Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo Starting Position...

Everything is ready for lift-off. Pencils and notebooks are laid out, coffee supplies assembled, lunch and work clothes in order so I don't have to worry about them in the morning. Going to read a bit, hit the way early, and then get up in the dark to get this party started. Good luck to all participants!

NaNoWriMo Starting Position

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NaNoNoNoNoNoNo Not Ready!

So, let's see...locally, we have about 36 hours to go until the NaNoWriMo madness begins. Where do I stand?

  • I did a lot of *claiming* to plan back in September.

  • I did some actual *attempted* planning in October.

  • I got as far as boldly labeling a pocket notebook "NaNoWriMo 2013" in anticipation of using it for ideas and notes.

  • My current plot goes something like this: What if? Then something. And bam, SOMETHING!

In other words, I got nothin'. I am tempted to scrap my vague idea and rewrite an old idea instead.

But hey, NaNoWriMo is all about embracing your inner pantser, right? Right??

NaNoNotebook, plus the rest of my current pocket notebooks: the Field Notes is for NaNo, the Scout Book below it is a logbook of sorts with brief notes on each day, the Moleskine cahier below that is for to-dos, and my brain-dump notebook is on the bottom.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ancient Family Tradition: World's Laziest Halloween Costume


As I've mentioned a time or two, I'm the oldest of eight kids. That's a lot of Halloween costumes to design, a lot of kids to be high on sugar and excitement. Add to this the fact that I grew up in Vermont, where Halloween costumes often must be compatible with sub-freezing temperatures. Inevitably one kid ended up that night with a costume that fell apart at the last minute, or which proved inadequate for the weather or which lost some crucial component. For these situations, Mom designed...the dog costume.

Now, lots of people dress up like dogs or cats for Halloween, but usually these are fancy schmancy deals involving ears on little headbands and detailed makeup done from kits with step-by-step directions, and maybe even a furry suit. This was not our way. Instead, Mom would scrounge through the dryer and the bin of lost socks and find two more or less black socks that more or less matched, and tuck these into a hat as ears. Then she'd take a wine cork and burn it slightly, and use that to give us a black nose.

That was pretty much it. A few dots on the cheeks, maybe. Black clothes if we had them.

Most years at least the baby went as a dog, and I remember one year (I think Mom was newly pregnant with one of my youngest siblings and really not much feelin' Halloween) we went as an entire PACK of puppies. People loved it. "Aw, so cute! What a great idea!"

I've used it as a fallback a couple of times even as an adult, most recently at a party this Saturday when it was either that or go uncostumed. I did solicit other ideas, some of which were pretty funny: writing "Error 404: Costume not found" on a t-shirt, for example, or Mike Clemens' mustache-on-a-stick method of playing both yourself and your evil twin, or (horrrrible, but still funny) wearing biking clothes, taping a syringe to my arm, and going as Lance Armstrong. But in the end, I went for the dog.

It ended up pretty slapdash. For one thing, it turned out my only black socks had writing on them, so I turned them inside out so at least they'd say "Dr. Scholls" in blurry backward fuzz instead of as a crisp, clear tattoo. For another, I didn't want to drive up I-5 with a black nose, so I applied it in the bathroom when I got there (burnt cork) while small children banged on the door and whispered theatrically about needing to peeeee. So it came out rather lopsided.

Whatever. Good 'nough. That's the name of the game.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The More I Write the More I Write


1. I tweeted the subject line above the other day: "The more I write, the more I write." On the surface, it sounds foolishly obvious. I mean, yeah, duh, if you write more, you've written more. But there's another side to the coin: the more I write, the more ideas strike me. The more I write, the more I notice details I want to write down. The more I write, the more I remember how much I am drawn to the act of writing. The more I write, the more I sit down and write some more. Sometimes if I've gotten out of the habit, the first sitting my rear in a chair and putting pencil to paper or fingers to keys takes a major act of willpower (and acceptance of mediocre grist), but from there, it gets easier.

I'm really hoping the extra bits of writing this month will prime the pump and help me coast through however much of NaNoWriMo I'm able to complete this year.

2. Because I don't have enough things to distract me from NaNoWriMo this year, I started a second blog.

A brief back story and explanation: when I originally started this blog, I figured on writing a bit about what I was up to in life in general, but also sharing my thoughts and reflections on life as a Catholic. Hence the name of the blog, actually, and the selection of St. Therese of Lisieux as a patron. But I also started this blog just as I met various typewriter folk and then fountain pen and pencil folk, and got into doing more fiction writing and etc., etc., etc., and also went through some times of struggle that took me away from my original purpose. And so this blog became somewhat schizophrenic, and as time went on, it seemed like pouring my reflections into the mix would only make it more so.

To that end, I felt prompted to launch a sort of sister blog to this one. I imagine music and pens and pencils and writing of various sorts will be mentioned there--they are a big part of my life and my thought processes, after all. But its primary focus will just be a place to record moments of enlightenment, insights--and some spiritual struggles. The journey of faith is not all roses; hence the name: Thorns and Blossoms. (I actually wanted to name it the opposite: Blossoms and Thorns. That name was already taken. Consider that the thorn that tipped the balance!)

It's mostly all for meeeee (sorry, folks). However, do feel free (not obligated) to check it out!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick and Dirty Review: Kum 1-Hole Long Point Sharpener


I really wanted to like this pencil sharpener.

Since I primarily use my pencils for writing, long points are my preference. They allow more precise writing, and let me write for longer stretches between sharpenings. This is why I like the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener (CFPS hereafter): it gives you seriously long writing points, without breaking the lead or leaving it ragged. It has me very, very spoiled.

Get the point?
This photo brought to you (mostly) courtesy of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener...

There are a few reasons I wanted the Kum as an option:

  1. The CFPS leaves bite marks on your pencils. If you look up close at my pencil photos, you'll notice all the little pinprick holes left by the gripping mechanism*. I've learned to live with them, since I've found no other pencil sharpener that does as nice a job on the writing points (including a fancy Carl), but it would be nice to have another option for the most premium pencils.
  2. The CFPS isn't exactly something I can toss into my book bag for coffee shop runs.
  3. You can be a bit more conservative with a hand held sharpener: only shaving off juuust enough to give you a point and no more. Granted, the CFPS is pretty good about stopping as soon as you have a sharp point, but again, for the most premium pencils (or stubbies), I thought a good hand held sharpener might be nice to have.

I've tried Kum's two step long point sharpener. It's a pretty neat concept: the first step clears some of the wood away, the second sharpens the exposed lead to a nice long point. practice, I found it finicky and a bit unpredictable, and broke more lead than I could happily live with. I hoped this new sharpener would be the answer to my wishes, especially since I really like my simple little brass Kum, and this seemed to be almost the same thing but with a longer resulting point. hates me. I either mangle the lead or break it off entirely. Every...single...time. Even when I do get a semi long point, it's warped and brittle and snaps the instant I try to use it. Wah. So I guess I continue with my current approach, which is to sharpen only at home or at the office, and carry a boatload of pencils with me so I don't need to sharpen on the go. Bonus of this approach: validish excuse to carry a boatload of pencils.

But I'm saddened, nonetheless.

Attempted close-up of an attempted long point...

*One thing that helps a smidge with the aesthetics of the bite marks: I try to always face the pencil the same way when sharpening, e.g. with the text upright, so at least the holes line up...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Field Notes, and Lots of Them!

Field Notes!

This is what was in my birthday package! OK, so I went a little overboard. I think I'm set for awhile.

Got some Expedition Edition notebooks, some Drink Local notebooks, some America the Beautiful notebooks, and some pencils. These are my first Field Notes, so getting so many varieties was just plain illogical, but...I couldn't make up my mind, so. Here we are.

I haven't yet used them, but the Expedition Edition will probably be where I start. It's just so eye-catchingly BRIGHT on the front and subtle in the back. And the paper is...weird, but intriguing. Supposedly it's water and tear proof. It's very different from Rite in the Rain paper: thin and sort of silky to the touch. But then, I believe Rite in the Rain is specially treated paper, whereas this is not really paper at all. Fascinating. It's dot ruled, which I like a great deal.


I also really like the covers on the Drink Local notebooks. They have a soft grippiness that puts me in mind of Rhodia's "soft touch" covers. And they came with this nifty coaster.


The America the Beautiful notebook also had a special token: in this case, a decal with each of the notebooks represented. (They are very pretty notebooks.)


There are a lot of neat little details with these notebooks, one of the most fun being the specification list they each come with.


The pencil has its own list, too! I'll be giving one of these a good hard trial run in the next little bit here.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bit of a Tease (for me, too!)

Field Notes
It's my birthday tomorrow (and I'm not saying this just to fish for good wishes, honestly I'm not). How old am I? Well, old enough to know that if I want really cool presents, I sometimes have to buy them myself.

I've wanted to try some Field Notes notebooks for awhile (like...years), so I finally ordered some, and some of their pretty pencils as well. The package came yesterday. Going to wait until tomorrow to open it, though. Can't wait to try these out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Getting Fired Up for NaNoWriMo!

NaNo '13 1

Olympia SG-1 ready for NaNo

(Yes, I need to do some adjusting to center everything before November.)

I'll likely do most of my writing at the [too messy for public consumption] writing desk across from it, but it's nice to have Options.  Especially for doing some free writing if I get stuck or need a change of pace.  Or if I just want to be really noisy and irritate the dog for awhile.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: In Which I Cheerfully Predict Washout

October 2013 Pencil Box
A new current mess-o'-pencils photo for ya...

NaNo '13
But given as how it's a just-for-fun year, I can see embracing whatever methods I feel like using on a given day, whether that be pencil, fountain pen, typewriter (I have scads of scrap paper after cleaning up for the office move!), Alphasmart, or even (gasp!) this vulgar beast, the personal computer.

What about you? Are you planning to be a purist of one stripe or another? If so, what sort? And, if you feel like sharing, what are you writing about? Me, I'm either going to completely rewrite my magic detective story(*3) from a few years back or go with the new idea which hit me in August, and which I'd rather not give away entirely. In essence, it has to do with avatars, but in a way I've not seen used before.

Looking forward to getting my hands dirty, whether that be literally (in the case of pens, pencils and typewriter ribbons) or figuratively! Hope to see many of you join me! (*4)

*1 What in the world is this "Eucharistic Adoration" thing? The info here is pretty well laid out. My parish actually has "perpetual" adoration, meaning that someone is there praying before the Blessed Sacrament 24 hours a day. We take it in turns, and Wednesdays from 6-7AM are my hour. 

 *2 Incidentally, for you Catholics out there, I can't recommend Fulfillment of All Desire enough: it tells the stories of some of the greatest Doctors of the Church (St. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales and St. Therese of Lisieux) and lays their writings out in parallel, with commentary to help make them all approachable and easy to understand. It's a lovely book. My Dad went through a phase where he handed out copies to pretty much anyone who stood still long enough (and more, via mail), and in reading it, I can see why. 

 *3 It's a noir style mystery novel! With magic! And taxis! And frogs and dragons and stuff! You should totally buy it if I ever finish it! Which is doubtful! 

 *4 For any of you who would like to add me as a friend on the NaNoWriMo site, please feel free! My username is RosieCotton.

***Typecast courtesy of the Robo-typeface Olympia SM-9 which came to me from Richard Polt by way of notagain at Manual Entry.***

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Additional Autumn Adventures

Yet another busy, fall-flavored weekend! To start with, Saturday morning I went over to the farm stand for more pumpkins and apples. Thought of you, Jeff: lo and behold, they actually had McIntosh apples! However, they were in the sort of gourmet apple section and were quite a bit more expensive than more local varieties like Honeycrisps. I was tempted for nostalgia's sake, but my inner Scot put a kibosh on the idea.


Saturday afternoon, I got to hang out with friends and play music at Hope Grange's "Octoberfest" in Winlock, WA. This is an annual community event, kind of old school: the kids dress up in Halloween costumes and there are activities like face painting and games like bean bag tosses, for which you can win candy. They also have a hay ride on a wagon to a nearby pumpkin patch, where kids can select a pumpkin to bring back to the grange hall and decorate, or take home to carve later. I rode along for one of the trips. The weather was beautiful, and the sound of the tractor (no horses on this hay ride) drowned out any mistakes. Bonus! I think we may have had more fun than the kids did.

When I got back from the hay ride, I made apple sauce from apples I got from friends and got apple butter started in the crockpot to cook overnight and into the next day, and Sunday afternoon, I canned nine little jars of fresh apple butter. It turned out nicely, I think! I still have enough apples left to make another batch, too! I want to vary this next batch a bit, but haven't decided just how. Maybe find cinnamon oil to make it exceptionally potent? Hm. Ponderable.

apple butter
New apple butter!

Next weekend our office is moving locations, so no big major plans for me. Should be relatively uneventful, aside from Saturday morning. I hope. I need some time to do some NaNoWriMo plotting. More on NaNo plans in my next post!