Memories of Trimming the Tree

Memories of Trimming the Tree

Eric with parents adn grandma on Christmas Eve

I’ve had a hard Holiday season this year for some strange reason, and I’m not entirely sure why.

While a few things aren’t where I’d like them to be, most things are pretty great. And the gratitude, faith, and love I have around me is pretty spectacular.

So why should I be experiencing a rash of bad dreams and a touch of melancholy?

I heard on NPR the other day, that while holidays are supposed to be about celebrating, we also often remember those who are gone – either from passing or simply passed from our lives. I think that may be a huge part of it.

While trimming the tree this year, I found myself having waves of sadness. At first it was the usual suspects: mom (who passed in ’97), friends I used to chat with, real vacation days playing video games or watching movies, even tons of cookies baking in the kitchen and milk cooling in the fridge. But upon reflecting some more, I’ve come to realize that it was more of losing the magic of the holidays.

At 47 years of age, as I hung the small parrot that was one of my mother’s first ornaments on her first Christmas trees as well as a small gold ornament of a drummer boy that was my first ornament, I was thrust through time remember all the years where I hung the same ornaments. All those years flooded back into my mind of a huge live pine tree with a root ball in a wash tub covered with a tree skirt atop a plywood train table. The small village that sprawled across the table with lights flickering inside each one, a small figuring of a skater on a mirrored ‘ice rink’  and a train circling it all. Tinsel reached out and shocked me with static electricity (after the lead tinsel was no longer used for obvious health concerns).

But most of all, it was the magic that my parents created for us each year.

And while I know that some of the ‘magic’ came at the cost of perpetuating the fibs that occur regarding the big jolly fellow, that they often went into debt and ran up credit cards to get presents, and probably didn’t get much for themselves some years, the sheer magic of waking up early, sneaking out to the living room, and seeing all the lights of the tree on with packages below the tree (or circling the train table) gave me enough memories for a lifetime of experiencing awe and wonder of Christmas.

While this is not a religious diatribe, it is an exploration of where can we experience that same awe and wonder as when we were children?

This what has me vacillating between happiness of all that I have and sadness of what I am trying to reclaim.

Some people believe it’s up to each of us to make great things happen in our lives, that we make our own miracles. Others wait or ask for something great to happen and ask for miracles. I swing back and forth between the two thoughts.

With only a few days until Christmas and only a day after Solstice, I think I’ll continue to revel in the present and still spend some time in the memories of the past, but I think it’s time to create the future that has the magic of both.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tasty Vegan Chili

Tasty Vegan Chili

Vegan ChiliTrying to eat healthier and living with a person who has vegetarian to vegan tendencies is a challenge sometimes. I THOUGHT I craved and missed meat… but a lot of times, it’s just the feeling of having comfort food, familiar flavors and textures I miss from growing up.

Recently I was craving REAL chili. Well, Frito™ Chili pie, actually. Vegan chili at the store was too sweet and just not “right.” So I went searching and here’s what I came up with.

This recipe has it’s root from one I found on although she got it from another site that had zucchini in the recipe. I don’t do zucchini. But isn’t it great to share recipes and experiment with your creativity?

My creative project got good reviews during a Halloween party and some of my ‘mistakes’ have still been well received at home. I recommend making a double batch as it will only set you back about $15-20…IF you get Fritos.

Prep time can be 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you chop.

First Part:

  • 1 Tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 1-3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 Bell Peppers, chopped (I used red)
  • 1 Sweet Onion, chopped (I’ve tried both white and red…both work)
  • 3 Carrots (recipe said ‘chopped’…I grated it…made it appear like meat…kinda)

Take ALL ingredients above and saute on medium until soft (5-10 minutes)

OPTION: Original recipe called for 1 can organic mushrooms, drained (BLEH!)

Second Part:

Original recipe calls for 1 Can each of:

  • Black Beans, White Kidney Beans and Red Kidney beans… rinsed.
  • 1 Can of Diced Tomatoes

I HOWEVER do not do well with Black Beans and mixed it up a bit. I used:

  • Red Chili Beans, Pinto Beans, and White Cannallini Beans (No rinsing)
  • 1 Can of Rotel

Mix it all up with the goodies you sauteed.

Third Part:

Add Spices!

  • 3 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • Pinch of Sea Salt (I did about a tsp)
  • Pinch of Cayenne (WARNING: I Accidental did a Tbsp or more once. Christi LOVED IT! But I had to cool it down a bit…well…a lot, actually.)
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • Lime Juice (1 lime)

COVER and HEAT on low to medium heat for 20 Minutes stirring occasionally.

Last Step:

Here are my twists on the recipe to finish it up before serving (besides any listed above above).

  • Add another Tbsp of Chili Powder, a little more Cocoa Powder, and dash of Cumin.
    I learned from my mom’s winning Teralingua Texas Chili Recipe… add additional spices towards the end for more flavor. (Betcha wish I’d share that recipe too, don’tcha?)
  • Take the lid off and raise the heat to a low boil so the water evaporates and lets the chili thicken. Stir often or else it might burn and stick!
  • Slowly add just a bit of flour (pick your favorite) to allow it to thicken more (NOTE: The original recipe called for Chia Seeds to thicken… I had a Chia pet once… but if you have gluten allergies, you can try it — I’ve also found ground cashews work to thicken too, but tend to sweeten the flavor).

Cook for another 15-20 minutes and you should have an awesome, thick, spicy (but not TOO spicy) chili for a couple of days. Heck! Make it tonight and serve tomorrow. It’s always better the second day.

Fritos™Serve over Fritos™ for the days of Frito Pie! If you’re only vegetarian and not vegan…go ahead and put a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle some cheese on top. (Frito Lay did NOT pay me to say that. lol)

And if you’re feeling extra creative… save some of the red onion, grab some cilantro and when you serve the chili on top of Fritos, add the onions with cilantro garnish. FANCY!

Bet you can’t eat one bowl.

Let me know what you think or if you come up with a flavorful variation.

365 Quotes | Day 005

365 Quotes | Day 005

Creative 365: 2012 | Day 5

I’ve decided to do my favorite quotes. And I will ‘cheat’ and post some previous ones for Jan. 1-4. However, the new ones will all be 8″x8″ and I will make them available for downloading and printing. Today? John Milton, Paradise Lost. I wanted to use all old typography, and settle with Caslon. To be more true, I used the ‘alt’ form of ‘s’ in the book title (but not the rest as it would have been too hard to read).

Stay tuned for more.

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. John Milton, Paradise Lost

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

John Milton,
Paradise Lost

Downloadable PDF

John-Milton_Paradise-Lost (8″x8″ PDF)
You are free to print and share, but not resell.

Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I’m only beginning my creative writing career. I haven’t sold any writing, but I have been published here and there. Not to mention on my own site. Oops. I mentioned it.

I have, however, been a ‘creative’ for my entire life. Whether I was pretending to be Speed Racer and taking the Mach 5 to new speeds, playing “Lost Boys” with my best friend, Davy, as I played the smart boy and he played the strong one to get us out of a lava flow dangerously getting closer and closer, or drawing out a story for a graphic novel that I left unfinished, I’ve been ‘creating’ things my whole life.

In fact, I realized a few years ago, that I was even ‘creating’ my life.

When I was asked to extend a course in Creative Identity from one semester to a second semester at the New Design School, a graphic design school in Fayetteville, AR, I was conflicted on what direction to take. In the first course, I took the new students on an inward journey of creativity to see how they viewed themselves and the world to better communicate their commercial creative designs to come. So where could I take them in a second course?

Luckily, I’m surrounded with amazing people, including my lovely, talented, and amazing partner, Christi, who said, “Have you read Making Ideas Happen yet?” I’ll review this book in another article. But it led to the perfect foundation for the class. One aimed at teaching action.

But it was missing an element.

I went through two or three other books and finally landed on Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life.

While Twyla Tharp is a dancer, her life is all about creativity. And in this book she breaks down all the aspects of living a creative life, the struggles, joys, and accidents along the way.

This book brought the soul of the class to life.

The graphic design of the book also creates a vibrant, easy to read experience. But that’s a different kind of review.

I walk into a white room

The book begins…

I walk into a large white room. It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. I’m wearing a sweatshirt, faded jeans, and Nike cross-trainers. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirrors, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.

As she shares her lifetime journey of dance, she takes you through stories of meeting with Billy Joel to pitch her broadway show idea Movin’ Out, through her failures, her successes, and gives you insights to how she and other creative lifestyles evolve and grow.

I was amazed at how easily her The Creative Habit book matched the content of Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky, over the 12 week class. Her views on how getting “An ‘A’ in Failure” lined up perfectly with how creative professionals shouldn’t get bogged down by failing, but take time to reflect on the internal and external forces and find the lessons to be better prepared in future endeavors.

Tapping into your “Creative DNA,” “Scratching” for ideas, and, my favorite chapter, “Before You Can Think out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box.”

Again, the parallels with Making Ideas Happen were in alignment where the topic was all about how we all are much more creative when we have a smaller canvas to work on. For example, Tharp said to watch out for people that offer you all the resources you need, no direction, and no restrictions as they are setting you up to fail. But beyond that, Tharp describes her system for creating projects. She makes a box to put all her ideas into and then begins organizing everything into an order to move forward. This is nearly identical to the Action Method described in Belsky’s book.

Tharp also gives exercises to help those interested in building a habit of creativity at the end of every chapter. Some are simple introspective exercises. Others are more time consuming and require physical activity, from stomping your foot and shouting, “BEGIN!” to taking yourself on a trip of exploration.

This book is a MUST for those who have gone through the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, as it shows a real life example of someone who has implemented living a creative life by creating a real creative habit.


You can find all three books on for well under retail.


Photo Credit via © Richard Avedon.

How Not to Start a Trend

How Not to Start a Trend

I realize I may be one of the few to not watch the Super Bowl this year. And even the lure of the commercials didn’t get me to watch.

However, I did check in on a few minutes ago and catch up on the highest rated commercials this year.

And, to my suprise, was shocked and amazed at the commercial from Not because of being risque or anything, not because Joan Rivers was in it. And not because of Joan’s amazing ‘make-over.’

No, my amazement was in the fact that GoDaddy has announced how COOL it is to become one of the first people to get your own ‘.co’ web address.

That’s no typo.


In my 15 years of website development…all the way back to when you had to buy all domain names through Network Solutions…back when there were only three extensions the average person could buy (.com, .net, and .org)… I have never heard a professional suggest to a business owner to NOT try to get a .com extension.

Granted, the field is pretty full with most great domain names being taken.

But that’s the point!

If you’re going to buy a domain name with a .co, and the .com is already taken, guess where your customers are going to go? The .com site, of course.

Personally, as a Graphic Designer, I would take one look at that and assume someone did a shody job at proofreading.

Don’t fall into the trap and waste your money. If someone does buy your domain name with .co AND they do the exact same thing as you, you have legal legs to stand on. Call your attorney to find out exactly how.

Contact us at Blue Zoo Websites and we’ll help you find a domain name right for you.

Rise of the Undead

Rise of the Undead

The Walking Dead on AMCWhy Zombies are Gaining Popularity in Entertainment

This October, on AMC, a new type of television show begins it’s run. The Walking Dead, based on the comic book written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics. According to the AMC website, “The Walking Dead tells the story of life following a zombie apocalypse. It follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, traveling in search of a safe and secure home.”(1)

To a guy that loves scary movies, the thought of an entire television series just rocks my world. Now, I’m not just into the gore. I insist on an interesting story or point of view. I’m a huge fan of the episode “New Years Day” in the short lived series Fear Itself, laughed my butt off at Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, and have even created my own ‘TOP 10 ZOMBIE MOVIES” on my own blog.(2)

Here they come!

But this past weekend, while the San Diego Comic-Con was in full swing, pictures of shambling zombies began pouring onto the internet from their annual “Zombie Walk,” it occurred to me that zombies are even bigger than the movies, comics, and shows they appear in.

Annually, around the world, there are dozens of “Zombie Walks” (or zombie shambles) where people gather in various states of decay and raise awareness of zombies. The first walk on record was in Sacramento, California in 2001 organized to help promote a film festival and is, still, an annual event. Others have popped up in Toronto, Frankfurt, Brisbane, and many across the United States.(4) The largest, to date, was in Seattle Washington this past July 3 for the “Red, White, and Dead” Zombie Walk and is on record as having 4,200 zombies, according to Guinness World Record, though organizers claim closer to 5,000(3).

Even though zombies have been popular since the 60s, why the sudden explosion of books, comics, movies, video games, and, now, television shows?

Better Dead than Red!

I remembered reading that, in the 50s, the main type of horror movie revolved around aliens taking over the bodies of our loved ones. And that this theme echoed from the Communist (red) scare that was fed by the politics of the time. That your next door neighbor could be a ‘commie,’ sucked in by this ‘evil’ belief.

I generally remembered that each decade had a ‘theme’ and began some online research and quickly found some had already been done by Karina Wilson, a British teacher, writer and story consultant in Los Angeles. Her research echoes what I have experienced myself, with some additional insight. The main idea is that the monsters are a reflection of threats in the real world at the time.

  • 40s – Living under the shadow of Hitler’s predatory animal-like tendencies spawned the Universal movie monsters such as Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein and the Invisible Man. We struggled with the inner monsters and tried to find something ‘human’ within to be able to relate to and understand.
  • 50s – Seeing the effects of radiation of the atomic weapons of the past decade, movies were often about science gone mad. The Tingler, Godzilla, and Them reflected this idea. Towards the end of the 50s, the Red Scare (noted above) spawned Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and It Came from Outer Space.
  • 60s – With the unrest in society, equal-rights, social injustice, the general feeling of ‘fears of living in the Atomic Age” and the terror of social alienation,’ (6) ghost stories, the occult, and armageddon filled the screens making us feel that there were things outside of our control to be afraid of. The Haunting, Rosmary’s Baby, the Birds, and the classic zombie film, Night of the Living Dead.
  • 70s and 80s – Revolution ruled the land. Parents didn’t understand their children. And people often tried to stay in the mainstream of what was to be expected of them, rather than stay true to their nature. Because of this, evil children movies appeared, slasher movies where base frustrations were acted out for no apparent reason, and killer animals were spawned. Movies like The Exorcist, The Omen, and Audrey Rose in the evil children category, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Friday the 13th in the slasher genre. Topped off with Jaws, Orca, and The Deep. Even sci-fi movies, like Alien, crossed the bridge from sci-fi to horror in the ‘creature’ category.
  • 90s – Wondering why our parents and grandparents did the things they did, the horror films dove into the psychological and psychopathic minds creating the rise of the Serial Killer. Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers top the category for the 90s.
  • 00s – With the rise of the internet and global communications, in addition to real terrorism hitting the U.S. On 9/11, horror films reflected a need to move away from armageddon and psychopathic terrorists. The culture needed someone to pay for the real horror going on it the world, and it caused the rise of “Torture Porn” with such films as Saw, Hostel, and Captivity. In these movies, we’re closer to the torturers perspective rather than in movies like Silence of the Lambs. Additionally with the global connection, Asian horror movies became very popular and were often remade. Their pace and structure fundamentally different from the U.S. three act play, and focus on spirits, curses and are very stylized and disturbing giving audiences an immediate discomfort and horror.
  • 10s Back to Zombies! We’re just getting started in 2010. While zombies aren’t the main course, a huge portion of the movies have masses of people/creatures/undead that force the main character to fight for their lives. Movies already released or on the slate for 2010 include The Crazies, Legion, Daybreakers, Survival of the Dead, the 4th Resident Evil Movie, and even Pirahna (a huge number of blood thirsty fish to defeat).

Why the Rise?

While every decade horror movies has developed as a reflection of society, I predict the following; that the economic crisis, social awareness of food quality, shrinking global resources, and the world fears of one person or country controlling their lives, the movies created will continue to be a combination of mass hordes of undead/zealots/thoughtless individuals who attempt to use/destroy everything around them.

However, because of our global connection, the best horror movies will tie several themes together due to collaboration among writers of different backgrounds. Primal fears will be tapped in a way that creates action rather than just sedation.

There’s nothing scarier than being in a hopeless situation where you’re surrounded by hundreds of creatures intent on eating you. And there is nothing scarier in real life, than to be in a situation where it seems the world, government, parents, friends, co-workers, etc. are all against you, you have no way out, and no one who will pay attention to you.

The rise of the zombie genre is a comic, heightened, version of those of us who feel helpless. Instead of living, we shamble through life, looking for the nearest fast food restaurant to consume whatever will fill us, unthinking about the consequences of our diet. We plop down at home, waiting for the television to feed us entertainment.

By actively becoming a zombie, we laugh at ourselves and take action to become noticed. We consciously create a new reality of which we control our direction and fate.

At the movies, where we watch the shambling zombie masses be destroyed, we can face our fears with others and, maybe, step back out into the sunlight eager to live again.

4. Dan Restione (2010-07-06). “Thousands of zombies march in Fremont”

Photo Credits:
San Diego ComicCon Zombie Walk:
Zombie Images from AMC:
Zombie Walk Article Photo by Mike Rollerson: