Saturday, December 07, 2013

Email Terror and Empty Inbox Peace of Mind

Overwhelmed by the number of email messages arriving each day,  messages important enough to want to look through, not important enough to do that right away, I've created a folder titled: 
AAA All email from inbox (so it's at the top of all the other folders). I've moved the whole content of my proper Inbox to that folder. 
The result? A message from the provider: There are no emails in your inbox folder.

To open an inbox with just a few messages that you can deal with right away, is bliss. Now I visit the AAA box and deal with the messages at my leasure. Oh, yes. 
Can't say it often enough: 

An Empty Inbox Equals Peace of Mind. 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Monday, July 22, 2013

Africa Print - Orange Babies - Vlisco - Made in Holland

Isn't it fascinating that the well known Africa print is Made in Holland by a Dutch textile company called Vlisco? The library of the Textile Museum in Enschede, the capital of the textile industry in the eastern part of the Netherlands, owns a publication (#4 from the top on the list) titled, Waar de Afrikaanse mammies hun kledingstof vandaan halen about  the history of the Africa print.

To me it's double interesting since my father's small Pre-WWII pharmaceutical company was named Vlisco as well, after his second wife's maiden name Van der Vlis. I wonder how it was possible that two companies had the same name. I have a letter in my possession sent to his Vlisco from a company in Germany that no longer could do business with him because ... well they don't mention that in the letter, but in retrospect it's clearly because his company had a Jewish owner. 

As a costume and stage designer I often bought fabrics at the Albert Cuyp Market from a man who told me the "traditional" African 6 yards were made in the Dutch province Twente, Vlisco.
Today —or, really last year the gala took place in 2012— the old textile mill is abuzz with young activity, Orange Babies is the trend, Africa print used for trendy fashion.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Photo Opportunity Views from High Elevation in Seattle

Years ago I made it up to the 50th floor of the Columbia Tower, or which ever floor it is where Starbucks allows you a view of Puget Sound and beyond. Seeing the glass walls I backed up into the opaque wall behind me, and slid to the elevator to return to the ground floor with a sickened stomach. Such a sissy I was.

Believe it or not, but after I took my first run up to the observation deck of the Space Needle after contemplating that ride for seventeen years, I became hooked on heights. A Space Needle Year Pass allowed me to take the elevator up as often as I liked and having seen the 360ยบ view on sunny, overcast and rainy days, I can tell you, there's beauty to behold whether the sun is out or not. 

After the Space Needle, hubby and I visited Smith Tower. Located smack downtown near the old Pioneer Square, you get a good feel for early Seattle, and great (at times moody) photo opps.
And if the view by itself isn't worth the small entrance fee, the interior of Mr. Smith's loft on the 35th floor is jaw dropping amazing. As the story goes, Smith gifted the Chinese Empress with a Corona typewriter (yes, he's that Smith), and Her Highness was so pleased with that device (used to hammer letters on paper) that she had her best wood carving artisans create the complete lining for his flat. You've got to see the Chinese Room to believe it. As a bonus Her Highness threw in some furniture as well.

And now that I've come this far, who knows, I may make it up to Columbia Tower's 73rd floor aka The Sky View Observatory to take in the view AND an exhibit on Puget Sound's perimeters.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Babble - Mendocino Red, a Double Pleasure

Taking a break from writing about my earlier California days, I see a wall of "Babble Mendocino", a (for me) new label at  Trader Joe's in the a.m. That seemed less of a coincidence than my friend being served a white Paul Masson from the fluted vessel last night at the Comedy Underground.
Paul Masson? That's the grocery store wine we drank in the mid 1970s!
The winery survived Orson Welles well beyond 1984.
Trader Joe's publicist about Babble: "The English poet Edward Young once quipped, “They only babble who practice not reflection.” Au contraire. They who partake of a fine, high value red wine can reflect thoughtfully, then run at the mouth enthusiastically. (Case in point.)"
The illustration on the label is attractive. Next time I'm on the hill (that's tomorrow 8 a.m.) I'll pick up a bottle (yesterday I was half asleep and for some reason didn't see fit to add one to my cart). This purchase is going to be a double pleasure. Once home, or rather when we decanter the contents, I know I'll be tempted to pull out my coloring tools, the dodo, the owl, and eagle, the crab, and especially the mouse holding the glass of wine are calling out to be "filled in".

Decanting makes me think of that Paul Masson flute shaped bottle I saw last night. Surprised as I was to notice the vineyard to still be in business, I looked Online and found only the White Paul Masson Zinfandel. And that one, as all other Zinfandels, is pink.
Now I'm really curious what my friend drank last night.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Sunday, May 12, 2013

YA Literature Bridges Generations

If you didn't know about Young Adult novels until now, chances are you're a boomer.
Around age nine I had finished all the books in the children's department of our local library. At the time my parents and I lived in a rural northern province in the Netherlands. Used to reading, or at least looking through my parents' collection, books on history, in particular WWII, Agatha Christie and Pearl Buck novels, I automatically moved on, borrowing books I claimed were for my dad. Claimed, because I was denied access the first time I brought an adult book to the check-out table, and truthfully said I was excited about reading that particular book.

Found out by the librarian at a later time —borrowing books supposedly for my father who was ill, yet reporting on a certain title with the enthusiasm of the reader— I was forced back to the "age appropriate" section of the small library.

Fast forward to 2000 when I became aware of a YA section at the Seattle Public Library, thanks to the display table positioned immediately inside the entrance of the Greenwood branch. The aim of the librarians was to attract teens of course, but I was drawn in as well.

"Is kissing a girl who smokes like licking an ashtray?" was the first YA book I took home with me,
and from there on I kept going back for more. Recognizing yourself in teen lit can help bridge the schism between you and teens in your life. Did you forget how much you relied on the connection with your best friend? Or how lost you felt between being your parents' pet, and turning into a (young) adult? The literature geared toward YA of today can help you recall, and realize, you made it out of those horrid years too. Right? Or perhaps being a teenager wasn't that terrible for you, all the better. At any rate, YA lit can open eyes on both sides, parents and teens, it may be hard to grasp, but you do have something in common.

Many of my writer friends write for the YA market, so while our present
neighborhood library has no table for YA lit near the entrance —their focus groups change from week to week— I'm staying abreast Online of what's out there. YA lit is not a grey area, but colorful and exciting, as you are bound to find out. Explore the list of new an exciting titles on the site of Book-ish, and stock up for summer.

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Friday, March 29, 2013

Immigrant Robbed of Care Assurance

Born and bred in the Netherlands, I've been insured all my life. 

One way or another I've been covered head to toe. First by my parents, and later, when I was on a payroll, my employer paid the premium. As an independent freelance designer, I had to pay the premium myself. Either way, when I went to a doctor in the Netherlands, I never ever saw a bill.

For the past 18.5 years I've lived in Seattle, in Washington State. Thanks to my husband's affiliation with a Union, he himself is covered, and I'm able to buy into the Group Health Insurance for close to $500 per month. But only if he works enough hours. If he doesn't "bank" enough working hours (easily done when he's in remission due to surgery, and a two week road trip), his regular coverage is stopped, but while he may refer to COBRA, I am kicked out all together, notwithstanding the fact that I'm not behind with my payments. In case of calamities I will be covered by COBRA, but only for 60 days. After that it's free for all, or rather, pay it yourself all together.

And if you think I don't have to make any out of pocket payments after writing that monthly check of $467.30 you're mistaken. When I enter my provider's building, I make a co-payment of $25 and that's only the beginning.

Last week I saw my doctor's assistant because of a painful knee. She thought it might be arthritis, and that the only way to find out for sure was getting an X-ray made. Since my dental hygienist considered a spot on my gums suspicious, and I was at the doctor's anyway, I had her look at that. That spot has been there for at least three decades, but seems to become more pronounced as my gums are receding a bit with age. My doctor's assistant suggested I'd see a specialist for that.

I declined the X-ray, for once I knew it wasn't a blood clod that created the swelling (which would cause me to drop dead just like that, as someone at the gym had suggested), I guessed I had probably overdone a work-out, and that icing the area, plus taking it easy at the gym and elsewhere considering my knee would help. And yes, it's getting better.

The specialist decided to do a biopsy of my gum, and would have done one of a skin tag in one of my nostrils if I had let him. But the anesthesia made me feel flushed, and I refused the shot in my nostril (no numbing there, the skin's too thick for that), and so my tag was left where it was.

Today I received the bill for the "surgery" meaning the little bit of tissue the specialist scraped off my gum and planted in a specimen jar. Mind you, he did numb my gums, and gave me a shot of anesthetics. The total bill came to $1,053 of which I'm supposed to pay $604.30 on top of the premium I pay.  Did I mention I had to buy the anti-bacterial ointment the specialist prescribed for my nostril, just to see if it does more to the tag this year than last?

Oh, and before I forget, earlier this week the price and there for co-payment of the estrogen prescription my gynecologist prescribes is three times as expensive as it was two months ago.  Why is that I wonder.

I've had health insurance my whole life, and I kind of saw that as a savings account, paying into care I expected I might need at certain times, such as childbirth, calamities, general upkeep, and finally old age.

Is it strange I feel robbed?

And yet, feeling robbed of total care is such a luxury, especially compared to the debacles those who have no insurance coverage at all face every day.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And the Award for Very Inspiring Blogger Goes To:

Being rewarded for your efforts by people whose opinion you value is big. Being put in the spotlight by a smart, kick-ass young writer such as Sezin Koehler, author of American Monsters, is a triple thrill. I'm serious. I could be a fuddy duddie in the eyes of Zuzu, but I'm not. So...

Thank you Sezin for tweeting this wonderful surprise!

Now it's my turn to pass on The Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

The blog Julie Unplugged is hosted by Typepad. I like the tight and lively lay-out. You can see Julie is busy writing, she's got lots of badges in the sidebar that tell you her occupation and that she's passionate about writing. Her blog post speaks for her adventurous spirit, she must be a good improvisor: "YES, And then", could be her motto, shouldn't it be every one's?
And then the post itself, it's not that I didn't know of Imogen Cunningham, or wasn't familiar with her work, I am, but it's Julie Jordan Scott's voice and P.O.V. that adds to what I already knew.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh is debit to my new guilty pleasure: sneaking a peek at the stories about her family's expat life here in Seattle. Her great narrative voice, grip on dialogue, not to forget the delightful characters who inhabit her stories (her life) got me hooked. I can hear everyone speak as I read her posts and often am laughing out loud. Here's your chance to hitch a ride, follow her for a couple of installments on her Journey into the better part of life. By the way, Padmaja's novella about motherhood is hilarious, can't wait for a publisher to pick it up.

Recently met during a storycraft TwitChat, a brave and honest writer, unafraid to tackle sensitive material, or to share the heartfelt on her blog Chalk The Sun I'm pleased to introduce Julie Christine!

Many cooks have their own garden, be it a plot or some terra cotta pots next to the front door, where they grow herbs, and if there's room whatever else is needed for a good soup. "Potager" is just that, the garden beside the house, where you go for nourishment of mind and body. Terrill Welch paints and writes about her creative plot, the process, her way of seeing, wonderful brushstrokes illustrated by words on her blog Creative Potager

If you liked Julie and Julia, you're going to really love Sasha Martin's Global Table Adventure I learned about her blog a few days ago on Twitter, and tweeted back something about cultivating a palate one dish at the time. I don't just love the idea of cooking foods of different countries and cultures around the world (I've been doing that myself for decades), and how she addressed the issue of picky eaters at home, but also how she laid out the plan for her culinary and cultural adventure on her website/blog, and how she fills it in. Delectable. So, to be honest I am not a bit surprised that Sasha landed a book deal. The folks at National Geographic aren't stupid.
I haven't seen any blogging awards on her site, perhaps she doesn't like to post them, in that case, I'll just keep it right here for her.

Honoree, here are the steps for joining the Very Inspiring Blogger Award/Very Inspiring Blog rolls:
1) Thank and link the blogger who has nominated you.
2) Then post the award logo to your blog.
3) Write a post on the nomination and nominate other very inspiring bloggers.
4) Notify them and then tell seven things about yourself.

Seven things about me you probably don’t already know:
1. You'll be hit over the head with The Mitford Sisters if you don't give me the cookies.
2. I was blond as a toddler.
3. My left foot is so straight I still haven't found the right shoe.
4. Give me scissors and a comb and I'll cut anyone's hair, including my own. 
5. Darn socks, that's what I do for fun.
6. Still can't get my dog to pronounce the words I taught her, my way.
7. Number 3 was a half lie, my right foot is straight as well, but that's not that funny.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Artists and Writers Give Testimony of War and Peace

Writing about the aftermath of war.
My 85-year-old friend Ada often tells me, "enough is enough, why write another book about that war?"
I understand where she's coming from. She survived Auschwitz, and built a life abroad, far from her former homeland. Reading about the Holocaust or even the aftermath of WWII brings to the surface, if not memories —she has forgotten on purpose— a sadness that is so profound, and goes so deep, her sensibilities tell her not to trigger those feelings of despair she no doubts knows will appear.
For me it's different, I need to tell the stories I've heard as a child, and facts I researched for many years. I need to share the manuscript I wrote about growing up in the aftermath of the Second World War with parents who continued to hide, and lived as though the war never ended. I have to share how this has influenced the rest of my life, how their fears jeopardized their dreams for me, how we lived from day to day, because tomorrow could be the end of times as I had known them. I have to share how their love for each other and for me has made me who I am today,  more sane than could have been predicted and yet colored by my father's PTSD and mother's psychosis.

And while my parents told me "not to forget", it's Ada's voice that keeps me from sharing.
It's time to stop listening, I want to see my name, the titles of my books added to the list of books and films on the Dutch website —"back then now", or I'd say it's about time.

Put no limitation on the time to share stories that need be told. 

'Enough is enough' is true for the pain that surfaces when a survivor is confronted with yet another book or film about that what triggers heart ache.

I say the same when I open a novel to find out the story deals with the death of a baby or young child. No matter how well written, no matter how good the intentions of the author are, sadness takes grip of my tender heart, and before long I realize my response has more to do with my personal loss than that of the characters in the story. And if I can't shake that feeling of despair, as was the case with Nassim Assefi's empathic novel Aria I put the book aside. Believe me, I have grieved intensely the loss of our baby girl, and every once in a while sadness hits me still, and takes over my being. I accept that as part of my life. But I'll put the book aside. Let others read that story, a story that needs to be told so the reader learns and understands what loss is about.

Enough is not enough regarding stories about war and its aftermath, people need to know, artists & writers testify for those who can't or dare not voice their experience.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Artists n Writers Home Buyers a Story of Love and Hate

Plant your roots.

The title of the ArtistTrust First Time Home Buying Workshop at Velocity Dance Center on Thursday January 10 would have scared me ten years ago. The reason I didn't attend now, is that we already own our home. We already bit the bullet, figuratively broke ground in the Pacific Northwest, so to speak.  Seeing a picture on the ArtistTrust Facebook Page made me wonder though.

Did anyone mention how much strain being a homeowner puts on the shoulders of artists and writers, struggling or not? Did anyone mention calling the landlord about a problem in your home will be a luxury of the past?

Don't get me wrong, I love our house, but when I think back to that first year, holy cow, the responsibility of the maintenance, the overflowing gutters, replacement of 50+ year-old windows, a unintentional green moss covered roof, not to forget the flooding of the garage and part of the basement the very month we moved in, I want to yell:

Know what you're wishing for!

Learning that, no, you don't have to keep up with everything all the time alone took us a year.
Twelve months and countless hours —previously free for creative thinking, or non-thinking— spent worrying about mortgage, taxes, the yard work (mowing, raking, pruning), yes, always that never ending upkeep.

This could be in one word: Dreadful. 

Six years down the line, eight, if you count the two years in our first home, a condominium with a 9'4" ceiling, a deck with western exposure, a view of Puget Sound, and the tips of the Olympics, but also with the HOA board's power tripping members we were oh, so glad to leave behind, we have got used to the needs of the house, the role of homeowner, the distance from the city, the feeling of not being in the midst of things.

And yet, we love it, our home, our yard, having music, writing and art studios all under one roof, and our woof Mocha, loves her own front and back yard too.

Kudos to ArtistTrust for organizing a workshop around this matter, I wish there had been one eight years ago, when we first embarked on this Real Estate adventure, glad to know ArtistTrust has the notes on this one.

Presenters at Velocity Dance Center on January 10, 2013:

Wendy Ceccherelli, broker for among others Arthaven
Randy Engstrom, Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs
Garbo Grossman, homeowners program assistant at Homestead Community Land Trust
Michelle Taul, Directors Mortgage

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Rolled Wavers Symbolize the Unknow in the New Year

Krumkake or Wafer Cones ©Judith van Praag 2012

Beside the national favorite "oliebol" you may be served iron baked wavers on New Year's Eve up north in the Netherlands. They stand for the known, old year. When visiting people the first days of the new year you're bound to be presented "rolletjes", wavers rolled around a dowel, and served plain, or stuffed with whipped cream.
The reason why I created the cones in the picture is practical, I didn't have a dowel. I could have sawed the bowl of a wooden spoon, but I'm rather attached to my old spoons, thank you very much, so I decided to use the cone shaped gadget that comes with the Krumkake wafer iron.
The nice thing about a cone is that it holds more whipped cream or fruit mousse (whipped cream spooned through a puree of for instance mango), and who would object to that?

May the 2013 be happy, healthy and successful, and filled with pleasant surprises!

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License