Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: "Imagine: How Creativity Works"

Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer
originally published: 13 March 2012
finished: 30 November 2011 (galley copy)

I have a friend whose husband is a book rep - she passes me the books that she thinks I'll find most interesting, so I lucked into a galley copy of this book. I consider myself a creative type and have often wondered why sometimes the ideas flow easily and other times it feels like trying to squeeze a hammer through a tube of toothpaste. Lehrer gives a good, scientific basis for why the brain works the way it does. Interesting, but I can't really do anything about how my brain works, can I? 

The genius of this book is the way he explains how other people are creative. How Bob Dylan dropped out and experienced some of the most creative times of his life. Why cities are such hotbeds for new ideas. How the Pixar team created a space where people have chances everyday to "run into" their co-workers and discuss the work. Why Elizabethan England gave us so many great playwrights. Is 3M one of the most creative companies because they give their employees the time and space to "make connections"? By looking at how others are creative, Lehrer provides a kind of road map on how you could make more creative space in your own life. 

Imagine gave me hope that I don't have to wait for a muse to hit me over the head. I can take steps that will open the tap of creativity in my head and keep it flowing. That it's not just a matter of talent but a mixture of planning, work, and perseverance that will allow me to create the life I want to live - both professionally and personally. 

This is another of those books that you can't speed read through. I read it a chapter at a time and let it sink in. I almost handed the book to my boss, he needs to read the chapter on the "Q" factor (the idea that you have to bring in new people every now and again to juice up everyone on the team). I can think of several other people who will get something out of Imagine - they'll be getting copies as well. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prompt of the Day

Okay, it's almost the end of November and I'm just now looking at the BlogHer site. Apparently there's a prompt for every day! Who knew?

Today's prompt is what is the last thing you do before bed?

What a lovely room!*
Since I have insomnia, I try to go to bed at around the same time every night (between 9 and 10 - hey I get up at 4:30, so that's reasonable). The thing is, I always have to read before I fall asleep - no matter how late it is. So no matter what, the last thing I do is read a couple of pages in my current book.

If I'm in bed and have finished my reading, but then remember that I have to take my pills or brush my teeth...I go do the whatever and come back to bed. Then I have to pick up the book again to get a couple more pages in. I don't feel right if I don't read right before falling asleep.

On rare occasions, my daughter has come into my room, removed my glasses, and turned off the light for me. Yes, she's a good girl.

(*image cribbed from here: )

Monday, November 28, 2011

Next Month

I am crazy. I signed up for the December blog every day thingie on BlogHer. I've signed up as a crafty blogger, so I'm thinking about things I can do on a daily basis and post them on my blog.

  1. I haven't gone back to my Artist Trading Cards since that Sunday that I worked with Lisa. I think I may have enough cards to be able to do one/day or at least a couple of weeks worth.
  2. I have a couple of spinning projects that I'm tackling right now. Those might be good interspersed with the ATC days.
  3. I have a billion knitting projects that are stalled in one phase or another. Some of them need to be ripped (at least 2 lace shawls that I've made mistakes in and it would be better just to start over), some of them just need a couple of things to call them finished (a sweater that only needs one cuff to be done, buttons put on another sweater, second sock, trim on a hat for Little Big Man), some need major work (Christmas stocking, socks for my mother).

I think I just made myself of list of things that need to be done, are crafty, and can be blog posts. Yay me!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


How is it that I've just discovered Pinterest? How long has it actually been around? All I know is, I can waste spend a lot of time looking at cool stuff and being excited about DIY, but NOT ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING!

That is wrong and I've had to tear myself away from the computer for the last 2 days to actually knit or spin. Craziness.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Long? Weekend

Really, I had 5 days in a row off? Tomorrow, the Hub and Little Big Man will leave again.

The Hub is heading for Florida. He has a flying student who wants to start on Monday. Actually, his head was still in Florida this whole trip. Understandably it was a short one, but I expected him to be fully here and he just wasn't. When I pointed it out, he was at least aware he was doing it. His explanation was that he has to go back and be "on". I get it, it was just a little hard to take.

Little Big Man is going back to school. He appears to be doing well there and we'll know for sure when grades come out in a couple of weeks. Every time I asked him to do something this weekend, he was there and ready. It was a joy to have him here - he was friendly and engaging and only spent 1 night with friends. I will miss him.

It will be nice to have a houseful of just women again, though. Fewer coffee cups, fewer people sharing the bathroom, more places to go when the insomnia hits. But it will be quiet.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Design Website

I found a great design website while cruising the web this morning (and eating pumpkin pie). It's written by Kara Paslay who's had careers as a basketball player, designer for Anthropologie, and has now set out to create with her husband - they're working on having their own TV show. It's called Kara Paslay Designs and is chock full of great ideas that you can do yourself.

Bubble mobile
She does a lot of rooms, shows you the room, and then does posts that show individual pieces of the room - with tutorials. Take a look at this. It's a glass bubble mobile that's simple to make and looks fabulous! Here's the tutorial on how to make it. There are tons of pictures and step-by-step instructions. I have no idea where I'd put it in my house, but it's gorgeous and I want one!

Sunburst mirror frame
She uses a lot of circles and sun/star burst patterns that I really love. Here's the sunburst mirror/picture frame that she made. Again, not a very complicated project (you can either insert a photo or a small mirror in the opening), but one that could really finish off a space. I don't think it would take a lot of time to make one, but how cool would it look?

As I'm reading further and further back into her archives, I kept saying to the Hub "Look at this one! Wow, take a look at THIS one!" Finally he looked up at me (he was reading) and said, "Why don't you save a bunch of these and show them to me all at once?"

"Book" shelf
Here's my absolute favorite idea. How many giant, coffee table books do I have sitting on the book shelf that no one ever even cracks open? (Hint: a LOT) This is a great idea to use a couple of them. Isn't that a cool way to display something small? She used a textbook from her undergraduate years, but I can imagine putting a book in there that somehow ties into the decorating scheme of a room.

I can't tell you how inspired I am by this woman's site. I spent a good chunk of time this morning going further and further back and I'm so excited to give some of her fabulous ideas a try. I love stumbling across tons of blogs to find a gem and I think I'll be back to this one over and over.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is not my turkey, you understand. We never put the whole bird on the table. We carve in the kitchen and carry platters to the table.

Everyone is on their way to my house, the turkey is in the oven, cranberry relish is in the fridge, pies are on the sideboard, and the stuffing is in the crock pot (I know, it's a new technique this year - I'll let you know how it turns out).

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US. Enjoy your families and your meal (and your post meal nap)!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can you believe it?

A couple of years ago I bought a Western Digital 100 GB portable drive to back up my music. After the investment I've made in music I'd hate to see it disappear in a puff of smoke. The drive cost somewhere around $125. Now, I have too much media to put on it. So I had to go get another one.

This drive is 1 terabyte - that's 1,000 GB! I think it might take a while to fill with media (music, TV shows, movies, etc.). Here's the thing, it cost $150 - including shipping. How crazy is that? Plus - it's smaller than my original drive. 

Is technology great or what?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


My whole family will be in the same house tomorrow. I'll be picking Little Big Man up from university at noon. His one class on Wednesday has been cancelled. I would have picked him up tonight, but he had to work. He hasn't been home since we took him up there and moved him in. On one hand, I'm proud of him for finally finding his place (after 2 years). On the other hand, I've missed him this fall. We've seen him a couple of times, but it's not the same as having him actually in the house.

Hub left Florida today to meet his brother in North Carolina. They are driving up and will also arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon. We'll all be in the same place!

Then the rest of the family will descend on Thursday. We'll eat too much, drink too much, and laugh a lot.  It's going to be a good day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cool Project

I just came back from a meeting with 2 really cool women who have a great idea for a project. I can't tell you much, but it involves fiber and the great outdoors. I'm incredibly excited to be working with these women and I'm hopeful that we can pick up some interest from the other great women I know.

I will be documenting my process - just in case anyone is interested after the fact. I always find it fascinating to see other artists' process. How they come up with ideas, how they work to make them happen, as well as the finished product.

I'm so excited!

Edited to add:
I was awake at 3:00 this morning thinking about embellishments to add to my project. I had to get out of bed to make a drawing and jot down everything I was thinking!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Movie Review: "Breaking Dawn, Part 1"

My daughter convinced me to read the Twilight books a couple of years ago. She loves them so much; it seemed like the thing to do. I raced through them in a weekend and felt a little sick afterwards, but my Sassy was happy. If you've been living under a rock for the last several months, the latest movie based on the books came out this weekend.

Sassy has seen every movie with a group of friends, but they couldn't get their acts together this time, so it wasn't going to happen. She was very sad, so I offered to take her and our exchange student to see a matinee today. They both jumped at the chance (and sang all the way to the theater to my utter annoyance).

As I expected, it was AWFUL. Seriously, the acting was wooden, the dialogue insipid, and the pacing agonizingly slow. I was gratified to find that every time I rolled my eyes, I could hear Sassy giggling. At least we were on the same page about that. The scenery, however, was amazing - what can you do to screw up the Pacific Northwest? Also, the shirtless boys - pretty gorgeous.

One last thing, the dress. SPOILER ALERT - the vamp and the human get married in this movie. You'd think they could have gotten at least a gorgeous dress for this occasion. They did not. Panels, seams, buttons, lace...all the pieces were there, but the final product looked like what my 5-year-old used to do with tissues and tape - puckered and painful. Not what I expected at all.

Two hearty thumbs down for this movie. Wait for Netflix if you really feel the need.

(I've edited to add the picture of the dress. While it may not be apparent in the still picture, the panel in the front is unfortunately places. Just odd.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coco Delilah

Have you seen a Lexie Barnes bag up close? They're magnificent. She makes the most gorgeous, most functional bags ever. Well, she did. She recently stopped making bags. I had always anticipated buying a Coco (the bag she made for holding circular knitting needles). A few weeks ago a friend told me that she's no longer making them and I panicked. I went online and managed to find one that someone was getting rid of. I shipped her the $$ that day and waited.

It's been 3 weeks and I was getting a little nervous. I figured I wait to see what came in the mail today and hoped my bag was there. 

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, my girls and I started the fall house keeping today. In the entry way, there's a bench that becomes the collection point of everything that we carry into the house. Shoes, boots, gloves, backpacks, coats, etc. - it all gets dropped here. That was where we started our attack. I picked up the top layer and came upon what looked like a Coco bag. I picked it up and said, "What's this?"

My daughter said, "I don't know."

Henriette said, "I've never seen it before."

I whirled on both of them and said, "Neither of you put this here?" They shook their heads.

I walked out the door, across the yard, and over to my mother-in-law's house. She has a labrador retriever who's known to chew things up (most recently the top of a styrofoam cooler belonging to my dad). I slapped the bag on her counter and said, "This was something I ordered 3 weeks ago that I just found in my house."

"Well, it clearly looks like a dog chewed it up, but I don't think I've ever seen it before," she said.

I told her the girls hadn't ever seen it before, but it was on the bench IN MY HOUSE.

She had the temerity to say, "When might this have been? I may have put it there, but I really don't remember."

I came back home and cried. Then I called my husband (in Florida) and yelled at him for a few minutes.

It's not the end of the world. But here's the thing, I don't have a whole lot of money to be throwing around and I was so lucky to find this case and so happy to have a treat for myself.

People wonder why I don't like dogs. This is it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holiday Shopping

We have an exchange student staying with us this year. She's a lovely girl and has settled into our family nicely. Here's my dilemma, what do I get the kid for Christmas? I want to give her something similar to what I would give my own kids, but honestly I haven't known her for that long.

Sassy's getting an iPod - will it cause hurt feelings if I get the same thing for our student? Little Big Man doesn't want an iPod (he usually wants $$$). I think gift cards are fine for filling in or as stocking stuffers, but they're a little impersonal. When I ask her what she'd like, she says, "Oh, it's enough that you choosed me to stay with you. I don't need any gifts." Not helpful.

Has anyone else had a student they've had to buy for? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review - "The Hypnotist"

The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler (audio)
originally published: 2009
translated from Swedish: June 2011
finished: 16 November 2011

I loved the Stieg Larsson books. Enjoyed reading them, enjoyed the movies - all of it. When a friend of mine suggested that I read this one (listen really) I jumped at the chance. I was hoping to get another great Swedish mystery that would keep me hanging to the very last page. What I'm left with is the same sort of feeling I get when I eat too many cookies. Slightly sick to my stomach and disbelief that I finished all of them.

I hated most of the characters in this book. The main one, Joona Linna, who is the police officer at the center of it, was at least palatable. No so for everyone else. Each member of the family featured is self-centered and whiney beyond redemption. The wife is ridiculously shrill, the husband is a pill-popping narcissist, and the teenage son is overly dramatic and spoiled. By the end I was hoping the bad guys would get them all.

Why did I finish? The bones of the story were good, although I did figure out "who done it" long before the big reveal. I was also trapped in the "maybe it will get better" vortex. I kept thinking, "everyone likes it so much, it must get good". Wrong.

Don't waste your time. I listened to it on my commute into work, so I don't feel too bad. If I had actually bought the book and spent time reading it, I would have felt very cheated. I don't even like Joona enough to want to listen to the next one. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Erica/Jillian Yarn

My friend Erica makes the best yarn. She has a great color sense and blends colors on the fly. She puts things together that I never would, and they look fabulous. My friend Jillian set out to do what Erica does. She watched Erica spin and watched how she put colors together and figured out a way to explain it to me so I could do it too.

I have a stash of fiber that's so special to me that I can't bring myself to spin it. It's called the Box of Love (tm). I knew that to try this technique, I had to spin something I really, really loved - so into the BoL I went. My friend Lynne Vogel doesn't dye too much anymore, so her braids are almost sacred. They make gorgeous yarn, but they're so precious that I've had a hard time parting with them. I had 3 oz each of Blue Jean Baby and an unnamed green colorway in 75% BFL and 25% tussah silk - dreamy. I knew these were the ones.

Lynne Vogel Ltd - Blue Jean Baby

Lynne Vogel Ltd - unnamed greens

You pick 2 colorways that have at least one color in common. It's kind of hard to see (because my camera is dying) but there's an ice blue that is common to both of these. Then the trick is to strip the top down and hold a piece of each colorway while spinning. I spun a pretty thin single, knowing that I would ply it. The picture of the single below is blurry, but you get a good idea of the way the colors blend together almost giving a barber pole effect in a single.

Blurry single still on the bobbin

When you ply the 2 singles together the colors blend and swirl like an Impressionist painting (gorgeous even though I say it myself).
2-ply in the skein after washing

end weight: 5.9 oz
wpi: 12
fiber: 75% blue faced leicester/25% tussah silk

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fiber Festivals 2012

Here's the list of festivals I want to do next year:

January 28
Winter Wine & Wool, Jackson, Michigan

May 19
Michigan Fiber Fiesta, Greenville, Michigan

July 28-29
Castle Farms Fiber Festival, Charlevoix, Michigan

August 17-19
Michigan Fiber Festival, Allegan, Michigan

September 29-30
Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool, West Branch, Michigan

October 27-28
Fiber Expo, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I've applied and been accepted to Winter Wine & Wool and Northern Michigan. I will be applying before the end of the year to every place else. Castle Farms is already wait listing vendors so I'll be hoping someone has to back out of their commitment for that one.

It's an ambitious list. I'm hopeful that if I commit early, I'll gain momentum. Next up, signage.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: "The House at Sea's End"

The House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway #3), Elly Griffiths
originally published: 10 January 2012 (I read a review copy)
finished: 11 November 2011

The third in Ruth Galloway book is a wonderful addition to the series. There are several things I love about these books: the setting (bleak English coast), Ruth's job (forensic anthropology), and the characters. They are regular human beings - no one is a super hero - they could be the people you see on the bus every morning, just going about their lives.

In this installment, Ruth is back from maternity leave and is juggling her feelings about new motherhood with going back to teaching and catching a new case. Griffiths neatly ties what's going on to a previous point in Ruth's past - giving us a little insight into Ruth's present. I found the story line that ties back to World War II very interesting. Clearly the war is still on the minds of many Brits - much more than for Americans. There are some twists and turns, and I can never figure out who the criminal is, but it was a good ride.

Griffiths is getting better and better at telling her stories. While I object to the way she constantly lets us know that Ruth is fat and feels badly about it, it's clear that she does care about her main character. The other characters are developing as well. I hope Cathbad continues to show up, he's great comic relief in his flowing cape. Well worth the time spent reading and I'm looking forward to Ruth's next adventure.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Art in the Park

I've done this show since its beginning. My friend Kate Kehoe organizes it and the table fee is basically a fund raiser for the senior center where the show is held. She does one in the fall and one in the spring. Every show I wait and wait to see if I want to spend the table fee to get myself in. Every time I miss the deadline and Kate drops me an e-mail, "Are you interested? You've got a table if you want one!" So I send in my table fee. My proceeds from the spring show barely covered the table fee and gas to get over there (it's about 40 minutes from my house). 

With a sense of impending doom this morning, I got the girls up, we packed the car, and drove over there. We were an hour early - for some reason I thought it started at 10! We drank some bad hot chocolate and ate some bad donuts and muffins to kill a little time before we could set up. I was annoyed and irritated at every little thing and I think it was because we had done all this work and I wasn't expecting anything from the show. I always say, "even if it's a bad show, I get to spin for a whole day, uninterrupted and that's good enough". But if I'm honest with myself, it's not enough. The time spent to dye and package all my wares, hauling it all over and setting up a booth in addition to smiling and being pleasant for an entire day is kind of a lot of work. Pleasant isn't really my nature and I'm quite solitary so making small talk (with other vendors as well as customers) is hard for me. 

Turns out, it was worth it. I took Erica's advice and made sure to greet everyone and actually talk to them. I looked for something to compliment (great sweaters, cool boots, interesting necklace), asked if they were knitters and/or spinners, told them they couldn't just look - they had to touch, etc. It was fun - if I can make a sort of game out of it I enjoy it a lot more. Now, while my fellow vendors were my best customers, I did manage to sell a couple of skeins of handspun and that ALWAYS makes me happy. I managed to make back the booth fee, buy a tank of gas, and have $$ left over!

I do like doing this show. It's in a very supportive neighborhood, my sister always brings me a latte, and the other vendors are amazing. However, this is one of the shows that I have to think about really hard for 2012. Is it really worth my time and effort if I'm aiming to do larger shows? I love supporting Kate and the seniors, but how valuable is it for me?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fiber Shows

I've been doing a couple of small shows for the last couple of years. I didn't start dyeing because I'd make a lot of money. I started dyeing because I love the colors, so small shows have suited me fine. As long as I made my costs back, I was happy.

 This last August I did what was recommended as a good show. It wasn't. Something good did come out of it, however. It was a multi-day show and I asked a friend to come and booth sit with me. She's a graphic artist and works in marketing. As the show was slow, we had a lot of time to chat. She gave me tons to think about regarding future shows, marketing, what my booth looks like, and how I react to customers.

 Here's the tip of the iceberg of what I need ASAP:

  1. Signage (seriously - I have no signs) 
  2. Table coverings that match (and don't look like I got them from a flea market) 
  3. A booth layout (a designed plan for a 10x10 space) 
  4. A show plan that includes how many and which shows I want to do 
  5. An inventory plan (including fiber bases and colorways) 

 Future needs include:

  1. A long term business plan 
  2. New camera to take better pictures 

Some of these things will be easy (and even fun) to do. Others will require some soul searching and hard work. I think I'm ready for it. Nothing makes me happier than splashing dye, except maybe when people come to my booth especially to show me what they've made from the fiber they bought last time. That's great fun!

(Is anyone else having trouble with Blogger these days? It's being very wonky and not letting me format on a consistent basis.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Power Outage

There was a big storm blowing through tonight. Wind, some rain, 20 degree temperature drop in 3 hours - the works. I was worried all the way home from our field hockey banquet that our power would be out. I was right. 

We all stomped around being pissy and lighting candles. I called the Hub (who is currently in Florida) for instructions on how to start the generator and called in to report the outage. And then, the power came back on. Just like that. 

The next time I complain about it always being hard, someone needs to slap me upside the head and remind me of this moment. It was easy and I'm now toasty warm and the lights are on.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Shoulder Pain

I love to swim and had to stop several years ago because of right shoulder pain that turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. I had to have surgery (which was the most painful thing ever) and it scared me off swimming.

This spring a co-worker and I signed up for the gym on campus and convinced each other it was time to move. I decided since my right shoulder hasn't given me any problems since surgery, it could handle some swimming - so I took the plunge and LOVED it. We went 2-3 times per week and were having a great time. A couple of weeks ago my left shoulder stated hurting. I eased off the swimming, but the pain didn't go away - time for a doctor's visit. (I suspected it was another torn rotator cuff and was trying to fool myself into thinking it would heal on its own.)

The doctor told me to stop swimming completely and she gave me a requisition for an Xray and a prescription for PT. The office called today and told me it was "degenerative joint disease". A quick Google search tells me that's doctor-speak for osteoarthritis. This is a condition where the cartilage that prevents bones from rubbing together wears out. It seems I've won the lottery - most people don't get osteoarthritis until after age 50 (and I'm not there yet).

The shoulder is really an amazing joint in that the humeral head doesn't actually have something to fit into like your femoral head does. The whole thing is held together with muscles, tendons, and ligaments - that's how you have such phenomenal range of motion. From where my pain is located, I'm assuming I have acromial-clavicular osteoarthritis - so my collar bone and the tip of my shoulder blade are rubbing against each other and causing the pain.

What's the treatment? Physical therapy (scheduled already) and probably some sort of occupational therapy to learn how to move better without the pain. I won't even get any good pain killers! The best treatment is NSAIDs or plain old Ibuprofen. I guess it was just a matter of time; my mother has arthritis all over. It just kind of sucks in that I've found some exercise that I love and I'm prevented from doing it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

ATC #02

Lisa and I played for several hours with our inaugural ATCs. (Of course, I also had to check out her studio and while she mostly loves making art at her dining room table, she also has a way cool nook in her well-lit basement.)

This was my second attempt. I choose another ATC that I had put gesso on thickly and swirled with the paint brush.

Layer 2: I used 4 different watercolor crayons to lay on color, mixing some (orange and red in the lower right) and leaving others alone (yellow in the upper left). There's a green border around the outside of the card.

The beautiful thing about watercolor crayons is - when you add water, they bleed and blend and swirl together in the most amazing way. If you use just a little water, you get great control. More water and they tend to run together in really beautiful ways.

Layer 3: I had some green gems with silver borders. So I put those on the card and began to draw around them with the acrylic paint. The edges were too harsh - the marker tips didn't lend themselves to blending at all. So I colored over those with a lighter green watercolor pencil. I didn't wet that part because it softened up the acrylic paint and I was afraid water would wash off the fuzziness.

This one is definitely not finished yet. I'm not sure where it's going to go, but it's looking for something to go into one of the corners without the gems. I'll show it again when it's finished.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

ATC #01

I went to my friend's house and she was so interested in the artists' trading cards, that's all we worked on. Here is my first:

Please excuse the slight fuzziness of the photo. Our digital camera is on its last legs and the screen was all wonky when I went to take the picture. I think I need to add something for scale as well, but there it is.

I'm not exactly sure it's finished, but it's finished for now.

1. Layer 1: cover ATC with gesso and create some sort of texture (I think I just put on a lot of the gesso and swirled it with the paint brush)

2. Layer 2: cover the gesso with acrylic paint in marker form. (I used several different colors in random shapes and sizes. I wanted something that would just be background - then I covered that background with a green acrylic.)

3. Layer 3: tear small rectangular pieces from green cardstock, create a tree trunk with brown, create a sun with orange. I used cardstock that had a white core because I wanted the white to show through and I tore the paper so that it did. I poured out a big splotch of white glue and kind of dredged the paper through the glue before adding it to the ATC.

When it was all dry, I took some sand paper to the whole thing. It distressed the tree trunk beautifully and scraped off some of the acrylic as well. I do like the way it turned out, but there may still be something I need to add after I live with it a while.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Daily Creativity

I've been thinking a lot about doing something daily to just be creative - to play, really. I have tons of supplies from my scrapbooking days and have been looking at Artist Trading Cards. This is a form of art that's about the size of a baseball card, but is personally created. The scale is tiny (2.5 x 3.5), so doing one every day is completely within my scope. The problem for me is ... getting started. I have the cards, I have tons of materials, I just can't sit down and DO it.

On Friday, I took my girls out for dinner and just as we were sitting down, a co-worker hailed me from another table. I saw him and immediately started looking for his wife, who's a collage artist. We've been trying to get together for months now for her to give me a tutorial on collage. She said, "Geez, we need to schedule some time. Next weekend is bad and the weekend after that is bad too!"

I said, "Then it's Thanksgiving!"

She looked at her husband and then at me and said, "What about Sunday?"

He nodded his head and I said, "I'll be in town for brunch at another friend's house - Sunday afternoon will work!"

So, I'm busy gathering my supplies and creating an artist box to take with me so she can show me her techniques. I have something like 40 blank cards in my hands right now and I ordered a couple dozen more. You can get them at local craft places, but I've also ordered some from Dick Blick. I think it's reasonable to do one every day and see where it all goes.

I've put some Gesso on 10 cards and I'm hoping they'll be dry before I leave tomorrow. I'll take those as well as some that haven't been treated with anything. In my artist box is paper, some Mod Podge, and some other odds and ends that may be useful. I can't wait to get started!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Campus Visit

Tomorrow I take my youngest for her first campus visit. It's a small, liberal arts college here in the midwest. She doesn't want anything too big and eventually (thinks she) wants to do physical therapy. It seems like a good place to get a well-rounded education that will set her up right for graduate school. The other couple bonuses are, it has a field hockey team and it's only about 1.5 hours away. I just want to get a feel for the campus - see how the kids interact with each other, how much a part of the surrounding community it is, how big it is, are the buildings old and covered with ivy or brand new and all glass, etc.

When it came time for my son to look - he wasn't interested. He wanted Big 10 and as soon as he got accepted to MSU, he was done applying (he was fortunate enough to be invited to apply early, so got the acceptance early). I wasn't convinced such a big place was good for him. Turns out, I was half right. He stumbled and fell during his first 3 semesters, but realized what he had done and took some summer classes to make up for it. He seems to have turned it around and is making huge efforts to get back on track.

My daughter never had it as easy as my son. She struggled early to get the hang of reading and it took her so long that she struggled with everything else as well. The bonus here is that she got some terrific help and created some lifelong study habits that she'll take with her when she goes to college. I don't worry that she can do it (I know she can). I worry that I can't do without her.

I find these last couple of high school years bittersweet. She's a fabulous kid and has been since we brought her home from the hospital. She's ready to go now and while she hasn't hit the "terrible teens", I'm sure we'll have some trying times ahead. She's my Sassy girl and even when we're on each other's last nerve, at the end of the day, she's the only one I want.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


I've always had headaches. Seriously, ever since I can remember I've had them. In high school, the doctors thought it was because I needed glasses. So I got glasses. Still got headaches. The older I got, the more severe they got until I had the classic migraine - flashing lights, nausea, photophobia - the whole nine yards. These necessitated trips to the emergency department and 3 different (massive) shots. They'd give me anti-nausea meds, anti-dilation meds, and pain meds. On those trips, all I wanted was to be back in my own bed with a waste paper basket next to me.

Between my 2 kids, they changed to visual disturbances. The first one made me think I was having a stroke. These start as a pinpoint in the center of my eye (usually only 1). The pinpoint gets bigger and bigger until it moves out of my vision altogether. The thing sort of looks like a backwards, vibrating C, shot through with metallic colors (green, blue, red, and silver). There's usually no pain, but it feels like someone closed all the windows in my head and started smoking cigars in there. Disorienting, but I can function.

About 3 years ago, the classic migraines came back. I went to the doctor and asked for some of those new triptan drugs. And they work - with a couple of caveats:
  •  You have to KNOW you're having a migraine and get the meds on board within a few minutes or the vessels dilate and there's no stopping them. Then you just take giant pain meds and hope for the best (which for me is a pretty intense headache that lasts for about 3 days).
  • If you're NOT having a migraine, you get a giant rebound headache from the meds. So you end up taking milder pain meds and it goes away after a couple of hours (or a day at the most).

Here's what I know about my migraines:
  • They're cyclical, so they're tied to my hormone levels. Since I no longer have the equipment that tells me my hormones levels are fluctuating, I forget about them. Which sometimes leaves me without my meds nearby.
  • Sometimes, food tastes funny. Not bad, just "off" somehow. A couple of months ago, nothing tasted right about 2 days before the headache started. I knew it was coming, so I was ready for it, but it doesn't always happen this way.
  • About 1 in every 6 headaches is going to throw me right on my ass. I am literally in bed with an eye mask and a clear path to the bathroom because all I'll be doing for 3 days is sleeping and vomiting.
  • Wine can sometimes trigger them if I drink without also drinking a glass of water for each glass of wine. 
  • They mostly occur on the left side of my head, but will occasionally swing to the right.
Is it time for me to have another talk with my doctor about these? I don't know. I can usually cope. During the epic ones, I swear I'm going to talk to her. Then it passes and I'm fine again for a while. The thing is, there isn't really a hard and fast pattern - no way of knowing the classic ones from the visual ones until they hit. 

I also have to say, those of you who don't get them don't understand. I work with people who say they've never had a headache (lucky). Then there are those people who think you're shirking when you've moving slow because there's a vise crushing your head. They can't see it, so it doesn't exist.

I'm on day 3 of the cycle today. Didn't have the meds on Monday, so I suffered. When I get home, I'm going to lie down in a dark room, keep flipping my pillow over to the cool side, and be happy that I escaped with a mild one this time.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Stop me if you've heard this one.... My sister used to go to a needlepoint store that was half needlepoint and half knitting. It was right around the corner from where she worked. One Christmas, she drew my name in the family exchange and gave me a small needlepoint canvas with all the thread needed to complete it. It was fun, helped pass the time so when I finished, I asked her to take me into the store for another one. While I was looking around for a canvas, I was enchanted by the yarn - but I didn't know how to knit.

Over a couple months' time, I kept going in to look at the yarn. They had a child's Peter Rabbit sweater. It was mostly white with a giant, intarsia Peter Rabbit in the middle of the front. I loved that sweater. They wouldn't let me buy it, "Sorry, that's a shop sweater and we can't sell it. It comes in kit form though."

I said, "I don't knit."

They said, "Honey! We'll teach you." And then signed me up for Saturday morning classes.

I figured that I'd knit one sweater, hate it, and be done. What happened was I got sucked into the world of fiber and let me tell you, I fell hard. Within a couple of months, I was searching for a spinning teacher because I wanted to make my own. Then I started taking any class or workshop I could get myself to (knitting, spinning, weaving). Dyeing came next and voila, 20+ years later, I'm still doing it. I just finished a sweater over the weekend, I have an Etsy shop that sells the fiber and yarns I dye, I'm making plans to travel to a wool show in Maryland next year, and my best friends all share the same passion I do for all things wool.

What's Wovember? It's a way of life. How often do you wear wool and not even think about where it came from? Time to praise sheep and all things wooly. Don't tell me wool makes you itch - you're just not wearing the right kind. It's getting cold and trust me, it's going to be a long, long winter. Go dig out those sweaters, mittens, and blankets. Better yet, dig out that old knitting project that you gave up years ago because "it was just too hard" and have a go again. Find a yarn shop or ask a friend to help you (I LOVE to teach people). There's nothing better than pulling on a hand-knit pair of socks or wrapping up in a luxurious scarf. Keep yourself warm this long winter and praise the sheep!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Best Weekend Ever!

I have a posse. They are women I've know for a while (from 2 to 16 years) and we all share a passion for knitting and/or spinning. Last year, we were bummed out because we couldn't afford to go to the Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) even though it was practically in our back yard. We decided we could have our own retreat, and we did. We call it BLAR (Black Lake Autumn Retreat) even though BLAR II was in April this year.

BLAR was last weekend. We left on Thursday morning and all met up at ... Black Lake. Here's the count, by the numbers:

9 women (and one baby)
4 days
2 lbs of M&Ms
7 six packs of beer (2 different versions of Guinness!)
7 lbs of bacon (we ate bacon at every meal on Friday and Saturday)
20 movies (including Bridesmaids, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Kinky Boots, and The Secret of Road Inish)
several pounds of fiber spun
1 sweater seamed up
countless minutes of breathless laughter

I LOVE these women. We never fail to have a good time together and every time I approach BLAR weekend, I worry that I won't have as much fun as last time. Every time I come home, I think, "THAT was the best one ever." Re-entry has been hard. It's only Tuesday and I'm already thinking about sleeping in on Saturday. But, I'm looking forward to April 2012 for the next Best! Weekend! Ever!