Saturday, January 30, 2016

What I'm Reading | January 2016

This past year I made a personal goal to spend less time surfing the internet (yes I'm talking about you, Facebook) and more time with my nose in a book. I read quite a few interesting and thought provoking novels in 2015, and a lot of trashy romance novels, too. This year I haven't read as many romance novels and I've added a few good true crime books into the mix, too. Here is what is on my nightstand right now. I've either finished each book or currently working my way through them. I take after my father and I have several books going at once (including a couple of required reading textbooks for my college classes). 

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Maria Kondo. Oh clutter, how I hate you. I go through phases of clutter in my house. During the summer it's toys, books, games, pool noodles, swim trunks, and flip flops. During the school year my counters are covered in papers to be returned to school, lunch boxes, notes, school uniforms, and homework. My desk is always cluttered. Right now my bedroom looks like the stock room at Old Navy... clothes piled on every surface. I am about 30% through Spark Joy and while I wouldn't call it revolutionary, it does make me aware of the problem areas in my home and gives step by step instructions on how to tackle those areas. And who couldn't use more organization in their lives? 

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. As a true crime enthusiast I was excited to read Helter Skelter, a recommendation from my father. The author, Vincent Bugliosi, was also the lead prosecuting attorney and gave exceptional insight into the cult of Charles Manson, his followers, the Tate/LaBianca murders, and the ensuing trial(s). I highly recommend this book if you're into true crime, although I will warn you, I had a hard time sleeping after reading some of it. I texted a friend that I was certain Charles Manson was going to crawl into my bedroom and murder me. Combine a love of true crime novels with an active imagination and you get some irrational behavior at times! 

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. How did I miss this book when it was released over a decade ago? Funny, witty, charming, heartbreaking... all my favorite things about a good novel. Weiner's main character, Cannie, is one of my favorite female leads in a long, long time. I was sad when I finished this one and I hope to pick up one or two more of Weiner's more recent novels. 

Son: A Psychopath and His Victims by Jack Olsen. My true crime kick continues with the story of the South Hill (Spokane) Rapist. My dad grew up on South Hill Spokane, and his sister was a young woman during the time of these attacks. I devoured this book in under a week and highly recommend it. This book didn't frighten me as much as Helter Skelter, although I have no idea why not; the scenarios in this book are far more likely than a Charles Manson type cult killing.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read Eat Pray Love many years ago and I must admit I lost interest halfway through the Pray portion of the book. While I enjoyed the story Gilbert was telling, I wasn't overly impressed with her delivery. However, Big Magic has taken me by surprise. Her writing style is succinct and eloquent, and her advice and guidance are well articulated. I am reading this at the same pace I tackle Spark Joy, and both books are placed firmly in my "must read" pile. Balancing work, school, the kids, and my creative efforts has been a struggle these past few months, and Big Magic offers a lot of great advice on how to tackle these seemingly insurmountable problems. 

Thrill Me by Susan Mallery. This is where we take a right turn in my eccentric reading preferences into... the trashy romance novel. Yes, I occasionally pick something up with "Harlequin Romance" written on the spine and only feel a teeny tiny bit guilty about it. More often than not I'll buy the newest Fool's Gold romance by Susan Mallery. Her stories are predictable with just the right about of trashiness to make them fun. What draws me to her books is the continuation of her characters in newer books, and the fictional town of Fool's Gold. If you're looking for a new romance novelist to read, I recommend Mallery. She is by far my favorite (but I'm always looking for suggestions!). 

January was a great month for reading. I finished a few books and started several more, and I have a growing list of books to read for February! I have another Bugliosi book on its way, Mandy Kaling's newest autobiography on the shelf, and several novels on hold at the local library. I hope my "what I'm reading" list has introduced you to a new author, or two. 

I'm always looking for new authors to read so please leave recommendations in the comments! Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Retro Sketches | Challenge #198

Get afternoon! Before I talk about this week's Retro Sketches sketch (and my inspiration card) I wanted to let you know about a class I have over at Big Picture Classes. Last summer BPC approached me about teaching card classes for them and I happily accepted! My first class, Clean and Simple Cards, went live a couple of months ago. If you're a monthly subscriber to Big Picture Classes I would love for you to check it out!  

This week's Retro Sketch sketch is based on one of my cards! You can see it here.

I pulled out my Studio Calico Pop Art card kit, and a couple of rubber leaves from the scrapbook kit, for my card. I love the bright colors mixed with black and white in the Pop Art kit, and the rubber leaves are a fun element. 

I added a few enamel dots, also from Studio Calico, and a sentiment from Papertrey Ink. Quick and easy!

Thank you so much for leaving comments on my post from Saturday. It means a lot that I have loyal blog readers that check out my tiny part of cyberspace. 

I hope everyone is having a nice holiday. The kids and I have done nothing today (whoo!) except relax, play games, and do some cleaning. Exactly what we needed after an extremely busy week! Thanks for stopping by.

Trip to Seattle | Holidays 2015

Yesterday I mentioned posting this week's Retro Sketches card, then the Seahawks played this afteroon (and lost!) and I completely forgot to photograph my card! Of course it's dark now and I don't have a good setup for photographing projects at night. So... I swapped a couple of posts around and today I'm sharing some photos from our day trip to Seattle, Washington. The boys and I spent two weeks with my parents (they joined their father for a few days around Christmas) over the holidays.

A couple of days before we flew home my parents treated us to brunch at the top of the Space Needle. If you haven't done this before I highly recommend it. The food is amazing and you can't beat the view!

We had 10am reservations and I was told we could arrive 30 minutes early and check out the observation deck. I'm guessing the receptionist didn't realize the 10am reservation was right at opening because they were not expecting us at 9:30. We were told to hang out in the gift shop until 10am, which worked out great because it was freezing outside. Of course Jack wanted to buy everything in the gift shop and he managed to hit Grandma up for a Seattle snow globe before we left. Even she can't turn down those big blue eyes. 

I admire bloggers who can take fantastic food photos, and I had every intention of taking photos of my amazing meal but I was too busy eating it! The best part about eating at the top of the Space Needle (besides the food, of course) is the incredible 360 degree view. The restaurant rotates while you eat, making one revolution every 45 minutes, and you end up seeing something new every time you look out the big windows. It's pretty incredible. 

After brunch we moved to the observation deck. This is always the boys' favorite part of visiting Seattle, although it was super busy at the top by the time we finished brunch. 

There was a ton of fog on our drive into Seattle and I was concerned about visibility but once we got into the city the fog dissipated and the view was spectacular! 


Jack spotted a park while we were at the top of the Space Needle and we decided to check it out when we got back to ground level. It was an awesome playground with a large rope climbing gym, swings, and interactive musical instruments. The boys had a blast and I got some great pictures of them and my parents. 

After about an hour at the park we were all freezing and ready to head home. The kids and I are planning to visit Washington again this summer and we will spend a few days in Seattle checking out some of the other attractions... the Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, EMP, and possibly a Harbor City Cruise. Until then this day trip will have to hold us over. 

I used my Canon 70D camera and 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8, and 24mm 2.8 lenses for these photos. The 24mm 2.8 was great for capturing all of the Space Needle in the frame and for photos with sun flare. It was such a crisp, cool, clear day and I'm extremely pleased with how these photos turned out. Now I need to decide which photos to frame for around the house! 

I have my Retro Sketches card on my desk, ready to be photographed in the morning. Hopefully nothing will come up and I will have a blog post up in a timely manner. We can always hope!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Blogging | January 2016

Photo taken in my parent's backyard | January 2016

Hello friends! It's been awhile since I've posted here. Two and a half months, to be exact. There are so many reasons why a break from posting was needed, and to be honest, most of those reasons will sound like lame excuses (included the dreaded phrase "I'm busy"). Just know that I needed some time to live off the grid, so to speak. A couple of my design team positions ended (Paper Smooches Sparks ended its run and I stepped down from Gossamer Blue), and it was time to step back and analyze why I blog, if I want to continue, and what exactly I want to blog about.

All important questions. 

I spent two months thinking, writing in my journals and notebooks, and searching my mind and heart for answers. My life has changed dramatically over the past year and many of those changes have affected my creativity. Long gone are the endless free days to create in my studio. Now my crafting time is crammed between soccer practice and studying for an English exam. 

I want it to be known that I am not complaining about this new life I've created for myself.

The kids and I are in a good place right now. I am figuring out what works for us, one day at a time. So far most of my craft time comes on the weekends and a couple of evenings per week when I don't have school or sporting events to attend. As much as I crave more "down time", being busy is also good for me. 

The one thing that I keep coming back to, when I think about this blog, is what changes I want to make going forward. The past two or three years have been dedicated to design team contributions and submitting cards for challenges. Not much else. While those posts have their place, I feel like I've lost my voice along the way. I stopped sharing personal stories or those photos and events that are meaningful to me. I also stopped sharing layouts and other scrapbooking related projects. I know the reason for not sharing layouts is due to not have consistent results photographing scrapbook layouts. The lighting in this house, and my previous two houses, made photographing larger projects difficult. While I live in the sunshine state, the houses here don't have a lot of windows! I assume that is due to having to cover those windows during a hurricane (this is pure conjecture on my part), but it is awfully annoying when I want good, bright light to photograph my projects. 

What does all this mean going foward? 

Well, it means several things. First, I don't expect to post every day; at least not right away. Ultimately that is the goal, but I want to try a few things first and see how it goes. I also will be sharing a wider variety of projects and possibly a review or two of my favorite products and services. No, these won't be affiliated in any way, but as a blog reader I like reading what other bloggers and crafters are using (and loving!). I've also been thinking about adding favorite recipes, a few home decor projects, and some digital projects as well.

I want this blog to be a reflection of who I am. Not simply a place to share assignments. 

I have a few posts planned for this week, including my return to Retro Sketches tomorrow!

Thank you for coming back and reading my long winded post. I know it's frustrating when a blogger takes an unexpected and/or unexplained absence and I appreciate your willingness to return and see what I have planned. Check back tomorrow for my Retro Sketches post and have a wonderful Saturday!