29 August 2007
The best "real" job I've ever had was actually my dream job. I worked for Credit Agricole, a French bank, in downtown Chicago. My job was in Human Resources. I did the things you normally do in that department -- staffing, employee relations, benefits, compensation -- but much of what I did was in French. It really was the perfect job for me, as my undergraduate degree is in French and International Business. How often do you find a job like that?
In addition to working in the area of my degree, I loved working downtown. Every morning I hopped the "L" in Oak Park and made the 20-minute trip to the loop. The building where I worked was right across the street from the Palmer House. Occasionally, I'd meet a friend there for lunch at Trader Vic's. I'd shop at Marshall Field's. I'd take in an exhibit at the Art Institute. A couple of evenings each week, I took classes at DePaul, right down the street, to earn my MBA in Human Resources.
After DH finished school, we made the decision to leave Chicago and return to Iowa. While unquestionably it was the right thing to do for his career and for our family, it was extremely difficult for me to leave my once-in-a-lifetime job. I never really got over it, and while I eventually found another very challenging position in Human Resources and Training, it somehow didn't hold the same allure.
Every once in awhile, I dust off my very rusty French and think about those days back in Chicago. So very many things have changed since that time. I know that I can never go back to that life, and a part of me will always be sad about that.
28 August 2007
On the subject of scrapbook stores, I am just a tad bit obsessed with having coordinated papers displayed next to each other. As an instructor, a customer, and someone inclined toward OCD-like behavior, I have to say that it somewhat distresses me when coordinated papers are shelved far from each other. Whenever I travel and am lucky enough to visit other stores, I specifically check out how paper lines are displayed. And although I don't actually work in the store where I teach, I will confess to having occasionally moved misplaced parts of lines back together. That is not my job, but I simply cannot help myself. (I'm sure this is not a surprise to my friends around here!)
A few weeks ago, I was at Hobby Lobby in the paper aisle looking over some older American Crafts paper which I absolutely didn't need. Ahhh...the Bookshelf line. I just love the idea of patterns which represent authors. And the Play line: With the notable exception of Ki, could paper possibly be any cooler than this? Ideas for all sorts of projects floated through my head.
I was completely in the AC Zone when suddenly I realized that I had paper in both hands and under my right arm. My shopping basket and purse were on the floor. Without even realizing it, I had been re-arranging the AC papers in proper order, moving stacks of other patterned paper in order to put entire lines back together. At that point, it occurred to me..."Wait! I don't work here!"
Feeling rather embarrassed, I had no choice but to buy all the paper in my clutches. As penance for my AC OCD, it was the least I could do.
27 August 2007
I wonder who invented the binder? That person was very wise, indeed. A binder enables you to store all kinds of related, or even unrelated, information together, yet keep it organized with tabs. And now that binders come in all kinds of cool designs, you can not only be organized, but look good, too.
This year, I've been on a quest for ORDER in my life. So yesterday, when I really should have been doing one of about 30 other things on my to-do list, I decided that I would purge my vast collection of old scrapbooking magazines and put ideas worth keeping in my binder. Well, one look at my old, plain green "Inspiration Binder" left me completely uninspired, so of course, I had to completely revamp it. I decided to use these two cool binders I bought last fall at back-to-school time (did I mention that I love to buy school supplies, even though I'm WAY out of school?).
I began by pulling out Creating Keepsakes magazines from 2002. Now let me ask you: Have you looked recently at some of those magazines from "way back then"? I mean, really looked? It is amazing how much has changed in the scrapbooking world. First, our collective hair was bigger back then. There must have been only ten colors of cardstock available. There was no ribbon...only fuzzy fibers...and not a Prima flower in sight! But there were all kinds of paper dolls doing all sorts of jobs. Although I never did it, poor scrapbookers actually had to cut out alphabets with Exacto knives! And what the heck was up with all of that mica and cork?
Suffice it to say, I didn't find many things to keep from those days, save for an occasional article or layout idea. Now that I've been scrapbooking for so many years, I have a clear idea of what I like and don't like, which made the purging process go rather quickly. In a couple hours time, I freed up two magazine files on my shelf, giving me much needed room for some newer idea books and albums. I still need to go through 2004 and 2005 magazines but plan to keep 2006 and 2007 for now.
I now have two Inspiration Binders: one for articles and another for layout and sketch ideas. I set up tabs in the "articles" binder for information on journaling, design, techniques, etc. The "sketch and layout" binder has tabs for layout ideas (one-photo, two-photo, etc.), card designs, mini-albums, and paper crafting projects. I simply cut out the ideas I liked, taped them onto graph paper, and stuck them into the binder under the appropriate tab.
Next stop: Ten years of Bon Appetit magazines. Dinnertime could be looking up.
26 August 2007
Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin is my favorite cereal. I could eat it morning, noon, and night (and sometimes do). I eat it with a tiny bit of milk and with no milk at all. It is one of my very favorite things to eat and certainly my all-time favorite cereal.
The reason I love this cereal so much is because of the raisins. In all the time I've been eating this cereal, I've been pleased with both the size and number of raisins in the box. Sure, I could add my own raisins, but this cereal has so many that there is no need for such action.
Recently, however, my faith in Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin was shaken. I opened a box and poured it into my Tupperware cereal container. Immediately I could see that something was amiss: There were hardly any raisins to be found! I stirred around in the container with a big wooden spoon and counted a measly five raisins. So distraught was I that I contacted General Mills via their website. Here is the text of my note to the corporate cereal people:
Hi! I recently bought a box of Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin. I love this cereal because of the abundance of raisins, but I was disappointed that there were almost no raisins in this particular box. I poured the container into a large plastic tub and counted about 5 raisins in the entire container. I hope that this was an error in processing and not a cut-back in the number of raisins in this cereal. Please advise.
And within a day, the corporate cereal people actually responded to me, appearing to take my concerns seriously:
Thank you for contacting General Mills regarding Oatmeal Crisp hearty raisin cereal. We understand your concern and are sorry you had this experience.
Our packaging equipment is designed to ensure that all ingredients are combined in correct proportions. It is possible that a mechanical failure was responsible for the condition you described. Please be assured that our Quality Department has been notified of your report. We will be mailing an adjustment to you for your purchase which you should receive within 7 to 10 days.
We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and hope you will continue to choose our products.
Sincerely, General Mills
Now, I don't know about you, but I am so accustomed to poor customer service that I was surprised when the cereal people actually responded to my raisin complaint. I was even more surprised when they followed through: Sure enough, yesterday in the mail I received two coupons from General Mills, one for a free box of Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin.
I recently went out on a limb and bought another box of Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin. I was pleased to see that the raisin count was back up to normal, perhaps even a little bit higher than in previous boxes. And my! Those raisins were particularly plump. I like to think that the raisin person climbed up the ladder to the giant cereal vat and dumped in an extra scoop of the very best raisins just for me.
So hooray for the good cereal people at General Mills. Here's to timely, responsive customer service.
AND lots of raisins.
25 August 2007
Not well, I would reply. In fact, this little project is moving at the pace of the three-year-old, sticky, black molasses in the back of my kitchen cupboard. The bathroom is partially stripped of wallpaper and looks like a war zone or crack house (take your pick). The kitchen is in a similar state but is partially painted olive green. The dining room, also destined to be re-painted (with luck) before I die, has become a staging area for the other projects. And now, since we are in a major transition from the old mauve and blue color scheme, absolutely nothing matches.
But today is a good day. Following the nearly-ceremonial hanging of the trivet from Target, I think I can now safely report that the laundry room is DONE. Well, almost done...the plant needs to be re-potted in a black container and the box of DH's clutter needs to be removed, but who's keeping track of that?
Well, I am...but still. I'm calling it done. Just because I can.
In other equally exciting news, Sharon's Informal Underwear Survey is now live. If you've forgotten the original post about this, refresh yourself here. All visitors to my blog are asked to respond to the survey at the right of the page (once only please, to preserve statistical integrity of the polling process). Now, if you feel like your underwear habits are not reflected in the possible responses, please post and tell us a bit (but not too much, please) about your underwear habits so that the pollster may add a response for you. The poll is scheduled to run until September 30, at which time we'll do some sophisticated data analysis and reveal what it all means. Or not. Meanwhile, please respond.
Edited to add: Unfortunately, this polling business is even more scientific than I'd thought. Blogger will not allow new response choices to be added after voting has started. If your underwear habits are not reflected in the possible responses, please choose the "next best" response, or sit this one out. Perhaps there will be a follow-up survey.
23 August 2007
This time, I happened to witness it.
First, the suspect checked to be sure the coast was clear.
Next, gnawing began around the lower portions of the bag.
Realizing some initial success, the suspect pulled vigorously on the bag until...
food flowed freely onto the floor, an unlimited supply of tasty Indoor Formula Morsels.
That is, until Mama got out the packing tape, now conveniently stored near the cat food.
Edited to add: The bag is now stored in the garage; the daily food is stored in a plastic container (Lily is busy gnawing on that, too). And yep, I could have stopped her from chewing the bag this time, but as usual, I wanted to document her naughtiness! :-)
Time will not permit us to decorate the entire set of 40-some pieces, but we will make 6-10 complete ornaments in class. The great thing is that they can be used as tree ornaments, package decorations, page embellishments, or card elements.
The myriad ornament pieces had been sitting in my scrapping area too long. When I found Lily trying to eat buttons last night, I knew that today they needed to be finished.
It would not be good form for me to say, "I'm sorry, class. The cat ate your project."
Edited to add: Thank you for the nice comments about the ornaments! Fortunately, none were eaten by Miss Lily. :-) I should mention that I usually make extra kits for classes I teach. I always provide detailed instructions with photos and we often mail them to customers out of state. If you are interested in purchasing a kit for a class, feel free to contact the store where I teach by e-mail or phone and they can take care of your request. Thanks so much!
20 August 2007
This is actually Big Red, the winning pig in the Big Boar Contest at the Iowa State Fair. Big Red weighs in at 1,203 pounds, which is actually NOT a record but certainly seems big enough to me.
See the picture? This is pretty much Big Red's daily agenda. He wakes up in the evening to eat five gallons of whatever big boars eat, then he goes right back to sleep.
I'm with Big Red. Eleven days of state fair fun (and state fair food) will do that to you.
17 August 2007
True to form, Lily did not disappoint. I tracked her to the landing of the stairs, where she had carefully tucked an Always Pantiliner under a towel for safekeeping.
Never a dull moment with Lily on board.
16 August 2007
This topic is fresh in my mind, since I've been spending time recently organizing (as you can see in the photo...ha!). Here are some ways I periodically reduce my stash:
1) Make cards. Then make more cards. In my early days of scrapbooking, I purchased a lot of patterned paper that is perfectly good but likely won't ever work on a layout. I set it aside for card-making. I also periodically weed out my embellishments and put some in my card-making stash. Last year I made a BUNCH of Christmas cards just from scraps.
2) Sell it at a garage sale. I recently sold quite a bit of scrapbooking stuff at my garage sale. This is the third time I've sold scrapbooking items at a sale. Even my bags of scraps sold.
3) Sell it at a benefit garage sale. My friend, Darci, recently organized a garage sale at our LSS to benefit JDRF. I sold several items at that sale. It's great to be able to reduce your stash and support a great cause at the same time.
4) Donate it. After my sale and the JDRF garage sale, I still had a few things left over. I took them to our local Easter Seals office to donate to their upcoming garage sale. Again, it's nice to contribute to a very worthy cause.
5) Give it to a pre-school teacher or Girl Scout leader. Check first, of course, to see if your items would be needed. I've donated tons of leftover stickers, paper and cardstock scraps this way.
There are many more ways to reduce your stash, but these are the ones I've tried most recently. I would never think of throwing anything away. I always challenge myself to use it or find a new home for it.
15 August 2007
We're midway through the fair and I can safely say that it has been one of the hottest fairs I can remember. Yet we're still having fun -- participating in competitions, watching shows, sampling free food, and enjoying this unique slice of Americana. At the same time, there is always something bittersweet about the fair. For us, it signals the end of summer and the passing of another year.
DD's baked goods were judged yesterday. This year, she won an Honorable Mention for her caramel chip bars, but no ribbon for her chocolate crackle cookies or zucchini bread. The Iowa State Fair food competition is actually the largest in the entire country: more cooking items are entered here than at any other state fair, so you know the competition is quite stiff. The good thing is that DD always has plenty of leftovers.
Both DD and DH also have photos on display in the photography salon this year. (I submitted one but it wasn't selected.) The salon receives over 4,000 entries each year. Only half are displayed, and just a handful receive awards, so having a photo exhibited is a big deal.
Here are a few glimpses from the fair so far
(left to right):
1) Colorful gourds in the Agriculture Building
2) View from upstairs in the same building, widely considered to be one of the finest examples of exposition architecture in the world. Definitely my favorite building.
3) Cow - isn't she beautiful?
4) Various junior-division breads ready to be judged
5) Sheep in spandex
6) Baby goat - awww!
7) Baby pig, just hours old
8) Garden area outside the Agriculture Building
9) Harry Potter and Hedwig, sculpted from butter
10) Apples in the Agriculture Building
11) Interesting gourds
12) Piglet nap time
13) Butter cow - a state fair classic
14) Colorful vegetables
15) Jams to taste and purchase
16) Lily at the cat show competition
So here's to a few more colorful and memorable days of the fair. More photos to come.
14 August 2007
Instead, she growled. She hissed. She tried to bite the judges. She did everything that a competing kitty should NOT do.
But in spite of her bad behavior, Lily was awarded 10th Best Household Pet Cat out of a field of 17 competitors at the state fair cat show on Sunday. She also received the Best Cage Decoration award, too.
Lily's bad behavior started from the moment we tried to extract her from her carrier to be examined by the check-in vet. She was calm while in her decorated cage, but as soon as she had to be removed for competition and taken to the judging area, she became somewhat vicious again and simply would not allow anyone but DD to come near her. She swiped her nicely trimmed claws at the judges. She lunged at them with her teeth.
The only possible advantage of this behavior was that everyone soon learned her name. "We need the owner of Cat 1357," announced the show manager more times than I could count. Each time, I cringed. Soon, it became, "We need Lily's owner." In fact, out of all 17 cats, Lily was the only cat who had to be handled by its owner.
"Growling and hissing will count against that cat," whispered the woman seated behind me, who obviously took the competition very seriously.
While waiting to be judged, the cats are placed in holding cages along the back side of the ring. During this time, Lily also provided free entertainment for the audience, as she tried to climb the cage door, poke her face out through the grate, and peek over the black divider to see the cat in the neighboring cage. People gasped and pointed. Mind you, Lily was the only cat doing anything like this. All other kitties sat patiently in their cages and greeted the judges nicely when approached.
Given all of this, it was a complete surprise that Lily won any award at all. In fact, DD was packing Lily up to go home when she was summoned to return to the ring and was awarded 10th place. We were also quite surprised to win the cage decoration award, since we didn't even know there was a competition. Lily was given a huge prize package...all kinds of cat food, toys, and cute photo frames.
We firmly believe that if the three judges had been able to handle her for any length of time, she would have placed higher. The finals judge told the audience that she was a nice size and beautifully groomed. And she loved Lily's little white paws. The judge acknowledged that Lily was scared but said she was improving by the end of the show. A kindly exhibitor told DD that many cats are nervous the first time but do get used to the show process with practice. I think everyone would agree that if Lily's behavior were acceptable, she could definitely hold her own in competition.
Meanwhile, Lily has been enjoying her prizes and sharing a few of them with Tinsel. All bad memories quickly subsided. And on our kitchen table is a flyer about another cat show in October...
13 August 2007
Teddy lost to a bear with blue fur, a chef bear, and a small (Teddy would say prissy) female bear.
For the duration of the fair, Teddy has been confined to an antique iron baby crib. His cribmates include a blind rabbit made from a pink chenille bedspread, a patchwork rabbit with button eyes, and a large Bunnicula rabbit wearing a blue ribbon and clutching a bright orange carrot like a dagger. It is not unlike the island of misfit toys.
Although he is ribbon-less, we are proud that Teddy stood his own against the gang of motley competitors. In spite of his green crotch and thinning fur, Teddy looks just as cute as the other bears. He must have fought hard for a ribbon.
Perhaps Teddy was confined to the crib to prevent him from climbing to the top shelf after the building closes to steal one of those ribbons for his own. I'm thinking that with a little boost from Bunnicula, he could still make a break for it.
If he only had a nail file...
10 August 2007
And of course, I can't resist that face.
09 August 2007
The top picture shows the cards I made using the new Kelly Panacci Christmas line which just debuted at CHA last month. The bottom picture shows the cards I made using Reminisce's new Northern Exposure line. Initially I planned to use one line or the other, but I couldn't choose so ended up using both. That created double the work for me, but hey...it was fun!
I'll teach four three-hour workshops in October and November, two with the Kelly Panacci line and two with Reminisce. That way, customers can come to one of each and leave with 40 completed cards, all different.
So here's to an early start on the holidays this year!
08 August 2007
Fortunately, the end result of this ginormous mess is a very fun set of Cosmo Cricket ornaments. Pictured here are only a few of the set...the rest I have yet to complete. They tend to be smaller and would be perfect additions to larger ornaments, package tie-ons, embellishments for cards or layouts, or decorations for a tabletop tree.
I'm making these ornaments for a class I'll be teaching a couple of times this fall. We may complete 7-10 ornaments in class, depending on how fast we are. They could not be more fun to make. I like the fact that the pieces can be combined in any way...there are no directions included from the manufacturer, so you're only limited by your imagination.
So here's to an early start on the holiday season. Pure fun.
07 August 2007
To prepare for the big event, last night DD gave Lily a bath. This was actually Lily's second bath. (Her first one occurred, unbeknownst to me, on the day of our garage sale.) Because Lily knew what was coming, let's just say she was less than cooperative. I experienced this first-hand as she climbed over and down my back, 100 claws fully extended. And DD, having given one cat one bath in her lifetime, suddenly became the Expert Cat Bather.
"Mom! DO NOT try to take pictures! Lily does not want to be photographed!"
(Blood running down my back, I remained undaunted in my pursuit of wet cat photos.)
After a few minutes in the tub, it was obvious that Lily didn't care to be rinsed with the plastic cup. But she didn't mind being wrapped in a wet washcloth. The deluded part of me thinks that if we were to bath her frequently enough, she might even start to enjoy it. Although I might not survive.
When she was finished with her bath, Lily bolted from the bathroom, looking altogether like some freakish alien creature. Tinsel, who was waiting outside the bathroom door, had a look of complete terror in her eyes when she saw Wet Lily run past. Even this morning, Tinsel is a bit wary of Lily. She's not quite sure what she saw last night.
But Lily's fur is silky smooth. She is so soft that the judge may not be able to hang onto her. And she smells fresh and clean. It's good to look and smell the part, right?
06 August 2007
One of my favorite ways to organize for the new school year is actually very simple: a school binder. For me, this is one of the few organization systems that has stood the test of time. I started making an annual school binder when DD entered first grade, and this fall she'll be a sophomore. I like the binder system so much that if I had more than one child, I'd set up a binder for each one. (No, Lily and Tinsel do not yet have their own binders, although I've considered giving them cute little notebooks for their medical records. Altered, of course.)
The school binder is simply a place to house the information we need to refer to throughout the school year. It is not a place for homework, completed assignments, or papers to be returned to school. It's more of a reference manual. In it, you'll find things like lunch menus, school calendars, and information about extra-curricular activities. The tabs for last school year were labeled: Homeroom, Extended Learning Program, Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Show Choir, Piano, Dance, Church, and Mock Trial.
Without this binder, I shudder to think what might happen to information extracted from the backpack. It would likely be lost in one of the myriad piles on our kitchen counter. But with the binder in operation, we have a "go to" place for our most frequently referenced information.
At the end of the school year, I transfer all of the papers from the school binder to a basic "storage binder". The storage binder goes on the shelf in my scrapbooking area. (I refer to the binders from past years frequently when I'm working on school layouts.) To get ready for the new school year, I simply update the cover of the existing school binder and change the tab labels as needed. When papers start coming home en masse during those first few days of school, we'll have a place ready for them.
As the mom of a teenager, I often feel my sense of control slipping away. In my own (DD would add "pathetic") little way, the school binder gives me a tiny bit of control over information. It brings a little order to this otherwise crazy time in our lives.
05 August 2007
Meanwhile, you may be wondering about the nature of this poll. My friend, Sharon, has been reading Life's Too Short to Fold Your Underwear. Sharon, who has evidently never folded her underwear, has become so empowered by this book that she has taken to asking random people (like her hairdresser and the waitress at Famous Dave's) whether or not they fold their underwear. Some people have told her more than she actually needs to know to conduct her informal poll. I find that in itself to be a curious thing.
Because I am the underwear-folding type (raise your hand if you're surprised), I suggested that we could broaden the scope of her survey by posting a poll on my blog.
Until Blogger fixes this feature, you may use the time to consider how you will respond to Sharon's Informal Underwear Poll. You may speculate about the results of the poll and what it all means in the grand scope of life.
But please: No wagering.
04 August 2007
There are over 40 die-cut pieces in this set, along with the same number of matching chipboard pieces in the corresponding Buck Naked package (many more than are pictured here). The pieces can be layered in many different ways. Right now, I've corralled them on a cookie sheet so I can move them easily away from little paws. Nothing is glued together yet, and I'd hate for Mr. Snowman's nose to get eaten!
In my class, we'll paint the backs and sides of the chipboard, ink the die-cuts, then start the layering and embellishment process. We'll add ribbon, twine, and other goodies. Depending on how long it takes to create them, I'm hoping we'll have time to make 10 ornaments in class. We'll see!
So today I'll be painting the chipboard and assembling the basic shapes. Then the fun of layering and embellishing will begin.
Nothing like a little Christmas in August!
03 August 2007
Last night, we went out to dinner at the Cracker Barrel. Because I can't bear for bread or rolls to go to waste, I brought home the entire plate of leftover biscuits, cornbread, butter, and jelly, even though we really don't care for the cornbread muffins. I put the biscuits in a bag for later and planned to give the cornbread to the birds.
But this morning when I ventured downstairs, I found Lily up on the counter. It seemed she had a hankering for a cornbread muffin. Since the camera was conveniently sitting on the counter, I decided (as I often do with Lily) to just let things play out and see if I could catch the action.
Lily licked the entire plastic container, paying special attention to the embossed logo on top. Then she began gently push-pushing it to the edge of the counter. In a matter of seconds, the container fell to the floor. Cornbread rained down like manna from heaven. It was a cornbread bonanza.
I watched as Lily went after a muffin with the fervor of a starving wild animal. If I hadn't stopped her after a couple of bites, I know that she would have eaten every one of the cornbread muffins.
I scooped up the mess and took the muffin pieces outside for the birds.
When I came back inside, Lily was well on her way to opening a blackberry jelly packet.
Just another Feline Friday.
01 August 2007
Since Lily's sole mission in life is to eat all of Tinsel's food, we've taken to feeding Tinsel up on the ladder.
Yesterday, I thought I'd document a typical meal time:
First, Tinsel enjoys a few morsels on the ladder's paint shelf. Notice how she's watching out of the corner of her eye. Good thing, too, because she has barely started to eat, when...
trouble, with a capital L, appears on the scene. In a matter of seconds...