New leaves

Graduation is on Friday and I’m really dreading looking forward to it.

Oops, did you catch that error?

Well, if I’m honest I’m not looking forward to it as much as I should. I suppose that it’s yet another reminder that Paul isn’t here to share in my joy. It’s even harder because when I think back to how I always imagined my graduation, Paul and the kids we were meant to adopt were always in the stands.

But life changes. Whether we like it or not, it changes.

So, instead of having Paul in the stands, my sister-in-law, Liz, and brother-in-law, John, are coming up from England to help me celebrate. And after the ceremony, I’ll meet some friends in the pub to celebrate some more.

Of course, all of this celebration means a new dress. Only I couldn’t find one I liked. And so I’m wearing the simple black dress that I wore for Paul’s funeral, with the hope that it will help to give the dress a happy memory.

And since I’m wearing an old dress, it’s only right that I wear a new necklace with it. And maybe it’s fitting that the one I found is a grouping of silver leaves. After all, after graduation I will be turning over a new leaf, re-starting my life as a master’s graduate.

To bead or not to bead

When I moved into my new flat last weekend, I was excited to see that the previous tenant (and my good friend!) left behind a large pile of crafty stuff for me. I took a quick peek at the time and was excited to see that there were skeins and skeins of yarn and loads and loads of beads—in addition to other crafty bits-and-bobs.

Anyhow, I finally got around to going through the treasures with a bit more attention and can’t believe the amount of goodies that have been left behind.

In addition to the yarn and general craft supplies, there are beads and beads and more beads. There are beading pliers and other such tools. There are various bits of jewellery wires and hooks and doodads. And there are loads of other bits and pieces that I don’t even recognise.

Best of all—there is a box of books and magazines all about beading. Which means I might actually be able to make something with all of these goodies.

And, as those of you who knew me back in the day will recall, I do love making my own jewellery. So, um yeah, this could be fun!

A step toward the future

I’m working on a big step toward a happier future. Well, I’m working on several big steps at the moment, but there’s only one that’s a certainty at this moment.

And in this bag is a little something to celebrate that step. It’s from my amazing friend, Rebecca, and I can’t wait until I get to take it out of the bag and admire it.

But what is it and when do you get to see it? Well, I can’t tell you what it is (or what the step is) but I can tell you both of those things on September 14. Deal?

In the mean time, isn’t it a pretty bag? And it’s flocked, too.

Now… back to preparing for that next big step because there are lots and lots of little steps in between now and September 14!

Found things

I like shiny things and pretty things and interesting things. And often, as I’m walking down the road, I’ll stop to pick these little things up. In fact, when I’m on an outing or holiday, I almost dedicate myself to finding something shiny or pretty or interesting. Then, when I get home, I pile them all up in a pretty container.

I began collecting little tid-bits when I arrived back in Scotland last summer and kept them neatly pilled on a dresser in my bedroom until I found a bowl that would work to hold them all.

The bowl doesn’t have much in it at the moment: A couple of marbles I’ve found when out-and-about; some sea glass from Aberdour; a shell from Seaton Carew; a couple of pebbles from my recent visit to the Highlands; and a couple other random finds.

By the time the bowl is full, I imagine I won’t remember the story behind every little pretty thing. But that’s OK because I’ll still be able to look at the overflowing contents and I’ll know that each of those things brought me a bit of joy once, and together they’ll serve as a reminder that—no matter how grumpy or sad I may be at times—I’ve led a pretty happy life, filled with moments of joy.

Each pebble, shell, marble, or random tid-bit represents a bit if joy. And it makes me happy to know that I have a bowl that is slowly filling up with more and more moments of joy; joy that was found when I didn’t even know I was looking for it.

Spent pennies

As you may know, I like to save all of my ‘spare’ change so that I can cash it in for something fun and frivolous. So when I am out shopping, I never give the cashier exact change, I keep those jingly-jangly coins to feed my coin jar! (And if you’ve ever wondered, that’s where the pennies I pinch from the pavement end up, too!)

Anyhow, after nearly a year of collecting, I cashed in £94 worth of coins today. (That’s about $148, if you wondered.) And there’s still about £15 left in the jar as a starter fund, since there weren’t enough to bag up in all the right denominations*.

After heading to the bank to deposit the coins, I made my way to Falkirk so that I could spend my money! (That was the first £3.50 of my money spent!)

The rest of the money was spent as follows:

A new paper cutter for making my swirl cards: £19.99 (sub-total: £23.49)

Three bottles of Washington State wines from Chateau Ste Michelle: £9.99×3=£29.97 (sub-total: £53.46)

Two pretty new dresses from the 50% off sale rack: £20 and £21 (sub-total: £94.46)

OK! You got me: I went 46p over budget. But I’m going to let that slide since the dresses aren’t really frivolous. They are a practical purchase and will be put to use starting once this week’s holiday is over. (Are you starting to feel a theme to my sometimes-cryptic posts?)

Oh! And you could also argue that the paper cutter isn’t frivolous, since I hope to put that to use for making and selling cards.

The wine, however, is purely for fun.

* In the UK they use little plastic baggies for coins instead of the paper rolls we use in the States. It makes it harder to keep them tidy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to bag than it is to roll! 

Gadget Girl

Yep, that’s me: Gadget Girl. OK, I admit that I’m not the most gadgety of all gadget girls, but I’m certainly the first place contender in my little bit of the world. And I would guess that if I had the income to support it, I would probably be a contender for the world as a whole. Because gadgets are just cool.

My first gadget was a calculator watch that I got for Christmas 1983. I remember the year because I remember going back to school in January 1984 and showing it to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Vetter—who quickly informed me it couldn’t be used for maths tests. Oh, but it was awesome! It had an alarm clock and a small address book. I wore it all the time. In fact, I wore it so much that I remember taking if off for baths and it being rather slimy and manky underneath. It was disgusting, really.

I don’t recall how it broke—or when—but I remember always wishing I had another watch as cool as it was. Though my next digital watch was pretty neat-o with its blue glow button thingy to see the time in the dark. Again, my insistence to wear it all the time meant it got pretty icky pretty quickly. (Seriously, who wears a watch to bed?)

Anyhow, about a year or so after that first calculator watch, I got my first Walkman. I would use it when I walked around delivering newspapers—and I’d sing along. It was great! And a year or so after that, I got my first electric typewriter. In fact, I used that typewriter to make up little notes to deliver with my papers when I first took over a new route—little notes introducing myself and giving my customers my name and number in case they had any problems or questions. (Yeah, I was am a geek.)

Over the years, my gadget collection grew and I slowly became an early adopter—and a vocal gadget advocate! And, do you know what? I feel good when I have the best gadget in the room. I know it’s silly and a bit vain, but I really do get an amazing ego boost when my gadgets are better than those of everyone around me.

Sadly, since leaving my job last year in favour of being an unemployed student has meant that I’ve been neglecting my gadgety ways. But that all changed today when I picked up a brand new phone. Yay!

Yes, boys and girls, I am now the proud owner of a beautiful, blue Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s the latest-and-greatest Android phone on the market and I own one!

It took me a while to take the plunge because it required a two-year contract and my visa expires on November 11, but I am throwing caution to the wind and will just hope and pray that I get a job that allows me to extend that visa for the entire length of my phone contract—and more! Otherwise, I guess I have to pay a bit of money to cancel the contract. And I hate parting with money so—come on, job!

So, not a bad way to start the second day of my holidays! And now I have something to play with when I’m on the train to Inverness on Sunday.

Happy Gadget Day, everyone!

(And not that I’m a geek or anything, but you’ll maybe notice that I have HAL as the wallpaper on one of my laptops!)

A poetic starter

Since I turned in my dissertation draft yesterday, I’ve decided that I am going to take a week’s holiday to rest and unwind before I have to start working on edits for the final version. So, in between now and July 31, I am on holiday! Which basically just means I’m going to go and do fun things for the next week.

And that started today with a trip to Edinburgh.

Way back in May, my cousin Rita was in Scotland as part of a tour group and we spent a day in Edinburgh together. Only two of the things on her list of ‘things to see’ weren’t open (or planted) that day. So I promised her I would return on her behalf. And I decided to start my holidays by following through with that promise!

The first stop was the Scottish Poetry Library. Rita is a librarian, and had been excited about the idea of seeing the place. I don’t know if I would have gone without her prompting, but I’m glad I did because it’s always fun (and educational!) to do new things.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not really ‘into’ poetry, but there are a few poems and poets that I like—mostly because they make me giggle. (Yes, Shel Silverstein—I’m talking about you!) So, today’s goal was to randomly(ish) find something I liked. To do that, I picked out books the piqued my interest—either by their title or typeset—then I flicked through them.

And just as I was about to give up, I tried one last book and I finally found what I was looking for! I know it’s short, but it made me smile very much, and that’s what poetry should do!

A Cat Called Slumber
by Adrian Mitchell (found in ‘Blue Coffee’, pg 63)

In the middle of the night appears
My day-shy tabby with collapsable ears
And I stroke her ears so those ears collapse
And she purrs to say that she loves me, perhaps…

After the library, I wandered over to Princes Street Gardens to have a look at the Floral Clock which was being planted when Rita was visiting. But, I’m pleased to say, it was fully planted—and fully working—when I arrived today. Apparently, the theme is London 2012.

Anyhow, it was a successful trip into the city. And the weather was fabulous which just added to the enjoyment of the day. In fact, the weather was so fabulous that I left the house without an umbrella or a jacket and didn’t regret it once! And better than that, it was so fabulous that I bought an ice cream and sat in the gardens for a spell before catching the train home. Bliss!

I wonder what the rest of my holiday week will hold …

First flowers

Every once in a while, my mind wanders back to the first time a boy gave me flowers. Or, rather, the first time a boy tried to give me flowers. And each time I recall that moment in time, I feel bad and I wonder if the boy remembers it, too.

I was five or six years old and was in Kindergarten. A boy in my class came up to me one morning holding a hand-picked bouquet of dandelions. He handed me the flowers and told me that he liked me.

I was so embarrassed. I don’t know why. Back then there were no divisions of ‘cool kids’ and ‘not-cool kids’ so it wasn’t a peer pressure thing. I think the attention was just a bit uncomfortable.

So I handed the flowers back to him and told him I was allergic. I saw a look of sadness (embarrassment?) in his eyes and immediately felt bad. Still, I couldn’t tell him I lied about being allergic to flowers. And I did like him. So I invited him to play on the swings with me instead.

After that, he always sat next to me when we were doing art projects. And he always made sure that the classroom’s only pair of left-handed scissors made their way to me—despite one of the mean kids (a right-hander, no less!) always trying to use them so that I couldn’t.

I never saw him again after Kindergarten; I think his family moved away. But I think of him whenever I see dandelions and whenever I think about someone giving me flowers. And I wonder if he remembers that day. I wonder if he is afraid of rejection each time he goes to give another girl flowers. I hope not. After all, most girls aren’t so embarrassed about receiving a bit of attention from boys.

If I could go back in time to that moment, I would accept the flowers with a smile and a thank you. And then I would invite him to play on the swings. After all, it’s not every day that a girl is given a bouquet of hand-picked flowers for no reason other than that a boy likes her!

Swirl research

As you know, I like to swirl. It’s a relaxing pastime and I find it extremely helpful when I need to unwind for a spell.

I’ve been sharing my completed swirls with family and friends on Facebook and I’ve been amazed at how many people tell me that they really like them. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how often it’s been suggested that I try to sell them.

And so, I’ve decided to try that in the form of swirl note cards. Which means I’ve prepared a stack of samples to send off to family and friends in the hope of receiving some honest feedback about the quality as well as their thoughts on pricing.

It’s weird because this is the first time I’ve seriously thought about selling something I’ve made. And even weirder because I still can’t understand why everyone likes my swirls so much. I mean, they’re just scribbles that I do when I’m bored or stressed. Still, I like to please my public whenever I can!

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that in the next few weeks you might be able to buy a set of swirl cards from me. But please know that I’m not going to push that on anyone! When they’re ready, I’ll let you know. Buy them; don’t buy them. Totally up to you!

Wow. I feel like a little entrepreneur all of the sudden. (I hope Hallmark is ready for this awesome bit of competition!)

Heirloom tear drops

Growing up, I always loved to borrow my Mom’s clothing and accessories—the old stuff. I loved her funky dresses and jewellery from the 1960s and 70s, and often dreamed of one day owning it all.

I was elated when, as a teenager, she finally gave me an old handbag of hers from when she was in high school. It was the first bag in my vintage collection and remains a favourite to this day. I wore her flowing gowns (more often than she may know!) and flashed my bedazzled fingers that were loaded with funky rings. And the bracelets and necklaces—oh my! I even wore her wedding dress when I got married!

Slowly but surely, I’ve become the owner of some of these bits and bobs. So today I thought I’d share one of my favourites with you! And it goes beyond Mom, too, which is cool.

So, here’s the story as told in the letter that I got when I received this amazing set:

Frances,

‘Tis the year for re-gifting! Actually, this is a piece of history. Your grandmother had this necklace and earring set in high school. She wore it several times as I was growing up. In 1970, I had a new lace outfit for the Marine Corps Ball and needed a blue necklace to compliment it. I requested to borrow this set and Mom sent it to me. She told me I could keep it because she didn’t use it anymore. I have now chosen to give it to you. I know you’ll use and cherish this set.

Enjoy!

Love,
Mom

I have worn the set on several occasions over the past few years. The last time I wore it was for the last professional portraits Paul and I had taken together. I love them so much and hope that I’m able to find an occasion to wear them again. (Anyone want to take me out for a nice dinner?)

Oh, and Mom, I can still fit into that lace outfit you wore in 1970. You and I both know that I will give it a good and loving home. You know my address when you’re ready to pass it along …

Paper bird of happiness

When I boarded the bus today, I was met by a pretty little origami crane that was perched on the seat next to me. It had been made with someone’s bus ticket and it looked very much like it was there for someone to find.

I picked it up and held it in my hand, marvelling at not only how well it was made, but at how such a silly, simple little thing could bring me so much happiness. I wanted to take it away with me but I felt that someone else might enjoy a smile, too. Then I thought that I’d take it to the library with me and leave it for someone to find there. (Even though I really wanted to keep it for myself.)

As I sat admiring the little bird, a very pregnant woman and her wee boy boarded the bus and sat behind me. The boy was in a bit of a fussy mood and his mum was trying her best to brighten his day. So I turned around and showed him the pretty bird and asked if he’d like to have it. His face beamed when his mum said that would be OK.

Of course, that meant that I was left without a bird. But, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find instructions to make my own. Maybe I’ll practice a bit and one day I’ll be good enough to leave pretty birds behind for others to enjoy.

Whisky hearts

Normally, an empty whisky bottle means a cork without a job. But not today. No, today I decided to rescue the cork from my empty bottle of Glenmorangie and carve it up a bit with my pocket knife. (A tool that every good redneck always has on hand.)

I didn’t have any ink pads (sadly, my craft supplies couldn’t make the journey to Scotland with me) but I had some cheap markers that I thought would work as a pigment, and I think the results are a success.

OK, I know it’s a bit silly and childish, but it entertained me. And it means that I have a pretty little heart-shaped stamp to add to my slowly-growing craft box. I think I’ll save up a few more corks to make some other shapes, too—stars, dots, horse shoes, etc. I don’t know what I’ll do with them all, but they’ll be a bit of rainy day entertainment at the very least.

(Other ideas for cheap and easy craft ideas are always welcome!)

Swirls, old and new

Back in August I was finishing up a swirl drawing at my folks’ house. I had left my work-in-progress on the coffee table and whilst I was out, my 14-year-old niece, Ivanna, stopped by to visit her grandparents. When I returned my parents told me how Ivanna was mesmerised by the drawing, studying it intensely. She even mentioned that it would make a good tattoo.

I finished the drawing the day before I left for Scotland, and wrote a letter to Ivanna on the back. I asked Dad to scan it for me before passing it on, but he forgot. And that meant I didn’t have a copy of the finished piece, which was a bit of a bummer. But I knew that Ivanna was happy to own it (an excited email told me so!), so I decided that was more important than anything else.

But I asked Dad to scan some tax documents for me yesterday and he decided that since he was scanning, he may as well grab the drawing and scan that, too.

So, here it is for your enjoyment!

Oh! And here’s a new one I’m working on. It’s the butterfly swirl I mentioned before and is going to be the swirl I use for the winner from my anniversary contest. (More on that later!)

Random thoughts: Last of the big spenders

Random thoughts—Week 5: List the top 12 things you can buy with your last $20.

This challenge all comes down to interpretation. So, here’s how I’m interpreting it: My assumptions for the list are that all of my basic needs are being met (food, shelter, clothing) and that it’s my last $20 until my next budgeted allowance.

My list will be 12 $20 items, instead of 12 items that total $20. For items linked from UK sites, the cost will be £12 to account for the exchange rate. Also, for the purpose of this list, I will not include sales tax (or shipping) in the final price. Oh! And the mythical purchases will be fun things, because all of my other bills have been sorted already. So, here goes!

  1. Electronic butterfly in a jar
  2. Hand-made leather journal
  3. Silver plated Champagne stopper
  4. Basic whisky glasses
  5. Owl crystal necklace
  6. Eight sticks of sealing wax (green, of course!)
  7. Eucalyptus and spearmint bubble bath from Bath and Body Works
  8. A pretty tulip skirt (the red one!)
  9. A set of John Lewis martini glasses
  10. Heart-patterned tights
  11. Running hat with a hole for my ponytail
  12. A pretty butterfly Alice band

Phew! That was harder than it seemed. Mostly because most of my splurge ‘wants’ are either really cheap or really expensive! But it was fun, and now I guess I have a bit of a wish list going for myself!

I wonder what next week’s random topic will be …

Swirl-flies

So I spent the past weekend on the couch dying of the common cold. OK, I wasn’t dying, but I wasn’t feeling too great, either. However, all that time convalescing meant time spent swirling!

I’ve got a couple of swirls on the go at the moment—including a blue one that [finally] nearing completion and one for the winner of my anniversary contest who asked that I donate the finished piece. (You have to wait for details on that, sorry!) And I will soon be starting a new swirl for an amazingly awesome woman I know.

But all this swirling got me thinking that I wanted to expand my abilities a bit. I still want to do swirls; I just want to make them a bit more… I don’t know… something. So I’ve decided to create a butterfly swirl.

Generally, I completely free-hand my swirls, but I felt that I needed to pre-sketch the butterfly to make sure each side was even. The next step will be to colour in the swirls of the butterfly before free-hand swirling the rest of the piece.

I am a little bit concerned that a symmetrical focal point surrounded by random swirls might make it a bit unbalanced, but it might work. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK because I have a couple of other ideas on how to incorporate butterflies into the swirls.

Oh yeah, I also spent quite a bit of time reading and doing academic-y stuff. I’m a good girl like that.

Random thoughts: The wisdom of age

Random thoughts—Week 4: Write a story about letting go, where the main character is a factory worker and a locket is a key object in the story. Set your story in an apartment.

The wisdom of age

Sylvia sat on the floor of the empty flat, tears streaming down her face as she stared at the silver locket in her hands. She looked around at the bare walls and thought of the photos that hung there just a short while ago. There had been so many of them, each filled with more memories than their simple frames could possibly have held. She thought about all of those picture hooks in the walls and allowed herself a crooked smile as she realised that the deposit would be lost because of them. But, she rationalised, that was a small price to pay for the smiles those photos encouraged over the years.

She would miss coming here to visit her neighbour, an octogenarian widow with no children; no family. Over the years they’d bonded. The old woman told her stories about her travels and adventures; she offered an ear and advice for the younger woman who was far from home and hoping to find her own way in the world. The old woman felt Sylvia was wasting her time working in a factory—a job she hated and that didn’t allow her to take time to travel. The old woman was so full of kindness and wisdom and Sylvia would miss her. Yes, she would miss her friend for the rest of her life.

The will was simple: Sell or donate everything—except for one item of Sylvia’s choice. And then, stop wishing and planning for adventures and go find them! Sylvia was the sole beneficiary. When she was first told of the will, she imagined there would be just enough money to pay for expenses, and maybe a spa weekend. The old woman had lived very meagrely. It looked as if all of her furniture—and probably her clothes—were found at charity shops and flea markets.

She allowed herself another smile as she looked down at the silver locket again. The old woman wore it every day and often touched it, telling her that it contained photos of the people she cared for most in the world. It was only after the old woman died that she knew who those people were: They were the woman’s husband and Sylvia. It was all Sylvia needed to convince herself to make a change.

Sylvia stood and walked across the room with determination. She picked up the phone and called her boss at the factory. She beamed from ear-to-ear as she informed the person on the other end that she was tendering her resignation. She was tired of working for peanuts; tired of working in a dead end job. The old woman was right: If you aren’t following your hopes and dreams, you’re not really living.

A few hours later, Sylvia was in the attorney’s office. He informed her that the estate auction had done better than expected. But, more than that, he informed her of the life insurance that was left—and the stocks and bonds. It would seem that the old woman left more than Sylvia ever could have dreamed.

Sylvia rose slowly, touching the locket that now hung from her neck. The old woman told her that life always had a funny way of working out. Yes, Sylvia thought, life was funny. She would miss her friend; the friend who taught her about what was important in life.

And now, she was letting go of her fears and worries; she was letting go of the uncertainties that had kept her from following her dreams for too long. She was letting go and moving on. She was, after all, the sole beneficiary of a secret millionaire and she had a promise to keep; a promise to find adventures of her own.

Hushed hooking

I started a new crochet project back in January. But I couldn’t tell you about it because it was for my friend’s birthday present. And she’s such a good friend that she reads my blog all the time. And I knew that even if I tried to talk about it without saying what or who it was for, it would ruin the surprise.

But, it’s done now and it’s been delivered. So now I can tell you about the lovely blue throw blanket that I made for the lovely Rebecca’s birthday.

Oh yeah! That’s another thing: Rebecca gets a birthday this year. In fact, she gets a birthday tomorrow. Yep, she’s a Leap Day Baby!

Happy birthday, Rebecca! I hope that you have an amazing day! (And make the most of it, since you don’t get another birthday for four years!)

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Coats and cupcakes

When I was in town earlier in the week, I saw a nice light-weight coat that I really liked in a charity shop. But when I tried it on, I wasn’t quite certain about it. I mean, it looked nice and it fit, but it’s the same colouring as my wool coat, so I wavered. In the end, I put it back on the rack and walked away.

But I’ve been thinking about it and decided it would be OK to have another black and white coat. It was a different cut, after all, and would look much nicer with dresses than my wool coat. Plus that, it was only £10 so it wasn’t a massive commitment.

So, I went to town today determined to get the coat if it was still there. And it was still there. Only it wasn’t £10, it was £4.99. Which means I saved £5.01 in addition to supporting a good cause!

And when you save a bit of money, it’s OK to celebrate with a little treat. So when I stopped by the Farmers’ Market on the way back to my flat, I splurged £1.90 on a pretty pink Valentine’s cupcake from Milis Cakes. (I’ve already eaten it though, so I guess it was just a pretty pink cupcake.)

Oh! I also picked up a nice roast from one of the local farmer stalls for tomorrow’s dinner. And that means that I have everything I need for a Sunday roast, which will qualify for the Dark Days Challenge. And that means that if you check back tomorrow, you can read about my yummy dinner.

(Or you could invite yourself over to help eat my dinner. There’s more than enough to share!)

And, yes, that really is the cupcake I bought. It was as yummy as it looks. I also got a carrot cupcake for tomorrow’s dessert. I wonder if it will last that long…

The little red dress

Twelve years ago, I purchased a lovely silky red dress that I just loved. Form-fitting and sexy, I loved finding excuses to wear it. The only ‘flaw’ was that I needed to add a bit more help to the upper portion—more than I normally need to add. (Sorry, this is my blog and I can talk about my less-than-endowed form if I want.)

Ten years ago, I brought it to Scotland with me hoping that I’d have a chance to wear it. Then I met Paul and I figured I’d get the chance. And I did. And he loved it. And over the years, I’ve pulled it out again for special occasions.

The last time I wore it was Easter 2009—just two weeks before Paul died. I remember standing there wondering what to wear for church, and he pulled that little red dress out. After all, he said, with a light sweater it would be more than appropriate for Sunday Mass. And when we got home and began making our Sunday lunch, he told me how beautiful I was in that dress.

So, when I packed my bags to return to Scotland last summer, I couldn’t help but to pack the dress; even though I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to wear it. And, to be honest, I’ve felt a bit soft and gooey the last several weeks, having not been running but still eating as if I’m training for a marathon!

Anyhow, I wanted to wear something pretty for my birthday later this month and I thought about that dress. And, well, I tried it on with a bit of trepidation because I knew that if it was too snug I’d be upset.

But it fit rather nicely. In fact, I could eat a few extra meals in between now and my birthday and it would still fit! (Though I will still need to add a bit of help to the upper portion; some things never change!)

I am very happy about this little victory. And I know that I’ve just bragged about how a dress that I bought when I was 26 years old still fits me today—just days shy of being 38—but I run and try to stay quite active. (And if this was a pair of jeans, it would be a different story. Dresses are just more forgiving for bum-and-thigh weight gain!)

Now… what am I going to do about shoes and an evening handbag? I guess I’ll need to see what sort of fun stuff they have at the charity shops!

Red and rosé

It took a while to convince myself to get out of bed today. I mean, a long while—it was nearly noon by the time I decided to emerge from under my duvet. At first, I wondered if I would spend the day inside. Not necessarily sulking, but sitting around doing nothing. And for a while, I convinced myself that I could do that.

Then, for reasons still unknown, I decided that I should head into town. With that decision made, I hopped in the shower before putting on a pretty skirt and a fun sweater for a quick jaunt into town. I didn’t really know why I was going, but I knew that I needed to get out and stretch my legs.

Anyhow, I looked in the charity shops and even a couple of sales racks in the mall, but didn’t manage to find anything I wanted/needed/that fit, so I went home empty handed.

And now, I’m curled up on the couch with a glass of French rosé, listening to the sultry jazz sounds of Norah Jones, and getting ready to paint my nails a nice shade of hooker red.

I guess I have to say it’s not been too bad of a start to the new month.

Thankful swirls

As you probably know by now, I’ve found a lot of solace in creating swirls. There’s something relaxing and peaceful about them. I have to admit that my first-ever swirl drawing was rubbish. No, really, it was. But from the time I realised that swirls were my sunflowers, my skills have improved. [See more evidence here, here, here, and here.]

Of course, the problem with enjoying something so much is that I want to draw lots of swirls. But I really don’t have that much use for a ga-zillion drawings of swirls. So last summer, when I completed a swirl drawing that my niece was admiring whilst in-progress (she thought it would make a great tattoo!), I wrote a letter to her on the backside. I understand that she’s since hung it up in her bedroom.

Since then, I’ve used swirls to illustrate a blog post and even made a swirl drawing to wrap a friend’s birthday present. And after Christmas, I used some blank greeting cards to make swirl thank you cards for some friends. And now I’m working on a special swirl for a friend’s baby girl.

So, I guess that I’m thankful for my swirls because of the enjoyment I get from them, but I’m also thankful that my skills have improved enough to use them as gifts and cards for people I love. Otherwise, I’d be lost in stacks upon stacks of therapeutic swirls!

Getting better

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling the dreaded claws of illness tightening their grip on my immune system. In fact, by yesterday I wondered if illness was winning, as I found myself suffering on the couch with a fever of 39.1°c (102+° f) and a niggly headache. But—12 hours of sleep later—today I seem to be winning.

I am still fighting off whatever this may be, and am still hoping that it doesn’t develop into a full-on cold (or other illness). But at least I’m feeling better today that I did yesterday.

Of course, being a tad ill has not helped me to get over the down in the dumps feelings I’ve been dealing with since New Year’s Day, but at least it’s not made it worse. In fact, in some ways it’s made me feel better because I get to sit around and sulk in my pyjamas without feeling bad about it!

And, in an effort to get over (or stave off) being sick, I’ve gotten myself some supplies: Crisps and dip and cookies and orange juice and fresh fruits and veggies. Oh, and some pretty daffodils to look at. Or at least I hope they’ll be pretty once they bloom.

So, now I’m just sitting on the couch eating yummy food, hydrating lots and lots, watching whatever looks interesting on iPlayer, and swirling. I hope by the end of the weekend I’ll have not only finally won the battle of this cold, but that I manage to win the battle of the sadness, too!

Stained

I spent the afternoon at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery today and am so glad I did because I really did need to get out of the flat for a bit.

The impetus for my visit was their St Andrew’s Day lecture, Scotland’s Stained Glass. I know it sounds a bit boring but I like stained glass so it was fascinating to me! (And as it was a packed house, it must be a fascinating topic for others, too.)

The lecture was given by Michael Donnelly, the leading authority of Scottish stained glass from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and began with a brief history of the nation’s stained glass which included a look at medieval glass techniques and the destruction of Scotland’s stained glass during the Reformation. (In fact, there is only one pre-Reformation window remaining in Scotland.)

[Side note: Apparently, medieval glass makers sometimes used urine as part of the painting and firing process. Yuck!]

When Scottish artisans re-started the craft of stained glass in the early 19th century, they had no examples on hand for inspiration so had to travel to England and Europe to look at early pieces, then they had to recreate the methods through trial and error. But they figured it out and have made quite an impressive new collection of beautiful stained glass!

The slideshow that went along with the lecture gave examples of several Scottish artists and I happily took notes as the speaker went along so that I knew which artists I’d want to learn more about. I smiled when he spoke of Daniel Cottier, an artist who imposed his own image when depicting others in his work. I was in awe at the works he shared by William Morris, and I was filled with joy when he showed a picture of a piece by WG Morton. And, of course, I was really delighted to see Morton’s contemporary, Charles Rennie MacIntosh get a mention or three. You know, because he’s awesome!

But you don’t want a long, drawn-out recap of the lecture, so instead, I’ll just point you to a couple of resources to learn more if you’re inclined:

Scotland’s Stained Glass website—which includes a couple of PDF books for you to download (for non-commercial use only)

The People’s Palace website—the building houses a large collection of post-Reformation glass that has been salvaged from derelict and demolished buildings

Anyhow, I’m still feeling a bit down from yesterday, and actually had to force myself to go to the lecture instead of staying in feeling sorry for myself. It hasn’t solved my sorrows, but it was enjoyable. Which is always good.

Sugar and spice

OK, since it’s sort of my thing to tell you all about goodies that I get from home, I suppose I should tell you about yesterday’s parcel. (Yeah, I know you’re excited about this!)

It would seem that two of my nephews found themselves with extra Halloween candy—in addition to the extras their Mom had since they only got one (or was it two?) trick-or-treaters. So, the boys, Adrian and Brendan, offered some of their candy to me and my baby sister (their Mom), Royann, added a few other bits-and-bobs to round out the care package. And even though I was expecting the parcel, I beamed with joy and excitement when it arrived. And, true to form, I tore into it straight away!

Inside, I found loads of Now and Laters, a few Tootsie Pops, a couple Bit-o-Honeys, some Dots and JujyFruits, and a smattering of other candies. And, of course, a box of SweetTarts. Royann also included two of my go-to ingredients, Lowery’s Seasoning and Lemon Pepper, as well as a thimble and a vintage handkerchief. (Just in time for cold and flu season!)

But the best things in the parcel were the hand-made cards from the boys, each containing their most recent school photos—and each with jokes and I-love-yous.

Oh, yes, the candy and the seasonings are fantastic, but they’re nothing compared to cards from my nephews. Those were my favourite part. And they look very nice displayed in along with my collection of family photos.

Oh! And I also got a Thanksgiving card from my cousin, Helen, and her family this week. And an enjoyable letter from my friend, George, the week before—one that contained more than 30 questions about how I’m getting along in Scotland.

Yes, parcels and letters from home make the arrival of bills and junk mail seem less annoying!

And amazingly, I’ve not eaten all of the candy yet. But give me time…

If the shoe fits

I’ve been experimenting with footwear since my return to Scotland. Yep, it’s heels for this redneck, if you can believe it.

I admit, it’s a bit tricky at times because I still wobble a bit (and that’s with fairly short and chunky heels!) but I’m getting better and I almost feel like a semi-pro! But the biggest bonus is that I feel good! I know it sounds silly, but the dress code here tends to be a bit smarter than the homeland for everyday wear, and I feel good when I am dressed up that little bit more.

But that’s not the point, so I’ll move on now.

The point is that my feet are suffering! They don’t hurt but they are suffering. You see, I’ve always worn sensible, well-fitting shoes without heels. And that meant that I’ve always had pretty feet. Well, not so much as a child because I insisted on wearing shoes that were too small because I didn’t like shoe shopping. Not that I like it anymore now. But I digress. Again…

Back to the point: The bottoms of my feet are starting to get a couple of spots with not-so-soft skin. And I need to figure out how to fix that, whilst still wearing pretty shoes. And since I can’t afford professional pedicures at the moment, I’ll need to figure out how to fix it on my own.

For starters, I am using a heavy lotion before I go to bed, covering my feet with socks as I sleep so as to not get the bedding all lotion-y. I am also spending a bit more time making sure my toenails are trimmed nicely.

But the biggest solution, I imagine, is going to be finding the right shoes and the right inserts. And that, sadly, means shoe shopping. (I think I know someone who can help with that!)

Of course, the other solution would be to return to my redneck roots and just wear casual trainers everywhere.

Silken smiles

I am smiling today because I was given a beautiful gift. But the smile is less about the gift, and more about the reasoning behind it.

It came from a woman on my postgraduate course. And it came so out of the blue. She said it was just because I was so kind and helpful. That was it. It was just to say thank you for being kind and helpful.

It’s a lovely pink silk scarf from the south of China and is absolutely lovely. It really is.

I’ve been smiling today because I was given a beautiful gif—the gift of remembering that people are kind and generous. The gift of friendship.

Secret smiles

There is something to be said about a smile. People who smile are more approachable. They seem friendlier. They seem carefree. They seem happier.

For me, I’ve found that I smile when I’m happy. And when I’m happy I have a spring in my step. And when I have a spring in my step it makes everything brighter. And I’ve found that when I’m stressed or sad, I don’t smile. But I’ve also found that if I fake a smile, I can turn a not-so-happy day into a better one (sometimes).

There was a time when I was that happy person who smiled all the time—and rarely was I faking it. Oh yes, I was that overly chirpy person who always saw the good in everything and everyone. People would comment about how bright and cheery and happy I was. (Oh, and I hummed. A lot. In public. And I didn’t care. And I skipped at times, too.)

But widowhood stole that part of my world away. No, really. Since Paul died I’ve lost that naturally occurring joy. For more than two years now, I’ve struggled to be happy and cheery. I mean, it’s not like I’m never happy and cheery, it’s just that I’m not that person all the time like I once was.

Of course, I’ve been trying to re-claim that person for quite a while now. In fact, my 2010 resolution was ‘Finding Joy’—which helped me to see a glimpse of Old Frances. And that glimpse reminded me that I need to get back to that person all together.

For the longest time, I’ve struggled to find my smile. But now that I’m back in Scotland, plunging head-first into my future and my dreams, it’s time to put the search for my smile at the top of my list because I don’t want to be the girl who always hears “Cheer up, love” from strangers as she walks down the road. No, I want to be the one who always hears “You have a lovely smile” from strangers as she walks down the road.

But how do I do that? Well, I guess that I need to fake it. I need to plaster a fake smile on my face and walk out the door with fake confidence.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past week. I’ve been reminding myself to smile when I’m walking down the street or when I’m waiting for the bus. I’m even smiling when I’m cooking dinner or sitting on the couch. Now, I don’t know if I’m in a better mood because of these forced smiles, but I do know that I have been feeling a bit peppy. (Maybe that’s the excitement of a new flat?)

Of course, this means that I’m walking down the street with a smile plastered on my face. Everywhere I go I’m aware that I have an ever-so-slight smile. A Mona Lisa-like half smile—you know, the sort of smile that you can see but you don’t know why it’s there. No one knows why it’s there because it’s a secret. And it’s a secret because I daren’t let anyone know it’s fake. (Well, other than you, obviously.)

And as I walk around with my smile, secretly knowing that it’s a smile for no other reason than to smile, I’m finding that I have a little spring in my step. And I’ve even caught myself humming as I walk down the street or singing along to the music in the shops. And it’s making me happy. It’s making me smile without thinking about it—without forcing it.

So I guess that the secret to being a happy, smiley person is to just smile. It’s that simple. Just smile. (And if you’re faking it, that can be a secret!)

Chalk it up to intelligence

Since the beginning of June, I’ve been a bit remiss about organising my digital files. I think I got a bit crazy with my foster daughter moving, followed by quitting my job, leaving my house, moving to Scotland, starting school, and well, just life in general!

But the point is this: Tonight I got around to looking at some of the photos that I’ve taken over the past few months* and I found one of the sidewalk chalk drawing my foster daughter made for me a couple of days before she left. She was so excited to drag me out of the house to see it and I was so excited to see her so excited about it!

Yes, the kid thought I was pretty awesome. When we’d go into town, she insisted on introducing me to everyone as her ‘awesome foster mom’. She failed to acknowledge, however, that I couldn’t have been an awesome foster mom without having such an awesome foster kid.

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share the kid’s artwork. I miss seeing her drawings every day (I miss seeing her every day!), but at least I know she’s still happily drawing away in her new home. In fact, when we spoke on the phone last week, I asked if she needed/wanted anything and her only request was a new sketch book with the Loch Ness Monster or a Scottish flag on it.

I wonder what I’ll find the next time I flip through my photos …

* Don’t worry! I’m not one of those people who keep photos on the camera for months and months at a time. I’ve been transferring to my computer and backup drive; I’ve just not filed all of them in their respective folders.

Rationalised spending

Yesterday was meant to be my last training run before my first (and last) ever marathon next Sunday. Only plans got changed. As they do.

So instead of being all fit and athletic and stuff, I went to the antique mall (do they call them that here in Scotland?). After all, I do have to find new old things, since I left so many of my old things behind when I moved.

I looked at handbags and drooled. But then I remembered that I am on a budget and can’t rationalise spending £85 on a vintage handbag—no matter how awesome it was.

But then I looked at a stack of handkerchiefs (something I like to collect as much as handbags) and figured that since I’m back living in my lovely home of Scotland where there’s lots of rain, it would make sense to have a few spare hankies, which meant that I could easily rationalise spending £6 on three pretty little embroidered hankies.

And since my friend, Sharon, always wants to see photos of my latest vintage finds, this post is really all for her!!

Ripples for me

For the first time in my life, I am crocheting something for me. Yep, I’m making a pretty red ripple afghan throw for the couch in my new flat—with a goal to finish the throw before I move in toward the end of October.

OK, that first part isn’t 100% true because I was once working on a queen-sized ripple afghan for my bed, but later decided I would make it for my Mom. And that didn’t get finished before I left for Scotland so I left the project in the hands of my baby sister, Royann, who is only just learning to crochet and will be taking over my left-handed project with her right-handed stitches as her first-ever project. (Royann: Remember you can Skype me or go see ANT Elizabeth for help if you need it!)

But I digress…

When the throw is completed it will be the width of a twin blanket and about 4 feet long—or longer. But at the moment it’s about the size of a scarf. So, um, more hooking is needed!

I know that one little throw isn’t going to be enough to make my new flat feel as much like home as the home I left behind did, but it’s a start. And I like the idea of having something that I made in my new flat.

Note to self: Don’t become that crazy lady who spends every Saturday night at home crocheting lace doilies for every surface of the house and knitting tea cosies for everyone in her address book!

Reflections

The home I had in America was my dream home. Paul and I spent more than two years searching for the perfect place to raise a family and I remember how we both just knew this little yellow house was the place from the moment we walked through the front door. A month or so later we were handed the keys and after that we started making the place our own.

We tore out the carpets to let the hardwood floors shine like they were meant to; we painted the walls; and we refinished an Art Deco table for the dining room. And we started to search for bits and bobs to make our house our home. One of the things we were searching for was a mirror—something large enough to fit over the seven-foot fireplace mantle.

As we began our search, we looked for something with a simple frame in a black or white finish. Like really, really simple. But we didn’t find what we wanted straight away so we began to look for something with a bit of flare to it. But not something gaudy or ostentatious—something simple and classy to compliment the Art Deco/Craftsman designs of the house.

Then it happened—we stopped into our favourite back road antique store (the one I talked about before) and we found the perfect mirror. It was tucked behind a pile of picture frames that were tossed haphazardly in a corner behind a broken down table. It wasn’t anywhere near what we were looking for, but we knew instantly that it was the one we wanted.

So we went from searching for a modern, simple wood framed mirror to falling in love with mirror framed with one of those gold-and-gaudy frames that you see in stuffy old art museums. But it worked. It really did. In fact, I think it worked better than anything else ever could have because it clashed in just the right way.

I remember when I first started thinking about leaving my home and my lovely treasures for my return to Scotland. I remember thinking that I would miss my table and my mirror so much, and I remember thinking that it would be so hard to part with them—and so many other pieces. I also remember thinking that I wanted them to go to people who would love them like I did, but I also knew that there was no way I could guarantee that would happen.

Then my friend, Amy, posted a picture of her mantle on her blog and asked others about how they decorated theirs. So I shared a picture of my mantle from my first Christmas in my home and Amy mentioned that she quite liked it—assuming it was either a family piece or an expensive piece. (It was neither.) But that made me realise that Amy would love the mirror as much as I did and that she would treasure it. So we met up for lunch just before I left the country so that I could pass on my treasured mirror to my treasured friend.

Anyhow, today Amy shared what she’s done with the mirror. She made it her own with a bit of spray paint and placed it in her newly redecorated bedroom where it looks incredible. It’s made me cry a bit to see my beloved mirror in someone else’s home, but it makes me happy at the same time because I always thought it would be happy in someone’s loving family home—and that’s where it is.

As for me, I’m planning to move into my new flat toward the end of October. And since the only mirror there is in the bathroom, maybe it’s time for me to find another perfect mirror for this new life of mine. I’m sure there will be plenty of funky little back road (or even main road?) antique stores to search in with friends on the weekends.

[Photo #1 is the photo of my mirror; Photo #2 is Amy’s mirror]

Wakey culture

I made my way down to Wakefield, England, yesterday to visit with my sister-in-law, Ann, for a few days. I’ve made several trips here over the past eight+ years and have always enjoyed it. But today was a different sort of day out in Wakefield because I went to my first art museum here—the newly opened Hepworth Wakefield.

I generally love museums and such, but I think that I was more impressed with the architecture of this one than the stuff they had inside. As we approached the grey mass of concrete (the largest purpose built exhibition space in the UK outside of London) I was struck by the building’s stark and utilitarian design. The angled, multi-layered roof line seemed so oddly placed in juxtaposition to the Chantry Chapel across the way—the brutal architecture seemed more fitting in a dock yard than in the heart of a medieval town. But I think that David Chipperfield’s vision works. (I especially loved the look of it against the blue sky!)

Inside of the museum I enjoyed the variety of paintings and sculptures, but I don’t think I was in the right mindset for a museum trip because none of the works really called to me today. I did, however, find it fascinating to see some of the displays explaining the process behind making some of the massive outdoor public sculptures that I see all over the place.

Of course, after seeing the arty cultural stuff, it was time to spend some cash. So Ann took me to a couple of shops where I found myself a new dress and a pair of ballet slipper kind of shoes after we popped into the Wakefield Cathedral’s gift shop and a Costa Coffee.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a lazy day (after, that is, I get a quick training run in for that bloody marathon!) then we’re heading back to Billingham on Friday. I realised the other day that I’ve been living out of a suitcase for nearly two months now, and I have to admit that I am ready to get settled in up in Scotland! (Though I also don’t quite know where I’ll be staying long-term there, so it will be a while before I’m truly settled, so stay tuned!)

Green means go

Today was Shiny New Gadget Day, which is always a celebratory day for me. And today’s gadget was a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012—a wee green computing machine!

It was a hard decision to get a new gadget as I’m trying to save every penny I can for my year of relative unemployment, but I decided that I really did need it to make my studies easier. My main laptop (a lovely, robust little HP called Happy) is great and will continue to be used, but she’s just too heavy for toting to-and-from classes. And with her limited (3-4 hours?) battery life, there is the added weight of her power cord. Add to that, I will be living car-less which means the long walk to campus, to the library, or to the coffee shop would just be too burdensome with the extra weight.

(Have I convinced you that I really did need to make this purchase yet? Because I feel I need to convince you that I need it so that my guilt will lessen…)

Anyhow, LittleGreen (that’s her name) is lightweight and can run about six hours on a full battery charge. She is quick and speedy and will run my graphic software with ease—though with her small size (just 10”) I won’t use her as my main design friend. I haven’t gotten a chance to bond with LittleGreen just yet, but we will soon. Oh yes, come tomorrow I’ll have set my preferences, downloaded Skype and TweetDeck, installed Office and Adobe Creative Suite, and networked her with Happy.

All just in time to pack up and take to the ocean this weekend!

(Yay!)

A happy-sad goodbye

One of my favourite bits of furniture was an old 1950s(ish) green padded sewing stool. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I said goodbye to it today. Parting with my stuff is very hard, and I really thought that parting with this awesome little guy would be hard, too. But when I met its new owner in a parking lot this morning, I couldn’t help but smile.

I bought the stool about three years ago. It was on one of the many trips Paul and I took to ratty little antique shop on one of the winding Palouse back roads—and one of the many purchases we made there. The shop has a nice front room with everything nicely dusted and displayed, but they also have this back storage area that is more like the dumping ground for everything else. You have to climb over things and move things around to get to that one cool thing tucked in a corner. But it’s worth it!

One day we popped in on our way to Spokane and in the back room there was this awesome little green stool—without a price tag. I loved it and knew it would be great in my sewing room. We decided that we’d ask what the price was and we’d buy it if it was less than $25.

Well, it turns out that the shop’s owner had salvaged it the night before from the garbage heap in another small farming town a few miles away. He asked if we’d pay $5. And with that, this lovely new stool went from garbage heap to back room to a loving home.

It hurt to put the thing up on CraigsList, but I did so with a $20 price tag. A few hours later I got an excited email from a woman who was getting ready to move to the area to attend university, but she wanted to know if I’d hold it until August. I let her know I couldn’t so she made arrangements to make the six-hour drive to town this weekend to visit friends and look for an apartment.

I was a bit doubtful that someone would want this little stool so desperately, but after several emails I was convinced and we arranged to meet this morning. When I pulled the stool out from the trunk, the woman’s face lit up! She was so excited and couldn’t stop smiling. She seemed to love it at first sight the way I had loved it at first sight. She happily handed me the money and I smiled as she carted it away.

OK, I know it seems silly and all. But I feel better knowing that this stool that brought me so much joy is now bringing someone else joy. (Even if secretly her joy is that she knows it’s really worth $500 and is going to resell it!) Also, I was pleased to know that her move to the area is so that she can get her master’s degree—which is the same reason I’m moving away from the area.

I wish it were this easy to part with all of my stuff, but I know that there will be more tears than smiles for much of the process. I also wish I could make an awesome profit on everything like I did for this!

Pieces of noon

Once again, I’ve become lax in my efforts to reclaim my lunch hour. In fact, the last time I made a deliberate effort to do so was back in March! OK, in fairness I have taken a couple of lunch-time trips to Moscow for optical appointments but that’s just not the same. But I digress…

Last week I noticed that the WSU Museum of Art had listed a few summer concerts, so I decided to put them on my calendar right away so that I could be free to take the five minute walk and get out of the office. I’d completely forgotten about it, but then my handy-dandy gadgets started beeping and flashing reminding me that I had a noon appointment—one that I almost cancelled because I wasn’t really in the mood. But then I realised that not being in the mood to relax was exactly why I needed to go and relax.

So, it was off to listen to the WSU faculty jazz ensemble, Nighthawk, and look at the pretty art stuff. After all, what can be more relaxing than a bit of jazz and art on a late-spring afternoon?

And now comes the part I know you’re all waiting for: My impressions of some of the art! But don’t worry, I’m only going to give my thoughts on four of the many pieces I saw.

First up, I was drawn to an Andy Warhol painting called Siberian Tiger (1983). Now, please forgive me for my first thoughts about this painting, but it reminded me of the tigers and lions we used to draw as children. Well, the outline part at least—the rest of it was very much outside of my ability! The colouring and texture on the tiger’s eyes and facial features was beautiful. Truly the work of an artist and not that of my childhood drawings! But, the memories it brought me of my now-passed thoughts that I could be a famous artist made me smile.

The next piece that struck me was an untitled piece by Cheryl Laemmle. It was oil on canvas painted in 1978 depicting a monkey and a horse in an outdoor scene. (Where else would a monkey and horse be, right?) The overall piece wasn’t something that spoke to me, but I was so taken in by how realistic the fur on the animals looked. The white fur on the horse was especially realistic and I had to resist the urge to feel it. On looking up close, I could see the individual brush strokes that made the fur, but even after that, it still looked all 3-D(ish) when I stepped back again. So, yeah, this piece made me smile, too.

The third piece that made me stop for a closer look was probably the most pretentious one in the place. (Yes, I always try to pick out the one I think is the most pretentious.) Anyhow, it was by Nancy Burson and was titled O.I.C. (1980; screen print) It was in a simple, minimalist brushed silver frame with a white matte. And inside the white matte was a white square screen-printed on white paper. If you looked very closely, you could see the faintest pencil-scrawled signature. (I would have been embarrassed to sign my name to it as it seems as silly as signing a blank cheque if you ask me. But what do I know about art?)

Finally, I was struck by a piece by Joseph Goldberg titled Pieces of Noon (1986; encaustic on linen over wood). The overall piece looked rather distressed and flaky and consisted of several ill-fitted bits of something-or-other stacked on each other—with a very tenuous looking base and a more stable looking top bit.

And now I’m going to get all self-reflected and stuff because it’s my blog and it’s all about me and that last piece made me all reflective and stuff so: I found it amusing that, in an effort to reclaim my lunch hour, I found enjoyment in a bit of art called Pieces of Noon. Further, I enjoyed the symbolism* in the piece being distressed and flaky—just like I’ve been feeling lately. And I found it interesting that—despite the tenuous-looking base—the overall image seemed stable and solid. Almost as if the weight of the top bits were stabilising the rest of the stack. (Yeah, I’m not the best at interpreting art, but these were my thoughts and this is my blog so that’s OK.)

Oh! And one more thing! As I sat there scribbling my notes with one of my Just Frances pens, a member of the museum’s staff approached me to let me know that using ink pens was not allowed. He requested that I use a pencil instead (and kindly handed me one). I have never heard of an ink prohibition in a museum before and from the sounds of it, neither have my Facebook friends. Have you? Or was this just a one-off little quirk?

[The image with this post is my own rough sketch of the Pieces of Noon piece. It’s not nearly as good as the original, but I’m not really an artist so that’d OK!]

* Symbolism, much like horoscopes, makes me laugh in cynicism often because we can all interpret whatever we want out of things. It’s all about the spin. But, as I said, this is my blog and this is my interpretation! You are, of course, welcome to share your own interpretations in the comment section.

Loosey goosey

Back in February I told you about a never ending project I’ve been working on with left over bits of yarn. And I mentioned that the stitching was getting looser as I went, making the project all catawampus. At first, I thought I’d just deal with it. But then my obsessive compulsive tendencies got the better of me and I couldn’t continue.

All of the sudden, I began to stress out about this project. It seemed such a waste, but I couldn’t possibly accept this horribly skewed thing. So I thought I’d start completely over—stitching with a larger hook and using a loose stitch from the first row. That would make the project go faster, too, which sounded good to me. But once I began that plan—stitching as I unravelled—I determined that wouldn’t work either because it just didn’t look right.

So I started to think maybe I’d just bin the whole project. No harm; no foul.

But I couldn’t bring myself to do that. So my remaining option was to unravel to the point where my stitching went awry. That thought made me sad, but at least there wouldn’t be any waste.

Which means I’ve spent a couple of hours unravelling my lovely afghan. And now I get to spend many, many, many more re-stitching. And, with a bit of consistency and discipline, maybe it will work the way it’s meant to this time around.

(One day, Mom, this will make it to your bed. I promise!)

Final blooms

We moved into our house on May 15, 2008. About a week later, all of the pink tulips planted along the front side began to bloom. They were truly lovely and we enjoyed bringing them in to adorn the mantle. That autumn, we planted loads of yellow and red tulips to go along with the rest. After all, I do love tulips! Then the following April, Paul and I watched excitedly as the tulips started to grow. In fact, the day before he died we remarked about how fun it would be to have tulips that we planted in the house.

It was about two weeks later when the first of the yellow tulips began to bloom, followed a couple of days later by the red. (The pink took another week or so.) And I cried and cried and cried because Paul never got to see our beautiful flowers bloom. Instead, they got to adorn his grave. Somehow, that just wasn’t the same.

When the flowers began to sprout through the melting snow last spring, my emotions got the better of me again. Only in addition to being sad that Paul couldn’t enjoy the flowers, I was sad that he wasn’t there to see the first sprouts, either.

And this year, it’s all happening again. Only this year, I’m also sad that I will never see them bloom again. I’m sad that I’m leaving behind not only these beautiful flowers we planted, but also the dreams and plans we had for the rest of the garden.

I can’t explain how hard it is to see the seasons changing without Paul here to enjoy it with me. I think there may be a little bit of guilt there though.

I know it sounds silly, but part of me is glad to be leaving this place because I think it will be easier to see the flowers bloom somewhere else—flowers that we didn’t plant together. But part of me will also be sad that Paul never did see our yellow and red tulips. The ones that will adorn his grave one last time this Memorial Day Weekend. I hope he likes them…

I’ve been Kindled!

I did it! I purchased a Kindle today. The 3G one. Yay me!

I opted to purchase it from Staples in Moscow because I didn’t want to wait a week for it to arrive from Amazon and because it was $3.40 cheaper because of the sales tax savings. (Yes; I’m that cheap. I mean, I was going to drop of clothes at Goodwill across the parking lot, so it wasn’t out of my way or anything.)

I also purchased my first Kindle book—Ian Rankin’sStrip Jack” for £4.99. Ah! Did you notice that pound sign? Well that’s because the book I wanted isn’t available for customers in America so I had to switch my country of choice to the UK. Which is cool since that will be my country of residence in less than three months’ time.

Anyhow, I need to go read now but I wanted to leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Is there something ironic about naming a book-reading device after a fire-related word?
  • If you purchase a re-furbished Kindle (or re-gift one) then does the Kindle become a Rekindle?
  • If you’re reading something electronically, can it even be said that you’re reading a book?

So, book suggestions welcome. Gifts of Kindle books are also welcome. [Enter cheeky smile here.]

Happy reading!

Specky four eyes

A lot has changed since I got my first pair of glasses nearly 30 years ago. (That’s glasses as in specs, not drinking vessels, to clarify for my UK readers.) Back then, ‘big’ was normal for glasses. Back then, my frames were massive and wholly dependent on my parents’ budget. (And they were wise enough to insure the suckers, too!) My frames remained rather large throughout the 1980s and well into the ’90s.

In the mid- to late-90s two things happened: I got my own insurance and I learned that, despite my extremely strong prescription, I could wear small frames. Added to that, my optometrist’s office offered specials for ‘buy one pair; get one 50 percent off’ which meant that I could, for the first time in my life, have sunglasses! Eventually, I found myself with several pair because my prescription didn’t change for a few years but my insurance kept paying for new glasses each year.

Ah, with all of those new, smaller glasses the world never looked better! [Pun intended.]

Anyhow (slowly getting to the point) I was long-past due for a new prescription so I went and had my eyes checked a couple of months ago and am now (finally) getting around to ordering glasses I can see through!

But thanks to insurance cuts (Only $150 for hardware? That’s madness!) and my imminent unemployment and future starving student status, I decided against getting new frames. Instead, I’m just updating the lenses in my last two pair of regular frames and my sunglasses. This way I have a spare pair of specks should anything happen to the other. Plus, since my new (soon to be former!) optometrist offers 30 percent off the cost of 2nd and 3rd sets, my total out-of-pocket expense is just $65! Which is about $85 less than I had budgeted, so I that Kindle with 3G is starting to sound a bit better…

Wait. If this post is about ordering three pair of glasses, shouldn’t the title be “Specky eight eyes”? Oh well, I’ve always said I was rubbish at math[s].

Oh, and I know I’m not showing you photos of the glasses, but I figured that you’ve been seeing the current ones (red frames) and the sunglasses for the last year+ of this blog and if you’ve looked at older photos (pre-November 2008) you’ve seen the others. And you’ll get to see them all again and again and again so you don’t need to see them now. (Yay! Can you feel the suspense building?)

The fairy’s new digs

My foster daughter got a fairy garden set for Christmas that included a little fairy cottage and toadstools for her to decorate along with loads of other sparkly and wonderful things to make the fairy’s home and surrounding garden a place of wonderment.

And on Sunday, she finally got around to opening the box.

She painted the things that needed painting then spread the soil into the flower-shaped container. After a considerable amount of time placing all of the gem-encrusted paths and other bits-and-bobs in just the right place, she finally planted the seeds in the two back quadrants. Then she watered it and spent the rest of Sunday adamant that she could already see something growing. (She was mistaken, as whist there were beans in the seed mix, they were not magical ones that sprouted in less than three hours.)

Monday and Tuesday she looked with excitement when she woke up then again when we returned home. And each day she was a little sad that there were no green sprouts.

But this morning when we woke, we noticed that the soil was bulging like crazy in the two sections she’d planted in. And on closer inspection, we could see that several of the seeds and beans were, in fact, beginning to sprout.

I suspect that the fairy will need to get out in the garden for some weeding in the next few days!

(Oh, and you can expect another photo or two of the growing process because the kid is adamant that this project will make for a good read on my blog and I think she’s right. I hope you agree!)

Wallpaper?

I was meant to be scanning old newspaper clippings this evening. But then I got sidetracked playing with Photoshop. So, I guess I’ll need to scan stuff at the weekend. And my procrastination means you get to look at a weird 70s-ish flower thingy. (Wouldn’t this make an awesome wallpaper pattern?)

Joy in an envelope

I go to the post office on my way home almost every day. And each time I put the key in the lock I hold my breath hoping that there will be a letter or parcel for me. You know—something other than a bill. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often, but I still hold out hope.

And today it happened! I got a letter all the way from Canada!

When I saw the brown envelope my first thought was it was a letter from the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs about my tax refund. But then I saw the return address and I knew it was something from a lovely new friend of mine—who is the sister of a lovely friend in Scotland, to boot!

I couldn’t wait to open the letter, but since I’m one of those people who must open things with a clean edge—and me without a pocket knife!—I had to hold the urge to tear it open in the post office lobby. I smiled all the way home. (OK, I’m only ¼ mile from the post office, but I smiled for the ¼ mile!) Once I got home, I excitedly opened the envelope and was so excited to see a hand-written (!!) letter explaining the contents.

The contents, if you wondered—and the impetus for the letter—was a Christmas card and ornament that got forgotten about when I was up over the holidays, as well as a special little preview of the author’s next art exhibit.

But most importantly the envelope contained joy, happiness, and friendship. And precious things such as those are treasures that should be kept nearby at all times!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go re-read my lovely letter…

Springy

Today is the first day of spring, but despite the cluster of purple crocus sprouting up just outside my kitchen door, it doesn’t feel like spring. Still, the calendar insists it is, so I suppose spring has now officially sprung.

I’m kind of anti-spring these days, likely due to the memories leading up to Paul’s spring-time death. But, I am trying to be upbeat and positive. I suppose the positive thing about spring is that it’s just one season away from summer.

And summer is when my new future kicks into high gear as I pack my bags and return to Scotland.

So roll on spring—but roll quickly so that summer can come out to play!

If the dress fits

At some point I am going to need to go through all of my clothes and ditch the old stuff in preparation for my move. But today isn’t that day.

It is, however, the day that I happened across the dress that I wore for my high school graduation way back in 1992.

So I did what any 37-year-old woman would do 19 years after graduation—I tried on the dress. And it fit.

I have several dresses from high school and my 20s that I’ve saved. It may seem strange to have kept them—knowing full-well I’ll never wear them again—but I just know how upset I am that my mom get rid of her awesome clothes from the 60s and 70s. The few pieces that she kept I’ve managed to borrow on occasion (and I’ve been given a couple, too) but there are some dresses I’ve seen in old photos that I’m so distraught over not being able to steal borrow.

Which brings me to why I’ve saved my ‘best’ dresses from the past: So that I can one day pass them on to my daughter. Of course, as a childless widow, the chances of that happening are now slimmer than ever before. So instead, I hope to one day pass them on to my nieces. Only, I don’t know that they’ll want them.

Oh, what a dilemma!

But, all of that said, since the dresses seem to fit—and since the 90s seem to be coming back in style—maybe I should start wearing them again?

No, wait. I think I remember some rule that goes something like: ‘If you wore it when it was fashionable the first time around, you’re not allowed to wear it when it becomes retro-awesome.’

Oh well. Anyone want some awesome dresses from the 1990s for their daughters? …

It may never be done…

Shortly after moving into our new home, I started working on a queen-sized afghan using the bits and scraps of other projects. Paul and I were looking forward to having loads of handmade afghans and quilts to keep us warm. Then when Paul died I stopped stitching because I just didn’t have the heart for it.

But about nine months later, I picked up my hooks and started to work on the afghan once again. I even put out a call to friends for any left-over yarn they might have—and was pleased to have people respond with bags of the stuff!

Then summer hit. Then I took in a foster kid. Then life’s stresses hit. Then the holiday season’s depression hit. Then I needed to concentrate on finishing my foster daughter’s [now late, but finally finished] Christmas afghan.

Which meant this lovely queen-sized afghan was neglected and neglected and neglected. (Though there were periods between neglect where I’d hook a couple of rows.)

Anyhow, I guess it’s about half-way done now—nearly three years after it got started! But all of the sudden I’m moving back to Scotland. And it seems silly to take a half-finished project this size with me, but I can’t ditch it now because I’ve put in too much effort.

And so, I am now stitching for my mommy! Yep, I’ve decided that I will attempt at finishing this sucker before I fly out to Scotland this summer and I will give the finished afghan to my Mom. I think she’ll like this plan.

Of course, in taking a photo of the project so far, I spread the blanket out on the floor and quickly noticed that it’s getting wider as I go. I think it’s a combination of me loosening my stitches as I get faster and the different, softer yarns that I’m using right now. So Mom, I’m very sorry but you’ll be getting a crooked afghan.

Right. Time to stop blogging now and start hooking…

It’s done!

When I began stitching my foster daughter’s Christmas afghan back in October, I really thought I would be able to finish it. But with the holidays came a bit of depression, which—added to the fact that I could only stitch when she was sleeping—meant that the project was slow going.

Since I showed her the partial gift on Christmas day, it meant that I was able to work on it in front of her finally. Of course, the post-holiday depression was still there and I wasn’t quite as motivated as I thought I’d be.

However, a couple of weeks ago I got my mojo back and started hooking at warp speed, which means that two months after Christmas, it’s finally done.

And the best thing is that the kid is super happy about it!

Oh, and she happily pointed out the other day that it’s purple and green so she’ll always remember me because purple is her favourite colour and green is mine! (Aw, bless her little cotton socks!)

With this ring

The last thing I expected from Paul when we took a mini-break to Venice back in spring 2004 was an engagement ring. I mean, I thought we were heading that way, but I didn’t expect the question right then. (But I said yes without skipping a beat!)

I remember the feeling of pride looking at that ring in the year in between our engagement and our wedding. And I remember the immense feelings of joy when my engagement ring was joined with a wedding band.

Paul and I would sit curled up on the couch together sometimes just looking at our rings. We would smile when we’d hold hands and our bands would clink together. Sometimes, we’d just clink them together for the sound—and we’d giggle and beam with joy. (I know: Extremely sappy! Funnily, we’d have mocked others for doing the same thing; which is why we only did it in the privacy of our own home.)

We were going to wear our rings forever—until death do us part and all that. And we were young(ish) and healthy and planned to live a very, very long time. So you can imagine the heartbreak when less than four years later Paul’s ring was removed from his finger in the funeral home. When it was handed to me, I slipped it onto my finger where it remained until yesterday.

In the beginning, I told myself that I would wear all three rings forever. I felt a connection of sorts with them there together. The diamond setting on my engagement ring kept Paul’s wedding band securely in place, but because it was so much bigger than my finger, the ring would clink and clank around when I moved my hand. I found a bit of morbid comfort in that sound.

But, also from the beginning, I knew that my wearing his ring made others uncomfortable. Some people even made comments about it being time to remove my rings—and after the ‘one year mark’ a couple people were quite adamant that it was time to do so. But I wasn’t ready. (I wanted to ask them how long they’d worn their rings after losing their spouse, but I didn’t think that they’d see the ironic humour in the question, since their spouses were still living.)

Later, I decided that maybe it was time I set aside the rings—despite the fact that I wasn’t ready. I thought that maybe it would be symbolic or something. So I started looking at ‘widow rings’ since I’d been hearing so much about them. But the thought of setting my wedding rings aside for a black diamond to symbolize the end of my marriage seemed wrong. Very, very wrong.

So instead I started to research nice claddagh bands. Something that would be meaningful to me, but not [hopefully] elicit questions like a black diamond on my wedding finger would cause. Something substantial that could replace all three rings. But nothing seemed good enough.

The urgency to find a new ring became clear a couple of months ago when I noticed that the rings were starting to get a bit worn because they were clinking together all the time. I became concerned that it would soon ruin the setting on my engagement ring, or potentially the diamond itself. And I could already see how the platinum was wearing.

Then a couple of weeks ago—after a considerable amount of research and soul-searching—I finally ordered a new ring. A simple band with a claddagh engraved in the metal. I decided that it would be my birthday gift to myself.

But when it came in the post a few days ago, I realised that I wasn’t actually ready or willing to give up wearing my rings. So I tried on the new ring with my wedding set and felt that I could live with that. But I wasn’t ready to make the commitment just yet, so I put the new band away and put Paul’s ring back on my finger.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I opened the box with the new ring once again and stared at it, wondering if I could actually bring myself to remove Paul’s ring for good. I felt so torn, but I knew that I needed to put this new ring on my finger. So I placed it in between Paul’s ring and mine and wore it that way for a couple of hours.

Finally, after I’d taken my foster daughter to day care, I thought I’d give it a shot without Paul’s ring. I removed all of the rings and placed Paul’s on top of his jewellery box before putting the new ring and my wedding rings back on. Then I went to take a shower. And I cried and cried and cried.

It dawned on me that we put so much ceremony into placing an engagement ring or wedding ring on our fingers, but there isn’t a ceremony to mark their removal. After all, there is nothing to celebrate, is there?

I don’t know how I really feel about removing Paul’s ring. I know it doesn’t feel good, but I also don’t feel completely hysterical about it, either. I also can’t promise that next week I won’t put Paul’s ring back on my finger. I suppose that I’ll just do whatever feels right.

As for my own wedding rings, I don’t know how long I’ll wear them. When I first put them on I had all intentions of wearing them for the rest of my life. And maybe I will. Or maybe I won’t. But for now, I can’t bear the thought of being without them. After all, in my heart I am still very much married.

Who knew that a simple piece of jewellery could cause so much thought and so much grief!?

Friendship bracelets

My foster daughter was given a friendship bracelet making kit for Christmas. I remember thinking it was a silly thing to sell as a kit. I mean, all you need is a bit of embroidery floss and a safety pin, right? But she seemed happy about the gift, so I wasn’t about to tell her what a silly thing it was.*

Fast forward to last night, and I found her in her room attempting to use the kit for the first time; and hating it. She decided—on her own—that the kit was worthless. Instead, she decided that she would just braid the floss together. Of course, braiding wouldn’t have the same look as a friendship bracelet from the kit with the fancy ‘weaving wheel’. But she decided that something was better than nothing.

Seeing her disappointment, I quickly rounded up the floss that came with the kit, grabbed a pair of scissors and a safety pin, and sat her down next to me on the couch for a quick lesson in friendship bracelets.

I was very pleased with myself because after not having made a friendship bracelet in 20+ years, I actually remembered how! And I must have been an OK instructor because the kid picked it up immediately and has already made two bracelets since last night. She is practicing with different patterns and types of knots and should have the skill mastered by the end of the weekend. She even managed to take my left-handed instructions and reverse them for using her non-left (wrong?) hand.

Me? I attempted at one this evening and realised two things before giving up: 1) I have too many other projects going at the moment to get wrapped up in a new one and 2) I don’t know if my friends would wear one if I gave them one anyhow. (But after my afghans are done, I think I might make some bracelets for my friends anyhow. I bet they’d smile if I gave them one, even if it never got worn.)

[The top photo is my foster daughter working on her third bracelet. The bottom photo is what I did before giving up for the night in favour of blogging and crocheting.]

* In all fairness, it was a very nice, very kind gift from a community programme that gives gifts to foster children. It’s just that I grew up making bracelets by hand and sort of thought that a kit that does the weaving for you is cheating. But maybe hand-knotting bracelets is one of those traditions that doesn’t get passed from one generation to the next?

Ripples

So, this is my foster daughter’s Christmas present. Not for next Christmas but for the one just past. Can you believe that I’m still working on it? I seem to be a bit slow in making these ripples.

The good thing is that now that she knows I’m making it, I can stitch when she’s still awake. The bad thing is that I haven’t felt the urge to stitch the past few weeks.

I think I’m about a quarter of the way done, which means I’d best get hooking!

No sleep for the artist

My foster daughter has just brought me a lovely drawing that she made last night when she couldn’t sleep. She proudly proclaimed that she hid her signature underneath some of the sketching so that I could scan it and share it online (because she knows I won’t use her name on my blog).

As always, the kid has some real talent!

Of course, after admiring her art work I started to worry that she wasn’t sleeping but was instead up all hours of the night drawing. (No wonder she’s tired this morning!) Her insomnia worried me for a few minutes, then I remembered that she had a Christmas visit with her Mom last night—a visit that included loads of sugary treats and fizzy drinks. Which would explain her inability to sleep. And maybe even her slightly sore belly today. (I’ll note here that I’m all about the sugary treats and fizzy drinks for special occasions!)

But, I digress…

Here’s The Kid’s amazing drawing for you to enjoy!

Not finished!

Yesterday I shared the finished scarf for my foster daughter’s Christmas present. Today, I’m sharing the unfinished afghan!

Thankfully, she is off mucking out stalls in a neighbour’s horse barn right now. (Really.) I’m taking advantage of the free time to get a few rows done. At this rate, the afghan will be bigger than the scarf by Christmas morning.

Yay!

Tree time

With less than two weeks before Christmas, I am trying to get into the spirit. I’ll admit it’s difficult, but I am trying.

I had planned to bring out all of my decorations this morning but when it came right down to it, I guess I’m not ready to display those memories this year. So, this afternoon I loaded the kid up and we went to town to buy a new tree.

We decided that we would get a small tree that could go on the plant stand and were pleased to find one that had pinecones and fake berries already on the tree. That meant we just needed to get a small package of bobbles and some pretty garland to finish it off.

The kid made a lovely star to top the tree and did all the decorating herself. (After I tied string onto the bobbles.) She was extremely pleased with the tree—and even more pleased to know that it’s her tree that she can take with her when she decides she’s sick of living with me.

I know it’s not a big, traditional tree, but we decided it works for us. Plus, the kid liked the idea that because it’s her tree (and more importantly, doesn’t have my precious ornaments from my childhood) she can re-arrange it as often as she wants. She’s just not allowed to touch the presents under it!

Oh! And for those wondering, I have managed enough Christmas spirit to make cards and write my annual letter this year. (Can I call it an annual letter, having missed last year’s?) Anyhow, if you’re on my list, expect it in the post soon because I’m heading out to mail them tomorrow.

If you’re not on my list, please know that it’s nothing personal and I still think you’re awesome! (And it’s really just a re-hash of things you’ve read here, so you’re not missing anything!) BUT, I will post a picture of the card later for all of my curious readers!

So tree and cards are sorted. Now I suppose I’d best go buy some gifts, since I’ve yet to even think about that!

Fashion-less

I don’t know a thing about fashion, nor do I care. And this is how bad I am:

Today, I bought a pretty sweater because I love the colour. A colour Paul would have hated! (Bile green, he’d have called it.) It was on sale though, and I liked it. And it was buy one, get one 50% off, so I bought another one, too. (But a different colour and one that Paul may have approved of.)

But the sweaters are too snug for regular jeans which are lumpy with loops and buttons and pockets, so I decided I’d wear them with my bargain £10 jeggins I got at Primark last year.

And the only shoes I have for my jeggins are a pair of fake Prada’s that I got on sale a couple of years ago. Only the black plastic ‘pleather’ stuff is peeling off the heels. And I can’t find my black electrical tape, so I am colouring in the cheap white plastic underneath with a black marker.

And for all of this, the only name brand item—and one I’ll have paid full price for—is the Sharpie. Yes folks, only name brand office supplies for this geek!

I know I will probably look ridiculous in my get-up, but if it’s comfortable, I don’t care. And if you don’t like it, just don’t look at me.

Clay play

As part of my on-going mission to relax and find a bit of silly joy in life, I broke open a box of coloured clay this evening. I didn’t do much with it today, but I’m inspired now and have a great idea for some fun time with my foster daughter this weekend.

I’m sure you’re totally excited to see what we might create so here’s a wee flower to tide you over until I have something more artistic to entertain you with. Yay!

 

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Hooked

I work full time. I parent an 11-year-old foster kid. I have a house that requires my care and attention. I have applications to complete for entrance to a postgraduate program. I have this amazing blog to keep up with. And I have the full-time occupation of being completely awesome. (And there are loads of other tasks and responsibilities I’ve not listed, like the chore of being extremely modest all the time…)

Oh, and I have a queen-sized afghan and a baby blanket that I’m busy crocheting.

So, you’d think that I’d recognize that I have enough on my plate, right?

Wrong!

On a trip to the big city yesterday I purchased yarn for two new projects. Both of which I need to finish by Christmas. One is a purple scarf (started last night) and the other is a twin-sized purple and green ripple afghan. I know it seems silly, but the kid just loves the queen-sized afghan I’m working on and has also admired my hand-crocheted scarves.

Well, I guess I’m just a sucker because now I’m busy making Christmas pressies for the kid after she goes to bed. I hope she likes them. I really, really hope she does! (And don’t worry, she’ll get proper, store-bought rubbish, too!)

Paper flowers

As part of my self-actualization process rubbish I regularly search for creative inspiration. One form of inspiration I turn to often is writing prompts, which help motivate me to write (and think) about things I might not have otherwise.

Today I stumbled upon the following prompt:

List 10 things you can do with tissue paper. Pick one from the list and write about it.

But I don’t really fancy writing about what I can do with tissue paper. So instead, I’ve just done one of the 10 things and am sharing a photo of my creation for you now.

Yes folks, I’ve spent an exciting Tuesday evening making paper flowers.

A bonus to this is that I promised myself a while back that I would cut back on my spending in an effort to save money for my postgraduate tuition. And now that I have a pretty vase of paper flowers, I don’t need to buy any for quite some time! (Yay!)

Oh! And here’s my list of 10 things you can do with tissue paper:

  1. Make pretty flowers to make you smile
  2. Make a piñata to fill with candy
  3. Wrap awesome presents for awesome friends
  4. Decoupage a cool tin to store yummy cookies in
  5. Line the bottom of your socks and knickers drawer
  6. Make paper hats for inside Christmas crackers
  7. Make stained glass pictures for your mommy
  8. Wrap fancy sweaters before storing them for the summer
  9. Wrap a nice bottle of wine to give to an awesome friend
  10. And, finally, blow a snotty nose into it

Hanky panky

A friend from high school mentioned that she’d like to hear more about my collection of vintage handbags and handkerchiefs, so this post is for her! (And it’s about hankies, not handbags.)

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started using handkerchiefs. If I had to guess, it was in my early-20s when my vintage handbag passion was really kicking into gear. I was finding that I really loved vintage accessories and I slowly started adding hankies to my collection of ‘stuff’. But I’m a firm believer in using things, not just letting them collect in a box hidden from sight.

Over the years, I’ve never seen handkerchiefs used by women in my age group. No, it seems that they are just not the ‘in’ thing to use. (Or maybe it’s that most women in my age group are totting small children with snotty noses around and have decided disposable tissues are just easier!)

In fact, it dawned on me a few weeks ago when I saw a man I know using a handkerchief, that other than me, that friend, and little old ladies, I’ve only seen old redneck men use handkerchiefs in recent times. And whilst my hankies remain neatly folded, the handkerchiefs of this friend and the old rednecks always seem to be crumpled in a pocket. The hankies of little old ladies tend to be stuffed in their sleeves or through the band of their watch. (In fairness, the friend I saw using one recently is neither old nor is he a redneck.)

Anyhow, it makes me wonder a few things:

  • Are there other women under the age of 60 who use handkerchiefs?
  • Are the only men who use them old rednecks or men in suits?
  • Am I the only person who doesn’t crumple their handkerchiefs?
  • If I dropped my hankie in an ever-so-dainty way, would a gallant hero come whisk me away to a land of joyful bliss and happiness like they do in the fairy tales?
  • Would a man still hand a woman his handkerchief if she was crying? And if he did and she blew her nose into it, would he want it back?

[Side note: I don’t blow my nose in my hankies. If I have a cold I carry disposable tissues for that purpose. I know, TMI, but it’s my blog and I can share what I want!]

So, I don’t know if this post really answers the request for information about my handkerchiefs, but it’s maybe a start. And if you want a bit more entertainment, you can always click on the thumbnail images below to see close-ups of some of my (clean, I promise) handkerchiefs.

And, Sharon, I promise that I’ll share more fun stories and pictures about any new vintage accessory purchases!! Yay!

Curly

Curl ˈkər(-ə)l (verb) [Middle English crullen, curlen, from crulle, curly, perhaps of Middle Low German origin.]
transitive verb: 1: to form (as the hair) into coils or ringlets 2: to form into a curved shape : twist <curled his lip in a sneer> 3: to furnish with curls
intransitive verb: 1a : to grow in coils or spirals b : to form ripples or crinkles <bacon curling in a pan> 2: to move or progress in curves or spirals : wind <the path curled along the mountainside> 3: twist, contort 4: to play the game of curling

So, I’ve had my hair curled. And how awesome is it that the intransitive verb mentions one of my favourite foods (bacon) and the sport of my favourite (non-native) country (Scotland)?! Yay!

Thanks, Lynn, for making my hair look so pretty!

(Oh, and a shot with pigtails, too. Because I love to wear my hair in bunches these days!)

Fired!

A week and a half ago the kid and I went to Wild @ Art to paint ceramics but we had to leave the painted pieces behind so that they could be put in the kiln and fired. And today I went to pick them up.

The kid chose to paint a dragon. She wanted to paint one that was much more detailed and ornate, but it cost several pretty pennies and I felt that she needed something a bit simpler as this was her first attempt at painting ceramics. I think she was happy with that choice when she realized just how long it was taking to paint the simple one! In fact, she mentioned at one point afterward that she should have painted the very basic horse for her first project!

This was my second attempt at ceramics painting (as a grown-up) but, still, I chose something practical and simple. My little bowl was painted knowing that its sole purpose would be to hold candy. Because I like candy. I’m a bit disappointed in myself because I wasn’t able to stop painting so it looks a bit like an Easter egg now. Next time, I will remember that simple is good, too. In the mean time, I have filled my pretty bowl with Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts. Of course, by the time you read this the bowl will be empty because I do love my Liquorice Allsorts!

[Here’s more information about my first grown-up attempt, if you’re interested.]

An inspirational lunch

I remember visiting a friend not too long ago and being shocked to learn that he rarely took advantage of the great cultural and historical sites around him. I challenged him to use his lunch hour to see some of the places from time-to-time. I remember thinking how lucky he was to have such entertainment at his disposal, but how sad it was that he didn’t take advantage of it. (My guess is he still hasn’t.) But it dawned on me today that I have an amazing amount of cultural entertainment all around me that I never utilize.

I work in the center of a large university campus. All around me there are museums displaying art. There are concerts and lectures. There are exhibits for everything and anything everywhere! So when the university’s electronic newsletter for faculty and staff showed up in my email this morning, my eyes were drawn to a story about an art exhibit that opened today.

And because I am meant to be reclaiming my lunch hours, and because the museum is less than two minutes from my office (in fact, I park in the garage under the museum!), and because I’ve been feeling very arty these past few weeks, I decided to go at lunch time.

The exhibit at the WSU Museum of Art is called “Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art” and is part of a collection belonging to Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan. To be honest, I don’t know that I realized there was such a thing as contemporary aboriginal art, but then, I don’t really know anything about art. (But I know what I like!)

When I walked in, I couldn’t help but start smiling. I think it was because the art is so similar to what I like to draw: squiggles, swirls, lines, and dots. Only where my ‘art’ is just mindless nothings, I can see the thought that went into this—and the use of traditional symbols in many of the pieces helped to tell a story. (Thank you to the museum for providing legends to the symbols throughout the exhibit!)

Anyhow, I am inspired! I am inspired to continue my quest to reclaim my lunch time. I am inspired by the art and am excited to create some new drawings of my own. And I am inspired by seeing the paint on linens and canvas—so much so that I am now inspired to see if there is a painting course that I can take so that I can pretend to be an artist a bit more.

Yes, I think I should do that. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn how to paint?

Anyhow, I hope you’re inspired, too. I hope you’re inspired to take time for yourself; inspired to see an art exhibit; inspired to create your own art; or just inspired for the sake of inspiration.

Handbag packrat

Ack! It’s happened again! I’ve become a handbag packrat. You know, those women who carry these massive bags around all the time that are loaded with rubbish they don’t need. And the reason they do that is simple: As inhabitants of the western world, we fill the space we have to capacity. (And if that’s still not enough, we just rent a storage unit somewhere on the outskirts of town!)

I am not generally a handbag packratter though. For three main reasons: I don’t wear makeup; I carry smaller, vintage bags most of the time; and I swap out my bags often.

But when I go on holiday I generally carry a shoulder bag so that I can toss my camera and any small purchases into the bag and my hands are free.

Anyhow, when I went to England at the start of the month, I grabbed a larger handbag so that I could have various bits and bobs with me on the plane. And when I got back I entered straight into a crazy world of work and foster mommy-ing and I never had time to switch my bag back over. Which meant that I did what inhabitants of the western world do and I filled the space to capacity.

Well, I’ve had enough and am now cleaning house. Or, rather, cleaning bag!

So, what was in the bag? Well…

  • Money floating loosely: £4.05 in coins; $3.25 in coins; and $6 in cash
  • Two iPods; 1 iPod headphone; and 1 iPod cable
  • A smart phone; a wireless mouse/pointer; and three thumb drives (total storage: 22 GB)
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum (four pieces of which were out of pack floating loose); a pack of Love Hearts; a pack of Giant SweetTarts; two tins of mints; three lollypops; a tea bag; and an apple
  • Three handkerchiefs; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A silver ring; two tooth pick flossy things; five safety pins; and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton and one teaspoon worth of sand, grit, and coal bits that must have come from the shell floating at the bottom of the bag
  • A large note book; a small Moleskin; two novels; a check book; and a filled check register
  • Fifteen envelopes filled with new bank cards, bank statements, bills, and a fun new art project
  • Four pens; a business card holder; and seven loose business cards
  • Eleven ponytail holders
  • Two empty gum wrappers and a partial wrapper from a pack of Mentos
  • A camera
  • A wallet with: Nine receipts that need to be reconciled; six business cards; a pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; eight bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes; $11 in cash; and $2.95 in coins

And now, I’ve cleared out the mess and transferred junk into one of my favourite vintage bags: A 1960s wicker bag with teal lining and brass handles and closures. This is a fun bag that I purchased when out shopping with my mommy shortly before I got married.

And its contents are:

  • A smart phone; a 16 GB thumb drive; and one iPod with headphones
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum; a pack of Love Hearts; a tin of mints; and three lollypops
  • One handkerchief; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A tooth pick flossy thing and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton (I’m taking it to Paul’s grave at the weekend, otherwise I wouldn’t still be carrying it—promise!)
  • A small Moleskin and a check book
  • Four pens and a business card holder
  • Two ponytail holders
  • A wallet with: A pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; four bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes and $17 in cash

Ah… that’s better. Still a bit too much clutter but much, much less than before! I wonder what bag I’ll pick to use next week… ?

My favourite things

As part of my effort to take back my lunch time, I’ve spent today’s lunch break composing a little ditty on my laptop just for my awesome readers; who are also some of my favourite things. (Yay! for awesome readers! And yay! for reclaimed lunch breaks. And yay! for whatever else you want to celebrate today!)

My favourite things
as interpreted by Just Frances*

Shiny new gadgets and hooker-red nails
Cool vintage handbags that come in the mail
Pretty red sports cars and fun silver rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Movies with mobsters and friends who are so dear
Martinis and pizza and pretzels and good beer
Acting quite silly and playing on swings
These are a few of my favourite things

Books about grammar and good punctuation
Laughing and smiling and Scotland vacations
Songs that are happy, that I like to sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the clouds come
When the tears sting
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

• • • • •

[NOTE: Apparently, my laptop is still set to UK English (not proper American English) from working on school application stuff and has therefore insisted that I have favourite things, not favorite things. And I’m totally OK with that!]

* I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but this is to be sung in the tune of “My Favourite Things”. If you need a reminder, here’s a link to a rendition by Pomplamoose. Yay!

To market, to market

I was looking forward to the Moscow Farmers’ Market opening last year but Paul died before we ever made it there and I couldn’t bring myself to go alone until today. I suppose that it was easy to go today because I’ve gotten back into cooking and I was in need of beets and cabbage so that I could make borscht.

So when I woke up this morning, my first order of business was to swap out my handbag. (Well, first I had coffee and took a shower, but you get the point.) My bag of choice for traveling to the farmers’ market was a straw bag with shells and raffia – and a very long strap so that I had both hands free.

As I drove through Palouse on my way to Moscow, I realized that I’d not been to the fantastic little antique shop there in quite some time. And as I was tackling ‘firsts without Paul’ today, I figured I may as well tackle that one, too. It was a bit hard to walk in there alone – and harder still walking around knowing just what Paul would have looked at. He would have been disappointed that I didn’t buy as much as I did, but I was very pleased with the two lovely ‘new’ handkerchiefs I acquired: My first-ever round hankie with lovely blue flowers and a crisp, white linen one with handmade purple and green lace along the edge.

When I finally arrived at the farmers’ market, I was pleased with the selection of fresh produce and homemade breads and jams. But what impressed me more was that the booth selling hand-carved cooking utensils – including left-handed ones! The craftsman was a pleasure to speak with and I was especially excited to hear that he makes one left-handed piece for every three right-handed ones – and he’s always selling out of the lefty tools! Not bad when you know that the estimate is that less that 9 percent of the population is left-handed!

Oh, and I got some great beets, tomatoes, potatoes, and other such goodies, too. But – darn it! – I forgot to get onions so the borscht will have to wait until after my next trip to town! Despite this frustrating oversight, I’m going to call it an extremely successful day’s shopping!

Oh, and I don’t know about anyone else, but is it funny that I drove to Moscow for fixin’s for borscht? No? Must just be me…

Ugly thoughts

Many years ago, a friend came to visit me. She exclaimed excitedly that she’d been walking by a vintage clothing shop in Portland, Oregon, and in the window display she noticed the ugliest handbag she’d ever seen, which made her think of me. So she bought it for me as a gift. (This would not be the last time she made similar purchases for me, with similar statements.)

Now, you may think that I would be insulted by this statement, but over the years I’ve grown to realize that when people say that ugly, gaudy, ostentatious, or tacky accessories make them think of me, they mean it as a compliment, and I take it as one!

This is one of my largest vintage bags, measuring 10.5” across; 6.5” high; and 4.5” deep. (Add another 5” to the height with the handles.) It’s constructed of wicker then has a burlap over-lay on the front with Bakelite flowers attached to it. The handles and the top of the bag are made of a tortoise shell Bakelite with small brass tacks used to fasten it to the wicker underneath.

Anyhow… This bag won today’s bag grab because I was heading to the big-bad-city for a root canal (yay!) and thought I’d do a bit of shopping beforehand. One of the things I was shopping for was golf shoes which meant that I need to bring a pair of socks with me. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but most of my vintage bags are too small to accommodate socks. I also figured I’d take the opportunity to stop off at the little vintage shop “Finders Keepers” whilst in the area.

Sadly, the shoe shopping was a miserable failure (who knew it could be so difficult to find ladies’ golf shoes?) and some serious road construction in downtown Spokane meant I couldn’t get to the vintage shop. But, happily, three people gave me awesome compliments on my awesome bag. Which almost made up for the shopping failures and the root canal.

American pride

As I was getting ready to head to the homeland for 4th of July weekend, I realized it was high time I switched out handbags. As I’d need to bring my camera and my iPod and loads of candy for the nieces and nephews, I knew it would need to be a slightly larger bag. Opening my handbag closet (yes, I have one) I knew in an instant which one it would need to be.

I got this bag at a funky little shop right next to Fopp on Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. (That’s Co-Burn for my fellow Americans who feel the need to say it out loud – unless you want to be laughed at. Trust me.) It’s one of my “holiday” bags – which is a selection of bags that will carry more than my normal, minimal amount of junk. That way I can put little souvenirs in as I’m wandering around whatever great place I’m visiting and don’t have to worry about my hands getting full.

When I switch out bags, I will often leave little bits in the old one that aren’t needed. I often smile as I go through that rubbish months later because it’s a bit of a history lesson. In this case, I can be pretty certain that the last time I used this bag was late-November or early-December 2008. I know this because there are hand-written notes that I took whilst speaking with our social worker about a couple of young kids that were ready for adoption (sadly, we were not the right match for them).

Of course, I also found a small handful of peppermint candies. So they get to stay in the bag and maybe they’ll finally get eaten!

Yep, another pointless post. To make up for it, here’s a fantastic video to get you in the mood for America’s birthday tomorrow!

When you live alone; Part 1

When you live alone, especially after sharing your life with someone for so long, things change. Little things. Shoe storage locations are one of those things.

I noticed several months ago that shoes began to accumulate under the vanity in my bedroom. It didn’t really bother me much – probably because the housekeeper would place them neatly in the closet each week when she was in.

With the warmer weather, I’ve noticed that summer “slip-on” shoes have been accumulating under the coffee table in the living room. But again, the housekeeper puts them away to the closet every week.

My bad habit of leaving shoes where they don’t belong hit home tonight though. After work I took a shower and prettied myself up for an outdoor photo shoot. As part of the pretty-up process, I tried on several pairs of shoes in front of the hallway mirror to decide which ones to wear. After the decision was made, I sat to relax for about an hour before it was photo time.

When I returned home, I went into my bedroom to change – but not before walking past a pile of shoes in the hall. I had to laugh. Mostly because those damn shoes wouldn’t have sat there for 10 minutes if Paul was here. His first question would have been: “And are we storing shoes in the hall now?” And I would have sheepishly put them away where they belonged.

Yes, when you live alone you become a lazy slob. Thank goodness I had the clarity of mind to hire a housekeeper two months after Paul died. Otherwise, you can bet the house would have been condemned by now!

Designing woman

A while back, I decided that I wanted to purchase a new ring for myself. Something special; something that had a bit of meaning to me. I had a rough idea of what I wanted then started to do some looking around. My rough idea led me down several paths which took me through several changes from what I thought I wanted.

I’ve been sketching and clipping photos from catalogs to patch something together for a while. And now I know exactly what I want. (Well, mostly.)

But the problem is that no one seems to sell the ring I’ve imagined for myself.

Of course, I can’t accept that as an answer. And so now I am taking my design and searching for someone who can make it happen. Which is looking a bit difficult, too, because no one local seems to work with the materials I want – and no one local seems to have all the right skills and tools needed.

Yesterday I allowed myself to consider a temporary ring whilst I continued the search, but I can’t bring myself to do that. And so I’ll keep searching and searching for the solution. After all, I want what I want. And I’m willing to wait for it.

Ultimately, I may need to head into the city to find a jeweler with the skills to make what I want. Or give up on getting what I want. But that will never happen. I’m stubborn. I always get what I want. (Even if I later decide I didn’t want it after all.)

Distractions

I don’t know if it’s better to face things head-on or to find distractions, but personally I prefer the latter in many cases; today being one of those cases. So, instead of spending the day thinking about what I didn’t want to think about – the fact that my husband died before we made it to our 4th wedding anniversary, meaning that he wasn’t here to celebrate our 5th anniversary with me today – I’m distracting myself from my reality.

My first distraction was a golf lesson – my first of the year, and only my 4th ever. And it shows. But – wow! – I did really well! My goal for the summer is to work on my long game so today’s hour-long lesson was working on my drive. Afterward, I hit a bucket of balls on my own and managed to hit the ball further and straighter than I ever have before.

It may sound silly, but I as readied myself for each swing I talked to Paul and asked him to just help me out. Knowing that he hated golf, I have to think that he wasn’t helping so much as my asking was making me concentrate on my swing that little bit more. Either way, I actually looked like I knew what I was going! Bonus – two hours of my day was wasted away!

From there I headed into Moscow where I had nearly three hours to waste before my spa treatment. I hit the mall where I found a fantastic new ring (on sale!) and attempted to buy golf shoes. But apparently the local sports’ store doesn’t care ladies’ golf shoes. Weird. Then I sat in the little coffee shop with my laptop, a book, and a journal and wasted a bit more time before heading to the spa.

After an hour-long, extremely relaxing facial, it was back to Pullman for a manicure and pedicure – with my newly-purchased “A Oui Bit of Red”. The last time I treated myself like this was the day before my birthday, so it was certainly a long-overdue pampering session!

By the time I made it home it was time for a junk food feast and a few episodes of The West Wing, Season 4. Really, not a single one of these activities should have been on the calendar for me today, because May 21 is supposed to be a “we” day, not a “me” day. But as it’s Just Frances now, I suppose it’s OK that I change the way I spend the day. A bit of healthy distraction seems like a good way to do it. Though if I’m honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about the “we” days. Then, I always do…

Bit of Saturday shopping

The folks came to visit, so while Daddy went on a bike ride to Palouse and back, Mom and I headed to Moscow for some antique and book shopping. And I’ve totally scored!

I was actually looking for a “new” vintage handbag at the antique store but they didn’t have anything that I would actually use, and what’s the point in a cool, old handbag if it’s just going to sit in the closet? I did, however, manage to find a couple of new handkerchiefs – which is good because I am still suffering from a nasty cold. I also found a great ring. It’s a tiger’s eye set in silver and fits just right! I’d been looking for a tiger’s eye ring for a while, and since I wasn’t spending money on a handbag, I got something else for my hand instead!

When we finally made our way to the book store, Mom went in search of some cookbooks and I hit the discount CD racks. I used to love spending rainy Saturdays in Fopp looking through the racks and today reminded me of that. I really didn’t plan to buy anything, but Mom was taking her time so my hands slowly started to fill up. I got six CDs in total including Etta, Miles, Harry, and (because it was only 97¢) a Debbie Gibson CD (really!).

I know I should have stayed home to rest and recuperate a bit more, but I felt it would be unfair for Mom to have traveled all this way to just sit around… And I’m such a thoughtful daughter!

Butterflies

I saw this dress in a store window when in Seattle for meetings on Friday and can’t get it out of my mind. The store, Luly Yang Couture, was next to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, so there was no glimmer of hope that I could afford to even walk through the doors, let alone try on – or purchase – such a lovely dress. The dress is called “Monarch Butterfly” and is a silk taffeta corset and ball skirt, trimmed with ostrich feathers and Swarovski crystals. Price tag? $25,000.

Really. Only $25,000.

I can’t get this dress out of my mind, and am now on the search for a butterfly dress of my own. Maybe something a little more casual – and certainly something that doesn’t include a comma in the price tag. I don’t normally feel such a strong desire to own a dress, but imagine that it might have something to do with a life-long obsession with butterflies. One that saw me desiring a butterfly tattoo on my ankle when I was a teenager. But don’t worry, I grew out of that desire!*

Anyhow, if anyone wants to buy this for me, I’d be more than happy to receive the gift. If anyone wants to stitch a fake Monarch dress for me, I’ll happily send you my measurements!!

*This isn’t to confirm or deny the desire for other tattoos in other locations nor is it meant to confirm or deny the existence of tattoos on my person at this time.

Feeling blue

I found this bag at an antique store in Seattle a few years ago. It’s an Andrew Geller (circa 1960s) made with a soft baby-blue leather with a satiny, pearlized finish. The inside has a tan-colored satin lining and a couple of small pockets, which are lined with metallic gold satin. It is all set off with brass accents around the hinged clasp and little brass feet.

Measuring 8.25” wide and 7.5” high (without the handle) it holds all of my essential junk with ease and can even carry an extra this-or-that if needed.

There is no reason for this post other than to show off another way-cool bag. Yay!

First bag

A conversation this afternoon reminded me that it’s time to swap out handbags; something I’ve not done since returning from my holidays so it’s really time I get in gear! Of course, what this really means is that I am going to share more useless information with you. Yay!

My handbag of choice isn’t really a “bag” but it still falls into the clutch category, which falls into the overall handbag category, so I’m counting it. It measures 8.5″ across, 4.25″ high (not including handle), and 2″ deep. When open the “lid” side is a full mirror.

Given to me by my Mom when I was in high school, this is the bag that started it all! I was really into vintage clothing and accessories at the time, but didn’t generally carry a handbag because I never saw the use in them. I don’t recall the circumstance that led to my ownership of the bag, just that it became mine. And as I started to carry it I got all sorts of fantastic compliments on it, and really enjoyed telling people that it had been my Mom’s bag in the 1960s.

Of course, after a while everyone knew the story and my old bag was old news. And then someone else gave me an old bag and the compliments and “back story” telling started again. It wasn’t long until I found an obsession with vintage bags!

But the best thing about vintage bags? Most of them have limited space which means I don’t get stuck carrying useless junk everywhere with me. And because I like to swap them out regularly, I tend not to have weeks’ old receipts and garbage cluttering the precious space.

And because I know you care, here is a list of the contents of my bag on an average day:

  • Lip balm
  • Drivers’ license
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Nail file (in a protective case so that the abrasive material doesn’t scratch anything else in the bag)
  • Handkerchief
  • Ponytail holder
  • Business cards
  • Pen
  • Mobile phone
  • Keys
  • Candy

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 36th birthday and to celebrate, I’ve opened a bottle of bubbly and I’m feasting on caviar, wild salmon, and Alaskan king crab. The house is empty, save for me and the cat. There is soft jazz playing in the background and I’m admiring the way the light glistens off of the lovely ring I’m wearing; a birthday present I purchased for myself at Macy*s.

It seems that the last year went by so quickly. On my 35th birthday, I sat right here in this very living room with Paul. It’s strange to think that I only had Paul with me for about two months of my 35th year. And it’s sad to think that I won’t have him at all for my 36th. If he were here, he’d have left a card on the mantle place for me to open when I woke up and he would have bought me the perfect gift – he always did. We would have argued over what to do for the day. I would have wanted to stay home and cook a nice meal; he would have wanted to go out somewhere to celebrate. “I’m not having my wife cook on her birthday,” he would argue.

I had all intentions of sitting around the house doing “nothing” all day but had a last-minute change of heart and instead went to Moscow Wild at Art to decorate some pottery. This was a positive decision for several reasons: 1) It’s not good to sit around and sulk on your birthday; 2) Arts and crafts are great therapy; 3) Spending at least part of your birthday with other humans is always a good idea; and 4) The delay in popping the cork on the bubbly means there won’t be as many Mimosas (Buck’s Fizzes) throughout the day, which means less of a headache tomorrow.

Of course, since my pottery piece of choice was a cat food bowl, and I did a really lousy job at it, Schrodie will not be too pleased that I went and did something. (Goodness, the last time I painted pottery was more than 20 years ago. I feel so old!)

Up next: I’m going to put on my jammies and curl up on the couch for a six-hour EastEnders marathon, enjoyed with a gorgeous piece of mascarpone cheesecake and maybe a big bowl of popcorn. Because it’s my birthday and I can do whatever I want on my birthday.

Bag it

It’s a quiet Friday night at home. I’m enjoying a Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen and cleaning my vintage  handbag collection. Yes, I am that pathetic!

Of course, as I sat there cleaning my collection, I realized that I still have two boxes of bags in an upstairs guest room, and maybe one or two still floating around my parents’ house. Still, I do have a few fun ones in circulation.

But, it’s not enough. Maybe I’ll have to buy a new bag or two when I’m on holiday. Yes, I think that’s a very good plan.