Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meditation and Libation

One of the churches in Corpus Christi has a beautiful Labyrinth in their lower level that I've been meaning to go and walk. I've never done so before, but tonight I had the evening off and decided to drive over to check it out.

A little Labyrinth tutorial: (And no, David Bowie doesn't play a role. Sorry guys.)

There is one path. There are no choices or dead ends. The walk in represents the path of purgation or shedding away. The center is a rosette, which symbolizes Christ. This is called the path of Illumination. You can sit and pray or meditate there once you've arrived. You leave the same way you came, but the walk out is called the path of returning where you bring illumination into the world.

There are many other symbolic aspects, but I will stop here as these are the things that struck me this time.

One of the pleasures of an experience like this is that you can walk it a dozen times and experience something new each time.

This, my first time, I was struck by how awkward I felt. I've never done it, and at first it felt almost silly. But, as I continued to walk, I realized that it didn't matter how silly I felt or thought I looked. What mattered is that I was dedicating my time, myself even to the task. To me it became a symbol for my life. Often, in life, I feel silly or awkward, bit when I begin to focus on the task at hand, the my self-consciousness I remember who I am and that most people feel stupid or silly in their life.

I think I will try this walk again and see if I have a different experience. What I think is great about it is that what you get from it depends on What you bring to it.

Of course, the evening was nicely topped off by a brew at Executive Surf Club.

Cheers and Peace be with you

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cooking and Living Healthy

One of my personal goals for the year before I go back to school is to develop healthy eating habits that include improved cooking skills.  Right now, I am trying to cook at home at least four times a week.  This is a challenge for me since I often work during traditional meal times.  I've made some adjustments to my schedule for next week and will be home to eat with my family Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I started planning our dinners and the shopping list by hand, but discovered a website called It is a free meal planning tool with the goal of helping people make better food and meal choices.  It's new to me, so I will save my review until I have used it more.

My plan for the meals this week is thus:

Monday: Homemade whole wheat pizza with turkey pepperoni and a caprese salad. 
Tuesday: Curried pumpkin and peas with basmati rice and a mixed green salad
Wednesday: My family is gone in the evening, so I'll make tostadas for myself.
Thursday: Falafel with a Greek salad
Friday: Salmon Patties with rice and mixed veggies in cheese sauce

My goals are multiple.  I want to start eating fresher foods in smaller portions.  I want to try new recipes and teach myself to be a better cook. And lastly, I want to be more frugal about using food that we already have at home rather than always buying new groceries.  Each meal this week uses ingredients I already have, and several use food we have in the freezer that is in danger of spoiling.

I'm especially excited about the curried Pumpkin, since I love fall foods, so I will make sure to take pictures and let you know how it turns out.

What are some of your favorite at home meals?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bad Bad Girl

Wow, over a month has gone by, and I've posted nothing.  I'm a bad girl. 

I've had the suggestion that I should also be posting short as well as long posts.  I really am going to try to be better about posting at least once a week.

The last few weeks have had great and frustrating moments.  I'm in the process of applying for graduate schools, and I recently took my GRE test.  I felt great about it; we'll see what happens when I get the results. This process is scary and exciting. The next few months will be filled with lots of waiting and many nerves.


Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm a baking nut

I find baking very relaxing, so from time to time, I cook for no reason.  This week is one of those random baking weeks.

I needed to kill some time before taking my mother to her surprise birthday party, so I thought I'd pull out a few of my favorite old recipes.

This is my Granny's old recipe book, and it is one of my favorite books to cook from.

The recipes from the Betty Crocker cookbook just make me happy.  I love the graphics and the way the recipes are presented.  However, I do have my own special book that I keep all my favorite recipes in.

I have been adding to this for over a decade.  Each recipe in this book has a story.  Some of them are family favorites such as the seven minute frosting my Granny always made for every family holiday.  Some are things people made for me on special occasions like the Italian feast my cousin Bettina made for me as a going away dinner before I left for college.  I took the notion to put together my own book from my Granny, who had a photo album filled with recipes, magazine and news clippings, pictures, and drawings from us.

Here are some pictures of the finished products:

This is a whole wheat banana, apple, raisin muffin.

 Here are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.  This is a great dunking cookie as they have enough bite to withstand the moisture. 

For those of you who cook, what are your favorite recipes?  Where did you find them? Do any of them have family stories?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some resale magic

One thing I feel strongly about is shopping resale and vintage or sewing my clothes as much as possible. I do buy some things new; jeans, shoes (sometimes), and underwear (of course). However, dresses, skirts, blouses, handbags, and even some shoes are largely the purview of resale and my sewing machine.

I am not a talented seamstress, but I have tried my hand at a few things over the last year.

This summer, I made my first circle skirt.  It's fairly simple construction and turned out pretty well.

I wore this out to an enjoyable day of antiquing with my mom and cousin.  Underneath is a crinoline I snagged for six or seven dollars from The Buffalo Exchange.  It's not vintage, but it's super useful.  I'll try and remember to get a picture of it sometime.

Additionally, I tried my hand at a pair of pants based on a 1940s suit pattern.  I very much appreciate pattern companies re-releasing vintage patterns as I am absolute rubbish at following old pattern instructions.

I like how they turned out very much, though I did have to do a certain amount of alteration to account for the fact that I have an unusually large waist to hip ratio.

I've also done a bit of resale shopping lately.  There are a couple of really nice shops in the area. Of course you have to be willing to dig, but I can usually find a few gems.

I found a few delightfully tacky tops from the seventies and a couple of blouses that have the most darling details.

Here are a couple of pictures of some of my most recent outings in my most favorite new pieces.

This is a new blouse, which I love for it's simplicity and the MOST lovely beaded bag I've ever seen.  I found the bag at a great new shop in Corpus Christi called Threads.  It is one of the funkiest little resale shops in the area.

 This skirt is one of several I found at the Goodwill in Portland, TX.  I was terribly surprised to find so many great pieces there as when I walked in, the prospects initially seemed very low.  But, indeed I found that I had to pick and choose what to take home as I was on a $20 budget.  I found a couple of other great pieces, one that needs some alteration, and hope to write about them soon.

This is a little outfit I put together to work as a hostess at the restaurant for an evening.  I had a lot of fun with this, though I made the realization yet again that double knit polyester is a dreadful choice for south Texas summer. Oh well.  I'll just have to wait for October.

I do have to say though, that while I have some outlandish tastes, there are some things that are just a little too much, even for me...

So, the last thing I have to do, is turn it over to you.  I'd love this to be an interactive blog.  So, please tell me, what are some of your favorite clothing pieces?  Do you have something that you inherited and treasure or found in a random, unexpected place?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Journey Ended, a Journey Just Beginning

It’s been four days since I’ve seen the last Harry Potter film and I’ve spent four days looking at a blank computer screen trying to find words to describe how I feel.  This can’t just be a review of the movie, because really it’s a review of the last ten years of my life. 

I wasn’t an early HP fan. In fact, as a born and bread, devoted Lord of the Rings reader, I harbored some resentment at the comparisons being made in the fall of 2001 when both the first LOTR and first HP movies were coming out.  I refused to read the books despite having a Rowling fanatic for a roommate.  I didn’t even see the first movie until after it was out of theaters.  I rolled my eyes at all my college friends when they sat in the hallways in between classes discussing which Hogwarts house they belonged in.

But, one slow, boring summer day, standing in the young adults section of the library, I decided to give the first book a chance.  All my friends were raving about the series and waiting with anticipation that was anything but patient for the fifth book’s release.  I figured the books would be passably entertaining and help me pass the time on the desperately quiet Indiana University campus. 

As most Harry Potter love stories go at this point, I was immediately addicted.  I stayed up all night finishing the first book, and returned to the library within minutes of its opening the next day for the rest of the books.  I skipped at least one class that week in which I did little more than break to shower and pop out to get reading snacks.  (Notice I didn’t mention sleep.) 

Even though I loved the books, I still swore that I didn’t need to buy them as I only planned to read them once. 

One year later, while on vacation in Wyoming, I stood in line at a small local used book shop with the first five hardback books stacked in my arms.  

Three reads of the current five books later, I discovered Harry Potter conferences and Harry Potter podcasts. A whole world of speculation and discussion opened up to me.  I learned that I wasn’t just one of a few dorky adults reading these books. There were millions of us.  There were college professors and Baptist ministers reading the books.  There were people, friends I’d met at conferences writing books and making music and short films inspired by these books.  I attended a Wizard Rock show at a library where I got a button that said, “Fight evil, read books”.  My students were reading the books and talking about them with me and with each other in class.

For me, the world was taken over by Potter. Midnight book and movie releases, costumes, conferences, podcasts, books...we’re called fans because it’s short for fanatic, and it’s true that we are often fanatical about our passion for these books, especially in the face of those who mock adults for reading ‘kids books’.

But, personally, I’m okay being called a fanatic about something that has my students reading anything at all, let alone books about friendship, and sacrifice, and making hard decisions. 
Friday morning, walking out of the theater at 2am to the enthusiastic chatter of moviegoers reflecting on what they just saw, it hit me how blessed I felt.  I could have never opened that first book.  I could have let my preconceived notions take over and keep me reading solidly in the world of adult fantasy and sci-fi.  But, I took a chance.  I read a magical story about a boy who lived.  And that boy took me on a journey greater than any flying broom ever could.  I took a journey that has no final destination.  It has not ended.  Not only do we have the joys of JK Rowling’s new project, Pottermore, to look forward to, but Harry’s journey reminds us to look beyond the surface of the things we encounter day to day and find the magic behind them. 

Those few readers who have thus far found this site, if you have read the books, please take a moment to leave a comment and tell us how you first discovered Harry. And those of you who haven’t yet taken the journey with him, I encourage you to pick up the first book this week and dare to dream a world magical enough to contain Harry Potter and all his friends.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

In the Middle of A New Project

Welcome new comers to what I hope will be the place that I explore life and all the wonderful things it has to offer.  Here I plan to explore my hobbies and habits including, but not limited to, my interest in all things vintage and my desire to more fully connect with the places I live and travel.

I've called this blog The Virtual Curio, because a curio is a place, often a cabinet, where one displays the treasures or oddities collected over the years. I'd like this to be a place to discuss my interests and curiosities and for you to discuss yours as well. I am sure that my purpose will evolve with use and feedback.  For now, please enjoy and feel free to comment.

So, for my first official post, I'd like to talk about a project I've been working on for a couple of months with my dad.

My father is one of the most talented mechanics I know, and all my life I can remember him in his garage, restoring cars and motorcycles.  I've always wanted to work on a project with him but have never been in a financial place to have a second vehicle.

Imagine my pleasure then, to find a project worthy of my time and efficient to my budget.

During an afternoon of junk store browsing with my mom, I was elated to find this old, rusty bike sitting in a corner for $15.

After doing some research, I'm pretty sure that it is a 1965 Schwinn ladies bike.  Unfortunately, I did discover that the paint was most likely not original, so this is not my ideal project bike that can be restored to its original glory.

However, it is a great place to start developing a love for bike restoration and a wonderful way to spend some time with my dad.  We decided after pulling the bike apart to have the handlebar, fenders, and wheels powder coated.  I'm still in the process of trying to remove the stem and the pedals as the years of rust and mistreatment have stuck them on pretty well.  But, we've come a long way in cleaning those areas up as shown in the pictures below.

Here's a before picture...

And, here is how it looks now...

I haven't been able to finish the project yet as my dad lives in Illinois and I am in Texas, but I have plans to head up later this summer to put the pieces together and install the most awesome of white wall tires that I found on ebay.  I'm really looking forward to tooling around town with my vintage bike, wicker basket and all, once it's complete.

For now, that's all. Except to say that I'd love this blog to be interactive.  As I build readers, I'd like to hear from you.  So, please comment on this post and tell me about your summer projects.