Thursday, December 18, 2014

so close, so faraway

Some of you may have noticed that i re-implemented the Gold Stars For Grown-ups program a little while back.
I didn't point it out at the time, just added it to the side as a carrot for me to get back on track doing the things that need done.
Things that i really don't want to do.
Like laundry.
Or taking out the trash.
Or ab crunches.
Mostly i am happy with how it is going, but when i just updated the ticker i realized that i am ONE star short of earning a reward.
Really? One star?
Almost as exasperating as looking for my camera doo-hickey or discovering that the mouse snacked on a jar candle.

Come on now, Niki.
Massage is waiting for you.
Do the @#$%^ laundry!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

i think evil gnomes took it

I can't find the USB converter for my camera's memory card.
Can't pull pictures from my camera.
There are time sensitive photos an there people.
Things that should have been blogged already.
I always have my converter with me.
I had it; then it was gone.
I keep holding out hope that i will find it, but those gnomes are wily.
sigh... i don't want to go to an electronics store a week before Christmas...

Where could it have gone?
I need to get my pictures.
My blog is empty.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor

73 years ago the Japanese Imperial Navy launched an attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu.
Battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircrafts were beached, destroyed or sunk.
Over 2,400 died with more than 1,000 of the bodies lost to a watery grave.
The next day, the US declared war on Japan and vice versa.
Three days later Germany and Italy declared war on America.
Less then 150 hours after the attack, the US was fully engaged in the Second World War after spending years trying to avoid it.

Those dry facts can be found in any history book or on any WWII website, but they mean little to modern generations for whom that war might as well have been as long ago as the Civil War.

I think that is why Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited sites in Hawaii. We all know in the back of our collective consciousness that we should remember it, but it is tucked so far back that it is not until we stand in the actual location that we are moved to care.

Driving west from Honolulu, I knew i had to be getting close when missiles starting peeking over the fence.

I was shocked to see that the Pacific Command is still housed here.
Logically it isn't surprising, but somehow i'd always assumed that it was moved after being all bombed to heck.
Guess not.
The Pearl Harbor location is home not only to the Arizona, but also the USS Missouri, where the Japanese formally surrendered, the USS Bowfin submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

The USS Arizona Memorial can only be reached by boat shuttle as it straddles the remaining wreckage of the battleship right where she sank. 
2,000 free tickets are given out each day to visitors; with the visitor center opening at 7am, the tix are often gone by mid-morning.
Come early!
NOTE: pictures are from October 2010

The short boat ride gives you time to appreciate the stark beauty of the white bridge, bowed in the middle to represent the depression in the spirit of America after the attack and its resilience to rise again as you approach from the left, getting closer and closer.

Here are some pictures to illustrate locations for you:

For me it was one thing to know that the monument was over a sunken ship, but a very different experience to stand looking at rusting pieces jutting out of the water, sea life claiming the underwater metal as its own and oil slicks continuous on the water.


To lend perspective to the size of the ships attacked and the enormity of sinking or beaching eight of them, you walk by one of the Arizona's three anchors next to the launch pier.

Today i pause to remember and acknowledge your sacrifice

It was one of the most beautiful and affecting places i have ever visited.

Monday, December 1, 2014

balancing living at home and working at home

My house is a mess.
Not dirty, mind you; there is just stuff everywhere.
No, not like hoarders, either: it is useful stuff that gets used on a daily basis.
Consider that it is my apartment and a full papercraft studio and a full jewelry studio.
It is not uncommon to have the dining room table set up for beading, a card table up in the living room for card making, Makes it tough to have people in for a visit.
Plus, i hate my tiny kitchen.
Over the summer, Amy and I were going to get together for tea and i decided that by jiminey i was going to host it, mess or no mess, crappy small kitchen and all.

STEP 1: consolidate in-progress jewelry projects into containers; stack them neatly to the side of the room

STEP 2: consolidate in-progress paper craft projects onto the dining room table; cover gently with a table cloth; add a pretty teapot to keep with the theme
STEP 3: cover wretchedly small, mismatched counter tops with a matching tablecloth to create the illusion of a buffet; lay out food that was prepared well in advance so that the kitchen did not need to be utilized that day, except to boil water
(from left: chips with Rea's homemade peach salsa; toast fingers with Rea's homemade black raspberry jelly; trail mix customized to my specifications (fruit and nuts have to be a 1:1 ratio, people); cantaloupe and grapes; black and white cookies (made by the grocery store because i don't really bake); 2 versions of toasted party ryes {cream cheese herbed with basil and garlic, topped with tiny tomatoes & cream cheese herbed with garlic and oregano, topped with prosciutto}; zucchini rounds with either plain or chipotle hummus; and green olives)
STEP 4: eat, drink, be merry

Tea turned out so well that i've decided more entertaining needs to happen in Chez Nicole.
Lydia and I were supposed to have a Friday adventure, but i had to cancel at the last minute so i invited her over for home cooking instead.
One of the house specialties is Nik'obo Stew: a seasonally variable stew that is loosely based on jambalaya and a bbq hobo stew a friend made for me 20 years ago.
It always has sausage and/or chicken, a sweet element balanced against a savory element and a grain of some type.

This Autumnal version was kielbasa, black beans, chili beans, sauteed onions and corn cooked in a tomato base with bay leaves as the savory half mixed with the sweet half of eggplant, butternut squash, chopped onions and whole garlic cloves roasted with nutmeg and ground cloves. 
I think it is okay to serve on tv trays as long as you have pretty napkins folded into flatware pockets, right?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throwback Thanksgiving

Look at that black and white suit dress.
mmmmm... 1989
For my whole life, Thanksgiving was at my Grandma Hord's in  Ohio. 
It was always my favorite time of the year: food, family and guaranteed BFF time. 
Rea and I could tell you at any time of the year how many days there were until Thanksgiving; it was OUR holiday.
Going to college in Florida meant that i would miss it for the first time. 
I couldn't even imagine what Thanksgiving could be without all of my traditions.
Luckily, my other grandparents were at their winter place just a little over an hour away.
My Grandma Craig knew i was having a tough time and gave me the cutest Thanksgiving pin: a cartoon turkey and monk advises us to Count Your Blessings. 
It made me smile and somehow everything was okay.
I have worn it every Thanksgiving since then, putting it on today for the 25th time.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

he's almost100 for goodness' sake

Welcome to another tale from The Suburban Jungle Book by Nikyard Hipling.
The average lifespan of a golden retriever is 11 years.

Max is 14.


He has passed puppy, juvenile, dog and senior citizen, but he is still friendly and alert.
And not above trying to steal some of his sister's food.
Unbelievably, he is also still pretty spry.
Well. okay, spry might be reaching, but still pretty darn mobile for a nonagenarian.

Max has plenty of energy to continue practicing his hobbies of napping, pawing the carpet, napping, licking any exposed human skin he can find and napping.
Max in his favorite bed on the left and his other favorite bed on the right
Though not a big fan of steps, he can still get up and down them by himself. It might take a try or two so i always make sure that he has made it off of the porch before i close the backdoor.
One nice weather day i stayed outside to enjoy some fresh air and make a little vitamin D myself when i heard a crazy rustling sound.

Max was stretched out in the yard, paws in the air, rolling around like a puppy.
He squiggled and turned every which way with obvious joy.
There was pawwing and flailing and growling -the happy kind- and some quiet barks that were the closest things to a yip that a dog that size can make.
Sure, he flopped over tired and panting every once and a while, but he'd lay still for a few seconds, resting, sniffing the ground and then launch his paws back into the air for another round.

I have sat Max and his sister Zoe many times, but i will never forget the first time he completely shocked me with his energetic love of the outside.
Since then i have seen him shamble through the kitchen and stumble down the stairs only to run strong and graceful around the yard.
I guess no matter how old you are or how weak or tired, there is still joy to be found in the simple pleasure of rolling around in the sunshine.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

it all started with "sparkle"

It is not a secret that i love sparkles.
Everything is better with sparkles.
I love things that sparkle.
Everything could use some sparkle.
Except maybe greeting cards.
How could I -owner of more glitter than Michael's, wearer of vintage rhinestones, wrangler of sparkle ponies, for Pete's sake- possibly say such a thing?
Well, i don't mean actual sparkles, but the word sparkle.

Suzanne and i were working in her studio late one night: me on cards for the store and her on a class design. 
Good Greetings by Stampin' Up!

Having just earned a new limited edition stamp set of fun words in a loopy script she was trying to use it on the cards for her Christmas class. 
Every single design, prototype or idea ended with her asking me,
  How about sparkle? Could we use sparkle on this? 
It quickly dissolved into fits of cackling. 
I mean, all the other words are useful, but sparkle?
We realized there was no card that was appropriate as she branched out and started suggesting the sparkle stamp for every card i was working on: 
-birthday card? SPARKLE
-thank you card? SPARKLE
-sympathy card? SPARKLE
Just stop yourself.

Though sparkles are fantastic, the word isn't particularly useful as a sentiment. In fact, I told Suzanne that i wasn't sure that any card could ever be made that suitably used the sparkle stamp.
Fast forward a week to the class she had been designing. 
Sitting in on it, but not doing the projects, i decided to make Suzanne a sparkle card. 
I freaking love sparkles; certainly i could figure out something.
I wanted something simple that really highlighted the sparkle so i went with only one color, a stylized star and some actual sparkles:

Then i did a second version that didn't have the glitter,

but had sparkle lightly water marked all over the background.

From that night sprung the studio challenges. Suzanne would pick random items -often non-matching items- that I would have to use in a card design. 
Look for more posts featuring the results of these challenges. 
As with many things in the Nikiverse, the challenges started with sparkle.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

3rd Annual Browse and Buy

For the third year in a row i will be participating in Objects Found's Browse and Buy at the Catonsville Historical Society.
NikCo will be on-site with Quirkees, plus there will be a LOT of quality arts and crafts materials for sale uber-cheap.
Yes, there will be glitter and sequins for sale.
This weekend i will be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm.
Stop by and say HI!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

please don't ask again

It is a well known fact that i have a serious aversion to facial hair.
I believe it makes most guys less attractive (i do concede that there gentlemen who are enhanced by it, but only if it is well groomed).
And i really can't even explain how much i dislike the on going pop culture "let's put a mustache on everything to make ironically cool" movement. It is so ubiquitous that it has even made it into the Oriental Trading Co. catalog.
UGH! Stop it already! 
Anyhoo, late into the night/early into the morning last night, my friend Suzanne and I took a break from sorting and packing her studio to give each other some card-making challenges.
[more on that fun activity later]
She thought it would be hilarious to give me a piece of equipment that makes die cut mustaches, which according to the rules of the challenge i HAD to use.
Yeahhhhh... hilarious.
As i was designing, cutting, and crimping the stupid things she kept taunting me that the theme for the next retreat would be mustaches and that we'd all be wearing them and using them in projects.
People, here is a Public Service Announcement for you: taunting Niki is a bit like poking a sleeping bear - it might sound fun to some, but you never know what you're gonna get.
Last night, she got lucky.
Knowing it would make her laugh, i put on one of the 'staches while she was working on her own challenge. Indeed, there was a hearty chuckle and she said that if she could take a picture of me, no mustaches would appear at the next retreat. Therefore,
Why me, Lord?
Black hipster mustache.
BAH!       Cliched.        Hate it for reals.
Just this once, Suzanne.

Mixed up Love by Stampin' Up!

In case you were wondering, my challenge was to use green, orange and grey ink, the mustache framelit and this stamp set to make a card.

Here is my result:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

of closed doors and chipmunks

Alexander Graham Bell is famously quoted on the topic of opportunity:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.
(it is also quoted as):
Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.
Lately i have been hyper-focused on the sound of closing doors.
It seemed like that was all i could identify from the last few years:
-new job at work? SLAM, position never materializes
-continue in the field anyway? SLAM, you're fired
-golden opportunity to start a business? SLAM, depression takes hold
-business finally getting off of the ground? SLAM , business partner dies without a will
-travel to New Zealand? SLAM, travel companion dies (same guy
-work tirelessly on inheritance claim? SLAM, uncle he saw once in 20 years gets the money
-have regular customers and custom orders? SLAM, complete creative shut down
-several part-time jobs keeping impending financial doom at bay? SLAM, laid off
-creativity returns in time to augment income? SLAM, apathy
-finally turn the corner and start registering for the festival season? SLAM, broken shoulder the very next day

Obviously there was a lot of time in between all of those SLAMs.
Certainly good things happened along the way.
Definitely there are hundreds of millions of people -heck, billions of people- living in far worse circumstances.

Knowing those statements are true is easy, but believing them is a bit harder when you are in pain, forced to sit still in a sling, staring at the walls. 
Slipping from unhappiness into self-pity into depression into wallowing is startlingly simple and quick. My natural optimism and can-do attitude was simply no match for it.
For me the last eight weeks have been one long blur of timeless suckage.

But the other day i had a sparkle pony moment that changed everything.
Pulling into my driveway i saw a squirrel and a chipmunk running together from the house into the woods.
What were those two animal doing together?
Were they playing?
Were they racing?
Were they going for the same nut?
Were they in love?
They looked so ridiculous that i laughed out loud.
Later i started thinking about how much i like chipmunks, with their tail-high zippiness and then realized that i hadn't seen any this season.
Or last season.
In fact, i'm not sure when i last saw a chipmunk in my yard.
The next day i saw a pair of chipmunks.  I don't think i have ever seen two chipmunks that were obviously working and playing together. 
It made my withery, shrouded heart leap for joy.
Leaning out the window to see them better i noticed a flurry of motion in the trees. It was a group of finches flitting about, enjoying the lovely autumn day. That reminded me of the day i performed in PA with a serious fever and thought i hallucinated gold finches until fTM Matt took a picture of them to prove to me that they were real (which is a happier memory than it sounds).
And i cared again.
Just like that.
I could see the open door.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

behold the power of SPARKLES!

In unrelated news, i am in week 3 of range of motion rehab; i see the doctor on Thursday.  
I am almost up to 180 degrees and resultingly my arm hurts. 
A lot. 
The pain meds had to be busted back out this week; they don't seem to be affectin...
ohhhhhhh... shiny...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

hang in there

Physical therapy has begun and i should be back to blogging soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

i am wearing pants!

I have been released from the sling that bound me.
My (hopefully) final x-ray was a few days ago and things look good.
Now comes the physical therapy for 3 weeks to work on getting back shoulder function and range of motion. Right now i can lift my left arm up to nearly shoulder height (about 75 degrees out of the possible 180).
After only 4 weeks of immobilization it is amazing how weak some of the muscles have become; this morning it felt like i had done a hard arm day at the gym with free weights when in fact i had only used the arm to do normal things like opening doors and getting dressed.
The soreness doesn't really bother me though, as it means i am another day closer to being better. In fact, i feel like after a week of motion exercises i could start strength training and be fine in 2 weeks.
My doctor disagrees.
He has me on THREE WEEKS of functionality therapy and then wants to see me to decide the next step.
sigh... three more weeks of not lifting anything heavier than a bottle of water... imagine how wussy my shoulder will be by then...
Oh well, at least i can wear clothes with zippers now.
You'd be surprised at just  how happy that makes me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

170 hours and counting

My X-ray last week showed that the crack isn't getting worse (which no one even told me was an option). My awesome ortho doctor said that if next week's looks as good i might be able to start moving my arm a little and start rehabing it.
Honestly, i am not good at being infirmed. Though i have to admit that figuring out how to get things done without my left arm has become a game to me. There is a 10-step dance to get into the driver's seat properly belted. I do like the challenge.
But there are some things that are still too hard to be fun, like getting dressed for the lovely September weather we are having (tank tops are all i can get over my shoulder and i can't button/zip jeans with one hand) and doing something with my hair.
In fact, i have discovered that it is impossible to put in a ponytail with only one hand. Many folks have suggested various things like having my head upside down or laying on my bed with the hair hanging off the edge, all to no avail. I challenge you to give it a try and let me know if you can figure it out because i would totally give you a dollar.

Friday, September 5, 2014

cracked humerus head and it isn't funny

sorry... i had to make the joke before anyone else did

Last week i was running in my apartment to answer the phone, fell on my hardwood floor and slid.
No, i didn't trip over something.
No, i didn't have on slippy socks.
I have no idea what happened.
One second i was filled with sleepy glee that i was going to talk to my BFF after a few days away and the next i was on the floor. Rea thinks glitter might somehow be responsible, but i refuse to believe that glitter would betray me like that.
I wish it was a better story, i really do.

The of my upper arm bone cracked right under the knobbily part.

Doesn't look that bad, right?

People, that is 4-6 weeks of having my arm immobilized.
Right at the start of the autumn festival season.
Though when i saw the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday (yes, it was 6 days before i saw the specialist because of the holiday weekend) he assured me If you have to break your shoulder, this is the way you want to do it because the crack isn't displayed or chipped so i don't need surgery.
This injury doesn't get casted, i just have to hold it still.
For 4-6 weeks.
There is a sling to help, but my recovery hinges on my patience and my body's natural healing process.
Nothing can possibly go wrong with that plan.
Because i am well known for my forbearance, will power and stillness.
And my body never lets me down; it is a well honed machine.

sigh... i'm screwed

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wed-Sun of last week

mmmmmmmm... pain meds

I am finally out of the initial injury haze and seeing an orthopedic surgeon today.
Tonite or tomorrow i will post an update.
Thanks to everyone who has checked up on me, super thanks to Suzanne for getting me a new phone and extra special thanks to Jason and Kate who kept me in caffeine, left food while i was sleeping and didn't even blink when i declared, The dragons want a milkshake!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One of those days

It's been one of those days. 

I broke my arm. 

I got laid off ( hopefully temporarily).

And my cell phone is in three pieces. 

Can I request a do over?!?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

feeling the age

This month has been very nostalgic for me as i started college 25 years ago, which seems strange since i remember with absolute clarity going to St Pete Beach on the first night and watching the Perseid meteor shower hip deep in the Gulf of Mexico. There are two friends of mine that i met that day; i have now known Skip and Greg for over 25 years. It boggles my mind.
Even weirder is that today is a double birthday in my family: one of my nephews is 30 and one of my great-nieces is 9. I remember that boy being born; he was my first babysitting job. How am i even old enough to HAVE multiple great-nieces, much less one that is almost in double digits?
It seems crazy  to me today.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

there is hope and then there is folly

This tree "lives" in the sunroom at a house i often sit:

Really, homeowners?

Even I would have to admit that this plant is beyond saving and i keep flowers until every single petal and leaf has fallen off.
You are friendly, intelligent and have great taste in nannies.
Let the tree go.
 Let it go towards the light.
That tree is nothing but sad and painful to look at, which is a problem given that it right next to the tv the gets streaming Netflix.
It's okay.
I'll get you a new tree.
A tree with branches and the ability to photosynthesize.

Sad stick in a pot.
Bare, save a green cone cap.
Mayhaps you'll rebound.

Friday, August 15, 2014

attack of the cherry tomotoes

I enjoy working the land with my farmer BFF.
On the phone.
In the divine not-garden of my apartment.
Just 2 days ago i was helping her weed lima beans while painting my nails that stupid not-as-blue-as-advertised color.
Kudos to everyone who grows their own fruits and veggies and herbs or cultivates lovely flowers and bushes and bonsai. You people are amazing.
Growing things is not for me.
I vastly enjoyed a Chia Pet once, but that is the highlight of an otherwise bleak botanical history.
We already know that biting, stinging and/or blood-sucking insects are an issue for me.
Plus my ghostly pale to lobster red in 10 minutes or less complexion.
And the heat.
And the dirt.
And the back-breaking work.
Lordy, the WORK.
But tonight i stumbled upon yet another reason i shouldn't garden:
 the plants fight back, people!
The house i am currently sitting has an herb garden in the back and a lovely veggie patch on the side, both of which i have been faithfully watering, which is the one bit of gardening of which i am capable.
The garden is growing right along, bursting with produce.
The cherry tomatoes in particular are really producing lots of fruit; so much in fact, they were starting to look like clusters of grapes. I have been waiting for them to become red, but finally realized that these must be an orange variety as none turned red and the orange ones were so ripe they were falling off of the plants.
So i, as a good and industrious housesitter decided to pick them before they rotted.
It is all about the preparation, people.
I waited until the sun was below the houses, wore long pants and had on my wee mosquito fan.
I was safe to go into the garden.
The tomatoes were so plentiful and ripe that if i pulled one, ten more fell off the vine into vast squash vines that assured that the renegade tomatoes would never be found. A-ha! Holding my container under clumps of 'matoes meant that gravity did most of the work.
There is chicken wire around the patch. My people mcnugget-sized stature (totally saw that on a shirt that made me cackle with glee) was not aiding in the process of picking over the wire so i pulled it aside and entered the lion's den.
Man, there were a LOT of ripe wee tomatoes (too bad i don't really enjoy eating them) and even two impressive zucchini. I was just going about my merry picking way imaging how astounded and proud Rea would be when i told her i worked the land and how the home owners would be pleased as punch to come home to their own fresh harvest when i noticed it.
The backs of my hands were starting to itch a little.
Then they were starting to itch a lot.
Then, cheese and crackers, what is wrong with my hands?
I finished picking everything i could reach without wading into the vines themselves and ran into the house balancing the container full of 'matoes and giant zucchinis on my forearms.
Produce goes flying into one sink as i hit the water and start scrubbing my hands and wrists in the other (don't you love double sinks?) with the closely available Elmo Cherry Berry liquid soap.
Some chemical naturally occurring in the plants (as i know there are no pesticides, etc being used on this garden) was making me itch like mad and break out in crazy red patches.
Damn you histamine! 
Double scrubbing calmed my skin down enough for me to be able to rinse all the veggies and get them spread out on the counter to dry.
Then it was benadryl time both topically and internally.
Yes, my friends, i am actually allergic to working the land.
To paraphrase Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurrasic Park (both the book and the movie): Plants are living organisms that will defend themselves, aggressively if need be.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

i don't wear green; i don't own anything green

All a girl wanted was a peacock blue nail polish.
Is that too much to ask?
Why does it always dry a different color?
You try to compensate for that, but sometimes you still
end up with this:

All day i lied to myself that it was a deep blue teal, but that, that is a green teal.
Even the added sparkles didn't help.
And when sparkles can't help, the situation is hopeless.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"i'm being chased by a snake in a fur coat"

I have never seen a dog chase its tail in real life.
I always assumed that it was one of those things used in cartoons and comics that doesn't actually happen.
This morning i was enlightened and delighted.

BTW, the title of this post comes from my all-time favorite Garfield comic strip.
(i think somewhere i still have the original that i clipped out of the paper when it was first published in the early/mid-80s)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

what happened to the left side of this tree?

There are no damage marks.
No broken or missing limbs.
It looks like it just grew like this.
Nature, you're crazy.