Sunday, December 23, 2012

Two Cats Need a Home

As some of you may know by now, James' mother passed away last Wednesday. She had two grown indoor cats who now need a loving home in the Los Angeles general area (for the sake of transporting them). 

One is an older boy cat, probably over 10, white and fluffy, Sharkie, who loves to scratch on cardboard, and is a little standoffish with strangers. The other, Myrrh, is a younger girl cat around 3 years old, black with touches of white, who is very shy and likes high places. Both cats are healthy, but a little skittish, probably in part because they know something has happened to mommy. They have lived in the same place for a very long time.

I don't think they are friendly enough to be in a home with small children, and they also have no experience with dogs. 

No one in the family has the ability to keep the cats. We are all putting the word out to find some one to take them. There will most likely be small stockpile of cat food and sundries coming with them, and ideally we hope they will stay together.

If anyone can help, please let me know. Here are some photos - once I took the pic of Myrrh, she decided to go hide, so this one peeking over is all I have.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Concerning planned obsolescence and coffee making

My Keurig has been buggy for quite a while. It did work perfectly for at least 18 months, but then started getting increasingly temperamental. At first this manifested as constant requests to "De-Scale Now", regardless of how recently and thoroughly I had done so - following the manufacturer's recommendations, and even buying special stuff. Then however the internal computer that measures cup size went whacky. The machine would either pour about half a cup of coffee into the mug, regardless of the size chosen, or continue a stream of increasingly diluted coffee to fill two mugs and then some - or as tended to happen until I got wise, fill the drip tray and overflow to the counter.

My usual set up with jug.

It has now gotten to the point where I leave a jug under the spout, because it may decide to release some hot water at unpredictable intervals. I have quite a method for getting my coffee. I select either size (doesn't matter any more). The machine draws in some water and stops. If I wait a few gurgly drops may fall, and water pools on top of the pod - so grinds drip out if I lift the handle. So what I generally do is press the power button, wait a few seconds, switch it back on and wait for the Select Size cups to flash again momentarily. Then I press the size again (often only the larger size is available) and the machine draws in more water and starts to brew and pour.

As soon as my cup is full, I exchange it for a jug or other cup, and let it continue to pour, for what seems to be a random time. My sister-in-law experienced a similar problem after some time with her Keurig.

My experience with electronic gadgets and appliances in the past has been that taking them apart and giving them a bit of a clean, making sure all the connections are tight and uncorroded, often does wonders for making them come back to life. I'm fed up with the darn Keurig, so I decided to have a look inside and see if there was any scale build up that I could clean out manually.

After unplugging, of course, I turned the thing upside down and started unscrewing, pleased to see standard sized phillips head screws. This boded well. I took the bottom plate off, and was able to go one more "layer" of screws into the machine, before I came to a realization.

Keurigs are designed to be replaced, not repaired. Evident planned obsolescence. I have read that the company does not repair the machines.

It's not that repairing it would be impossible, just really time consuming and fussy for the technician, and therefore expensive for the consumer - most likely more expensive than a new unit. Nothing is plugged in, everything is soldered. It's not at all modular inside. Some of the screws are nearly impossible to get to without disconnecting every other part - and the wires pretty much have to be cut just to get parts out of the housing. Some screws are so inaccessible I didn't even know they were there until a piece of plastic cracked off in one corner. The water hose is enclosed inside parts or insulation in more than one place, to make it almost impossible to replace in the event of damage. To be fair, the likelihood of damage to the hose inside the machine is vanishingly small.

I can see the sense in making an internally complex machine, to deter industrial competition. The innards are a cautious meeting of water and electronic components, and of course the computerized part and LCD. It is certainly very solid - lots of steel plates. I'm sure there are many safety aspects of how it is put together. But to go further in my exploration I would need special screw drivers, and considerably more motivation. It's not deconstruction. It's demolition. And that is why the reconstruction would be a pain.

Upcycled K-Cup light shades on my holiday garland.

I may bite the bullet and break it down to components, once I have determined on a new course for my morning coffee. I have a bulk box of pods to finish. At the end of that, I may return to the old drip filter way - and my small 4-cup drip machine languishing in the back of the newly organized cupboards behind the stand mixer has a permanent, reusable mesh filter so I don't even need to buy paper coffee filters. They - machine and filter - have lasted for years and years. I also own a very nice single serve french press travel mug. That's the simplest thing of all.

It's been fun, having a single serve instant use coffee maker - or at least it was until fiddling became more prevalent than convenience. Part of the attraction of Keurigs and similar machines, is the idea of a wide variety of flavors and drinks. I do have some nice tea, hot chocolate and apple cider pods. But for actual coffee, I have a strong preference for Fair Trade, so that has limited my flavor choices essentially to one, which negates the main advantage of Keurig.

The more I write, the more I'm talking myself out of getting a new Keurig. I haven't made a cup since I put it back together. Let's hope everything sealed back up properly at the water intake point. I don't like fuss. I don't like having to fuss. I just want things to work. Simple things work simply, don't they?

Any thoughts on coffee makers? Please comment!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The clean up continues.

Crafting and sewing storage

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I've been pretty darn quiet on all my blogs over the last couple of weeks. I've done no writing, no crafting, no scrapbooking, no doll making, no art. Basically I've been so focused on the declutter that other things have been put on hold. However, Jayn's small birthday party went well, and the girls learnt how to play charades. I heard a lot of laughing from the other room.

Latest Donations - lots going to the nursery school my neighbors kids attend - rest to Goodwill.

My big clean has been wonderful. We took another load to the Goodwill yesterday, and yet another load to storage. James said that it looked like our storage unit was getting full, but I replied, "You can still see the ceiling".

The empty, tidy hallway.

It's funny how small things can give so much pleasure. I put my vacuum cleaner away inside the hallway closet, and it felt wonderful. So now it is just the bedroom, the bathroom, and one small corner of the office. I'm not doing that today though. I have a Halloween costume to finish.

Meanwhile I'm at home hoping the phone does not ring. Because my new doctor has a "no news is good news after a week" policy. There are ultrasounds and mammograms and other lab tests to wait for - mostly just routine stuff. Get your mammograms ladies. It doesn't hurt anywhere near as much as purported by humor. The worst part is that it might pinch your skin just a bit. It's not even pain, but just a little bit of momentary discomfort, and pressure that is probably less than from your too small underwire bra at the end of a long day. And a mammogram is not a long day. Just a half a minute per image.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Tiles

Ancient tile work in a fountain - The Getty Villa, Malibu 

Modern tile work in progress in our shower - Coburn Casa, Playa del Rey

Actually they have just about finished the shower. Right now they are putting the silicone sealer around the door. Another contractor has to come and repair the wood door jamb and seal and paint the concrete on the outside of the shower recess. The project will have taken three weeks on Wednesday.

I love the Getty Villa. We visited on Friday. They have the Pompeii exhibit going at the moment, which is about the works of art and photography inspired by the event, and the re-discovery and excavation of the site. The curators have been thoughtful and clever. My favorite moment is the contrast between this romantic painter's idyllic vision of buxom young women with petal pink skin hauling baskets of rocks away from the dig site, and an actual photo of the dry and dusty (fully clothed) swarthy male workers doing the actual work, along with their super carrying a hefty stick to keep them going.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Felt like the end of an era.

Here's the wood replaced. Hope it works.

Our shower repair has expanded into a longer job than predicted - of course. Now it will not be finished before the middle of next week - which will be a two week job. It is running concurrently with a similar job, though with less water damage,  in the apartment next door.
Concrete pour #1. 

To add annoyance, the hose in my kitchen sink which has been invaluable for hair washing, is busted - both the nozzle and a tear in the plastic hose itself. Changing it is too big a job for DIY - something odd and non-standard in the attachment. Sigh. Will I never get to color my hair?

Meanwhile my de-clutter continues. Yesterday we took the first six good sized boxes of Jayn's dolls to our storage unit, freeing up the same amount of space on the shelves here (to be allocated to James). It was strange carefully wrapping and packing these dolls, many of which were rarely played with. No twinges  at least from her - about these particular dolls leaving the house. Seems like she will never be a little girl again.

How cute is my honey?

But Jayn has big plans for them all - her doll museum and play center. It's actually nice to think that I am contributing to her future by placing these in storage, so that when the time comes, they will be ready. Either that or they will be largely forgotten until some magical moment in the hazy future when she opens them up and finds "vintage" dolls of great value - for her own kids, or future collectors.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Working on our shower

 Some time ago our downstairs neighbor noticed moisture and mildew coming from above his shower, that is to say our shower recess. At the time a cracked tile in our shower recess was blamed, eventually replaced, and a very bad job done of re-grouting our shower.

Over time it has proved nearly impossible to keep mold and mildew from swiftly growing into the grout and silicon seal in our shower, exacerbated by the lack of sunlight into the shower recess itself (although the bathroom is lovely and light, especially in the afternoons from the west facing window). Seven months ago I noticed that grout had completely cracked away in some places, and alerted the management to the extreme probability that the same problem would recur.

About one month ago, someone finally came to inspect the issue, and decided that I needed new tile work and a new shower pan, so the workers have come today at last. As it turns out several other apartments in the complex also have leaks below their showers.
However once the tiles have been lifted and the cement broken up with a jack hammer, they found that all the wood has rotted and also needs replacing. I am  not surprised - the water had to go somewhere, and this has been years and years. I suppose we can count ourselves lucky that we haven't fallen through the floor! James tells me that this actually happened in a house he lived in as a young person.
The smell of mold is very strong. I'm glad the guys have masks in there.

Meanwhile I have been given some extra impetus to focus on my household clean up by the landlord. Forward. As of today, another cupboard emptied, more defunct gadgets boxed for the recycler, and the kitchen is still immaculate. (I even put the mixer away immediately after using it last night.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jayn Takes Flight

Wide Sky Days group photo - Photo credit: Julianne Fishell
Our daughter has just returned from her first big trip away from us. She will turn 13 in October, and it is quite a milestone.

We love attending unschooling conferences, and just got back from North East Unschooling Conference in Wakefield, MA (just outside of Boston for non-locals). We had a joyous, relaxing time filled with laughter, as you can see from my new blog banner. Last year we attended Good Vibrations in San Diego, which this year changed names to Wide Sky Days. I was a speaker at both of these events, which is what makes it possible for us to travel and for James to skip work (he spoke at NEUC too).

Our girl loves going to Conferences - loves staying in hotels, loves eating at restaurants, loves most of all spending time with all her friends doing all kinds of things. I have watched her grow up in a series of snapshots at these events - and I have seen her future manifested in watching the groups of slightly older than her kids over the years. It's like a little time capsule. What they are, she becomes, has proven true over the last 10 years that we have been attending conferences all over the country. At Wide Sky Days, Jayn has tons of friends that she rarely sees other than at this conference.

This year there was a problem of tragic dimension. We could not afford to attend the second conference, since neither of us were speaking, and James could not take more time off work so soon. I was astounded when Jayn asked, "Couldn't I just go alone?"

The real answer was that no, she couldn't go "alone", but perhaps we could find a way for her to go with someone else. We were still mulling it over and talking it over at NEUC when I mentioned it to the lovely perennial conference speaker (because she's awesome at it) Erika Davis-Pitre (pictured laughing as always in the blog banner). She offered the spare bed in her hotel room and her son's unused registration to Jayn! All I had to do was get Jayn to the hotel, as long as the conference organizer, dear friend Flo Gascon, approved. Which she did!

This was fantastic. I took Jayn to the hotel in San Diego, loaded her up with snacks (which ultimately weren't helpful because access to a microwave was difficult), gave her cash and a gift card to buy her food, and dropped her off. You know it's an unschooling conference when you start seeing people with rainbow colored hair. I visited with folks I knew for a while, increasingly regretting my own sad loss at not being able to stay amid the wonderful, gave some encouragement to a few, and finally left with Jayn barely noticing that I was gone.

How empty our house felt that night!
How bereft James and I felt for those several days. I spent more time than I ever have before on Facebook, scouring photos for images of Jayn in the background, and trying to connect myself to the activities even from far away.

But Jayn had a wonderful time. There were only two difficult phone calls - frustration and sorrow brought on by hunger. Jayn tends to get locked into a cycle of impossible, unable to take positive action when she gets very hungry. Unfortunately she had a bad tummy after eating at the buffet the first night (which may or may not have been actually connected to her tummy troubles), which made her reluctant to eat there again. But I talked her through a few choices including ordering room service, which she did. It pointed out to me, how much time I do spend making sure Jayn has food available to her. I was worried about her food more than anything else, especially when I learned there was no microwave for guest use anywhere, but she asked me straight out, "Just let me handle my food, OK?"

And by and large, she did. She also managed to get sunburned, and feel crappy from a cold coming on - but still she persevered until the very last morning, took care of herself, made new friends, reconnected with old, and packed up all her belongings herself.

I was very proud of her even before she told me how she took care of herself by walking to the Denny's or the nearby convenience store (in small groups). I was very proud of her, even before the nice reports started coming in, of her joyousness, and kindness to others. She is still slowly revealing different things she did at different times.

I'm so extremely grateful to everyone in the community of unschoolers at that conference who were kind and watched over her, especially Flo, and even more especially Erika, who hadn't actually realized that this was Jayn's first experience away from home. Erika doesn't know it yet, but she will be getting something special in the mail very soon.....;)

The whole experience has reiterated for me that we do not have to push our kids towards independence. It comes at the right time, and quite possibly in a huge explosion. Now she wants to go to the next conference in our general region, Life Is Good, all the way up in Vancouver, WA (near Portland, OR). We will have to see about that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tidying the Craft Supplies

My declutter is moving very slowly, what with travels and doll commissions and rewrites of scripts. However I am at a point where I have an urgent need to reorganize my art and craft supplies, take stock of what I have and create the space for the next round of Craft-It-Easy project designs.

I've grabbed two large cardboard boxes. and just cleared the two tables of all the projects in progress and other stuff that had accumulated directly into the boxes - instant space. Then I started allocating all the supplies to small clear boxes I had purchased for the purpose. They all have lids, so they'll stack and fill the space on the shelves more efficiently than my current overflowing open topped system. I've got the labels temporarily taped to the fronts, so that if I find I need to redistribute I can. I'm surprised to learn how many rubber stamps I have, and how few decorative punches. The other great plus - I found my brayer! I've been searching for it.

In other news, Jayn is going to Wide Sky Days without James or I. She will be staying with our friend Erika, and I expect that she will have a wonderful time. She is all packed and ready. I will be driving her down in the morning, after a trip to the market to stock up on easily prepared snacks. It is true that all things have their season - and this is a season of separation and maturity. It is further proof that there is no need to force or push independence on our children. The growth to autonomy comes at the right time, and sometimes with a great big leap.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Links from my Unschooling Creativity presentation

Fleur and the Goblet of Fire by Jayn.

I love presenting this talk, although I had so much fun telling stories that I did run out of time. Didn't it just fly right by?

Here is the bibliography and references from my talk and some further reading.

My Iggy Jingles blog

More articles from my MMM blog:
Found: the Artist Within
Not Creative article
Encouraging Creativity article

Howard Gardner, "Multiple Intelligences"
George Lois
Daniel Pink's writing

R. Keith Sawyer - tends to see creativity as really hard work, and that must be taught.
Anna Craft - ditto

John Taylor Gatto

"Possibility Thinking" -
     CA standards and frameworks for Visual and Performing Arts

The Breakfast Club
High School Musical
Big Bang Theory

Helene Hanff - Underfoot in Show Business
Brenda Ueland

Lyndon Johnson
Futurism - Balla

Kelly Lovejoy - "Stages of Unschooling"

Constructivist Theory of Learning - I have here linked the Wikipedia article because even though there are issues with it, it has a ton (a ton!) of links to more on the topic. Unsurprisingly many of the negative critiques of the ideas come from school teachers.

John Holt: "How Children Learn""How Children Fail" (1990's editions with his revisions and notes)

Have fun!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Unschooling Misconceptions Footnotes

Jayn's Henna Tattoo

I'm here at North East Unschooling Conference, having a wonderful time. I gave my first presentation earlier, about Unschooling Misconceptions and Myths. Here are the acknowledgements and sources that I mentioned:

Alex Polikowsky's remarkable post
Kelly Lovejoy - Stages of Unschooling
Joyce Fetterol's site
Sandra Dodd's site
Pam Sorooshian's site

I ran out of time before I could talk about this clip from the TV show "Through The Wormhole" about a researcher, Jim Fallon, (the second clip) and his extraordinary discovery about himself - a wonderful example of kindness making all the difference.

It's grand to be here among other unschoolers, with all the awesome kids. Jayn is having a ball, making new friends and trying new things, such as Henna.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Help a Reporter Out

I'm registered with Help a Reporter.

Every day, at least once and often up to three times, I receive an email with calls from various reporters, journalists, publications or producers seeking experts or people with experiences relevant to the articles or segments they are creating. There are also periodic casting calls for reality tv shows.

This is how the articles with stories and expert opinions are created. Presently James and I have been interviewed as part of a documentary about people who got married in Las Vegas. I have submitted experiences about travel, and pitched to a crafting project.

Additionally, twice a week, calls for Gift Bag submissions are made, which give people the opportunity to insert their products into the swag and goodie bags for different events. They've been a little too big for me so far, but in the future I can see giving 200 printed Craft-It-Easy craft project instructions to the right kind of event - perhaps a working moms, parenting or educational networking event.

Meanwhile I constantly see calls that I know would suit people I know. For example earlier today there was a pitch seeking yoga instructors that work with pregnant mothers, and I immediately thought of my friend Danielle who is starting a wonderful new business, Kiss My Bliss Yoga which does just that.

I would encourage everyone, especially if you have any kind of business, to register with HARO and keep a gentle eye on the stories. The motto of the company is "Everyone's an expert at something".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Natural Life Article Footnotes - Hand Made Notebook

From my recent article about making your own art journals from recycled papers:

Some book binding resources:
Book binding 101 - Galleries of unique hand made books
Alisa Golden's blog has a great link list of Resources and here is her book about making books.

Best Glue Ever from ScraPerfect.

Here's Julia Stanton of Belle Papier writing a comprehensive article about stitching on paper with a machine. It's a trend in scrapbooking you know.

And here's Julie Collings' tutorial about hand stitching on paper on her blog, The Adventures of Bluegirl.

Doll making needles are a real thing. Here's proof.

Still loving my handmade journals - now the second is almost full.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Exceptions

Tin Man near my house.

This idea has been percolating around in my mind for a long time. Now I'm going to write it.

Most people think of themselves as good and kind, or at least in the right. Most people are in their daily lives. Most people staunchly deny that they are prejudiced or bigoted. They would never think of using a racial or other slur in their daily conversation, or even in their thinking, and would feel shocked and uncomfortable if someone else did so, especially within earshot of the insulted. They point to the undeniable fact that they have gay co-workers, or other race neighbors, with whom they are friendly.

Someone once said that racism in the US was like the rain. You go outside you will get wet. I think the clouds are clearing some, but we still need our umbrellas. Homophobia is still institutionalized in most State constitutions.

However there is a kind of casual, everyday, common or garden, bigotry that is almost invisible. People hold on to assumptions, revealed in words like "they", or "those people", or "people like that" when  referring to a particular minority. Phrases like "The Gay Lifestyle" or "from a bad neighborhood" or "they have their own culture" homogenize people into groups. (The irony that I am doing something similar here, is not lost on me - but we only have so many pronouns, and I fear that I am not talking about a minority.)

Then the assumers (nice, well-meaning, kindly people) meet and get to know on a personal level, some individual that does not fit their stereotype. Instead of being unmotivated that youth is busy and hardworking; instead of being promiscuous, that man settled in a serious relationship; instead of being violent and scary, these teenagers are kind and responsible; instead of being ignorant and stupid, that woman is well informed and articulate; instead of wearing wild clothing, that person classy and elegant.

Here's where the shadowy bigotry lies. These folks then believe that their new friend, the individual from the "other" group, is an Exception.

And the great sad irony is, instead of re-examining their assumptions in the light of new, contrary evidence, they apparently persist in holding on to them. It seems no matter how many of these Exceptions that they meet, they still regard their own friends and colleagues as just that - Exceptions.

It's cognitive dissonance.

This is where the challenge lies. Not in the clarion calls of the visible, publicly declaiming their bigotry. These are the easy ones to fight. But seeing inside good people's hearts, illuminating their persistent beliefs that hold despite new, personal, knowledge, how do we fight those? How do we help people consider that maybe they have been wrong all along, that maybe the exceptions are not?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Craft-It-Easy survey

As I mentioned on my Iggy Jingles blog, I have created a survey about my proposed Craft-It-Easy products. It is only 10 questions, designed for the parents of middle school aged children. I hope you will take it, and most especially pass it on to other parents that you know who might find it relevant.

Click here for the survey.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Link to Craft-It-Easy

You might still be being re-directed here when looking for the Craft-It-Easy website. That should be temporary. The new site is up and running. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shifting habit

Neat and accessible

Slowly, I am moving forward. I have now cleared one armoire, which is being set up as a battery and appliance charging station, and mailing center. I have two boxes of old electronics to go to the recycler, and the top is pretty much cleared so that I now have space to display the miniature dioramas Jayn and I made a couple of years ago.

The black bookshelf next to the kitchen now stands almost empty, waiting for other scattered office supplies to migrate (neatly). A large collection of unused (some even brand new) cookbooks have been donated, leaving the few that I do refer to often, much easier to grasp. With my discards, goes much of my guilt about not using them. May they bless the folks that find them!

I found forgotten stuff too. I have contributor copies of book that will be for sale at NEUC (along with dolls). 

The best news of all  is that I have been assiduous in keeping up the kitchen, and the result is that I'm feeling an emotional change already. I think it's a "habit shifting". When I see a plate on the counter, I feel a tiny bit of stress that prompts me to wash it at once, then I feel serene again. Yay! This is the opposite of clutter blindness. I hope it spreads.

Any one else working on similar issues?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Favorite Cheap Eats

James took this photo on our summer trip that year, and I scrapped it.

I love to eat but I don't like to cook. However not cooking becomes a very costly option, even when it is just Jayn and I. So it's nice to know there are a couple of inexpensive yet consistent options outside of the fast food chains.

The first favorite is: Ikea. In the Bistro, the Swedish meatballs, gravy, potatoes and lingonberry sauce is a big, share-able plate and so delicious, while the beef hot dogs are some of the best value ever. Meanwhile upstairs is a second restaurant offering even more gourmet-ish options, including a Chicken Caesar for $4.99, and a couple of vegetarian choices. The good sized scrambled eggs, bacon and spuds breakfast plate is 99cents. Plus the coffee is hot and strong, and there is always that Lingonberry soda drink for something different.

When Jayn was little she loved playing in the rooms all set up in the kid's area. She would decide one was her "office" and there would be all kinds of pretend play. She also loved trying out all their fun furniture. That spinning chair that looks like an egg was her favorite. No one minds how long the kids play, as long as they aren't racing about or climbing over the safety rails.

My next favorite is: Costco. Although you must be a member to access the inside with all the samples (which can make up an eclectic meal if you hit it at the right time - especially the weekend early to mid afternoon), anyone can go to the cash only snack bar outside. The menu is limited but tasty, especially the famous Chicken Bake that can easily feed two. (I usually end up saving half for later). Recently they added some salad items to the several different pizzas by the (enormous) slice. They too have a couple of large hot dog selections. I like the Mocha Latte Frozen Smoothie, which beats the coffee shop version by a country mile. 

As I recall, the new Brass Key porcelain dolls used to come out in Costco each August. They start their holiday toy inventory pretty early, but it's worth buying and putting away. We bought an Aurora porcelain doll for under $20 when Jayn was two and a half. So beautifully painted and dressed. She hauled it everywhere and played constantly, and it made our long road trip that summer so much easier. She was very careful with it too. I think I was the one who eventually chipped its hand or foot by dropping it. 

Where do you find good cheap eats in your neighborhood?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Path to an Uncluttered Mind

Counter space!

As some of you make know if you are a Facebook friend, I have finally embarked on a serious declutter and reorganization program. I realized that my home was overwhelming my ability to create, write, or even make a reasonable stab at meals (and you know how I despise  cope with cooking at the best of times.)

I also started thinking that if we soon have the ability to move to a better place, as we all hope for, the actual packing up process will be truly horrendous. So my plan is to create mental and emotional readiness, my message to the Universe, by clearing the junk away that I certainly don't want in my next home, now.

My kitchen looks awesome - the appliances are actually out of sight, and I got rid of those tablecloths I don't like. My mailing center and office armoire is wonderful, and now the rest of the office area/dining room will follow suit over the next few days. I wrote a comprehensive, task based list, for every room, with timings attached, so that I work in three hour blocks. I included the key task - "Take out trash - 5 mins" at regular intervals, so that the discard pile does not become an issue in itself.

Now I can find things at once without having to dodge an avalanche.

Part of my declutter is mental, including freeing myself from "obligations" that are entirely imaginary. Here's a big example. For years I would send out 72 (yup) Christmas/Holiday cards to family, friends, and work colleagues of both my husband and I. This meant that I made by hand, 72 pretty cards. Bear in mind, most of my work colleagues are from 12+ years ago!

When I started thinking about reducing my list last year, I agonized. Certainly I received back way fewer than I sent out. But what if the world ended if that guy felt bad when he didn't get a fabulous hand made card from us this year? Wait, how do we know that guy?

Then I started thinking of it a different way. What if I relieved someone, or someone's administrative assistant, from the onerous obligation of having to send out a return card to someone they really didn't remember either?

Even better, what if I could use that saved time to make better, truly beautiful cards for the people I really do care about? Win, win.

I received a total of 19 cards last year, all from people we actually know and really do care about. I find I hold no resentment whatsoever against the people who did not send us cards. Perhaps they feel the same way. I feel so much freer!

Of course the 19 are still hanging on display, but that will end soon, and they will turn into tree decorations per this tutorial. Yay.

What completely self-inflicted "obligations" have you been holding on to, that are cluttering up your mind or spirit? Please comment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not cropping at the moment

My most recent doll project - deets on the IggyJingles blog.

So a nice lady called me today to do custom scrapbooking, the first call from my Thumbtack listing. She sounded rather harried and rushed - fast talking, baby crying - and had all the papers, photos and stickers for four albums. It breaks my heart but I had to say no, because I am just too busy to devote what would be weeks to full albums. I had the feeling she thought it would be simple and quick - but it never is.

I must, absolutely must focus on Craft-It-Easy, our new crafty publishing venture. I will be shouting the new blog to the mountaintops pretty soon. In the meanwhile I am building things, writing instructions, doing graphic design  layouts and still tweaking the financials on our darn business plan.

Anyhoo, I realized that if I am not going to be open for business at Robyn Crops (and the website will be fading away at the end of the month I think because I'm not renewing) I had better take down my listing at Thumbtack. So I've put up a custom doll making listing instead, just in case the dolls on my Etsy store aren't cutting it for you. I will only do a super intriguing doll project, and only one at a time.

Remember my new mantra: If you like it, Pin it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One of A Kind Kabuki Beaded Doll with Shinto headdress - $90.00

This one of a kind Kabuki Beaded doll with Shinto style headdress, is the second in a very short series of Kabuki or Noh Mask dolls. I devised and painted the face myself in the general style of the traditional Japanese theater, rather than representing any particular character from the plays themselves. These are part of my Dream Doll series, visually appealing, to inspire your dreams and conversations. She carries ...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Polka dot Wish Doll with Lavender scented sachet - $15.00

This poseable Wish Doll wears a colorful polka dot print dress and comes with a lavender scented fragrant sachet pillow. Her red sash is a stripey print with a hint of metallic gold.

I was inspired by Guatemalan Worry Dolls to make these 3 inch tall flexible wire and bead dolls. I wrap the wire body with fabric remnants or ribbon, and use more to make the dress, sash and braid. I sew seed beads to the ...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spotted ethnic style Wish Doll with lavender fragrant sachet - $15.00

This poseable Wish Doll wears a spotted ethnic style print dress and comes with a lavender fragrant sachet pillow. Her sash is a tiny batik print, and her hands and feet are bright blue beads.

I was inspired by Guatemalan Worry Dolls to make these 3 inch tall flexible wire and bead dolls. I wrap the wire body with fabric remnants or ribbon, and use more to make the dress, sash and braid. I sew seed bea...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Green and red Wish Doll with lavender sachet - $15.00

This poseable Wish Doll wears a green and red geometric print dress and comes with a lavender fragrant sachet pillow. Her sash is pale green.

I was inspired by Guatemalan Worry Dolls to make these 3 inch tall flexible wire and bead dolls. I wrap the wire body with fabric remnants or ribbon, and use more to make the dress, sash and braid. I sew seed beads to the braid and sash. Each is slightly differen...

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy dance

We spent some time visiting our printer in Anaheim, learnt about what will probably be the best graphic design software (if the pros use it...), and today received this:

We are officially in business now. We still plan to form an LLC, but the DBA comes first anyway. Now we need to start a bank account. Later we will be creating accounts with UPS. We also need our domain names.

Moving forward, slowly but surely.

Gift Tags - Handmade Romantic 3D Tags - $15.00

Set of 4 coordinating hand made oval gift tags in muted warm pinks and browns. I hand painted, stamped and aged sheet music, which I stiffened with card. I made double layered, hand cut lotus flowers in several varieties of pretty scrapbook papers. Each gently spinnable flower has a unique button center. I added the sentiments with rub on letters, and finished the tags with an eyelet and matching ribbon & yarn tie ....

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cupid's Key Art Doll in Spring colors - $45.00

I love the pretty pastel colors of this 8.5 inch art doll. Her body is a quilter's cotton with an old gold wavy print. I hand colored the aqua petals for her skirts and of course beautiful beads, sequins and colored buttons adorn her. When I painted her face, I added a light blue makeup to help her blue eyes pop. She's quite thoughtful - perhaps she's watching out for Cupid's arrow.


Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Humungous Tote of Crocheted Plastic Bag Yarn - $120.00

25" tall, approx 30" diameter circular tote basket with double handles integrated into rim, which I crocheted entirely from post-consumer plastic sacks - at least 300 bags were saved from being trashed. I like to think I saved a few dolphins and seals too. I used a size J/6.00mm crochet hook in double and single crochet. The plarn is 1.5" wide, which makes a nicely flexible cloth.


Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time budget redux

How quickly can I slide into a yawning maw of time wasters and frittering? How quickly can clutter blindness sneak up on me? How fast can the first quarter of the year pass by?

You wouldn't think that these are the burning questions of my life, but at least I can give answers - or the same answer to all three - "like greased lightning".

It's not that I haven't had accomplishments. I've completed our business plan and sent it to three kind mentors to get feedback - which has been incredibly, dazzlingly useful. As it turns out, I guess I haven't completed our business plan.

I'm more than half way through the layout, and almost entirely done with the writing of our first big title, and we are spending time every weekend taking gorgeous photos for it.

I've written a short crafting e-book that now only needs illustrating. (Only! That will be 150 photos too, I expect). I've completed a sample of a doll for a very nice project for my friend in Australia. I've planned out the sequence of my articles for Natural Life Magazine's website. I've made a start on my conference presentation for NEUC in August. I've even completed our tax return, so we know what we owe.

Working model of a flip doll.

At this point, in the middle of the swirl, nothing is actually finished. Despite several full-car trips to the recycler, my house is a disaster, and I suspect even Jayn is getting tired of take out. But the realization that this is not really very productive for three months of supposedly full time effort disturbs my serenity most of all.

Three months ago I left my job at Michaels for the purpose of concentrating on my own work.It was a bold leap of faith in our big idea. At the time I also left behind my time budget. Without it, I realize I've been more adrift that I want to admit, more startled by urgent, sudden deadlines, and most certainly more easily distracted by the fun, frittering stuff of social media. Instead of planning ahead and scheduling month by month activities (other than a couple of unchanging routine deadlines), I've been starting each day overwhelmed with too many choices, and askew priorities.

So since the last time budget did help a lot, although not without imperfections, I have made a new time budget, allocating percentages of my time around my priorities, prioritizing based on the Eisenhower/Stephen Covey Urgent/Important Matrix. Unlike the last time budget which was a monthly projection (one of the things that made it too easy to excuse myself from sometimes), I have allocated my time on a weekly time table, with the awareness that some activities have to be daily.

My diverse daily activities (30%) will take up 4.75 hours per day, not in a single chunk, since this includes cooking which happens several times, household duties (varies), business marketing including research, and 45 minutes for email and Facebook fun. (Stop laughing, this is serious - I'm going to set a timer).

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will be doing all out (a whopping 45% for the top priority) my new business venture, the task list for which has already been created using WorkFlowy. Tuesdays I will be screenwriting (10%) for most of the day, and getting in some other doll art/crafting (5%) for different purposes in the evening. Thursday I will be working on other writing (10%), at the moment my Upcycled clothing book. This leaves the weekend for the photography (mostly part of that 45%) - a family activity - and anything else that should come up business wise, like new commissions. (BTW - Don't do the whacky math. I have worked it through and I'm happy - some work days are longer than others.)

I'm so lucky that almost all this happens in the same room as Jayn's favorite activities. She's been pretty keen to help with the making and crafting of different things. Also this is a guide. There will never be a time when I say we can't go on an outing with our friends because today is a work day, as it was when I was actually working out of the house.

So, today is Tuesday. I've been doing this writing instead of screenwriting for a while. Where's that timer?

Friday, March 2, 2012


Just found out that Iggy Jingles was linked by Amy at Green Mangoes blog with some very kind words. It's a nice unschooling blog, filled with useful ideas and attractive brevity. Unfortunately it's too late to leave a comment on the particular post, but not too late to feel very complimented.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Natural Life Article Footnotes - wallpaper samples

My latest article is up at the website, written in response to a reader dilemma.

More information about ATC's can be found at the Wikipedia entry, which also includes links.

I like the clarity of the origami box instructions here - lots of pictures and a link to a video - although I must say the banner ad at the top has a very sensitive roll over button. Wiki-how also has photo step by step instructions.

Here's another video with links to more differently shaped boxes. The narrator has a very gentle, almost soporifically peaceful tone to his voice. BTW, especially for wallpaper which is so thick, I definitely recommend a bone folder rather than relying on your fingernail.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Changes in work life

Just so you know, I have resigned from Michaels, at least for the time being.

Not because I was unhappy there - oh no! I love it there. I love the people, both the staff and customers. I love the actual work. My spirits rose whenever I went in to work. I really, truly enjoyed it. I was happy.

But it was in my head. Going in to work even one day a week was keeping my head there seven days a week. I get emotionally involved in my work, I always have. It was distracting me from my writing and other work. Plus, with James increasing hours at his work and other commitments, Sunday turns out to be the only day that we can actually spend time together focusing on our new business plan.

I'm so very grateful for my time there. I hope to have a new and different relationship with Michaels in the near future. And I still have this dream of holding a book signing there in the future.

Writing business plans is time consuming, and the financial predictions are tough. There are services that publish industry reports with lots of numbers - but they are very expensive between $500 to upwards of $4K. They must be in major libraries though, right? I'm collecting bids from vendors too. That is fun. Then there's the design, prototype manufacturing, writing of content, and graphic design. It's going to be tremendous fun, and we are doing it together.

I'm even more happy.