Blogging from my phone

I do a lot on my phone now, and not a lot on the computer since the toddler learned that dance music videos come from there :)

I’m testing out this WordPress app on my android to see if it helps me write more. So far, I’m just missing my fullsize keyboard! Maybe I’ll just do picture and video posts with it :)

Here’s Avery giggly on the swing :)

EDIT: The video upload feature is giving me lip… so much for that!
image

Here’s a pic of my part-cat part-baby climbing in a lunch box instead.

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Rain, Music and Solitude

Par for the course, the entire 10-day forcast is rain. Winter enters the home-stretch into a cold and rainy spring. I like the flowers but it’s damn cold out there today. I’m feeling particularly introverted, dark and stormy myself.

Country Death Song by Violent Femmes is also hitting the spot right about now:

Maybe an encounter I had today made me question myself and get defensive about the way I take care of my son. He’s small but he’s damn healthy and damn smart. The kid is climbing already and is getting a good vocabulary at not even 10 months. He get’s plenty of “real food” thank you, he could eat your toddler under the table. Arrrrrgh. I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. I found this interesting article today that sums it up:

Research Shows 50 Years of Motherhood Manuals Set Standards Too High for New Moms “More than 50 years on and experts still cannot agree on the best way to approach motherhood, and all this conflicting advice just leaves women feeling confused and disillusioned.”

I’m feelin’ it. I cure that with some alone-time with the laptop, the sketchbook and Coffee & Chocolate Biscotti hemp ice cream. MMmmmmm. I love this new TED talk and it’s inspiration to catch some me-time:

I love reading books and writing and sketching out ideas and tend to fall back to that when nothing else works. I feel more secure somehow knowing there are other people out there that crave solitude, like myself. Another good new TED talk, exploring the transcendent nature of tight knit groups or communities:

I’m gonna go lose myself in my thoughts before getting back to my artists’ community.

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New Addictions and Ideas

Happy Valentine’s day! I am feeling super special as my site here just set a new record of hits per day. Thanks for the clicky love, people!

tea cup text heart

I feel almost as much love as I would if I were drinking jasmine tea out of this tea cup. Found via Pinterest

I have to say, it’s probably because I decided to show myself some love on Pinterest today and pin some of my stuff. I am super addicted to that site, and I feel at least a little vindicated that it’s not just a way for me to find other people’s cool stuff and drool nonstop on the laptop – it’s also a way for people to drool over some of my crafts and recipes! I put a lot of time into my crafts, recipes and photos and I am really happy to be received by fellow pinners!

some e cards

Look what I just found on Pinterest to sum up my Pinterest addiction...

I think because it’s so visual, my right brain just goes around and explodes over all the pretty shiny thingies that I must have (See the pretty mess here.) I really appreciate the ability to keep images and links together in one place and access and sort them visually and I know that will help immensely when writing blog posts.

recipes smoothies rainbow

Pretty, but also super useful for finding recipes and crafts! 20 Summer Smoothies from The Family Kitchen via Pinterest

Which brings me to my other new addiction, Twitter. If Pinterest is my visual overload, Twitter is my haiku-loving  wordsmith text overload. I tried to stay away but it’s just so damn easy to throw links and random musings out there! And they automatically update on my facebook page too, which was in need of some love. Totally addicted, see how I rationalized that?

twitter by berkozturk

"Twitter" by berkozturk from deviantart via Pinterest

To be fair, much of these two addictions are driven by my extreme lack of free time (or any time) lately. Which is caused by my most important addiction of all. An addiction harder to quit than any drug and constantly coming up with new ploys to get me to pay attention. An addiction so bad I can’t even get out of bed some mornings…

baby addiction

How can I resist this cute little face?!?!

Yup. Baby addiction. The literal monkey on my back. And arm. And leg. He is relentless about seeing, doing and tasting everything in sight. He’s 5 days away from being 9 months old and he’s already crawling, climbing and standing unsupported… I can count on having even less time to spend online, no matter how quick and easy it is! Seriously though, he’s a rad little dude and super fun to hang out with so that is why I’ve been lagging on posting here lately. He crawled over a dozen times already while typing this but is passed out now so I hope to actually finish writing.

done is better than perfect motivation

Pinterest is helping me with this post by finding me this little bit of inspiration

I’ve got a lot going on behind-the-scenes that I’d love to share with you as soon as I can! Mostly I’m excited about recent collaborations and meeting new people with strangely similar mindsets and goals. Social networking is really helpful for these types of working relationships, and I hope to see all of these addictions and collaborations grow! :D

Repurposed vintage hardcover books fashioned into useful purses

Vintage Book Beaded handle Purse, Fate and the Butterfly, circa 1909 by BeeZbyScranton ... Her stuff is right up my alley and I hope to develop some beads for her purses! Check em out!

There are still a lot of kicks to be worked out, as usual, but I hope to be writing more actual posts soon. My sweetie has a new schedule that we’re all getting used to (Avery doesn’t understand why daddy can’t hang out some days) but as soon as we’re settled in, I’ll be getting a solid hour here and there SANS baby. I know, amazing right? A WHOLE HOUR?? What will I do with myself? Write, photograph, edit, crochet, sew, cut, roll and string beads, teach, learn, share and post.

Until then, I love you guys and thanks for checking out my shop! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest for all the crazy awesome I don’t have time to write about yet!

~Michele~

 

 

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Wicked Good Pumpkin Bread – Gluten free, Dairy free, Soy free

Warning: This Pumpkin Bread may cause uncontrollable urges to sneak into the kitchen and eat more! I made the full batch – two loaves – for Thanksgiving the night before. At midnight. Half a loaf was missing before I got up the next day. Ok, I admit that was mostly me as soon as it cooled down enough to cut, but still. Be careful! The rest was gone by the end of Thanksgiving and I got requests from everyone for the recipe… so here ya go!

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free Wicked Good Pumpkin Bread
(2 Loaves)

1 c. Vegetable Shortening (I used one made of non-hydrogenated palm oil)

3 c Sugar (1 c brown sugar, 2 c white or whatever you have)

3 Eggs or Egg Replacer

1 tsp Vanilla

2 tbs Hemp Milk, almond milk or other milk alternative

3 c Gluten Free Flour Mix (I did 2 c Rice flour, + 1 c Tapioca Flour)

2 tsp Cream of Tartar

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Cardamom

1 tsp Nutmeg

1 tsp Salt

3 c Solid Pack Pumpkin (I roasted 2 small sugar pumpkins this year and got almost 8 c of yummy pumpkin!)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. (If you want to half the recipe, it still works.) Cream the shortening and sugar together, cream it real good. I put both in a large bowl and set it on my lap. This is one of the secrets to getting really good quick bread or cookies. Using a wooden or plastic spoon works better than a metal one. What you want is for the fat and sugar to get really happy together before the next ingredients go in.

process picture of mixing ingredients

Cream it real good. This is also a really great arm workout.

Once you’re there, add the eggs one at a time, mixing them in really well also.  In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to cream and sugar and egg mix a little bit at a time. Add the pumpkin last.

pumpkin bread

This is the part where I'm impatient and get flour mixture everywhere.

Put into 2 well-greased 5×9 loaf pans, or 2 9″ circle pans. Or one of each, like I did, because that’s all you have in the house… My round pan took 50 minutes and my loaf pan was done around 1 hour 15 minutes. The clean toothpick test is key here.

yummy pumpkin cake bread

I admit I ate half of this before I remembered to take a picture...

What really drove the point home was the icing. It was a sweet bread plain… with icing it is more like pumpkin spice cake! I would leave off the icing and use less sugar (like 2 cups) if I wanted it more “bread” like – but once I tasted it with the icing I knew I would never change a thing with this recipe. I’m hooked for life. All I did for the icing was combine

3 c Powdered Sugar (Whole foods brand has tapioca starch instead of corn starch like almost all the rest)

3+ tbsp Warm Water

That’s it! Just a simple glaze, but put it on warm and it sinks in and does some magic with the pumpkin bread. If you can resist temptation until the next day, the inside of the “bread” solidifies, denses up and gets this melt-in-your-mouth quality that we’ve named “puddnification”. Another example of puddnification is iced chocolate layer cake after being refrigerated overnight. Try it.

gluten free dairy free soy free

Second loaf goes into the fridge to undergo "puddnification" for maximum yum factor.

Enjoy! This recipe can be used for other squash too, and it actually started as my banana bread recipe so go crazy with that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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The Perfect Personalized Geek Gift (Order Now!)

So the Holiday season is upon us again and if you have friends like me, that means hours of agonizing over how you’ll find the perfect gift for the weird/original/geeky/nerdy/obsessive-compulsive/odd people you love in your life. Have no fear, your Odd Tonic is here!

*snicker* Sorry, that was way corny but I couldn’t help it. It’s true though, I can custom make word bead and music bead jewelry for any geek you can imagine. If you haven’t been there, check out my etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/OddTonic or click the “Handmade gifts” page above. Some custom beads I’ve already done include: Words and phrases from a college graduate’s thesis paper that earned her Bachelor’s, including a particularly meaningful phrase from her studies as the centerpiece of the necklace, “In Hoc Signo Vinces” = “Under this sign, Conquer”

custom thesis bracelet and necklace geekery in hoc signo vinces

"Under this sign, conquer." I used left over beads from the "Thesis Necklace" to make this bracelet

She also requested a necklace for her artistic, eclectic grandmother, for whom she could not find a gift after weeks of searching. We chose one of grandma’s favorite tales “the Lady of the Lake” and a fuchsia ribbon. Both necklaces have magnetic clasps, making it easy to put on and take off. Helpful if you know someone with arthritis or a minimal tolerance for necklace clasps. Fun to play with as well!

custom order word bead necklace lady of the lake magnetic clasp

Close-up of the magnetic clasp on the "Lady of the Lake" necklace

I have also made a custom bracelet with a favorite quote, “Who so loves believes the impossible”. She didn’t know where the quote came from but after some research I found that it is commonly attributed to famous female poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I found PDFs of her 1880 edition of “Poetical Works” and used words from this antique print for the quote.  She also ordered a bracelet as a special gift to the bride from her maid of honor; I call it the Namaste bracelet. It says “Let the goodness in me honor the goodness in you. Namaste” The “Namaste” bead also has the Devanagari script for the word. The bride liked it so much, she ordered 10 more to be gifts for the whole wedding party!

custom order Devanagari namaste wedding party gift bracelets

A pile of "Namaste" bracelets complete with care and info tags

Hopefully you can see just how versatile this technique can be! Prices vary by order since each one is unique but custom bracelets will run about $10 each and necklaces around $25. Well worth it when you consider I’m making all of these by hand and tailoring it to suit your geekery needs! I think these make great birthday gifts and hard-to-beat Christmas/holiday gifts, but please – be sure to give me time to make them and ship them to you! 3-4 weeks would be good, or order by December 10th and I’ll get it to you before December 24th!

TO ORDER:
Visit my shop and click on “Custom Order” on the right
Or email me at (msteward777) at (gmail.com)

Also, be sure to “share” or “like” this post with friends and family to send them a hint! ;)

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Striking Photography and Vintage lovelies; an Artistic friend with benefits!

I love finding new artists and crafters on Etsy lately… it’s extra special when it happens to be a friend! Charleen of Charleen Scott Imaging and Toolesque vintage has just listed a whole bunch of goodies I am drooling over right now… Like my new banner? It’s a close-up of one of her amazing photos!

Well I am in love all over again with her surreal art and bold photography (all photos copyright Charleen Scott). Just look for yourself:

Charleen Scott Imaging Flower Photo Vintage Chainsaw Rusty Bold

"Flower Photograph" by Charleen Scott Imaging. 8x10 for sale on Etsy

"Surreal Eye Painting" by Charleen Scott Imaging. 8x11 for sale on Etsy

Full Moon Photo Large Focus Detailed Print for Sale

"Moon Photograph" by Charleen Scott Imaging. 8x10 for sale on Etsy

She has a great eye for vintage finds which feature in her vintage-only shop, Toolesque… so named for a love of all things Tool related. Still one of my favorite bands, layered with hidden musical gems and interesting themes. It’s an appropriate name for a store with cool finds I think! Check out this awesome jug:

Vintage glass one gallon jug

I’m also sorely tempted by the vintage cook books and hair-dryers:

1950's Dominion Hair Dryer

I think my favorite part is the awesome product photos she takes! Thanks for sharing your lovelies with the world, my dear!

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Alive and Well

Well Hi there. What? It’s been 3 months already? It feels like one very long, sleepless, poopy day since my son was born. He is 2 1/2 months old! I feel bad for taking so long to post anything but oh well, I have a drooly, chubby little excuse now.

The worst part is, now that I have none of that “free time” stuff, I have 100 things I want to post about! I have been sharing links on my personal facebook page, usually with the intent of “keeping track of that cool link so I can write about it later” but later being content with passing it along to a few friends. I considered posting quick link-round ups on this blog but I feel like there are so many “daily” sites doing that -posting links with little original context- that I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor. I feel the need to write something or present it with other relevant links, but I’m not finding the extra time and so nothing gets posted. So that’s the dilemma.

As for new recipes and projects… the mind is racing but the body is barely keeping up with the day-to-day chores! I have gotten my pancakes figured out, biscuits have been perfected and tortillas have been rolled. So there will be that at some point! And shop items are truly at the top of my goal list… now if only I could find it under all this laundry…

Our healthy baby boy, Avery 2 1/2 months

Sooner or later!

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Robot Babies, Robots Evolve Altruism and Robot-riding Babies

So this is how the baby robot take-over begins:

Patterns of Nonverbal Emotional Communication Between Infants and Mothers to Help Scientists Develop a Baby Robot That Learns “The babies teach the researchers how to program the robot, and in training the robot the researchers get insight into the process of human behavior development, explains Paul Ruvolo, six year graduate student in the Computer Science Department at UC San Diego and co-author of the study.

Then comes the baby robot, possibly one of the most frightening things I’ve seen in a while:

Robot Baby

Photo Credit: Hosoda Lab

Via http://www.plasticpals.com: “Measuring the size of a 7 month old infant, Pneuborn-7II was built to study the relationship between motor development and embodiment.  It is 80cm (31″) tall, weighs 5.4kg (11.9 lbs), and has 26 degrees of freedom actuated by 19 pneumatic muscles.  Notably, the robot’s spine has three pitch and yaw joints that allow it to rotate, flex, and extend.  It is fully autonomous, containing a micro controller, battery, air valves, and an air source (compressed C02 cartridge bottle).  During long experiments, air can be provided through an external compressor.

The researchers implemented a learning algorithm based on central pattern generators with an optimization method, which was able to generate successful crawling forward motions.  They were able to accomplish this despite the robot’s lack of sensors or sophisticated artificial intelligence.  Central pattern generators (or CPGs for short) are a type of neural network that are often used in robotics to create rhythmic motions that are especially useful for simple locomotion such as crawling or rolling over.”

They’ve also got Pneuborn-13 which is modeled on a 13-month old, can stand and make stepping motions.

Fortunately, we also now know that robots are capable of learning how to share. This video describes these little bots evolution:

So maybe we’re not completely doomed… or maybe this just means the hordes of robot-babies will learn how to work together to bring about mankind’s demise…

And, as I mentioned in another post, Science is already working on robots that develop emotions and play on our weakness for all things cute. Teaming up with human babies seems like a final sinister step in our inevitable downfall, because babies are born experts at manipulating our cuteness weakspot. Makes this next clip a little more freaky, doesn’t it?



I, for one, welcome our new robot-baby overlords.

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Video Links – Amazing Music Skills

I’ve been watching random videos online as usual, and have found a wealth of amazing musical talent lately! First up, some of the most amazing banjo-pickin’ I’ve ever seen, never mind that the kid is 8 years old! The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys are an amazing trio of bluegrass brothers and it’s well worth checking out their youtube channel.


Next… I really don’t know how to describe how amazing 16-year-old Chooka is on the piano. Here’s a clip from “Australia’s Got Talent” with a bit of backstory and improv from the self-taught farmer boy from the outback:



This video is Taiwan artist Shara Lin. She manages to pull off not just a duet, but a 3 part instrument piece all by herself. Talk about timing and skill!



And here we have a violinist playing along while dancing to DDR. And I thought just coordinating my legs was hard enough…



Links via BoingBoing and TDW, I believe… although it’s funny how the same videos pop up all over the internet. I’m glad I don’t claim to have any musical talent, because I would be constantly humbled by what I find random people from around the world performing. Instead, I just get to enjoy it!

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Geek Out – Current Research and Parenting Prep

3+ weeks to go! I’m sure my brain has melted with thoughts of baby. I’ve given up making coherent, concrete steps towards preparedness and am content to wander from rocking chair, to kitchen, to sewing machine, to computer accomplishing little random tasks.

Practical! Cloth diapers are surprisingly easy to make.

I’m to the point where we’re pretty much as ready as we’ll ever be for baby to join us out here, so I’m not running around like a crazy person anymore. Besides, walking is hard enough! I haven’t stopping preparing though. I am making cloth diapers and covers (free pattern at http://www.handmadebyrita.blogspot.com/) and using the scraps for burp cloths, baby wipes and wash cloths. It’s kind of ridiculous how much cloth wipes cost when I can make a dozen out of scraps left over from making a fitted diaper from $4 worth of material… I’ll have to write another post just on that! We’ve stocked up on some food and lots of supplies as well. I’ve relaxing with some crochet toys and a baby blanket in my gift of an antique rocking chair, fixed up by my sweetie:

New to me, but this rocking chair is OOOOOOLD for sure. I love it! You can see my crochet blanket project on the arm.

Detail of the very old repair on the even older chair. Beautiful.

True to my geek nature, I have also been reading and researching A TON. My favorite books have been Birth Without Violence by Frederick Leboyer M.D., Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort, and the few parts I’ve read of The Continuum Concept by the recently passed Jean Liedloff (the book is still reserved for others at my library, so I’ve only read bits online… but I already dig it).

These books all inform somewhat on what is known as attachment parenting. It’s easy enough to find information about attachment parenting online, in fact, maybe too easy. It seems like everyone is an expert and countless message boards clamor with cries for help and suspect advice. I’m not a big fan of unverified anecdotal evidence, so I turned to the science of “why attachment parenting?” Here are some scientific evidence-based arguments:

Quality of Parent-Toddler Relationship Could Affect Risk for Childhood Obesity

“Our hypothesis is that secure attachment could reduce the risk for childhood obesity by preventing frequent or exaggerated stress responses from disrupting the normal functioning and development of the systems that affect energy balance and body weight. Children’s stress responses and emotion regulation are formed in early childhood in the context of parent-child interactions, and one indicator that the child has developed healthy emotion regulation and stress response is secure attachment.”

How Do Secure Mother-Child Attachments Predict Good Friendships?

“Several pathways led from close early mother-child attachment to later friendship quality. In one pathway, children who were securely attached at age three showed more open emotional communication with mothers and better language ability at four and a half, she said…”This finding suggests that the way children interpret other people’s behavior may begin to develop in the context of early relationships in the family, and these interpretations may be important for a child’s ability to get along with friends later on,” she said.”

Mother-Child Attachment, Children’s Temperament Play A Role In ‘Terrible 2′ Conflicts

“High-quality relationships between mothers and children were associated with more constructive conflict between mothers and children. In secure relationships, both mothers and children seem committed to maintaining relational harmony by resolving conflict, compromising, and justifying their side of an argument.”

These are just a few of the solid scientific reasons that fostering secure attachments, with either parent, is better for children. There are many, many studies of this kind being done right now and evidence-based parenting advice is the only kind that makes sense to me. We are starting to monitor babies’ and toddlers’ brain waves now which will give us even more accurate insight into what children need to be healthy. Before a certain age, for example, babies don’t have the wiring to soothe themselves and rely on their parents to calm and comfort them. This is a HUGE difference from the “cry it out” approach that was standard when I was young, which we know now may actually cause brain damage in infants. Sleep is another interesting area of research contradicting old assumptions:

For Infant Sleep, Receptiveness More Important Than Routine

“Emotions are the most basic form of communication between babies and parents,” Teti said. His findings pose new challenges to parents because they suggest that being emotionally available — paying attention to cues and responding to children appropriately — is more effective than a specific bedtime behavior in promoting better sleep.

The researchers found no significant relation between sleep disruptions and the amount of time parents spent in close contact with infants or involved in quiet activities before bedtime. This contradicts past research, which had suggested that prolonged close physical contact with a parent undermines babies’ ability to sleep on their own.”

*****

So there you have it, my reasoning for a more scientific approach to parenting. I’m certainly not going to tell other parents what they should do with their babies, but I would hope that our seemingly unorthodox approach will be honored. Becoming a parent is no reason for me to abandon my logical nature and I hope, like any parent, that our son will grow up happy and healthy with our help… and a little help from modern science (Plentiful Maternal Affection in Early Infancy Boosts Adult Coping Skills, Study Finds).

BONUS: I get a bigger brain too! New Mothers Grow Bigger Brains Within Months of Giving Birth: Warmer Feelings Toward Babies Linked to Bigger Mid-Brains

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