Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL

We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse

Thanks to Facebook, I met Katheryne Gatehouse, who is passionate about fine art and nature. She first guest blog posted on HBT about bees. Here she tells us about a favorite painter…

Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier
Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier.

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse…

When you think of the greatest Impressionist painters, you might think that because the movement was founded in Paris, all the best were French, right? If that’s the case, you’ll have missed one of the forgotten giants, Spain’s Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923). It was Claude Monet who named him, “The Master of Light.” Growing up in the harsh bright sunlight of Valencia, he mastered the play of light on buildings, on gardens, on flesh, and on the sea. No other artist depicts shadows and dappled sunlight better!

Sewing the Sail, by Sorolla.

I first came across Sorolla as part of a large exhibition on impressionist gardens. Many of the paintings were charming or beautiful, yet entering the gallery from a cool misty grey London day outdoors, and then standing in front of a luminous Sorolla painting, I felt as if I was on holiday. Some weeks later, I visited Giverny, where I was delighted to find an exhibition of his works. It was love at first sight. I have been besotted with him ever since!

Fisherwomen On the Beach, 1903, by Sorolla.

As a young man, he studied in Paris and won a 4-year term to study painting in Rome.  He returned to Valencia in 1888 to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he met in 1879 while working in her father’s studio. She is the subject of many of his portraits, including one in the style of Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus lying naked on silk sheets and is as sensual as his painting of Clotilde lying next to their newborn daughter is tender. All of the Clotilde portraits clearly show his undying love and admiration for her.  Later still, he painted her in a traditional black Spanish dress, looking every inch the supermodel with an impossibly tiny waist, though a photograph of this sitting shows that it was indeed a true likeness.  The couple went on to have 3 children Joaquin, Mary, & Elena who feature in many of his works, including  “My family” also in the style of  Velasquez’s Las Meninas.  Despite his talent and recognition above all he was a devoted husband and family man.

Photo of Sorolla painting “Clotilde in a Black Dress”, 1905.

Although he was based in Madrid, each year he returned to Valencia. There he painted glorious beach scenes of children playing in the water and running along the shoreline, as well as proud working class people that included fishermen and women.

Running Along the Beach by Sorolla.

An exceptional portraitist, his repertoire includes Spain’s King Alphonso XIII, artist/designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, and U.S. 27th President William Howard Taft. Social themes were important to Sorolla. “Another Marguerite” (1892), which depicts a woman who was arrested for murdering her young child, was awarded the gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid. “Sad Inheritance” (1899) portrays children with polio bathing in the sea while supervised by a monk. The title refers to how the youngsters were innocent victims of hereditary syphilis.

Sad Inheritance by Sorolla.

Despite great acclaim elsewhere in Europe, a 1908 London exhibition was not a great success. However, it led to important introductions. A wealthy American friend of the arts, Archer Milton Huntington, made Sorolla a member of the Hispanic Society of America. In addition, he invited Sorolla to exhibit, with great success (195 of 365 paintings being sold) and subsequently commissioned Sorolla for a series of monumental paintings to be installed in their building in Manhattan. The murals total 227’ wide by about 14′ high. “Visions of Spain” depicts regions of the Iberian peninsula. All but one was painted en plein air with life-sized figures, some in traditional regional dress.

Child Eating Watermelon by Sorolla.

In 1920, Sorolla was painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramon Perez de Ayala when he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed. He died three years later and is buried in the Cementeri de Valencia. The last house he and Clotilde shared in Madrid is now the Museo Sorolla. It is a must-see for all fans of impressionist art. If you are visiting London, there is currently an excellent collection of sixty Sorolla paintings at The National Gallery until 7th July 2019.

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden, 1910, by Sorolla.

What do you think of impressionism?

Awe for Auckland, New Zealand by da-AL

Too little time for da-AL to discover all of Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Mount Eden is the place to go for a fantastic full-circle view of Auckland, where my husband and I began and ended our visit to New Zealand. (Next we’d be off to Rotorua, then New Zealand’s Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family, admired the birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much. as well as the purring there!

The site here in Auckland is actually three cinder cones, two of them filled in by the last one. Auckland is a lovely city filled with great restaurants with menus from all over the world — and great independent bookstores!

Time Out Bookstore, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland has some great independent bookstores, like this one!

Claire and Sam (our hostess and her golden retriever), along with her young neighbor (and the darling girl’s black dog), were all very welcoming. To stay at Claire’s lovely B&B, email her at duncan5@xtra.co.nz or call her at 0274512691

Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL. Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL.

So much to do in too little time …

da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Next, we visited the rousing city of Rotorua

Have you visited a crater?

Guest Post: 7 Signs of a Toxic Relationship by Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light blog avatar logo
Looking for the Light blog avatar/logo.

Even in the best of times, relationships can be complicated. Sometimes we know something is wrong, but we’re not sure whether we should keep trying to make it work and whether the problem lies within our own actions or those of the other person. On her Looking for the Light blog, Melinda Sandor of Texas offers a link to a list of insights on how to ‘Keep Moving Forward’ in the worst of times…

Guest Blog Post: “Let’s get to Business: A Checklist for How to Become an Indie Author” by Shabnam Curtis

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel
Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

Combining creativity with business can be challenging. Author/blogger Shabnam Curtis is one heck of an organized writer! Here she generously shares her detailed and well-researched gameplan for self-publishing success of her book, “My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl”…

This Spiral Life

independent pic

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

(1121 words – 8 minute read) Independence has been the magic word through out my life. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be independent. I’ve tried hard and succeeded in so many aspects of my life; immigration, finance, job back in Iran. But, I have been a paycheck lady ever since I came to the U.S. Every now and then I thought about becoming a freelancer again but didn’t seriously pursue it. I was not and am not ready for the financial risk. But a few years ago, I noticed an inside revolution and strong desire, demanding to create something new other than a freelance project analyst. The uprising in my heart took me home; I began writing my memoir.

Writing my memoir taught me develop more critical thinking skills, approaching the society from not one but many different viewpoints. In short…

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Guest Blog Post: How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama

How does an author get their book published by a big company, as opposed to doing it on their own? Hard work and good fortune figured into how a big-time publisher of how-to books reached out to Lance Akiyama. Together, they’ve put out four books (including a revised version of one) by him about how to make cool stuff from rubber bands, duct tape, and more.

Do you have first-hand experience? I’m gathering a following of fiction lovers who might enjoy my soon-to-be-published books, “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat,” and “Tango and the Sitting Cat.” Other authors have posted on Happiness Between Tails about their book experiences here and here and here and here and here and here.

Read on for Akiyama’s post about how he got published. He notes that non-fiction vs. fiction call for different methods…

Lance Akiyama, author of "Duct Tape Engineer" and more.
Lance Akiyama, author of “Duct Tape Engineer” and more.

My process for getting published was pretty unusual. I had created a series of free project tutorials on Instructables.com, which ranks pretty well if you search Google for ‘engineering projects for kids.’ At some point, my publisher’s editor had a book idea for a series of gadgets that were powered by rubber bands and made from household items. She went searching for someone who could realize that vision, found my work, and offered me the book deal! I don’t think many people have offers to become an author just drop into their inbox, but that’s how it happened.

DIY project books are a bit different than publishing a novel. There’s no outline phase. Instead, there’s a tinkering phase; I had to experiment with about 30-40 project ideas before settling on 20-ish and then spending more time fine-tuning those ideas so they could be easily recreated at home by the reader. The editing phase is more focused on the clarity of the step-by-step instructions rather than the plot or character development. And finally, I had to take hundreds of pictures in my tiny home studio. Well, ‘studio’ is a generous term. Really it was a folding table with a cloth backdrop that was set up in my bedroom. But eventually all the pieces came together, and the publisher’s design team polished up all the content into a great-looking layout!

The next few books followed a similar pattern: my editor had an idea, asked me if I wanted to author the book, and then tinkered & wrote & produced all the materials. But after 4 books plus one revised edition, I think I’m ready to take a break from writing!

Cover of "Duct Tape Engineer" by Lance Akiyama.

About Lance Akiyama: he’s an avid tinkerer, and voted Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. He currently holds a full-time position as a science curriculum developer for Galileo Learning, an innovative summer camp company. His mission is to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and artists with hands-on projects that make kids think, “I can’t believe I made that!” Contact @ MadeForSTEAM.com/contact

Old/New, Out/In: North Carolina Museum of Art by da-AL

North Carolina is far more than pine trees and the ‘pottery capital of the world.’ Noteworthy art fills the North Carolina Museum of Art’s two buildings — as well as its outdoors.

Khashayar with Awilda and Irma, 2014, by Jaume Plensa.
Intriguing from all angles, Khashayar with Awilda and Irma, 2014, by Jaume Plensa.

Over the single week that my husband and I visited a dear friend in North Carolina, we gravitated back to the fascinating museum. There was so much to see that we went back one, two, three, four days (plus we had fun here) and now…

Madonna and Child Sheltering Supplicants under her Cloak, 1470, by Peter Koellin.
Madonna and Child Sheltering Supplicants under her Cloak, 1470, by Peter Koellin.

 

Tippy Toes, 2007, by Alison Saar.
Tippy Toes, 2007, by Alison Saar.

 

Portrait of Madame X Dressed for the Matinée, 1877-1878, by Mary Stevenson Cassatt.
Portrait of Madame X Dressed for the Matinée, 1877-1878, by Mary Stevenson Cassatt.

 

Portrait of a Lady, circa 1610, British School.
Portrait of a Lady, circa 1610, British School.

 

The Kiss, modeled 1881-1882, cast at a later date, by Auguste Rodin.
The Kiss, modeled 1881-1882, cast at a later date, by Auguste Rodin.

When is the last time you took the time to admire a great work of art?…

 

Guest Blog Post: 7 Tips for Authors by Rhiannon

Want to write and publish a book? Blogger Rhiannon Brunner (who has also contributed to HBT here) has written and self-published many of them! A resident of Vienna, Austria, she writes about whatever interests her. Her books are in German. Soon she’ll translate them into English. Here she encourages us all…

Author/blogger Rhiannon Brunner with her cat, Carry (big sister of kitten Maze).
Author/blogger Rhiannon Brunner with her cat, Carry (big sister of kitten Maze).

If you’re thinking about writing a book, these are my experiences that I’d like to share to encourage you. Some see themselves as warriors, others as traders or craftsmen. Through my blog and books, I have come to see myself as a “bard,” as a storyteller. Let me inspire you and accompany you on your writing journeys.

Since childhood, I’ve loved reading stories. To this day I adore how a good book shows me new worlds. My first steps in writing started when I was a little. A few years ago, I realized how important writing is to me. My trigger was wanting to find a good present for my mom.

Since then, I haven’t been able to keep my fingers off the keyboard. Becoming an author is a work in progress. Accepting input is necessary for growth. Every book is like your “baby” that you send into the world. It doesn’t matter how good it is — you still love it and wish it all the best on its way.

TIP 1: Go for it! No master has fallen from heaven yet, everyone started small. Set the first step for your book.

TIP 2: Hold on! Writing a book requires that one invest time and commit to finishing. It doesn’t matter how good your “baby” gets. Just get to the end.

TIP 3: Open yourself to input! There is always someone better than you. Ask for advice if necessary, but never let anyone pull you down. If the criticism is constructive, it will help you.

*** These first three tips are essential — all else is variable. ***

With my books, I started from scratch. I researched bloggers and “professionals.” I searched for tips on the homepages of publishers and organized writing guides for myself. Some helped, others did not.

TIP 4: I dare you! I don’t like to leave projects open or to cancel them. If you want to write a book, sit down and finish it.

TIP 5: Perfection does not exist.

TIP 6: Hang in there! Again and again, I looked for writing experts. I didn’t have any luck, so I began to experiment. I gave my manuscript to others to read and wondered how accurate their opinions were. Some advice I put into practice, some I didn’t. Not every input is meaningful and helpful. Make sure that it helps you to improve and that it doesn’t dissuade you. Go with your gut feelings, even small ones. You don’t need flattery, merely sincere advice.

TIP 7: Open yourself to input. Constructive criticism can sting, but it helps with further development.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Make the best of everything.

Good luck!