maandag 21 april 2014

Wool - The Silo Saga

Hey folks! Up for a new book (a trilogy actually)?! I warn you: this one's addictive and you will probably close your eyes at night way later than you planned to.

Let's travel into the future. Fifty, maybe hundred years from now...maybe even later. Try to imagine a silo, a húge silo. Not only huge in diameter, but also in height...or actually depth.
Depth, you ask? Yes, because this silo sits under the ground. Only half of the top floor rises above the ground, all other 133 floors are buried deep in the earth. Stairs spiral down through the center of the silo, all the way from the top floor to the very bottom. It's the main transport system for the inhabitants of the the silo; the people use it to travel from their apartment floors to the floors where they work. Think of schools, nursery departments, an IT-section, food-growing floors and the mechanical area at the bottom of the silo. There's an endless traffic between all these parts of the silo, but the inhabiting colony never leaves the thing itself. They can't, because the air outside is toxic. Five minutes in this poisonous atmosphere and they'd choke to death.

Got the image? This is the setting of 'Wool', the first part of the 'Silo Saga', written by Hugh Howey.

I've only read this first part so far, but I'm very enthusiastic and couldn't keep my excitement to myself. The book obviously falls in the 'sci-fi' category, but it's not like the story is completely impossible. Who knows what kind of dystopian world the human race will eventually inhabit in the future? Some of the concepts used in this book are obviously based on events that did truly happen in history. The fact that the humans in this story themselves are very real and easy to emphasize with, displaying recognizable thoughts, feelings and behavior makes it all the more believable.

Silo Saga's author Hugh Howey probably never expected his star to rise so fast. It all began in 2011, when mister Howey wrote a novella (that now forms the first part of Wool) which he independently published through's Kindle Direct Publishing system. It was conceived unexpectedly well by the Amazon reviewers, who begged him to continue the story. So, even though 'part 1' was originally just meant as a short standalone story, parts 2-5 followed, together forming the Wool-omnibus that is now published as the first book of the Silo Saga trilogy.

Mister Howey himself...

Since the appearance of the first part of the Silo Saga, the popularity of the series has only grown. I remember seeing 'Wool' in an advertorial on my Kindle, those ones that appear on your screen when you turn it off. The short description caught my attention, and I put my Kindle back on to find out more about it. Normally I'm not such a model customer, perfectly responding to every ad that I'm being served up (yikes!), but I never regretted doing so this time. Hugh could count a new member to his ever growing fan base. I'm often sceptic when it comes to things that are just way too popular (too many people jumping the bandwagon just because it's the next big thing, no matter its quality), but the Silo Saga's popularity is well-deserved, if you ask me. 

At times, it remembered me a bit of the Hunger Games. If you liked that series, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy these books too! Both stories take place in post-apocalyptical worlds, where suppression, lies and control are an important part of life without many people realizing it. In both series, the main characters start to ask questions, something that is actually being tried to prevent from happening. Still, you can't help yourself starting to wonder about these same questions too: where is this silo? How did the outside atmosphere become toxic? Who built the silo's anyway? And, why are things the way they are and do all inhabitants seem to accept it that way? Topics like group-mentality, controlling techniques and questioning authority are some of the very interesting themes I came across in Wool. And even though these are quite serious subjects, the book is incredibly easy to read. 

The characters are well developed, I became particularly fond of the protagonist: Juliette. Her tough behavior, analytical mind and heart full of questions and understandable emotions are quite easy to relate too. I like the fact that the author didn't come up with too many persons and story lines, something that seems to be the case with many books and series these days. Don't get me wrong, I definitely value and respect the work and craftsmanship that are required to create stories with complex interrelations and connections (in time and person)... But well, sometimes we just want to crawl under our blankets with a good and exciting book, without having to think too hard or browse back all the time, right? 

Almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which makes in pretty hard to put the book down when you really have to go to sleep ;) Hugh manages to make you sense the suffocating atmosphere of the silo like you are actually there yourself, to get dizzy from the endlessly spiraling chairs, to feel the tension among the people rising, slowly but surely escalating... I can't wait to start on Shift and Dust, the next two parts of the trilogy! And the fun doesn't stop there: film rights to the series were sold to 20th Century Fox. If (and when) a movie will be made isn't sure yet, but it definitely would not surprise me. Where The Hunger Games were originally meant as young-adult books, the Silo Saga might attract a larger audience due to its older main characters. Hugh already proposed Lost-actress Evangeline Lilly on his website to play Juliette's role. Perfect casting, if you ask me!

Well, I think that's enough rambling about the Silo Saga. Go grab your own copy and just start reading it yourself. I challenge you: try to sleep in on time ;).

donderdag 10 april 2014

Blythe reroot tutorial - part 2: the lock-loop method

In my previous tutorial we ended with a scalp that is ready to be rerooted. If you followed the instructions, your scalp has a whole bunch of little holes and optionally a thatchline. For darker reroots, you might have decided to dye your scalp...and now you're ready for the real work!

Here's a picture of the final result, a little teaser to get you going ;)

The first thing you'll need, is a batch of mohair, alpaca or saran/nylon. The hair you see on the pictures in this tutorial is huacaya alpaca. I think I'll write another blogpost about the different hair possibilities for Blythe reroots later (I actually started typing it down here, but there's so much to tell about this topic that it's probably better to spend a whole post on it). 

How much hair you need depends a bit on the type of hair, but with 2 oz you will definitely have enough. 
Some other things to keep at hand when working on your reroot are a cup or bowl of water and a comb. The next step is to start dividing the hair into small plugs!

Plugs, you say...and how thick should they be? Well, I tried to picture this for you together with the crochet needle you'll be using to root the plugs as a reference. The crochet needle was already mentioned in part 1 of the tutorial; I use a 1.00 mm. However, a 1.25 or 0.75 will work as well, whatever your prefer or have at hand. Just keep in mind that the picture below shows a 1.00 mm crochet needle, so you will get a correct idea of the size. 

The plug you see on the left is way too thin, it will slip too easily through the holes, for example when you comb your Blythe's hair. The plug in the middle is too thick, you will have trouble pulling it through the hole of the scalp, half of it will slip off the crochet needle and things will become a mess on the inside of the scalp. The plug on the right side has a good thickness, that's what you should be aiming for. Of course this is also a matter of personal taste and preference, I've seen reroots with thicker plugs than I'm used to work with. Some people go for less holes in the scalp in combination with thick plugs. This will naturally result in the same amount of hair, but also in an increased risk of seeing the scalp through the final hairs...something I just like to avoid. But less holes and thicker plugs are a quicker method, so if you're not very patient, it might be the way to go for you! 

Usually I draw quite a bunch of plugs from my batch of hair before I start to root them. I never draw áll of them beforehand though, I tend to get a bit bored after a while so I like to switch between the plug-drawing and the rooting every now and then. This is totally up to you though. You can draw all the plugs first (count the holes!) or even do completely the opposite: draw one plug, root it, draw the next plug, etc.

I like to dip my fingers into a bowl of water when forming the plugs. The water will make the hairs stick together so your workspace won't get too messy with loose hairs everywhere ;)

Next I will try to explain the rooting process. We're making a lock-loop method, so first thing you need to do is fold the plug in half. Now punch your crochet needle through the centre hole in the scalp (punch from the inside, see 1), and hook the folded plug around your crochet needle (2). Now pull the plug gently through the hole (3). 

Allow the loop to go through at least one centimeter, especially when you're a beginner. Let it stay loosely around your crochet needle, which you'll have to punch into the second hole now (4). Repeat steps 2 and 3, you will end up with something that looks like picture 5. Now draw that second loop thróugh the first one (which will be easier when you pulled it trough at least one centimeter or more, this gives you enough space and will prevent a mess). Again, pull it through at least one centimeter (6). Now you can pull on the first strand from the outside, tightening it on the inside around the second loop. 

When you repeat those steps, a little spiral of tightened loops will start to form!
You can imagine that when your plugs are too thin, it's quite easy to accidentally pull them out while combing the hair, especially when knots have formed over time. On the other hand, thicker loops won't result in such a neat spiral.

Now, about the thatch. If you decided to make a thatch, it doesn't really matter if it's a middle thatch or a side thatch. There are several options: you can treat the thatch as a different, separate rerooting pathway or you can include it as a kind of 'sideway' in your spiral pathway used on the rest of the scalp. 

When you treat it as a separate pathway, you can create it before or after the main spiral. I prefer doing it before, because I find the thatch a bit more difficult/tricky to work on and I like a bit of clean working-space for that part. When the main spiral is already done, the fondling with the scalp while working on the thatch might make a mess of the already rooted plugs, on the inside as well as on the outside. If you're working with mohair, there's also a risk of felting!

The other option is to just start in the middle of the scalp, work the first few rounds of your spiral until you meet the first holes of the thatch, and then root the thatch as a 'sideway'. There are four lines to follow: first toward the edge of the scalp, back towards the middle, to the edge again and then eventually back to the centre, where you can pick up your main spiral again. With this method, you won't have too many plugs rooted on your scalp already when starting on the thatch, so you don't need to worry too much about messing things up. 

In the thatch lines, the holes are much closer to each other than on the rest of the spiral. You don't want to see any 'skin' showing through the finished thatch! You can use the exact same rerooting method as described above for the spiral. Be careful though when pulling plugs through these holes, if you're too aggressive tears may form (2 or more holes becoming one big longitudinal hole)! You might even decide on creating a separate bunch of slightly thinner plugs for the thatch line. 

Mistakes happen, don't panic if you do something wrong. Be gentle on yourself when it's your first lock-loop reroot, it's quite a challenge to get a neat spiral and your final result might not look at all like those perfect ones you've seen on Flickr or elsewhere. Practice makes perfect, and by the way...nobody will see the inside once the scalp is attached on your girl! What doés matter though, is that the plugs are well secured. I admit that I use a tiny drop of glue every now and then, when I notice one plug is a bit slippery for example. 

What also might happen, is that one plug is accidentally pulled out while combing the hair (I recommend combing the hair thoroughly before putting it back on your doll, íf there are plugs at risk of being pulled through, it's easier to repair them when you can still reach the inside of the scalp!).
When one plug is accidentally pulled out, first thing you want to prevent from happening is that the previous plug will also pull through (which happens easily, because it's no longer secured), and the next, and the's a bit like a crocheted chain actually! This is also why you want to make sure (véry sure!) that all plugs are in place and secure when you reattach the scalp to your Blythe's head.

Now you ended up with a gap in your rooted row of plugs. Like I already said earlier: don't panic and stay calm (I remember my own first reroots, and the frustration and 'almost-throwing-the-scalp-through-the-room' that came with them ;)). Grab the loop of the previous plug, pull your crochet needle through that loop and through the scalp, and pull a new plug through, just like you can see on pictures 4-6. Now there are 2 things you can do:

  • Glue the loose loop very tightly to the scalp. This is not a very secure method, as you can imagine. You can try to make a knot in that loop (but make sure that the previous loop is still firmly around it, some extra glue might help here!) to make it safer. 
  • Try to repair the original rerooted row. This method is a bit trickier...but it's definitely doable if you have some patience and fine motor skills (which you will probably have anyway, people without these traits won't start a reroot :P). After you've pulled through a new plug (picture 6), hold only one end of the folded plug on the outside of the scalp and pull the other half completely through. Glide your crochet needle under the first loop after the gap (actually, under the two 'legs' of this loop, between the first two holes). Hook the plug hanging inside the scalp behind your crochet needle, and pull it through under these two 'legs'. Now, pinch your crochet needle through the hole again (the hole from the plug you're repairing), only this time from the outside to the inside. Hook the loose plug behind your crochet needle again, and pull it through the hole to the outer side of the scalp. Now, you've repaired the row :) I hope my explanation makes sense!

Above you can see the finished reroot! The most outer row exists of many holes with less space in between them, just like the thatch. The same principles count here: be careful not to create tears, and maybe use slightly thinner plugs. Because I used Huacaya alpaca for this reroot, it's a bit fuzzy here and there...but it's secure and full. Oh, before I forget...what to do when you've rooted your last hole?! Well, you just make a knot in your last plug (like I suggested when repairing a gap), make sure the previous loop is tightly around it and add a drop of glue for extra security. 

After you've made sure all plugs are secure and in place, maybe added a couple more drops of glue at some points (or even a complete layer of glue, if you want to go for 100% security!), you're ready to glue the scalp back on your girl. This can be a daunting task, you might have seen these pics of girls with a bunch of elastics around their head (these pictures look more like they belong in a horror movie, if you ask!). That's one way to go, but through the years I found out that I like to work with very quick drying superglue. I work my way around the scalp in about 4 or 5 steps: every time I put some glue on a couple of cm's on the scalp's edge, put it on the place I want (on the upper edge of the faceplates and over the dome), hold it there for some seconds and voila! It sticks like nothing else! Then I go on to the next couple of cm's, until I've worked all my way through. Be careful though, sometimes the scalp is just a little bit larger in diameter than your Blythe's head, and you might want to divide the extra space evenly over the back side of your Blythe's head (under the hair), instead of ending up with a big 'lump' in the last cm.

The last thing that we haven't done yet, is create a neat thatch. To do this, put al the hairs away in a tight ponytail, except for the middle two of the (four) thatch lines. Now, grab your crochet needle one more time, to create a pretty little zig-zag system. Start at the edge of the scalp: pick up the first plug on the left row, and pull it to the right. Now pick up the first plug on the right row, and pull it to the left. Pick up the second plug of the left row, and pull it to the right, etc. Repeating this alternating pattern until the end of the thatch will result in a miniature zigzag that won't show any scalp between the middle two thatch lines.

I hope this tutorial provided you with the information you were looking for! Don't hesitate to comment or ask me questions, I'm here to share what I know. I can always edit the tutorial if you think some information is missing or wrong. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to give some information about the several hair possibilities (like mohair, saran, alpaca, etc.), but I ended up writing down so much stuff that I decided it'd be better to spend a whole blogpost on that topic. So stay tuned if that's something else you're interested in ;)

zondag 9 maart 2014

New dyeing experiments

Last week I've been dyeing again. Man, how I love messing around with dyes and feels like I'm back in preschool, legally creating a big colorful mass! Only this time I took it a step further. Instead of just pouring some nice colors over my fibers, I wanted to follow a plan. Don't get me wrong, spontaneity can be a very good thing when creating stuff (and you can always say: "that turned out just like I wanted to!", even if it didn't...because who knows? :P), but being able to actually work towards a result I imagined beforehand can be very usable sometimes.

I had been thinking about practicing my 'color skills', when I was going through the pictures of my weeks in the Dolomites. If you've ever been there, you might have seen the 'Enrosadira': the stunning sunset that sets the sky - just above the mountainous horizon - on fire in the most beautiful shades of reds and purples. I always take pictures of this phenomenon when I get the chance, so I have quite a lot of them (though they can in no way replace the real thing, you just gotta see it with your own eyes...). But the Dolomite mountains have more to offer! When the sky is clear and cloud free, it can be worth the effort to get up early, so you can observe the sunrise. The mountains slowly become visible, first in icy dark blue colors, while the sky above them turns soft pink until the sun peaks over them. Different colors, but just as stunning as the 'Enrosadira', this so-called 'Alpenglow'.

Suddenly an idea formed in my head: I should try to make two colorways out of these appearances! I opened Photoshop and got busy, ending up with two color schemes full of very challenging colors. I don't think I've got any of them ready to use in a pot, all the shades had to be prepared by mixing several dyes together. I wanted practice? Practice I got ;)



I imagined these colorways to work quite well for sock yarn (I can totally see a cozy pair of knitted up socks in these shades!), so I ordered two 100g undyed hanks and set up my dying materials in the garage a couple of days later (annoying my mom who constantly has to step over dye pots...sorry mom!). I started with 'Alpenglow', which turned out to be the easiest colorway. I'm pretty proud of the result!

Nice huh? I really love the different shades of blue! Although I mostly used acid dyes (Jacquard), I also added a touch of blueberry Koolaid, which came out surprisingly vibrant (and smelled lovely among the strong vinegar smell, heheh..).
Next up was 'Enrosadira', which gave me a bit more troubles. In 'Alpenglow', I didn't use any yellows, but in 'Enrosadira' I obviously did. I mean, the band of sky just above the mountains is deep, golden yellow in its purest form! The problem I didn't foresee (but should have, because it's quite logical), is that when you use blue and yellow next to each other, greens will appear. And thát's a color that doesn't appear in the Enrosadira-sky...
Unfortunately, I couldn't prevent some bits of green, unless some over dyeing. Lesson learned: next time be more careful about what colors to use next to each other.

Still, I'm also pretty happy with how the 'Enrosadira' sock yarn turned out. It's darker and deeper compared to 'Alpenglow', just like the actual skies. And I learned a couple of new things about mixing dyes! It's not as hard as I thought, I really expected a lot more 'muddy-ness': that ugly brown color that appears when the colors just flow over in each other, instead of forming nice gradients. I have to stay aware though of the fact that different fibers take up the dyes differently. For my last dyeing experiments I used alpaca, which definitely gives other results!

Both of the yarns went into my shop, because I already have way too much yarn anyway and simply can't knit up anything. (Besides, when it comes to socks, I'm the slowest knitter ever...).
If you're interested, check out 'Alpenglow' here, and 'Enrosadira' here!

So...already having made a mess in the garage (and annoying my mom) anyway, I thought: why not proceed with some roving? A little while ago I ordered a big bag of superwash roving from, which was just laying in a corner, pitiful and without any color, screaming to be taken out and join in the coloring fest. Who'd be able to resist? When I made the 'Alpenglow' and 'Enrosadira' colorways, I quickly found out how addicting it is to make these schemes. (Did you know there are also apps for your phone that can do this?! Check out RealColors, ColorView and ColorSchemer for example!). So I made some more, only this time instead of photographs, I decided to use artwork.

Growing older, I'm starting to appreciate artwork more and more. I can spend hours discovering artists, new ones ánd old ones, and marvel over their works. It's one of the great advantages of our digital age, having an endless art museum in my laptop! Sometimes I even feel a kind of hunger for art, like my creative soul is craving food in the form of illustrations and paintings and pretty handmade things. Not necessarily to buy, but just to look at and be inspired by. That probably sounds quite weird, but still I wonder if anyone else recognizes this hunger? It's simply a longing for beauty, that can be such a sweet and soothing thing in this (sometimes so harsh) world.

Okay, before I get too philosophical, I'll tell you what I did. I went to my Pinterest account (one of my favorite places to still the hunger) and picked out a couple of nice artworks, from different artists and in different styles. I made color schemes of the illustrations, just like I did with my photos, and used two of them to dye some roving. Besides having to study the illustrations and their colors more intensely than I would otherwise (which is good practice and feels like a good meal, when it comes to the hunger), I can also show yóu guys some works of my favorite artists and just simply spread the inspiration! My plan is to do this more often, not only with roving or yarn...I'd love to make some rolags and combed blends and maybe (mini) batts as well! And who knows...perhaps also a fiber mix, pre-dyed, ready for you to use for your next project?

For the first roving, I picked an illustration by Victo Ngai called 'Leap'. I was drawn to it in the first place because of the fox (foxes are just plain awesome, like everyone knows), but studying it longer I became impressed by the color use, the smooth curvy lines and the specific structure of the trees.
Victo has a very distinct style, I can totally imagine why she was honored with several medals and awards. Yes, 'she'. Victo sounds like a boy's name, but it's actually a nickname derived from 'Victoria'.  You can check her out at victongai.tumblr.comHere are some more works by the talented miss Ngai:

The second roving was inspired by an illustration called 'Bike Rider', made by BukuBuku. That's a silly name huh? I tried to find out where it came from, but ended up only with the girl's real name: Silvia. Anyway, she's another talented illustrator who makes very cute and kawaii-y drawings. A completely different style, but one that makes me happy! (And: a fox, again!) If you're up for more, take a look at

For 'Leap', I could partly use the same colors as I used for 'Alpenglow'. 'Bike Rider' demanded for something else though: yellows, reds, blacks and a bit of soft pink. I think the roving turned out just as happy and cheerful as the drawing itself!

Just like the sock yarns, I put these rovings in my shop. They're both superwash (no felting!) and around 4 ounce. Who's gonna spin up these lovelies into something pretty?!
Click here for 'Leap', and here for 'Bike Rider'.

If there are any artists or artworks you'd like to see processed into colorschemes, rovings or other fibers, please leave a comment! I'm open for suggestions, and always happy to find out about new illustrators and painters.

Oh, before I take off, one last warning: wear a mask when preparing your dyes. I normally do, but thought I could just pour over a teeny tiny bit of powder from one pot into another - I should've known better. I had a little accident (don't ask), and fuchsia colored powder was flowing around. Even though I quickly covered my face and ran away, when I wiped my nose at night, my snot was bright pink (sorry for grossing you out here, let it be a warning :P ).

zaterdag 1 maart 2014

The Rosie Project, Sheldon Cooper & Temple Grandin

Shoot! During my last four weeks in Italy (guiding ski tours again, check my blogpost from last year to see what I've been doing) I wrote an almost finished book review blogpost in the Notes-app of my Iphone. And now it is gone! It just somehow the heck did that happen?! Aarrghh...and I liked this book só much! Now I'm gonna have to write it all over again. I simply can't let you guys nót know about this book. Thank me for it later ;)

So...the book is called 'The Rosie Project', it's the author's (Graeme Simsion) first work. And he did a great job, I really hope he's gonna write more of such heartwarming books! The main character of the story is Don Tillman. Don is a single man, working as a genetics professor and reaching the age of forty. So far nothing strange huh? But Don is a bit quirky, a little different from the average person, and definitely a lot more obsessive. He plans his life from minute to minute. He hates being too early (waste of time) just as much as being too late (violating an appointment). He even plans his thinking! Cognitive activities can be executed while cooking for example, because when you eat the same thing every monday, and every tuesday, and wednesday, etc...the attention needed for preparing the food is reduced to a bare minimum, you know. Now thát's efficiency ;)

Several covers...I have the left one, but I really like the one with the bike!

However amiable in his quirkiness, you can imagine that Don is perceived as a bit 'odd' (to put it mildly) by the people surrounding him (he has only two real friends: his colleague professor Gene and his wife Claudia). The fact that he takes everything (and I mean éverything) literally doesn't help either. Ask for 'the event in a nutshell' for example, and Don will think about the actual event taking place in a literal nutshell... While Don has to give a genetic's lecture to a class full of kids with the Asperger's Syndrome and their parents already at the beginning of the book, he never links this syndrome to his own behavior. Even though he finds the Aspies' reactions and questions extremely sensible and explicable (in contrast to their parents' behavior, who try to shush them down and make them not 'act so weird'), the penny just doesn't drop.

Reaching the age of forty, Don finds it's time to find a life-partner. Unless several dates, he hasn't had much luck so far in romance. But Don's optimistic and tackles this problem like everything else in his life: he just plans it to the tiniest detail. And we all know how easy (...?!) it is to plan love! Our professor comes up with the genius idea to make a questionnaire to select possible future partners. In his eyes, the huge amount of questions will be a perfectly efficient way to end up with a convenient spouse. The respondents have to fill in their alcohol consumption (correct answer: moderately), IQ, punctuality, weight, STD's and favorite fruity ice-cream flavors (which is actually a tricky question, because the ice numbs your taste-receptors and you shouldn't be able to distinct the flavors from each other at everyone should know, duh!).

Don calls his quest for finding a partner 'the Wife-project'. You won't believe it, but it actually provides him with some suitable candidates...which he doesn't really like at all! The whole project becomes more and more confusing for Don, especially when he starts to develop feelings for Rosie, probably the most UNsuitable candidate according to the survey. So much for planning love.

One character Don really reminded me of was (you probably already guessed it if you're a Big Bang Theory fan) Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon must be one of my favorite television characters (Jim Parsons plays him só well!), which might be one of the reasons I also liked this book so much. Sheldon and Don share many traits and peculiarities. It's wonderful to see them find their way in life and love, despite feeling such a stranger on this world sometimes. I remember once reading about someone with autism in one of Dr. Oliver Sacks' interesting books. This person explained that life with autism in our world could probably be best compared with being an anthropologist on Mars, to make 'normal' people understand how it feels. It's one of the best explanations I ever read and it always stuck with me since.

Temple Grandin and Claire Danes, who plays her in the movie.

Another person I was reminded of while reading 'The Rosie Project' is Temple Grandin. Not too long ago I watched a movie about this amazingly inspiring lady. If you're interested in autism/Asperger's, or just in inspiring people in general, you should most definitely give it a try! Temple was diagnosed with autism at a very young age and suffered from severe delayed speech development, besides many other problems. Nevertheless she ended up as a university professor and doctor of animal science, receiving honorary degrees from many universities. She works as a consultant and engineer in livestock industry and animal behavior. Being a primarily visual thinker and having a visual memory (meaning that her memories are like full-length movies in her head that may be replayed at will, allowing her to notice a lot of small details), Temple uses her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. Besides, she is also an activist for the rights of autistic persons, gives lectures on this subject and wrote several books about autism.

I've always had a weak spot for people with autism, and Asperger's in particular. There was even a time in my life when I wondered if I might be an Aspie myself. Being labeled with things like highly sensitive, gifted, OCD-ish and anxiety-disorder (never officially diagnosed though, my mom didn't got me tested, unlike Sheldon's mom :P) it wasn't difficult to see the similarities with the Asperger's syndrome. It seemed like all my traits, thoughts and feelings that made me sometimes feel so different from my peers, came together in this syndrome. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I'm not a real Aspie according to the official inclusion criteria (and what's in a name anyway? Labels definitely help sometimes, but can also be the cause of even more problems and constrictions at other points!). Life can just be extremely overwhelming when you're a teenager growing into an adolescent, especially when having to deal with the traits mentioned above. I survived ;) Things are still going better, and I learn to value my own unique character, including its peculiarities. Still, the books I read about Asperger's helped me a great deal in learning how to handle specific parts of my personality. Which is probably also the reason why have that weak spot for Aspies. I just think the world would be way less interesting and diverse without them...

The people (both fictional and real) I mentioned earlier are just a couple of examples of people with Asperger's or (high functioning) autism and their potency. A commonly used term for non-autistic persons is 'neurotypicals'; people with 'normally wired brains'. I don't know about you, but language like that makes me all the more interested in the neuro-A-typicals...I can't even imagine how things work in their heads (or how hard it must be to live in a world filled with people who don't really get you), but try to think of what they can do! Invent, research, create and solve in ways that neurotypicals won't ever come up with! On the other hand I do realize that things are probably a bit romanticized in the examples above. It would be stupid to think that all Aspies have such a wonderful and understanding group of friends as Sheldon, or find so much luck in love as Don, or get the chances Temple got. I believe many of them struggle so hard that they need all their powers to survive on a foreign planet, with no energy left to actually invent, research, create, solve, or just even share their unique thoughts and views. I hope that the story of Don might play a part, even if it's just small, in encouraging people to appreciate eachother, especially the one's who act and think a bit different from the rest. Because there's always more then what meets the eye. Why not search for the uniqueness in others a bit more, instead of always trying to fit in?

Now start reading, and come back later to thank me for bringing this book under your attention, even though I had to write twó reviews for it ;)

dinsdag 31 december 2013

Today I am thankful

It's the last day of 2013, and today I am thankful.

It's been a couple of strange last weeks for me. A few months ago I decided to move back in with my
parents again in 2014, so both my boyfriend and I are able to save as much money as possible for future plans. Living in your own appartment is awesome, but not cheap! So my Christmas has been filled with packing boxes, rehoming my cats and the occassional tear.
I'm saying goodbye to some things that have brought me a huge amount of joy and a sense of safety during the last years, and I'm really stepping out of my comfort zone here. Anxiety and stress have been a daily part of my life the last weeks, but I refuse to let my life be ruled by fear. I've said things goodbye, but I'm also welcoming a new and promising year, with many things to look forward to. I am making space for new adventures :)

So, despite some nervousness and stress, today I choose to be thankful.

I am thankful for the (almost) 2 years I spent in my very first own apartment. For years I thought I wouldn't be able to live on my own, afraid I would constantly be annoyed by my well-known old companions Anxiety and Worry. Turned out, it was perfectly well possible to share a house with them. I ám strong enough to send them to their own rooms like naughty little kids when they became too demanding or bothersome. Well...they didn't always listen and sometimes just kept on bothering me...but still, I survived. Ha! 
I made this space into a cozy little environment where I felt perfectly at home, and created beautiful memories in it. I will miss my sunny roof terrace, the cozy wooden bedroom and living on walking distance from my work. My first own apartment will forever stay a beautiful memory :)

I am thankful for having been the 'mommy' of two little rascals of cats. I never thought owning cats be be such a hilarious and heartwarming thing! Franklin and Theodoor have been responsible for many laughs, cuddles and work-distraction. They played an important role in the fact that I felt so at ease living on my fact, I never was alone! I am thankful for their new mommies and daddies. I was able to rehome them to very loving families, and both of them already are adapting to their new environments. They will receive lots of love, cuddles and good care, and that's a relief. They deserve nothing less.

I'm thankful for the hours I spent climbing. Having discovered this sport about 1,5 year ago now, it is becoming an increasingly important part of my life. Climbing keeps me sane, it distracts my thoughts from everything else to focus on just one thing: the route I am climbing. It keeps my healthy and fit, not only physically, but also mentally! Climbing helps me to deal with fear, because sometimes you have to push on and stay calm in a scary situation, with the possibility of a fall. And sometimes, you just have to let go and take that fall! I am thankful for the beautiful places climbing brought me and the new people I met because of it. I can't wait to push my limits further in 2014!

I am thankful for my boyfriend, with whom I just seem to 'click'. Actually, not a day that passes by without me feeling incredibly happy to have him in my life.  I love his smart, wandering and free soul. I love how we shape and complete eachother. I am thankful for how he challenges me in many ways, pushing me out of my comfort zone but at the same time always being there to catch me if I fall. I love his longing for adventure, and how he can make me laugh (or tease me, I'm such an easy victim...). I am thankful that he has a curious mind, just like me! He's not afraid to think for himself, which results in interesting conversations that I cherish. He's might be a little strange, but so am I...compatible in our strangeness, we form a happy, quirky couple.

I am thankful for the hours I spent working. At the moment, there are mány things I don't like about my work, but I ám thankful for the moments I actually was able to help my patients to regain some strenght, fitness or daily functions. Every time one of my patients is happy because something goes better, I am happy too, and remember why I chose to become a physiotherapist. I set up a very successfull group training program for about 30 elderly patients. They were al incredibly enthusiastic and I had lots of fun exercising with them. I am thankful for being able to play a tiny role in their health...besides, I am thankful for the fact that I actually am healthy enough myself to work and earn a living!

I am thankful for the travels I made last year. I've have spent a wonderful time in the Dolomites (Italy), the Sierra de Guara (Spain) and at the Cote d'Azur (France), together with my boyfriend. Oh, and we went a couple of times to Freyr, a beautiful climbing area in the Belgium Ardennes! I love that we both like active holidays and want to stay as far away as possible from touristic consumerism. Climbing, canyoning and snowboarding/skiing brings you to places where people usually don't go, close to nature. I treasure those moments and am thankful for every beautiful view I could take in (and snap a quick picture of ;)). Traveling opens your mind and teaches different lessons than those learnt in daily life. Actually, I can't wait to pack my bags again!

I am thankful for my parents. They have their quirks (like every parent :P), but they love me no matter what, and that is what's most important. My decisions challenge them, it's not always what they had in mind for me. Still, they work hard to support me and help me where they can, while also letting me go.
They thought they finally got rid of me two years ago...but here I am again, moving back in with them...mwuhahaha! Just kidding, of course they had to adjust to the idea, but they've been very welcoming (except towards Theodoor and Franklin, grrrr....). Both helped me a lot with moving, I couldn't have done it without them. I am thankful for how they both can make me laugh in their own way, and how they help me deal with my difficulties. I will treasure that forever!

I'm thankful for books, I can't imagine my life without them. I've read dozens of interesting, heartwarming and exciting books in 2013. I've discovered new authors and started new series. I even got my own Kindle for my birthday! I'm still a sucker for real, paper books...but the reason I finally gave in for an e-reader is its convenience while traveling. Plus, e-books are cheaper! Oh, and don't forget the fact that I don't need my Iphone's flashlight anymore, when I read out loud in the car (I often read for Mark during long drives...we have special 'on-the-way-books', that we both like).
In a way, books are like traveling, they open your mind for new things and can teach so many valuable lessons and interesting stuff. Besides books, I'm also thankful for movies and series I've watched...another way I love to spend my time. Offering distraction, insights and an escape from daily life, they are my highly treasured companions.

I'm thankful for every minute I can spend crafting. I need crafting in my life like I need air, love and books. I love to create pretty things...and obviously other people love them too! My little Etsy store saw a rise in sales this year, which brings me a lot of joy. I'm thankful for every person I've met through crafting, and I'm thankful for new creative techniques and skills I learned this year. I've really developed my spinning techniques, and learned how to dye natural fibers. I discovered I lóve playing with colors (I'm still a little girl by heart, yes... I know :)). I like my hands to be busy, and I enjoy the fact that, in a way, I can be self-sufficient when it comes to clothes, yarn, socks, decoration, etc. Even though (thankfully) I'm not in a situation where I have to rely on such skills, it feels good to be able to.

I am thankful for my friends. I'm not really one for an elaborate social network with dozens of friends and acquaintances, but I dó have a couple of close friendships that are like treasures for me. Each single one of them is unique in their own way, and I'm thankful that they want to share their time, thoughts and tea with me. They offer me comfort and wonderfully cozy afternoons. It's great to be able to share a passion with someone else, it doubles the joy! To me, the possibility to exchange thoughts and ideas in a completely honest and transparent way, knowing that the other won't judge me (but will speak her mind when necessary!) , is incredibly valuable. Girls, you know who you are all such a lovely and beautiful addition to my life!

Above all, I am thankful to be a treasured daughter of a Heavenly Father, Who loves me far more than I will ever be able to understand. He is the Giver of my blessings and the Receiver of my thanks. I'm thankful for getting to know Him a bit better this year. In his extraordinary and abundant love I learn to live unashamed and of guilt and free of judgement (of myself ánd of others).

Follow me!