Sunday, November 12, 2017

The holiday season is here.

Even weeks before Thanksgiving and Advent, we are being assaulted with Xmas. For a traditionalist like me who likes to celebrate Christmas from Dec. 25 to January 5, this makes for an over-extended holiday. Keeping spirits bright that long can be a challenge.

I can understand the fascination with Christmas. I know, much of the Christmas avalanche is driven by retail. This is the time of year when a lot of money is made. I also believe there is something about the holidays that is magical. We want to capture that wonder. The days are getting shorter, and if you are like me, that is depressing. Christmas signals the change in the days. Christians say it is the time when light came into the world.

Still, despite the promises of new beginnings and renewal, the extended holiday can feel at times like a trial. The important thing for me is to find other things to focus on.

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. My secret to a less-stress turkey day - hope someone invites you over. We have a large family, so this is not too remote an answer. My next hint is to go to a restaurant. I'm not a big leftovers person, so these solutions suit me just fine.

Of course, for the first option, I'll still be responsible for some food, but I have several simple ideas. My husband makes preserves, and we have an excellent stash of cranberry chutney. That poured over some cream cheese or nondairy spread and served with tasty crackers is a great appetizer.

I also am a big fan of Sun Basket. Many of you know that was true even before I began an affiliate program with them on my podcast site. Well, that's actually a reason I became an affiliate. I'm going to promote them regardless! The best part of a meal service is the no outside my home shopping involved. I love having my food in perfect portions delivered to my door.

If you are cooking the bird, I'm also an advocate for buying a fresh turkey that you can pick up the day before the holiday.

I recommend you follow Alton Brown's recipe with brining of the bird. That method results in the perfect roast turkey.

Another break from too much "Ho, Ho, Ho" is skiing. The slopes near here will open soon.

You may wonder at that because I've mentioned my physical limitations because of my arthritis and nerve problems in my arms. My reply is that you should not expect to see me executing perfect telemark turns down a black ski run at Jackson Hole. However, you will see me in the Sierra, or perhaps other resorts, on the green runs and easy blue runs without moguls. Skiing, like some other sports, is easy to modify to a person's limitations.

I love playing in the snow and am grateful to be alive at a time when an activity like this is accessible.

Reading, knitting, art, and music are other activities that I access more often as winter approaches.

The year drawing to a close is time for reflection and resolutions.

Despite needing to take a pause from the assault of a prolonged holiday season, I do plan to enjoy it. I used to find the holidays a time of magic even as an adult. It seems harder to capture that now that the kids are grown, and the people close to me are less interested in the celebrations. Still, I look ahead to finding some of the magic this season.

I hope you, too, find magic in the next two months.



Monday, November 6, 2017

Home at last

I have finally settled to being at home. There are some trips I could take before 2018, but I'm saying, "Enough!"

I want to get bills and taxes squared away, organize and deep clean my home, concentrate on my podcast, this blog, and art.

My family has been a significant part of my travels; so, at least, that's an essential part of my life - enriched, not neglected, in my wanderings.

I have been scrapbooking lately and have thought about doing some process videos to discuss how I design and make my pages. I also have taken some video classes as I hope to incorporate some of that on my social media sites and here on the blog.

I love to learn as I have told you many times in the past. My favorite online sites are Udemy and Coursera.

I also am taking an art history class online from Los Rios Community College. It works well when you have a peripatetic lifestyle.

Here are some recent photos of some of my scrapbook pages.

I hope you've visited A Creative Approach Podcast or even better subscribed to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play Store. I started a YouTube channel for the podcast and am considering an app.

One of the things I learned in my class, Video for Social Media, was the importance of closed captioning. All future podcasts will have closed captioning. I have added CC to a few past podcasts, and eventually, all shows in the archives will have this feature.

My studio is slightly chaotic right now; but, after I organize it, I hope to work on a few long-postponed art projects. Classes often compel me to complete work. I need to get that motivation on my own.

I hope to post a few holiday projects in the days ahead. I am thinking of creating a couple of digital designs, either templates or products as I have done in the past. There, I said it. Now I have to get that done!



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Can We Talk? Guns.

I would like to discuss gun violence. With recent tragic events, I feel sad and numb. I see little hope of effective laws enacted though I wish it would happen. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons have only one purpose, and that is to slaughter an enormous number of people quickly and efficiently. In my opinion, you just should not sell ordinary citizens weapons of war.

I also believe the studies that show having a gun in the home is more dangerous than not owning one. So, guns for personal protection may make people feel good, but is it rational? Guns and children is another topic that concerns me.

I am not a big fan of hunting, but I can understand the sport. However, some guns seem to provide such an unfair advantage. How about using a bow and arrow?

Nonetheless, it is likely that as long as people feel afraid of their government, we will never get rid of powerful weapons. Being afraid of government is an essential element of the American psyche. Isn’t that what the second amendment implies? However, it’s laughable that even these weapons would defend anyone from fierce “big black helicopters” or stealth fighters (or even armored vehicles like tanks) if the government decided to go against its people.

As to the sales of guns, all the background checks in the world will not help screen for all dangerous individuals. We even have capabilities to find some potential psychopaths now using brain scans and genetics. However, not everyone with these findings is a psychopath. It might take a head injury, a small stroke, a viral illness or an emotional trigger to activate these tendencies. So, even requiring screening for a few known genes or a brain scan would be infringing on the rights of people who might never become mentally deranged. A mental illness diagnosis is of little help in screening. Most individuals diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to be victims not perpetrators of violence. A genetic screen/brain scan policy of weapons purchasers to determine the potential for violent behavior would miss people whose vulnerability we do not yet have the science to know. Even if we do get the information in the future, and have AI models that are highly accurate in using the data for prediction, what will that mean for society? Will there be different classes of society based on your capacity for violence?

It also seems to me that weapon technology is getting past our human capacity to control that technology. Semi-automatic vs. automatic weapons? They both are people-killing machines and likely to get even deadlier.

Rational discussion about gun violence needs to happen, even now at a time of sadness. Of course, an outpouring of the human capacity for love, kindness, and compassion is what we need at this moment.

Still, we need to talk.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

On writing and living our lives

I wrote this essay and said "Hello, September." Can you believe that even Christmas in July is over?
Time is rushing past, life is the fast lane.

I took a class on Mass Media and Society in July. It was good. It was at Sacramento City College, one of my favorite campuses. The instructor followed the text and used standardized tests. The class requirements were the same as a regular semester class, which makes sense, since it is worth the equal number of units. However, the term paper was a challenge. I got an A, I'm not really complaining but I do like to have time for editing. A four week course makes that near impossible.

You'd think, after writing a blog I'd find writing easy. Not, so. I do know that good writers say the key to everything is editing. I think that is true. I've been trying to learn more about that process. I've been learning at This is not an ad, they do not at this point offer me any affiliate status nor sponsorship. I just signed up for a few classes when they had $10 offers on some of their courses. One I especially am finding helpful is Editing Mastery: How to Edit Writing to Perfection. (note: still working on the course so please do not judge this post!) Shani Raja is an excellent teacher and I'm finding the class very helpful. The problem is time. Some of us are slow at the process. I think that is why so much writing is unclear and unfocused. Even two blog posts a month where I'm not obligated to say anything other than my thoughts and opinions is still pressure, if if a self-imposed obligation. Clearly, it's not an obligation I meet every month.

It's rather like that in many areas of life, isn't it?
We want to make time for exercising, eating healthy home-cooked meals, quality family time, meaningful friend time, and artistic and intellectual pursuits. We end up being a little haphazard in our results. Life is hard to edit to perfection.

I think that may be why we struggle with self-love, fitness, weight management, our relationships and our creative endeavors. We expect much that may not be possible. Don't get me wrong, fulfilling any of these expectations are worthy. I happen to believe being human and being perfect are not a reasonable duality. I read the other day about never confusing our Google searches with someone else's Facebook posts. That translates to real life situations, too. Like our virtual lives, there can be much we are unaware is happening. Maybe that slender girl in the bar eating chicken wings and drinking beer is not just jogging every morning, but she exists the rest of the day on diet Red Bull and is challenged by alcohol and cigarette addictions.

Sure, some people have fewer problems in certain areas; many successful writers start off able to express themselves well and find rapid re-edits easy. To imagine that anyone has it easy though, and does not have to work at skills, nor always gets it right the first time, is almost always the wrong idea.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A recent adventure

Most tourists to London cannot miss the idea and symbolism of royalty, but few get to be near. Now, I was born in Canada which does not have a huge population, so it's not that uncommon to have seen royalty; however, never in quite such limited group surroundings. Princess Anne was a speaker at the evening of lectures where she discussed her work with Save The Children. Cal and I attended that reception at the Royal College of Medicine. The speeches all endorsed convincingly that the provision of health care to women improves not only their health but that of their children and others in the family.

Lecture and reception at the Royal College of Medicine

Another night, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a physician, and peer in government, invited the female guests at the conference to join her at a dinner at the House of Lords. She is a warm, humorous and intelligent professional who charmed us with stories about the pleasures and hazards of needing to be a physician first responder in that august body.
Parliament Buildings are ancient, but the dining room was lovely with fabric covered ceiling and walls and large sliding glass doors that opened to a narrow patio along the Thames.

Photos at the event were limited but here are my friends Gail from Canada and Deb from Australia

Even at dinner I had a lovely view out on the Thames to the Eye

On the narrow patio

View from patio in late evening

The dinner information and menu from the MWF Centenary Program

The Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Sophie, a patroness of the MWF, attended the dinner and met with each one of us. One expects royalty to be charming and gracious and she was every bit of that. We all were delighted to meet her and grateful for her interest in medical women.
The staff at the House of Lords was unbelievably courteous and kind and exceptionally friendly.
On my way into the dinner, a person who works in the building said to me, “I hope it's not impertinent of me Ma'am, but I must say I've never before been in a room with so many powerful women.” I smiled because there were many remarkable individuals present and I felt a bit awed myself.

A view of Big Ben as I left the House of Lords

Engaging educational topics, new friends, historic venues, great food, and entertainment made for a worthwhile trip.
Traveling is one of my passions, not necessarily easy, but worth all of the challenges.

Some photos from the MWF Centenary conference and events

This recent long trip started in San Francisco with a lecture by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He has a new book that I highly recommend, Astrophysics - for People in a Hurry. My husband's positive reaction to the talk leads me to be confident that other non-scientists will enjoy reading and hearing Tyson's words on the subject.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson in San Francisco

From San Francisco, we left for London and then on to the rest of the UK and the Irish Republic.
For the present, I'll focus this post on London. The twenty-five days that followed London will likely inspire future blog entries. It was a peripatetic experience that existed somewhere between boot camp and a whirlwind, but fun!
London as a destination and the hobnobbing with the nobility was because of the celebration of the Centenary of the Medical Women's Federation of England.

Every Birthday needs cake

As a Medical Women International Association member, I wanted to celebrate with my physician sisterhood as did many other women physicians from around the globe.

A few of us decided we needed to get a photo of the visit to Historic Trafalgar Tavern

The MWF organization began with a small group of female doctors who met at a tavern in Greenwich. The MFW arranged a private boat tour for the Centenary attendees to travel from London to Greenwich on the Thames.

Thames River Cruise with MWF

Our group was too large to dine at the Trafalgar Tavern. Fortunately, a larger public house nearby, the Old Brewery, accommodated us nicely with delicious fare. The founding mothers would probably be pleased with the size of our celebratory crowd.

View towards the Greenwich Meridian

While I saw the location of the Meridian on the hill Cal and I were unable to work a visit to the exact spot into our full agenda. I do want to visit there in the future. (Note: I have visited a significant Meridian site in the past, in Ghana, at the spot where the equator meets the Greenwich Meridian, a place Ghanaians refer to as the "Center of the Earth.")
The main conference was held at The British Medical Association building situated near Euston Station. My Hilton Hotel accommodations were right across the street. A shout-out of thanks to my travel agent, Jeff Doris, at the on-line travel agency, Vacations To Go, who situated us in such an excellent spot.

The British Medical Association Building

Cal experiences difficulty with walking and stairs, and I do too on occasion; Uber proved to be an excellent alternative to the Tube to getting around London to other sites.
A couple of other historical sites functioned as the meeting venues - The Royal College of Medicine that I mentioned earlier and The Royal College of Surgeons. I loved all the history and experienced goosebumps stepping where some greats in medicine had walked.

The Royal College of Surgeons Building

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons features collections of anatomical and pathological specimens of humans and animal, as well as models, instruments, and art of surgery from the 1800's to the present. Perhaps the museum is a little gruesome for nonscientists but informative for everyone. I recommend a visit.

The London Eye

The day after the conference was Mother's Day and Cal treated me to the London Eye. It's a tourist attraction that I can unequivocally recommend. The pods are spacious with excellent visibility. It's very comfortable with plenty of viewing room and moves slowly, so those with vertigo have little to worry. We'd missed visiting it on our last visit to London.
The day was complete with a trip to The British Museum, a site of great wonders neither of us tires of visiting. Well, that's not strictly true. Emotionally, the collection is fascinating; physically, for our feet and legs, it's fatiguing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sustainability, Travel, Scrapbook Pages and My Podcast

I have been thinking about sustainability. It's scary to think that some human beings do not care about the planet. I also feel that some people who deny climate change in public, in private think the decline of a healthy environment for humankind is inevitable. I think they do not want public alarm and just want to make a profit and enjoy those benefits as long as possible. I know that is a cynical point of view but when you know they have been presented with the facts and otherwise seem reasonably intelligent what else can you believe. There are plenty of unscrupulous people around. On the other hand, I do see that many businesses and individuals believe a sustainable approach makes sense both for the world and for the bottom line. I hope they are the majority and end up winning. I was encouraged today when I read that public opinion is for sustainability and investing is committing to green technologies and not fossil fuels.
Sustainable creative approaches interest me. I just got a badge in an introductory class in biomimicry sustainable design and I think of studying this more. One of my concerns is the health of our local environments. I took a class for EcoDistricts certification but have had little time to study to take the exam. It's on my to-do list. I'm also considering attending another GreenBiz sponsored meeting. I learned a lot at the last one I attended.
Right now I'm planning a trip to San Diego and another to Great Britain and Ireland. Travel is stressful and exhausting many times but the thrill of learning and experiencing new things more than makes up for the inconveniences. I'm trusting myself to a good tour company in Europe to make the most of the brief time I can spend. One of these days I'll take a semester abroad and actually learn about a foreign land in depth while I study art. It is not easy to travel when you have some physical limitations but I'm always learning how to adapt and I allow time for recovery into my plans.
Of course, the experiences and photos should make for some exciting scrapbook pages as I recount the stories of my travel. I am also considering taking my podcast on the road and talking about my trip. It's a creative approach to my podcast, introducing travelogues.
Speaking of scrapbooking, I've used my travels to inspire some of my recent page design stories. Here's one from my recent visit to Arizona.

And another from my visit to Coit Tower in San Francisco.

Do visit A Creative Approach Podcast and listen to some fun episodes including this latest one with Elena Lai Etcheverry.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why Mt. Etna is a natural phenomenon that inspires me

 Why Mt. Etna is a natural phenomenon that inspires me is a question I needed to answer for a class. A quiz in my biomimicry on-line course wanted to know what in nature inspired me and why. Mt. Etna at night is exquisite. Even when not erupting in a dramatic way, rivulets of lava can be seen running out of fissures and down the mountain in glowing red ribbons at night. The area of Taormina and Giardini Naxos is a beautiful tourist spot in Sicily and romantic and lovely in its own right; but, the views of Etna at night add to the wonder of this place. The fierce power and great beauty fill me with awe. I love Niagara Falls, the forest canopy in Ghana, the powerful surf of the California coast, and the breathtaking view of the Rockies as they spring into sight out of the foothills just a very short distance west of Calgary. All these inspire me. Mount Etna with lava flowing down its slopes at night is the most exhilarating. Perhaps it is because in an area of natural beauty with a magnificent shore and steep cliffs, as well as man-made wonders, like Roman ruins and a medieval city, the destructive volcanic power of Etna looms like the tension of romance and intense passion.