Monday, December 28, 2009

I really love to wrap presents

oh, yeah, I love to wrap presents.

I am crap at picking out presents. It's odd to me, because in general, I think I am a very perceptive person, and pick up on the hidden traits and likes and dislikes in the people around me, especially the people I love. I pick up on all the little emotional cues in their faces and mannerisms that many people seem blind to. And yet all of these details and accumulated information go out the window the second I try to choose a present for someone. They're lucky if they end up with a giftcard or something insultingly functional that they need. In short, I am crap at picking presents.

But I love to wrap them:

It gives me unbelievable joy to wrap presents. All year I hoard ribbon, tissue paper, bows and cards, and make several trips to the store for totally unnecessary Christmas wrap. I am unbelievably picky in my choices, because not just anything will do. I touch, weigh, and even sniff each paper, looking for the perfect combination of ribbon, bow, and wrap. Yup, I am a wrapping freakazoid.

I didn't have much to wrap this year, since I didn't go home, but I did manage to purchase a few odds and ends for the wonderful family that let me spend Christmas with them. The presents, of course, were ridiculously functional - like warm Christmas socks or towels for my roomies. But the wrapping of them resulted in pure joy (for me) nevertheless. :)

I think about the last days of this year, and about the time I've spent in New York. I love that it snowed before Christmas, and that all the ebullient whiteness stuck around for the holidays. It's long since turned to mush and slithered down the sewers with the cold rain.

I bought fuzzy boots to keep me warm in the cold snap, and I really don't know how I functioned before that:

I guess I just thought it was normal to shiver uncontrollably when you're outside. :)

The end of this year makes me think of so much. I think of my family, who I miss. I think of all the people I've lost, and feel grateful for all the things that I've learned. I marvel at the fact that I'm still writing a novel - that's the thought that actually makes me happiest. But most of all, I marvel that I'm here - in this city, in a job I enjoy, with so many friends online and new (real) people I've met. I feel incredibly blessed.

I wish all of these things for you in this chilly New Year. I still have no New Year's plans - how about you?

How will you be ringing in the New Year? I need some ideas! ;)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Floss, floss, floss

lovely colors

I love floss. To me, it's like playing with crayons, but with the added softness, sheen, and texture of fabric. And when you sniff it, it doesn't smell waxy and gross (depending upon where you store it, that is). :)

I already have an entire set of Presencia floss, carefully stowed away in a white binder and glossy page protectors:
wines, burgundies and magentas?

Yeah, I'm like a comic book nerd, but with floss. Actually I'm like a comic book nerd in a lot of equally disturbing ways. But let's not go there. So anyway, the Presencia floss is mine, all mine and I ain't sharing it with nobody. You gotta pry it out of my cold, dead fingers. :)

So I went shopping for surprise prizes for Feeling Stitchy a few days ago, in the DMC floss aisle. Now, one of the reasons I spent such a long time there was, I couldn't find ANY of the colors I was looking for. The other reason was I had to stare at each and every color. That gave me the strength of will not to purchase each and every color. :)

more lovely colors

And I have to say, that even though they rarely have the floss colors I am looking for, I really love my local craft store. It's tucked away in this really decrepit-looking alley / street just behind Broadway and Canal. The surrounding shopfronts are covered with graffiti and rusty security gates, all of which make me feel like I'm in a 1970's movie set in New York and some thug is about to pop out of a darkened corner and grab my purse / do kung fu on me. :) Yes, it's the little things that give me pleasure...

Also, the employees are so laid back and nice. Every time I go there, I have a conversation (rare for me, in New York). This time, for example, a really kind-looking guy asked me if I was finding what I needed, so I waved my little list and said, "Nope." He laughed and we chatted about the most popular floss colors. He explained that the last shipment took almost a month to arrive, and when it did, the reds "walk out of here like they have legs on them." And the 310 black, just disappears. Then I listened to the 4 of them discuss something regarding a mule or a burro at the register, and although I left with only 2 out of (literally) 40 items on my list, I left happy. It's the little things, I guess. :)

Because at least I had this:
lovely palette

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cute Loot

my ornie

So here's the cute loot I scored at the Etsy booth on Sunday (when I didn't have my camera, as you may recall)... I made this cute little ornament from a free kit they had at the booth. I sat down with their shiny silver shears and complimentary thread, but since I'm hardcore, I totally had my own needle on hand. :) Yeah, I really hope they didn't think I was stealing their needle, I always come prepared to embroider. :)

Now, as if it wasn't enough that they provided materials to make your own ornament, you could even take a kit with you. Or, 2, in my delighted case, because I swore I'd be giving them away:

You want to take a closer look at that bear? Yeah, I know you do. But be careful, because he's so flipping cute, he could hurt you.
bear ornie

They also had these cute gift tags on hand:
gift tags from Etsy

I had to ask "is this free?" a few times before I really believed it.

Then I headed to the Hello Craft booth next door which boasted an entire table of crafts you could sit down and make. I settled for a few bookmarks with Craft Pudding stamps:
bookmarks I made

I'm thinking I'll add all of this to the Holiday giveaway on Feeling Stitchy - just hoping I can squish them down enough to travel cheaply... :)

Have you guys gone to any good craft / holiday fairs yet? Scored any awesome free stuff? Met any cool peeps?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rainy day in NYC

It never fails that I never have my camera around when I truly need it. Like today, for instance, when I went to the One of a Kind sale at Pier 94, a collection of booths from crafters and skilled makers and award-winning Etsy sellers. But what really caught and held my attention were the 2 booths at the very front - Hello Craft's booth, which had a cozy table filled with craft ideas that you could make, for free, and take home with you, and the Etsy booth which boasted supplies for making the most flippin' adorable handmade ornaments you've ever seen in your life. You doubt me? Well, you'll just have to wait until tomorrow, when I can actually photograph the cute little suckers. Because if a slug was passing by, then I'd have my camera ready, or if I needed to photograph other charmingly inanimate objects... but when I really need it... oh, never mind my complaining.

And, thanks to the kind person manning the booth, I have 2 little kits that I oh, just might add as surprise gifts to the Feeling Stitchy giveaway.

Have you signed up for that yet? No? Well, get over there! You have until early tomorrow morning to enter, so snap to it! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monkey Advent

Mitten advent calendar

Thanks for your help calibrating my monitor! I know I probably still don't have it right, but it's a start. I at least took down the ultraviolet-white brightness on my monitor to more normal levels. :) Up above you see my one and only holiday project this season - and hey, I'm cool with that.

You may recognize the little felt mittens (depending on how long you've been following me) from last year, when I started them:

mittens stacked up

I needed a quick project to for my plane ride to Texas last year. This year, I'll be staying in NYC for the first time (unless you count my first year, when I accidentally stayed here because my plane left without me. I don't. I try to block that out, actually.)

this  monkey encourages you to celebrate advent

I actually learned about the meaning of Advent for the first time this year. We never really celebrated it in my family, but it's an interesting and beautiful celebration. In any case, the monkey is just hanging around - he really doesn't know a thing about Advent, to tell the truth.

Although my room is small, I still tried to add a bit of holiday cheer...

Oh, and this is from a walk I took a week ago, I like the way it mirrors the same colors as the ornaments...

Do any of you celebrate Advent? And how many of you are going home for Christmas? I'd like to think I'm not the only one not going home... :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monkey needs to calibrate my monitor

monkey advent

Ok guys, I really need your help on this one. I have a brand new PC laptop at home (because my 5 year old Mac finally bit it). I'm having a really hard time getting used to the brightness and color settings on it, so I need your help "calibrating" my monitor. :)

Ok, so that pic above - is it too dark and contrast-y, or is it just right?

Compare to this image:
Please help me calibrate my monitor!

Does that one look too light and washed out to you? Basically, depending on how I adjust my screen settings, one or the other looks perfect to me. It's really driving me crazy. Help!

Maybe only I can see the difference? Here they are smaller:

1.monkey advent
2.Please help me calibrate my monitor!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And here he is...

So here's an update on the silliest cross-stitch project, ever. Well, at least, that's my goal. The unlucky party on the receiving end of this gift should be receiving maximum embarrassment from this. :) I wanted to use a font that was a bit more fun, but it was hard to find something that fit the circle hoop above (which I'll probably keep it in). I was re-thinking the phrase because it's absolutely everywhere and so Hot Topic, but if the goal is maximum embarrassment for my friend, I think it scores....

I also experimented with metallic floss - silver, in particular, but the combination of it on a black background just looked super-cruddy:

metallic floss, that is

You'd have to see a macro close-up to see just how bad it looks, but it's bad, people, it's bad. It's odd how regular floss has a much nicer sheen to it, something about the texture makes it sit and look so much better in cross stitch.

What do you guys think? If you could have a red-eyed, creepy Robward say anything in cross stitch, what would he say? I'm sure the creative collective consciousness has something better than my awful Hot Topic phrase. Or worse? Worse works, too! ;)

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving - I spent mine with a friend's family and it was just perfect, fun, funny, and awesome. Oh, and I'll be showing you my wonderful Christmas decorating soon! Yes, that is sarcasm. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009


So, my Robward cross-stitch progress is crawling along and I'm almost finished. (But it's a Christmas present, anyway, so I have time, right?) In any case, that little phrase up there is what will go underneath Mr. Pattinson's head. I love that phrase because it's a nice allusion to that ridiculous quote from the first novel, yeah, you know what I'm talking about, just admit it. :) Also, because as a self-respecting, independent woman (who is entirely hypocritical for loving Twilight) I am irritated by the Bella character and find her a bit stupid.

Of course, none of that stopped me from watching New Moon twice this weekend. Yep, I'm admitting it. Mostly because none of you guys really know me. (I hope) :) But I must say it was a phenomenon I have never experienced before. Wall-to-wall women in a sold-out stadium theater, well past their 20's and nay, even into their 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. Not a teenybopper in sight! And everyone giggling nervously and/or cracking up at intentionally (and unintentionally) humorous moments. Like, shall we say, the moment towards the end when Edward and Bella come trotting out, in their Easter Sunday best like some rogue Gap ad, sparkling in the sunshine? Nevertheless, the film, although chock-full of cheese, was worthwhile if you can get into the books even a little. I'd have to say it's an instant cult classic because I have no other explanation for how much I enjoyed/mocked/loved it.

Anyone else care to "out" themselves as Twilight fans? Promise I won't tell anybody! ;)

Friday, November 20, 2009

PW Actions on a city pic

Hey guys! You were so cool about the Photoshop actions post that I decided to trot a few actions pics by you, just for kicks.

I had a city pic that I liked but was somewhat, meh about:

So, I basically tried every Pioneer Woman Action imaginable on it.

This one's my fave, I used (I think): Old West, Dim the Lights, 70's:

Here's Soft and Faded:

Here's Lovely and Ethereal + Soft and Faded:

(The Lovely and Ethereal seems to brighten things up and give a warm glow...)

Here's 70s:

And here's 70s + Colorized, which seems to leach out most of the strong colors:

So, what do you think? Is your fave the same as mine? I'd love to see if any of you have tried the Actions on your pics! :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Epicly ridiculous cross-stitch, tonight I finish thee... (not)

tonight's the night

That's right, peeps, partly in honor of New Moon opening tomorrow night, and partly because I am sadly in want of anything better to do, I have declared this evening Finish Robward Cross Stitch Night. And I will do it! No matter how many viewings of Twilight it takes. (Riffing, of course, included). I promise to post my results this evening. Wish me luck! (Or, perhaps, just a richer social life)... :)

Later that evening: Okay, okay. Dang, cross stitch is slow. I must admit partial defeat - it's midnight, I'm sleepy, and only almost finished. So, the saga continues. But at least his eyes are hilariously red now. :)

only almost finished

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Photoshop Actions

My sneaks + PW actions

About a week ago I started playing with Pioneer Woman's Photoshop Actions on some of my excessively boring pics. :) By the way, isn't she amazing? She's hilarious, she can cook, she takes a mean photograph, and Photoshops like nobody's business. If I was doing all that and had children, you can bet those kids would look like they'd been raised by wolves. She constantly inspires me.

Here's the original bore-fest:


Maybe photographs are subject to the photographer's mood (just like any other artistic creation)? Because lots of my pics seem to have the blahs lately. :)

I made black and white versions of my recent night pics (again using PW Photoshop Actions):
black and white

I'm sort of a fan.... I like the extra drama of the black and white, and how it simplifies photos into a very dramatic conversation of lights and darks and shadows... What do you think? :) Has anyone tried out Actions before? I'm gonna warn you though, I can give you zero technical assistance on them, I barely understand how I got them to work, myself. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More nighttime shots

Snapped this one last week, it's dark but I like the lights on the church spire. It's odd to me that I've lived in New York so long that so much of it has become very intimate and familiar to me. This church spire, for instance, that I have passed probably hundreds of times over the years, morning, noon, and night. Of course I share this city with millions of people, and I wonder about their connections to all the same corners, landmarks, and lights. It's something to all of us, all at once...

And here was the sky at dusk tonight:

Thank you for all your comments about my mother's paintings. I know she will be flattered beyond belief. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My mother's paintings

my mom's painting

My sister was always the creative one in the family - taking art classes, sketching, drawing, painting, crafting. She bought my brother and I sketchbooks but I never really got into drawing until high school. Then, all of a sudden, I became pretty good at drawing, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. I always wondered where we 3 got our creative side - that stuff seems to run in families, but my mom and dad never drew, painted, or honestly had time to indulge in creative stuff. There were no artists in my family, on either side, that I knew of...

I'm reminded of a story my mom told me about when she was a kid: her family had so little that she had a certain number of sheets of paper to use at school. She had to use every scrap, writing in the margins, using front and back, because when she ran out, there was no money to buy more. Paper was so precious, it went without saying that there was nothing to draw on. She had to quit school at an early age and work full-time to support her mom and younger siblings. I never forget how different her life was from mine.

mami drawing

Early this year, when my dad was sick, my mom took an acrylic painting class with my sister, to take her mind off the stress of constant worrying. And she was nervous at first, really hesitant to draw, but seemingly overnight, she progressed so, so quickly. I was blown away by her work when I went home in September:

my mom's hummingbird

I was amazed by the tiny details and this instinct she has for using color. In just 7 months time she is light years ahead of my sister and I, and her skill puts our years of practice to shame. :) It felt so strange to see the colorful, paint-splattered kitchen sink, and be discussing drawing with my mom. So strange and so nice, to think that at any time of your life, at any age, you can find something amazing within yourself you never knew was there before. So, from now on, when anyone asks me where I got my creative streak, I have my answer. Oh, of course. I got that from my mom. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pretty in Punk is done

All done!

All done now! I was surprised how quickly it went - less than an hour and a half (yeah, one more viewing of Twilight + Riff Trax, soon I'll have that thing memorized). :) I didn't do any complicated stitches or filling in, so it was fun and fast. The trickiest part had to be those eensy-weensy buttons on her jacket, though:

Up close

I started stressing myself out because my "DIY" was illegible, then I stopped and said, "You know what, who cares?" ;) I used DMC metallic silver floss in spots, and I've finally gotten the hang of it. Use it only on small areas, like that straight line under "Punk" - because if you pull that floss through the fabric any more than 5-6 times it's definitely gonna tangle, break, and make you all-around regret it.

Here are the floss colors I used, if you're curious (click the pic to see additional description):

Colors used

Just a sidenote about colors - have you ever noticed that colors for clothing, furniture, design, and fabrics go "in" and "out"? I remember attending my first little workshop at Parsons where I listened open-mouthed to one of the people who actually gets to plan all that out! People actually sit in rooms and plan 10-15 years in advance, what colors will be "in". Well, to those peeps, whoever they may be, may I say 'thank you' for all the magentas, pinks and purples:

Colors on the brain

Yeah, I'll admit that I was hating on you for awhile, and just wasn't loving it. Those pinks, purples and magentas are an acquired taste. But now I'm hooked. And so glad all the crappy browns, tans, and olives are out, because I never looked good in them, anyway.

What about you guys? What do you think of all the magentas out there right now? What's been your favorite "in color"? :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Progress on the punk

this morning...

I decided she must have pink hair, and for no reason I could discern, lavender eyes. Having lots of fun with this one, especially stitching the stubble. :) Click that pic if you want a link to the free pattern by Jenny.

Here's a little detail:

Oh, and there was a question in the comments I wanted to answer:
I just recently started embroidering and am trying to figure out how people keep their work nicely framed in the hoop, it seems like a cute, cheap way to do things. I've looked around and haven't been able to find an answer to this seemingly easy question! Help?

Well, I'm no expert at the "embroidery hoop art" - I just stick my stuff in a hoop, trim the edges, and cross my fingers that the fabric never pops out. ;) However, there is a method to secure the fabric in the hoop (which I have always been too, ahem, lazy to try):

Let me know if this works for you! Also, do any of you want to chime in? Do you guys have a tried and true method to secure your fabric for "framing"? I bet I'm the only lazy-ass crafter in the house! :)