Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I come by it honestly

My grandfather (deceased since 1987) was apparently a hobby painter and scrapbooker. Not scrapbooking in the sense that we understand it, but putting pictures in albums, drawing beautiful cover pages (like the one on the left), and labelling the pictures in his very nice handwriting.

At first I thought that my grandmother was the person responsible, but it seemed strange that most of the pictures that made it into albums are not in fact labelled. I realized why when my grandmother told me that she wasn't the person responsible. The labelled pictures stop right around the time my grandfather died. I thought it was really funny that so many things are somehow inherited.

Mother Nature

I am still stuck in Europe. My next attempt to flee the continent will happen on Monday. I can't afford to stay much longer, since I have a very important job interview on Tuesday for a job that I want more than I can possibly explain. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing major happens between now and Monday. I need to be on that plane. I'm also starting to become impatient and am just about ready to hop on a train to Spain and fly home from there. Not that there are any empty spots on those planes either, since everyone seems to have the same idea.

Mother Nature,

I appreciate your display of power. As a fellow woman, I know that this has to happen occassionally to keep things interesting. However, you are messing with my career, and I am getting pretty frustrated. From one woman to another, we both have something to prove, let me have my chance.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Mother Nature- Friend or Enemy

I'm usually all about Mother Nature and her beauty. But I forget that she can be vengeful too. In this case her beautiful volcano is playing havok with my travel plans. I'd love to view the beautiful lava from a distance (TV seems a safe enough distance to me), but add in that ash cloud and the fact that no planes are flying out of the northern part of Europe, and it has the potential of throwing a serious wrench into my plans. I miss my hubby, and my cat, and we're supposed to get company this weekend. Not to mention having to go back to work again... I've already missed a week of work due to my unplanned trip to Germany. Not that it wasn't worth it, because it definitely was, but I hate suprises, even good ones.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cold Fish or Clear-Headed?

My grandfather died yesterday morning. When my dad called to tell me, I cried for a little bit. But I don't think it's sunk in quite yet. Immediately I started thinking about my choices, what my grandmother (my father's mother) would do now, etc. My maternal grandmother once called my mother a cold fish, because she was thinking about what to do if my dad were to die after he had his heart attack several years ago. I think I've inherited this trait, to start thinking about what to do next no matter how bad the situation. But is that because I have no heart, or because I'm able to keep thinking logically in a horrid situation.

Also, as soon as I had made the decision to fly to Germany for the funeral I felt much calmer. I made a decision, I did some research, I booked my flight... sadness averted until the funeral. Is that just a coping mechanism, or am I really that unfeeling?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First Cross-Stitch

My first ever counted cross-stitch piece. I believe it utilizes all of seven colors and took me several years to complete. And by that I mean, I started it one year, set it down for several years, and picked it up again and finished it. This project was followed by a Santa from the same pattern sheet, before I got the Paw Prints commission. I then completed a few small projects for friends in Florida as good-bye presents and moved onto my current work, the Phoenix from a few posts ago. It's not too bad for a first attempt... although I prefer evenweave fabric to the Aida fabric I used for this project.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Small House on a Small Planet

I am currently reading Small House on a Small Planet and it's not a new idea for me. In fact, I've drawn plans of my "dream home" ever since I was a child. I believe they started off as a castle with a big round tower, that then turned into a slightly smaller, but no less extravagant house with streams running through the middle and a large courtyard a la Roman architecture. Lately I've tried to reevaluate what we really need in a house, where do we spend most of our time, how that might change once we have kids, etc. And then how small of a space I can comfortably fit those things into.

I haven't quite managed to fit everything into a space as small as say these Tumbleweed Homes, some of which can fit on the back of a 7'x15' trailer. But I have considered several other small options, and I'm happy to say that we don't need as much space as I once envisioned.

I also been watching Extreme Makeover: Home Addition on ABC.com. It's been really frustrating to watch because a lot of those families don't need a house quite so big. Obviously there are some that do, like families with wheelchairs that just need that turning space and ramps and other things that tend to take up a lot of space. Or families with large numbers of children, generally adopted. These families are all inspiring, and I love seeing them get a new home. But I'm not sure saddling them with these monsters to show off what the builders can do, is the right approach to the situation. For the most part, these families were unable to keep up maintenance on the houses they had, so what makes the ABC producers think that they'll be able to maintain an even bigger house? Also, I cannot imagine the heating/cooling and electricity bills on those houses.

A smaller house is more cozy, "forces" you to be close to one another (and how can that possibly be bad for a family), requires less maintenance and care (can you imagine trying to keep one of those houses clean? I'm pretty sure they won't be able to afford a maid), and less money for utilities. Not to mention that it teaches children a valuable lesson in the finite nature of our resources and about sustainability.

Some of the best memories I have of my childhood, is hearing my parents voices through the floor or from down the hall. It's reassuring to know that they are there. If you have this huge house, I think there's a great chance at a disconnect. Maybe it's time for a study on the impact of large houses on the psychology of a child. What do you think about this trend towards bigger, bigger, bigger?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I've started to get the feeling that Washington, DC just isn't the place for me. Sure the public transportation is great, my job rocks, and there are a ton of free things to go and do, but on the whole I'm just not happy here. The cost of living is insane, there's no way we can afford a decent little house or apartment close to the city without ending up in the worst neighborhoods, and even the free things to do have lost their charm. We've been talking about renting a house with some friends of ours, and that still sounds good. But unfortunately our budgets seem to differ greatly, and the only houses we've found so far are above what we feel comfortable paying. Not to mention, that even though we're prepared to go a bit higher, it would erradicate any savings potential. We want to save for a downpayment on a house, instead we're wasting that money on ridiculous rent amounts. So, for now, unfortunately there is the very real possibility that I will apply for the Portland, OR position that just opened up at the company I work for. I absolutely love what they do for the environment, it gives me good, happy feelings when I think about my work, I just don't want to stay in DC.

Using Maps in your Layouts

I usually pick up brochures and/or maps when I go somewhere. I've used these in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are passive, showing the general layout of the area with my captions referencing back to items on the map or giving a more general idea of where the pictures were taken.

The picture on the left shows the map of the garden outside the National Botanical Garden in Washington, DC. I included it at the beginning of a whole series of pictures that I took in the garden. While the captions do not always reference back to items on the map, I've tried to include several wide shots of where we were in the garden, followed by close-ups of flower pictures. Then when I came to the pictures of the inside of the garden, I included another map of the building itself.

The picture on the right shows this map. I drew in the path we took through the garden. On another map, I actually numbered different rooms, and numbered sets of pictures later on to correspond back to the numbers on the map. In this case, I just drew in the path we took, and titled each page as the section of the building we were in.

This helps especially if you like journaling or just generally scrapbooking in chronological order. It helps to follow an "adventure" from start to finish. Or just give the person leafing through a better understanding of the layout.

Another way to use a map is to give a spatial sense of where something was located. In this case, I included a map of the University of Limmerick, where I spent my semester abroad. I wanted to show where my dorm was located in relation to my classes. I've used this technique with a map of Apalachicola, FL (a small town where we lived for a year). On one of the first pages of our "Florida" album, I included the full map of the (very small) city, and drew in big red dots for where our apartment was, where my hubby's work was, where my work was, and other places of note. Especially if they had corresponding pictures later in the album.

If you only have a few pictures from one location, you can use the map centrally and run string from the location on the map to the pictures around the outside of the map. I used this technique for my pictures of the Tower of London. I taped one side of the string to the part on the map it represented, and the other side I taped underneath the picture.

Do you tend to collect maps? How have you included them in scrapbooks?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tiny Houses

I spent most of today browsing the web, looking at "tiny houses." It's amazing how small they look from the inside, but how roomy they can look on the inside. Granted, I saw a few that would not be close to liveable for me personally, but most of them I coveted with all my heart and soul (we're talking about less than 300 square feet total here). Especially the "build it yourself" factor and the whole idea of paying as you build so you don't have a mortgage at the end. I think the worst part about living in a tiny house is the lack of space. I have a lot of stuff... I like my stuff. Especially my many, many books. Could I get rid of most of it for the sake of a smaller footprint? Well, thinking about it, I could probably get rid of some of my books, but definitely not all of them. I have first editions from most of my favorite authors, and I'm just not willing to part with those. But what about some of the school books I've kept that I never plan on reading again? Those could probably go. The problem is, that I have picture books that I'd like to pass onto my children someday.

And what about kids... would something so small be big enough to raise 2 kids in (that's how many my husband and I have decided we want). It sounds like it would be a great starter house, or a great retirement plan, or maybe after the kids have finished school and are living on their own. But I'm not sure it's quite as feasible in between.

It's sad how many people think that the bigger the house, the better. Average square footage per person has grown exponentially over the past century, and I'm just not sure it's worth all the headache of the maintenance costs, the mortgage, and the amount of electricity, heat and water required to keep it running. How do you feel about down-sizing?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Windows that Open

In the class I'm taking right now, we talked about windows, and how architects are rediscovering the novelty that is "windows that open." Wahhhh?! When did windows that don't open become the norm? Even in tall office buildings, can't you find windows that open only a small amount to let in fresh air? I work in an office where the windows don't open, and let me tell you: I wish they did. Often. Especially in the early spring, when it's just starting to get warm out. I wish I could let some breeze and fresh air in here. It always feels too dry, too hot, too cold, too static in here. Why would anyone put in windows that don't open? It makes me sad that I'm forced to watch spring go by from an office window, without ever feeling the air on my face. Being removed from the environment is draining and I feel better just for stepping outside for a few minutes to grab lunch. Do the windows at your work or school open?