Monthly Archives: March 2012

Am I losing it?

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So, after writing about downsizing, I was thinking about what I wouldn’t buy used. Turns out the list is pretty short and has the things on it you would expect – underwear, shoes, sheets, towels – those sorts of things. Some it’s just the gross factor and for others, like towels, its just that they are one of those items that tends to get used until they are threadbare and relegated to the “rag” bin.

My kitchen towels are looking particularly sorry these days. Some of them are as old as my son, who is 16. I’m going to need to start replacing them soon (I’m thinking of putting together a little hope chest so that when I move out I can start in my new place with pretty new things). There are actually several organic towel sources, so that’s good. I also decided to look on etsy to see what it had to offer. I found a weaver who makes beautiful towels. Some of her designs reminded me of a slip stitch pattern in knitting and this made me think “could I knit my own towels?”

There are actually towel patterns out there but I wanted something that looked more like those woven towels I saw. I took out my stitch dictionaries, found some simple patterns I liked, grabbed on of the two unbleached cotton cones that I have and knit a stitch gauge. I threw it in the washer and dryer to see how it did and was very pleased with the results.

So now I am knitting myself towels. In terms of time, buying them is probably cheaper, but I like having a no-brainer project in my rotation. Sometimes I just need something to keep my hands busy while I am watching a movie. This project fits the bill.

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Tuesday’s Top Ten: The best things in life ARE free

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Madison Avenue would have us all believe that happiness comes in a shiny new car, white teeth, the newest gadget or whatever product they are trying to sell.

Will any of that really matter when we look back on our lives? I say live in the present and enjoy these 10 little pleasures that we can all share in that make life a wonderful bounty of riches (in no particular order).

1. Laughter. Tell a joke, tickle your fancy, find the humor in a situation, laugh at yourself and delight in the absurd. Laughter is the best medicine.

2. Good conversation. Engage in face-to-face contact with the people you love, listen to them instead of thinking of what to say next, learn something new, expand your point of view, share memories, create new ones. Bond.

3. Help others. You think your situation sucks? It may, but you can always lend a hand and maybe it will put your’s in perspective. Get outside your head and put a smile on someone else’s face, comfort them, bring them cheer, raise awareness or just be a friend to someone who needs one.

4. Sex – duh!

5. Kissing. Long, slow languid kisses with your lover, sticky kisses from a child, kiss on the cheek to greet friends, kiss it to make it better, wet kisses from your dog.

6. Nature. Pay attention to the changing seasons, sunrises and sunsets, starry nights, lightning bugs, gardens in bloom, scents in the air, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the calm of the first snowfall, the rush of water. It’s all miraculous.

7. Move your body. Bicycle, swim, run, jump, skip rope, play ball, dance, hula-hoop.

8. Create. Cook, bake, sew, knit, crochet, craft, draw, paint, build, sculpt, write,  take pictures, exercise your creative muscle.

9. Connect with your inner child. Play. Jump through puddles, poke things with a stick, collect leaves, pick a dandelion bouquet, let your ice cream dribble down your hand, smile, ask why.

10. Let it go. Know your priorities and values and live them. Let everything else go: perfection, the need for other people’s approval, to be right, the past.

Crochet Love

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Here’s a little urban art from a crochet artist named Olek, who apparently has permanent installations now in museums. I’m guessing that to do this she took measurements and then crocheted the pieces and seamed them.  I love that she chose a camo design in pink, purple black and teal.

Another little tidbit I came across on the internet is this site – specifically the “Magic Ball”. Of course this is nothing new, I have had an idea for a sweater using this process (tying together all of your leftovers) for years now although I thought to leave the knots as a decorative element.

What fun ideas do you have or have you seen for crochet?

I’m a Hypocrite

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I’ve talked about eating healthier, avoiding processed food and cutting back on sugar and having done so I present you with this:

CAKE BALLS! They really have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever. And if that isn’t bad enough, I must confess to these also:

The best brownies known to man. I would hang my head in shame but these little treats were made for a theater group that I just started volunteering for. They are doing a reading this weekend with a wine and cheese spread and I thought they also needed some desserts.

Doing my part to support the arts!

Downsizing – steps to simplifying my life

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I am 15 months away from downsizing. That’s when my son graduates from high school and I will be able to sell my 3000 square foot house. I’ve been ready for this for a while but it’s important to stay put so my son can graduate with his friends.

There is not a lot in my house that I plan on bringing with me, a few pieces of furniture, kitchen essentials and small appliances and the contents of my sewing rooms will make the cut. The rest is either: too big (I anticipate cutting my living space in half), not my taste anymore or just decorative knickknacks that fill space. In my next home I only want the things I need or absolutely love.

As someone who is trying to be more mindful of her own as well as the companies I deal with,  ecological impact, I could be considered a hypocrite for getting rid of perfectly good (old) stuff in exchange for new stuff. However, I feel that I am handling it in a responsible manner. Here’s how:

1. I intend to sell or give-away whatever doesn’t make the cut. It’s not going into a landfill, but getting a second life in someone else’s home.

2. Not everything is getting replaced. So much of what I have is just stuff to fill space. Letting go of it frees up my time,  (from cleaning and caring for it), my budget and my space so I need less. I don’t want to be a slave to my stuff.

3. The majority of what I do replace will be with second-hand finds. I love the thrill of the hunt of finding a bargain at the thrift store or garage sales. One dresser that will be coming with me was a $30 buy at Goodwill. It was an ugly green but I stripped it and in its natural state it is beautiful and well made. The drawers are put together with dove tails, not nails, a sign of quality.

4. For the things that I buy new I intend to first try to buy it from a local manufacturer. If that isn’t possible, then I will look to quality American manufacturers – I want it to last. It’s important that we support manufacturing in this country. You may think you are better off shopping at the big box stores but those low prices are an illusion. They don’t take into account how they are eroding all of our earning power. It’s not just the menial jobs that no one wants that are shipped overseas where cheap labor markets are exploited to make all that cheap stuff we buy. As we’ve seen with the economy, any of us can be affected. Well, trades people are safe. You aren’t going to call India when your toilet is backed up.

Then there is the hidden environmental costs of all those cheap goods – on the manufacturing and the disposal end. Dyes from jeans are leached into drinking water. Stores like Ikea are cutting down forests for furniture that ends up in the dumpster because it is so cheap that people would rather throw it  out and buy new stuff rather than deal with the hassle of moving it.

I have 15 months to do my research. I expect to pay more for these goods but then I expect that for some, it will be the last time that I need to buy them. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve blown $400 at one time at Sephora, not to mention all the little nickel and dime purchases (meaning under $100) I’ve made over my lifetime for stuff I didn’t need. This time around I am willing to pay a fair price for a quality good that I need, love and will serve me well for hopefully the rest of my life. Everything that I keep or buy will now be evaluated on a strict criteria. My time and money are precious. I don’t want to be a slave to jobs that don’t feed my soul. Adapting this mindset will allow me to pursue my dreams without worrying about how I’m going to pay my bills.

Taking Better Pictures

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I’m getting ready to open my etsy shop. It’s the first phase of my plan to transition into a design career.

This is my second etsy shop. I didn’t put a lot of effort into my first one which explains why it was unsuccessful. But I took away some valuable lessons and have done more research and there are two (obvious) areas that I need to focus on: getting traffic to my shop and inventory.

Of course there are a lot of questions I need to ask myself and a list of to-do’s under each category, but one thing at a time. This post is going to focus on photographing your product. Good photos are important when selling online. Buyers want to reassurance (through your photos since they can’t physically touch it or try it on) that what they are getting is worth it.

I am by no means a professional photographer and I have an inexpensive point and shoot (Olympus FE-340) camera. The challenge is to use my camera and tools/materials readily available to create better pictures. Thank goodness for the internet!

One of my lines is jewelry so I searched “taking pictures of jewelry”. After perusing a couple of sites, here are the tips I came away with:

1. Use a tripod. I bought mine for $20 at Target. It made a huge difference in taking crisp, clear close-ups shots.

2. Use the macro setting on your camera. This feature is specifically for close-up shots. My camera actually has two macro settings so I can get within 1.5″ of my subject. The macro setting is usually indicated by a little flower icon.

3. Manually set your camera’s white balance. This took a little bit of investigative work on my part to find. In my camera’s manual it’s just called WB. For this shoot (which was on my kitchen table in a corner that has large windows facing north and east) I got the truest color from using the cloudy day setting.  But under other conditions I have the choice of using auto, sunny day, Tungsten light and Flourescent lamp1, 2 or 3.

4. Set the mode dial to optimize aperture and shutter speed. I usually used auto for my pictures but according to my manual, the “P” setting will do this and still allow you to manually set other settings such as white balance. 

5. Use a light box. On the etsy site tutorial, they showed a homemade one. Just take a large enough box, cut off the top and put white paper on the inside. It took me about 15 minutes and $3 for the role of white wrapping paper that I bought. You could probably use copy paper but I didn’t want seams to show.

6. Lighting is key. I shot these pictures on my kitchen table under the light with the light box facing the east window. I also had a desk lamp and experimented with different positions to see how it cast shadows and lit up my piece.

7. Set your camera to fine zoom so you can get close up without reducing image quality.

8. Choose your backdrop carefully. I used a piece of light blue faux suede for these shots, which I think makes a nice, neutral background. For white and clear jewelry, I used a piece of black matt board.

Again, I am not a professional but these photos give you a very clear idea of what my pieces looks like and are a huge improvement over what I have done in the past.

Another resource that I picked up is BetterPhoto Basics by Jim Miotke. It’s a great beginner’s guide that does a tutorial per page without all the dry photography terms (f-stops and what have you’s) so that you can instantly improve your photographs, whether shooting the family vacation or trying to improve product pictures.