A New Look

So! I have been bored by the look of this site for a while, but until a few weeks ago, had no ideas or inspiration for how to re-imagine it. I knew it had to be stripe-ier, more colorful… and more current. Here’s what the site has looked like since about August 2011:
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Which was fine, but I have wanted something jazzier for a while. Luckily, stripes are not above my (very mediocre) Photoshop talent level.

Here’s the new look, if you’re viewing this from a feed reader:
newlook

Pam helped me out with some social media icons, which I re-colored. I updated the About page a bit, and added sidebar links to my current and recent projects (Project Life, my 52 weeks of no color photography project for 2013, as well as older projects like 30 Before 30 and Handmade52). I have also added links to a few of my favorite posts from years past, since I enjoy reading those on other blogs.

I overthink this blog, sometimes; I know I’m not a big fish, and I mostly write for myself. But just like Project Life is worth the energy because it’s about preserving memories, writing here is worth it for me for the same reason. And having a look I’m jazzed about just makes me want to be here more. And I really do want to be here.

Best Bet Ever?

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Dan and I are in the same fantasy football league, although this is my first year having my own team. Each time our teams play, we’ve set up side bets to make things more interesting. For the first matchup, if I had won, Dan would have had to take me to a restaurant I’ve always loved but he had no interest in, but if he won, I would have to not eat cheese for a whole week. He won, and I was not happy. But the second time we played each other (and by this point my team had established itself as pretty solid, thanks to Aaron Rodgers), we raised the stakes. Or, I did. If Dan won, I would have had to take him to see the Immortals. But if I won, he would have to go with me to a paint your own pottery place for an afternoon of craftiness. I wouldn’t be writing a whole post about it if he won, so clearly I won. Dan fought tooth and nail, and I twisted the knife by giving him the impression that it’d be HOURS of painting (as opposed to one, since you pay by the hour).

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We went a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon, and going during the Christmas season was the best thing, just because owning crappily painted Christmas decorations somehow makes more sense than attempting to paint something you’d actually use. (Although I do still use the toothbrush holder that I painted back in 2002.) Dan was pretty obviously unhappy when we got there, and the clerk at the store could totally tell that he’d been dragged there. He made sure to tell her that he lost a bet. I had a hard time, as usual, deciding what to paint, knowing I wanted to paint stripes, but also knowing how much imperfectly painted stripes would annoy me.

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Dan picked a wizard-ish Santa figurine after I pointed out that it would be awfully funny to bring it out every year and remember how he had to paint it because he lost a bet. I went with a giant mug, since I somehow only own one Christmas mug.

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It was so much fun, and although he’d never admit it, I’m pretty sure Dan didn’t hate it anywhere near as much as he expected he would. Not that he’s clamoring to go again anytime soon, or, you know, EVER… but it was really fun and different and if winning a bet is the only way I’d get him to go with me, I’ll totally take it.

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Week 40: Photo Safari

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A few months ago, I spotted a groupon for New York City Photo Safari, and it seemed way too cool to pass up. I was able to convince my friend Irma to sign up with me, and we picked a Saturday in October for our safari on the High Line. I was pretty concerned when I saw the forecast for Saturday, though, and with good reason, because as it turned out? We were walking the High Line with our cameras during Snowtober. We met for brunch first, and thought we were bundled pretty well (me in my rain boots and gortex nerd raincoat, and Irma in her winter coat and boots) until it started snowing in addition to the wind. We stopped for extra scarves, gloves, and hats before meeting with the Photo Safari group. I spent most of the days leading up to the safari worrying about how to keep my non-water resistant camera safe during torrential rain/snow. I ended up bringing a gallon ziploc bag and felt like a tool, but during the parts of our afternoon that weren’t under cover, I was really glad to have it.

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lines. or stripes, depending on who you ask.
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101.365 :: urban jungle
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I’m not really sure what I expected out of the experience, and I think part of that was that worry about the weather took over my brain before Saturday. Our guide explained a few rules, and we introduced ourselves, and then got down to business. We started out in a covered part of the High Line park, and focused on abstract concepts – first lines, and then curves. It was difficult at first, because getting feedback like “yes, but what’s interesting about that?” and “we’re not looking for STRAIGHT lines” was a bit strange. I wasn’t ever sure I understood what the goal was, just that I wasn’t quite getting it. After the abstract shots, we were instructed to put them together and keep composition in mind. Again, I got some that seemed good, and some that weren’t quite there. We then walked to a different part of the park, but it was so windy and our hands were sooo frozen and crampy, so we ended up heading to the Chelsea Market to shoot for a while indoors and out of the snow. Talk about a relief to be inside! At first I was just over it, the being told that I wasn’t there yet… (not that I think I’m perfect or anything) but I kept shooting and eventually everything just clicked. It’s hard to describe. I took a ton of photos of the same things over and over, and the guide was really complimentary about my progress from the beginning to the end.

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curves and raindrops
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I was disappointed that the weather impacted the day so much, just because we were limited to such a small portion of the High Line and our focus was so abstract that I still don’t feel like I saw it at all. Plus, it would have been so interesting to have more subjects to focus on during the projects. I do think, though, that I learned some things about composition and maybe even something so simple as taking different angles, because I often find myself focusing primarily on light. So I definitely got a lot out of it and am glad I went. Despite being freezing and soggy and super exhausted by the time I got back to Penn Station to get home. It was an Experience, that’s for sure!

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Week 37: Geometric Paintings

One of the things I wanted to get right in our new place was decorating, in the living room, especially. I had a lot of posters and things that I liked in my old place, and I wanted to keep them, but not necessarily in the same configuration, just so the new place felt like “our place” instead of just everything from my old place but with Dan now.

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So I knew I wanted to hang my Keep Calm and Carry On poster above the couch, but I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to hang with it. At first I thought I’d buy prints from etsy or somewhere, but that got overwhelming really fast. I have a bunch of frames that I like but never knew how to use, including two worn-in white frames from my parents’ old bathroom. And then I realized that I could just make something to put in those frames, duh, and that I could then make sure the colors coordinated but didn’t match too twee-lee.

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I bought a bunch of craft paint at AC Moore, and just used some extra white cardstock, cut down to 8×10 to fit into the frames. This was my first major hurricane project, done sitting on the floor next to the big glass doors out to our patio. Dan helped me pick the designs and the colors, so that made it feel much more “us” instead of just me.

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I painstakingly cut painters tape into strips, the chevron being WAY TOO FUSSY I should have just used washi tape instead of paint why did I think this would be so easy and straightforward? Ugh.

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Ahem. The stripes were easier, but I still cut the painters tape into narrow strips, trying to paint in a not-too perfect pattern.

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The cardstock became clearly the wrong paper for the painters tape (washi tape would probably have been better, even for the same purpose) as it ripped the paper in some spots when I pulled it up. I tried not to be too much of a perfectionist about it, trying to convince myself that the sort of fuzzy lines go with the weathered frames just fine.

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I finally hung them up this past weekend, in preparation for Dan’s parents coming over to see the new apartment for the first time, and added my old beer bottle cap wreath to balance it out. I’m so happy with how it looks now, and it’s such a nice sight to see as I come in to the apartment, and the colors obviously are super matchy with the afghan that I assume I’ll finish one day, and I couldn’t be happier. Except if the painters tape hadn’t torn the paper but… we’re not talking about that.

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Thirty.

I feel like I have been talking about turning thirty all year. And I guess I kind of have, what with the 30 Before 30 list and everything. (I am still working on a few of the items, and will definitely write to wrap up the list once things calm down a bit.)
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July 21, 1982. One.

As a kid, I had a strange history of putting way too much importance in my own birthday. There were a lot of years of stressing about what the perfect gift might be, or how to spend the perfect day. I have been afraid all along that the oh-so-typical Birthday Stress would be exponentially larger, since Turning Thirty is such a Big Deal And Whatever.

July 21, 1984 :: 3
July 21, 1984. Three. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THE CABBAGE PATCH DOLL.

But now it’s here, and I didn’t really end up coming up with anything outrageously noteworthy to do today, unlike most of my friends who have planned big parties or super fun things to do with large groups of everyone who loves them. I couldn’t even think of what to tell people I wanted. And the biggest surprise to me, the same girl who used to FREAK OUT the week before every birthday (it’s the last time I’ll ever swim in a pool while I’m 13!!), is that I’m totally okay with all of it. I am wearing a striped dress and giant pink, red and purple earrings with my purple saltwater sandals, I’ve eaten a bagel and will soon consume frozen yogurt, a beer sampler, and some cupcakes. I’m spending the day with my love. And that is pretty damn great.

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July 21, 1985. Four.

29 seemed like it was going to be The Year, and really? It turned out to be not great at all. There was so much stress and hassle and tears and frustration and for a really large part of the year, it felt like nothing was going as it should, and that everything was more difficult than it needed to be. Right up until this past week, when I almost broke my foot and had unexpected and expensive car repairs. So, no, 29 was not what I expected. But I think that fact is what has helped me approach 30 with increasing excitement and hope the closer it got. My teens were spent knowing somewhere deep down that I just didn’t fit in. My twenties were years of endless searching. For my place in the world, for a career, for fulfillment, for love, for friendship… And as I sit here, newly 30 and perhaps a bit too reflective, I can’t help but feel for damn sure that everyone who has ever told me that their thirties were the best years EVER was SO RIGHT.

Because Dan and I just moved in together and even though the last few weeks have been unsettled and chaotic, things are coming together SO nicely. And I have some of the best friends in the universe. And a craft room. And a brother and a sister and parents who know me better than anyone and who have carried my shit way too many times. And someone who really loves me. And I’m having a really great hair day.

So thirty, bring it on. I simply can’t wait to see what you have in store.

365.1 :: 30

Summer Postcards!

My friend Jodi hosted a summer postcard swap this month, and after Cynthia posted her creations, I knew I wanted to do the same.

I keep a few old paperbacks with my craft supplies, because the book pages make such a great background. All I used otherwise were moo cards (some of my own business cards, and some of the older small ones), some stamps, a few summery magazine pages, and LOTS of washi tape for some stripeitude. I coated them all with a light coat of Mod Podge, because I was afraid they’d fall apart in the mail. (They didn’t, so it worked!) We always send cards to wish friends and family happiness in the winter, but why not wish everyone a happy summer? It’s my favorite time of the year! I made my required postcards, but also a few extras for my out of town friends, and sending an unexpected surprise in the mail is one of my favorite things to do.

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Stripe Mania, Indeed!

As you might have guessed, I have a bit of a thing for stripes. So when I saw decor8′s Stripe Mania (!) challenge to post a photo of ourselves wearing our stripiest shirts, I knew I couldn’t miss out… even if the idea of taking outfit shots gives me hives. It was hard to pick, because clearly I have a lot of striped shirts. (And I have for quite a long time now!)

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(I do appear to have certain… stripey tendencies, when it comes to colors. Also? I really need to get a red and white striped shirt. How do I not have one?)

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I decided to go with my favorite stripes right now, yellow and gray.

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(the tshirt is from Old Navy, and the gray jeans are from Lands End Canvas)

I really love pairing this with my red circle scarf, even if at 85+ degrees in New Jersey, it was a little hot for it.

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And just to prove to Cynthia, who also took me up on the stripes challenge (and totally upped the ante by COMBINING stripes! which I am totally going to do, as soon as I can get my grubby little hands on a striped cardigan!), that I do actually own and wear skinny jeans…

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Everything is better in stripes.

Week 17: Nook Case

So as y’all know, I have now had my Nook for a few months, and am really loving it. I have been using a cover that Dan bought me for Christmas, and it is hot pink and folds open like a regular book, except it has a handy dandy notepad in it, too. And it’s a great cover, but I discovered that (for me, at least) the kind of cover that opens like a book and folds back on itself is really awkward and unbalanced to hold while reading. It started to drive me crazy.

So I started shopping online for a new case, thinking a flip-top case or just a simple cozy that just stores the Nook when you’re not reading it would be the best. I didn’t really find anything I liked, but I resigned myself to choosing a really basic neoprene zip-top case and was moments from clicking “submit order” when I saw that Marianne had just posted a photo of the cozy she had just knitted for HER Nook. (What? I multitask. Always.)

And I said DUH. Why did it not EVER occur to me to make one for myself? With all the freaking MAKING OF THINGS that I have been doing since 2011 started??

I started on Ravelry, but was too drawn to the cable-knitted cozies (and I don’t know how to knit cables yet), so I turned to a basic Google search. It didn’t necessarily have to be a pattern for a Nook-specific case, but if I could find one where someone had already figured out the measurements, I was all for that. I found this pattern from Little Birdie Secrets and loved it.

nook case

I decided to crochet stripes because I was so in love with the colors I used for Thea’s hat, and had a really fantastic time choosing buttons at the local fabric store. (Okay, fine, I bought way more sets of buttons than I needed for this project.) I actually also bought white rick-rack because my brother said this would look like a kind of adorable monster if I added some teeth.

handmade52.17 nook case

As I was starting, I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be quite wide enough, but decided to just go with the pattern’s measurements. Of course, in the end, it’s a little too snug, but I’m hoping the yarn will stretch a bit. This is also the first time I’ve ever used (or, hell, heard of) moss stitch, which works up amazingly fast and looks really great. I’m not happy with the not-perfect job I did stitching up the sides, or the fact that I probably should have blocked this with pins and all that jazz so the edges stop curling… but it’s just so cute! And stripey. I will probably make another one in other colors, because it’s not like I don’t already have the buttons. Or extra yarn.

Week 15: Pom Pom Hat

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I have been planning to make this hat for Thea’s birthday for a while, and then had to keep it a secret until I knew the package had made its way into her (parents’) hands. I used another pattern from the Inner Hooker etsy shop, and it was an interesting twist on a hat, simply because it isn’t started in the round because it’s, you know, a rectangle.

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Again, I made the 3-6 month size (with a few extra rows of each color at the bottom), perhaps knowing that it’s not exactly hat time of the year, but I think it turned out pretty adorable. Even though I don’t get along very well with pom poms, stupid “easy” pom pom maker be damned. (Also, why are they referred to as pom pons when everyone says pom poms? Is everyone wrong? Is it like how everyone pronounces “sherbet” wrong?)

Week Eight: Linoleum Prints

This particular crafty adventure has been in the works since way back in December when I revealed my linoleum-printed holiday cards. Pookie and Schnookie and I have been joking for a while about trying lots of new things until we stumble upon what will lead us to internet crafty millionaire-dom. They’ve been pondering all sorts of things and I love papercrafts, and we decided to plan a Craft Spectacular Day to start from the beginning and try linoleum printing together.

We settled on Presidents Day, because all three of us had off for the long weekend. We spent a while browsing online for supplies, and each of us bought a few linoleum blocks, a carving tool set, a roller, and some paint. I supplied the endless paper (I used this event as an excuse to buy a pound of scraps at the craft store last week, and boy was THAT a treat) and pencils and tracing paper.

The only hitch in the plan that day was that there was some sort of water main break at my apartment complex, so I hadn’t had water since the late morning. But we figured it would be back in a few hours and got started anyway.

I think the hardest part for all of us at the beginning (okay, well, all day) was trying to figure out what to carve. It’s hard to be very precise on the linoleum, so you’re trying to think of something that would be easy to carve but not boring at the same time. The basic method is to draw your design on tracing paper, flip the tracing paper over onto the linoleum block, and rub the back of the tracing paper so the pencil lines transfer (backwards) onto the linoleum. We then floundered a bit with whether we were carving the positive or negative image, too.

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The blocks are super hard, so you need a lot of pressure to carve out the designs. I was busy telling them about how my mom had warned me to be super careful while carving, because the carving tools are reeeeally sharp, and maybe she thought we should wear gloves on her left hand… and that’s right about when my right hand slipped and I jabbed the damn carving tool right into my left pointer finger. And my water was still off. And it was bleeding. And my mom TOLD ME SO.

the injury

We all laughed heartily about that for a while, or I pretended to laugh heartily to disguise how much my hands were shaking, and how afraid I was to actually look at the wound, and Pookie and Schnookie looked at me shifty-eyed and asked if we needed to go get me stitches. Then they made me eat cookies. It turned out to be not too bad, other than the holy crap that hurts factor, and the I can’t believe I stabbed myself during crafts factor. But my dad had put together a pretty serious first aid kit when I moved into my first apartment, so I had lots of bandaging materials.

first print

At this point we had just started printing with our first blocks, and were pretty excited about the results. I, naturally, stuck with super boring stripes, but Pookie carved a masterful strawberry, and Schnookie made a spool of thread which was intense. And the prints? Especially on my array of colored paper? Are SO cool!

We did that for a while and then broke for the almost-as-important trip to Pete and Elda’s portion of the day. I also really, really needed to use the bathroom (still no water) and was concerned about not having really washed my wound yet. So we did all of that, and ate a surprisingly large amount of pizza and drank a bunch of beer (to fuel the crafts). And I thought, as I do every time I am there, that I need to set up some sort of rotation so that I can get myself to Pete and Elda’s on a more frequent basis.

that beer tasted SO good.

SERIOUS YUM

We then went back to my apartment and started carving new blocks, trying to be more creative or correct the mistakes that we made the first time around. (Or, you know, not stab oneself in the process). We also had some rubbery looking blocks (they looked and smelled like gigantic art erasers) that we used the second time around, and these were much easier to carve but seem to be a little more flimsy. So I think the idea is that you use the hard gray blocks if you want to keep the block and reuse it again and again, while you use the easier to carve blocks for more intricate designs that you don’t need to keep? (Going back to the gray blocks after the ez-carve ones was IMPOSSIBLE.)

more stripes

our masterpieces

circles

So we had a day of crafts, pizza, beer, and hilarity. And we made some really cool cards in the process. I think next time I carve linoleum, I will think a little more in advance about what I want to make in the end (which will, let’s face it, be stripes because I both cannot draw and am unoriginal). But really, this was just an awesome time all around. (And I didn’t need stitches.)