Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tommyknockers - What every writer wishes they had

Insomnia.

It creeps up on you and doesn't let you go. 

One minute you're so tired that you can't keep your eyes open, and the next minute your brain is on overdrive and you're still so tired that you can't keep your eyes open. 

So you lay there and let your brain run rampant. 

In my case, last night, it was on full overdrive. 

I did everything.  I rolled over.  I put a pillow over my head.  I got up and went to the bathroom.  I got a glass of water.  I even grabbed my phone and tweeted to whoever was awake and listening for insomnia to go away and tell my brain to shut up on the way out.

And then, it came to me...

Tommyknockers.

Not the movie - the book.

Have you ever read it? 

"Late last night and the night before,
Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers,
Knocking at the door..."

I'm no genius, but this book holds the solution.

Stephen King, when he wrote "Tommyknockers", was expressing an idea that writers all over the world wish they had the ability to take advantage of.  Never mind the fact that his main character took her faithful old dog, neighbors, and unsuspecting community members and turned them into organic batteries - she figured out how to rig a telepathic typewriter.

Meaning, she could be out doing something else and writing the next great American Novel at the same time, via a device that looked like a typewriter but was rigged up to a ream of dot matrix printer paper and typed out exactly what she thought as she thought it.

Let me tell you, last night hasn't been the first night I've ever wished for that horrible invention, and it won't be the last.  I don't care if I have to turn everyone around me into a dry cell battery in my tool shed.

Ever since I was a little girl, telling myself stories in my head is how I've gotten myself off to sleep. 

These days, my brain gives me lengthy "to do" lists, churns out blog entry ideas, and continues to chew on its latest bedtime story - a sci-fi thriller regarding the consequences of unregulated colonization of planets where the colonists agreed to carry on the genetic experiments begun before they even left the Milky Way galaxy.

If I had my hands on a Tommyknockers contraption, do you know how much writing I could have done right now? 

Seriously.

Dragon software pales in comparison.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Library Love Affair (aka why I'm becoming a librarian)

Would you like to hear about the time I killed a man in cold blood and got away with it? Or, I could tell you about the time that someone killed me and I was trapped between this world and the afterlife for several hundred years. How about that one time – the time when I survived a zombie apocalypse? Have I told you that story yet?

I have done these things, and more, because of the library.

I have traveled aboard spaceships and taken exotic vacations to planets that don’t exist. I have stumbled into parallel realities through wardrobes, paintings, and hidden portals in the backyard shed. I have colonized worlds. I have lived on a moon base. I’ve been abducted by aliens and lived through a nuclear winter. I’ve actually survived several zombie apocalypses – not just the one.

The library was where I fell in love with dragons, unicorns, and elves, and then brought them home to play with in my imagination. I found monsters in the library, as well. They hid themselves in the pages between shadowy book covers with titles rendered in red, made to look like dripping blood. They disguised themselves as teenaged girls, classic cars, and the family pet. They kept me awake all night with the lights on and my head hidden underneath the covers.

I got to check out my first library book when I was six. The school librarian selected “Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears?” for me. I took it home. I read it. I read it again. I read it a third time. I returned it, and the next time, I got to choose my own book. This was the start of my life-long love affair with the library.

When I got a little older, my parents started taking me to the public library once a week. I would haul home stacks of books on Thursday night and have read them all by Sunday. Soon, we started going twice a week, because I couldn’t seem to get enough books to read.

Books were my escape. I learned to shut out the real world and live in worlds that I got to choose. I got to be whoever I wanted to be, and adventure in places that none of my friends had ever visited.

As I got even older, I discovered that the library was a place where I could also learn. I was attracted to the metaphysical, ESP, UFOs, aliens, and ghosts. I chose to blend my reality with the unknown and the unexplainable, like the stories that I had fallen in love with and cherished growing up.

Because of the library, I developed a rich imagination. I learned to seek out knowledge rather than sit in a classroom and let it come to me. I was able to look at ideas that seemed far-fetched and formulate a plan of action to discover for myself whether or not there was any truth to them.

My senior year in high school, I decided that I would write my term paper on whether or not Robin Hood and King Arthur really existed. I wanted to know. I was sure that they did – how could they not? Isn’t all fiction based in fact? I spent weeks in the library, poring over books and taking notes. I investigated histories, looked for parallels, and drew conclusions. I wrote my paper, and got an A plus.

Did King Arthur really exist? Did Robin Hood?

The answer is yes. They were real men who did noble deeds and were immortalized through fantastic legends, which grew even more fantastic as the centuries wore on. History has forgotten their real names, of course, but it is doubtful that they would be remembered at all, if it weren’t for the library.

I have loved the library ever since I was six years old and that school librarian placed my first library book in my hands. I have learned much there, and have had many great adventures. This is why I have chosen to be a librarian. I want to be able to help other people learn to love the library as I have. It is a magical place where anything is possible – even surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Killer Christmas Fudge

Heaven in a pan
At Crafty Bitch Headquarters, it wouldn't be Christmas without the fudge.  The awesome, killer, Hershey's chocolatey fudge that mom has made every year for as long as I can remember.  Sounds good, doesn't it?

This recipe was passed down from dad's side of the family to my mom by my grandmother.

I have no idea if I'm going to disappear for leaking it to the Internet, but it's just too good not to share!



Grandma Patchen's Killer Christmas Fudge

4 cups granulated sugar
1 large can Carnation evaporated milk

Set aside:
2 large (the HUGE ones, 8oz) Hershey's milk chocolate bars (broken apart)
1 pint or 2 cups marshmallow cream fluff (14-16oz jar)
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 12oz package chocolate chips
2 sticks oleo
2 teaspoons vanilla

Boil sugar and evaporated milk together, stirring constantly at a rolling boil for 6 minutes or until mixture reaches soft ball stage. (mixture forms a ball when dropped into cold water)

Pour hot mixture over candy mixture and beat like hell until smooth texture.

Pour into greased 9x13 pan, cool, and then refrigerate.

Once set, cut into squares and enjoy.  Keep refrigerated.

Mom only made a half batch, as you can see, but it turned out as killer as usual.  
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mynx’s Fabulously Simple Holiday Cheese Ball Recipe

Last Saturday, some fabulous bloggers brought you the 12 Blogs of Christmas. I've had a lot of requests for the recipe of the cheese ball that I shared at Amberr Meadow's 12 Blogs of Christmas: Tasty Traditions and so today, I've posted it here. 

It's been quite a few years now, but an old friend in Pennsylvania shared this recipe with me one Christmas, and it's quickly become one of my favorite holiday recipes, and traditions.  I make it instead of cookies for holiday goodie exchanges, and I also give it out to friends and family.  When the holidays roll around, I have plenty on hand for entertaining - it's always a hit. 

Mynx’s Fabulously Simple Holiday Cheese Ball Recipe

2 - 8oz packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 - 5oz jar Kraft Old English Spread (@room temperature)
1 - 5oz jar Kraft Roka Blue Spread (@room temperature)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar (or flavored vinegar – feel free to experiment)
2 tsp garlic salt (or garlic powder)
1 cup crushed nuts (suggestions include walnuts, pecans, or toasted almonds)

Set aside crushed nuts and combine the rest of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Cover and let set in the refrigerator until firm.  Take it out and form into a ball (or a log, or a wreath… get creative), coat with chopped nuts.  Serve with crackers.  Yum!

You can also mix the nuts into the spread itself while it's still soft and pack it into jars to give it away. Be sure to decorate the jar with a pretty label, ribbon, and a recipe card to share the love!

I hope everyone had a chance to visit all of the fabulous bloggers who participated in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  We all had a lot of fun putting it together, and once again, thanks to Kelly Stone Gamble and Erica Lucke Dean for organizing it!  

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tweaking Blogger - Adding a StumbleUpon button

I'm going to preface this blog by saying that I think that the basic social media sharing options on Blogger are great, but they are a far cry from covering all of the options available for sharing your blog posts.

So, what do you do when you want to add more options?

The easy way is to look for plug-ins - those lines of code that someone else has already done all the work on, and you just have to click your mouse a few times to install it.  If you use Blogger as your blogging platform like I do, you no doubt get frustrated with the fact that the plug-ins are pretty basic, and it's hard finding ones that do what you want them to do.  You are also limited as to where you can place your plug-ins on the blog template.

For instance, I wanted to add a StumbleUpon button for readers to be able to use to share my blog posts.  Logically, I went to my "Design" tab on the blogger dashboard and tried to find the appropriate plug in.  I found a grand total of one and quickly discovered it wasn't what I was looking for.  I want people to be able to stumble individual posts, not the entire blog.

Realizing that this was going to be more difficult than I wanted it to be, I proceeded search the web for a tutorial.  Tutorials are one of my favorite things about the internet.  You can learn how to do anything with a good tutorial - I now know how to make a skeleton key for padlocks out of a soda can, find product key codes to activate my pirated software (theoretically - as I have no pirated software to activate), and download virus-laden music files via open source peer to peer network sharing programs.

Anyhoo....

All of the tutorials that I could find, including the one on the actual StumbleUpon website, had me placing my brand new StumbleUpon button directly beneath the body of my blog post - several lines above where all the rest of the sharing options are located.

I'm not a total neat freak, but I do like some structure and organization - sharing buttons should be grouped together for your reader's convenience, not hiding around your page like an Easter egg hunt. And so, I bring you Mynx's happy little tweak for adding a StumbleUpon button to your blog where it actually belongs - with its happy little friends at the bottom of your post.

This isn't as easy as clicking your mouse a few times to install a plug-in, but it is relatively easy and pain free, and best of all, someone else still did all the coding for you! (I apologize in advance for the hard to read pictures.  Maybe I should have taken time to find a tutorial that would have fixed that.)

Step 1 - Open a notepad file and then click here to select the StumbleUpon button you would like to add for your website.  Copy the code generated in the box on the right to your open notepad file.













Step 2 - In Blogger go to your dashboard and click on the "Design" tab.  On the following screen, click on the option to edit HTML.









Step 3 - At this point I urge you to back up your current template.  Disclaimer:  I won't be held responsible if you screw up your blog by not following directions and then have no way to get it back to its original, unscrewed state.  Sorry. 

Do this by clicking on the link to download the full template. Save it someplace where you won't lose it, like directly to your desktop, and then proceed to Step 4.  In the event that you have to restore your original template, you can upload the saved version on your desktop directly to Blogger and everything will be hunky dory again.

Step 4 - Check the box!







Step 5 - Make sure that your cursor is somewhere in the box with all of the coding and use "CTRL+F" to pull up your search box. Type the term "quickedit pencil" (minus the quotation marks) into the search box and your screen should pull up an area of the code resembling this:









Step 6 - Copy your line of code that you saved to your notepad file and place it directly below the entire section of coding pictured above.  Your code will now look like this (minus the arrows, which are for reference):

The highlighted area in blue is the code for your StumbleUpon button.  Make sure to leave space directly above and directly below your new line of code to make it easier to find later if you decide to change your social media sharing buttons again.




Step 7 - Now hit the "Preview" button and viola! There should be a brand new StumbleUpon button directly beneath the rest of your sharing buttons.  Click "Save Template", and that's it.  You've got a nifty new StumbleUpon button placed where it belongs, with its happy little social media sharing option friends.

Did this help you? Please be sure to click the button below and stumble it! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hey! I'm a crafty bitch!

If you follow me on Twitter, you've no doubt seen me mention Craftapalooza and not much else on many a weekend lately.  The fact that I've been a mostly unemployed college student this year has afforded me the opportunity to revisit old hobbies and pastimes in the interest of being thrifty this holiday season.  (Translation: Y'inz are all getting handmade shit from me this Christmas and if you don't like it, too damn bad!)

The past several months have been especially busy at Crafty Bitch Headquarters (aka Mom's house), where we've been busier than Santa's elves on crack trying to get the presents and cards finished and ready to go out in time for Christmas.  Now, I'm in no way implying that we do crack at Crafty Bitch Headquarters.  Our speed is usually more along the lines of a nice glass of red wine, which is probably why it's now December 6th and we have a grand total of 11 Christmas cards crafted. 

The truth is, there are so many fabulous things that you can do to be crafty, we've developed Crafty Bitch ADD.  In fact, we've been working hard on everything BUT Christmas cards.  This is partially my fault.  I went looking for card making tutorials on YouTube and got distracted looking for tutorials on how to alter composition books.  Which is cool because it ultimately led to us making these sorts of things:

My new scrap-journal

There will be many more of these under the Christmas tree next year, because they are time consuming to make, but let it be known that if you are a crafty bitch, you can do just about anything with a composition book and some scrapbook paper.

In my spare time (ha!), I've also been working on these awesome crochet hats, which is really why I am posting this blog.  I sent one to a friend last month and she raved over it, not to mention the fact that she looks super cute in it.

Said awesome crochet hat

The one I'm in the process of making right now looks like this:

Green and orange yarn wasn't something I would have ordinarily tried, but it works.

This is such an easy pattern and it works up really fast.  From start to finish, you can crochet this hat in about 8 hours, which is more or less two nights spent catching up with everything you've got stashed on the DVR because you've been too busy to watch your favorite television shows.  Can you tell I'm speaking from experience?

Unfortunately, due to copyright infringement, I can't post the pattern on my blog, but I can give you a link to download it for yourself!


Happy Holidays to all of you Crafty Bitches out there!