30 January 2015

Feline Friday: Sunny Spot Altercation!

This is a very typical interaction between Tinsel and Lily. Tinsel is in the crock pot box (don't ask) and Lily is hogging a very toasty sunny spot on the rug.

Tinsel decides enough is enough and tries to commandeer a little sun for herself. Seems reasonable enough, doesn't it?

Nope! Lily will have none of it! Git out of mi sunnie spott, Tinsul! Itz myne!!!
We share many things around here but when it comes to sunny spots, I guess it is every kitty for herself!

25 January 2015

Photo Sorting Continues...

I vowed this weekend to plow through more boxes of Grandma's photos -- this time the very old ones. I'm happy to say I made a bit of progress on this front!

I started with piles of photos like this. I placed the curled photos under stacks of heavy books in an effort to flatten them out. I'm sure an archivist would not approve, but I definitely can't work with curled photos! I'll take a peek in a few days and see how well the flattening process worked!

For lack of any better starting point, I decided to sort the remaining photos by size, like I did last week with the color photos. When I lined them up by size, I could more easily identify photos taken at the same time. Who knew there were so many sizes of black and white photos? Sheesh!

A few photos have notes written on the back. I used the photos with dates and names as "anchors" or references to help me identify some of the others, at least by decade. I used a magnifying glass to see details and a photo-safe marking pen to write dates and names on the backs of photos I could identify.

I uploaded group photos to a family Facebook page I set up awhile back. This is much easier than e-mailing or snail-mailing copies!

I made temporary divider cards with decades and events, then filed the pictures as I figured them out. I still have stacks and stacks of images I haven't identified -- and may never. But at least I have a framework to keep going! 

 Of course, the best part about this process is discovering photos I've never seen before, like this one taken with my cousins (I'm at the left)...

 ...and this one decorating cookies in my grandma's basement, one of my favorite memories.

There's this picture of my grandpa which I absolutely love. It was taken at his workplace before he retired.

 And there's this photo of Grandma at her retirement, receiving a gift from her boss. When I was cleaning out her house, I found a scrapbook that Grandma's co-workers gave her when she retired. It is filled with memorabilia from her job, funny stories, and other treasures. In digging through the boxes of photos, I actually found pictures of her receiving the scrapbook. How neat is that? I feel a little bit like a detective, putting pieces of a puzzle together.
Spouse commented that he would not have the patience to sort through boxes of very old photos. I'll admit it is a bit tedious. But I told him that I'm in a different place these days, without my parents or my grandparents to fill in the details of our lives. I'm determined not to lose the pieces of my story, no matter how scattered and disjointed they may be right now. I really do believe that one day, I'll be able to pull all the pieces of this puzzle together.

23 January 2015

Feline Friday: Where's Lily Now?

You never know where you'll find Lily! This week I caught her yet again in the dryer, a very naughty and dangerous place for kitties! You'd think after getting trapped in the dryer years ago (it wasn't running but the door was closed) she'd avoid it, but I guess the warmth is just too appealing. Now I watch her carefully in the laundry room and was right there to see her fascination with the dryer. I let her stay in there long enough for a picture!

The other odd place she's been lately is the carrier! I took Tinsel to the vet last week for her check-up and as soon as I got home, Lily climbed in the carrier. She's been napping in there ever since, so I haven't even put it away. You'd think the carrier would have a negative association for her since we only use it when going to the vet, but I guess it also appeals as a warm and cozy napping place!
Here's to warm and cozy places to nap, wherever you find them! :)

22 January 2015

A Place for Everything?

Sometimes I think I am the world's messiest crafter. Each time I start a project, I vow to pick up as I go along. I do pretty well at the beginning of the project but by the end, I've pulled out every item I own without putting a single thing away! And trust me...it's not just this table. The entire room (including the floor) becomes a danger zone when I am working on a project. This is definitely an area for improvement in the new year. 

Tinsel agrees! There's barely any space for her to sit!

The worst part about being a messy crafter is losing stuff. As I worked on this particular project (a set of 12 cards), I misplaced everything, including the cards themselves. I'm sure I lost a lot of time looking for things!

I will say, however, that my craft space is organized and there really is a place for everything! And because of that, it's actually pretty speedy to clean up after a project. I have a little process that makes things go smoothly and prevents little problems like accidentally throwing away a die or part of a project, which I have done before! :)

First, I put away all of my tools. Scissors, rulers, and a few other often-used tools go in my tool caddy. (The green Lazy Susan came out of my dad's garage where it was covered with grease and held some jars of bolts. Prior to that, it was in my grandma's kitchen.) It's very convenient to have the tools on a spinning surface.

 Next, I put away my dies and embossing folders. My thin dies go on magnetic sheets. I have one binder for shapes and a second one for nesting dies. I set up the binder system a few years ago and still love it. If an organization system is still working after a few years -- and can grow or change as needed -- then it's a very good thing.

The binders sit nicely in one of my cubes. (As a side note, the CD cases are filled with acrylic stamps, an example of a system that is only marginally working for me. The cases contain stamps I don't use, partly because the racks are cumbersome. In addition, they can't hold my larger stamp sets and, to make matters worse, I only have two racks and I can't get any more that match them. So I'm not sure if I'll keep this system long-term. I'm thinking about making the switch to stamp sleeves which sit in a basket.)

Next, I put away all of my consumable supplies. It's always good when I get to this part of the process because you can start to see the top of the tables and floor! Adhesive that I use most often goes in a galvanized tin tub.

Stickles and Liquid Pearls go in a box which stacks nicely in one of my canvas bins.

Finally, I pick up all of the leftover paper and cardstock. Anything related to a class project goes back into that bag so I'll have it when I'm ready to make kits for the class. Everything else goes into the trash or recycle bin.

Look! A table! (For the longest time, I have been planning to get a piece of glass for the top of this table. Adhesive is a real pain to remove from a painted surface! This year, I am going to get that done.)

Here's the set of cards I was working on when I took these pictures. I counted them to be sure I didn't throw any away! :)

For the next project, I'm going to promise myself to pick up as I go along. We'll see how that goes! :)

18 January 2015

Photo Organization: Still Sorting!

Last year I started sorting all of the pictures I brought home from my parents' house. While still in the middle of all of that, I found myself adding even more boxes to the mix, this time from my grandma's house. Suddenly I had an entirely different mass of family photos to integrate into my already overwhelmed -- and not yet organized -- system. At that time, all could do was label Grandma's plastic tubs and boxes and set them aside until life settled down enough to deal with them.

Family history is very important to me, so it is hugely distressing to me to have boxes and boxes of jumbled photos in no semblance of order! It makes me feel very out of control, and it feels almost disrespectful to the lives and memories represented in those photos.
So now that the new year is upon us and I am feeling like my life may be leveling out, I am back in the sorting mode! I know that many people face similar boxes of completely unorganized photos, so I thought I would share a couple of quick tips for getting started.

I grabbed one of Grandma's tubs of photos and jumped in. This tub contained everything from vintage photos to obituaries to photos taken in the last five years. This is a good activity to do while halfway watching a movie or basketball game!

I began by making some temporary dividers for a photo box:
* Memorabilia
* Portrait type photos
* Black and white photos -- 2 categories: Known and unknown people
* Color photos -- 2 categories: Known and unknown people

I sorted all the photos and papers into those categories and put them into a box. Already I felt much better! Then I started working on each of the categories in more detail.

 Why create separate categories for color and black and white photos? It is the first step in figuring out when the photos were taken. Obviously, the color photos are newer and date from the early 1960's when color photography first became available. The black and white pictures are all older than that -- that's as close as I can come to dating them right now! :)

Next I separated the color photos by size/type. This sounds a little goofy but it was actually very helpful. In the 1970's, many photos were developed with rounded corners. Putting all of the rounded corner photos in one pile helped me at least get them in the correct decade. At the same time, I grouped together photos which were obviously taken at one event. As I worked, I tossed duplicates and poor quality pictures. I also tossed all the snapshots that friends had sent to Grandma, unless they were of family or otherwise significant.

Photos from the 1960's were printed with white borders and many include the date that they were developed (super helpful!). I didn't realize until I started looking through the box that there were several different sizes, so I also sorted them by size and event.

After a couple of hours of not-too-painful work, I had finished my first "rough sort" step of the color photos in this box -- just one box of many. They are not yet in chronological order, nor are the people in the photos identified, but they are ready for that step to be done. Next I will do the same with the black and white photos, but that will be a much more time-consuming process. It may require binge-watching something on Netflix!

As I worked through the color photos, I was excited to find several I'd never seen before, including some of me with my cousins decorating Christmas cookies at Grandma's house. Finding those photos confirms that it is absolutely worth the time spent on this process!

I have a few plans for these photos: 
  • Scan and upload the most significant family photos to share with my cousins
  • Date/identify key photos
  • Integrate the photos into my own chronological photo filing system
  • Incorporate special photos into my scrapbooks

Here's to FINALLY making big progress on this project in the new year! That would make me very happy!

16 January 2015

Feline Friday: Tinsel Time

I know I've posted about this before, but it is so adorable I can't resist bringing it up again! Each morning when I'm in the bathroom putting on make-up and drying my hair, Tinsel comes to visit. This is truly the only time when she's social, and it baffles me as to why her friendly time is limited to the bathroom! She rolls around on the floor in an adorable sort of way, making sweet little mewing sounds!

She even lets me see her belleh (SEE being the operative word here! Don't touch it, Mom!) and give her scritches on the head and back. There is something about the bathroom that transforms her into a different cat! Although I can't figure it out, I'm happy that we've shared a lot of quality hours during our bathroom time! :)

Lately, though, someone else wants to get in on that quality time! You can see Lily pouting: What about me, Mom? Don't I get any attention?
No, Lily...you get PLENTY of attention during the remaining 23 hours of the day. Go busy yourself with something else. It's Tinsel Time! :)

15 January 2015

This Week: eBaying

Well, so much for my best blogging intentions! This week, I really do have a good excuse. In addition to working on new class projects, I decided to hit eBay really hard and put a lot of items up for auction. I started selling a few things on eBay last November. Now that I have a postal scale, things are going much better! 

Here's a shot of my "shipping area"...HA! Each box is packed with something I have listed right now. When the items sell and payment comes through, I'll print shipping/postage labels and tape the boxes shut. (Don't mind the scribbles on the outsides...I'll clean them up before I send them!) 
Maybe I'm just really slow, but it takes me quite a bit of time to photograph each item from all different angles, write an accurate description, research pricing, figure out packing and postage, then create each auction. Hopefully I will be able to pick up the pace, because I have so much more to sell!

Here's a small sampling of some of the auctions I have scheduled right now. 

I'm selling this Peter Rabbit figurine because he's a duplicate. I have several other figurines in this collection but am not ready to part with the rest of them!

This week, I'm focusing on selling my Liddle Kiddle dolls. This is Violet, one of the Kologne Kiddle dolls. Unlike the one I sold before Christmas, this particular doll does not have a bottle.

I'm also selling a Liddle Kiddle bracelet, ring and pin. Right now there seems to be a lot of interest in these Liddle Kiddle items. I'm guessing that people of my age are buying them to re-create their childhoods!

 I'm also selling this Heidi Pocketbook doll. She has an extra dress and 3 pairs of shoes. She has button on her tummy which, back in the day, made her arm wave. She came in a red "pocketbook" carrying case, which I no longer have. She's in great shape, considering her age! :)

I'm hoping to put together a small album of my childhood toys after I sell them on eBay or in my case at the antique mall. It should be easy since I have good pictures and a description of each!

Here's hoping for several successful auctions this week and many more for the week ahead!

11 January 2015

Recipe: Nancy's Peanut Butter Balls

A couple of days before Christmas, Bailey and I decided to do a little baking and candy making. We made Snickerdoodles, Gingerbread, Oreo Balls, and Peanut Butter Balls. MERCY. I will be paying for that decision at the gym for a very long time!

Today I want to share the recipe we used for Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls. One of our store customers brought a bag of these treats to a card class in December 2013. At that time, I had only tried my grandma's peanut butter balls. Over the years, Grandma had started scrimping on quality ingredients and the result was nothing to write home about. But Nancy's peanut butter balls were incredible! 

Unfortunately life got complicated last year at Christmastime and I didn't get a chance to make them until this past Christmas. Peanut butter balls are one of Spouse's very favorite treats, and he agrees that these are the best ever!

I haven't made a lot of "dipped" treats in my life, so I took a few pictures to document how easy it is. I used my stand mixer to mix up the "filling" for the balls. (Funny side story: I originally intended to make a 1/2 recipe because really...who needs 72 peanut butter balls? But when halving the ingredients, I somehow added the FULL amount of powdered sugar, so suddenly I found myself committed to the full recipe! Spouse did not mind one bit that I made that little mistake!)

 I rolled them out and put them in the freezer for an hour as Nancy suggests in her recipe.

One of the reasons these peanut butter balls are so good is because of the coating. You can't go wrong with Hershey's chocolate!

As you can see, my dipping skills leave a little to be desired. But they still taste awesome! Needless to say, this recipe will now be a favorite for years to come!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls 
Nancy McGrew 

2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 pound powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
½ cup butter, softened
1 pound Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar
12 ounce bag of Hershey Milk Chocolate Chips

Mix first 4 ingredients together and roll into small balls, ¾” inch. Freeze for 1 hour or so. Melt together chocolate bar and chips in double boiler. Use two forks to dip balls into the chocolate. Let them sit overnight on waxed paper. (In the winter, we set the pans in the garage. It’s about 40 degrees and they set up well.)

Makes approximately 6 dozen.

10 January 2015

Christmas: Grandma's Sleigh Bell

 As I've been packing up my Christmas decorations this week, I wanted to be sure to share the story of this old sleigh bell. It became a special part of my Christmas decorations this year.
You may recall that my paternal grandma recently passed away. After getting her settled in the nursing home last February, I began the task of sorting through her household belongings. Grandma didn't have much of value, but she did have a few family heirlooms which I found inside her cedar chest. 

One day a few weeks before she died, I took the boxes of heirlooms to the nursing home and, one by one, asked her about each item. At 102, her memory was remarkably sharp, and she told me several interesting stories which I scribbled on a notepad while sitting on the floor at her feet. As she reminisced, I attached a note to each memento with her preference as to which family member should be its new caretaker.

This sleigh bell intrigued me from the minute I found it, and I loved it even more after I heard its story. It turns out that this is the last remaining sleigh bell of a set that my late grandpa used to ring outside their children's windows on Christmas Eve. I have my own vivid memories of watching and listening for Santa as a child at my grandparents' house, so I can imagine the excitement my dad and his sisters would have felt when they heard the bells, telling them that Santa was on his way!
 The #12 on the bottom indicates the size of the bell. The bigger the number, the bigger the bell. This is a large bell with a deep, clanging sound which must have carried very well to the children's upstairs bedrooms. Twelve is also my birthday month. I told Grandma that day how much I love sleigh bells. When she gave me the bell, it brought tears to my eyes. It represents a very special connection to her, my grandpa, and my dad.

I wrote out the story that Grandma told me and tied it onto the bell. This humble, tarnished bell will be a very special part of my Christmases for years to come.

09 January 2015

Feline Friday

 You know the feeling (I should say FELINE!) when less-than-flattering pictures of yourself keep surfacing on social media?

That's how poor Lily feels today! She thought there would be no more pictures of the day when she wore that embarrassingly tight spandex book cover. 

Sorry, sweetheart...just one more! :)

08 January 2015

Putting Away Christmas...UGH!

 PLEASE...Someone come over quickly and put all of this stuff away! It's so much fun to get out all the Christmas decorations, but not fun AT ALL to box them up!

I'm running way behind packing up Christmas this year, and it's making me a little crazy. That's because I left the day after Christmas to go to Indiana with Bailey to help her move to her new apartment and I got home on New Year's Eve. Then I jumped head on into prep for classes. So today was the first chance I've had to start taking everything down. Not good, people!

At least I have labeled boxes so most everything has a specific place, so that makes putting things away a tiny bit better. Last year I spent considerable time working on that big project. I had just finished sorting through the contents of my parents' house and was bemoaning the fact that my mom had left me only a little bit of information about household mementos, making it very hard to discern what to keep and what to part with. So as I put away my own decorations last year, I wrote little descriptions and tucked them into the boxes, just in case I get hit by a donut truck. Bailey saw some of my notes over Christmas break and thought they were a bit depressing. I guess that's true, but I still think documentation wins! :)

 Of course, it's much easier to put away decorations with a little help from my fur babies! But Lily didn't offer much assistance this time -- she just sat and supervised.

On the other hand, Tinsel jumped in and out of boxes so quickly that she was just a blur!

Okay, enough writing...back to the task at hand! Christmas needs to be put away before Easter gets here!