Lehinch beach

This old collie made me miss Tag :(

Here we have a lovely horse spooking at the waves

and getting schooled...

We drove around for an hour or 2 trying to find a decent place to walk in "The Burren". While doing so, we came across an abbey with a cemetery

And finally found somewhere to hike!

The last of my rock stacks for Noah. Don't let yourself be fooled. These rocks were BIG... and HEAVY. It was my best stack yet.

In Dublin... with James Joyce

St. Stephen's Green

Thus endeth our trip. It was fun, and I'm glad I went. I can't wait to go back to Scotland. I may start planning that trip now!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Phoenix

The Phoenix Restaurant and B&B is in Castlemaine, County Kerry, Ireland, a few miles from the beach along a coastal loop that takes you around the Dingle Peninsula if you let it. When searching for a place to stay in/near Dingle, we came across their website, and it looked too cute to pass up.

More than too cute, it was amazing! I didn't realize how much I missed the bohemian atmosphere I was so accustomed to in California until I walked into this B&B. Wow, is Connecticut too uptight for me! The Phoenix was so laid back... Lorna and crew were out working in and around the garden when we pulled in. It turns out we were the only guests at this B&B, too... off season and all... so someone showed us up to our room and then asked us to come let them know when we were hungry and they'd cook us some dinner.

Dinner was vegetarian (they serve fish, which Lori had, but everything else is vegetarian) and specially prepared for us (since we were the only guests). While we waited for our delicious food, we poured wine from the bottle that Ballyseedy Castle had given us (an apology for a more than raucous wedding party that raged on until the wee hours, disturbing our sleep one of the 2 nights we were there), and wandered around the garden. We met the chickens, who were very curious about us. The hens kept being thwarted by the dog and the rooster from ever actually approaching us, but we had a great time interacting nonetheless.

In the garden there rested an old gypsy caravan, brightly painted. After dinner (did I mention it was delicious?) a couple stopped by with a miniature caravan that had been crafted by a local artist. We sat around listening to them discuss the intricate detail of the model while they hooked it up in the corner to turn on the lights inside. So fun!

I chatted for a while with the woman who showed us up to our room. As far as I can tell, she drifted in from somewhere and made herself useful... and she lives there right now. I thought that was pretty fantastic... that the Phoenix would be that flexible and open and available...

I was completely inspired to buy a big house and turn it into my own version of The Phoenix here in Connecticut. They could really use some of that bohemian spirit around here. The rooms were bright and lush, the walls were filled with shelves of books for sale or to share/borrow/exchange... gardens were welcoming and peaceful... the house was open and airy (petals from the ornamental cherry tree blooming outside blew into the hallway in front of our room). It already felt like home to me... and reminded me of something that I felt like I had been missing... but that I can and will create for myself and open to others... a sense of home, of acceptance, of magic, of creativity, of inspiration...

I loved it there... loved. I hope you enjoy my photos.

After a day of exploring the Dingle peninsula, we landed at the Phoenix... amazing

the gardens were welcoming, full of life and color. Check out this authentic gypsy caravan!

While we waited for @Lorna to cook our dinner, we walked around the gardens drinking wine and chatting with the chickens

beautiful! So funky and bohemian. I loved it at The Phoenix!

My dinner was a lentil/quinoa bake with fresh vegetables... Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that the Phoenix serves mostly vegetarian food... and some fish. Yum!!!

After dinner, some people dropped by with a miniature gypsy caravan to set up and display in the main room.

The next day we made a stop at this beach with an old ruin

That evening, we crossed the river Shannon on our way to Doolin...