Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pride Goes Before A Fall...?

This blog went viral yesterday due to the extraordinarily BAD behavior of the author on this reviewer's comments about her self-published work. Read it - it's like watching a train wreck. 300 and some comments, few of them out of pity and more views than the writer of the blog could have hoped to achieve.

In some ways I feel sorry for the author - not because she received a less than glowing review - but because she clearly believed that her work was exceptional and couldn't possibly recieve anything less than 4 out of 5 stars. She's really bitten the dust now. Good luck with ever selling another book now Jacqueline Howett. You will never be more widely read than you were this week - and it isn't your mediocre writing that everyone is talking about.

Anyway, if nothing else, I've started following this blog!

BigAl's Books and Pals: The Greek Seaman / Jacqueline Howett: "Genre: Suspense/Literary Fiction Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words Availability Kindle: YES Nook: YES &..."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Official Start

Although I technically seeded my spring cabbages back in December, today marks the first official day of the Peek Family's 2011 Vegetable Garden! Hooray!

I have BIG fat plans for this year's garden, including turning my front yard into a virtual haven of edible landscaping when not only will the vegetables flourish, but the wildlife (except for that wretched mole!) will be welcome and enchantment abounds. My magnolia tree is about to have its own special raised bed and the days of those 3 Bradford pear trees (that serve no purpose except to shade important parts of my yard that need the sunshine and drop nasty inedible fruits all over the sidewalk in the winter) are numbered!

I had to scrub under my nails and pick dirt out of my nose of course, but these annoyances actually made me smile because I got to spend 2 hours out in the dirt.

I started today's efforts by digging all the leaves out of the front flower bed. Friends, autumn's leaves are nature's way of protecting things over the winter. I piled up the autumn leaves around all of my perennial herbs in the front flower bed this winter, and while they hibernated under 6 feet of snow (we had 5 snowstorms over this past winter) the leaves kept their roots warm and safe. I just cleaned out all the leaves and I am delighted to see the new growth coming in on the lavender, parsley and thyme. I intend to intersperse basil, oregano, marjoram, sage, lemon verbena, chamomile, comfrey, tansy and angelica around in the front and make a tea garden envious of the most austere British gardener. I'd like to have a row of sunflowers along the porch wall as well, but I tried that last year and was not successful. This year however, I am using a new seed company, and will try it one more time.

I went to our backyard and extended the bed that I used for lettuces last year and joined it to the bed that formerly held pumpkins. I now have blisters on my thumbs, but they are trophies of my hard work. This bed is now four feet longer than it was previously and will hold an heirloom variety of sweet corn called 'Country Gentleman' or shoepeg corn. It is an open pollinated variety, not a hybrid, and I am planting it so that I can save seeds for next season as well as enjoy fresh sweet corn this summer. But I can't plant corn until the beginning of May, as the ground is simply to cold right now to ensure proper germination. So instead, I direct seeded sugar snap peas and seed potatoes into the far right third of the bed, since they are relatively cold tolerant and the peas will germinate and grow quickly.

In the green house, I sowed a lot of seed today, including several for the heirloom tomato pictured above, which is a variety known as a pineapple tomato. These tomatoes are heirloom, so their seeds are savable, and they grow to be about 5 inches in diameter and I am told they are sweet enough to eat for breakfast. I also seeded another heirloom variety called the Pink Accordion, which also grows to be quite large, and has a rosy pink hue instead of red. And of course, I seeded my Early Girls, which I am just dying to get out into the garden itself. Early Girls germinate in less than 10 days and then grow and ripen in about 60 days, and I hope I can wait until the beginning of June to taste my own sweet tomatoes. And tonight I plan to pay a visit to the garden center to pick up a few more peat cups and another bag of seed starting mix, so that this weekend I can get the rest of the produce started. The lettuces and broccoli didn't get the early start I was hoping for this year, due to all the frosty weather and snow that wouldn't let up.

If you're in my neck of the woods, do stop by and see what's springing forth from the ground!

Old Man Winter Better Move Along

March and April of 2010 was probably what I would describe as a perfect spring. When March rolled around, the days immediately warmed. They rose to the mid 50's and 60's and stayed there consistently until the end of May. It rained a lot in April, a perfect amount I would say, because my garden had plenty of water throughout the summer with very few efforts to keep it hydrated with the sprinkler. The sun shone and warmed up the ground beautifully and most of my seeds in the greenhouse germinated and sprang to life without too much coaxing.

This year, Old Man Winter has me by the balls. Figuratively speaking of course, since I don't actually have any balls to be had by. This winter weather just will not let up!

Come on Mother Nature! You need to shake off these blues you've been feeling and let some sunshine in!

I have cabbages, broccoli, peas and lettuces to plant, and the ground is hard and frozen. It actually snowed last week. Not that snow in March is an uncommon occurance in Northern Indiana, but instead an unwelcome one.

So Friday is April 1 and I have a paycheck coming in. I have planned to use part of that paycheck at the garden center on a few trinkets to help me finish up my landscaping. It's also supposed to be reasonably warm outside. With any blessing from Mother Nature, the herb garden should be planted by Sunday, and the seed potatoes should be in their beds.

I'm going to be visiting my sister-in-law, Rosa, in mid-April to help her and her family plant their 2011 vineyard. It's very exciting. In the last couple years, they have become very interested in wine and the fine craft of wine-making. And the products have not been too bad either! Personally, I teared up a little bit when I drank the last dregs of her cherry wine! It's definitely a retirement investment for them, and I envy them a little bit, because they have the kind of property that I would really like to have someday - 12 acres of land, space to hunt, horses, a perfectly proportioned home for the amount of land.... and so on and so forth. One day, one day. That's what I continue to remind myself. Alex and I will not always have to live on a 37 foot wide plot between the cruddy neighbors that we have now that keep encroaching on our property lines. One day, we'll have that 12 acres, maybe even more.

So anyway Old Man Winter, I'm really ready for you to shuffle along until November. Please move along so that I can get outside and get our summer produce going! We need to eat you know!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After weeks of watching cast interviews, directors' interviews and being teased on G4 by trailers for Suckerpunch, we went to see it on the big screen on Sunday night.

Let me begin by saying the special effects were amazing. It was a breathless, edge-of-your-seat ride.

But I was almost in tears at the end. It ends SO SADLY, and it twists in such a way that you are left feeling like someone literally suckerpunched you!

The film takes places in what I percieve to be around the late 40's, perhaps the early 50's, when mental institutions were horrible, frightening places where horror movies take place and lobotomies were perfectly acceptable forms of treatment for those perceived to be a violent danger to themselves or others.

Babydoll (Emily Browning) is placed in a mental hospital by her evil stepfather, after the death of her mother leads to a tragic accident. He makes a deal with the head orderly to have Babydoll lobotomized so that she'll never be able to tell her side of the story, or be able to claim her inheritance. It's 5 days before the doctor who performs the lobotomy (Jon Hamm) can be there, and that's where the movie takes off. Just before receiving the lobotomy, you get a peek into Babydoll's imagination, where she teams up with 4 other patients and attempts to escape.

The film takes place in 3 different mindsets - the hospital, Babydoll's imagination - wherein she and the 4 other patients are dancers in a brothel, trying desperately to escape, and a fantasy world that combines themes of Japanese anime, steampunk and MMA. It's a little confusing to put into words, but when you see it in the film, it becomes a little clearer.

At the brothel, Babydoll becomes the center of attention when she is set aside for the 'high roller' (also played by Jon Hamm) who arrives in 5 days to claim her as his special pet, so to speak. She is determined to escape before then and convinces Rocket (Jena Malone), and her older sister Sweet Pea (Abby Cornish), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) to join her in her plan of escape, which was shown to her during one of her dreamscapes by the man I will refer to henceforth as the 'guardian angel' (Scott Glenn). They must retrieve 4 items - a map, fire, a knife and a key. There is a 5th item, but it is a mystery that will be revealed at the end. And so they begin their escape, each one retrieving their piece of the plan, and entering the dreamworld, where they battle monsters and villians to succeed.

But as I said, the ending twists very suddenly and is quite devastating after you've watched the girls get so far and have become attached to them.

I give it a solid B. It didn't end in the way I had hoped it would, and for me (someone who rolls movies around in my head for days afterward) I needed a bit of closure or at least a bit of a happy ending. Instead, I got..... suckerpunched. :)

And Emily Browning is absolutely gorgeous.

The Joy of Marriage

Alex and I spent the most amazing weekend together. I would definitely place it as the best weekend of 2011 and in the top 5 of our marriage together. I am a bit sad that it's Monday and our beautiful weekend is over, but I have stored its memory into my heart to think back on fondly in the coming future.

To begin with, we attended a marriage retreat with our church, Southgate, which took us all the way to Roseland, IN (best known for its rediculous nonsense involving a 3 person town council where 2 of the 3 were a married couple bent on owning that little town), where we checked into the Comfort Suites Hotel for one single night. We had dinner at the Ho Ping House, which isn't the best place to eat, but wasn't terrible. Later we discovered that we had accidently left our leftovers in the refrigerator in our room.

There was a guest speaker, who's message detailed the 5 things that cause couples to break up - in his experience. Communication, finances, sex (a lack of), unfaithfulness and a lack of faith. And we heard from several couples in our congregation and watched a couple videos, and I started to feel very secure and delighted in my marriage.

To begin with, I was fortunate enough to marry a talker. Sometimes he talks to a fault and I get annoyed because I am actually not much of a talker. I am more of a thinker. Our communication is pretty much.... excellent. If anyone is at fault for bad communication in our marriage, it definitely isn't Alex. (It would be me, bottling up my anger and irateness, which is what I do, which is what he is trying to change.) And Alex was fortunate enough to marry a red-headed spitfire. Not all women are as adventurous as I in the bedroom. Lucky, lucky man. ;)

Our finances are better now that I'm working again, and it would take wild horses to drag either one of us away from the other toward unfaithfulness. And we have a very Christ-centered marriage. The Fearsome Five things that break couples apart are of NO consequence in this marriage!

But what made me feel secure was to hear different couples, many who have been married for many years, say that they felt the strains of marriage very early - some just 2 to 3 months into their marriages. They felt like 'Good God, what the hell did I sign up for? And who is this stranger I'm married to?' And I just want to say that on May 19 Alex and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage and I have never once felt that way. My husband really and truly is the same person now as he was when we were dating and engaged. He has never changed on me, or shown a side of himself that I wasn't aware of before we tied the knot. I am as happy and in love with my husband now, 5 years later, as I was on our wedding day. Yes, we've had fights and arguements, some that lasted for hours, even days. But our marriage is so strong, and I feel so secure in it, with Alex.

Of course, we don't have any children either.... but let's cross that bridge when we come to it. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Been Awhile!

My goodness! I feel like I'm returning from death - I've been away for so long!

Well, to get the good stuff out of the way at the very start, I am very pleased with my new job at the bank. I like the people that I'm working with, I like the customers (thus far) and I haven't run into anything that I'm uncomfortable with yet. I am concerned with getting referrals when my 90 day grace period is up, but I guess that if I can trust God to come through for me when I needed employment, I can also trust Him to come through for me when it comes time to meet my quotas for the months. My feet get tired by the end of my shift, but there is always something to do, so I'm never bored. The pay is great, the best I've ever received for any job, and I've been working much more than I was promised - the last two weeks I've logged more than 70 hours, and I was hired to do 40-45 hours over a 2 week pay period. This makes my husband really happy since he no longer has to work excessive overtime to help me pay my share of our bills.

My branch manager asked me if I woke up or went home with feelings of never wanting to come back. I told her no, and she asked if I was being honest. In the back of my head, I thought about the dreaded insurance job that made me cry every single day and put feelings of dread, anxiety and guilt into my spirit - all things that are unnecessary. I haven't felt any of that working for the bank. With the insurance job, I knew from the second day of training by the feeling in the pit of my stomach that it wasn't for me. I enjoyed the training for the bank and I transitioned seamlessly into the branch activity. By my third full day, I didn't even need to be supervised. My drawer has balanced every day, and my work has been perfect.

Yes, I am aware that I have a personality defect that is linked to performance. Why do you think I wanted to become a concert pianist? Everything in my life is a performance. It's unhealthy, but I mentally validate my self-worth by how I perform at any given situation in life. It passes after a few weeks and I become more tolerable of my own mistakes and less disappointed in myself. I've learned to adapt. I should probably ask for healing for that, but it's amazing what we learn to live with.

Now for the ADD moment of the day - I was horrified to hear the Weather Channel using Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata as a background for disaster photographs from Japan.

I am always hesitant to comment on any kind of disaster that happens around the world, just like I am very hesitant to comment on anything political. There are far too many opinions out in the etherspace, and most of them have zero substance. I don't know why it happened, or what will come out of it, or if people around the world will handle it correctly, and therefore I am not qualified to offer any kind of opinion. I AM very sorry for what has happened, and human suffering brings me to tears, but I really have nothing else to say about the situation at this time.

I've had to shut my website down for a couple weeks. There is a LOT to do, and keeping up with orders was getting difficult. Just until I am more comfortable with work, get the spring yard cleanup underway and the plantings finished, and finish up some other projects around the house. So fear not! L.Peek Designs is not out of business! I just need to play catch up. :)

Speaking of catching up, I have been sitting around all morning. It's time to get busy on my day off!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Adult Time

This isn't one to read in front of the kids! You've been warned!

I am a big supporteer of the sexual revolution. No, not the damn hippies and their free love. I am a big supporter of Christian movements to bring sex out of the shadows and red-light districts and finally show young people that not only is sex a perfectly wonderful, natural part of life, but they can also enjoy it!

I found 'Porn for Christians'. Awesome. A woman name Susie Bright does a podcast of sexual content for Christians. I'm going to dowload a few and give them a listen. Alex and I are going to be reading a book called "Sexy Christians" by Ted and Diane Roberts and I can't wait to start it.

I'm not a prude in any way. Growing up, I went to Baptist school, which I have repeatedly bitched about, because we still thought boys had cooties and called sex 'it' when we were in the 7th grade. My own mother, who made some very bad choices growing up in the 60's and 70's regarding her sexual behavior, trapped me in a car and forced me to read Dr. Ruth's book out loud on a day trip to see her therapist. My experiences with coming of age and learning about sex were terrible. I was afraid of sexual behavior, and not just because I knew if my mom found out that I had been kissing boys or holding hands, she would immediately jump to the worst case scenario. (She demanded to know if I was pregnant when I returned from a 3 month stay in Africa with a stomach virus and chronic dysentary. Thanks for the support Mom.) No one should grow into adulthood fearing their sexuality. It's just plain wrong. Sexuality makes us what we are - capable of establishing an intimate relationship with another being - so close that you are literally occupying one space.

The Christian faith does NOTHING to help young people develop their sexuality and learn how to make good decisions regarding sexual behavior. They hide it. They say it's only for grown ups and married couples. They build up unrealistic expectations around sexuality so that when two young people who have just tied the knot jump into bed together on their wedding night find out that it kinda sucks on the first try, they're disappointed and think something must be wrong. The 'powers that be' in the Church say its 'special' and 'beautiful' and fail to mention that there will be times that he's going to have trouble getting it up, and she's going to be dry as a bone and unresponsive. Know what else? Staying 'pure' until marriage does NOT guarantee a happy, healthy marriage, and it definitely doesn't guarantee that you'll stay together for the rest of your lives. Silly religious people.

Christians have stigmatised romance novels, masturbation, erotic films, pornography, sex games and toys. I LOVE THEM ALL!! Guess what? I use them - frequently - in my very healthy sex life with my husband, and we both enjoy it! It cuts down on disappointment, arguments and hurt feelings. I'm pretty proud of it - can you tell? And I don't hide it.

So maybe this isn't conversation you want to have with me while the kids are playing in the same room, but let me tell you, I can't wait to share what I read and hear in these so-called 'Christian' sex books. And if it's more of the same religious crap jargon that we've been fed for years, I will let you know - and loudly! I am not ashamed of sex. No one should be, unless you are doing something that you are ashamed of. In that case, well, I can't help you.