Friday, January 30, 2015

Make Yoga Socks for Chilly Winter Mornings, Even If You Don't Knit!

Here in the Southern United States, most of us are not winter people. Winter is a cold, grey affair usually accompanied by rain rather than the snow so common in the North. It's safe to say there aren't any particularly fun winter activities one looks forward to in the South. No sledding, cross-country skiing, or anything like that. Just cold rainy days and cloudy skies interspersed with occasional 70 degree sunny days that make the ache for spring almost physical. If it snows here, it's a huge production because it is so uncommon and life as we know it will shut down for days.

It does, however, drop into cooler temps, cool to us, at least, and I get lazy about some things, like running (when it's 25 degrees? No thank you!) and yoga. Why be lazy about yoga, a typically indoor practice? Well, let's just say I'm not one to blast the heat in my home - we layer up on clothing and try to keep the thermostat modest. This means taking off my socks isn't something I'm so keen to do. I know; it sounds ridiculous but cold feet make for an unpleasant yoga practice, at least for me. However, my body has been feeling the effects of not practicing (even if I skip a couple of days, I know it!) so I decided to knit up some yoga socks!


Cool, huh? These were oh-so-easy to make by simple adapting my favorite sock pattern. Now in my rush to use and share them, I did not block, and in hindsight I would rib the edges to prevent that annoying curling. I'm happy with them, however, and how easy it was to knit them up!


Following my favorite sock pattern, I simply bound off when I came to the point where I'd work on the heel. Then I finished the round. Next, when I came to the heel again, I cast on the same number of stitches I'd bound off and completed another round. I then simply continued the body of the sock, trying it on until I had the perfect length. I bound off right below the ball of my foot.


Again, for my next pair I will certainly rib the edges, even just a few rows, though the curling really did not affect my wearing the socks at all. And my feet were nice and cozy during yesterday's yoga practice! Don't knit? Well you are in luck because you can recycle an old sock into a yoga sock with no sewing or knitting! A great tutorial from Feelgood Style is right here! And trust me, if you check the prices of yoga socks on the market, you'll feel very good about making your own!!

And now, a few images of my winter style. I'm loving my black Amani coat but yesterday was warm enough that I could get by without it. Having fun with winter fashion means tights and layers and cute shoes, no doubt!

Shoes by Bjorn, tights from Old Navy
Got this necklace broken for .50 cents at Gabe's, fixed it in about two minutes! Michael Kors shirt is from
a clothing swap! (Score for me, right?)

Bracelet from Gabe's; I think coral will be my color for 2015! Skirt was thrifted!

Earrings from Gabe's and corduroy jacket was thrifted! Hairstyle inspired by another blog site,
 who I'll soon be featuring here! Baggy eyes courtesy of late nights working on some
really cool stuff for 2015!
Happy Friday and happy last day of January everyone! We are one more month down towards spring! Tomorrow starts the much-anticipated February for the Arts No Shopping Challenge! Are you joining us?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Amazing Promotional Offer to Celebrate New Book Project! .99 sale on The Absence of Anyone Else on Kindle!

I have been slow to come around to eBooks, Kindles, etc. but I'm beginning to realize the catch phrase is true - you can't stop progress. And while eBooks lack the appeal of curling up with a paperback, they are certainly more environmentally friendly. Still, I'm on the fence - I do love perusing bookstores verses shopping titles online. I'm jumping into the arena, however!

In celebration of my new book project, I'm having a special promotion for my 2009 title, The Absence of Anyone Else. Beginning now, you can purchase the Kindle version of this book for only ninety-nine cents on Amazon.com - and KindleUnlimited subscribers can read it for free!



What's it about? Well, it's not autobiographical, but I do believe to be authentic, we must write what we know! There may seem to be some parallels to my own life, but all of the characters and/or situations are entirely fictional!

"Grace Pruitt, struggling artist and single mother, paints into the wee hours of the night, hoping to numb the pain she's felt since fleeing her beloved Asheville, North Carolina, home three years before. Now back in Calvary, South Carolina, the fading textile town where she was raised, she aches for the exciting life she once led in the heart of the Great Smokies and wonders what, if anything, her future holds. When the terminally-ill estranged father of her son reaches out from the past, she finds herself in the midst of an emotional turmoil that is further complicated by the ever-growing stir of feelings towards her lifelong friend Daniel, a dashingly handsome graphic artist who seems unable to express his true feelings for Grace, despite having confessed to love her years before. Just when her plate of drama seems full, Grace gets a glimpse into the life she has only dreamed of when Cristofer Stanley, successful artist and gallery owner, expresses an interest in representing her art. Fueled by a steady stream of coffee, sage advice (and just a few secrets) from her eclectic Grandmother Nan, and the passionate desire to do what is right for both herself and her son, Grace finally finds the courage to let go of the life she thought she wanted and embrace the life ~ and love ~ she was meant to have."

You can read Chapter One in it's entirety here! Then head on over to Amazon.com to download the full version! 


And be sure to pop over to my author page and say hello! Don't forget to follow Pan Pan Studios on FacebookTwitter and Instagram! 2015 promises to be a very exciting year!


Amy


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Join Me in a February-for-the-Arts No-Shopping Challenge!

In 1984, my parents took my sister and I, along with friends, to see the uber-popular band Culture Club perform at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia. Pretty cool parents, right? It was the greatest adventure of my life up till then, and it marked a turning point for me. It was there, during this first visit to a major metropolitan city, that my love affair with cities and all of the amazing arts and cultural opportunities they offer would begin.

After the concert, walking on clouds down Peachtree Street, someone slipped this flier into my hand.


Though it may not look like much, this small flier hangs framed in my den and has continued to inspire me for almost three decades now. I can't specifically explain why; I can only say it's a memento to a place in my life when I, for the first time, knew clearly that I wanted a life involving arts, culture, and creative people to share it with.

Over the years, I've lived in small Southern towns and a major metropolitan city. I've embraced country living at certain points, and craved the excitement of the city at others. One thing, however, has remained an ever-steady constant - I desire, or rather, I need, to be surrounded by creative people doing creative things. The arts are where I feel at home. Writers, artists, dancers, musicians, dreamers, doers - these are my people. And this brings me to The Challenge!

A couple of years ago, I did not shop for clothes for six months. This was a personal challenge that wasn't so much motivated by a desire to save money (I'm a notoriously clever shopper) as it was to assess how much time I was spending (wasting?) shopping for clothes. This experience was very eye-opening to me for many personal reasons, and it's one I'm keen to repeat.

For the entire month of February, several friends and I are taking a pledge not to shop for anything but groceries. No clothes, shoes, housewares. No store is visited except grocery stores or farmers markets. Money (and time) that would be spent shopping for non-food items will instead be spent enjoying the arts - concerts, theatre, traveling to see exhibitions...because let's face it, unless you live in a major metropolitan area, (which, eh, I currently do not,) enjoying cultural activities can easily get put on the back-burner as we dedicate yet another precious Saturday afternoon to shopping for new curtains at Pier One or wandering the aisles of a thrift store hoping to find a treasure. 

So, for the entire month of February, no time idled away in malls or shopping centers! It will be spent instead supporting cultural activities! This means seeking them out in our own areas or traveling to another city to enjoy them! Lucky for me, I live within easy driving distance from Atlanta, Charlotte, Athens, Greenville, Asheville, Charleston - wonderful cities with thriving arts communities. In addition, there are opportunities right here in and around my current town to enjoy theatre, dance, music and art events. So I'm looking forward to this month-long commitment of taking one step back from ruts that are so easy to fall into, and refocusing on what has always had my heart and soul - supporting the arts, the creative dreamers and doers. My people. 

How about you? 

Monday, January 19, 2015

IRL>URL....oh, yes! Nev's Book is Must Read!

This wonderful image is courtesy of Nev's Instagram feed!
A few years ago, I was out with a wonderful man whose company I simply adored. He was bright, one of the smartest men I've ever known, and funny in that arrogant, obnoxious way I find so irresistibly appealing. The restaurant was wonderful and the meal delicious. When I returned from the restroom, I noticed him putting his phone away, but thought nothing of it. Later, I heard it buzz a few times and he'd take it out and give it a moment of attention. I chose to think perhaps he was checking in with the sitter, as we both had children, and didn't make an issue of it.

The next day, however, I noticed he'd made a mindless post on Facebook during the time I was in the restroom. The subsequent attention he gave to his phone was to respond to comments made on his post. I was hurt, and couldn't understand why he would have needed meaningless interaction with Facebook friends (think: liking a smiley-face comment) while we were out enjoying an evening on the town. I certainly had not cared beans about looking at Facebook or Twitter while we were together. My friends summed it up later with the catch phrase of the day, 'he's just not that into you,' which made sense, but when he wanted to take me out again, and again, that didn't seem to be the case.

It took a few more dates to realize that while he might have been into me, he was into social media, or rather, his social media persona, much  more. Most of the time we spent together, I shared him virtually with former co-workers, college friends, and worst of all, high-school classmates (how long ago was graduation?) that commented near continuously on his many status updates. The tell-tale sign of his social media addiction, however, came in the form of a photo he was tagged in, taken at a cook-out one sunny summer day. Everyone was toasting the photographer, smiling, happy, in the moment...except my friend, who had his phone out, scrolling.

I'm not going to pretend I haven't been him at some point in time, either. I think we've all been him. Social media has been proven to be addictive. I won't go into detail about the hows and whys; if you are curious, google the words 'social media addiction' and you'll find article after article from respected institutions covering this subject. I highly recommend, however, picking up a copy of Nev Schulman's book, In Real Life instead.



And I'm not just saying this because I totally crush on Nev, no. It's a phenomenal book that I believe everyone who engages, even if only to a small extent, on social media needs to read. But if you engage more than a little with social media, if it consumes more than thirty minutes of your day, then you especially should spend time with this book to find out why. It certainly has me reflecting on my social media usage and the reasons behind it. Am I truly sharing viable information that is interesting and engaging to other people...or simply needing little tweaks of affirmation and/or attention throughout the day?

Hmmmmm...something to think about.

The first thing I did after finishing this book (which I read in less than two days, thank you ADHD hyperfocus for the physical inability to put down a good book once I'm hooked) was decide to clean up my Facebook friends list. I'm in the process of that now, and I'm not going to say how many friends I have on FB; it's embarrassing. People I've never met; ex-boyfriends I un-followed, but for some reason didn't un-friend, seconds after break-ups; people I went to high school or college or used to work with but do not currently interact with online or in person...all of them granted privileged insights into my personal life via pictures and status updates. It's weird when you look at it this way, isn't it? Perspective - my parents, who live in a neighboring town but do not use social media, know less about my life than acquaintances I am friends with on Facebook.

I have no explanation for why so many of us have chosen to engage with social media so much...but Nev does. It's in the book and trust me, it will have you thinking, and maybe blushing a little, as I did. And I'm making changes. People who are interested in my writing and professional news can follow my facebook fan page, but my personal page will be reserved for my real, actual friends. Which is a wonderful, meaningful way to use social media - to stay connected to people we truly care about, and also promote wonderful, interesting things that are taking place out in the world. In this way, social media sites help us enhance real life...but they should never, ever be a substitute for it.








Saturday, January 17, 2015

Catfishing in America

My friends all know Nev Schulman of MTV's Catfish is my major celebrity crush (sorry Colin Firth. We had a long run, but you've been replaced.) So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover this random message in my inbox earlier in this week...


I know, it is merely a newsletter sent to millions, but I'll take it! (and it's certainly more than Colin ever did!)

However, it was also this week that I finally got my hands on Nev's book, In Real Life.


I love, love, love watching Catfish, and I can not wait to read this book. I know many people who have engaged in romances began entirely online, and yes, I've done it myself. And the question I have to ask now, upon reflection, is why?

I think I already know the answer, and I'm eager to see if Nev will confirm it (if you are unfamiliar with his personal story which prompted the series, visit the MTV link in first paragraph and learn more!) I have had two relationships which began in this manner - one resulting in a brief marriage that involved my moving across the country, and the other an on-again-off-again relationship resulting in a lot of eye-rolling and saying, "I know, I know" on my part whenever my friends bring it up now. But here is my theory on both - they were wildly exciting while they were taking place, because they were always in a state of becoming, never actually being.

When I met my first online love in a karate chat room nearly two decades ago,  (yay for the 90s and it's Mixed Martial Arts fads!) he was exciting because he was different. He was from a Northern city and when I visited, it, too, was exciting. When we married a couple of years later, after a lot of jet-setting every month to visit one another, it settled into real (married) life and suddenly wasn't so exciting anymore. After four years (and a lot of growing up) we realized we didn't have so much in common after all, called it quits amicably and went our separate ways. (Note: I do not regret this relationship at all. Moving across the country from a small Southern town to a major metropolitan area in the North changed my life and opened my world; I'm forever grateful for the experience.)

My second foray into online relationships came many years later, and quite accidentally, via the friend of a friend on Facebook. This was also an exciting experience involving international travel for both of us as well as four torturous years of on-off wondering and dreaming (often while dating other people) that ended abruptly for me one day when he made an incredibly offensive comment via text. Though he apologized profusely, I could not get past it. I realized that I clearly did not know him as well as I'd thought, and while the comment may not have bothered some people, it was a deal-breaker for me. Shortly thereafter, I took steps to end the relationship permanently. I knew him well enough to know what to say to accomplish this.

My friends often ask, however, why I hung in there so long in the first place...and here is the answer - it did not require much effort on my part to maintain it. A few emails, texts, and occasional Skype chats...in the grand scheme of what real relationships require, that's really not much.

Think about it.

And every ounce of him was laden with the promise of adventure - new place, new culture, new language. This appeals to my wandering-Bilbo-Baggins-gypsy side oh so much, I don't even want to admit it. When the ideal of it all was shattered by a tell-tale comment revealing a little more about him than I might have wanted to know, I couldn't do it anymore. Because let's face it, relationships are messy and take a lot of work and we can't just flop on the couch in pajamas all day and be awesome if someone is there with us all the time - however it is quite easy to do just this if our beloved is in another town, state, or country. We can be as awesome as we wanna be digitally without exposing any of our beautiful flaws or seeing theirs or even changing out of pajamas. It's a grand illusion, like actually believing celebrities don't have toddlers with tantrums or bad hair days because they are always perfect in magazines. Both of these men were and I'm sure still are great guys with a lot to offer...they simply weren't the guys for me. The illusion that they were shattered the minute it 'got real.'

So maybe the truth is, I crave excitement more than relationship? Maybe I'm still not ready to settle down (just typing the words send my commitment-phobias into high gear) and that is why these digital relationship replacements seem much more intriguing? Maybe a fear of real, true intimacy? I'm not sure, but it makes me look forward all the more to exploring Nev's In Real Life. I plan to spend some quality time with it during this long weekend, between enjoying three sunny spring-like days off work (hooray!) and catching up on coursework I've been ignoring (bleh............)

In the meantime, I'll share with you a link from Nev's newsletter on how to eat healthy on the road. Definitely worth the read! And I'll write more about In Real Life  as I delve into it.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Oh Caffé 312, I Love You!

Imagine, the experience of sipping on fine wine or espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Europe without having to leave town. Nibbling imported cheeses or enjoying pralines from Belgium with dinner? Can you imagine such a place - an upscale, elegant locale that could serve as both a breakfast/lunch dining venue and a hot spot for evening socializing?

Greenwood's own Kenn Wiltshire not only imagined it, but he's made it a reality with Caffé 312.


Located at 312 Main Street, Caffé 312 serves coffee, espresso, tea, wine, beer and a delectable assortment of fine foods and pastries. The menu is reminiscent of those one might find in European bistro or cafes, which make the experience of dining here a real treat to the senses. And while I have enjoyed going there with adult friends in the evenings, it is also very much a family-friendly establishment featuring Greenwood's first Little Free Library, something my son and I have enjoyed often in our travels and were delighted to now see right here in our own town!




We enjoy the cinnamon pastries and pralines, as well as trying to discover the locations of humorous critters hiding here and there throughout the building. (He's found two, we've been told there are several!)


The pralines are almost too pretty to eat! This plate of three is perfect for sharing, if you can resist temptation to consume them all!


Caffé 312 is casually elegant, welcoming patrons with signs in French that compliment weathered brick walls enhanced by a contemporary mix of both formal and relaxed furniture pieces to suit any mood. From a business luncheons at dining room-sized tables to an evening sipping espresso with friends on over-sized sofas, it is a relaxed yet sophisticated venue perfect for both dining and socializing.




If you live in my area and have not yet visited Caffé 312, I encourage you to do so! And follow Caffé 312 on Facebook and on Twitter for updates and events.  While they take a brief afternoon siesta between 2:30pm and 4pm (approximately, give or take), the knowledgeable, friendly staff is there to serve both early risers like me as well as night owls, which I can still be, on occasion, because...



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

First World Problems and Mis-Matched Dishes

Last Saturday, I went shopping in the city with a friend. I was in the market for a pair of black boots and a pair of brown boots. Of course, I was in the city, and all the post-holiday sales were on...so I came home with much, much more than that. New Year's resolutions always include a bit of a wardrobe makeover, right?

After running by my house to drop off the bag...okay, the bags (with a capital S at the end), I called to check on my son, who was spending the night away from home, and let the dog out. My friend was waiting for me to freshen up, as we were joining another for a grown-up evening out at a new cafe and later, a local pub. I decided it would be the perfect time to wear my snazzy new brown boots, but when I took them from the box, I noticed the sales clerk had forgotten to remove the ink-filled security tag.

Durr......

I should mention the city I refer to often in my posts is about an hour's drive from here. Not only was I not going to be able to wear my new boots right away, but I was now going to have to drive all the way back to the store to have the bloody security tag properly removed.

For a few moments, I was so unbelievably irritated... then I realized what a true and total first-world problem this really was, on par with 'how can I keep red wine from spoiling once I open it?' (Answer: wine preserver) and the fact that my dishes don't match.

Eclectic, no?
While I did invest in the wine preserver, which I saw as a better solution than drinking an entire bottle of red wine in one sitting, I have opted not to buy a matching set of dishes. And yes, if you follow my blog, you know that I host a lot of dinner party-esque gatherings, at which I proudly use my hodge-podge of dishware not because I'm trying to seem bohemian or clever, (I'm already well-known for being both, of course), but simply because these mismatched dishes ground me.

Yes.

They don't let me forget where I've come from, and how to bring the lessons learned there into where I'm going.

There were some really lean years when I could never have afforded to host any kind of parties, much less take off to the city for not one, but two new pairs of boots. I don't like to think of those times too much, but it does humble me to remember them at least once a day, usually when I'm setting the table for dinner. This old assortment of dishes remind me to be so, so grateful for where I am now.

So, while it's quite a luxurious first-world problem, this whining about having to make a two-hour round trip just to have a security tag removed, it does me well to remember from time to time that it's quite a luxury to have such a benign, first-world problem to begin with. If this was the major annoyance of my week, well, I'd say it's a pretty blessed life these days!

Happy first work week of 2015, everyone!