Thursday, December 19, 2013

Still Unpacking.

See my pear tree outside the window?
  Well here we are in our new home. It's fantastic. All we keep saying to one another is how excited we are.

We have been sleeping here for a little over a week, and I still have tons of boxes to unpack and organize. We have brought all the things we wanted from our apartment, as well as emptied our storage unit.

Immediately we asked ourselves why on earth we spent money storing some of these old fashioned (but not old enough to be cool) things for so many years. We have sent much of the furniture to be sold in our upcoming estate sale. Sadly our wool rug was infested and utterly destroyed. Into the trash it went.

But the beautiful leather furniture (above) from James' dad is looking wonderful, especially as I re-condition each piece. Will it fit? Maybe. Maybe I will get the tree lit this week. Maybe I will finish painting my old bookshelves white.

I have mentioned in the past that I don't like drills or wasted motion. So I'm working slowly to put things, especially in the kitchen, where they should live. My greatest desire right now is for an organized, efficient, ergonomic kitchen. And a pantry. My pantry cupboard is still only half assembled. But it's going to be awesome.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Home schoolers compared to general population Infographic.

I don't really have any where else to store this infographic, but I like it a lot. Meanwhile please note that despite being the fastest growing educational choice, the number of kids home schooling is still relatively tiny - around 4% of the school aged population. Most telling stat: how little difference the level of parental education apparently makes in the test scores of home schooled kids.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jayn's Last Dance Recital with Penny


This time it really is the end of an era. Jayn's beloved dance teacher announced today at the 32nd Annual Recital that she is retiring. Today was the last recital at Dance With Penny, Jayn's tenth.

Jayn was 3 when she first started attending classes. It was touch and go for a minute as Jayn was NOT ready to separate. I spent the first year sitting on the floor of the studio below the mirror, so Jayn could run over and get a kissy as needed. By the end of the year I was sitting in the middle of the staircase.

Jayn's second year I sat downstairs, so that Jayn knew I was there and would run down and get a hug every now and then. After that I was able to stay in the car outside, and eventually I could run errands, or stay at the park around the corner with other moms and the kids would walk as a group with one supervisor, and come back after their hour was up. We often played at the park for a couple of hours afterwards.


For 11 years this once a week class, and some of the connected activities, like the park day we created for the families who all came on Tuesdays, has been the anchor of our week, and much of our life. For several years, I continued to make Tuesday outings for some of our group over summer, just so that we could keep up the rhythm.


In some ways it is now freeing. We couldn't move too far away from dance class. We couldn't plan road trips if we would miss classes at the wrong time (close to the recital especially). The only thing Jayn and I tended to have conflict over was working around her sleep schedule, especially when Penny urged her to get to more classes.

That was one crazy can can.

Jayn finds change tough. She doesn't know what she will do to keep fit. She fears that she will see less of her friends now that they won't meet every Monday, so I need to make that a priority. She feels like (rightly so) a huge part of her life will be missing. But there will be new opportunities, new interests, new passions - and plenty of wonderful memories.

June 15, 2013 Jayn and Penny

Friday, June 14, 2013

Affiliate links

Antique Chess Set
Antique Carved Chess Set - Ebony and Ivory
So you may notice some new tabs in grey at the top of the home page. One is a quick way to get to my newsletter sign up page, but the others are Affiliate Links - that is to say I get a tiny commission from purchases. I'm trying to monetize a little bit, without packing a ton of ads into my pages, and this way seems pretty unobtrusive.

These three things seemed to be links to actual products or useful information instead of pyramidal marketing schemes, and not super expensive. So click at your own risk, and if the products turn out to be interesting, please let me know. You will be happy to note that I refrained from including a "get a job" site with broken links, and avoided the...ahem..."dating tips" affiliate link.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Latest Time Budget iteration

It’s amazing to me that we are already in the middle of June. It feels like the year has barely begun. Maybe because I have barely begun several of the projects that I had planned for this year.

Deadlines are supposed to be an antidote to procrastination. Thing is, I’m not good with self-imposed deadlines. I feel a lack of urgency. 

Missed self-imposed deadlines have no consequences attached.

Therefore I have found that allotting time is more helpful.

There is a saying in the movie business - a “real” deadline costs money if it’s missed. Perhaps what I need is to consider what missing my own deadlines is costing me.

Money - I want to make money from my work - all my different work. I make more from dolls when I have a full inventory in my store. I came to a recent realization that if I want my businesses to be successful, I need to be professional and actually put in the hours AS IF I were working for someone else. Every day that I don’t work on a project is a day that I am not earning anything. Plus I risk missing opportunities.

Time - I hate to admit it, but I am getting older. I have so many ideas for screenplays, for stories, for Craft-It-Easy projects, for creativity coaching - if I put these things off I may run out of life time.

Efficiency - I have a view of myself as efficient at work, and I don’t like drills or wasted motion. I was always very organized in my theater work and movie jobs. My challenge has been bringing that same smoothness and ease into my work-at-home life. I often feel scattered and inefficient. I have much more trouble defining cause and effect, or structuring a time line at home.

Here’s my time budget at the moment.

I wanted to build in a 40 hour work week - although so far it’s been tough working around my home non-work responsibilities. The numbers are hours allotted to the activity.

4 x general Writing (and writing development)
4 x Creativity Blast writing and tweets

Tuesday & Wednesday
6 x Screenwriting
2 x Craft-It-Easy

4 x Writing (general, crafting, NLM)
2 x Craft-It-Easy
2 x Scrapbooking (Design team work)

4 x Design/Professional Development
4 x Art Doll design

I am trying here to allot time proportionally by importance - defined as longer term financial viability, as well as some urgency. I do owe a script re-write at the moment.

I have left the weekend for family fun, ongoing declutter (somewhat stalled by life and death intruding) and personal crafting. Last weekend I spent working on a gift doll (so not for sale - but she sure is nice).

We shall see. Big day of writing tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Creeping terror, and the damnable, frustrating waste of it all.

My mother-in-law passed away just before Christmas. She died at peace with her family including me. What she left behind however, her estate, is not peaceful but rather an enormous cacophony of stuff.

I have taken on the task of managing the move, storage and organization of her many collections, in preparation for sale. It's a job that I can best do, as a service to my family, since I have no emotional attachment to her things, no fond childhood memories to revisit to slow down the job of wrapping and packing. There is a mountain of things from fine art, to decorative pieces and antiques, to ordinary household goods like the cookware from three different kitchens, to an endless supply of dark colored sweat pants and knit tops in a range of sizes.

Beverly collected. In her youth she collected Asian art and textiles from her travels, esoteric books and the fine art pieces of her artist friends. In her later years she collected catalogs, gems from cable shopping networks and boxed art notecards.

And a lot of her things are undeniably trash that she just wasn't able to release. I have placed hundreds of outdated catalogs from clothing and home decor stores into the recycling bin. Every small box, dish or basket has to be checked because lurking among paper detritus, used matches, cat treats and bottles of expired aspirin, will be a ruby ring or silver art deco hair pin. So many of her belongings are frustratingly damaged, including some of the decorative art pieces that otherwise would be of great value. So every tiny piece of wood or tin has to be examined and saved in case it is needed to repair something.

I have found boxes of garments, many new with the tags still on them, others stained and marred by scorch marks. The sizes range from Medium to 3XL. She kept vintage designer pieces and kimonos, which is great - but not everything was put away cleaned, which is not. She also kept ordinary contemporary clothes that no longer fit, rather than ever donate anything. Plus I have 10 old tube television sets, which may or may not work, but have to go to e-waste recyclers.

Much of what she saved over the years became part of what she considered her arts and crafts stash - beads, paper, interesting ephemera, shells (boxes and boxes of shells). But the sad thing is that in recent years, there is little evidence that she actually created, or at least completed, anything.

In her drawers and closets I found a few small half-formed beginnings of things - several items gathered in a dish, a beetle in a plastic box, a piece of gold wire almost wrapped around an antique bead pilfered from a beaded curtain. She kept supplies until they were beyond use, like paint tubes that had hardened, inks dried to a shadow, paper yellowed and crumbling. Then she bought more to suffer the same fate. It was as if she had many intentions but evidently little follow through in action.

It has been challenging to witness these dismaying twins of waste and lost opportunity. As a maker I too have a tendency to collect ephemera and materials. I keep things I like with the plans, oh yes the plans, to make art with them. But many of them sit for years. I have started to feel a kind of creeping panic, terror even, that I am becoming a hoarder without productivity.

I get some relief from my recent determination to organize my workspace. At least I know where everything is, in labeled boxes, which gives me a great advantage over my poor mother-in-law whose every drawer was a mish mash, and whose inability to find things among the stacks meant numerous repeat purchases. I surely don't want to die leaving a great challenging mess for my daughter to have to sort. I now believe that my recent purge was insufficient. Labeling and organizing (in her case piling and stacking) can also be tools of procrastination.

The other thing that disturbs me is the small scale of her work - and mine. I am a doll maker, so by definition sometimes my work is miniature - but that's not what I mean. I am speaking of the aesthetic value of the work. What disturbs me now is that I see, as a mirror, my tendency to dash out something small, and unimportant, because it is quicker to do, easier to set up. Small like a card or a flower pin, instead of moving forward on my larger scale - personally valuable and important - projects. It's fiddling around instead of diving in to the flow. Remember Covey's Time Management Matrix

I realized today that this scale issue has kept me focused on "crafting", instead of attacking my new business with gusto, or engaging with my next artistic goal of making large scale sculptures, or devoting real attention to my screenwriting. It's not only my personal satisfaction I am seeking, but also the idea of leaving a legacy of completed work.

Ironically writing for Natural Life Magazine hasn't helped. A while ago I wrote about my process of designing projects for the magazine (scroll down). Since my focus there is making crafts from recycled and upcycled materials, I have a tendency to hold on to stuff with the idea that it might become useful for the column, instead of simply looking in the recycling bin when I need something.

My mother-in-law lives in the memories of her family and friends, but passed away leaving only stuff as her public legacy. Some more special stuff, the family will claim as useful or meaningful; some stuff people will be glad to put to use; other stuff, being long unused, should have made its way back into circulation a long time ago.

I have a new determination - as soon as this ongoing estate disposal business concludes - to simplify my workspace, reduce the clutter of ideas by streamlining my plans, and ruthlessly eliminate those items I am holding on to non-specifically - just because they might be something one day. Gotta get rid of more of my old stuff.

Stay tuned for a de-stash - very soon.

Oh, and if you know anyone who wants a set of random antlers, let me know. We seem to have at least 20.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Road Trip to San Francisco.

Foggy morning over the Golden Gate

We took a quick road trip north, since it has been so long. We drove mostly the coast road to Carmel/Monterey and stayed in that region for two nights. Then we scooted up to San Francisco for a night of luxury and some adventures in the fog, before heading south again somewhat inland, stopping in King City for the last night, and then driving all the way home. This has been the first non-conference trip that we have taken since Jayn was a very little girl, and it's been a different experience.

One of the things Jayn specifically wanted to do was visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place of fond memories. Last time we were there Jayn was about 4 or 5. She had a wonderful time playing in the spectacular kids section, and getting a bit wet. She didn't mind putting her fingers in the water to explore in the touching pools.

This time she was, of course, way too big for the little kids' interactive play area, and she has developed quite an aversion to creepy-crawlies or getting wet in her regular clothes. The museum was very crowded - oops Spring Break - and it was nearly impossible to get close to any of presentations. However we took some photos of jellies, and sea horses. The most interesting part was the new aviary, where shoreline birds ignore the gawking crowds even in the absence of any kind of wall. They are all rescued or fostered birds, and it was neat to see them close up, and hear their different calls.

Without the super fun of the Splashzone, and with the crowds, the aquarium did not hold our attention to the same degree at all, and we left fairly quickly.
Mission at Carmel. Note the out-of-whack star over the door - hand cut stone.

We drove the 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, and again enjoyed the scenery and took plenty of photos. Plus we visited the  San Carlos Borromeo Mission at Carmel, which is a working parish church, beautifully restored, and currently undergoing earthquake retrofitting. There are two museum areas, but it is the interior of the church itself and the gorgeous statuary and Nativity diorama I most enjoyed. To me, by definition, if a figurative sculpture is dressed in textiles garments, then that makes it an Art Doll. The church was also full of Easter lilies.
Dressed Mary, about 24 inches tall.

The next day James and I drove out to Salinas to visit the John Steinbeck Center, which I really liked. Steinbeck's life story is told with images, words, audio snippets and artifacts in great detail. The exhibit is interactive and very cleanly attractive, with the Hollywood connection to his works integrated really well. I love text used visually, and text is the foundation of this whole shebang, with quotes screen printed in odd places within the full size dioramas. In addition there was an exhibit of local art, at this time landscapes in oil, and a photography exhibit - art photos of items and architectural detail from the California Missions. It's a very interesting space. However, I'm sure Jayn would have tired of it way too soon, so I'm glad she wanted to nap at the hotel instead.
Steinbeck book cover display at the Center Gift shop

In San Francisco we stayed at the historic Nob Hill hotel, the Mark Hopkins. Here again was a sweet little multimedia history exhibit featuring a time line, souvenir art and various rescued historical items like a key from 1939 and old menus along with a couple of short films about different people who were part of the hotel's story. One was an interview with a 100 year old lady who had been the artist's model for a permanent and famous mural in one of the hotel's ballrooms from the 1920's.
Main entrance at night of Mark Hopkins. Note the beautiful plasterwork decorating the arches.

Both of these exhibitions are fascinating to me as a scrapbooker - combining images, ephemera and journaling to record history but also to create a harmonious whole.

San Francisco was foggy and chilly overnight. We had watched the bizarre inversion layer off shore as we drove North, with a sharply delineated top line that looked like a second horizon. But the fog in San Francisco was deep and thick, swallowing the tops of tall buildings and the points on the bridges and making everything at ground level moist. We started walking in the late afternoon, took our first cable car ride, and went in search of a store that makes nothing but an assortment of bread puddings. The City Hall in SF is gorgeous, and so is the Symphony Hall.
Waiting for the bus in a light drizzle, outside of the Symphony Hall.

San Francisco is like Sydney in more ways than just having a spectacular harbor with a well known bridge. Both cities have many beautiful, historic buildings downtown, with carvings and detail in sandstone, juxtaposed with very modern architecture. It's important to look up as you walk or ride the trolley. Both have row houses and dense urban populations. Loved the three storey house made from stacked shipping containers, and the five storey former office building converted to artists' lofts with 10 foot tall (my estimate) slanted windows on the top floor. The city is magnificently clean, and all the public trash bins have an attached basket on top for glass and can recycling.

We all noticed the high level of fashion and style demonstrated by the population. Somehow leggings, boots and a trench just look orders of magnitude more chic on girls hiking up the hills in SF than the girls manage in my local mall. Everyone's clothing seemed to fit very well. I guess walking up and down those hills every day doesn't hurt anyone's fitness level either.
Foggy vista outside the hotel.

After a luxurious night with room service and a misty view, we drove down the twistiest street (Lombard St), then across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then went to Yerba Buena Gardens to check it out. We didn't have a lot of time to spend now for museums or galleries (next time!) but I was very moved by the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial there. I have promised myself that next trip I am going to take one of those sight seeing buses - the kind you can get on and off - and see the whole city.
Martin Luther King Jr memorial at Yerba Buena. Behind the waterfall fountain is a path with the "Dream" speech engraved on the walls and images, in many languages. The glass walls reflect the waterfall and the noise adds to the whole experience. (Below)

In King City (more interesting history) we found an elegant superfluity of 4 star rated Mexican restaurants - all lined up one after the other along the main drag, Broadway. We ended up eating what was my favorite meal of the trip at El Sinaloense. Odd twist of fate - everywhere (EVERYWHERE!) we went to eat we beat the rush by about five minutes. By this I mean we would enter an empty or nearly so joint to be seated, only to watch the place fill up and lengthy line form shortly thereafter. This even happened at a roadside fruit stand where we got fabulous fresh strawberry shortcake direct from the growers. Don't know why, don't wanna know, just hope the magic continues.
We passed the Old Mission San Miguel steeple and old wall. There is also the working church and 
restored mission, but Sunday services were in progress so we didn't stop.

On the road again, and I learned what Jayn likes best about road trips now is the actual driving, especially through scenic forests. It was fascinating to watch the scenery change from lush green, cypress and oak woods slowly back to desert through the Salinas Valley. When she was tiny it was so easy to travel with her. Generally she slept a good deal, but when we stopped, even at roadside rest stops, she would find endless fascination in watching birds or lizards, or finding a ramp to run up and down. True she had little interest in art galleries, but she was satisfied with any playground, and if there were water....Now she is easy to travel with in a different way. She has her technology, and she is contented to look out of windows and take a few photos. Still little interest in art galleries or museums - but she likes people watching, buildings, vistas and trees.

Keep watch for some scrapbook layouts with more of my family photos from our trip.