31 October 2006

Happy Halloween

Three pumpkins were carved at our house yesterday:

* An owl, painstakingly made by DD (Hedwig, to be precise)
* A cat, which actually looks more like a bear, painstakingly carved by me
* A window pumpkin, featured in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, also carved by me. Just download and print an image, cut a hole in the pumpkin, and pin the image behind the hole. Instructions are here: http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jhtml?type=content&id=channel4810081

In all the pumpkins I've carved over the years, I've never seen one with as thick a rind as the window pumpkin I carved yesterday. The rind filled almost the entire pumpkin, leaving only a small, fist-sized cavity with a few seeds in the center. You can see this in some of the photos.

Trick or treat was last evening in our area. The wind was fierce and cold, and it forced many kids to end the evening early. I was on door duty passing out treats. Best joke of the evening, perfect for scrapbookers:

What did Cinderella say when her photos didn't come back from the developer?
"Someday, my prints will come."
Happy Halloween!

30 October 2006

Right Now: Video Catnip

Here's what's going on right now at our house: a little Video Catnip action. This is actually Tinsel's DVD of birds and squirrels, and this morning Lily is watching it with Tinsel for the first time. Lily is enthralled. Tinsel is only feigning interest.

On another note, I converted to the new version of Blogger last evening, and it's working much better. Much faster loading of photos, much easier edits (without having to get into the HTML code), and new options for format. Each post can be categorized, which makes it possible to sort posts by subject just by clicking on the category. And I didn't lose any formatting or content in the conversion, which is a real plus.

I'm happy with Blogger Beta; the kitties are happy with Video Catnip. It's a good day.

27 October 2006

Sunday Morning

It's Sunday morning and I wish I were in Seattle taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the public market. Wish I had a blueberry scone in a paper bag and a caramel latte from Seattle's Best in the other. A little chill in the air. The day stretching out before me. A perfect morning.

One of my favorite memories: Pike Place Market, Seattle, outside Seattle's Best coffee shop, July 2005.

Happy Feline Friday!

Today's post is in celebration of Tinsel, our brown and black tabby cat, shown here in the LitterMaid automatic pooper-scooper she received from her grandparents last Christmas. Although she doesn't get as much air time on my blog as Lily, Tinsel is every bit as special in her own way:

* Tinsel answers to many names, such as Morsel, Stencil, Gristle, and Pencil.
* Tinsel stands on your foot if she is hungry.
* If I sit on the couch with our state fair throw over me for even 3 seconds, Tinsel immediately jumps on my lap. But if the state fair throw is upside down with the pictures not showing, she looks at me suspiciously and walks on by.
* Tinsel will not eat any kind of cheese except the expensive smoked, aged cheese we special order from a farm in Vermont.
* Tinsel is scared of the doorbell.
* Tinsel will allow you to pet her only if you approach her from the back.
* When we first got her, Tinsel threw up at least 7 times a day. This was a big problem. After numerous, very expensive medical tests, she quit. We never figured out what the problem was.
* Tinsel will eat as many garlic chives as you'll let her, when she's out on her leash near our garden. It's best not to let her have her fill (see above).
* While visiting my parents a few years ago, Tinsel got her head caught in the handle of a plastic grocery bag and ran through the house with the bag flying out behind her, Superman-style. When we finally caught her to remove the bag, she was terrified. Since that day, she won't go near my mom.
* Tinsel's best feature is definitely her coat. She would never win a prize for her sometimes grouchy personality or her somewhat bulging physique, but her fur is beautifully ticked, glossy, and especially plush during the winter.

Today I'm celebrating all things Tinsel! I love having her here with us.

26 October 2006

My First Sketch

This is a test. I repeat, this is only a test.

I've been creating my own sketches lately based on print advertisements and text layouts from magazines. This one is based on an article layout in Martha Stewart Living magazine. The article itself has a block of 4 photos at the right and the text at the left.

I've been drawing my sketches on graph paper, which is much easier than blank paper, since I can use 1 square to equal 1 inch on a 12x12 sheet. Once the sketches are done, the next step is to get them on the computer so they can be used for classes and posted on my blog. DD suggested creating them in Excel. Since I'm pretty much a linear person, Excel actually worked great and is what you see here, saved in JPEG format. (For some reason, the "o" in "photo" cut off when I posted this. Not sure why that happened.)

Last week I blogged about my cardstock pieces cut in various sizes. As I create the sketches, I've been using the cardstock pieces to "test" and refine them. I'm finding that these two tools go hand in hand for me.

I have been teaching a series of graphic design classes at the LSS over the past couple of years. I've added to that series and now have four classes covering various aspects of design principles. Since we often discuss print advertisements as inspiration, I hope to add a "create your own sketches" class for 1st quarter next year. I've used sketches from various sources in the past, but I am finding that I really like creating my own, since I can develop them to meet my own needs.

Looking forward to everyone's thoughts! Remember, this is only a test! If you use the sketch to make a layout, I'd love to see it. Tell me how it works for you.

25 October 2006

Home from the Hospital

Lily is now home from the vet's and made it through her spaying surgery just fine. Thank you to all of you who said a little prayer for her! I was a basket-case when I dropped her off at the vet yesterday and have been worried sick since then. Worry is what I do best.

When I went to pick her up this morning, I fully expected the staff at the vet's office to tell me how sweet she is and how much they'd enjoyed having her. But NO! They told me she had done nothing but hiss and growl since she arrived, to the point that they were leery of handling her! Of course, I did not believe this report one bit.

"Why, I've never heard her hiss," said I to the staff. At that point, Lily was brought to the lobby in her carrier. Coming from inside it was surely the most fierce, gutteral growling and hissing that I've ever heard. This most unseemly behavior continued all the way home until I let her out of her carrier. Then the hissing stopped and the purring began. Then the eating. Then the playing. Then the running and jumping, to my surprise. Now the sleeping.

You can see her incision area in some of these photos. It would appear that she has some swelling, but in fact that is just fat. She probably could have used a tummy tuck, but we opted for nail trimming instead. I asked the vet to check the little spots she has on her chin. Feline acne, as I suspected. The treatment? Stridex Medicated Acne Pads.

We'll tackle that another day. For now, we're just happy she's home. Posted by Picasa

23 October 2006

Where's Lily?

Answer: Inside the arm cover of the couch. You really should see her carrying this around.

As an aside, Lily goes to the vet tomorrow to be spayed. If you get a chance, would you remember Lily in your prayers tonight and tomorrow? Assuming all goes well, she will be back home on Wednesday. Thank you for all warm and fuzzy thoughts!

19 October 2006

Feline Friday: Words of Wisdom

is not a sin...
But we should exercise caution
with our curiosity...
yes, indeed.
~J.K. Rowling

Design Process Tip

Last week, I decided to start creating my own sketches. To make that process easier, I cut out lots of cardstock pieces (many more than pictured here) in the sizes I typically use for photos, journaling blocks, or any other elements on my pages. I have been using these pieces either with my sketches, or just on their own, to determine placement on my background page before I start working with my photos.

This is something I actually have thought about doing for many years but just got around to doing it, and now I wish I had done it a long time ago! Maybe you're already doing this or something similar. I know it's a really basic thing (actually, embarrassingly basic) and not at all an original idea (in fact, there are much more sophisticated page planning products on the market), but this simple process has been very helpful to me in completing layouts much more quickly than I normally do. This is the process I have been using:

* Select photos to be used.
* Select cardstock pieces in the same sizes as photos.
* Place cardstock pieces on my background page according to my sketch (or without a sketch).
* One by one, place the photos over the top of the cardstock pieces, cropping as needed when I'm sure I like the design.

If you're a visual person (and a planner!) like me, maybe this type of process would be helpful to you. I know from teaching classes that the most difficult part of scrapbooking is often the design process. If you struggle with that like I often do, this little system can free you up to just look at the "bare bones" of your design before working with the colors and composition of your photos. If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it works for you!

18 October 2006

Today's Advice: Limit Screen Time

Lily is allowed a limited amount of screen time (to include TV and computer) each week. I'm trying to teach her that there are many more productive ways to spend her time, such as playing with her toys or watching birds outside the window.

But occasionally both Lily and Tinsel enjoy a good dog show on Animal Planet. Tinsel also likes Video Catnip, Meerkat Manor and Finding Nemo, which she has watched in its entirety.

I think I've figured out why we occasionally find the remote control hidden under the couch cushions.

16 October 2006

Blog Challenge: What Gets You Through a Monday?

Today's blog challenge on 2Peas is this: What gets you through a Monday? I've been thinking about this one today as I got through my Monday. Hmmm...

* Ease into it. Keep the lights dimmed until eyes open fully.

* Make a large pot of coffee. Pour lots of Creme Brulee creamer into my mug, then fill with 100% Columbian, preferably Seattle's Best, if we have it. It may sound weird, but I know when I have enough creamer in my coffee when it turns the caramel color of my beloved (now deceased) kitty, Damien. Morning coffee is especially good in my white ceramic Intervale Pancake House mug. I've never been there but I sure like the mug. It just makes me feel cozy.

* Work in a daily dose of internet browsing, notably 2Peas, a few blogs, and NPR.

* Open eyes fully now.

* Check and answer e-mails.

* Refill that coffee. More Creme Brulee, thank you.

* Get organized using my handy-dandy altered Franklin planner. Update the old to-do list. Check off a few things. Write down a few things just so I can check them off.

* Get started on that list.

That's what gets me through a Monday, or any other morning for that matter.

13 October 2006

Feline Friday

Today's advice: Don't play with disposable razors. The house is full of all kinds of soft and furry toys, perfect for feline playtime. The toys are in your toy box, fully within your reach. You know exactly where they are.

Do not -- I repeat -- do NOT keep stealing disposable razors from our shower. Do not run through the house carrying them in your mouth. Do not bring them to your mama in the middle of the night. Do not squirrel them away under the bed. Do not take them into the dining room. Disposable razors are very sharp (actually, razor sharp) and will hurt your sweet little mouth and paws.

Lily, when choosing a toy for playtime, please choose wisely.
 Posted by Picasa

11 October 2006

10 October 2006

Where's Lily?

It would appear that the kitten also known as The Toilet Paper Bandit has moved on to other paper products.

Crime Number One: Suspect jumps onto the kitchen table (obviously off-limits).

This is always followed by Crime Number Two: Suspect digs frantically to the bottom of the napkin basket, then eats the corners off as many napkins as possible before she is discovered by camera-wielding homeowner.

Outcome: Suspect is sent immediately into kitty-confinement (the bathroom) where she assumes a way-too-cute-to-be-mad-at-her pose. Meanwhile, homeowner just laughs and throws away all the chewed napkins, wipes down the table, and mentally plans the very cute scrapbook page that will document today's crime.

06 October 2006

This Could be Love

These two beauties are now in my hot little hands:

They are going fast at the LSS where I teach. I ordered the "Observations" stamp and the **sh-hh** "Naked" stamp and picked them up yesterday. They are actually larger than I expected them to be and very easy to use. Nice, clear image on the first try.

Yes, I'm quite sure this is love. Or something like that.

Happy Feline Friday

When you come upon your cat, deep in meditation, staring thoughtfully at something that you can't see, just remember that your cat is, in fact, running the universe.
Author unknown

05 October 2006

Where's Lily?

Today I'm starting a new, occasional feature on my blog called "Where's Lily?" This is only very loosely based on the Where's Waldo? book series (ok, I'm really just using the title).

For today's feature, I'm posting two photos taken this past week. Both involve open doors, something wet, and the potential for great danger. Of course, I was standing right there, camera in hand, so there was no possibility she'd be shut inside either the dishwasher or the dryer, but you'd better believe we are constantly watching for that! Oh, and just so you don't think that my house is totally unsanitary, she jumped in the dishwasher when I was loading dinner dishes, not unloading clean ones. I think (actually, I KNOW) she was looking for bits of food.

In addition to these two sightings, there was actually a third incident of "Where's Lily" this past week (and you'll be glad I have no photos of it) when DH stepped into the shower (can't see a thing without his glasses), turned on the water, and felt something warm and furry bolt out the shower door. I was down the hall working on the computer when Lily came running in, her head soaking wet. I just knew there was a story there, but she wasn't talking.

Every day brings a new adventure with Lily in the house. Makes one wonder where the next edition of "Where's Lily?" will take us.

04 October 2006

Teeny, Tiny Album

Literally months ago, I found this pink and brown business-card holder at Target and bought it, not sure what I'd do with it. I thought it would make a cute album, so I filled it with some kind-of-old Making Memories Cosmo paper (which I still love). After it was done, I still could not decide what should go in it, so there it sat. It sat so long on my table that it actually faded!

Fast forward to this week: I'm on a mission to finish up odds and ends like this, so today I made the Executive Decision to GET 'ER DONE! Since I have a PLETHORA of cat pictures, I decided that would be a good choice. I found a cute poem on 2Peas, printed it off with teeny, tiny photos to go with each line or so, and the thing was done within 1 hour. I'm so excited about this! It's the tiniest album I've made!

Loved this poem, and it was easy to find pictures to go with it.

Kitty's Bedtime Prayer (author unknown)

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray this cushy life to keep. I pray for toys that look like mice, and sofa cushions, soft and nice. For grocery bags where I can hide, just like a tiger, crouched inside! I pray for gourmet kitty snacks, and someone nice to scratch my back. For window sills all warm and bright, for shadows to explore at night. I pray I'll always stay real cool, and keep the secret feline rule. To NEVER tell a human that... The world is really ruled by CATS!

Re-Posting Photos of 5 Favorites Project

I finally had a chance to re-take the photos of my 5 Favorites project, inspired by Ali Edwards. I posted photos last week but they were not good at all! Today's 2Peas Blogging Challenge was to post pics of your most recent project. Well, this is it and now you can see it better! I used Arctic Frog and wallet-sized photos. It was a super-fun little project, which I did while I was actually supposed to be doing something else! :-)

03 October 2006

My Little ABC Book

Today I'm finishing up a project for my LSS. This little ABC flip book accomodates wallet-sized photos for every letter of the alphabet. This will be a take-home project for customers who would like to make something educational and personal for a young child.

I've had a lot of fun creating this project. I hope that customers enjoy taking pictures for this flip book and sharing it with a little person in their lives!

02 October 2006

Read to Me

I've always loved story time. Of course, I enjoy reading independently, but there's just something about hearing a story read aloud that captures me, that ignites my imagination. Even as an adult, on the days I work in the library and the librarian reads a story to the kids, I can't help but listen. Occasionally, a professional story teller comes to the library. On those days, I'm so absorbed that I might as well just sit down on the rug with the kids and listen.

I believe that listening can actually make me a better writer. In the years that I've been a public radio listener, I've become more appreciative of the power of listening. I've become more attuned to the reader's pacing, inflection, and expression. I've noticed that some written pieces that are destined to be audio files are written even more descriptively than those that have the benefit of images. As a result this, I've worked to incorporate more imagery into my writing, to attempt to paint a word picture for those who might read or hear it one day. I've also started reading my pieces aloud to myself and adjusting the pacing or rhythm of sentences. Polishing the flow. Honing the words until they convey precisely the image and intention that is in my mind. Listening to my work read aloud leads me to write differently.

On public radio, I've listened to countless interviews with authors and poets and have heard them read their work aloud. Listening to a writer read his or her own work is a lot like listening to a musician play his or her own composition. I believe that if you're going to write, you need to read your work to others. It's an incredibly powerful part of the experience, for the reader and for the writer.

With this as a backdrop, I started submitting some of my essays to our local public radio station for "Iowa Voices". In this occasional feature, local writers read pieces they've written. When I first started listening to public radio, I was struck by how deeply I felt the emotion in the commentary pieces I heard over the radio, perhaps even more so than if I'd only been reading them. I thought it would be an interesting experience to record one of my essays.

My first time reading was back in May with "Library Day", an essay which is posted on this blog. Then a couple of weeks ago, I recorded another essay, "Circles", which is also on this blog. To hear the recording, go to http://www.woi.org/ (scroll down the right side of the page to "Iowa Voices.")

While I'm not a professional writer, I am someone who feels called to write. Through writing, reading, and then listening to my work read aloud, I'm convinced that I have become a better writer. Listening to my own written word adds another, richer dimension to the experience for me, and I hope, for others who may hear it.