Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reading Loves and Slumps

It's that time of year - the time when I switch books mercilessly looking for the "perfect" fit.  The time when I buy tons of things looking for the holy grail.  This is the time when I worry I might never find another good book again.  I search for the answer to my slump - words to reignite my love for reading.  The great truth is...there is no "perfect" fit at this time of year.  While spring represents an amazing rebirth - it in no way relates to my reading or creative life.  So - I'm still here searching while doing my best to remember this is part of my process.  There is no need to scream to the heavens or take up book burning as a new hobby.  My reading love will return...someday.  My current victim (or book) is this beauty right here...

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I have the feeling it's a great book.  It's just not the right time.  I enjoy every moment I read it - but have no drive to pick it back up.  This is a key slump indicator at this time of the year.  At other times of the year it's an indicator I might be reading a lemon - but not now.  Sometimes I wonder if this is not the time to be reading potentially great reads.  I don't know if my mind will ever see books at this time as truly great.  There is definitely a high statistical improbability of finding any kind of page turner at this point in my reading cycle.  I was reading this - and put it on hold.  It's definitely not a fourth quarter read.  It's going on the summer book list.  I can't wait until summer.  Summer is the time when my blogging and reading life blossoms.  If I could only bottle that lovely goodness year round.  If only...

I hope everyone has had a lovely Tuesday filled with great reads.  Until then...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Product Love: Change it Up

I've always loved the art of scrapbooking.  However, I've always had a hard time reconciling my own experience with the scrapping world.  It seems full of married women with children and that's just not me. It might never be me - which IS okay.  As a way of fitting into the landscape, I've adopted scrapbooking as my creative journaling process.  I tell my stories - both good and bad - along with everyday moments and my love of family.  It's definitely a rewarding approach.  It's just that sometimes I forget it's important to live your life and take the photos in order to tell the story.  There are no good stories to be found in sitting on the couch every night.  There are only so many pictures I can take of my beastly kitty.  So with all that in mind - I'm changing it up.  I bought something really grand over the weekend.  I have a smaller version which I've barely touched - but there was something more welcoming about this beauty.  I think it has something to do with the size.

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Introducing the new and improved GINORMOUS Smash book.  I'm totally in love with this thing.  I would go into more detail but I think the K&Company website says it best...

"Tuck it in, in a big way. The larger sized Pocket SMASH folio has enough bound-in folders, pockets and envelopes to hold the really major moments that happen every day. These aren't just your ordinary journal pages, they're covered with images, designs and captions to make design a snap. Includes 42 pages, plus 6 special pocket pages and a pen and glue stick. Book size is 11" wide x 13.5" high"
~Source: K&Company

It's amazing.  I already did two pages in the book.  The first page was of these amazing messages I got from the children I work with for my department's special day.  I used the Spell It Out two page spread.  The second used the marbles page spread where I told my ongoing saga of maintaining my health.  I can't wait to put little things in the pockets.  It really has made me start to think a little differently.  My only criticism is the size.  I love that it's big.  I just wish it was square.  I seem to do better with squares.  I'm hoping this will be one more tool in my arsenal.  One more thing that allows me to tell my story.   One more way to get through the creative lulls.  Here's hoping you have an amazing Monday full of creative goodness.  Until then...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reigniting My Creative Flow

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Here I am - 12 days after my last post thinking about the total frustration of creative slumps.  My work definitely ebbs and flows based on a variety of different variables.  As I get further along in my crafting journey - I've started to recognize signs of the time...

  • Spring ~ This is the time of year when my creativity takes a huge dive.  I'm really busy at work and most of my energy goes into making that final push.  No matter how much I love my job - spring is always the hardest part of the year for me.  I get very little done in terms of crafting and reading.  This is usually the time I think of giving away all of my supplies and packing it in.
  • Holidays & Events ~ I'm an everyday storyteller.  I think of my craft as scrapbook journaling more than anything else.  As a single scrapper without children, there isn't always a lot of stories to tell and I'm just not interested in scrapping the holidays or big events.
  • Geography ~ Don't worry - this isn't going to be a geography lesson.  I take tons of pictures when I'm with my family.  However, due to geographical complications - we aren't all that close.  So if I don't see them for a while - it usually means I have no pictures and  it somehow relates to my scrapbooking lull.
  • Photos ~ This one's pretty simple.  I need to take more photos - not just Instagram photos.  I need to carry my camera and start documenting my everyday life.  I also need to remember it's okay to tell the story without the photo.  Life is beautifully imperfect - it's okay if my scrapbooks are too.
  • Moods & Physical Health ~ When I'm not in good shape or a lot of pain - creativity naturally takes a holiday.  It's my body's way of taking care of me.  However, these are precisely the times I need my crafts and books so much.  It's definitely a double-edged sword.
Over the next few weeks - I'm going to focus on creative flow and it's ever changing force in my life.   I consider reading a huge part of my creative life.  It taps into my imagination and ability to tell stories in a meaningful way.  It's a huge part of my life - except in April and May.  
So here's to telling my story in a new way.  I'm going to find resources, try new products, go on dates with my old products and make them new again, and soak up all the inspirational goodness I can find.  I'm going to share those resources here as often as my slumping self allows.  I'm going to continue to write in my 5-year journal.  I'm going to find small ways to ignite my creativity.  I'm also going to do my best to respect this time and allow the batteries to recharge.  This is part of the process and I'm going to embrace it the best I can.  I'm going to try to enjoy being in the caterpillar stage.  I would love to hear the ways you deal with burn-out/slumps.  Here's hoping you have a wonderful week.  Until then...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My 10 Favorite Books on the 10th

It started out hard - coming up with 10 of my favorite books and then I realized I needed categories: fiction, non-fiction, creative/crafts, etc...and then the big questions started coming.  Do I need to separate children from adult fiction?  Where does YA fit in? Someone help me I have eleven books!!!  Which begged the question - am I making this harder than it needs to be?  Of course I here we go...

My Top 10 Favorite Fiction Books - Adult & YA

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving- I read this book in high school and fell in love with it and all things John Irving at the time.  While my love for John Irving has evolved, my love for this book has not - it is still as pure as the first time I read it.  I'm listening to it now on audio and finding it to be a perfect delight.

2. Unless by Carol Shields - I have only read one book by Carol Shields and it was her last.  It is beautiful in a way defying description.  I remember feeling like I was in the main character's head - living her life.  I felt a true kinship with her.  It's a reading experience I really treasure.

3. Probable Future by Alice Hoffman - I love a book with a little magical realism or in this case A LOT.  Alice Hoffman introduced me to magical realism with this outstanding book.  This sub-genre has led me to other great authors like Sarah Addison Allen.  It's absolutely fantastic.  Another book I've listened to on audio.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - It was required 11th grade reading and possibly the only required reading book I read in high school besides Wuthering Heights.  While I regret every single solitary moment I spent with Emily Bronte', I will always treasure the time I spent with Atticus, Scout, Jem and Boo.  One of the few books I've read twice.  I re-read it last year when I started to wonder if I was idolizing it in my mind without really remembering the plot.  My suspicions turned out to be partially true - still it makes the top five.  It's fantastic.

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green - I would bow at this man's feet if it wasn't one of the highest forms of blasphemy.  I try and read every word he writes.  I'm currently in the process of reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  I find him to be remarkably talented.  I loved this book more than words.

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Anderson tackles an unspeakable tragedy with such gentle rawness it's almost too beautiful to describe.  I shutter at what the Twilight series could have been in her hands.  She is an outstanding writer.

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - This man uses words like Michael Jordan played basketball at the height of his career.  This book is both hysterical and heartbreaking.  I have so many passages highlighted on my Kindle.  It makes me believe in the beauty of the written word.

8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - I loved this book.  It's another book with a magical realism thread weaving through it.  It's also another book I've listened to on a long drive.  It's amazing in every way.  However, skip the movie.  Eric Bana is beyond reckoning hot - but the book is so much better.

9. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - I read this book prior to reading the final Harry Potter book.  It's a book about sisterhood and twins.  It's unsettling and a little creepy.  However, the mixture of having a close sister and the experience of reading the last installment of the Harry Potter series, with the Weasley Twins being so prominent, really altered the way I feel about this book.  It's one of the few in my top ten where my life circumstances and other readings have woven together with my overall experience with a book.

10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver  - A really beautiful book about a teenage girl's last day of life and her chances to make things right.  Another book requiring a mass of tissues.  Love it so much.

I'm sitting here feeling a little insignificant and completely overwhelmed by the inadequacy of my words in relation to this list of books.  Reading is my first love.  These ten books are a big part of that.  They reflect almost 20 years of reading.  I'm unsure I can do them any justice.  I feel beyond blessed to have had the privilege to read every last one of them and so many more.  They are a part of my soul.  Until then...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Product Love, Budget Scrapbooking, and Man Alive this Hobby is Expensive!!!!

I'm having a little bit of a freak-out at this moment because of one little idea.  I got the idea from Paperclipping Roundtable.  I both love and hate Paperclipping Roundtable at this moment.  In Episode 108, the unsinkable Molly McCarthy suggests calculating the price of your last five pages...and, like a good listener, I did just that...God help me!!!  I should have known better - the episode number adds up to nine (inside joke).

Layout #1 - "Hard Reality" = $24.21

Layout #2 - "My Sweet Rewards" = $30.64
Please note: I've now learned scrapbooking is a very expensive reward.

Layout #3 - "'Zine Love"= $22.51

Layout #4 - "Just a Temporary Fix" = $27.02

Layout #5 - "Love this Girl" = $26.31
I don't have a picture of my most recent layout purposely - mostly because it's really personal - so I'll just tell you the calculated price - $26.31.

I would go through the list of products but I'm fairly disgusted right now and just the slightest bit lazy.  Why you might ask?  The total price on all five layouts is $126.31.  With each 12 x 12 American Crafts album holding approximately 20 page protectors - or 40 scrapbook pages - I've roughly figured that each album is costing $1000.  With approximately 5 albums and at least 40 loose pages - I've put approximately $6000 into this hobby since 2007.  This doesn't even account for all the other product sitting nicely in my house unopened or uncounted.

Before you have a nervous breakdown, or better yet before I have a nervous breakdown, remember this one thing - products only get counted once.  So each page where there is new product gets the full price added into the total.  If the product is used in subsequent pages, the amount is not added.  I thought this would bring down the overall price but found it cost just as much per page on average despite not having to count "old" product, which has led me to two important points...

  • I'm not using my product wisely and spending way too much on crafting - a fact I already pretty much knew.
  • I'm not sure I can afford this.  I have no children and my current legacy is an illiterate, badly behaved tuxedo cat.  Did I also mention she enjoys attacking paper?  So where to go from here?  

I love this hobby.  I love telling my stories - but it's time to get on a budget.  So for the next few weeks - I'll be sharing my finds on making my costs a lot smaller while telling my story.  Sort of explains the new trend towards artsy scrapbooking - I think it might be significantly cheaper.  We'll see.    So that's it for my product love for today.  The moral is pretty much that I love product WAY too much.  Here's hoping you have a great Monday and spend no time calculating the cost of each of your pages.  I don't advise it.  Hugs all around.  Until then...

P.S. I still love Paperclipping Roundtable with all my heart.  It's just got tiny cracks in it now. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First and Foremost...I'm a Reader

It seems strange to write or even think this...but I can't remember a time I could not read.  I cannot remember a time when I didn't love reading to my very core.  I can remember times when I've had slumps and believed without a shred of doubt I will never find another good book to read again.  Fortunately, the heavens open and my higher being takes pity on my book slump and sends me something precious.  It doesn't happen often...but it's happened twice in the last month and I just have to share.  So without further ado...two books that will be a definite fixture on my top 10 book list.

This book has a very interesting point of view.  The author uses the first person objective point of view in a completely fresh way - there is no use of the word "I" - it is only "we."  "We" as in the three sisters making one whole person.  Having sisters myself - I understand the notion that three parts can make one whole even when each part is it's own individual being.  The three protagonists in this book are self-proclaimed failures.  They all return home due to their mother's illness in varying states of disrepair.  I will not give away a single other plot point except to say this book is utterly divine.  The point of view is somewhat awkward at first - due to it's infrequent usage in MY book world - but it's well worth every sentence and moment spent.  It made me appreciate my siblings in a way I haven't for a very long time.  Now on to the next lovely...

This is John Green's second book on my top ten list and I think it's better than the first, Looking for Alaska.  There are some naysayers out there that believe the plot is formulaic and predictable and I am DEFINITELY not one of them.  I love this book.  It is hysterical.  It is also sad in a way my own simple words cannot express.  I will not allow any spoilers to escape my lips or fingers - just buy it.  If you don't like it...then read it again because something is SERIOUSLY WRONG.  Just kidding (sort of)!  

So there you have it.  Two amazing books keeping my 52 book pledge going along well - although I believe I'm two books behind.  I love how Goodreads feels the need to inform me of that each time I go into update my profile.  I often want to yell "suck it" at the screen.  I'll get there - don't rush me.  For those of you wondering about my top ten - it'll be on a future reading post.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful Tuesday with their nose in a very good book.  Happy Reading!  Until then...  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Product Love

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I'm in love with Pan Pastels.  I find them to be fabulous in every way.  Despite having already talked about them on this little blog of mine, I thought they deserved a proper Product Love post.  I currently have 13 of these little lovelies.  I don't have all of the cool tools to go along with it - sponges, artist tray, etc.  I'm desperate to have each and every color and accessory.  For me, the amazing part of this product is it's perfect mixture of control and flow.  There are times when I cannot control where the color goes.  And during those times, I want to scream to the heavens.  But then...there are times when things go really well...

Patterned Paper: Crate Paper, Echo Park, Jilly Bean Soup; Stamps: Memory Box, Hero Arts; Button: My Mind's Eye; Other: Dictionary Paper & Black Cardstock
Both of these cards use pan-pastels as the main colorant.  I added some good old-fashioned hairspray as a fixative and got on about my business.  I absolutely love the effect.  This is a perfect example how blending and flow can turn out wonderful and that's a powerful message for a crafty, control-freak like me.  Pardon my lens cap in the photo - sheesh I'm not great with a camera.  These two cards are going to two of my amazing co-workers as thank you cards for all they've done for me in the last few days.  I hope they really like them.  So that's it for today's product love.  If you have any interest in this product - please give it a try.  It's well worth the effort.  I hope everyone has a rocking Monday!  Until then...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Making Space for My So-Called Crafty Life

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I got this book last week after ordering her first book online - Page After Page a few months ago.  Please note: I haven't read the first book as of yet - but liked some articles on writing she has published.  So I started this little gem (book above) last night and was struck by one theme - making time for the things that matter.  Heather (have you ever noticed I'm on a first name basis with EVERYONE) talks about taking things away in order to develop and maintain a meaningful writing practice.  She discusses giving up television, hobbies, movies, etc.  She suggests making a list of all the things you do and identify the items on your must list (meaning you absolutely cannot live without it - think breathing).  It got me thinking about three major things...

  • Blogging - How do I make space in my life for this blog of mine in the form I envision?
  • Crafting - Is my heart still in it or is it something I can or should take a break from for a while?
  • Writing - Is this something on my heart?  Do I want to pursue this curious part of myself or do I just like the idea of being a writer?
Then I started panicking about the smaller things like - what television shows will I give up?  Will I have to stop going to movies?  Will I need to give up my afternoon nap?  Do I have or want to use three years to develop any kind of practice in my life let alone reading 100 books and doing a LOT of writing, research, and note taking.  I guess in the end it brings us back to the beginning.  What matters most?  What parts of my life do I want to cultivate/blossom into something more?  What do I want to use to nourish my soul?  Heavy stuff, I think...But well worth the effort.  So that's me this Sunday....putting off cleaning by thinking.  I am so cognitive (wink,wink).  

Today: pick up laundry, pick up lunch, get a Vanilla Cupcake cappuccino (a much less expensive coffee fix than Starbucks), and make some cards.  If I'm really ambitious I might get my rear end in gear on my art journal page for the week.  Let's see if this girl makes it.  I hope everyone has a lovely Sunday.  Until then...
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