Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Austin

Hey Folks- we have a guest blogger for this week. Elizabeth Austin hails from rural southside Virginia, but has made waves all through the great states of North Carolina and Tennessee where she now resides. A student of the Vanderbuilt University graduate divinity program, she's one smart cookie! And cute, too! Granted, I might be be a bit biased, as she is my baby sister. ;) Enjoy!

The sun is setting here in Nashvegas, and I find myself enjoying the beautiful weather as the
seasons change. I survey my kingdom from my apartment’s balcony—and by kingdom I mean
the Logan’s steakhouse across the street.

Now, besides the beautiful weather here, the arrival of Fall means one very important thing for
us Nashvillians*: FESTIVALS. There is the Crafts Fair, the National Folk Musical Festival,
the state fair, Oktober Fest, and of course Shakespeare in the Park. There’s a Blues and Jazz
Festival, Fried Food festival, as well as the Comic Book and Horror festival.

However, the most important festival is the Greek Festival. Oh yes, the Greek Orthodox Church
in Nashville hosts a weekend long event: everything from merchants to dancing to ouzo to

This year, right when I was in need of a particularly fantastic bit of magic, the Greek Festival
rolled around. After a long week of work and papers, topped off receiving the wedding
announcement of your ex from this time last year (there’s a bit of magic for ya--bullet dodged!),
I was in search of an adventure with just me, myself and I.

So, I took off to the festival. I walk in, excited to be lost in a crowd of strangers and seeking out
the baklava tent.

Not even 3 minutes into the gate, I hear someone calling my name. Friends of mine from my
graduate school, and by friends I mean three of the couples from my program. Couples—on a
day when I was decidedly allergic to all things cute and paired.

I put a smile on my face, and begin to wonder if any chance for a magical night of recovery is

An hour later, as the couples are talking to one another, I spot a sign. It is a very important sign.
It is a sign that proves that God love us unconditionally.


So I think, “Hey baklava and sundaes. Too bad I have to choose.” So I mosey over to the line,
and wait anxiously for 15 minutes for my baklava. My friends follow me, deciding they also
want baklava. They chatter away, and I keep anxiously shifting in place like a 5 year old in a
candy store.

As I finally reach the front of the line, the woman at the cash box asks me what I’ll have.
“Baklava!” I say, a little too intensely. She rolls her eyes, and the man reaches to grab the
baklava. As the woman hands me my change, the man hands me a cup.

Only it doesn’t contain just baklava. It is a BAKLAVA SUNDAE. The sign was not either/or,
but both/and! Vanilla ice cream on top of a piece of baklava with baklava crumbles mixed in the
ice cream. This is a cute pairing to which I am decidedly not allergic!

I take a bite, and all I can say is this: pure magic. It was just baklava and vanilla ice cream. Joy
abounding, joy that should not be contained. This, this is the concept of homooúsios incarnate—
forget that Jesus dude—with the plain vanilla combining with the divinity of baklava and thus
be equal to God’s self! And yes, such magic does warrant the formulation of a Baklava

So, I share good news of great joy:

“Baklava. And Sundae. Together. Every existential crisis I have had, am having, or will ever
have has just been resolved. Come friends, find salvation.”

And thus I shared the Baklava Gospel through texting.

*1 Sidenote (technically footnote I guess): I love how villain is part of Nashvillian. Tickles my
dark and quirky humor.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stroke of Luck

What I love about this video, and what Guggi has to say, is that it isn't always about "the great stroke" of the paintbrush. Painting, and any creative discipline, requires so much more than what we see as the end result. How many times have you drafted a story only to throw it out halfway through? I can't begin to count the number of times I've had to put a painting away for a while and go on to something else. ...Probably has something to do with the fact I can't seem to count higher than 10. ;)

We seem to take for granted how much work goes into our craft. Too often there will be that one person who says that they wait for creativity to strike before they begin their work. Personally, those are the kind of people I really want to punch in the forehead.

For the rest of us it's hard work. It's exhausting. The hours are long, the pay is measly, and the critics are hounding. But the end result is always worth the effort. As Creatives we have no choice but to show up and do the work that is demanded of us. Sometimes I'll be in the studio arguing with a painting for hours. After a while I get up and pace the floor. Occasionally I'll engage in a Mexican Standoff with the canvas. Usually it wins.

The good news is that the only reason that I'm even arguing with the painting in the first place is because both I and the work want it to come through completely. The work wants to exist, and I want to get it right. So while we argue, really it's a collaboration. I've learned that you have to communicate with the piece in order for anything to go right. And yes, I'm well aware that makes me sound like a fruitcake, but just trust me on this. Eventually, miraculously, everything comes together and when I step away from the easel I see something I didn't know I was capable of doing. I am sure this is true for more than a few of you as well.

So when that one person eventually says something along the lines that you're so lucky, you can smirk at them and think, "Oh if they only knew."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Judgment Day

I'm rather amazed I managed to finish this at all. I've been somewhat obsessed with enjoying a British murder mystery called Midsomer Murders. Despite the idyllic English village setting, the place is crawling with murderous psychopaths and far too many skeletons in the closets. I kind of love it. I think that is what I'll spend my break from the blog doing. No, not murdering people. Writing a murder mystery. Of course, knowing me, it will turn into something silly, most likely involving zombies. Oh well.

So, this is it then. This is the end of this (rather long) arc. But don't worry my loves, this is really very far from the end. We certainly haven't seen the last of Charlotte Foxtrot.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ghoulings On

Hello All! 

Just a little note to make you aware of some ghoulings on. :)

October is a very exciting month for all of us here at Fantastic Spatula! The ushering in of Autumn, pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING, crunchy leaves, (Lucy's Birthday), and Halloween! So much to look forward to, appreciate, and experience.

Which is why we're taking the month off.

[Ducks to avoid being hit by rotten tomatoes and questionable fruit.]

I know, I know. How could we do this to you? How could we leave you all on your own to cultivate your own magic? Don't we love you anymore?

Well, the answer to that is YES! Yes, of course! Nothing but love for each and every one of you! But even Spatulans as fantastic as us need a little time off once in a while. ;) You may recall us having taken a break last October. And it was very good for all of us, plus we came back to share our Halloween horror stories. That was certainly more treat than trick!

Now we won't be taking a  complete break, nosiree! Clara and I have a line-up of fun, magical, interesting things to keep you going and amp you up for the Halloween season. We'll be updating on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 

But wait! There's more! Each of us will be posting a Halloween treat by 9 pm October 31st. Will it be a scary ghost story best told around a bonfire? Will it be a memory of Halloween gone by? Perhaps a bit of POE-try?

You'll have to wait and find out. ;)


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sunday Post: Quotables on Life

Good Morning Spatulans. I hope you have a good Sunday.

"Nos te ipsum" or "Nosce te ipsum" or " Know Thyself" or "How I Found Magic in Lines, Sidewalk Writing, and Remembering Myself"

I know that I get overwhelmed with people when I am in large crowds for an extended amount of time. I know going to a certain infamous big-box-store will make me want to crawl in to the fetal position and cry until I puke or pass out. I know that when I start to get the"oh-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-please-leave-me-the-f-alone" feeling I need to stop, take a deep breath through my nose, and exhale through my mouth. And I need to do this a couple of times (At work my boss reminds me to do this and at home the bear [aka my girlfriend] reminds me to breathe).

So, when a friend tried to make plans with me, then changed them, then changed them again, then tried to make new plans after I had just paid a visit to the infamous big-box-store (and had thusly become peopled-out) I forgot myself and got a little frustrated (at no real fault of my friend). But, before my frustration got the better of me, I took a breath, I grabbed my camera, and went on a walk. The bear told me a walk would be a good idea and said to take lots of "angry pictures." It was in jest but I could feel my frustration getting in the way of taking pictures and enjoying the walk. But I kept breathing. And I kept clicking and did take some "angry pictures." Eventually all the "angry pictures" were exhausted and I decided on a subject matter. I made a little collage when I got back home (See, see! Look at all the little pictures in the one picture!)

Two things stood out during this photo walk: 1. Lines 2. This quote in the cement, "Nos te ipsum." Which, correctly, is Nosce te ipsum (according to Wikipedia) and is Latin for "Know Thyself." I often forget myself. I forget that there is more than one side to a story, a feeling, myself (There is more than one way to feel you at one time). I forget that when I don't draw lines or make boundaries or set definite goals I often end up letting some of my "shitsticky" qualities (read: procrastination, fear, frustration with people) get in the way or overflow into my "more better" qualities (read: writing, art, magic making, spending quality time with friends and the bear).

My magic this week came, unexpectedly, at the end. It is this: Remember yourself. Set goals (an obtainable small goal is best for recovering from forgetting yourself). Don't be afraid to draw lines and make boundaries so you can be your best self to yourself and to those you love.

(P.S. When I say "make boundaries" I'm not talking the barbed wire kind that no living soul can get into and you yourself can only break apart after a Pink Floyd "The Wall" experience. I'm talking about standing up for your self. If you don't want to do something because it interferes with who you are or the you that you want to be, keep that boundary up. Make it strong and be yourself.)

(P.P.S. This was actually Saturday's post. But apparently I still forget that there is a time difference. It's only 11:56 p.m. in MT. Does it still count as the Saturday Post?)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Uncovering Home

Having lived in a small town all of my life I often look forward to trips to bigger cities where I can walk out the door and let the environment take over. There are moments when it feels like Christmas morning. Except instead of excitement over presents, there's a sigh of relief where you savor the rare beast of culture.

However– culture exists even in small towns. Sure it's all too easy to complain that there's nothing to do. In a place where the most fun a teenager can have on any given night is tailgating in the Wal-Mart parking  lot, Dollar Night at the bowling alley, or trying not to get your feet stuck to the floor at the only movie theater in town you kind of have to make your own fun. Life in a small town is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

So this past Sunday, my friend Val and I went adventuring through downtown to take pictures. We acted like tourists, or five year olds, and invaded the streets! In three hours we managed to find painted fire hydrants, a vacant theatre and ballroom, a two story antique shop set up like a museum, and quite a few other odd and quirky things.

Here! Have some photographic proof! (You didn't think I'd leave you hanging, now did you?)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Changing of the seasons

Again in the vein of making magic, the seasons are about to change.  The Northern hemisphere will be moving farther away from the sun now and we are hurtling into fall.  The ancient Celtics called this Alban Elved or Mabon, the time to being harvest before the harsh cold winter set in.  On this day the Earth remains tilted at 23.5 degrees but night and day are of equal length still.  Kind of an interesting combination of balance and imbalance.  Also, the seeds we have sown in the Spring have come to fruition.  What have you sown and what has come to bear fruit in your life?  And what does the magic of fall mean to you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A simple Truth

Second to last part of this arc! Wow, I never thought I'd have enough brain power to keep it going this long. I guess there is hope for me yet! This story will be wrapped up nicely in time for that spookiest of months, dread October. I dare say all the shenanigans the month of October usually brings will keep our intrepid monster hunters busy, so I'm letting them have the month off. No doubt they will have some interesting stories for us when they return.

Oh, did you guys think I'd forgotten about Amanda and Max? Well, I did. So here's what they were doing while François was conjuring.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TiLT: Things i Love Thursday!

Gonna have to make this one short & sweet, folks! Here's a round up of things that have made me happy this week.

Lucy's Love List

 Clara's story: I'm going to be sad when this current arc ends! I do love me some Francois! He's precious! You know...for a guy that works with dead things. 
 The fact that tomorrow is Friday has been my beam of light at the end of the tunnel this week. 
 Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds. OH MY GOD, WHY HAVEN'T I TRIED THIS STUFF BEFORE? I HAVE NOT BEEN LIVING PROPERLY! *ahem* It's very good stuff.
 Baking. One thing you need to understand about my family is that we are hardcore baking people. Well, some of us. A few, (like my dad!), love to be the taste testers. Especially when they aren't supposed to be. ;) Tonight I helped mom make some of her famous fudge for a fundraiser. Believe me, you do not know happiness until you've tried some of Mumma Wiggins' fudge. You. Do. Not. Knooooow!
 "Writing Down the Bones" is one of those books that you finally get around to reading and wonder why you waited so long. I'm only half way through, and I am loving all of the advice. Most of it is common sense, but it's a good reminder. 
 Cooler weather! I am not a fan of Summer. My blood is too thick for this climate. The forecast for this weekend has me giggling like a maniac. (Highs in the upper 60's! YES!) 
 Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Ok, these things are a real treat. I can't have the ""real"" ones from Starbucks, but I have to say that the local coffee shop that recently opened might have them licked. (The nearest Starbucks is a 45 minute drive away. Yes, I live in a small town. No, I don't know how I've managed to survive this long. Without coffee and chocolate I would surely die.)
 Louis CK. Crude, Inappropriate, and a Ginger. All these things wrapped up in a comedian would be offensive to most people. Trust me when I say he is the best cure for Lunchtime Slumps. Just look up some of his clips on You Tube and you'll see what I mean. (Just, er, don't have the kiddos around when you do. Or easily offended weirdos.) 
 Sabrina Ward Harrison announced on Facebook that her new book is done! And should be available in the Spring. Sabrina, for those of you who don't know me well enough, is my all time biggest hero and ultimate girl crush. I want to lick the pages of her previous books, and that's not a compliment I go dishing out to just anybody. I AM BLOODY EXCITED ABOUT IT, OKAY?! If you love me, you will buy me multiple copies when it comes out. As I am pretty sure I will devour them page by succulent page. Yes. 

Aighty, it's YOUR turn! Leave you Love List in a comment below & have a happy weekend! 

I'm back

Faithful readers, I am back!  I apologize for disappearing.  Moving and setting up has proven more time-consuming than I had anticipated.  Onward to the blog post.

This is a blog about making magic and in this blog I will be talking about the magic of the moment.

Recently, I have started to actually focus on a career rather than a job.  I graduated from Campbell University in 2006 with a degree in Biology, minoring in Computer Information Systems.  One would think I had the whole world spread out in front of me, just waiting for me to pluck the right opportunity.  Sadly, however, between fate having other plans for me, and me having my head firmly planted up my ass, this did not happen.  I worked 2 part time retail jobs simultaneously for a few months before getting a temp gig at a biotech company in Durham, NC.  After some contemplation and in light of at the time recent events and revelations in my life, I chose to move to Western Washington after hearing about the South Lake Union biotech hub in Seattle.  I had job interviews lined up and I was ready to roll.  That is until the economic downfall crashed squarely into the West Coast.  I was falling into (more) debt and clung to the first job I got, which was in a call center.  I worked there for a few months then went on to work for TSA.  Yes.  Those security screeners at the airport.  That TSA.  That experience was bittersweet.  I met a lot of interesting and amazing people at that job, but at the same time I was spinning my wheels.  I didn't seem to be able to advance and I really just wasn't cut out for the job.  Being a snarky, aloof academic is apparently bad for customer service.  I quit the job and was unemployed for 4 months before taking another temp gig at a biotech company in Seattle called Dendreon.  This reignited my desire to work in the biotechnology field.  Now, it was very easy for me to sit back and say that I'd effectively wasted the last  four and a half years, and that thought still nags at the back of my brain.  However, I came to a conclusion this week.  The past is the past.  That is just time wasted.  Waste needs to be thrown out to make room for good stuff.  It's time to cultivate the good in my life and yours.  What waste are you holding on to?  How is it stopping you from making magic?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Calling the Baron

I'm not entirely sure, but I think this story arc may almost be over. I really didn't intend it to be this long, but I hope it hasn't been a tedious read. I love these characters, I love writing them and I try my best to make them as readable and enjoyable as possible.

And as for François, Kemp almost got it right. He is a bokor, a sort of voodoo sorcerer. He is able to call on the spirits and, in the case of his beloved Margeurite, create zombies. But I'm not saying anymore, because there is a whole lot more to him than that.

Anyway, I think next week may be the final part of this arc. For now, have a little more of François' hoodoo.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

There is no 'Try'

Courtesy of Google Images

Yoda, everyone's favorite green...thing, famously said "Do or do not. There is no 'try'." Well folks, I'm here to tell you that Yoda was wrong.

Yup. There, I said it. Now I shall burn in the flames eternal. But before I bask in brimstone, I beseech you, my brethren, to bear with me in my bumblingness. In other words, lemme e'splain...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Enter the Spirits

Well, finally. It has started, the showdown. I was still at somewhat of a loss as to how to handle the witch, so I figured I'd let François have some fun in the meantime. It has become a sort of rule with me; when in doubt, François.

Did I ever tell you guys what he is, exactly? See if you can figure it out.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Instants & What To Do With What We've Got

I had an idea for a post, and then I read this poem a friend shared on Facebook: 
Instantes (Instants)

If I were able to live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be more foolish than I've been,
In fact, I would take few things seriously.
I would be less hygienic.
I would run more risks,
take more vacations,
contemplate more sunsets,
climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where I've never been,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.

I was one of those people that lived sensibly
and prolifically each minute of his life;
Of course I had moments of happiness.
If I could go back I would try
to have only good moments.

Because if you didn't know, of that is life made:
only of moments; Don't lose the now.

I was one of those that never
went anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot-water bottle,
an umbrella, and a parachute;
If I could live again, I would travel lighter.

If I could live again,
I would begin to walk barefoot from the beginning of spring
and I would continue barefoot until autumn ends.
I would take more cart rides,
contemplate more dawns,
and play with more children,
If I had another life ahead of me.

But already you see, I am 85,
and I know that I am dying.
-Jorge Luis Borges (Or not. Some say this is an incorrect attribution.) 
Then I came home to Fantastic Spatula and saw Lucy's fabulous post about lessons on perfection and knew I had to share the poem with you. 

Already I am 27, and I hope I have many more instants in front of me; I contemplated how I want to use them. Committing more errors would certainly happen if I translated more poems and stories by Borges. (Spanish class translating his work did not go well for me years ago.) I could certainly stand to relax and to shrug off perfectionism. 

I will face more challenges and take more risks. Lately so much of my experience has taught me that the greatest gains are made when I do something that scares me the most. I will drag my feet less. I will skip more. 

I realize I write in the future tense, and it thrills me to know that I will live my remaining instants so that when I reach that age, I can write my song of gratitude, not regret, and share my stories as encouragement, not admonitions. 

What will you do with your instants? 

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Needle Pulling Thread & Lessons on Perfection

Tonight's post is brought to you a little later than usual due to an extended session in sewing class.

Yeah, me sewing. Imagine that will ya?

I have to admit, it hasn't been that bad. As I said last week I've had terrible images pop into my mind of past (and failed) attempts at sewing. What ever made me want to take it up again?

Well, one reason is that even if you completely, totally, irrevocably stink at something that is no excuse to give up on it. (Or yourself for that matter.) This is the entire logic behind most of what I do. I am not one of those fortunate few who is an instant prodigy. All through school the sound you would hear in the classroom over was me banging my head against the wall trying to remember how to FOIL in Algebra class. Then there was Geometry, but we'll save that bit of childhood trauma for another time.

For the past two Thursdays, I've been working one-on-one with a wonderful woman named Gayle. She's been incredibly patient with me, and not only that she is hilarious and fun to work with. Even being in a poorly lit, dingy classroom in the otherwise empty art guild doesn't damper our spirits.

What also helps is that she is very anti-perfectionism. We see eye to eye on this, because I personally believe Perfection to be a mental disease. One that I manage to not suffer from amazingly enough.

One of the first things she told me when I sat down in front of the sewing machine was, "Don't worry. You're going to make mistakes, because that's the only way you'll learn. And that's the only way I'll teach you. There's no f*ck-up we can't undo. Just remember, 'It's only sewing'."

I am happy to report that the majority of what one needs to know for sewing, and for a lot of creative work, is the use and application of good old common sense. The simplest rules apply: Measure twice, cut once; Always have the seam ripper handy; Don't forget to put your foot down; Go backwards if necessary; Try to keep looking ahead; There's no need to pull, push, or force it- just gently guide it along, and if all else fails read the directions.

Good advice for those of us who are suffering from uncooperative characters or an unsupportive cast of any kind, these past several weeks. Don't forget- "It's only writing."

As for how I am doing in the course? Weell, I guess you could say I'm doing sew-sew. ;)