Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Once in Lifetime Experience

Today, December 21, 2010, marks a rare and beautiful natural convergence. On this day of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year, there occurred a full lunar eclipse beginning at approximately 2:00 AM. According to NASA, the last time the winter solstice and a lunar eclipse occurred simultaneously was about 372 years ago. The next such occurrence is scheduled for Dec. 21, 2094. Since I don't expect to be around in 2094, I braved the frigid temperatures outdoors and watched the eclipse in real time with my son until it reached totality. Then we retreated indoors to thaw out.

The winter solstice marks the end of long dark nights and heralds the coming of longer days and more light. From a numerological perspective, today's date, 12-21-2010 is a triple 3 day (1+2=3, 2+1=3, 2+0+1+0=3) which equals 9, the number of endings, of letting go of the old and preparing to embrace the new. It brings forth the opportunity to end those behaviors that are not life affirming and which prevent you from achieving your full purpose and potential.

Whether you subscribe to esoteric philosophy or not, may this winter solstice full moon lunar eclipse be the beginning of a bright and wonderful future for you.

(For more information on the lunar eclipse click here for an article that includes the image you see above.)

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of Milestone Events and Empty Nests

The two youngest of my three children experienced milestone birthdays this year. My son turned 21 last month and my daughter turned 18 this past weekend. They are both in college and, hopefully, are on their way to fulfilling adult lives. With my daughter away at college and my son out of the house much of the time, I am experiencing the prelude to an empty nest.  There is less laundry to do, less dishes to wash, less noise and more food left in my refrigerator. (Contrarily the house is not in less need of upkeep. Hmm, why is that, I wonder?) There are times when I miss them being around. Then I think of the free time I have available to me now that they're not around as much and realize how much I'm enjoying it.

Empty nest? Bring it on.

Ballo ergo sum, - Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Major Gripe with Blogspot


Am I the only one who has major problems with the editing functions of Blogspot? It seems that no matter how hard I try, creating a post with images is an exercise in frustration. Even basic text posting is a challenge. I type a paragraph, double space to create a new paragraph, add some photos then check my work with the Preview function only to find that my images are all over the place and my text is scrolling into the spaces between the photos. To add insult to injury, when I tweak everything so it appears somewhat normal in the preview mode and publish the post, the final output doesn't look anything like it did in the preview mode. So what good is a preview if it doesn't give you an accurate image of the final product.

I'm so through with the frustrations of Blogspot that I may look around for an alternate blog host. Then I've got to change all my links and business cards to reflect the new address. Ugh, just the thought of it makes me tired.

Does anyone else use Blogspot? If so, what has your experience been like? Please leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confessions of a Reluctant Cook

I admit it. I would rather not cook. It's not that I'm a bad cook -- I'm actually pretty decent. It's just that I would prefer to have someone call me to a delicious meal than to be the one doing the calling. From time to time, however, I am inspired to try my culinary hand at something I've never done before. This week that inspiration came from another blog, that of my friend, Ben, author of Kissing the Cook, specifically his wonderful ravioli recipe. I decided that I was going to try my hand at making homemade ravioli with a homemade filling. I learned a few things in the process.

Lesson #1: It always takes longer than you think it will.  I'll cut to the chase. I started at 5PM. We ate at 9PM.
Lesson #2: Small ravioli are harder to make than large ravioli.  The smaller the ravioli, the messier it is to stuff and seal.
Lesson #3: If you're going to cook something you've never made before, don't split your attention by trying to make meat sauce for a lasagna at the same time. When you do that, it takes longer to complete your project. (Refer to Lesson #1.)

Ok, so on to the ravioli. I used half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, which made the dough a little harder to knead and roll. (Lesson #4 - Forget the whole wheat flour, and Lesson #5 - get a better rolling pin.) It resulted in ravioli with thicker pasta than I would have liked and required longer to cook. In spite of the chewiness, the ravioli was tasty enough to convince me (and my family) to try it again. I liked the filling enough to double the recipe and use it in my lasagna the following day. And if my next attempt at ravioli is successful, I'm going to start experimenting with different fillings. Of course, there's always the possibility that I'll hit the lottery, become fabulously wealthy and hire an Italian cook to prepare my meals for me. In the meantime, I'll keep looking to my friend, Ben, the cook for occasional inspiration of the culinary kind to keep me motivated in the kitchen.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, September 3, 2010

Digging My Way Out

I'm dog tired, exhausted from all the work I've been doing around the house for the past week or so. I've gotten myself into a frenzy of cleaning and purging my personal spaces of a lot of the crap I have accumulated over the years and held on to "just in case".  Nothing more has been accomplished other than filling my home to the point where I'm uncomfortable. I am to blame for much of it as I am an incorrigible pack rat, loathe to throw anything out that may be useful. The rest I blame on my family. They, too, are pack rats however they do not share my saving grace of actually cleaning and clearing once in a while. They just accumulate endlessly and seem to be very happy wallowing in their own mess.

My house has been whispering in my ear. (No, wait, not whispering...it was more like a clarion call but, since it was directed at my deaf ear, I perceived it as a whisper.) It's been telling me, "It's time to let go and move on", and so that is exactly what I've been doing, slowly and methodically. I began in my bedroom, a place I don't usually spend a lot of time in. My bedroom exists to house my clothes, jewelry and bed. I don't live in there, I just sleep in there, so consequently it gets neglected in the housekeeping department. I didn't realize exactly HOW neglected it was until I started moving stuff around to clean and I have to admit I was embarrassed by how long I had let things go. I began the cleanup with my dresser then I progressed around the room in a counterclockwise manner, cleaning specific sections over a number of days. Yes, I said days, it was THAT bad. Yesterday and today marked major milestones; I washed the blinds and cleared out my husband's night table and corner of the room. I knew I had made a major dent when he came to me after having entered the bedroom and said, "What happened?" The fact that he even noticed was the benchmark that I'd done some major damage.

The cleaning and clearing has not been confined to the bedroom. I've had my hand in nearly every room of the house, doing a little bit here, a little there, and getting into long overlooked nooks and crannies. There's an immediate payoff to these activities...I can breathe easier. It feels as if the air is fresher and as if there is more light in the room. I've also been doing the very same thing in my garden, clearing out a very thick stand of blackeyed susans in anticipation of next year's growing season. I plan on shifting my focus from flowers to food crops next year and I want to devote more of my garden space to that. I'll talk more about that in my garden blog.

The biggest challenge that I have yet to face is my craft workshop. It is literally filled to bursting and I am going to have to do some serious purging there. Yet, I am determined to slay the dragons of disorder one at a time, slowly and methodically, until I free myself from this self-imposed prison of "stuff". There is a vision in my head of what I want to achieve and as long as I keep that vision firmly in my sights, I can do nothing but achieve that goal. There is no doubt in my mind that when I achieve my goal, I will realize that I didn't really need all that stuff to begin with. Getting rid of it isn't the hard part...keeping it out, now THAT is the hard part.

Wish me luck. And pass me the dustcloth, will ya?

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Joy and Sorrow

In the three weeks since my last post so much has happened that it is difficult to fit in all in the body of this post. If you have been following me for any length of time, you already know that I have been experiencing an incredible run of good fortune surrounding my crafting. (See my artist blog, The Creative Diva, to read all about it.) This series of events has gotten me some recognition for the creative work that I do and has allowed me to work from home with financial compensation. As the winner of a sweepstakes sponsored by A.C. Moore, I received an all-expenses paid trip for two to attend the Craft and Hobby Association Craft Supershow in Chicago, a mecca for all things craft-related. With my sister as my guest, we were treated like visiting royalty from July 28 to July 31 while in Illinois. As if the trip were not enough, while at the show I won several drawings and a craft challenge for yet more prizes. My sister and I laughed and smiled the whole time we were in Chicago. It was a heady and joyful experience.

I returned home on Saturday, July 31 and checked my email to find a message from my oldest and dearest friend in the world, Art Zaballero. He and I had communicated several times in the week prior to my departure and he had sent me a message wishing me a good trip and expressing his desire to get together with me after my return. On Sunday afternoon, my caller ID identified an incoming call as being from Art but it was his wife instead, calling to inform me that Art had died of a massive heart attack only hours before. In that split second, all of the euphoria I had been experiencing up until that moment evaporated, vanished with the realization that I had lost one of the most precious things in my life. My friendship with Art spanned nearly 50 years, from the time we were young children. To describe the nature of our relationship would require far more space than is available on this blog. Let's just say we had transcended the limits of friendship and had become each other's sibling. He was my family and I was his. As far as I was concerned, I had lost my brother.

If the week prior to the funeral was surreal, the wake and funeral ceremonies were a wake up call. You've no doubt heard it before but I'll say it again. Life is short; make the most of it everyday. I've been on that path for a while and I'm not going to slow down now. If anything, I'm going to press on, living and loving every golden moment as much as possible. That's what Art's death has taught me...to live every day as if it were my last.

Ok, Arty, I've got it.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Good Day

Today was a bit of a departure for me in a few ways. First of all, I had a lunch date with a friend and former classmate from my graduate school days, someone I haven't seen in quite a while. After making sure my garden was well watered, I showered and dressed to meet her. I chose to wear white, one of my favorite summer colors and one that, in spite of its association with purity, makes me feel very sexy. That's another way today was different...I felt sexy, something I haven't felt for too long a time. I felt it and it showed.

I traveled into Manhattan to meet my friend and we had lunch at a hidden little Spanish restaurant on 14th Street. It was truly a jewel filled with old world ambiance and good food. It felt like stepping into a different world for the time we were in there. As we were leaving, we noticed a sign saying the place had been established in 1868. We were incredulous and curious so we turned around and went back inside to inquire. The owner himself answered our questions but what was remarkable was what came afterwards. After his explanation, he introduced himself to me pointedly to which I responded with my own introduction and shook his hand. He commented on my beautiful name and lovely earrings and held my hand for just a touch longer than was necessary. The old bird was flirting with me!!

I am so out of touch with the whole mating scene that I was taken by surprise. When my girlfriend and I left the restaurant, we were talking about it and she said, "We're getting up there in age. Take your compliments where you find them. Let the old man flirt. It's okay." You know, she's right. Let the man flirt. Even better, let me enjoy that I'm being flirted with. I guess if I'm not too old to feel sexy, I'm not to old to be flirted with or to enjoy it.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around a paper specialty store, looking at the beautiful imported and handmade papers available there. Then I came home to my family, my dog and a dinner that needed cooking. My sexy day was over but the memories still lingered.

On another front, my husband, who had been laid off on Memorial Day weekend, came home with some great news. He had interviewed a week ago with a local employer and today he filled out the necessary paperwork to become its newest employee. I don't have to tell you in this economy how great this news is. I told him we should celebrate.

Hmmm, maybe my sexy day isn't over just yet. :)

Ballo ergo sum,- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Time to Catch Up.

I have been crazy busy since my last post. As I mentioned then, I was creating paper flower arrangements for my daughter's high school's graduation ceremony. In the midst of that, several other projects came up. You can read about them and see some pictures here in my artist blog. Seems I've been running on a treadmill, expending a lot of energy yet staying in the same spot. Since the spot I'm staying in is home, I don't have a problem with that.

My newly graduated daughter has moved to North Carolina to live with my older daughter and her family and will be attending a nearby college there. The quiet in my house since her departure has been downright deafening and I'm still getting accustomed to the lessened workload in laundry, cooking, dishes, etc. Less work, more quiet...I can used to this.

In the middle of all my activity is my husband's inactivity, an inactivity that stems from his having been laid off on Memorial Day weekend. Yes, we have become part of the latest statistics in this bad economy. Perhaps inactivity is not the proper word to use here because the fact is that he has been hard at work looking for another job since his feet hit the ground but the market in his field, electrical construction, is very soft and jobs at his level are not to be found. We're holding our own for the present time but that may be short lived. Now we have two children in college and no income. This is not a pretty picture. I guess my flurry of income producing activities couldn't have come at a better time.

To be continued...

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh My! How Time Has Flown!!

I just read the date on my last blog update and realized I haven't written a post since early February when I decided to volunteer at a local senior citizen's center. Now, four months later, I have become a fixture at the center where I not only run an hour long crafts session once a week but also stick around to do many of the organizational tasks that the director and her small staff can't get around to. I have spent untold hours cleaning, clearing and organizing the crafts cabinet and storage closets and discovered lots of great materials that were being neglected simply because no one knew what was there or how to find it. The director and I have made several visits to Materials for the Arts, a organization that collects donations from private donors and commercial concerns and makes them available to non-profit groups, schools and theater companies. We have been able to score some great finds there that have been put to good use as crafts materials, office supplies, and storage. In short, I've been having a great time putting my organizational and creative skills to use in an environment where I am welcomed and appreciated. You can see the projects I have completed to date with the seniors at my artist blog, The Creative Diva.

As if I needed something else to do, I am also volunteering to decorate the auditorium of my daughter's high school for it's very first graduating class of which my daughter is a part. The mission of the school is that of environmental responsibility and sustainability so all elements of the celebration must be eco-friendly. To that end I am making paper flowers out of used and recyclable paper with which to create floral arrangements to decorate the front of the stage. Of course I've never done this before so I'm dead in the middle of a steep learning curve but so be it. When the flowers are done I'll be posting photos on my artist blog so I hope you'll come over to check them out.

After my daughter graduates, she'll be attending college in North Carolina and will be leaving sometime in July to get settled into her new role as an adult. In the meantime I will be settling into my role as a mother hen with one less chick and I'm looking forward to the quiet in my chicken coop.

Another news-worthy occurrence since my last post is that my son returned to college after a few years of not knowing quite what to do with himself. His first attempt was not successful because he frankly didn't want to go to school. After dropping out, going to work, getting laid off and spending a long time unemployed, he finally decided he was ready to take another stab at college. I'm happy to say that he seems much more settled and comfortable this time around and I hold great hopes for his success. In due time he, too, will be leaving the nest whereupon this old bird will be doing the empty nest happy dance. Oh yes, I'm looking forward to an empty nest in spite of everyone telling me otherwise. I've lived the last 30 years mindful of my responsibility to the needs of others. I'm ready to finally live for myself. But until my nest is completely empty, I still have to contend with the droppings.

Somebody, hand me a shovel, will ya?

Ballo ergo sum,- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Something Else To Do

Since I'm at home most of the time, I've been feeling a bit isolated and out of touch and I knew that I had to get myself out of the house and in contact with people. But because of health issues that seem to crop up at the most inconvenient times, I didn't want to commit myself to anything that would require a fixed time commitment like a part time job. My husband, who knows I'm a sucker for volunteering to do things for others, found a little article in the newspaper touting NYC Service, a website sponsored and maintained by New York City that contains listings of volunteer opportunities all over the five boroughs. I checked it out, created a profile and searched the available volunteer opportunities to see if any struck my fancy. I came across an opportunity for a crafts instructor at a local senior citizen's center and sent an email to indicate my interest.

Fast forward to the present. I met with the center director who gave me a quick tour of the facility and showed me the kind of materials available for use. I have never worked with seniors before. Some of the members have visual impairments (blindness, macular degeneration)and/or mobility limitations (arthritis, etc.) that impose restrictions on the types of activities they can participate in and I have no experience whatsoever in dealing with limitations of any kind. Furthermore the available craft materials left much to be desired with respect to the type of crafting I have been doing of late.

In spite of it all, I am inclined to accept this opportunity. I have learned that the process of working through challenges and pushing one's limits is the quickest path to releasing one's creativity and inner talents. I've been scrounging the internet and tapping my crafting buddies for projects and ideas suitable for seniors and am scheduled to revisit the center in order to observe the crafts class that is currently running to see if that will give me any ideas. I haven't even told the director that I'm in yet and I'm already planning my next move.

To be continued...

UPDATE: February 2, 2010 - I have visited the senior center again, this time to observe the crafts class and talk with some of the members to get an idea of what they would like do in terms of crafting. I came home with some of the center's crafts materials so I could start creating projects to do with the seniors and am scheduled to conduct my first crafts class with them at the end of this week. Okay, so I've jumped in with both feet. Hope this swimming hole isn't too deep.

Check out my artist blog, The Creative Diva, to see the project I'll be doing with the seniors this week.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dad's Home

Last week my father was rushed to emergency with chest pains. Under normal circumstances this is not good news. When you consider that he underwent an angiogram in July that resulted in having a stent placed in order to open up a nearly blocked artery, such a scenario is downright scary. The good news is that he is back home and doing well. After an overnight stay in the hospital, he underwent yet another angiogram that confirmed his blood vessels were all clear. It was determined (which means the doctor's best guess is) that the chest pains were caused by my father stopping his medication regimen. He did so because the medicine was making him sick but the result was a trip to the hospital. He has been placed back on the medication regimen but this time at a lower dosage in an attempt to curb or eliminate the adverse effects he was experiencing.

My parents are in their mid-70's. They are relatively active and fairly healthy but they have slowed down considerably. This makes me sad. It places their mortality and my own squarely in my face. I have become acutely aware of the passage of time or, more precisely, the dwindling of our time remaining.

I need to stop here before I break down and cry.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Emotional Day

I received very disturbing news today. My mother called to tell me she was taking my father to the emergency room because of chest pains. My dad had an angiogram at the end of July and had a stent placed in one of his arteries. He hasn't been quite the same since, suffering from pains in his upper joints, back, neck and chest. The aspirin regimen he was on for his heart condition caused an ulcer. He's been given so many medications that they were negatively interacting and he felt worse. I could go on.

It seems to me that he has gone from strong and robust to frail and frightened overnight but if I examine my heart of hearts I know the truth. I have chosen not to see time marching across his handsome face. I have chosen not to notice the once herculean physique dwindle and the twinkle in his eyes fade. He always seemed like a big man to me but I realize now that it was because, in my eyes, he was a little larger than life. Now life overshadows him and he seems small by comparison.

Dad's going to have to spend a few days in the hospital undergoing tests to see if his heart problem can be pinpointed and fixed. I strongly suspect that another angiogram is in his future. Who knows what else is in store for him. All I know is that Daddy is old and sick and there's nothing I can do to change it or make him better.

And I'm scared. Very, very scared.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, January 1, 2010


In the past two weeks since my angiogram, I completed all the obligatory preparations for Christmas including buying and wrapping gifts, trimming the tree and making a traditional holiday treat. I usually make bread pudding but this year I made coquito, which essentially amounts to Puerto Rican eggnog with a kick of rum. This recipe is so rich, just reading the list of ingredients is enough to stop your heart in its tracks. Four different milks, a dozen egg yolks, cinnamon, coconut cream, rum -- trust me, this drink is a heart attack in a bottle. Thankfully it's made only during the December holidays. Any more often than that would decimate our family population.

I had a family pot luck gathering on the day after Christmas and there was enough food to sink a battleship. Everyone ate to capacity, took home a doggy bag and there was still enough food left over that I didn't have to cook for the rest of the week. In fact I had my children's friends over one evening and there was more than enough to feed them (and you know how much teenagers can eat)! Family, food and coquito. Aaah, those are the holidays in my home.

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we brought in the new year very quietly at home. It was just my husband, my daughter and myself (oh yeah, and our beagle, Marla). My son was out with some friends. We toasted at midnight with some champagne and hugs and kisses all around. Then back to our solitary activities. It was very quiet.

The day didn't feel like a holiday. It felt like any other day of the week. But the clan is gathering at my uncle's house this afternoon to start the new year with the usual suspects...family and food, food, food. That's when it will feel like a holiday to me.

Happy New Year, everybody. The best of everything in 2010.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva