Saturday, January 28, 2012

Never Judge a Tire by Its Looks

      Irish Rose: Before we begin, lets give you a little back story to our adventure.  Last year, just about this time, our parents had to make an emergency trip to the Deep South when our grandmother ended up in the hospital: they ended up being away for more than two weeks.  Seventeen days ago, we got a similar call - and thirteen days ago our daddy boarded a flight south.  The last twelve days have been a study in many things - not least of which is how much our dad takes care of us and how much we take him for granted.  We miss him terribly and would be quick to count down days to his return . . . if only we knew when that would be.  In the mean time, it would seem there are some lessons to be learned from unexpected sources . . . . .

 One of which was: Never judge a tire on how it looks.

      Chickadee: Where to start . . . . to break up the monotony of missing dad, mom decided to take us out to lunch yesterday.  (Chinese food - yum!)  When we got home, Irish Rose and I (Chickadee) decided to run get milk before it got dark.
      We had just pulled onto the road leading out of town when Irish Rose asked, "Do you know what this light means?" pointing to a small orange light on the dash.  The combination of tiny arrows, something that looked like parenthesis and a little squiggle didn't make much sense to me.
  "No."  I get the manual out and start looking for it, finally found it: Tire Pressure.  (IR: Tires have their own warning light on the dash board?) OK, so we figured we'd check it when we stopped since we were almost there anyway.
    Just looking at the tires I would have said it would have been one of the ones on the right side of the vehicle because they had a little bulge to them.  But nooooo, it was the left back one which looked perfectly normal, as tires go.  While I got milk Irish Rose called Daddy and asked what we should do.

      IR: I knew he couldn't come and get us, or instantly fix things as much as I would have liked.  But I felt better knowing I could ask him what to do instead of having to figure it out myself.

   C: Dad said if it was a slow leak it should get us to town but it if was a fast leak to ask some one there to look at it.  I checked the pressure again before I climbed back in the van and Irish Rose decided it was behaving like a slow leak.  So we headed back hoping it would get us at least to town.  It did and we stopped at the gas station.

     IR: Neither one of us had ever put air in a tire before, which at my age (don't ask!) is probably laughable (C: No, not really).  I can put gas in the van, although dad usually does that; I can check the oil if I have to, but dad usually does that too; I know how to plug the silly thing in when it is -40.  I have a general idea of how to fill a tire, but no actual experience.  Fortunately, it seems like everybody knows and likes our dad.  I figured if it came right down to it, I could walk into the gas station and announce, "We're The Dad's daughters, and we need help!"  Not really sure how the damsels-in-distress scenario would work out, but I was fairly certain dad's good name would produce help of some kind.
      C: Between the two of us we figured it out. high five smiley Pictures, Images and Photos (In my opinion far easier to do than filling up with gas - IR: while my opinion is that pressurized air is just plain scary.)  We got home just fine and thought that was the end of the adventure.

      IR: Little did we know . . .
  Thursday Chickadee re-checked the tire pressure before errands in town were to be run.  We'd lost enough air that mum decided to call dad and see what he wanted us to do. 

     He called the garage and they told him we could bring it in and they'd look at it.  So Sharpi and I went to work, then picked Mom up when she dropped off the van.  The mechanic said it needed a new tire.
A few hours later Mom and Irish Rose go to pick up the van.  They weren't home two minutes when the phone rang and Mom answered it.  Hanging up, both she and Irish Rose left again.

      IR: Dad had called to find out what the mechanic said - and after hearing what the problem was he promptly sent us back to have the rest of the tires changed.  When the first tire had been changed we were given a basic lesson in The Structure of The Modern Tire.  The mechanic patiently explained that tires have layers ("Cake!  Cakes have layers - everybody loves cake" . . . . . . *ahem* - sorry): there is the tread, and then a layer of wires, and then the third layer that I can't remember.  We had worn every last bit of tread off the tire and were down to the wire bit.  For someone who doesn't know anything about tires, even I knew that was not good.  (C: And I couldn't understand why there are wires in a tire?)
  It wasn't that big of a deal while we were living through it, but after the fact it was a little scary.  Since we live at home it is really easy to rely on dad for what we need; and it is easy to forget we need to be talking to God about what is going on, just like we talk to our dad.  The tire was a good reminder to not trust surface appearances; to ask for help; and that God is far more involved in our lives than we are usually aware of.  Between you and me, I'm really glad He is.  
Irish Rose & Chickadee

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sketch #22 and #24

January is almost gone, and with it the first month of my sketching challenge. 
While I have not resorted to using my Prompt Jar yet, I did take a suggestion from a comment here on the blog.

This is Sketch #22
It does look a bit different in real life (because I can't quite figure out how to photograph drawings to the best advantage yet:). I used a #2 pencil for this sketch, as well as a blending stump to smooth all of my different shades together.
Thanks for the suggestion E. I don't do still life very often, so this was a good exercise for me:)

This is Sketch #24
Once again pencil and blending stump. (Pencil is my favorite medium so far, and I am addicted to the blending stump! I get such a kick out of running it over the paper and seeing all the harsh lines melt into one another.)
Originally this was to be of a person descending a flight of stairs, but I scratched that idea and decided to work on just the stairs instead.

Next time I might post one of my pen sketches or a graphic design (that will actually have some color:)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Did I Really Just do That?

What do these items: A blank pad, pencils, sharpener, eraser, a handful of bright, cheerful markers, and a black Sharpie have in common? . . . . . . . .

They are physical proof that I have, actually, gone completely insane.

Okay, I will admit, maybe not any more insane than usual, but sometimes I look at what I've gotten into and wonder, "What in the world was I thinking!"
As if agreeing to write a novel in a month wasn't enough, I've gone and joined another challenge. This one, however, is a bit different. It does not deal with words. It does not last a month. It doesn't hold the worry about writers' block. 
This challenge consists only of the limit of my imagination, the requirement of plenty of blank paper, well sharpened pencils, and a few ideas. . . . . and by few, I mean 365.
How did I get into this? 
Well. . . . therein lies the story. . . . . .
The bleakness of the outdoor world was beginning to grate on her nerves. Winter was long enough as it was, but to have the snow replaced by harsh, glaringly bare, brown landscape somehow seemed colder and more depressing than a blanket of fresh, glimmering snow would have been.
She felt restless, not an unfamiliar feeling, especially during this time of the year. Her family knew when it reached a rather critical point, for she would begin pacing about the house, bearing a forlorn expression.
The year was spreading out before her, fresh and new, and she found herself lacking plans. Finding something to keep her busy during the cold winter months was pretty much of a necessity, but what was that to be?
On the eve of New Years Day, as she was surfing some of her frequently visited websites, her eye was drawn to a particular thing she hadn't noticed before: 365 Sketchbook.  Hmm, intriguing.
Now, the title of the thread was pretty self explanatory, but did she listen to the little voice that was already buzzing with the sheer nervousness of such a large number? Did she stop to consider just how much work it would entail?
No, she didn't. She clicked on the link and was instantly sucked into a new challenge; to sketch a single drawing every day for the ENTIRE year!
Did she hesitate in joining this challenge? Did she stop and consider that that is a whole lot of paper and she is constantly in a state of "Oh no! I'm almost out of paper!!!!"
Nope, she didn't, she plunged right in with a growing excitement and overwhelming enthusiasm. Really, how hard could it be? Just one, simple sketch a day. . . . . .

Two and a half weeks in and the enthusiasm is still there, albeit a little bit dampened by the fact that I didn't actually take time to think about how many different sketches that actually is. I'm doing okay so far, but I know, at some point, the ideas are going to run out. So, to counteract inevitable Artists Block (apparently there is some kind of Block for everything. . .) a jar has been pulled out and set in a central part of the house. That way, when any of my family members (and even friends) have a spare idea for me they can jot it down on a bit of paper and drop it in the jar. When I simply can't think of a single thing to draw I'm going to pull an idea out of there and do it.
(I must tell you though, I've been having a hard time keeping myself from doing that, simply because I am so curious to see what kind of suggestions are in there!)
It is already helping me, in the sense that I'm forcing myself to step out of my very familiar zone and sketch things I'm not terribly comfortable, or good at, as well as showing me that I actually can pull off some fun sketches without a lot of frustration.

If you have any idea's at all please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I'll post them here for you to see! (If you do, please remember they are only sketches, not in-depth drawings, and therefore I'm asking for things that aren't too intricate:)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Having A Good Clear-Out, Part 2

      This is pretty much where we left the Clear-Out on Monday: neatly boxed up and stacked on the couch.  Sometimes if I get interrupted (or distracted!) the process can stall here for a day or two.  This is why I do clear-outs during holidays instead of during a week when I'm meant to be teaching.  :)

      Just in case you hadn't noticed, I really like lists.  I might not always follow them, but I like making them.  :)  So once I start working on the balance of what I need in an area and what I'm allowed I'm a pretty happy girl.  As I work on the columns, I go through my boxes and slowly start putting things where they belong.  That way my list grows as the number of items in the boxes shrink.  
      In my case it is usually best to start with the things that I need, and get them put away before I start looking at the space that is left.  Just because I'm trying to be tidier and more organized does not negate the indisputable fact that I am still and forever will be a girl who likes pretty things.  Just because I like pretty doesn't mean I always have room for pretty.  Quiet often I end up asking myself why I'm keeping a thing - if it was a special gift from someone; has sentimental value; or can't be easily replaced I keep it.  If it was something cute I picked up somewhere or other its a little easier to let go of. 
      If you look carefully, in the photo above you can see a small pile of something starting to crowd my work-sheets.  This is the in-progress pile that happens when I know an item belongs in a specific zone but I'm not quite sure where to put it.  My tea strainer and its green dish are a classic example: it should go on the Tea Shelf with the wee, three cup pot I usually use for morning tea . . . but there isn't room for it there.  Do I clear a space on my desk so it is in close proximity to its pot, or do I make an effort to make a place for it?  And the bowl that keeps my various chords from creating a tangle of technological umbilical is supposed to go on my desk - but all the shelves haven't been installed yet, so where should it temporarily belong?

      Or this stack of notebooks.  Logically it makes sense to have my kitchen notebook, the canning guide, recipe cards and my household notebook with the cook books I use (most often).  Unfortunately, due to the physical layout of the studio, simply propping them up on the appropriate shelf isn't going to work without a sturdy pair of book ends.  (Things have fallen off that shelf before, which resulted in a scarred instrument.  I'd really like to avoid a repeat of that incident.)
  Which brings us back to that blank note card we set aside last time.  While the blank paper is for mapping and organized lists, the note card is for jotting down necessary Upgrades.  For me, taking the time to de-clutter and re-organize isn't just an effort to battle the chaos I create: it is also an opportunity to recognize just how much I have and be consciously grateful for it.  One of my goals in these clear-outs has always been a creative study in using what I have rather than buying something new.  For example: I don't need a cute, new piggy bank for the change that routinely gets fished out of the bottom of my purse - an empty tea cup works just as well; I don't need a fancy desk organizer with pre-designated slots for more bits than I use on a daily basis - stuff a handful of pens and pencils in an empty jar that used to contain a candle and I'm good to go.  (Not to mention, to keep the pens upright I got to fill the bottom of the jar with really cool glow-in-the-dark rocks that make me as happy as a five year old with a flashlight under a rigged couch-cushion and blankets tent.  My mum has the coolest stuff floating around in her desk!)  However, there are moments when, to make best use of my space, I need to buy something I can't re-purpose out of something I already have.  Several years ago I realized purchasing a real letter-holder was the only way I was going to maintain control of the loose papers that were threatening to take over my desk.  (The envelope box I was using turned out to be a container of the mess instead of an organizer.)  When I realize I need to shop for something, the item goes on the Upgrade card so I know what I need to look for when I go shopping.  So book ends it is.  :)

      Once I get all the important things, and the very special things :), put away, it all looks so nice.  Okay, okay - so that view doesn't look all that different.  As long as I keep the hope chest cleared off for students to put their cases on, it doesn't look much different

      But this . . .  ahhh.  This desk is much nicer than the one I started with.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  Or, almost.  :)  There are a few things that ended up with temporary homes because of the desk shelf shortage - but I've made notes and will be able to adjust when the time comes.
      A good dusting, and a whiz round with a vacuum, and, voila!!  A very cheerful space is re-discovered.

      Once I'm finished putting things away, there is always stuff left over.

      This clear-out is no exception.  One box isn't too bad and I should be able to be clear it out in short order.  I have a feeling I'll keep about half of it and the other half will go.  And once I'm finished - completely done, last box sorted and no accumulated clutter between now and then - the re-discovered tidiness will make me so happy.  Actually, it already does.  :)

      Obviously, I haven't learned everything about keeping a tidy house.  So I want to know . . . .  what are your favorite tips, tricks and techniques to keeping your home clean and organized?  What works for you?  I'd like to learn something new.  :)

       Irish Rose


Having a Good Clear-Out, Part 1

    I don't like admitting that I'm not the best housekeeper, but it's true.  When it comes to basic tasks - like cleaning up the kitchen after a snack, or going after the bunny-fuzzes in a dark corner - I'm easily distracted. In the extreme.  It isn't exaggerating to say that, if at the beginning of the day I start to put away a small collection of hair pins that has accumulated on my bed-side shelf, I could end up half-cleaning out the fridge before I remember that I forgot the garbage can in the pantry when I went to get toilet paper before I collected my stash of earrings and hair ties from mum's bathroom.  And at bedtime the hairpins are still sitting on my desk, where they landed before I emptied the trash.  I know I'm not the only one this happens to, but that doesn't really excuse my penchant for messiness, does it.

      There have been a lot of books written for people like me about how to keep a house clean and how to get things organized once the bunny-fuzzes are out of the way.  I've read a few of them, but so far my favorite bits of organizing/de-junking wisdom has come from Mindy Starns Clark's book The House that Cleans Itself.  I read the first chapter of her book here quite a while ago and decided her initial idea of drawing out a floor plan and labeling problem areas might take some of the frustration out of keeping my space clean.  Just being able to pinpoint where my messes were originating helped.  (In my room, its my bed: if my bed is unmade for as little as three days in a row the area begins to look like a cyclone blew through.  In the studio its my desk; if I don't make a point to shove my laptop under its shelf and keep my unpacking area cleared, 24 hours is enough to send all flat spaces in the room into a cluttered tail spin.)

   Twice a year - once after I finish my last lessons in the spring and again during the post Christmas holiday - I try to have a good clear-out.  Which is nothing more than a fancy way of saying, "I clean, de-clutter/de-junk and re-organize my space."  Turns out my mum was right when she told me (repeatedly) that, "if you put stuff away as soon as you're done, things won't get so messy - nor will things be as likely to be lost."  Go figure!
  Having gone back to my "normal schedule" today, I just finished one of these clear-out projects and thought I'd share a few photos with you.  If for no other reason than to prove that I'm so not perfect!  :)

      For a little perspective: this is what my studio usually looks like (when its tidy).  The view of the "front" door and my rocking chair when you first step inside . . .

       . . . and then my desk to the right.  The very cool, converted-from-an-old-piano-desk that my dad did so much work on for me over the past two years.  (Thanks daddy!)  I bought it from our church thinking we could get it done during that year's Christmas break from teaching.  Riiigggghhhht.  Had I known just how much work it was to disassemble a piano, I probably wouldn't have started in the first place.
(By the way mum, that piano to desk thing was a brilliant idea!)

      With everything that happened during the holiday break - and everything that obviously didn't - this is what it looked like when I started.  See, I told you I'm not perfect . . . .

      Unfortunately it gets messier the closer one gets to my desk.  (Hey!!  Did someone give me a Canon camera for Christmas that I didn't know about??!  How did that happen?)

    DAAAHHHHH!!!  What happened??!!  No, never mind.  It's better not to ask.  

    My method of taking back control of this chaos is fairly straightforward: get a big box (or two or three) and completely clean off the flat spaces.  In this case I had to borrow one of the crates my dad uses to lug milk home, since I couldn't find enough boxes.
    Usually I empty off all the small shelves, too, but this time I relaxed the rules a little: I knew there weren't going to be a lot of changes as far as my tea shelf went, so I didn't bother adding that to the confusion of the Pack Box.

            Don't worry if things look pretty empty when you're done.  Its supposed to.  I don't usually pull the walls bare as well, but mum gave me an adorable set of box shelves which I wanted up so I knew it was time the wall was re-designed as well.  (Pulling down the curtain and doing a sand/paint job on the wall would have been a good idea while I had things pulled apart - but that wasn't a during-holiday-project.  That's more like a full-week-during-summer project.)

      Once I have some work-space cleared I pull out the diagram of the last Zone chart I did - don't look too close because, really, I'm not the artist in the family.  And I sort-of figured asking Sharpi for story illustrations was more important than studio zone charts.  :)

      I'm always surprised at how much the floor lay-out changes in the studio, even though (with the exception of the desk) furniture doesn't get moved around a lot.  I take a few minutes to go over what I wrote down last time I de-cluttered as well as check the list of Upgrades that has been in process.  Then I get out two new pieces of paper and a note card.  On one I re-draw a basic, rudimentary floor map and assign numbers to my flat surfaces and storage areas; on the second I create two columns so I can list what I need in each area to make the best use of my space, and what I am allowed in each area to make it pretty.    The note-card gets set aside for later.

To Be Continued . . . . . . . .

Monday, January 2, 2012

Winter Accessories: Scarves

   One of my very favorite accessories is not only very pretty, but also useful.  Today we will be exploring a few different ways to use a scarf.
   As it gets colder the light, thin scarves give way to those with the capabilities to not only look pretty, but to help keep you warm as well.
Look One
These scarves are my favorite, I use them mainly for tying back my hair or wrapped around my neck for some added flair.

For this look simply wrap around your neck, take one end as though you are going to tie it in a knot, instead of pulling it all the way through leave it looped. This look works really well with shorter scarves too.
Now, these are kind of thin, but, they are 100% silk and actually are pretty warm.

Look Two

This scarf is of a heavier weave than Scarf #1 and is, thus, warmer and more suited for the cold winter months, yet it is light enough that it isn't too bulky.
This is my personal favorite way to wear a scarf.
 Simply wrap around your neck and adjust tightness. I like to wear it tighter around my neck so it looks smoother, my sister likes to wear them looser:)
For another look take one side of your scarf and wrap around your neck again, leaving this loop to fall below your first one.  (I know that sounds kind of confusing, I had a picture but it came out blurry.)

Look Three

This scarf is heavier than both Scarf #1 and #2, therefore it might look bulkier, but it is extremely soft and warm. :)
Take your scarf and place around your neck as pictured below.

Pull the two ends through the loop.

 And there you have it!
 Adjust tightness according to what you like.
You can even add a twist to the looped end before pulling the ends through for something
a little bit different.
Look Four

If you are looking for a quick fix to cover your head and don't happen to have a hat nearby simply drape your scarf over your head and wrap the two ends back over your shoulders for a beautiful, elegant cape-like hood!

There you have it, not many I know, we haven't really gotten into exploring the different ways to tie scarves but hopefully it was interesting:)