Life has been happening lately so I don’t have any words to share. But here’s a fun photo post to show off the fun and inspiring pieces I’ve created in the last several months:
April has arrived and it begins with my least favorite day of the entire year (which is sayin’ something): April Fool’s Day. I’ve always been a gullible person, like it’s-written-on-the-ceiling gullible, so I like to avoid pretty much everybody until we’re on to April 2nd. With one measly post nearly halfway through March, I don’t want April to go by in the same way, so despite my hatred for the day, I’m gettin’ a damn post up!
Sadly, this quiet on the blog mirrors the quiet
in my studio in the corner of my room where I try to craft. Like I mentioned in my lone March post, I spent a weekend or two whipping up simple 4×6 cards for a dozen or so friends, a doubly useful exercise aimed at freeing myself from my usual creative process (by eliminating a lengthy conceptualize-and-sketch phase and just doing) as well as using up a significant chunk of my massive stash of scrap paper bits. I promise there will be at least one more April post where I share photos of the finished cards.
Aside from these occasional bursts, my March was filled with a lot less artistic energy and drive that I’m used to. As I drove home from work tonight brainstorming ideas for a post, I started thinking about the other ways I passed the time during this month. So without further ado, the following are choice selection of the delightful ways I spent March that don’t relate at all to my art:
- Intently watching every single video of my wonderfully entertaining new Canadian boyfriend, astronaut
Mike Dex-Chris Hadfield. He’s the Commander of the International Space Station, floating around doing spacey and scientific things and generally being freakin’ awesome . There are plenty of videos on YouTube (had to share one below) and you should absolutely follow him on Twitter. To be honest, I’ve never had a great passion for space or dreamed of being an astronaut, but it’s so mesmerizing to watch him (and usually a few things nearby) float around in zero gravity. He’s amusing and entertaining, while also demonstrating and educating really neat spacey stuff! Plus, I get a kick out of his accent.
- Reading voraciously on my very first Kindle, which I swore up and down I would never purchase under any circumstances (cause I could never love that method of reading). Of course, give me one to try for four days and I’ll finish two 300-page books and get a third of the way through another one. I’m now the proud owner of a Kindle Paperwhite in a beautiful sunshiney yellow case and it fills me with such joy every time I flip open the cover and swipe across the screen bringing it to life. They can’t, won’t, shouldn’t replace real books, and don’t compete with that wonderful feeling of a bound volume in your hands. But so many books I could never read because of the size and/or spacing of the font are back on my reading list and it’s so delightfully sturdy and portable.
- Quickly becoming obsessed with the SyFy show Lost Girl after it was a recommended by a dear friend and I discovered the first two seasons were available on Netflix. The third season just started this January but only the most recent few episodes are available from my cable’s On Demand. Thankfully iTunes came through to bridge the gap; I have no regrets about buying the first six episodes in HD at $2.99 a pop solely to feed my habit. The characters work beautifully together, the dialogue is so damn witty, every single storyline has been engaging and complex, and there’s plenty of delicious sexy steaminess but it’s not as porny as True Blood (not knockin’ that, s’just not for me).
And as luck would have it, about the only thing that could make me consider this day even remotely enjoyable—being both a Monday and April Fool’s Day—is a brand new episode of LG at 10pm. Time for snacks and beverages and curling up in a big puffy comforter in the name of utterly guiltless pleasures and good ol’ fashioned self-care.
Also … today starts WEEK 8 smoke-free. Yep.
On each and every to-do list since late February, I’ve written BLOG POST in big capital letters.
And it always gets moved to the next day’s list. And then the day’s after that. And so on. Because I haven’t had the kind of large energy reserve I feel like it requires to get something posted here, with pretty photos and choice links and coherent explanations. But sometimes it’s enough just to post a few sentences, checking in and rambling about the latest goings-on. So that’s precisely what I’ll do!
I’ve been researching new cameras—like serious $299-$399 DSLRs—because I’ve come to terms with needing to invest in better equipment. Plus they’re so damn pretty. But I also plan to invest in some serious education, specifically related to improved product photography. I’ve already found about a dozen lists and articles online with helpful tips and recommendations, which has made the camera search much less daunting.
But before I geek out over new toys, I need to build a simple light tent and mess around with my old Canon PowerShot from 6 years ago to practice my skills. A brand new fancy camera isn’t going to magically take phenomenal photos; the operator needs to not be completely clueless (which to be fair I’m not, but I remember very little from sophomore and junior year photography classes). I hope that the next photos I’ll be posting here will be the result of a better set-up and improved technique!
I also finished up a two-weekend organization/spontaneous art project involving my ever-expanding paper scrap pile. I’ve managed to keep these bits of paper contained over the years in a giant plastic bag (which originally held a pound of cardstock remnants!). I put out the offer on Facebook for anyone interested in having a piece of my creative brain in their mailbox and got a few takers. And I knew I’d send something to each person on my annual Christmas card list.
As for the project? It’s absolutely and utterly random, based on whatever pieces look good together, in whatever format feels right. I tried to keep it down to about half an hour a piece (it actually came out to about 45 mins to an hour), and I forced myself to go without tracing and transfer paper. Most of the lettering was freehand, which I’ve never been particularly comfortable with, but in addition to organizing and then using up the stash, I wanted this exercise to loosen me up and chip away at the self-doubt and uncertainty that still plague my creative endeavors. So far, a huge success on both fronts!
I also have two mostly unopened Whimseyboxes to play with so I’m excited to see where my brain goes with those supplies, especially now that my creative muscles feel primed and ready for more. I also have some fantastic nail designs from February and I even have shots of the outfits and/or scarves that inspired them. Initially, I took out some of the smoking cessation stress on a few of my nails, but I should have a great set to work with soon and the rest of the month to play with polish!
And speaking of smoking—or not, as the case may be … ONE MONTH SMOKE-FREE TODAY! Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to celebrate it.
Several weeks ago, I stumbled across a Tumblr post in the DIY tag that seemed like the most fantastic way to jump start an exercise routine. As is so often the case after I initially see a DIY post, I was all “Hey, I should totally do this!” and then … completely forgot about it. Sadly I can’t seem to find that post anymore, but two crafty young ladies came to my rescue with a quick Google search (see their great twists on the idea here and here). After recently losing momentum with the hula hooping for exercise, I suddenly remembered the little cup of popsicle sticks and decided it was a brilliant way to revamp my routine.
My super basic spin on the project: take popsicle sticks and write any kind of exercise you want on as many as you want, stick them all in some kind of container and then pull out a stick or two or five whenever you have the time to get a little workout in your day.
I made it my mission to get to the craft store for a big ol’ box of popsicle sticks. Luckily I found the Jumbo size (by which I mean, my lovely mum bought them for me one afternoon while I slaved away at my Day Job (only partially kidding)) and Friday night I set about making what I’ve taken to calling exercise sticks.
Quite serendipitously, a Whimseybox arrived earlier that day and while I won’t reveal any more of the contents or the intended project, there were two rolls of absolutely DIVINE washi tape included. And as luck would have it I had eight brand new rolls from a recent splurge purchase at ModCloth. I knew this was the project to break them out! Permanent markers in bright bold colors seemed the way to go to write the exercises, even though I knew they would bleed a bit.
Before I even started with the popsicle sticks, I jotted down all the different exercises I wanted to include and how many sticks of each I should make. I decided on four sticks each of:
- 25 Sit Ups
- 25 Squats
- 25 Jumping Jacks
- 25 Leg Curls
- 25 “Butt Lifts” (actually called the Basic Bridge )
- 3 mins of hula hooping (doesn’t have to be sustained!)
- 4 cycles of Sun Salutation
Then the best part began! I had a grand old time mixing and matching pairings of tape, placing a strip of each side-by-side a little less than halfway down. Then I took markers of similar colors and with a bit of a flourish, as is my way, I wrote an exercise along the bottom of one side. I haven’t actually checked all 28 sticks, but I don’t believe there’s a single duplicate tape pairing!
As I was falling asleep later that night (at 3am no less), I thought about adding two more activities to the jar (though probably only two sticks of each): a training session in boxing in WiiSports and 5 mins on the treadmill (can be walk, run, or combo). They seem like the fun occasional change of pace!
After I finished all the sticks, I scoured my room for an ideal vessel to hold them all, preferably something that came vaguely near the washi tape lines and could conceal the exercises written on them. I dumped out the glass vase that held all my specialty black pens and after a few washi and gift tape embellishments, I had the perfect jar for my exercise sticks!
I don’t have any set schedule in terms of when or how many to draw, it’s really all about starting to make use of those moments in my day where I can squeeze in something physically energizing, get my heart rate up for a bit and get the blood flowing. I can never seem to commit to anything resembling a fitness plan or consistent gym time so this seems like an ideal solution. Especially now that I’ve kicked that bad habit!
As I started getting ready for bed two weeks ago today, I somewhat unexpectedly embarked on what is arguable the toughest resolution on that list…
Yep … that whole smoking thing.
Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not one of those social smokers; in fact, I harbor a wee bit of hatred for those types. With the except of a 9 month period the year I graduated college (2006), I’ve been a committed smoker since the Halloween after I turned 17 (I know, I know). One of the few constants during the entire identity-forming (and sometimes -sabotaging) period of my life was a cigarette in my hand. So the prospect of quitting has always instantly triggered a fear response to which there was only one remedy: another cigarette.
Oh how I love that first smoke of the day and the slight dizzy feeling that momentarily overtakes me, and most definitely the one after a meal (or food of any kind, for that matter) that nicely settles the fullness in my stomach. And there’s nothing quite like the after-sex cigarette or the beautiful union of alcohol and nicotine, especially on a chilly Fall night. Sigh.
After learning that Camel discontinued production on the only brand I smoke (RIP Turkish Silvers), it struck me how absurd it was that I was now going to force myself to adapt to what would no doubt be a harsher cigarette (if I wanted to keep my budget intact, or be willing to spend quite a bit more for something only mildly “better” for me) just to keep up what I already knew from way too many lectures from way too many people was a really destructive habit (not that I know anything about those…).
Surprisingly, the contemplation of actually quitting smoking—coming to grips with the fact that with this decision, I would never be smoking another cigarette in my life—didn’t fill me with the trademark fear and anxiety. Instead, it simply felt like the natural next step in this endless journey of self-improvement. Remembering my experience back in 2006, I knew I needed patches for at least the first few weeks; they worked then so I had to think they’d work again. And mints, lots and lots of mints.
There were only a few cigarettes left in the last pack I had on Sunday the 10th so it seemed natural to start fresh and smoke-free on Monday morning. I emailed my boss to fill her in and provide a head’s up for any uncharacteristic grouchiness, which was delightfully met with some quiet encouragement and a bit of energetic cheerleading. I’ve now filled many more people in, it has been 2 weeks after all! And every time, I get such a great response, which only fuels the motivation to keep going.
Some days are easier than others, which is to be expected. I downloaded the app QuitPal from the National Cancer Institute, which has become so much fun to check in with, especially being able to tap that “I was smokefree today!” button each night. I can track how much money I’m saving (it’s kind of ridiculous) and how many cigarettes I would have smoked during that time (also freakin’ ridiculous). Having done this once before for a decent stretch of time, I’m delighted to experience all the improved physical symptoms. But I think my favorite gain is the more sustained motivation I have when I’m crafting. When I got stuck or started to feel a bit fatigued, my go-to response was to go have a smoke. I could argue it was to think an idea through or get some distance and perspective from a project, but come on, excuses are excuses. Now without the crutch of a cigarette, I can push through the milder creative blocks and find more useful ways to take mental and physical breaks from my work.
Lately, I’ve also returned to an old favorite: puzzles. Pulling out a few Dollar Store 500-piece ones from our beach vacation last March (so colorful!) and picking up a few more this weekend, I am averaging about a puzzle every two days. I can spread them out on a big card table in the center of the room and go to town. I have to watch out that I’m not hunched over the table and thoroughly wrecking my back, but I can easily spent a solid hour staring at pieces and letting my mind wander.
I’m keeping an optimistic attitude, taking time to celebrate the little accomplishments along the way and truly taking control over my life in more ways than just kicking a smoking habit. I’ll keep using that app, clicking that blue button every day and gleefully tracking my savings goal of $500 for a g-d vacation. HUZZAH!
As I was drifting off to sleep the other night, my brain was preoccupied formulating a possible 365-day style project to embark on. The idea crossed my mind toward the end of last year, but I was never able to flesh out anything that I felt like I could commit to (especially art-related) or that I felt would eventually result in some sense of accomplishment.
I may be a little late to the game as we’re about to start the second week in February, but I suddenly remembered an Oprah magazine article from a few years ago that talked about cultivating a sustained level of gratitude in your daily life by writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. There’s a profound benefit in realizing and reminding yourself of those things and people and experiences and opportunities, so often overlooked, that make you appreciate and value the life you have.
I wanted to put my own spin on the concept in a way that would help reaffirm the mental and emotional strides I make in a year so my plan is to write down three adjectives every evening, using whatever scrap of paper is handy, that describe that day for me in my head and heart. I can add a word or two in the margin about a major event or activity that happened that day and may have influenced my word choice.
The night I came up with the idea, I’d just seen Les Mis for the second time with a very close friend and her company always allows me to be myself and present in the moment. So my three words were blessed, grounded, and fulfilled and I made note of our movie date in the corner.
If you’re wondering about that picture … that’s the vase I’m putting the slips of paper in for the time being. I added some fun polka dot tape detail and filled the bottom with frosted stones. Photo also features two of my South African soda can friends and my adorable WannaBe Dragon Monster (a Christmas present from the brother!). I figure once this starts to fill up, I can find and decorate another container for them, which of course will mean another blog post!
I’m determined not to beat myself up if I miss a night or two because come on now, I don’t need exactly 365 little scraps of paper. But I think it will be fun to go however many I have right before New Year’s and perhaps gain a sense of my emotional trajectory in 2013. I may even get super nerdly and make a spreadsheet of them all! Plus, I’m guaranteed to repeat some words and it would be interesting to see not only which ones show up more than once but whether there are groupings or clusters of certain words within a month. Huh, I must really miss my college Psych classes!
Just before the first of the year, I stumbled across this quote from one of my favorite blogs on Tumblr:
I’m stronger because I had to be. I’m smarter because of my mistakes. I’m happier because I’ve overcome the sadness I have known and I’m wiser because I’ve learned from my life.
It resonated with me the minute I read it and my brain instantly imagined how to translate it into cut paper. Given the dimensions that I wanted to work with, I knew I would have to shorten it. I hated to sacrifice the happier part, but it made the most sense of the four and I think my truncated version still maintains some of the original flow…
When I was first designing the piece, I wanted to experiment with a way to simplify the process and be able to focus more on practicing my cutting skills and less on the painstaking letter-sketching. So I laid out the text in a photo program, flipped it, and printed it directly onto the blue cardstock. I even printed each adjective in a different font to perfect the spacing, though I’d already decided to use different patterned scrapbook paper for them. And as I’ve been so fond of doing lately, I used 6mm scrapbook dots to mount each letter.
I had a blast with the color and pattern choices — I wanted this piece to be bold and captivating, too bright to be ignored. As you can tell, I was torn between the pale blue (which is slightly textured) and the bright orange for the background, so I decided to go with both! And I especially love the little detail of the blue periods.
The close-up provides a much better representation of the pattern on smarter than the full shot. It’s much easier to read in person, which is always something I try to keep in mind when I’m selecting the papers. Partly because it’s been so darn cold outside lately, I haven’t gotten around to mounting the dark blue paper with the cut letters to the orange sections of background with spray adhesive, but on a warmer day I might take it outside and get that done. For the time being, it’s framed and sits resting atop my massive paper collection alongside my desk. Wise words to read on a daily basis!
So I had this post all ready to go on February 1st, but like most Fridays in my universe, time got away from me and then the weekend started and all bets were off
Now I know we’re only just beginning the second month of the year and I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, but I think the informal resolutions I jotted down in December have held up pretty well over the last 31 days! I’d like to try and have a regular post recapping the previous month, reviewing the posts (and projects) I’ve made in the previous month and casually assessing how the resolutions are holding up. Some aren’t meant to be done regularly on a monthly basis (dental work, …the smoking thing, moving out), but others explicitly are and I even included one that’s weekly.
I’ll admit that I didn’t get around to the handwritten letter in January, but to be honest I kind of forgot about that one (another reason for Resolution Recap posts!). I’ll try to do double-duty in February – I’m sure my pen pal will be pleased! And I still need to schedule that first professional manicure, but I’m excited to share more of my DIY nail art attempts. Saving money quite nicely and my move-out schedule is on track. I bought a hula hoop recently as a means to get some fun exercise, which is the only way I’ll make it happen. And that particular activity does wonders on your abs and core in general.
I managed to get a whopping 5 posts up on the blog, all fairly substantial posts featuring photos of a different unique project. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we…
Began the year with a somewhat typical New Year’s post – the usual light reflection with a little bit of Arrested Development fangirling thrown in.
The title says it all! This post served as the impetus for the post you’re reading – a monthly check-in on the progress of my resolutions throughout the year (Resolution Recap!).
An introduction to my new favorite service: Whimseybox! This post showed off two coasters I decoupaged, one using good ol’ magazine clippings and the other with cut-paper designs.HERE
Another Whimseybox post, this time featuring a 2013 calendar with mixed media and cut-paper details. Probably my favorite project of the month!
First time I’ve ever shown off to the world the DIY manicures I’ve tried for my barely-a-year-old fingernails. For more on that story, check out the Nails page.
Here’s to a February with more Whimseybox creations, some funky nail designs, and a lot of creative energy!
After snapping a handful of iPhone photos of my nails recently, I decided to add a page to my blog featuring (admittedly, probably pretty crappy) snapshots of my favorite manicure designs I create in a given month. At the moment, I’m limited to the camera on my phone to document them, but I’ll try to make an effort at getting better conditions in which to photograph them. Not to worry, this won’t become a nail art blog – I don’t have the patience!
You can read in more detail on the page, but long story short: I’m new to this whole having long fingernails thing. But I’m thrilled to finally have a decent set and an absurdly fast-growing stash of polish and stamping plates. I still have my moments when I “trim” them using my teeth, but so far I haven’t done too much damage. One of my informal resolutions this year is to have a professional manicure, which I’m very much looking forward to – hope to have photos of that to share soon.
Since the week end with the 1st of February and my nails are currently naked, I figured I could wrap up the January bunch:
I suppose I’ve always liked calendars, with their neat orderly grids of days with funny or beautiful or inspiring pictures to look at each month. For a few years, I even had one of those page-a-day calendars, but good lord they’re wasteful and I never kept up with them. Now that my Day Job involves creating an annual calendar, I’ve become pretty damn enamored with them. I absolutely LOVE the Suzy Toronto (wall) one I found at Hallmark and really look forward to reading each month’s words of wisdom. Conveniently enough, the Whimseybox for January included four pieces of cardstock, each one featuring three months of the year, and a glorious blank space above them just waiting to be covered with art!
The other items in the box were a teeny drawstring tote (now holding my earbuds) full of flat foam shapes, a wood block for adhering said foam shapes, and a big black ink pad—to create geometric stamp art. But I knew the minute I saw all that space and the “hard” work of working out the 2013 dates already done for me, my mind exploded with possible ideas. Maybe a little too explosive. ‘Cause on the opposite end of the creativity spectrum from a complete and total block is the tyranny of too many choices. Having so many ideas and not knowing where to start and not being able to commit to a single idea or vision and not knowing how to combine ideas that I like and not wanting to make a mistake that ruins the whole thing. -phew- I usually just put everything away and do something else, like sit on my bum and do word puzzles.
But this time, I was determined not to walk away and instead turned it into an on-going project. Allow myself to start slow and just play around and experiment until I could pinpoint something solid to move toward. I took the pages as my guide and broke it down into four quarters – get J/F/M done by the end of January so as to enjoy it for at least two of those months. Come April 1st, start working on A/M/J with a deadline of April 30th, and so on. As usual, this approach massively reduced all that anxiety and artistic doubt, and … now I’m done with two of the four quarters! The post title totally makes sense now, ja? I’m all set for the first three months of the year, but then I’ll have to figure out A/M/J because the other quarter I did was J/A/S.
Right off the bat, I measured the blank space and came up with a 4″ x 5″ canvas to work with. I decided to create vertical frames of identical dimensions for the tops and bottoms, each featuring an original cut paper design. I started freehand sketching and the first one up was a vine and leaf combo. You’ll see from the tracing paper sketch that I played around with doing a single piece, cutting out both the vine/leaf pieces and vertical stripes, but decided to keep it simple and try two pieces instead. After finishing the vines&leaves in a muted pastel striped pattern, I decided to scrap the seafoam green “ladders” all together.
I decided to keep going with designing more top and bottom frames instead of going further with the vines&leaves. I pulled out one of those circle templates and just started drawing varying sized circles within those frame dimensions. I traced an outline that overlapped with the 2mm border of the frame so it remained anchored. The first pattern of paper I tried mimicked the circles and brought a fun teal and orange color scheme. After getting all the way through the cutting stage, I decided I liked the pattern on the reverse side – bright orange zigzags – better so I flipped it over and traced and cut two more.
I was a little tripped up, once I had these two pairs of frames cut and ready to be assembled. I started second-guessing the vague plan up I’d had to that point and couldn’t decide what to put in the still-blank center. Did I want meaningful quotes – either handwritten or cut from paper? Should I use scrapbook dots to add a 3D element like I’ve been so fond of lately? Do I add more paper or use stickers instead? Maybe even thrown in some embroidery?? I was really stuck and that weight of “don’t make a critical, projetct-ruining mistake” started to descend again so I stepped back and instead went through all the possible supplies I could use. Stickers and discount-bin finds to the rescue!
I decided to use the papers and patterns I’d already chosen (muted pastel striped and bold orange zigzags) and build color schemes from them to use for the two months I was ready to create. Using scrapbook paper, 3D and flat word stickers, some random symbol stickers, and glossy dome stickers, I just went with my gut – mixing and matching things in whatever way spoke to me in that moment. There was a bit of back-tracking, carefully pulling up stickers I’d just placed. But on the whole, I’m quite proud with how these two babies turned out!
For now, I’ll let my brain percolate for a while so I have some more ideas for the cut paper designs and color schemes for A/M/J and O/N/D. I’d love to try some cut paper plaid or alternating squares, or maybe something with diamonds? I’ll be sure to have my notebook handy for jotting down ideas and I should be back soon with more 2013 calendar updates!
Happy crafting, friends!