Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Steinbeck!

So John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. I love the way he can express so much with his simple style, and I also just love the things he thought and wrote about.

To celebrate his would-be 112th birthday (thanks for the heads-up, Google!), I have to share some of my favorites of his many notable quotations:

Source Note: I designed the collage, but I can't take credit for the beautiful images above! My sources can all be found on this Pinterest page (click on the image to take you to the original source), a collection of Steinbeck quotes:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My own little corner in my own little room...

I just added one of my own designs to this pretty little corner in my library, and I'm happy with how it looks!  Chalkboards are all the rage right now, and I'm totally willing to follow the trend -- I've always loved the look of a chalkboard. In fact, I may have been secretly bummed that when I switched classrooms my second year of teaching, my bigger and better room lacked a chalkboard (as most classrooms do these days)... There are a few drawbacks, though, which might explain the blackboard's gradual banishment from classrooms everywhere: 1. Chalk can be messy -- think tiny dust particles everywhere and accidental smudges every time you brush against it. 2. A design doesn't last longterm. 3. Most people don't have a wide range of lovely "fonts" magically flowing from their fingertips, which makes it difficult to create the cool designs that are en vogue right now.
So, my solution? Design, print, and frame "chalkboard-style"prints (I can't claim or credit the original idea, as these are also floating around and gaining popularity about as quickly as the real thing). I was doing chalkboard-style card designs, literary quotes, etc. for a while when I received a great suggestion -- interchangeable prints to coincide with the holidays and seasons!  Use one frame and swap the print each month or so throughout the year for a fresh and timely look. Perfect. Here's what I came up with:

And here are the first two in the frame:

I went with 4x6", so it's just a little accent, and I've been enjoying the concept so far! I can't believe I haven't tried this trick before, other than the usual updating of years-old photos. Do you regularly switch our the art or photos in the frames in your home? Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.

And it's time for a little plug: My seasonal designs make a great gift (to yourself or others!), and I currently offer them sized to print in 4x6" or 8x10" (will be working on adding 5x7"). Take a peek at the listing in the shop to see all 13 designs (basically one for each month, plus a "Happy Birthday")!

While I'm at it with the plugs, let me share a close-up of my other art in that corner. These are actually real art ;) I love the beautiful sketches by artist Caitlin Connolly, found here. They are numbered, limited copies of her original sketches from her popular "daily doodles" series. I received two of my favorites ("a woman who reads" and "a couple who listens") for Christmas and framed them in white-on-white gallery-style frames. Just love how it turned out :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Building the Database

We love to make connections. To pair things, match things, put things together.

I think it's true for all humans, but I am especially wired this way. My husband comments on it frequently, usually to tease me, because he finds my need for connections to be both painful and amusing. If I tell him a story about someone he doesn't know (or doesn't remember), it's inevitable that I'll go through six degrees of separation to connect that person to someone else we know and include the background stories for each before actually getting to the point!

And what do you know? I'm doing that now. I'm writing this post because it's so interesting to see some of these basic human desires (needs? tendencies?) manifest very early. Observe a toddler for a while and you'll be fascinated by the things they do and say.

Jacob is not even 23 months, and he's really starting to sort and pair things. Last week in the tub, out of the blue, he started saying "Two things! Two blue ones." I looked over and saw two blue "x" shaped toys -- one was a foam letter, and the other a little plastic "x" from a shape-sorter. They were the same shape and color, but different sizes and materials. I was impressed!

Tonight he was at it again. This time I was reading something on my phone (bad mommy!), and I heard him saying "Two Daddies!" I've been showing him who some of his foam letters are "for" for a few weeks (D is for Daddy), and he's picked up more on who they're for than the letter names…sure enough, he had picked  out two D's and stuck them to the tub. I got excited and asked him if he could find an M for mommy, and he found three! He lined them up next to the D's and counted to three; "Three Mommies!" Then, the part that surprised me most: next he found two red T's and stuck them on the stark, white wall. "Two Uncle Tims," he said, satisfied. Really? Amazing, kid.

So I guess the nugget for today is that we begin building our "database" (hubby's term) of connections quite early in life. I think Jacob is going to be doing the six degrees of separation thing before I know it. It's fun to see which personality traits he gets from mommy and which favor daddy -- I see these little hints of his grown-up self already, and I can't wait to get to know him as a big person.

Okay, yes, I can wait! Please don't grow up too soon, little man.

The First Post

What a title, huh? I think when you start a blog and you get everything set up and open up that fresh, crisp "new post" page, all of a sudden you wonder, "Okay, now what do I write for the first post?" It's this daunting, blank slate staring back at me. Anyone with me?

I guess I'll talk about how I got here…I love writing, always have. It started with required journals in elementary school, and by fourth grade I was writing "stories" (quotes because I use the term loosely). I even had a little "story club" with friends where we would write American Girl-esque stories (in which we were, naturally, the main characters) and then meet by a certain tree on the playground to share them. We were really cool.

Over the next few years, I graduated to writing "poems" and "song lyrics" (still with the quotes), until junior high, when most of my writing consisted of filling notebooks to the brim with letters, doodles, and gossip and swapping them back and forth with friends in the passing periods. Who else remembers this beloved pastime from the pre-texting, pre-facebook days?

Even in high school, I still enjoyed writing for school assignments. I guess that makes me somewhat unusual. I joined the school newspaper staff, so that I could write even more, and soon I found that I loved page design as well. I did well as the Features Editor and loved creating the centerfold spread for each issue. I went to college strongly leaning towards becoming a journalist, particularly an editor and page designer, but changed my mind and declared English and secondary education as my majors. I guess I gravitated toward the predictable, the straight-and-narrow, where you know exactly what kind of job to apply for after graduation. I loved teaching and reading books, too, so it worked out.

I taught high school English for five years and loved it (most of the time), but I couldn't figure out how I could do that and be the kind of mom I hoped to be. I know, many non-teachers won't understand this and will probably adamantly disagree, but believe it or not, teaching high school English is not just a 7:45-3:15 job (I don't want to get into a debate about that, so just believe me). I was constantly grading papers, planning lessons, reading novels, advising clubs (and throwing dances), working on my classroom website, and even just thinking about my students -- worrying over their behavior, family troubles, and futures.

During those five years I had gotten engaged, bought a house, married, and become pregnant with our son (plus a whole lot of other fun stuff), so it was time to decide what to do. After much debate, we decided that I would stay home with Jacob, so I resigned my teaching position.

SIDE NOTE: I feel that I have to mention that I feel both fortunate and blessed that we were able to make that decision. I have equal respect for working and stay-at-home moms, and I grew up always thinking that I would continue to work. My mom did and did an amazing job at both! It's a hot topic among mothers, but I think our choice was the best one for our family, at least for now.

I can't say that I've ever regretted it in the almost two years since, although I've certainly missed it at times (and so has our household budget). I've never been happier than these last two years, though; motherhood is truly the best, most amazing, most emotional, hardest, and most fun job -- simultaneously.

Despite the fulfillment it brings, I still have this itch to be creative -- to do crafts, to decorate and design things, to read, and to write. After I designed Jacob's first birthday invitation last Spring, I designed a couple more for friends and found that same love I'd had with newspaper page design years earlier. I opened my Etsy shop and have been enjoying designing invitations, announcements, art prints, party decorations, and other digital goods for the last year. I'm excited to continue that venture, but I also wanted to do something where I could write, connect, and share ideas. I also love taking and sharing photos and making and keeping track of memories, so a blog seemed like a natural fit.

So, here I am. I have a toddler who is about to turn TWO, we're ready and hoping for another baby soon, and I'm jumping on the "mommy blog" bandwagon. The connotation may sometimes be negative, but I don't mean it that way. I look forward to joining this online community of moms who share their thoughts and expertise   in beautiful and personal ways. I hope I am able to add value to the conversation!