Friday, December 31, 2010

"May you have the hindsight to know where you've been..."

"...the foresight to know where you're going
and the insight to know when you're going t
oo far." ~Irish Blessing

Well, it's the last day of 2010 and like most others, I'm contemplating the year gone by. One never knows what to expect in the upcoming days, weeks, months, but 2010 was certainly....well, uncertain. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of fun and more downtime than 2009, but with it came its own trials and tribulations., tragic partings, and many many changes. I feel glad that the past few months seem to have flown by, if only because I can't imagine them being any more torturous (dramatic, I know). And please, don't think "here comes the 'why me' whinings." First off, I only whine to my husband. :) Second, my belief in life itself is based on balance. Without the bad, there can be no good. I do experience (more than my fair share) of good and I know that at times there will be unfortunate negative experiences. I have no problem facing them. It's just tough, ya know?

2011 is going to be a year of changes as well, but I think for the positive. We have more travel plans, and (minor) home renovations in the works, and a few other things that you will hear about. I feel in the midst of these changes at the moment, so I expect the first few months won't be any easier than the last. Hubby's surgery is in January and while it will be rough, it's the best thing for him and I can't wait for him to be healthier and happier. It's not always apparent to others, but I find that I'm not too bad at caring for others when they need it, so I know we'll be OK during his recuperation.

Earlier today, I stumbled across my horoscope for 2011. Sometimes I read my horoscope, but I'm not an avid follower. It can be eerily accurate or just downright ridiculous. But I have to say, this one was spot on. As you may have imagined, I'm a Libra (balance!) and my horoscope says (courtesy of Yahoo):

"Oh the lessons you have endured over the course of 2010. You're not the same people- pleasing darling you were a mere 12 months ago. On the contrary darling -- you are in the midst of a powerful process of cultivating the kind of backbone that makes greatness. Thanks to big daddy Saturn you're learning your lessons well in relinquishing laziness, strengthening discipline, and realizing your authority. You're taking yourself more seriously in the arenas where it matters most. (Read: career and getting paid what you're worth.)

Relationships bring plenty of passion, drama and unexpected plot twists especially during the spring. By the time May rolls around you'll be dealing with an unprecedented amount of planetary energy firing up your relationship sector. With six planets including Venus, your ruler and Jupiter, the planet of abundance lining up in your partnership sector you'll be anything but lonely. The challenge lies in staying true to your own needs without getting lost in the persuasive me-me-me demands of your significant others.

Although some of Saturn's lessons will weigh in on a heavier note and perhaps depriving you of any former easy-outs or shortcuts, you have the uncanny ability to take it all in stride. There's something to be said for the inherent Libran laid-back approach to life's challenges. But under current planetary duress you may join the ranks of the stressful millions in your quest for regaining inner peace and unshakable equilibrium. Forever striving for that elusive balance, you're being put through the cosmic ringer when it comes to finding and holding your own with others. But you will get there Libra -- just you wait and see!"

The description of this past year was quite spot on and the positive spin on 2011 (though not without its own amount of work) gives me renewed hope that things will get better. I'll keep trudging along.

Some people are probably planning their New Year's Resolutions, but I don't believe in them. Not to sound arrogant but I'd rather make a life decision instead of one that may last a week or two if I'm lucky. I know myself well enough to know that any resolutions I may come up with won't last long. I need to really put thought and planning and baby steps into any new goals. And New Year's is definitely not a time for me to start something! It's time for me to take a break and start the new year refreshed, not trying to change myself in a myriad of ways.

I hope those of you that are celebrating the new year's arrival will have a splendid time and do it safely. As for me, my annual house party will begin tomorrow evening and last roughly two days. I'm off to continue cleaning toilets like a good little hostess, because really, if people might be up all night puking their guts out from the over-consumption of alcohol, it's only decent of me to provide a clean toilet to hug.

I'm dedicating 2011 to friends and family and I leave you with this Irish toast:

There are good ships,
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.

May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter."

Quote by Nova Blair.

As you may be able to tell, I'm getting caught up on some blog posts I have had tucked away in a dusty corner of my mind. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and though this has been a difficult fall, I'm grateful for many things, far too many to enumerate. I'm grateful to be enjoying the lovely weather we've had, although I hear that will be ending this week. A blustery prologue from winter may greet us immediately following Turkey Day. My office smells like cinnamon, courtesy of the scented sticks I brought in to decorate. I feel as though I'm sitting at home every time I take a deep breath.
October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

~George Cooper, "October's Party"

Last evening I had my third glass workshop, fall leaves in the hot shop. They won't be ready until next week, so I won't tempt you with details without a picture just yet. But I missed telling you about my wine topper workshop, a flame workshop using the torch.

I sucked at it. And not just a little, like clay. A lot. Don't get me wrong, I like my little fubar wine topper. As my instructor Melissa (who attempted to comfort me) said, it's MY wine topper. I don't think that's a satisfying defense. After all, you're just pointing out again that it's my mess. That's her working with another student and you can see the torch going. The torch takes a lot of practice (which admittedly I don't have) and a lot of patience (which I do have, but not enough). It's hard to know if you have it blowing hot enough or with enough oxygen vs. gas, plus the time it takes to heat up the glass rods to manipulate them seems endless. It was more frustrating when I tried to shape it, messed up, couldn't fix it because it had cooled already plus you can't touch it, and then have to wait for it to heat up all over again before another attempt. I had maybe 5 or 6 different shapes/designs and either I would like it and try to move on (and instead accidentally ruin it) or I didn't like the design. After receiving help from Melissa (who rounded it quite nicely for me) and then ruining it again, I decided to make it a square shape. I had put so much color in it that I had no idea what it would look like when it came out. And the attachment I used to get it off the punty ended up sticking, so I just swirled it and made it appear deliberate. I just noticed while taking photos of it that I somehow managed to add bubbles!

Long story short, I have a far greater appreciation for glass working than I did. It's very frustrating to not be able to touch it with your hands and shape it how you want. You have to let the tools do it for you. And it takes skill, knowledge, and patience. For now, I prefer the hot shop with it's almost instantaneous ability to heat up the glass.

"I'll bet living in a nudist colony..."

"...takes all the fun out of Halloween." ~Anon.

Of course it's the day before Thanksgiving and I am writing a little blurb about Halloween. You could either consider me behind (as usual) OR that I love Halloween so much I can't stop thinking about it no matter the time of year. Either works. :)

I really enjoyed my costume this year even though we really didn't do much for the holiday. This fall has been even crazier than usual (I didn't think that was possible!) and so we just watched our local parade and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. I took a sudden liking to the Mad Hatter costume a la Johnny Depp and decided to make my own.

The hat was the first part, naturally! I found some very easy instructions online and used scrap pieces of paperboard from here in the lab. Using hot glue, staples, and muscles, I wrapped the middle section based on my head measurements, secured it, and attached it to a dinner-plate size piece at the top of the hat. I picked up some fabrics from Joann's, which included the lovely textured purple fabric on the hat. I hot glued that as well and then added decorations. I needed to include the wide ribbon, the sign with the price, and a hat pin. I had been eyeing these feathers at Joann's for quite a while and finally found the perfect use for them! The little bird on top just added to the cute style. The only trouble I had was in locating a hat pin. I eventually realized I could just make one. I have various thickness of jewelry wire and all kinds of beads. It just took a little bit of wire wrapping and voila! A nice yellow hatpin that offsets the purple fabric nicely.

I was lucky enough to find this black Anna Sui coat (with matching skirt!) at Goodwill with a great tailored look that fit me well. I didn't really want a black coat, but it looked so good that it made the color worth it. I added lace cuffs that are white with black polka dots. It's hard to see in the picture but I also found a wonderful paisley silk vest filled with golds and purples. It was a perfect detail! I still needed fingerless gloves, which I fashioned out of purple lace with black polka dots on them. I finished off the body of the costume with a scarf I owned and created the sash of spools. I couldn't find a smaller version to purchase for an inexpensive amount so I used my own. I cut a plain brown leather belt in half (also from Goodwill!), strung the spools using a thick bookbinding waxed thread, and then sewed the ends to the belt. I need to take it apart to use my spools again, and because I have no need to wear a sash of spools, but it looks so lovely that I wish I didn't have to.

I added the green and black fake eyelashes instead of orange bushy eyebrows and didn't spray my hair either. I figured the bleach blonde I have it is bright enough. I don't need orange hair! I had that last year as a redhead. :)

This costume was great fun to wear because people really enjoyed it, kids and adults alike. Most people enjoyed either the hat or the sash the most, but a few told me I had "butterflies" on my eyes. The hat was heavy but luckily I made it perfect for my head measurement and with the addition of the fabric, it was a little tight. I just had to take it off every now and then or suffer a headache. And it was very easy to poke people (accidentally!) with the feathers so I had to be careful I didn't tip my head back too far.

I have an idea for next year's costume, so maybe I'll get started very early this year! I also have a few craft ideas for the holiday that maybe you'll see next year. I usually have no time for the bare minimum at Halloween, despite it being my favorite holiday. I might start early this year and show some creativity!

Monday, November 8, 2010

"If your only goal is to become rich..."

" will never achieve it." ~ John D. Rockefeller

I think I've been very honest with myself when thinking about getting rich doing all my crafting and artwork (i.e. not going to happen). And before you think it's a case of low self-esteem and a lack of belief in what I can accomplish, it's really a matter of enjoyment. I like designing and editing and creating my latest project. And then moving on to something else. I'm not big into marketing or sales or figuring out what my price point should be. I do this for fun and to share my creations with others. You may have noticed that I still haven't listed the books I made for the craft fair back in June on my Etsy site. Again, meh.

But I've had so many comments on my tape measure watch (from friends and strangers alike), that I'm considering making a few to post on Etsy. Just to see if people like them enough to purchase and if it's worth my time. However! (no cheering yet) I have a dilemma. Although I was able to measure my wrist and use that number, I still had my wrist to test it on throughout the creative process. I have no idea if I could make a watch that fits well with only the circumference of their wrist. So you, dear readers, must help me!

If you would like a free (yes, FREE) tape measure watch that may...or may you, please leave a comment with the circumference of your wrist (in inches) around the spot you would like the watch to rest. I will only be giving out one free watch, so if many people comment, I will just draw a random winner. You have until Friday, Nov. 12th, at 5 PM (Eastern time). If the winner is a female, I will use a watch face similar to the one I used for my watch (see my previous post). If the winner is a male, I will try to locate a more masculine-looking watch. Unless you want the other one! And if there are only two people who want one, well maybe I'll just make two.

I'm hoping this will work out since so many people enjoyed the watch. Good luck!

Monday, October 18, 2010

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence..."

"...but it comes from within. It is there all the time." ~ Anna Freud

Last week (Oct 11-15) was a difficult week. I'm not one to complain too often or to reflect upon my life pessimistically. I like to spread positive words. And this post will spread positivity and self-reflection. But first I need the catharsis of confession. It was a f*$!#ing HARD week. There was friend drama, crazy traveling schedules, work drama and hectic meetings, illnesses and sleeplessness, teaching and deadlines. And there was Buddy.

Although I try to be positive about situations and appreciate what I have as often as I can, sometimes I am stunned by the slightest thing that makes me feel that I've been taking my life for granted. In this case, it's my sense of self. I didn't have a difficult childhood but it wasn't an easy one. I've been blessed with a fair amount of self-confidence and self-love because of the different types of people I've had to deal with and my experiences growing up. Being the oldest of 5, I also had to serve as the protector of my siblings and that really boosted my strong sense of self. No one's opinion matters but your own and those you love. I whole-heartedly believe that this is what gets me through life, in addition to growing up in a hard-working family.

Lately, I've been letting myself get carried away by how other people see me when I know it's simply jealousy and envy they are feeling. Even though I thought I was listening to myself and not falling for malice, I don't think that's true. After the past week, I think I've been thinking far too often about my own lifestyle and how I may negatively affect others. Is it a detriment to be my friend? I try to use whatever lifestyle advantages I have to help others, but am I doing enough?

And along came Buddy. Buddy is a stray cat in our neighborhood (I chose the name Buddy) and he showed up in early spring. My husband and I have several cats of our own and foster cats for a local shelter. We are committed to catching the strays to make sure they are at least neutered/spayed and up-to-date on shots. If they seem super friendly, we take them into the shelter to put them up for adoption. It took me 7 months to get Buddy used to me enough to let me pet him. He immediately became one of the sweetest cats (and possibly least intelligent one) I've ever known. Buddy obviously wasn't feral, just a bit shy and maybe a little slow. Two weeks ago, he seemed comfortable enough with me that I decided it was time to grab him. He stayed in a spare bathroom until we were able to take him into the shelter and I was surprised by how easily he adjusted to being an indoor kitty. He surely must've been an indoor kitty before.

We finally took him in after a few days with us and I was sad to see him go. I'd gotten used to his wide-eyed look while he hung around our porch for nearly a year. But we have so many cats as it is, I can't take another one. I comforted myself with the knowledge that someone loving and kind would adopt him and I could keep tabs on him through my contacts with the shelter. We also put our names down as a responsible contact in case he gets sick and needs to be temporarily fostered.

We got the call on Thursday that Buddy had tested positive for Feline HIV. Most likely, he had gotten it from another stray cat he got in a fight with, considering that it's not an airborne illness. We had 5 hours to decide if we wanted to pick him up or have him euthanized. On one of my busiest work days, I have to make a difficult decision. There's no way he can be with our boys if we want to minimize any chance that they could contract the disease. But it's not enough time to find someone without cats who would want to adopt him. We can't put him back outside and monitor him because he could give it to other cats and get sick and hide, committing himself to a slow, painful death. It seemed we had only one option.

While frantically searching the internet for suggestions of what I could do besides the obvious (because it just wasn't FAIR), I came across a suggestion for a cat sanctuary or shelter that takes in cats with Feline Leukemia and Feline HIV/Aids. The nearest shelter I could find is in Harrisburg, called the Best Little Cat House in PA. I have dealt with no-kill shelters before and they almost never have room. I discarded it as an option but decided to email them just in case, explaining our situation and asking that they at least respond. It seems that despite the rough week, I still had luck on my side because they happened to check their email (usually only once a day I was told) right after I sent it. I was given a phone number to call and ask about space, which wouldn't be available until December. I was so relieved that they would have any openings at all that I started crying there at my desk. We could keep him quarantined until then and he would get the care and love that he deserves.

What has followed this turn of events has been nearly three weeks of a very sick Buddy (quarantined in a spare bathroom until December), who was neutered at the shelter and contracted an upper respiratory infection, which could be deadly. I spent two weeks hand-feeding him and giving him water with a syringe. It was not an easy two weeks. And he has just now stopped sneezing blood. But holding him in my lap while he has to breathe through his mouth, watching me in confusion over what has happened to him, I feel above the petty jealousy and attacks on my good intentions. I know that I'm making a difference in his short little life and I have no need for self-doubt. There isn't room for it and my momentary lapse got me nowhere except stressed.

When I converted to Judaism, I had to choose my Hebrew names. I went through many books and websites, trying to pick meanings that identified me or embodied traits I wanted to possess. Ultimately, I chose names that would serve as a reminder of who I am and who I strive to remain. Akiva Chemda is my name. Akiva (although a boy's name, a Hebrew version of Jacob) means to protect or to provide shelter. This is my mantra towards animals especially, but for any friends or family that needs my assistance. I could look at how many people alone have lived in our home... Chemda is a girl's name meaning charming. This reminds me to always be positive, pleasant, and wonderful towards others.

I realize this was a long, heartfelt post. And really I wrote it more for me than any of you, my lovely readers. But I needed this catharsis to remind myself that I'm OK. Thanks. :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Painting is easy when you don't know how..."

"...but very difficult when you do." ~Edgar Degas

This is true for any form of art. It's easy when you're experimenting and just putting yourself into your creation. Once you've "learned" how you are supposed to create it and what you are supposed to create, it gets far more difficult. So with my first attempt at glass-making, it was easy! And I love my little pumpkin.

Here it is! I finally started my glass workshops (I had them spread out one a month starting in September but the first one had to be moved to November). So my new first one was the hot glass blown pumpkin in early October. We were able to pick whatever colors we wanted, although they had out some typical oranges and yellows. Another woman in our group also wanted purple and the guys who instructed us (Travis and...Bill maybe?) were more than happy to provide us with whichever colors we wanted to experiment with. It's hard to see but if you look closely at the top of my pumpkin underneath the stem, I threw in a little bit of orange mixed with the purple.

The class was only two hours and there were 6 of us in the group. I wasn't sure how the workshop would be taught but they had each of us take turns making one (with their assistance) while the others watched. The later you went in the group order, the better the result. Don't get me wrong, the first guy did great, but you learned something new from each student's mistake or problem/difficulty. I went third and I think the only perk to going later would've been having my stem turn out a little better. But I'm pleased with my results. And it's heavy! I'm used to purchasing glass pumpkins that are very light but this glass is THICK.

The only part of the workshop that I didn't like was having to rely on the assistance of our instructors so much. I get that it's only a two hour workshop and there's only so much you can do when you're allotted approximately 15 minutes. And Travis and Bill did let you do more yourself if they took note that it was easier for you, you picked up on it quickly, or insisted on doing some of it yourself. It was my first time but I think I picked up on it well, so they were able to let me do a bit more on my own than some of the students. I appreciated that but ultimately, I did not get to blow the bubble in the pumpkin. *Frowny face* Only the instructors were able to do this. I think if I take a longer workshop (maybe a 6 hour or all day one), I'd be happier but I still have several other types of glass-working workshops scheduled to figure out which ones I enjoyed most. But the hot glass was very thrilling. It made me want to make thick globs of nothing, just clear glass, to play with the physics of it's movement and watch it cool and solidify.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“There is still no cure for the common birthday.”

(Quote by John Glenn)

I don't know about the rest of you but I LOVE my birthday. While a part of me is saddened that I'm getting another year older, the rest of me rejoices that I have something to celebrate. I'm older, wiser, happier, and still enjoying life. I also feel that it's important to celebrate myself and give myself gifts (not in a selfish way, more of a self-supportive way). This usually means that most of September and sometimes into October, it's birthday month. I still have a couple days to go until I officially hit the late 20s (goodness, just writing that makes me shiver!) but the celebration has already been in full swing.

This past weekend we went birthday camping with friends, our longest camping trip thus far (2 nights!). We just got our new CRV a couple of months ago, as well as the 6 person tent that attaches to it, and we were eager to use it. It's much larger than our old tent--we could even fit our queen air mattress. The weather was perfect-crisp, cool, and sunny. Hubby got me a new electric blanket for my birthday and gave it to me early but we didn't even need it at night. And my favorite dog came along too! Evgeni (or Evi for short, after Evgeni Malkin) belongs to a friend and he is a husky/chow chow mix. The sweetest, slowest dog in the world who now has doggie Alzheimer's. I want a dog just like him. He even spent a night in our tent just because I love him so much. In the pic, he's giving me a nice big kiss after I took him for a walk.

We're recuperating from all the hiking we did (and our failed attempts at geocaching...we are so bad at it, we found NONE) in anticipation of a crazy birthday weekend. There will be dinner out with family and friends, my aunt's annual church auction, and most important, my gifts to myself! I do something for myself each year and this one is no exception. I booked four glass making workshops (which I mentioned in an early blog post) for the fall, one of which is this weekend. It's the first one and I can't wait to make a new creation.

My other gift to myself is my first tattoo. I have long pondered what I wanted and where I wanted it, knowing that if nothing ever felt right, I just wouldn't get one. Well, this weekend I will be getting a permanent henna (mehndi) tattoo on my upper left ribs (I know, ouch for my first tattoo. Go big or go home!). I'm sure after it's complete I will be regretting the busy weekend I have planned. But that seems to be how I roll...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"You can get inspiration..."

"...from absolutely anything." ~Carol Armstrong, Quilter & Author

I thought I'd share a little project/prototype that suddenly popped into my head a couple of weeks ago and wouldn't go away until I made one! My inspiration came from the tools I'm surrounded by at work and home, as well as this nifty watch by Swatch. I saw an article over the summer about the Swatch founder Nicholas Hayek passing away and someone had uploaded a variety of Swatch watches that they remembered from the '90s. I was never into them as a kid (even though I loved watches and clocks) but something about this one stuck with me.

After a few weeks of this watch popping into my brain, I knew I wanted to customize it and make it my own. I'd get it out of my system AND have a brand new watch. Sometime ago I had purchased a watch face at Joann's, intending on making some type of band for it out of jewelry but luckily I hadn't done anything with it yet.

Sometimes I sketch out my ideas and figure out the best way to piece it together with measurements and all (I took a CADD class once and I can't NOT draw without showing proper measurements), but this time I just put stuff together. And I enjoyed it. Immensely.

I can't say it turned out very...neat. My threads are quite messy and Prototype #1 was worn two or three times before I switched the closures and you now see photos of Prototype #2. I knew I didn't want just a single band, like the Swatch watch. I wanted multiples, to look a little messy like I actually use this or just threw it together, with a few buttons thrown in. I selected three pieces, all cut to the same length (roughly a little bigger than my wrist, minus the watch face spacing) and immediately realized that they were too wide for the watch face. No matter. I squished one through to see if it would suitably fit and worse case, I'll trim the sides just a tad there. I laid the pieces across my wrist to see how I wanted them to crisscross and knew I needed to sew them with a diamond shape. Again, messy threads but I joined two pieces in an X first and then added the third middle piece on top. I also realized while sewing the third piece on that I definitely wouldn't be able to fit the bulky middle onto the watch face now. Luckily, the last piece I added on could slide through the watch face slits and since it was connected to the other two pieces, they would lay flat on my wrist under the watch face. Voila!

Now I needed to figure out how to keep it closed. I erroneously thought that when I bought the watch face, it had come with a clasp set meant for a watch band. No such luck. I was feeling far too impatient (and excited!) to put it aside until the next day (even though it was already midnight--I was so excited with it that I wanted to finish and wear it the next day). Instead, I scrounged around for a random assortment of buttons. That would be a perfect way to secure my measuring tape watch, I thought.

Well, I wasn't thinking logically (I did mention that I hadn't sketched it, I'm just flowing by the seat of my pants). Of the three buttons I chose, only one was smaller than the width of the tape measure. I sewed all three on and went to cut the button holes, only to discover that two wouldn't fit through the holes because they were bigger than the measuring tape width. Duh. But working the Preservation lab gave me a good idea and I attached wax string to wrap around the buttons and allow for tightening. Thus, Prototype #1 was born.

I wore it the next several days and knew I had to change the buttons. The button that fit well was perfect. It was clear, it fit the measuring tape look better, and didn't look too messy. The other buttons were colors that didn't jive with the bright yellow tape (I had brass and green, I think) and the string would unwind or I'd find myself fiddling with it constantly.

I finally fixed it a couple of days ago. Removing the larger buttons, I added two small, clear buttons that slid easily into the button holes I had previously made. The material of the tape is perfectly suited as a watch band because even though I haven't sewn the edges of the button holes, it hasn't torn. And it's waterproof and doesn't get really dirty! It's perfect! Next time I'll just make sure that the watch face slits match the width of my measuring tape. Now on to the next crazy idea...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"No one needs a vacation more..."

"...than the person who just had one." ~Anon.

So we've returned from vacation with bump, settling right back into the crazy life we swear to avoid. Maybe it's a little less hectic, but not by much. Sandbridge Beach was lovely, quiet, and everything that Virginia Beach wasn't. We still enjoyed the "boardwalk" but I'm glad we stayed elsewhere. And for how much I complained last week about the icky weather we had (only on a couple of days), I am very thankful that we went last week instead of experiencing Hurricane Earl in all its fury right now.

I won't get into detail about our vacay (who wants to read that?) but one of the places we visited was Colonial Williamsburg, a place I've been dying to go since I was a kid. I'm a history nerd. Especially when you can buy their artisan crafts. :D It was a little disappointing in that some places weren't open the day we were there (like the wigmaker) and some tours could have been beefed up a little (the jail could've gone into more detail about Blackbeard and his pirates being kept there), but overall I loved it.

The building I had to visit was the bindery. The printing press was already closed for the day, but I'd seen those before. OK, not that I needed to see the bindery either, but how could I resist? It's a tiny little building, tucked down a hillside from the printing press and post office and I noticed not many people found the trek to be worthwhile. I tried to convince as many tourists as possible to head down when they asked me what the building was (can't read the sign?).

I never caught the name of the bookbinder that was present, but he had a full group that he spoke to when we entered. I paid attention for some it (mostly nodding in affirmation to Hubby to show that I agreed with what the bookbinder said...not that Hubby would've known better) and mostly looked around at what tools and materials he had. The bookbinder explained a bit about his craft, mostly speaking in negative terms as though it's a dying trade (which I'll acknowledge, but come on. Let's sound psyched!) Some of the tourists asked question, but most just wandered out as they pleased. When the group had a cleared and I knew he would be restarting his talk when the next one came, I intervened to ask him about his training.

He spent 6 years as an apprentice at the bindery in Colonial Williamsburg, training with the "Master" (whom he didn't name). And my favorite moment was when he explained a little bit about the commissioned work he does and said he could show me photographs, "if I had the time." Well, of course I do! He showed me snapshots of books made for royalty and other famous celebrities (usually the only people than can afford the leather and gold stamping) and showed me what he was currently working on until more tour groups wandered in.

While I still think it could have been jazzed up a little, I think he did a great job making analogies to the kids present about their notebooks and textbooks and trying to get them to think about the structure and cost.

Back up in the giftshop, I bought some marbled paper and a handmade deck of old-fashioned playing cards. I was hoping for more leather items, but I suppose they only commission those. All in all, a great visit to Colonial Williamsburg!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Birdbath Makeover

I'll share a quick little project that I put together last week and it's brightened up the landscaping. I love gardens and animals thus my yard is beginning to reflect that. I now have plants galore and I've added bird feeders to the back flower bed. Once we finish putting up our fence (this weekend I think!) I will build a few birdhouses and possibly a small shelter for the stray cats that we care for. You'd think they'd have attacked the birds by now but 1) They get fed by enough people in the neighborhood that they don't care to hunt anything and 2) The birds KNOW when they cats are hiding under the feeders and don't go anywhere near them. But these structures will have to be far apart from each other, just in case.

My aunt very generously gave me a bird bath that belonged to her but has been stored in my grandma's garage for many years, getting no use out of it. I finally got a hold of it last weekend and it's time for a rehab! Here's a pic of it, peeling paint and grunge all over. But it has such a lovely triangle pattern on it, there's potential here. I hosed off much of the dirt, and set to work painting after it dried in the sun for a bit. Once our fence and exterior house painting is completed, I have a few shades of tan/cream with accents of blue-green and cherry red. Most everything will be painted the base of cream so I decided to reverse it for the bird bath. (The brown fence in the background is now an off-white color--I just finished it this week) I painted the birdbath the lighter shade of blue (called "Rain Cloud") and will then add accents in the cream color and maybe the red. I don't need overkill.

At first, I didn't paint the inside of the bowl because I didn't want to accidentally poison any birds. I wasn't sure how the paint would react with water, even though it's exterior paint and should be waterproof. I did some research online and since it's latex-based, it's nontoxic. Good, because many people complained about algae, water leaching through cracks, etc. This paint should help because it's sealed the porous cement surface and a hairline crack. And it's also a deterrent for mildew so I hope it will help with algae. Plus it's prettier! I played up some of the accents with the cream paint (Gobi Desert) but not too much. I actually painted blue back over some of the designs because it was too much going on. You can still see the pattern on it, even with just the blue. If you click on the pictures, you can see the larger image.

Finally, I decided to add shiny, colorful stones to attract the birds and make it look more colorful. I had to double-check that the adhesive I used would resist water and be non-toxic (bottle info seemed fine) and voila! Here it is, all pretty looking.

Now, I've had it set up in the yard for almost a week now and besides some bird poo, I have yet to see a bird in it. Just on the edge. They'll figure it out eventually. I also noticed that I'll have to get a different glue because after being submerged 24/7, the water-resistant glue is softening and stones are coming loose. Not a big deal really but I don't want to lose any in the yard when I dump the water. And then run over them with the lawn mower.


There are so many articles this past decade discussing the unique name trend that parents are supporting. Naming their children after fruit, countries, animals, or just making it up, everyone is quick to worry about the effect it will have on children who have to grow up with these odd names. Yes, there are some I would avoid. Actually, probably many I would avoid. But I like the creativity that parents are utilizing as well as the opportunity for a child to stand out. Yes, they might get picked on. But if 99% of your class also has a strange name, who is going to pick on whom? And really, it strengthens your character to stand up for yourself in some way. I loved that I knew nobody else with my first name, while many of my friends had to be distinguished by a last initial. Just sayin'.

Yet, I really don't think that creative, clever, or obnoxious names are really new to the baby-naming game. I'm VERY involved in genealogical research for my family and I've been lucky that most of our history is already documented in two published books (Just enough to still leave puzzles for me!). I enjoy the stories about my past relatives but what I really like is looking at their names. Who named which child after which relative? Which name got copied the most within a family branch? And I can say with certainty, weird names abound! My great-grandfather and his siblings all had first names that started with the letter O, although they only ever went by their middle names: Robert Elisha Nixon and his wife Mary Hempleman had: Ola Floyd, Ora Emerson, Orval Leslie, Olive Katherine, and Ollie Ulric. And before anyone suggests that some of these could have been related to ethnicities or their native culture (seemingly normal for them) but sounds strange to me, my family (this side in particular) is Irish. And they moved here in the late 1700s. There are almost NO Irish names in my family. Odd, I know. I guess they wanted to be different.

Also, the preponderance of fall birthdays is nearly 100%. I know they were all farmers but I guess this proves it since what other time of year besides winter would you have time to get it on? ;)

Here's a list of my favorite unique names from my family tree.

Irish side:

  • Andrew Jackson Nixon (he's the older gentleman in the Nixon family photo, some of these other names are there too but I can't remember who's who besides his wife Cassandra.)
  • Luella
  • Valvera
  • Polly
  • Cora
  • Huldah
  • Ardona
  • Alta
German side:

  • Philomena
  • Amandus (male)
  • Urban
  • Euphrosina
  • Bartholomaus
  • Franziska
  • Isidore
  • Amalia
  • Bernadette
  • Boniface (or spelled Benifacious)
The Czech/Austrian/Hungarian side had mostly boring names that repeated a lot, like Stephen, Mary, Paul, Catherine, etc. Do you have a favorite family name?

Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Internet is full. Go away." ~Anon

Well, that quote (from the lovely Quote Garden) sums up quite nicely how I'm feeling lately. With the approaching disappearance of graduating students, my month of August is usually a time to catch up on the worthwhile projects on which I've fallen behind. One of these projects is the creation of our departmental website.

At the moment, we don't even have a web page for our department so it's important that we at least have contact information and a general description of what we do. You'd be surprised how many people think we don't exist. OK, maybe you wouldn't be. I've been brainstorming ideas for who our audience will be, what information we want to share, how important educating this audience will be, all following in-line with our institution's current layout and specifications (no easy task). I also wonder how much overhead will be included with the "updating" process and this could affect what type of information I include and how that content is conveyed. For example, I would consider a departmental blog but I have yet to find out how that would be carried out. (There is a great deal of detail I could add here but cannot share because of how it relates to my job. So, apologies if this seems general in nature)

My other frustration is that there are already many great preservation websites, in particular departmental ones. They have blogs and photos and project ideas; what can we contribute that someone else hasn't done? I ask this question, not because I'm feeling low on how special we are as a department, but because I wonder how to justify the time I will spend on the website to my institution. As of yet, I have no estimate for how much time per week I will update it. That depends entirely on the content. It could range from an hour or two per month to that same amount per week. But I have to justify what we will get out of it. I'm a big supporter of the outreach and education mandates so a website would personally satisfy those because I'm educating our institutional members and the public at large. But is that good enough? I don't know.

On thoughts of a possible blog, it would be interesting to see how my voice there would differ from here (we're a teeny department so it would be me posting). Here, I mix professional and personal but I hesitate to get too far into either. I like my personal privacy still and of course, my job. Similarly, when I browse my handwritten journal, it's a different voice. Even when I write about the same topics, there is a world of difference. It reminds of this article, shared on Twitter yesterday by @librarianbyday.

Those are my musings for the day. Any thoughts on the website woes, please share!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Library Day in the Life, Round 5

I've been following the Library Day in the Life tweets on Twitter, contributing a few here and there myself. And since I then progressed to the blog posts, I will contribute my own sample Library Day in the Life.

My job title is Conservation Technician. Basically, I'm in charge of the Preservation Lab and it's day-to-day activities in an academic library. This includes managing students, training, budgets and supplies, dealing with other departmental projects that relate to our own, and of course, performing the treatments/repairs myself while keeping track of 1500+ items.

  • Upon arriving at work, I usually eat my breakfast (0f oatmeal or cereal bar with fruit) and some hot tea. Minimum of two cups. I check my email, listserv digests, and any calendar appts. for the day.
  • Greet students as they arrive and assign any special projects that need to be completed this week. Right now, we are trying to get the treated/repaired materials sent back to the libraries before fall semester starts. This requires a good bit of sorting and organizing by book trucks on my part, which I can then assign to students. Some will need to photocopy barcodes and call numbers for boxes and others will need to create spine labels with title info.
  • I sort through more book trucks of treated/repaired materials to check quality assurance, taking note of which students need more training (they label them so I know who has done what). Those books that look good are routed to a separate book truck to be discharged from the system, statistics noted, and packaged up. They might also be transferred to a different storage site, which of course is a different book truck! Those items that don't pass muster are sent back to students to fix.
  • Students still seem to be chugging along OK so I use this opportunity to handle any other special projects myself. Often this includes fragile books to be disbound for digitization, repairing leather-bound volumes, creating cloth clamshells or portfolios, or just whatever fits the mood I'm in. Maybe I just want to glue things today. This week I'm completing a set of corrugated box bases that are taller and wider than I for Archives. They need a nice container for rolled maps that will fit on a long shelf.
  • Lunchtime arrives and as long as I eat roughly at the same time as the students, I won't be interrupted every ten minutes with questions about repairs.
  • Post-lunch sleepiness is hitting me, so I deliver completed projects to other departments in the building, check in with questions about projects they'd like completed, and pick up new preservation problems.
  • Returning to my desk, I check my current supply order statuses and check the lab for our current needs. Students interrupt to ask when they can learn new treatments, maybe I'll have an hour in a little bit? Back to my desk, I update our supply needs, browse online for what I need, submit an email order, and update our budget expenses after. While I have the spreadsheets open, I update the statistics gathered this morning for our completed projects.
  • Mail should now have arrived so I head downstairs to fetch the daily arrival of stuffed boxes and envelopes of books to be repaired. I need to open each immediately to make sure there are no Rush requests to be handled immediately.
  • Back upstairs, I plan to spend 45-60 minutes instructing students in lab on a new enclosure or repair, depending on what they have yet to learn. Invariably, this takes 2 hours instead and we have yet to complete it. I'll have to remember to finish training once the student is back in again, by which point they will have forgotten how to start the repair.
  • I return to my email, responding to requests for meetings and to see if a missing book is in our lab, despite the lack of documentation of it being here. Hoping we'll find it (because it's missing) but hoping it won't be in lab (because that means I failed to document it's arrival), available students and I search the lab for an hour with no luck. The day is just about over and I take the last 20 minutes to work on the website I need to create for our department. Or maybe update our treatment manual. Or the backlog of special projects. Either way, it's clearly something that always gets pushed to the back burner! Calling it a day, I check the lab for tools plugged in, lights and music left on, before locking the doors. I didn't get as much done as I wanted (I always say this) but at least there were no leaks or other collection-related disasters to respond to. That means it was a good day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Librarians always look like librarians who are trying not to look like librarians..."

"...Even librarians who try not to look like librarians look like librarians trying not to look like librarians." (Unknown)

As usual, I'm a little behind. :) I have returned from the sweltering D.C. area, full of great ideas and new contacts, with sore shoulders from carrying tote bags full of books, and a SmarTrip card still loaded with money. And in reference to the quote above, I enjoyed my game of "Let's spot the librarians (with and without ID badges in public) while roaming the streets of D.C." I can, in all honesty, say it was fairly easy. Frankly, either you were in your forties and up and dressed like a "traditional" librarian or you were young and looking very hipster (myself included although I REFUSED to wear tennis shoes and look like a tourist). I did have people actually stop and ask me for directions. I despise looking like a tourist. In this pic, I do have my comfortable Teva's on, but note the giant bag? I lived out of it during the conference since I was staying about an hour and a half away from DC. This was at the Da Vinci exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, right across from one of the conference hotels. Pretty neat exhibit. I'll post something here or on Flickr later (I'm OBVIOUSLY behind).

In summary, ALA was great! I enjoyed myself immensely, went to meetings that were chock full of information, and even managed to scope out an exhibit or two. Surrounded by my peers at the PAIG and Book and Paper Interest Group meetings, it was an exhilarating feeling to be a part of discussions that concern my own job responsibilities. I haven't felt this way since, well I would say grad school but that's not exactly true. Ha! Anyway, there was still a good bit of discussion concerning the demise of UT's MLIS Conservator program and talks of which institutions are going to pick up the reins; also, is the MLIS degree necessary for conservators wishing to do just benchwork? And are some conservators not considering circulating collections to be desirable? I certainly agree with many of the attendees that the degree is necessary. Consider how easy it is now to take classes online and how often it is hiring policy to require certain degrees. I think if the MLIS comes bundled, why not? You never know what you are going to desire to do later and it can't hurt having the degree. Then again, I could also say if it's that easy to get, just go back if you need it. It's up to the individual I suppose but I prefer to get the hard work out of the way early on and relax later. Finally, James Reilly from the Image Permanence Institute gave a presentation on new points of view concerning environmental control and monitoring, which I won't summarize. I'm sure someone else has already done a better job of that.

At the Book and Paper group, I found the Co-Chair Beth Doyle (from Duke University's Preservation Department) exceedingly helpful. She led a great session (again, talk of the conservator program) but had a lot of information that she shared concerning her own department's activities. The creation of their blog (which I had already come across) was a great talking point because (as I will be in charge of our departmental website, which has yet to exist) I've been prowling for ideas. A blog is one I've considered (considering that I already like to write one?) but I just wasn't sure that it would be worth it. Beth provided a number of points to consider, one of which being what they get out of it (hard to measure). Additionally, she shared some of the ways their department has tried to cut costs and since professional education is usually quick to go....Needless to say, ways to educate themselves was high on the list. Her idea (which I would LOVE to implement in Pittsburgh) was to gather local bookbinders together, use the lab as a free space (they buy their own supplies) and utilize each others' knowledge to learn historic book structures. I was practically drooling in my cushy seat.

Another session/tour that I ADORED was Preservation Forensics & Document Optical Archaeology at the Library of Congress. Honestly, so much information was conveyed that in my rush to explain it all, it would sound like mumbo jumbo. I'll have to find a good summary and share it. But there are just some amazing this they can do with technology and the women of the Preservation Research and Testing Division are AMAZING. Their enthusiasm for their job was obvious and infectious. A colleague and I wanted to kidnap them for dinner they were so lovely. AND (drumroll please).....guess what I stood next to?! And even accidentally brushed?! Yes, folks, that is a steel encased Declaration of Independence draft. If my colleague hadn't pointed it out, I would have been none the wiser. I could have died on the spot. AND if you saw the news article post-ALA '10 that showed the hidden word on the Declaration of Independence draft...we got to see it first! Lastly, I loved their chairs (designed to be sat on frontwards and backwards) and their scanner which scans up to 6000 dpi. Crazy.

(To be continued)

Friday, June 18, 2010

"To sit in the shade on a fine day..."

"...and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment." ~Jane Austen

Where do you turn to for peace and quiet? When your brain is numb with stress, when tasks that were easily handled along with a multitude of chores now seem to take hours even with a focused concentration. What do you do (besides sleep!) when it seems your brain is over-thinking and you are no longer following along with it? I go outside. Alone. I may go for a walk in a park-like setting (not in a city!), I might just lie in the grass watching the sky, or I might climb up a tree. But I go outside. It clears my head, makes me focus on things that are much bigger than me and my (mostly) silly little problems, and my mind slowly settles down. I often bring my journal with me and just write. I write whatever is on my mind, what I see in front of me, a good idea for a story, anything. I absorb, I write, I breathe, and it calms me. Whenever I'm feeling stressed, I have this incredible desire to be outside. To get away and just relax. Now, yoga has become another manner of de-stressing for me and I am excited that one day I'll do yoga outside. What could be better?

Recently, my desire to get outdoors led me to some interesting articles. (Hold on, I might wander a bit, but I'll get to the articles, I promise). I was thinking (while sitting at a desk desperate to be outside in a park with my journal, all by myself) about this behavior and how it seemed like forever since I had really been able to get outside. I really began to love the outdoors when I was 5 and we moved to a house in the mountains with a huge yard, fruit trees, some woods, caves, and lots of wild animals. I spent most of my time outside in a tree or under a tree writing and sketching to my heart's content. I never wanted to be in the house. I loved to read outside in the open field, getting lost in the book and feeling lost in the field at the same time. It occurred to me while sitting at the desk that I haven't been able to really do that since I was a kid. And I've been craving it like mad.

Thinking about this natural world I grew up in and wondering if everyone felt that way, I came across an article on preschools in the northwest U.S. states. (Check it out here) They spend all of their class time outside. Outside. This is the way of things in Europe but here in the U.S., it's rather new. There are no structures academics yet; after all, it's still preschool. But the instructors contend that they are learning so much more by being outside instead of trapped indoors all day being force fed math. They get creative and learn how to settle fights among themselves. No matter the weather (they've only missed one day when the snow was too high to walk in), the children are appropriately attired and accompanied outside by their teacher. And they love it. The article led me to the book "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv, which I am currently reading. Now, there is a really good critique of his work here, but overall, I see his points. And I'm hoping some of these schools open up here in Western PA. Obviously, I can do a great deal of outdoor activities on my own with my eventual children but for them to be with their peers? Priceless. Check out the book if you can.

Around the same time, I came across a new blog post by Roger Ebert (who has an excellent blog, by the way) about the quest for frisson. He discusses his use of the internet and Twitter and how it's made us wired for the next buzz, essentially. We are constantly online to learn or do something more and more exciting. Our attention spans are decreasing (I've definitely noticed this in myself) and we just want more, faster. I have to say, this is exactly when I'm feeling the most overloaded and when I need to escape outside. To slow down and focus on one thing at a time. I wonder if this rewiring is beneficial in the long run or not. And when my eventual kids are begging for another hour on the video game system instead of going outside...No, scratch that. I hope that we integrate many interests into their young lives so that they enjoy a variety of activities without spending time on only one. And can enjoy it without me forcing them (too much of a positive hope?). After the Golden Rule, the 2nd Golden Rule should be "everything in moderation".

Well, it's Friday afternoon and soon enough it'll be time to head outside! Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"It is not light that we need, but fire..."

" is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake."

Well now that the crazy whirlwind that sucked me up for a month and half has plopped me back down in my (very messy) house, I can heave a great sigh of...Relief? Contentment? Not the exact word I want, but somewhere close. I can destress, start sleeping again, and get back to my yoga classes and yard work. Life can return to normal. Whatever that is.

The festival. Since I know you're all dying to hear how it went. I would say it went well. I deliberately chose a small festival (with a low vendor fee), that was two blocks from my house because it was an easy first run. Plus I'm supporting my local community. Did this inhibit my sales? Very probably. Us Western Pennsylvanians do not like to spend lavish amounts of money if we don't feel it's worth it. And even then, are we likely to have that money? If I had been in downtown Pittsburgh or in one of the city's neighborhoods, I think it would have gone just a little better; but again, this was a test.

People really liked the leather journals and the Bookbags. Where I live, people are very frugal and so they didn't all buy one just because they liked it. But there were quite a number of people that asked about my online shop, any custom work I could do, and that took business cards. So would I say it was a success despite the fact that I would've liked to have sold more than I did? Yes. I got the word out and I got to see which products most people were interested in. I'll be taking some better photographs of what I have left to post on Etsy, but here is a simple one I managed to catch of my table. This wasn't the end arrangement, I was still playing around. But you get the idea. I had small and large soft-cover sketchbooks, soft-cover and hardback books, leather books, canvases, a few pieces of jewelry, and the Bookbags. It took a hell of a lot of time and effort to get this all together so quickly, but now I have a nice inventory to build on. I also had information on custom enclosures as well as packets of information for people to take on how to take care of their own private collections (always trying to share the info!).

It was also a test to see how I enjoyed participating in the festivals and to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel. When I had people that were really interested and asked questions, it was great. I love educating people on it and explaining the entire process, especially when some of them still didn't understand that they were hand-sewn, cased in, etc. They looked rather confused at the table as though asking, What are you selling? Did you buy books somewhere? But when people weren't interested, frankly it was boring. My wonderful hubby stayed the entire him (and carried all the heavy tables and boxes back and forth up the hill to our house) and kept me company, ensuring that we could both take breaks and walk around to look at the other tables. But we couldn't explore it together, which is what I really love doing at the festivals. He gets excited about the food and I get excited about...well, everything else! I think I'd rather participate in educational fairs and festivals, letting people know I can do custom work, and mostly just sell my items online.

Would I participate in another festival? I think so. As long as I had the inventory mostly built up and wouldn't have to kill myself to do it again. :P As soon as I get some of it posted on Etsy, I'll let you know and you can check them out. Pass on the word! And as always, any feedback you have would always be welcome.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"I Ain't Sayin' She A Gold Digger..."

This post has nothing to do with bookbinding but instead, just something on my mind. Sometime last week, this website was posted on Yahoo. It's called the Global Rich List and my-oh-my, is it humbling. The premise is, you enter your annual income in your home currency (mostly just the big ones are listed). And then it tells you how rich you are compared to the rest of the world. And even putting in what we would consider a poverty-level income here in the States, it still puts you in the top 15% at least. For example, I entered $5k as my annual income (thank goodness I make a little more than that) and I am the 863,571,764th richest person in the world, in the top 15th percentile. Crazy! When I enter my husband's actual income, he's in the top .8% of the world. And we would not consider ourselves rich in the slightest. It really makes you think about what you need vs. what you want.

This thought-provoking website has me thinking about my own lifestyle and what "things" I don't need to get by. In some ways, I look at our typical consumerist behavior and internally, I justify it by saying to myself, "When we have kids, it won't be this way. We won't have as much money, we'll be spending all of our time taking care of them, and we won't be able to afford these things. So we should get them now." But I also look at consumerism as an addiction. This isn't a behavior you can just turn off, ESPECIALLY when you have a reached a new (stressful) point in your life. And my love for retail therapy can prove that. Looking at myself honestly, I don't think it will change much when I have kids, unless I recognize it now. By no means are we out of control. We just like to spend money on nice things that we don't always need. But I'm trying to start a conversation with myself concerning these wants so that I can start kicking the habit now!

Just as with weight loss (something else I struggled with), I need an end goal. I need to know that my efforts mean something. And my goal will be peace of mind. Knowing that I have a nice savings should anything happen. Knowing I will have taught my kids a way of life that is smart, independent, and meaningful.

As for my own vocabulary, I'm trying to trade the word "want" with "have." Everytime I feel the need to explain what it is I want, I must also describe something that I have. I'm a notorious impulsive buyer. If I give myself even just an hour to think about it before buying it, or just leaving the store, I know I don't need it. I'm adding my vocabulary technique so that when I'm still in the store, I can justify not purchasing it (and it's usually clothes or books). And frankly, I just don't go "window-shopping" when I don't have money to spend (and who invented that anyway??). Hubby and I put a lot of money into working on the house and at some point, it's going to have to be finished (for now anyways). I think once we complete the landscaping we're doing over the next couple weeks, we will step back, take a look at what we've done, and say, "Look at what we have!" instead of "I still want to update this..." Wish us luck!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creative Sense vs. Business Cents

I've been feeling rather chatty lately so you may get a few new posts over the next couple days. Or day. :-) While I've been sewing and glueing and decorating my butt off, it's been a great week. Work has been sort of peaceful and relaxed, something I haven't been used to lately when you supervise 10+ students. I've reorganized my office space and now it feels calmer, more organized, and MUCH roomier. I finally have the rest of my desk!

And even though I've been stressing about creating enough items (enough GOOD items) for the craft show, I've also been feeling very creative. Being organized helps me think clearly and destress so I've been making lists galore (I have a lot of lists. Everywhere. G-d forbid you see my desk, laptop, notebooks, etc. It's just full of lists and Post-its.). It's helped me feel like I have all the time in the world and the creative thoughts are coming! What's often hard to balance (for me anyway) is the creating vs. putting it out there for a business. Usually I put a lot of thought and effort into creating one item, a very unique object. Once it's complete, I'm ready to move onto something else. With this endeavor, I want each item to be unique, but I have to be able to create things in an assembly-line fashion. It must be stream-lined and simple to maximize productivity. So far I've been...succeeding (said in a rather surprised tone). This little pic to the side is an example of one of my simpler bindings. I'm just using decorative cardstock as the covers (which will be sewn on) and I'm exposing the stitching of the signatures to keep it interesting. And quick. I may use more strips of the cardstock to slip under the sewing (like tapes) and tuck into slits on the cover. I suppose I could've made a pamphlet binding (except I want to show more sewing) or make it thicker (but I was running low on paper). Plus, I'd like to have some things priced very reasonably for customers that would like a handmade book but can't afford a leather-bound journal. Understandable considering some of the craft shows I've been to. This item will be priced under $10, probably $8.

I've also received my order of Kaduna and Katsina leathers from Talas (in a claret and tan colors) and I'm excited to experiment with new book bindings. To start with, I think I will simply sew the signatures through the leather itself, keep it simple. But I also have a burning tool that I plan to use to create simple designs on the leather. Since I've never worked with leather (the simple things we've done in lab don't really count, I think), it's both scary and exhilarating.
Coming soon: my thoughts on marketing. Scary! Really hoping my brother goes to college for business like he's considered, I could use all the advice!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...

I'm now working furiously to get as many items made as possible before June 8th (the deadline for registration). Of course, my every hope is that all my items will sell out (but mostly last the entire 5 hours) so I'm really trying to put my usual amount of effort into each book so that not a single client gets short-changed. I made my list and I'm chugging away at it...I haven't decided on final numbers, but I plan on having some blank/lined journals and or sketchbooks; a few of my Bookbag creations (which take the most time thus far); some decorated copies of popular novels that are no longer under copyright protection (e.g. The Secret Garden, Pride and Prejudice, etc.); and a few leather-bound journals/sketchbooks that I will be burning or tooling my own designs into. I'm quite excited about this last one even though I've never done it. I've had enough of a variety of crafting experiences that I think I can manage it. :) Especially when I just need to read up on it and then practice! I'll be making a trip to a leather supply company that's local this weekend and I don't know how I'll be able to contain myself.

I've started looking ahead at the setup and besides a prominent sign with my business title, logo, etc, I mostly need to worry about props, how it will all be set up to the best advantage, and rain protection! We have to supply our own table and chairs (which I can do) but rain cover...hmmm. I don't exactly own a large party tent. I may have to get clever. Thoughts?

Now for one last serious though that's been on my mind lately. I enjoy writing and part of the reason that I started this blog was because I like to try so many different things. It seems natural to also write about them and share my experiences, especially if someone else is considering doing it. I also hope that if someone out there is considering trying something new but doesn't know how to start, doesn't think they can manage outside of a classroom setting because that's how they are programmed to learn, doesn't have a large income at their disposal, etc (I could go on and on); I would want them to read this and think: I can do this. I can just give it a try and that's the best I can do. Why not? That should be the answer: "Why not?" I've recently felt some pressure that made me feel belittled because I'm just dabbling or won't ever be considered serious unless I'm devoted to one craft for years at a time. I was upset but ultimately, my life is about trying new things (lots of them!). There will be people who won't understand that, who see hobbies and careers in a different manner than I do. I guess that's why I'm a Jane of All Trades! I'd rather try many different things than just stick with one. And I hope other people in doubt feel bolstered by that. :) Happy hump day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Muchas gracias

I would like to say thanks for the helpful comments regarding my decision to participate in my first festival. I just needed a swift kick to get out of my rut and jump back into my routine of just jumping in! I think the older I get, the more I contemplate things entirely too much before jumping in...

I'll post some small updates tomorrow but I have decided to participate, as long as I can get enough merchandise created. Plus the set-up for my own table. Thank goodness it's only two blocks from my house!

Ooh and you may be hearing about some baking experiments soon since I finally acquired some matcha powder and saffron in my month of travels. AND I will be attending my first ALA conference this summer, so any advice is appreciated!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I feel myself at an intersection of a crossroads. I know which way I want to go (ultimately), but I've been on the other path for so long. Do I really want to forge the other direction? No one else I know has gone down that path, it looks quite overgrown. Am I ready to travel it? I'm likely as prepared as I'll ever be, but the other path looks enjoyable in a different way. Instead of spending time clearing the path, I can just enjoy the view.

I have the opportunity to participate in my first artist and crafters' show. Irwin has numerous festivals throughout the summer months. A few are free for me to participate in, but the biggest one is only $25 for registration. I'm not sure if I'm ready but it feels like putting it off for another year would be too long. I know how I operate. I start projects, new ideas, entertain ideas. And then I move on to the next one (usually) before finishing the previous. I've been lax on spending time creating the handmade books, crafts, and art pieces and I can always find a reason why I can't do it. I certainly don't have a backup supply prepared for this show in June. I would have to spend a good bit of time in the next 6 or 7 weeks making lots of books and objects! I'm capable of it, I know that. When I focus on it, I can do them. And maybe I need that motivation to give me a kick in the butt. But what if I don't have enough product? I have no way to gauge what I'd need, not sure how to arrive at my price points. I need time to research what should be prepared. Should I just jump in with both feet and give it a go? I don't want to ruin my business' name if things don't go well, but at least I'm a small business and would have other opportunities?

At the heart of it, I'm also afraid of failure. So far, it's been a little side hobby that I've relegated it to. I chose a name, made business cards, had a few clients and donated my services. But those are all small. If I fail, I can look back and say, well, I was just messing around really. It's not like I tried to do it full-time or even part-time really. No biggie. But if I really try to get enough accomplished, get a table set up, and participate as a vendor, that's it. No more playing around. If I fail, it's for real. But what defines failure? Should I set my sights low? Make back the cost of registration and call it even? Hmm. Luckily, I don't have to register until the week before the festival. Any thoughts out there?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A little color is a good thing

My task list needs to get a bit shorter, considering that Hubby and I will be starting on all the outdoor spring projects. So when I'm not catching up on sleep at home, I've been finishing some things up. One is the church hymnal for my aunt. I'm finally nearly complete with the sewing, I just need to choose colors for the endbands (because really, who doesn't want endbands?). The sewing is a little sloppier than I'd like, but it's functional. Now I just need to remember if I round and back it first, or sew endbands first...

I'm also pleased with how my first attempt at guarding signatures turned out. The pages open quite nicely and lie very flat. Especially since it's a hymnal (although I don't think it will be used often), it's nice to see all the musical notes easily.

Finally, I've begun going through some of the photos from our travels (mostly the Philly trip) and I'd forgotten about some of the cool stuff we came across. This is also why I take photos of everything. :) I may share some pictures I took at Longwood Gardens later (I adore flowers so I have a great deal of photos) because the colors came out stunning. I was very worried during the trip because the display on my digital camera didn't seem to reflect the colors I was seeing. I had no idea if my camera was messing up or if it was the display. Luckily, it seemed to be the display because they look gorgeous on my laptop. I also came across a most unusual design for a fake skull. Now that I look at this creativity again, I wish I had bought it! It doesn't exactly fit with the decor of my house, but hey, maybe I could've used it as a prop for jewelry photos. I also wish we had been able to take photos at the Mutter Museum (I know, not preservation-friendly. I of all people should know better). But some of those books bounds in human skin were pretty neat, in an odd way. Especially the one bound with tattooed skin. It would have gone nicely with the Celtic skull!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The (Warm) Holiday Season

Hubby and I have been doing a lot of traveling lately. It seems that we are beginning our year (and nice weather) everywhere except home! Within a month's time, we will have been in Philly, Cleveland, Baltimore/Annapolis, and New York City. I'm going to want to stay home for quite a bit and get started on our spring projects!

Passover began last night at sundown and while at our family seder, I contemplated some of the holiday's messages. Passover commemorates the biblical event of the Hebrews' escape from enslavement in Egypt. Sacrifices are made (such as not eating leavened bread) to ultimately keep in mind the freedom that we now have. Similar to Easter, I think of the freedom we now have because of past suffering and of the rebirth that spring represents for us. Looking ahead through 2010, I'm excited for the changes we'll be making and things we will be sacrificing in order to do what's best for our family (particularly financially).

The exterior of our home will be getting a (partial) overhaul to represent our own taste and style. Since we can't replace the awful-looking brown siding just yet, I'm going to pick out a complimentary shade of blue for some of the trim and stucco pieces. Anything to brighten it up! We will also begin landscaping some of the yard, particularly the front. I already started adding flowers last fall!

A few bird feeders will go up (we only have one so far and I'm waiting for the cats to start fighting over the 2 windows that overlook it) as well as a fence around the back yard! I'm very VERY excited about the latter, considering the number of children constantly in our yard and their tendency to pick flowers. We also finally hung the porch swing we bought last fall at my aunt's church auction. A local craftsman made it and it's just beautiful. It was delivered when the cold weather started so we are finally getting a chance to use it. Three large adults can fit (maybe even 4 small ones!). I'm still debating if I should make a cushion for it. I might just make a couple cute pillows.

Especially after this snowy winter, I think everyone is very appreciative of spring this year and looking forward to a warm, colorful season. What are you looking forward to? Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm coming out of hibernation! You'd think that with all the snow we had, I'd have written quite a bit about whatever artsy endeavors I undertook. But oddly, I slept...a lot. And played with the cats. Watched the Olympics. Etc. Nothing really involving any bookbinding or crafting. I did manage to sew the second window seat cushion. Yay!

But I have been in a baking mood and I want to share another blogger's creative idea that I decided to try. I find quite a number of creative ideas through Twitter and this one is no exception. Heather Baird of Sprinkle Bakes posted the lovely Mehndi-inspired gingerbread cookies she made for a friend. I loved this idea so much that I made a few for some friends that live far away from me, decorated them with some lotus flowers and mandalas, and sent them off! Mine turned out well, but check out Heather's on her blog. Amazing creativity! I don't always look at food that way --maybe I should turn my crafting eye to that media once in a while.

Another great baking idea that's been around for a while is cake in a jar. I haven't had a chance yet to try these out (I'm going to get some small Mason jars soon) but showcases them in a post from last August. I absolutely LOVE cake so never fear, I will attempt these soon. I'll take pictures (of course!) and maybe you'll get one in the mail :) Suggestions for flavors?

Finally, one last blog post that I can't wait to try myself (look away librarians!) is the ruffly book wreath from Living with Lindsay. I'm going to get a beat-up book from Goodwill, one that I would never willingly read because it's not that good (I won't embarrass any authors out there by letting you know which one I choose). As a pseudo-preservation librarian, how can I willingly destroy a book you ask? Well, let me put it this way. I think everything should have a purpose. I don't really like to buy knicknacks and trinkets because I don't really need them. I also don't like the idea of having to put things in storage that I never use because in actuality I don't need them then, do I? For me, a book that has had a good life but is going to sit on a shelf in Goodwill until it either gets tossed or recycled will have a better life as a ruffly book wreath on my wall. By repurposing it, I've given it a new life.

I have to point out the merits of Twitter. If you know how to use it properly, you can discover a wealth of ideas out there that I don't have time to Google, or frankly wouldn't even think of to Google. If you want some ideas on crafters to follow, I'd gladly share. Or check out my Follow Friday (Twitter name is tempermiranda).

Lastly, in other news I will be creating a few more of the Recycled Bookbag that I loved so much (see my earlier post) before I list them on Etsy (a site that is getting a tad too crowded but it's the best site I've got). I should be sewing the hymnal and posting pics as well. Happy Monday!