26 December 2007

Happy Belated Holidays

Wow! The winter holidays were upon me before I knew it. Between my parents decision to go on a cruise to celebrate the 40th anniversary of my conception their wedding, and small illnesses and a general lack of enthusiasm on my part, I'm not surprised that the space between Thanksgiving and this week passed in a blur.

I'm currently reading a fun book called Journal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason. I found it because Lisa Vollrath wrote about it on the blog for the Go Make Something website, which I've really been enjoying over the last few weeks. It's got me thinking about paper arts again, which is kinda fun. I'm actually considering pulling down an altered book or starting another. I've got some fun seasonal ideas which are largely inspired by the Free Printable Images that Ms. Vollrath offered as a sort of electronic Advent calendar on her TenTwo Studios website. The next time that I find myself with some disposable income (amazon gift certificate credits don't count) I'd love to buy a couple of her How-To CDs. I've gotten so many ideas and been reminded of so many underutilized techniques from reading her sites.

Well, I need to get to bed. We had an early morning and Mr. Andi goes back to work tomorrow. I'm hoping to hitch a ride to grandma's house so that Sprout doesn't go into complete fun and festivity withdrawal.

18 November 2007

My new spindling book

Ok, maybe that's deceptive. It's not like I've written a book on spindle spinning. Instead, I've turned a small, otherwise useless book into a drop spindle. I found the book at the annual Planned Parenthood book sale held at our local fairgrounds. I had fun making it and am thinking about doing a tutorial, if there's any interest.

I've been doing a lot of spinning recently. Between that and the sweaters that I've unraveled, my yarn stash is getting out of control. It doesn't help that I haven't been doing any knitting or anything with the yarn. I'm currently taking my first uneasy steps toward using some of the incoming yarn.

A series of sock tutorials is being posted on Lime & Violet's Daily Chum. I'm working through the first tutorial using yarn reclaimed from a Gap sweater in a truly unfortunate color. There are 4 skeins total and I'll probably overdye the other 3 but I was so anxious to get started knitting my first pair of socks that I decided to jump right in with the eye-poking really should glow-in-the-dark yellowish greenish yarn exactly as it came off the hanger after washing and blocking.

The only down side to spending time over at the Daily Chum is that if I hadn't stopped by I would have been blissfully unaware of this.

08 November 2007

Review: The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2

As a writer, I have an inherent fascination with words. The idea that words have the power to change lives, and even the course of history, was probably one of the most intoxicating realizations of my educational career. Reading about the great speeches of important men and the impact of their words on people and nations made history more real, and more interesting, to me.

It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I realized how often we find ourselves looking at another person and wishing that we had the words to soothe their pain or ease their mind. The death of a loved one, diagnosis of a serious illness, the loss of a job or the end of a marriage are all situations that can change a person's life forever and times when most people find themselves at a loss for words. When the right words come, they offer comfort or inspiration or direction while easing the burdens and soothing the wounds of some of life's darker moments.

I wasn't certain what to expect from this book. I saw (and passed over) a well thumbed copy of the first volume at a library book sale about a week before hearing about the sequel. I found myself thinking about it again as we were preparing to check out and went back to the table only kick myself for not picking it up when it caught my attention in the first place. The thing that stopped me is that I have a serious dislike for glurge and have found that many of the anthologies of this nature that I've read definitely fit that mould.

When the book arrived, I flipped it open and read one of the essays more or less at random. The story of a father visiting ground zero and encountering a young man whose late father had been in the second tower was touching but I felt grateful that the title of the essay telegraphed so much of the contents. I'm sure that it is a personal failing, but I've had about as much as I can stand of having the personal tragedies and experiences related to 9/11 put forward to support or justify some agenda. I'm experiencing a backlash. Even when there is no agenda and no attempt to manipulate me into supporting some new atrocity.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the essays. "Jane Austin Meets the New York Giants" struck a particular chord for me and I really felt like I could identify with Nancy Roman's 5th grade experience even though I'd never been to Catholic school. There were love stories, and stories of courage, but there was an ordinariness to most of them that gave them an authenticity and a neighborly quality that removed them from the realm of manipulation. I appreciated the sincerity. It was a little like being stranded in an airport with a bunch of people of diverse backgrounds talking and sharing stories to pass the time and distract themselves while they wait.

I can't help feeling that the over-representation of 9/11 stories will leave the book feeling dated much sooner than it might otherwise, but if you are a person who loves to read heart warming stories, or you're looking for a gift for someone who is going through a rough time, this might be a nice book to tuck into a basket with some great tea, a cosy blanket, and a soothing cd.

This is the third of the sponsored reviews for Mother-Talk.com that I mentioned here. You can see the others by clicking on the review tag at the bottom of this post and following the links.

27 October 2007

Reclaiming unloved yarns

I've been keeping myself occupied recently by reading way too much stuff on Ravelry and adding to my already crippling list of hobbies. Thanks to the "Thrifty Knitters" group on Ravelry, I've been having a blast recently unraveling sweaters picked up for next to nothing at my local thrift shops. With some careful deconstruction, a sweater can be quickly reduced to 4 panels of knitted fabric awaiting the gentle tugging pressure of a 3 year old cranking the handle of my antique skein winder. In a matter of moments, the fabric is reduced to a skein of interesting yarn ready for a soak in scalding hot water and then hanging to dry while the kinks of its previous life surrender to gravity.

Right now, there are pieces of 2 sweaters folded neatly beside me. My first successful unraveling experiment is in the process of being crocheted up into a lap blanket for Sprout because she became oddly attached to the yarn during the unraveling process.

I spend a lot of time in thrift shops. I love finding cool things and giving them a renewed lease on life. Looking at sweaters as raw materials or future fiber projects has really expanded the range of yarns that I can work with. I currently have a cashmere sweater awaiting the attentions of my seam ripper, and I have almost 1/2 pound of 75% silk, 15%wool, 10% nylon fingering-weight yarn waiting to be washed and hung. What I'll do with 1300 yards of this beautiful brown yarn, I'm not sure, but the list of possibilities suggesting themselves have provided me with more entertainment than I would have thought possible from a $1.00 thrift shop find.

Once unraveled, I usually have 4-6 skeins of yarn to add to my stash. Usually, in spite of my best efforts, there's a little skein that works out to about 15-25 yards. I hate to throw it away but couldn't figure out a real use for it. Then I had a brainstorm. The small skein becomes a swatch skein, perfect for swatching the project before winding the skeins on the ball winder. I staple the original sweater label to paper wrapped around the mini skein with the information about the total yardage and weight available.

One disadvantage to all these skeins of reclaimed yarn is that they don't come with ball bands or care instructions. I think that I've found the perfect solution. (opens as PDF) I sat down and designed a ball band with blanks to fill in for the weight, yardage, fiber content, and care instructions for my "new" yarns. Basically, a generic ball band with all the information that I'd like to keep with each skein. Feel free to print and use the PDF for your own recycling efforts.

24 October 2007

Fold, spindle, mutilate

I've been dragging my feet on this post for a while. To be honest, I don't like the uncertainty of all of this and it's taking so long to figure it all out that I'm feeling very adrift.

The status of things so far... I've had 3 physical/occupational therapy appointments. She gave me 6 pages of exercises intended to help with carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, de Quervain's tenosynovitis, and trigger finger. In subsequent visits, we've discussed modifications and variations of the exercises to relieve some of the discomfort and other problems that I've experienced doing the exercises as illustrated.

Last week, I met the orthopedic surgeon to whom I've been referred. Since appointments almost never start when scheduled, I brought my drop spindle to the appointment with me so that I could spin while I waited. I managed to spin for about 45 minutes in the waiting room before being escorted back to an exam room where I spun for another 20 minutes while I answered questions for the patient history and then waited for the doctor. (Met an interesting woman in her late 60s who told me with tear-filled eyes that she hadn't seen anyone spinning since visiting her grandmother as a child.)

When the doctor looked at my hands, I had the weirdest impression that he was disappointed. He reminded me so much of a young boy who opens the door to go outside after the first snow of the year only to find it disturbed by someone else's footprints. He performed a quick physical exam, gave me some instructions while he tapped on my wrists and elbows and then ordered a nerve conduction study and EMG.

The test is scheduled for next week and sounds like a laugh riot. I can't imagine why people aren't lined up around the block to have teflon coated wires poked into their muscle tissue so that electrical current can be zapped directly into the muscle to simulate nerve commands.

Between doctor's waiting rooms and my weekly depression support group, I'm getting quite a bit of spinning in. Enough that I felt justified in purchasing a "real" spindle instead of the CD drop spindles I'd mostly made do with until now. (I have a spindle that I made using a toy wheel and a dowel. It works quite nicely, but still feels somehow illegitimate.)

My new baby is an Ashford Turkish Spindle. What I love about this, and the reason that I just ***HAD*** to have it and managed to justify the purchase to myself and anyone else who would listen, is that Turkish spindles break apart leaving the spinner with a center pull ball from which to ply or knit. After spending more hours than I care to think about hand-winding 300 and some odd yards of handspun singles into a center pull ball using a make-shift nostepinde fashioned from disposable chopsticks from Sprout's favorite Chinese buffet, I realized that my hands/wrists are not equal to the task of regularly winding singles for plying. I know that I could just use my ball winder, but I have found that I lack the patience to wait that long to move forward with the next step of my spinning.

The next addition to my spinning arsenal... A Golding Aromatherapy Spindle... I've heard nothing but good things about Golding spindles from other spindlers and I can tell myself that this one has therapeutic benefits on top of the meditative benefits of the spinning itself.

On a completely unrelated note... to balance my whining about medical stuff... here are the results of an online quiz that I stumbled across thanks to Ravelry.

What Kind of Knitter Are You?

You appear to be a Knitting Apprentice. You've got the basics down pat and you might just be falling in love with this hobby. Big needles, funky yarns and simple shapes are the name of the game shudder, but it doesn't mean you don't experiment a bit, here and there. As an apprentice, you probably fall back on other people to get you through those rough spots, and if you don't know anyone who knits, you probably have a few books or online sources to tap.
Take this quiz!

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Galvani%27s_legs.gif

14 October 2007

My head is spinning

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral
I'm currently working on spinning up about an ounce and a half of black superwash merino which I've blended (in the loosest sense of the word) with glow-in-the-dark spiderweb from one of the 1,000,000 Halloween stores that has suddenly opened in the greater Dayton area. I've visited more of these stores than is my usual custom (I generally try to avoid them) because I specifically wanted phosphorescent spiderweb rather than black light spiderweb. On some level, it disturbs me that these shops spring up to sell fetish costumes to 7-year-old girls and then they pack up and disappear for another year on Nov. 1st. I actually tried to find what I needed at one of the Foy's stores in historic downtown Fairborn, Ohio. I always kinda liked Foy's and I like that they are a small, locally owned company with strong ties to the community in which they're based and that they operate their stores/businesses year round instead of only seasonally.

I've learned that glow-in-the-dark spiderweb doesn't draft well at all. Spinning with this stuff is a little like wrestling with a toddler while you attempt to brush rubber cement out of her hair. (or at least that's what I'm guessing, so far Sprout has stayed away from the rubber cement...) I don't think that I've ever spun anything this inconsistent. Heather may joke that i'm some kind of spinning prodigy but I'm tempted to post pictures of this stuff, once I finish it and get it posted for the spindling challenge, to the beginning spinners forums as an example of the kind of drafting challenges that will be overcome with practice and well prepared fiber.

Don't get me wrong... Part of me looks at the masses of this stuff that I'm going to have left over (I bought two bags of the stuff when I finally found it at the 5th Halloween store that I went to) and thinks, "Surely this would work better if I had access to a drum carder and could incorporate it into a nice fluffy batt."

I should write something about the results of my hand adventures but since I'm still processing and I won't actually meet the specialist until Wednesday, I don't really feel like I have much to report.

Likewise, my adventures in random psychopharm roulette have yeilded a combination/doseage about which I feel mildly optimistic but I don't want to say too much too soon. I've been attending meetings of a support group for people dealing with depression (including family, friends, care givers, etc although none of those have shown up yet...), but don't really feel like I can blog about that except to say that if I get nothing more out of these meetings than an uninterrupted hour to spin each week it will be better for my mental health than almost anything that I have yet tried.

20 September 2007

Handle With Care

I made an appointment for Monday with a hand therapist at a local sports medicine clinic. I had delayed for two weeks since my doctor referred me with excuses about not being able to find childcare. It turns out, the clinic is attached to one of our local YMCAs. (Not the one where Sprout has her swim lessons and soccer and where I take bellydance classes... this one is actually closer to home.) One of the advantages to this is that I can put Sprout in the nursery at the Y during my meeting. I'm not sure if it will be free (I'm a member and they do offer members free childcare for 2 hours a day while they're at the Y...) or if I'll have to pay (a dollar an hour, it's not going to break the bank) since I won't actually be using the Y itself...

What I realized, after I'd hung up, was that I knew a week ago that if I couldn't find any other way, the clinic is open early enough that I could schedule the appointments in such a way that I could leave Sprout with her daddy while I went to my hand therapy. With that acknowledgment fresh in my mind, I had to admit that I didn't make the appointment because I'm a little afraid.

As I said in my previous entry, I didn't have much time to process what was going on between the CTS diagnosis and my first surgery last time around. Any concerns that I might have had about surgery were completely overshadowed by the suggestion that the tendons in my thumbs were so bad that the muscles had atrophied, possibly beyond the point of recovery, and that I might not regain the full use of my thumbs. Opposable thumbs are good things, I like mine, I wouldn't want defective tendons to drag me backwards on the evolutionary ladder.

I've learned a lot since then and met people who've had less favorable outcomes from their CTS surgeries than I had. I also know that there are some different factors to consider with a repeat surgery. The questions that need to be addressed now are "Why am I having a recurrance of symptoms?" the surgery cut my carpal ligament, the nerve pressure should have been resolved. And, yet, I'm loosing sensation in my fingers and my motor control is suffering. What is the source of the pressure causing these problems? Is it scar tissue? was the ligament release incomplete? Is there some underlying medical concern that was mis attributed to CTS? How will these things be corrected? Surgery? Will therapy do the trick? If surgery, am I possibly looking at implants or vein wraps? I've never had any kind of graft procedure before and I'm a little worried about what might be involved...

And, to change the subject (or maybe not) there's the whole question of how this will effect our decision to have (or not) another baby. The last time around, I made the appointment with the specialist at about the same time that we'd planned on starting our family planning/expansion efforts. The surgeries, and the financial recovery after we saw how much the insurance wasn't covering, postponed our child-making plans by almost 3 years. I'll be 39 in 2 weeks. If we're going to have another baby, we need to start trying soon. We might get pregnant right away, but last time around (between PCOS and my miscarriage) it took us 3 years to have Sprout.

I'm feeling very adrift about all of this. Conflicted. I love being a mom and love having Sprout in my life. I know that she would enjoy having a sibling. She loves babies so much and is so excited by them. There would be an almost 4 year age difference between her and a sibling if we got pregnant right now. But if surgery is a possibility down the road rather than right now, how much harder would it be with an infant and a 4-5 year old? What if I don't need surgery now but I get pregnant and the CTS gets worse? (it's actually not uncommon for that to happen)

Well, I need to spend some quality time with my little girl. This stream of consciousness blogging is just taking me in circles and Sprout wants someone to play with her...

Image Note: An engraved illustration by GĂ©rard de Lairesse from a 17th century Dutch anatomy text.

18 September 2007

Review: The Bob Books from Scholastic

The information about this series came into my inbox at a particularly appropriate time. For some time, Sprout has exhibited many of the signs of reading readiness, including the ability to identify the letters of the alphabet in both upper and lower case, basic understanding of the primary sounds of individual letters, and (most importantly) a strong desire to move forward in her acquisition of language. She often asks what words are by spelling them, i.e. when we're driving and she sees a traffic sign she will read the letters off of the sign and ask what they spell. She also remembers many of the words that she's been exposed to previously. All of which is meant to say that, although Sprout is barely 3, I did not believe that it was too soon to try her on something like the Bob Books even though they are intended for an audience of 4-6 year olds.

When the box arrived, I was excited to open it and begin looking through the materials. I had already visited the Bob Books website and was a little disappointed that there was not more guidance from the site on how to get started. The support materials on the website were limited to a single PDF coloring page per 12 book box set. Unfortunately, the box and individual books didn't contain much further guidance.

Sprout did, indeed, read the first book with no problem. Unfortunately, the feeling of accomplishment didn't bring with it any desire to pick up the second book. I suggested that we read "Her Books" at least once every day for a week and she responded every time by saying that she wanted me to read to her and not the other way around. After several days, I tried another strategy, "We'll read the first two Bob Books together and then you can choose any 4 books off your bookshelf for me to read to you." She agreed, we breezed through the first book a second time and then made it through 8 of the 12 pages of the second book before she seemed bored with it and completely uninterested even in having me read the books she was supposed to choose from the shelves. It was beginning to seem as though the Bob Books were inspiring a lack of interest in reading.

I was a little uncertain of how to proceed. Surely I couldn't be the only parent who had ever gotten this reaction from the program. I could really have used more support materials from the website or the packaging inserts. I'd talked to a couple of the other moms on Sprout's soccer team and learned that one of them had tried the Bob series with great success. I asked a few probing questions and realized that she had a much more structured routine with her children than we've ever tried with Sprout. I tried to structure our "study" time a bit more but Sprout interpretted my efforts as a punishment and resisted even more strongly. I got similar responses to bribes ("let's read and then we can go to the park") and attempts to make it into a game by "Playing School."

To make matters worse, she had almost completely stopped many of her earlier reading readiness behaviors. She was no longer reading off the letters on traffic signs to ask what they said, no longer pointing to words that she knew when she saw them spelled out in the "real world." I abandoned the series mid-way through the 5th book for fear that maybe she just hadn't developed the attention span required to make it through the series and we'd be better off trying again in a year or so, once she had reached the target age for the books.

Sprout's soccer coach, "Miss B," has been homeschooling her older daughter for the last 2 years. Miss B's younger daughter, Em, is 4 and will be enrolling in a pre-k class in the very near future. I called Miss B and asked if she thought that she and Em might like to try the Bob Books. She was very interested in giving them a try. We talked very briefly after Saturday's soccer game and Miss B says that they've worked through the first couple of books in the series in the week that they've had them but indicated that she was having some similar problems getting Em to focus.

I've been trying to work out some games and activities that we can do to try to make the books more fun for Sprout. I've added to our collection of alphabet magnets and I'm thinking that we may be able to make the process of reading the books a little more interactive by using the letter magnets to act out the process of sounding out words. I may also try to encourage Sprout's impulse to build on the sentences in the books by composing additional lines of text using the magnets.

Lest you think that my feelings are entirely negative, they're not. I think that the Bob Books have a lot to offer. They're a great concept and the illustrations are simple enough that I'm thinking I can help Sprout write and illustrate new stories or build upon the ones we have. I don't know if my difficulties are a result of Sprout being so much younger than the target audience, or if perhaps our less structured lifestyle has left her ill-equipped to follow instructions and concentrate for a lesson. I'll be continuing to work with her some on the challenge of staying on task for a period of structured activity.

In short, I like the concept of the books, I like the approach and the execution. I'd like to see more support for parents from Scholastic via packaging inserts or web support. I also think that it would be quite simple to develop a series of related activities that built upon the books which could be delivered via the Bob Books website, something more than a single coloring page per boxed set of books.

The series has been around for something like 30 years and a great many people have enjoyed great success with it. If you're concerned that your child might have the same type of attention problems that Sprout has shown, it would be well worth checking to see if your local library has the books in their catalog. That said, the first set is not very expensive and I think that I would find it well worth the investment to have the flexibility to put the books away for a period of time and try again later.

This is the second of the sponsored reviews for Mother-Talk.com that I mentioned here. You can see the first review by following this link.

10 September 2007

Give a girl a hand

I started having problems with my hands when I was in college. Pain... loss of sensation... loss of control... As a 22 year old, during a particularly bad period, I went to the campus health center and was told that I was most likely dealing with arthritis. I was a child and it never occurred to me to ask for a second opinion.

In the spring of 1999, after spending an intense period of time working on some hand-built porcelain vessels that I wanted to use for a grant proposal, the problems with my hands reached a new extreme. I felt as though I had lost all fine motor control. When I tried to hold something, my grip was so tight that the item would crush in my hands. A tiny vessel, which had taken hours to build and was nearly finished might be crushed to dust in my hands when I thought that I was gently holding it. At the same time, I would try to grip things tightly and they would slip from my grasp to the floor.

Within a month, I had the first of 6 hand surgeries which were spaced out over a period of 8 months. The diagnosis was Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis and ancillary nerve damage. From diagnosis to the first surgery, I was so busy with blood tests and surgery prep that I didn't have time to think about what was happening.

Soon I will be seeing a hand specialist for a "pre-surgical consultation." I don't know if we will ultimately choose surgery, and I know that it is unlikely that we would have to repeat all of it, but I'm a little freaked out. I don't want to repeat any of it. I honestly don't know how I'd manage life with Sprout during my recovery. I can't manage life with an energetic, high-needs three-year-old as it is. I've had the number for the physical/occupational therapist for almost a week and haven't scheduled my first appointment because I just can't seem to find a childcare solution. We considered enrolling her in preschool. The problem is that preschool is 3 hours 3 mornings a week. I would spend 1/2 hour of that driving her daddy to work after we dropped her off, another 45 minutes driving to the physical therapist's office, it takes another 1/2 hour to get from the physical therapist's office to the preschool which means that if the appointment is an hour, I have exactly fifteen minutes margin for delayed appointments or traffic problems. I'm not sure it's possible but I am almost certain that the stress will drive me around the twist.

Of course, the way that today has been going, I'm probably going to run away from home. As an indigent living on the streets in the midwest, scheduling medical appointments will probably be the last of my worries. What is it about 3 year olds that inspires them to bite and hit when they don't get their way. It's not like ***We've*** ever modeled that behavior, although I will admit that I really, really wanted to hit her with a rolled up newspaper when she bit me the second time in less than a minute.

The good news is that tomorrow is my bellydance class. It's the thing that I look forward to all week and the thing that really gets me through right now. Between dance class and trying to find my way around Ravelry, I'm starting to remember that there's a world out there that has nothing to do with preschoolers.

Image: Georgia O'Keefe: Hands with Thimble photograph by Alfred Stieglitz

15 August 2007

Review: Maximum Ride 3

When I started reading Maximum Ride #3: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, I wasn't really sure what to think. I think that a lot of the problem for me comes from the fact that I had not read either of the first two books. I can't recommend jumping into the series with the third book. There are quite a few moments in the book where allusions are made to events which occurred in the previous volumes which seem like they'd be more meaningful with greater knowledge of the series. Since I haven't read the previous books, I'll talk some about what I liked about this book and why I think that it might be worth picking up the first two and reading the entire series.

James Patterson is a very prolific writer with a rather impressive bibliography. It is particularly impressive to me that he can switch from suspense and crime novels intended for an adult audience to SF/Fantasy/Adventure intended for an audience of adolescents. I will admit that, as a grown-up, I found some of the plotting a bit facile and some of the dialog a bit forced, I'm really not the intended audience. Once I put away my prejudices and just turned myself over to the book, I found it very engaging and quite enjoyable.

I really admire the handling of technology in this book. It would be easy, given a corporate monster with the resources to build robots and genetically altered humans, to over-emphasize technology. While technology is present in the books, its use is more in keeping with the technologies that the kids reading the book use every day. Rather than using tech solutions, most of the conflicts in the story are settled with ingenuity and/or fists and kicks.

And speaking of fists and kicks. The fight sequences are fast paced and walk a delicate balance between graphic descriptions of adrenaline fueled fighting for survival and acknowledging that the audience may not be ready for graphic descriptions of injuries and/or brutality. (One of the problems that I had, having not read the previous books, was that I was uncertain on several occasions whether past events were glossed over because the author assumed that the reader had read the first books, or whether it was an artistic choice to leave the descriptions vague so as not to disturb the sensibilities of his younger audience and/or their parents.

Ultimately, I'm feeling positively about the series not so much because of anything that I can write up in a review, but because I closed the book wishing that I was a 14 year old girl with an unshakable faith I could change the world and that I am a vital part of an untapped resource for positive change. These feelings are what I believe will keep kids turning pages and inspire them to search out books that offer that kind of affirmation and encouragement.

In the end, I wanted to read this book because I wanted to see what was out there for the tween and teen children of my friends. A lot of people are asking right now about what will follow Harry Potter. I'm not sure that it matters what kids pick up next as long as they pick up something. Maximum Ride offers them a story with protagonists their own age who are setting out to make a tangible difference. We could do a lot worse.

[ETA -- I hate it when I save a post rather than publishing it...]

13 August 2007

Too long no post

Last night I arrived home from the family Florida vacation. Sprout had a great time and really got the opportunity to get to know my sister who was visiting from Germany. We had a small family birthday party in the condo and Sprout got to swim in the ocean and in the pool at the condo at least twice a day. Her swimming is improving by leaps and bounds.

While there, I found the time to read the first book that I'm reviewing for Mother-Talk.com. I'll be posting my review on Wednesday. In the interim, some of the 100 bloggers participating in the blog tour have posted their reviews and you can read highlights or pop over to the blogs themselves from the blog tour post on the Mother Talk website.

19 July 2007

Gone Fishin'

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral
Etsy's having a poster contest related to the whole treasury concept. Although I'm not currently selling through my Etsy shop, I am trying to maintain a presence so that when I re-open the shop I won't have to start over from scratch... I'm enjoying having the extra time to do things like searching for fish themed ceramics to pull together an interesting presentation.

16 July 2007

Sterling Bead Bail

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral
I'm looking for a wholesale source for these findings. They're sterling silver, although I saw them in silver plate as well, with attached wires for stringing focal beads to make pendants. They seem like the perfect solution for making pendants from some of my more elaborate focal beads. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

15 July 2007

Running on Empty

When last I checked in, I was feeling a bit sleep deprived. Some research online and a conversation with my therapist helped convince me to try switching when I took my new medication from the evening to the morning. I also switched to a slower release formula which we're going to try for a while and see how things go. I'm doing much, much better with the combination of the slower acting formula and the earlier dosing. In fact, the only cloud on my horizon right now is that I'm so busy with swim lessons and the things that I'm doing in an effort to improve my health and well-being that I've no time or energy left at the moment for the studio.

I'm so glad right now that I've taken some time off. My sister is coming to visit from Germany, Sprout and I are going with my sister and our parents to Florida for a week of swimming and fun on the beach. There just hasn't been much time left and probably won't be any in the foreseeable future for blogging and updating on my personal life. There's nothing going on in the studio at the moment, so I can't really give much info there. How boring would it be, for everyone, if I posted regular updates that said something to the effect of "Playing and having fun with Sprout. Dieting and exercising. Nothing going on in the studio. Took Sprout to see her grandparents. More later."

On an interesting side note, I've decided to re-visit my desire to do some professional writing. I'm going to be starting slow, with some book and/or media reviews here on my blog. I've answered a call for reviewers. I will be receiving the items for review from the publishers at no cost, and the network that I'm working with compensates reviewers with Amazon.com gift cards. My goal is to write honest and, hopefully insightful, reviews of the material I'm sent. It is not a completely random process. I will receive email from the blogging network with information about the materials available for review. If the material looks interesting to me, I can choose to throw my name into the hat as a potential reviewer. After that, they either send me the book or they don't. Should be interesting.

26 June 2007

Sleepless Nights

It's somewhere after 5am and I haven't slept. I've tried to sleep. I started trying to sleep at 11:15pm. Unfortunately, I have leg cramps which have varied in intensity over the past 6 hours from a fluttery feeling in the muscles which is slightly distracting to full fledged digging my fingernails into the palms of my hands leg in a bear trap cramps. This is the 2nd night in a row that I've been kept up with them. It triggered a migraine yesterday and left me feeling crappy all day. All of which is why I'm sitting here at the computer typing instead of sleeping which is where all sane people should be at 5am.

The picture is Ms. Sprout going through the child's gate at our local Children's Discovery Garden. One of her favorite places in the world. We took her Sunday evening after spending abut an hour at a Pow Wow. Sprout seemed to enjoy many aspects of the event but commented several times about how sad the music sounded. She finally asked us to take her away from the singers at the host drum because she said that she was afraid the sad music was going to hurt her feelings. The Pow Wow was sponsored by the local council of Native Americans so I took her over to their information tent, waited patiently for someone who appeared to be an elder to be free, and then asked if he minded talking to a little girl with some big questions about what she was seeing/hearing. They had a lovely conversation in which I participated only as a translator from adult-speak to toddler-speak, etc. When she woke yesterday morning, she wanted to know if we were going to another Pow Wow.

I would not trade these chances to look at the world through her eyes for anything.

23 June 2007

Etsy Mud Team

Fish in Raku
Originally uploaded by sheilasthings
As I've spent the last few days contemplating the closure of the MysticSpiral Etsy shop, I've also been amazed by the progress achieved by a group of potters on Etsy. In 3 1/2 days they managed to create the Etsy Mud Team complete with a blog and a flickr group. (Which is where I found this cool photo of a raku kiln open during firing.)

The EMT Street Team is having their inaugural sale next week. There's a lot of wonderful stuff to see and buy. Details are posted on their blog.

Learning Experiences

I didn't want to let the last post occupy the top spot for too long. There are other, more important exciting/positive developments which are more deserving of my time and attention right now. I'm really glad that I am in a position in my life where I can close the Etsy shop, temporarily or permanently, without feeling as though it is a defeat or a major set-back. The shop **WILL** re-open and when it does, I'll be in a better position to run it well and give it the time that it deserves.

During this time of change, I want to spend some time re-organizing my studio set-up so that I'm in a better position to make the time that I spend working work for me. I need to find a better way of organizing my stock. I want to set aside areas in the studio for photography and shipping so that I can more easily do all of the things that I must do as a one-woman operation. As things stand right now, there are too many things that can (and often do) get in the way of completing the day to day business operations of my studio. I find it too hard to address those things on the fly while I'm trying to get other work done. This time should let me use my experience and hard-earned lessons to put everything in place that I need for smoother operations.

I recently had a really wonderful learning experience. When I started doing bead shows, I thought that eventually I'd work my way up to doing shows like Bead and Button or going to Tucson. Two weeks ago, I found myself unexpectedly in Milwaukee for the Bead & Button show. It was amazing, but also eye opening. I'm just not prepared to have so much riding on one weekend. I'd love to teach at a show like B&B, or to attend and do demonstrations or something, maybe as part of a BoC group thing, but that show represents a significant portion of the annual revenue of the artists who show there and a bad show can translate into a *REALLY* bad year.

I love making beads and what I do in the studio, and I have to sell the stuff because if I didn't it would bury me alive, but I'm not sure how to wrap my head around all of this in a professional context.

21 June 2007

Closing Shop

Anyone who's been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I have been struggling with depression for quite some time. I've recently come to the realization that my medications are not doing the job for which they were prescribed. We're embarking on a new course of treatment, including new medications and getting rid of the ones that aren't working. As I begin this transition, I find myself wanting to simplify those areas of my life that I can actually change.

It is for this reason that I've decided to close my Etsy shop for a few months.

16 April 2007

Etsy Mother's Day Showcase

Today marks the first day of the special Mother's Day Showcase on Etsy. I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a couple of showcase slots in an effort to attract a little attention from potential buyers. Unfortunately, today's showcase was fraught with problems, so I'm not getting the benefit of the extra international exposure that I was hoping for. Who knows, this may prove to be a blessing in disguise since I'm currently offering free shipping and I can see international shipping being my undoing.

My mom asked what the showcase is and how it works so I thought maybe some of the people who read my blog might wonder as well. The Etsy Showcase is a special area of the site which highlights 36 sellers by showing a photo montage of select items from their shops. The showcase area is accessed via a prominently placed banner on the front page of the Etsy home page. Since there are only 36 spaces per day of the showcase, there's quite a bit of competition for them. Showcase hopefuls must find out when the showcase slots will be going on sale, and then to be prepared to jump at the opportunity as soon as the slots open. It feels, on one level, like a classic feeding frenzy, although the interface is nothing like that.

The showcase has been somewhat controversial. It started as an advertising program prior to the holidays and special ads were purchased on a number of high-profile internet sites. Those early showcase spots were a bit of a train wreck. There were only 25 slots per day, there was little or no notice, and those few sellers who were lucky enough to find out about the opportunity snatched up as many spots as they could meaning that the opportunity was available to even fewer sellers than might have had the chance originally.

Etsy has tried to address many of the early problems. They added 11 slots to the showcase, limited sellers to 2 showcase slots per sales period, started giving more notice about when showcase slots would go on sale, and have had several special showcases which ran in tandem with the original showcase to increase the exposure opportunities. (Specifically a Valentines for Boys, Valentines for Girls and now the Mother's Day Showcase) Their solutions are far from perfect. Showcase slots still sell out quickly and, since they're usually offered around Noon EST, they're usually gone before many non-US sellers have a chance to check the site.

It is also very frustrating that Etsy has stopped (permanently? who knows? there's almost no communication between admins and the user base anymore) purchasing outside advertising linked to the showcase. Since that was supposed to be the purpose of the $7.00 USD charge per showcase slot, I'm a bit dismayed.

So why, you might ask, did I purchase spots in the Mother's Day Showcase? There are actually several reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that I need (want?) the additional exposure on Etsy. The vast majority of my work is listed in the jewelry category which is absolutely huge. I believe strongly that my work is different from most of what's in the category, but it is easy for a couple dozen pieces to be completely lost in the hundreds of pages of listings in such a large and diverse category. I am certain that if the right people see my work, they will want it. The Mother's Day Showcase is an opportunity for my work to be visible in a much smaller sea of jewelry.

I feel that the Mother's Day Showcase is particularly appropriate because the majority of my work is directed at an audience of knitters and fiber artists, many of whom make their mother's day gifts and then look for something to go with their handmade present. (Something exactly like what I make...)

I also believe that if we, as sellers, want the site to succeed we must do what we can to support it. Whether the money is used for advertising, which **WAS** the stated purpose and is certainly a part of what we must all hope for, or for site improvements it is in everyone's best interest to do what we can to give back to the site and support its continued growth.

Which is to say that I'm feeling a little frustrated today about the Showcase. Although Matt has said that Etsy will refund (remove the charges from our bills?) the costs of today's showcase,
That doesn't really address the loss of exposure, the time spent trying to get the showcase slots, the time spent tidying up the shop in hopes/anticipation of additional traffic, etc. I can't help feeling that the situation is made even worse by the fact that there has been no direct communication from Etsy Admin with the people effected by the situation. A discussion began on the forum last night when the Showcase was not up at Midnight EST which is when the changeovers and updates are supposed to occur. At almost 8 am, Matt posted that the situation was a result of some technical problem and would soon be resolved. No conversations or email messages were sent to effected sellers, no announcement was made in the Etsy Blog (which is where official news and information are supposed to be posted), and our monthly bills still reflect the charge for the slots we purchased.

12 April 2007

Radio Silence

I'd like to start by apologizing for my prolonged absence. The end of March, first of April, I went to Bowling Green, Ohio by myself to visit a friend and check out a fiber festival. It was a great weekend but a bit of a whirlwind. It was immediately followed by a quick trip to Louisville and then Indiana for photos of Sprout.

Prior to leaving for Bowling Green, I finished sculpting the last of a series of agateware goddesses for a Beads of Clay group bead swap. The beads were left for the weekend in the food dehydrator in my studio to ensure that they were bone dry for firing when I returned. Since I was pressed for time, I single fired the goddesses to cone 10. I didn't glaze them because I wanted to fit them all into a single firing, so I actually had some space for some colored porcelain beads that I stained with a wash of albany slip and blue stoneware glaze mixed. After firing, everything got a trip through the rock tumbler to clean it up and smooth away the burrs that sometimes result when beads temporarily fuse in the high temperature firings. (That albany slip/glaze wash can sometimes run slightly and glue the beads together. They pull apart easily enough but there is sometimes a rough spot where the beads were fused.)

This week, I've updated the MysticSpiral Etsy Shop and done a bit of metal work at the torch in an effort to be ready to make more shawl pins as soon as the current batch of faces, spindle whorls and other raku beads have been fired. Part of my motivation in this, as those of you who are here from the Lime&Violet podcast or message boards probably already know, is that I've been spending a lot of time hanging out on a knitting forum and was recently the recipient of some beautiful compliments from the lovely and fabulous Lime and Violet.

It's an odd experience to sit down to work while listening to a podcast that has become a part of your regular routine and to hear yourself mentioned by voices that have become familiar companions in spite of never having met. Such was my experience about 38 minutes into Episode 32 of the L&V podcast.(link to actual MP3 of the podcast) I'd read the show notes when I downloaded the podcast to put on my mp3 player, so I knew that they had received the shawl pins that I'd sent and that they were using some of them as half-way through prizes in the L&V Sock Marathon. Let's just say that it is probably not a good idea to be startled (or pleasantly surprised) while holding hot metal in the flame of a propane torch... I am certain that I sat there for a full minute and a half with a stupid grin on my face while I held the bronze rod in the torch flame and the heat gradually spread to my fingertips... I know from past experience that the ridge pattern of my fingerprints will grow back, but for now, my prints have interesting voids where I singed my fingers with the hot metal.

Well, I could continue typing and linking and typing and linking for quite a while so I'll cut this off here and maybe have something left for another blog entry sooner rather than later.

23 March 2007

Art Bead Scene Blog: Dear Ms. Bead-It-All

There's a new bead blog in town, and it promises to be something pretty cool. My friend (and Beads-of-Clay co-founder) Melanie Brooks-Lucaks, will be writing regularly at the Art Bead Scene Blog. In her first column as Ms. Bead-It-All, Melanie addressed the problem of designing a necklace with a focal bead whose hole is oriented vertically instead of horizontally . The column inspired me to look at my beading history, to remember how I've addressed this problem in my own work.

The truth is, since I'm usually stringing my own beads as focals, I have an idea how I want to present the piece and make the holes accordingly. As a result, I'm very seldom confronted with holes that go "the wrong way." A quick look through my jewelry box didn't reveal any finished pieces that I could easily scan. The next best thing was to try to come up with a graphic to demonstrate the idea.

The idea behind the solution above is to thread your focal bead on 2 lengths of your stringing material (thread, beadalon, etc) down through vertical hole. The strands from the bottom connect back to the main body of the necklace forming a beaded frame around your art bead focal. Crimp where the loop closes and continue beading as normal. The whole design can be further embellished by adding a dangle below your focal using a headpin threaded through the hole with your stringing material.

Of course my real question for Ms. Bead-It-All is where do you find the time?!?! Melanie does everything. Earthenwood Studio, articles in numerous beading magazines, shows, blogging, etc

Art Bead Scene Blog: Dear Ms. Bead-It-All

10 March 2007

BPAL Barter Vessels

This is a set of vessels that I've currently set aside to trade for some things on my BPAL fragrance wish list... I'll probably be posting some of them to Etsy in the near future. I just want to give swap partners a chance to choose their favorites. [photo is clickable to show vessels large enough to see details...)

08 March 2007

Bead Circle

I 've been reading the Bead Circle Blog for quite some time and recently joined the forums over there. This led to a nice conversation with Mandi via the Etsy convo feature. I am quite honored that Mandi has chosen to feature me on the Bead Circle Blog, and it looks like this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or something like that.

03 March 2007

Psychopharmacology Roulette

I've written a bit about rants recently and I guess that's because I'm in a bit of a ranty mood. I'm easily frustrated right now. I seem unable to concentrate for very long on anything. My current knitting project is a perfect example. It is an extremely simple pattern, a 2 row repeat. The first row is knit a certain number of stitches until you get to a place where you're supposed to have a bead. Purl one, slide the bead into place, purl again, and then knit until time for the next purl/bead/purl combo. The second row is knit, knit, knit, until you get to the stitch marker that tells you that it's time to do the first row again. The problem is, I keep forgetting and either purl/bead/purl-ing in the middle of the knit row, or knitting two or more rows and then I have to go back and unknit the portion that I've messed up.

On one hand, I can't help thinking that spinning would be the perfect answer to my current lack of focus. I've got quite the stockpile of wool around here (and my alpaca roving finally arrived from Wooly Knob) to play with and a new double drive band on the wheel. The only problem with this plan is that I don't want to abandon my knitting in the middle. (Although I did decide that I needed to experiment a bit with the pattern and -- after visiting 2 craft stores looking for suitable beads -- am playing with a more involved pattern with a somewhat less decadent yarn and the only 8/0 beads that I could find... In other words, I have 2 projects on DPNs right now!)

Sprout and her daddy are both asleep and I should be too, but my mind is going at light speed. Thoughts are popping in and ideas are building on ideas at a rate much faster than I can seem to process. (Certainly a lot faster than I can type!) This is the bulk of the reason that my concentration is so poor right now. I don't know if I process it all better when I'm sleeping or if I just care less that I can't keep up, but once I get to sleep, I don't want to wake up. My psychiatrist and I are about to launch another round of psychopharmacology roulette. We're adding another drug to the staggering dose of anti-depressants I'm already taking. If it works, I should be able to reclaim roughly 1/8th of my life. (That being the portion of my life that I spend sleeping beyond what would be considered normal...)

In studio news, the image in this post is of the first piece in my Technological Artifacts series from 2001. I have decided that the time has come for me to let go of these pieces and will be listing them for sale in my Etsy shop. I'm going to be working on the images for the listings in the next couple of days.

In parenting news, we took Sprout to the Y today so that she could swim. At one point, while she was crawling around the perimeter of the pool, she lost her "footing" and tumbled into the pool. Her daddy and I are never further than arms length from her at the pool, so there was really no cause for alarm, but it happened so quickly that she ended up completely underwater before her daddy could scoop her into his arms. The experience startled her and she came out of the water crying a little bit. This is such an unusual thing for her that I was pretty alarmed. This is a child whose first reaction to a fall is to stand up and say "I'm okay!" or "I'm fine." She almost never cries about falling. As usual, she got over the experience quite rapidly, but I was pretty shaken for a few minutes there. It wasn't the tumble or the submersion in the water. I was just so unaccustomed to seeing her upset by it that I was sure that it must have been worse than I thought.

28 February 2007

Reader's Digest Condensed Rants

The following rants have taken place inside my head in the past 24-48 hours. The Cliff's Notes versions are presented here in more or less chronological order.

Her Bad Mother's Basement: (Not) Living The Dream:

Why is it that mother's are expected to not only put their lives (personal and professional) on hold to raise children or care for aged parents (their own or those of their spouse) but to enjoy it as well? What does it say that if a mom sometimes resents the losses that accompany parenthood, they question their worth and suitability as a parent? I read this confessary post and found myself thinking about all of the women throughout time who have been in a similar position and who have taken it with much less grace. I have no doubt that depression is a major issue in the household described. The thing is, the situation as written is has a lot in common with my own. The differences, however put us in different worlds... I am blessed with a remarkable support system. My mother-in-law (a candidate for sainthood if ever one crossed my path) is kind enough to take Sprout on occasion so that I can get work done or accomplish things that are nearly impossible with a toddler in tow. My husband does most of the housework, and is more than willing to keep Sprout busy while I do what I need to get done. I have friends (one in particular) who I visit and enjoy spending time with so that I don't feel so isolated.

I wrote about much of this when I wrote Interruptions Big and Small as part of my attempt to become a professional blogger...

A number of smaller rants managed to escape my mind and memory while I was writing the above. The most recent of my ravings, however, had to do with visiting a craft shop in an unsuccessful attempt to acquire size 8/0 seed beads so that I could begin knitting a 2nd pair of wrist warmers. What I learned, as I searched high and low for suitable beads, is that in order to merit inclusion in the stock of the average American craft store, one must somehow give the impression that your product is essential to every scrap booker within a 200 mile radius. Since beads are nice occasional accents but far from essential, the selection is minimal and there were only 3 colors of 8/0 sized seed beads in the entire store. Unfortunately, none of those colors would look good with the pretty brown wool that I purchased.

27 February 2007

Can Toddlers Be Fat?

I was flipping channels this evening and stumbled across a show on The Learning Channel called "Tubby Toddlers". I will admit that my first impulse was to just scroll past without even reading the description. Frankly, I find that I have little or no respect for TLC's programming anymore. One Week To Save Your Marriage, Crazy Kids Clips, and the endless series of medical freak shows that they seem to think we'll find entertaining are not my idea of enthralling television viewing.

Professor Paul Gately's research on childhood obesity may be quite valid and valuable. One of my greatest fears is that Sprout will struggle with her weight (and the self-worth problems arising from body image issues) as I have done for most of my life. I honestly believed that I was fat and that I needed to loose weight long before I really was. Genetics aren't on Sprout's side on this issue so I'm hoping that we can give her the tools that she needs to tackle the environmental factors so that she's ahead of the game. I love that she is active and energetic...

The thing is, toddlers are developing in so many areas at once. To put toddlers, or any young child, on a weight loss program seems so very, very wrong to me.

TITLE: Florence / Anna Desmond & Co.,LA.
CREATOR: Anna Desmond & Co., photographer.
LOC CALL NUMBER: LOT 3222, no. 38 [P&P]
LOC REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-USZC2-5945 (color film copy slide) No known restrictions on publication.
MEDIUM: 1 photographic print : platinum ; 16 x 10

26 February 2007

Knitting with Toothpicks

I just wanted to pop in and post a quick update before I crawled up to bed. After finishing my felted Easter egg, I decided that I needed to show off the results at the fiber shop today. Sundays at Fiberworks are usually a good time to visit and catch up with people. Today was no exception. Arlene spent most of the day teaching spinning to two lovely ladies from Cincinnati while a group of us sat around the table knitting, talking and snacking on pound cake, brownies, and sliced oranges.

I have been eagerly anticipating a knitting class with Maggie since the very first time that I saw her working on a set of beautiful beaded wrist warmers. These lovely accessories have a very Victorian feel and were inspired by similar items made during that period to hide stained or worn cuffs. One of the advantages of learning to make them, or so I keep telling myself, is that learning to work in the round on Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) is the first step to learning to knit socks... (Ok, you don't have to knit socks on DPNs. You can knit socks on circular needles...) I doubt very seriously that I will **EVER** attempt to knit socks. I'm intimidated by the whole concept of trying to follow a pattern that way. There are so many foreign terms involved in sock knitting... heal flap, gusset, kitchener stitch...

On the other hand, I'm having fun knitting these wrist warmers. I'm actually knitting something that requires me to purl. And I'm knitting on #2 knitting needles. They feel so small and fragile in my big clumsy hands. I think that I may actually attempt to make bronze needles to play with. The coolest thing about that idea is that I could actually have multiple sets, and make replacements as needed...

Well, the pillow calls...

25 February 2007


Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral.
I spent a significant portion of my day, today, pouring over antique pattern books looking for inspiration. I'm offering a needle felted Easter egg class at my local Hobby Lobby next month. I need to make class samples for the classes that I will be teaching and wanted to do something festive for the Easter egg sample. As much as I would have loved to do something like this motif, or any of the others from this pamphlet, I think that it would probably have been overkill. I'm not sure how well **I** could translate the pattern to an egg form. I'm pretty certain that I couldn't teach someone else how to do it.

In the end, I settled for a buttery yellow and pale lilac background with 3 dimensional roses felted on. I haven't decided yet whether I want to display the egg in an egg cup, or if I'd rather string it on a ribbon as an ornament.

Next on the project list, some form of embellished garment that I can leave at Hobby Lobby to demonstrate the concept of "Needle Felting as Decorative Embellishment" for the 3rd class. I'm really hoping that these classes attract some attention and that there is at least moderate attendance. I love teaching at Arlene's but I need to find a way to boost my income and I always end up spending as much at the shop as I make on the class.

We spent a couple hours at the Y swimming and letting Sprout play in the tunnel room and with the tumbling mats. As a consequence, I'm more than ready for sleep. I think that I'll stop at the thrift shop on my way to Fiberworks tomorrow to see if I can find something fun to felt onto for my last class sample.

24 February 2007

More Easter eggs

More Easter eggs
Originally uploaded by hale_popoki.
I found this beautiful picture of easter eggs while I was poking around Flickr and thought that, in the absence of a picture of the needle felted egg that I'm working on, this would make a lovely visual. (I love the "Blog this photo" feature on Flickr... I guess that's kinda obvious by now since I've used it quite a few times. I just have so much fun looking through pictures and seeing so many different points of view... 90% of the time I don't even know what I'm going to blog about when I hit the "Blog This" button...)

I went to Hobby Lobby today with 3 written class descriptions and a puppet as a class model. I've figured out that I'm going to create patterns to simplify the puppet process since we'll only have an hour and 45 minutes for the entire puppet class.

One of the classes that I'm offering is a needle felted easter egg class. I saw these fun egg cups at Target and I'm going to use one as a display for the class model. (Made with wool that I picked up at Hobby Lobby so that the model would showcase product from the store...)

I also shopped for a quazi-nuno felt project while I was there. I'm really excited about it, but it's going to take some work and it will probably be a pretty involved process.

On a completely different note, Rob (one of the founders of Etsy) did an interview with CBS recently. Here's the entry in the Etsy blog about the interview with a link to the video.

22 February 2007

Report From the Potty Training Front Lines

The weather around here continues to leave me feeling a bit like the whole world is wrapped in a shroud. The air is warm and humid and it hangs thickly above slowly receding snow. It reminds me a little of looking out the window of a plane as you pass through the clouds just after take off, or before landing. The air looks too thick to breathe.

Which probably accounts for my desire to curl up into a little ball with Sprout on my lap and the shawl I just finished knitting wrapped around us both. It's a dangerous thing to do, however, sitting with a toddler in "big girl panties" on your lap when she's on a potty strike. It feels a little like today was a study in "one step forward, three steps back" on the potty training front. Sprout seemed determined that she would not step foot into the bathroom unless dragged by the hair. (A tactic which, no matter how tempting, I refused to take...)

To be honest, I think that this was really about showing mama who's boss... We got up this morning and Sprout's pull-up had leaked all over her sleeper. I stripped her down and cleaned her up, and snuggled her under the covers for a few minutes just to enjoy the feel of her skin against mine. We then ventured downstairs where I gave her a choice of shirts to wear and a choice of underpants or pull-up. When she chose the underwear, I reminded her that she had to tell me when she needed to go to the bathroom. I asked her if she wanted to go and she declined. A couple minutes later, she was standing in a puddle in the living room.

I tried several approaches to the whole question of going into the bathroom. Every time she answered with denial that she needed to go and refusal to humor me by going anyway. Not long after breakfast, I again suggested a field trip to the potty and she again refused only to release the contents of her bladder moments later while she sat on the floor. I put her in a pull-up (over her protests) and suggested that we'd try underwear again after her nap since she seemed tired and unable to concentrate.

A short nap later, we tried the "Big Girl Panties" again only to repeat our earlier experiences. Four pairs of soiled toddler briefs in a single day is the limit of my patience. I put her in another pull-up and gave up for the day.

How did we go from a landmark success day, with no less than 5 potty triumphs, yesterday to today's dismal failures... I'm sure that I'm doing something wrong. We have plans to be out of the house tomorrow so we're doomed to another pull-up day. For now, I'll stop worrying about it and just accept that today didn't live up to the promise of yesterday and tomorrow isn't even in the running.

TITLE: Chicago, Illinois. An unusually heavy fog in the early afternoon
CALL NUMBER: LC-USW3- 012514-E [P&P]
CREATOR: Delano, Jack, photographer.
PART OF: Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

20 February 2007

Somewhat overdue...

Tonight's puppet class didn't fly. I'll admit to being a bit disappointed but not that much, I guess. I spent about an hour visiting with the shop owner (my friend and fiber mentor) before going to get my sweetie and our darling little angel. I stopped at the craft shop near my parents' house to inquire about possibly teaching there, and may be stopping at another local craft shop to look into teaching needle felting there as well. I've also decided that I need to develop at least one, and maybe more, of my puppet designs into an actual pattern that I could sell either on its own or as a part of a kit. (If it goes well, maybe I could raise enough money to pay for my print coop membership **AND** pick up a nice folding spinning wheel as well...)

The weather today was strange. Temperatures reached into the 40s and we had rain, so much of the snow that has been adversely influencing my mood has melted. The warmth of the air combined with the cold of the snow on the ground made for some absolutely amazing fog. When we were driving home tonight, there were places where we felt as though we were driving into a wall of gauze. It was alternately the most peacefully surreal and most terrifying experience I've had in quite some time. The temperature, by that time, was hovering just below freezing. Puddles from the rain and melting snow had a thin crust of ice, it reminded me of the burnt sugar on creme brule and I must have spent 5 minutes crunching the ice with the toe of my shoe while Sprout's daddy got her settled into her carseat. As cool as that ice was while I played in the driveway of my parent's house, knowing that we couldn't see far enough ahead to avoid patches of it on the way home made us super cautious. Even so, I must admit that a part of me wanted to park the car somewhere and just sit and bask in the unique silence that accompanies a heavy fog. I sometimes wish that I could simulate that environment in my studio. There's no telling how much work I could get done.

Speaking of work, Melanie (co-founder of Beads-of-Clay and owner of Earthenwood Studio) worked with Caren from Reliving Moments to create this wonderful video to promote BoC at shows like Bead and Button. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, although the YouTube version doesn't really do it justice.

Graphic at top of page created using http://www.blyberg.net/card-generator/

16 February 2007

Not Much To Report

The big news is We Have Hot Water!!!! I've showered and left my home two days in a row. I'm a confirmed member of the human race. (Doesn't take much to make her happy, does it?) Yesterday, after a quick shower with little water pressure but we'll get that worked out soon, my mom picked me up and we went to the movies to see Music And Lyrics. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect, and I can't recommend it if you don't already want to see it from the previews. Light-hearted, playful... More mullets than I'd seen since moving out of East Dayton... (We have a neighbor who has been jokingly referred to as "The Mullet King" but since his is the only mullet we regularly encounter these days, it's a marked improvement...) How did I think that a mullet was sexy when I was in high-school... Yes, I realize that it was the 80s but I'm not sure that it's any excuse... Maybe they only work for me when combined with eyeliner... Maybe I was suffering from a lack of oxygen to my brain from the excessive amounts of hairspray everyone in the known world was using at the time...

The image in tonights entry is a necklace that I made for my paternal grandmother, aka "Nanny" while she was in the hospital before she went into the nursing home. The necklace was made with almost all of the pierced porcelain beads that I'd made up to that point. (She loved the beads and I really didn't/don't think that they're salable considering how much time is involved in making them...) When my grandmother died (in 2003) I took the necklace apart and made 3 pendants using individual beads from the necklace. I gave one to my mother and one to my sister. After my sister's wedding, I used another of the beads to make a necklace for her step-daughter which I gave her at breakfast the morning following the wedding. Eventually, when Sprout is old enough for jewelry, I will make a pendant for her as well. Somehow it just seems right that we should all have a part of it.

14 February 2007

Turning Inward

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral.
I've got a lot on my mind at the moment. The romantic Valentine's dinner that my beloved and I had planned was abandoned in light of the expense of the new water heater and the realization that it really made no sense to spend more on a single meal than would be left in our meager coffers for groceries and gas money for the remainder of the pay period after the water heater was paid for.

Speaking of the water heater... The snow created delays for the installation but we have been informed that the guys will be here late tomorrow morning or early tomorrow afternoon. This means that, if everything goes well, I should be able to shower (in my own home no less) tomorrow late afternoon or early evening. My excitement at this prospect knows no bounds.

After reading a post on Her Bad Mother about the pros and cons of posting pictures of our children in our blogs, I've been thinking a lot about the pictures that I've posted of Sprout and why I want to post them. I'll probably be exploring this more in the near future. At the moment, however, I'm still processing it all so I'll just have to tag this as a "place keeper" and come back to it when my thoughts are clearer.

One of my friends from Beads of Clay has started a new site for promotion and sales of ceramic arts. The site is really, really new, but I think that it has a lot of promise. Anyway, I just wanted to mention Marla's project in case anyone reading the blog would be interested in it. Check out FiredClayArtists.com and if you talk to Marla, tell her Andi said "Hi!"

Today's image, btw, is one of the shell vessels that I uploaded to my Etsy shop this week. I love this clay body so much that I can't stand to cover it up. Instead, I applied a wash made of thinned black glaze mixed with albany slip and then rubbed it off leaving a finish that reminds me of my grandfather's cast iron. The combination of the ornate scrolling texture and that aged wrought iron finish makes me think of the balconies in the French Quarter.

My First Elephant

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral.
I made this guy in January and have been living with him ever since. I am completely smitten with his soulful brown eyes and his wet-felted tusks. I'm not sure why, but it would appear that he's not really meant to live with us. It feels strange to say it. I love him. I want to keep him. But somehow he's just not settling in and making a place for himself. I think that he may know that there is someone out there who needs him, who will truly be His Person in a way that I cannot. He doesn't seem to be bonding with Sprout, either. In more than a month under the same roof, Sprout hasn't called this guy "Tony" even once.

I've finally faced the fact that mine may not be a house that is elephant friendly. I've listed this guy and a distant cousin in my Etsy shop to try to find adoptive families for them both. In the interim, maybe I should take a break from making elephants for a while until I learn why it is that they don't want to live here with us forever and ever.

12 February 2007

Why I'll Never Be A Seamstress

I'm actually shorter on patience today than I have been in quite some time. This is a very bad thing because Sprout is at her grandmother's for the day so that I could be free to talk with/wander in and out of the basement with the plumbers who were coming to tell us what we'd need to do to have a gas water heater installed in place of our electric water heater. In the end, the numbers ended up convincing us that in spite of our desire to switch from electric to gas, we can't justify the extra expense. (Sigh... The extra day or two waiting for the water heater to be installed wouldn't have been so tiresome had it actually served some purpose.)

I spent some time processing images to upload some of my vessels to my Etsy shop. Unfortunately, I'm suffering from writer's block. I know what I want to write but I just can't seem to make it work right.

I found the sewing machine maintenance kit that I bought and misplaced so I thought, "Ok, I'll work on my sewing project while I try to mentally process what I'm trying to write." So I pulled the old Kenmore machine out, oiled the spots that I'd been told needed oil, and discovered that the belt is slipping and brittle and really needs to be replaced. I was irritated but pretty sure that I'd survive.

I pulled out the little Singer Tiny Tailor which I had thought might be fun for Sprout to play with eventually... My thought was that one of my planned sewing projects was a pretty simple thing and maybe a small success would help me to make some forward progress. I was not to be so lucky. After an hour wasted trying to insert the bobbin/bobbin case, my mild irritation at the Kenmore blossomed into an almost nuclear anger at the Tiny Tailor which I'd been uncertain whether to keep or not. I eventually packed the whole thing back up in its battered box, walked out to the front porch, and pitched it toward the garage with as much force as I could muster. I feel mildly better now that the thing is out of the house. There just isn't room in my life for items that do not do the job for which they were intended.

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been reminded (in multiple contexts) that setting my blog so that it doesn't accept comments from non-Blogger readers means that I'm making it more difficult to get feedback and input from the visitors to my blog. I set the blog up the way that I did because of concerns about comment spam... Worse comes to worse, there's always comment moderation... [edited to add: Apparently when I changed the settings, they didn't get saved or something so the blog still wasn't accepting comments. I've fixed that, as of 27 February 2007 so we'll see what happens.]