Thursday, December 31, 2015

Every Book Holds Your Future

Antique shops are like free museums of the lovely and old. I wonder what sort of things that seems ordinary to s now will be found on the dusty shelves of antique shops in the future? Now a days, old computers from the 90's look dingy, clunky and a bit sad.  But maybe in the future they will be utterly charming. Or maybe we will find flip phone cell phones at antique shops and we will think of them as elegant relics of the past. The last time I was at an antique shop there were a bunch of old rotary phones. They seemed beautiful, although I bet at one point they seemed pathetic compared to cool wireless phones!

Here are some photos I took when I went to an antique shop in a quaint little town in the Washington countryside.

This phrenology head interesting! Probably an old timey doctor used it in an attempt to better understand his patients, no realizing all of his examining of his patients heads would provide no illumination into their true personality. I use to think phrenology was like palmistry, except instead of using lines in a palm to predict the future, people used bumps in your head to predict the future. There are some pretty strange practices of telling the future that people believe, so it didn't seem too outlandish people would believe this. 

One strange method of fortune telling is called scarpomancy which is the practice of reading the future by looking at a person's old shoes. If I looked at my old shoes, I could predict that in my future, I will procrastinate to by a new pair of shoes until there is a hole large enough in my current shoes to make them almost unwearable. 

Another method of fortune telling that seems more interesting is called stichomancy. This is when you open a random book and read the first passage. The first passage is suppose to relate to your future some how. I am going to give it a try!

I went to my bookcase and chose the book '1001 Questions Answered About the Seashore' by N.J. Berril and Jacquelyn Berrill. I won't quote the entire first passage, but here is the first line "Seashores belong to the sea and almost all life that may be seen on them, apart from birds and humans, comes from the sea." I don't know what this means about my future, but the line does sound rather poetic when considered as some sort of mysterious clue to the future. 

(Source: I learned about the two fortune telling methods mentioned above from the website Neatorama and this list on bizzare fortune telling methods.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Birds and People

I was walking around downtown when I came across a lady making friends. She was throwing bread crumbs for the local birds. They came swooping from the sky and huddled around her, eager to chomp up the bits of delicious morsels. She was stoic in her practice of feeding the birds, watching them with interest then sprinkling more crumbs for them. She was making friends where she could. Cities can be lonely places, and Seattle more than most. We have something called the Seattle Freeze which is one way the city's inhabitants perpetuates its own isolation from each other. Apparently, Washington is the 48th most extroverted state, which means we are state of introverts. But introverts are good at making friends with animals, and animals can make some of the most wonderful friends in the world.

I start work very early. I'm downtown before six in the morning. One morning, I saw a bunch of Seagulls flying in circles around one lit window in an apartment complex above a drugstore. The Seagulls squawked and dove toward the window. I saw a pale arm throwing something from the window. The mysterious arm was throwing breadcrumbs for the birds. The seagulls were like flying acrobats and did whatever they needed to to catch the food bits tumbling toward them. Four stories below them on the ground was a crowd of hungry pigeons, eating the scraps that the Seagulls couldn't catch fast enough. 

Some people think the Seattle Freeze happens because it is always gray and cloudy here. The lack of sunshine makes us tiresome of company. Some people think the Seattle Freeze happens because true Seattlites are descendants of pioneers with independent spirits, and hearts that sought out adventures is the solitude of unmanned wilderness.

Birds need to learn good inter-species social skills in order to migrate South together. They need to learn to fly in 'V's'. They need to learn to turn when the other's turn, to go up and down like a synchronized swimming team. They need to trust each other in order to get away from all the frost and to find food somewhere else, somewhere warm and full of promises of fat, juicy worms and roads paved in bird seed. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

How to Make an Ugly Christmas Sweater

  The world has embraced the ugly Christmas sweater. There is something freeing about celebrating that which is deemed as ugly, unattractive or unfashionable. My work's holiday party was an ugly sweater themed party, but alas, I had no ugly sweater. I also did not relish the idea of buying an ugly sweater. Thrift stores these days aren't as naive as they once were, and now ugly sweaters can cost quite a pretty penny. Instead, I decided to make my own ugly sweater. Not only did it give me a chance to be creative, but my sweater was sure too a one of a kind.

Here is a tutorial on how to make your very own ugly Christmas sweater!

Here is what you will need to make your ugly sweater:

( Sweater, dye, needle, thread, felt, iron on letters, and accessories such as sequins, jingle bells, beads, poof balls and googly eyes.)

STEP ONE: Dye your sweater. If you chose a sweater that is already a holiday color or a color you like, you can skip this step. I used a pale green sweater that I have had for a while and no longer wear. But if you do not already have a sweater that you are willing to sacrifice to this project, the thrift store has lots of plain, cheap sweaters, some of which will already be red or green.
 I dyed my sweater in a big soup pot that was lined with a plastic bag so I would not ruin the soup pot. You can dye sweaters by using hot water on the stove, but of course I could not do this method due to the plastic bag. My sweater ended up being more of a deep pink color than red, so keep this in mind when you choose which method you want to use to dye your sweater. 

STEP TWO: Design time! First sketch out a couple of ideas. Once you have settled on a design, draw it on a piece of paper  the size you want it on your sweater. Cut out the different peices. This is your template.

STEP THREE: Cut out the pieces of your design from the felt. Pin together and sew the littler pieces together before you sew the entire design on to the sweater. 

STEP FOUR: Sew your design onto your sweater. Pin the design on to the sweater, get your thread and needles and sew away!

STEP FIVE: Start adding accessories. After your main design is sewn on, it is time to start adding accessories. The accessories are a very important part on an ugly sweater. They are what turn a cute sweater into something gaudy. I added a jingle bell to the cat's bow tie and fuzzy balls to the cats hat.

STEP SIX: Letter time! Of course it is not necessary to have words on your sweater, but a corny pun adds to the tackiness that an ugly sweater is suppose to embrace. Before I made my sweater, my three ideas were a Christmas dog that said "Happy Howlidays," a Christmas dinosaur that said "Christmas is dinomite!" or the one I settled on, a Christmas cat saying "Meowy Christmas."
Fuzzy iron on letters are an easy way to add words to your sweater. It takes no time at all. First you peal the letters from the letter sheet, arrange them on your sweater and put a hot iron on the letters for fifteen seconds on the front and fifteen seconds on the back. 

STEP SEVEN: Sequins time! Sequins are practically required in a homemade ugly sweater. What better way to embrace the festivity of the holidays with shimmering, sparkling sequins!

STEP EIGHT: Make sure to include any final touches. My final touch were the huge googly eyes. I felt like this is what really pushed my sweater over the top to be ugly. 

Voila! Your sweater is done. You now have your very own ugly sweater which not only celebrates the fun of the season, but was fun to create!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Eerrie Stairs, Eerrie Stories

 Walking home from the bus stop, I came across a creepy scene. Once there were two old, rickety homes with decaying walls and boarded up windows. Now all that remained was leafy vines growing up stairs that led to no where and an army of abandoned stuffed animals.

  The stuffed otter looked my way with vacant black eyes. Next to it sat a pink mystery animal whose dull eyes were almost as vacant, except for the slightest hint of pleading behind the blank stare.

  Speaking of creepy, I recently finished watching a really interesting and eerie TV show called 'The Returned.' There is an American version and a French version. I watched the French version which is available on Netflix and I definitely recommend it.
  The premise of the show is that people who died in the past come back to life. They do not remember anything of their death. They don't have decayed bodies, they look exactly as they did the day they died. The returned people reenter their life as if nothing happened. A lot of the show deals with the way the families and people in their life deal with their loved one's return. 
  This show is not straight out horror, it is slower and eerier. I much prefer scary stories that subtly creep up on you rather than throw a lot of bloody gore and screams at you. If you feel the same way, here are some other eerie stories I recommend:
  • 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson (Book).  Shirley Jackson is a master of the unsettling and the eerie. This short novel of hers is my favorite. It is a story about a very strange young woman named Merricat. Merricat, her sister Constance and her uncle live a secluded life that is marred by a tragic and suspicious event from the past. 
  • 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' by Peter Weir (Film). This is such an eerie story about a mysterious vanishing of young women on a school trip.
  • 'Everything that Rises Must Converge' by Flannery O'Connor (Book of short stories). Flannery O'Connor writes beautiful Southern Gothic stories that stick with you long after you read them. My favorite is called 'A View of the Woods.' 
  • 'Annihilation' by Jeff VanderMeer (Book). This is such a great book about a mysterious nature reserve and all the strange and disturbing things that happen. 
  • Twilight Zone by Rod Serling (TV Show). The Twilight Zone is full of some of the eeriest and most thought provoking stories. I will forever love this show. 
Something I have read recently that is more along the traditional 'horror genre' that is really great is a graphic novel series called "Locke and Key."Locke and Key is by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez.

This picture shows four of the six books in the series. It is a great series that mixes horror, mystery and fantasy together to create a compelling story about a family's connection to magical keys. The keys allow the children in the family access to all sorts of magical wonders, but many of these wonders have a sinister side. The power these keys contain bring out the evil side in some. With malicious intentions, the evil doers battle for control of the keys. These graphic novels are full of adventure and creepy delights!

How about you, what are some of your favorite eerie or scary stories?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Botanical Garden Part 3: The Buzzing Bee

Brave and buzzing bees! I am grateful for the little bee. Imagine all the wonderful things we would not have if it were not for the bee. Fruit, vegetables and delicious honey!

  The first time I was stung by a bee, I was picking a bouquet of dandelions when I smooshed a bee. Poor thing! Although at the time I was sobbing and only had sympathy for my own injury. The bee's flattened body was pressed against my foot. 

 Worker bees create only about 1/12th of a teaspoon in their entire life. I love to put honey in my tea. Usually I will have about a teaspoon of honey in each mug of tea. Next time I drink tea I will think about the 12 little bees that spent their entire life creating the honey in my tea. I found this information from the National Honey Board.

I have marveled before about the cuteness of bee's. An animal that stings us and causes us harm should not be so cute! Stripes and a fuzzy butt, doesn't get much cuter than that! They sting us, but they also make honey for us (well, maybe not for us, but we do enjoy it!), so I suppose their honey making skills earn them their cute appearance.

 Remember for a while there was controversy about how bees fly? People claimed that scientists could not explain how a bee could fly because it was impossible based on what we knew about physics. This was used as a way to discredit evolution. Well, the mystery is solved, so no more using the honey bee to disclaim evolution. The way bee's fly is by flapping their wings so quickly, scientists had to use high speed photography to truly capture the movement of a bee wing. Honey bees flap their wings 230 times every second. Here is an interesting article about it from LiveScience.

Colony Collapse Disorder reminds me of the story of the Roanoke Colony. CCD is when for no known reason, most of the worker bees seem to just vanish, leaving behind their queen and all their worker bee duties. The Roanoke colony also disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The colony had about 100 people who were left in present day North Carolina to establish a colony. The governor of the colony, John White left for a supply run to England. When he returned, all of the colonists had disappeared. There was no signs of violence and the only clue to their whereabouts was a word carved into a structure. The word was "Croatoan." White thought that the message meant the colony had moved to the island of Croatoan, but after White searched the island, it was clear the colony was not there. The mystery of what happened to the inhabitants of the Roanoke colony remains unsolved. It is as if they flapped away to parts unknown, like a honey bee vanishing into the sky. Here is an article about the Roanoke Colony.

Science is finding more and more evidence that animals are autonomous, sentient beings. Recent studies have found that the bee is not just a brainless-blah of a creature. Bee's have personalities! Just like humans, some bees are more adventurous than others. Here is a link to the study about bee personalities.

I have a lot more admiration for the bee after learning more about them. Here is an interesting article from Mental Floss about bee's and their amazing talents. 

Buzz on, little bee!

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Fresh Fried Museum

You know what they say about Americans, we love things fried. Apparently, even our museums! One of my favorite museums in Seattle is definitely the Frye. Every time I go (except for one time when all the exhibits were closed for some weird reason) I leave delighted!

Here are some of the exhibits I saw last time I went. The Exhibition is called 'Genius' and it is running till January 10th, so if you are a local, go check it out!

This piece featured dancers projected on tubes made of string. The images were moving images. The dancers looked beautiful projected on the light and airy strings. I felt an urge to go into the middle of the room and start dancing along with the projected images. But, I held myself back in order to not break any social norms. Although, what better place to break social norms then around a bunch of art? This installation is by artist Zoe Juniper and is called 'We Were'.

These two pieces were both fiber art. I like the colors and the geometric shapes. They are by artist Shabazz Palaces.

 These arrows look the are bursting through the floor. They have light bulbs on them that light up in an upward motion. It was like a forest of lit up arrows. This one is by SuttonBeresCuller and is called 'You Always Leave Me Wanting More.'

This one is from their permanent collection. This one is by Franz Von Stuck and it is called Sin. Several months ago I went to an exhibition just of Von Stucks work. This one was one of my favorites so I am glad it is still hanging up in the museum.

Now that it is the season of blisteringly cold days, storms, rain and general dreary gloom, museums become an even more wonderful escape into wonder, light and color. Here are other things to do on cold and rainy days:

  • Indoor botanical gardens! What better way to appreciate outdoors indoors then a botanical garden bursting with plants. In Seattle we have a botanical garden at volunteer park called Volunteer Park Conservatory
  • Ferry Rides! This one is a bit specific to people living in places with a ferry system. The ferry price has gone a bit up since I moved to Seattle, but it still only costs a little over eight dollars, which is definitely worth a beautiful ferry ride to and from and island. I love to cozy-up on a ferry with some coffee or hot chocolate, sitting next to a big window while watching the scenery drift past. 
  • Aquarium! If you are a water person but don't feel like getting drenched by rain, the aquarium is a good place to go. With any place that exhibits animals, it is good to do your research ahead of time. The Seattle Aquarium focuses a lot on conservation and will release animals back into the wild. If your local aquarium has dolphins or whales, please don't support it. 
  • Pho! Grabbing a friend and pho is a great way to escape a cold day. There is a lot of debate on how native English speakers should say the word 'pho.' In Seattle, everyone says it as if starting to say the word funny. But in other regions, people say it as if saying friend or foe. Another great thing about pho is that it is notoriously cheap. 
  • Coffee date! I love finding coffee shops with good window seats so I can sip my drink while people watching. 
  • Movie theater time! Watching movies at the theater is a classic rainy day activity. 
  • Go outside! Sometimes the best thing to do is just embrace the cold and wet and go venture in the outdoors. Hikes in the rain are the best! Everything smells so amazing and even popular hiking spots are fairly empty. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Botanical Garden, Part 2: The Whimsy

  The Bellevue Botanical Garden is divided into different sections. There are the actual, manicured and well maintained gardens and then there is the botanical reserve which is full of trees and the wild. When in the wild, one never knows what they may see...deer, wolves, banana slugs, squirrels, mountain lions, birds and....gnomes!

  Someone had fun turning nooks and crannies in the botanical reserve into delightful and whimsical gnome homes. Most people associate gnomes as the cute pointy hated little men that people have garden statues for. But here is an interesting historical tidbit about gnomes. Alexander Pope wrote a story called 'The Rape of Lock' in which gnomes appear. In his story, gnomes are reincarnations of prudish women. The gnomes spend the rest of their eternity looking after other prudes to make sure they are unharmed by danger and that their prudish nature is rewarded by safety. One thing all gnomes have in common is that they are little people. Originally, they lived underground, rather than in flower gardens. They could move through the soil, rocks and other elements of 'ground' as if it were air.

Here are more photos from the botanical reserve.

 What do you call a mystical, bearded elf-like person with great intelligence?

  A Knowme!

Source for information about gnomes:
"Gnome." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <