Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One Year Kid Update

The photos of above are kiddo selfies.

My kiddo's favorite things:
  • Book: “My First Colors Board Book,” and the big book that plays sounds that his great aunt Mary gave him
  • Color: Yellow
  • Vehicle: Fire truck
  • Toys: Little Tikes Car (he rides in it if you push him - and he can get inside it and shut the door by himself), his stacking toy (has different colored shapes that you stack onto pegs), and Mega Bloks
  • Words: He can say “daddy,” “mama,” “baba” (for bottle), “no,” and “oh.” Sometimes it sounds like he says other words.
  • Animal: He still loves our black-and-white cat, but he is showing increased interest in our dog (before he ignored the dog)

My kiddo's Milestones:
  • Mobility – He cannot walk yet but he can pull up and furniture-surf. He can walk if you hold his hands, and recently he has been able to walk while only holding on with one hand. He can also climb fairly well, over curbs and even up and down steps (we supervise him closely though). He has been able to get down from a bed or couch by himself for quite some time (although we still supervise him in order to be safe).
  • Food – He can hold his own bottle with one hand. He can feed himself finger foods. He can drink regular milk (not formula).
  • Motor Skills – He can make a fist and pull his own arm through the sleeve of his clothing. He can pick up small objects. He loves turning the pages of his books, and sometimes even points to the objects on the pages. He seems to be right-handed.
  • Sleeping – He has been able to sleep alone throughout the night on most nights for quite a while. However, he still prefers to also take two naps during the day (one at about 10 a.m. and one at about 12:30 p.m.).
  • Social Skills – He is a bit of a toy-hog. He shows concern for other children, such as turning to see what is happening if he hears a child crying. His best friend is a little Asian girl named Ally.

  • He seems to generally be in a jolly mood. He loves smiling and laughing. He gets upset if he does not get his way, or if he is separated (by a door or baby gate) from his people, but he gets over it relatively quickly once the problem goes away. He generally responds favorably to new people, instead of being shy. He prefers to do things himself, including: holding the phone himself during FaceTime with Gram, turning the pages of his books himself, and trying himself to stack his toys even though it is challenging for him. He really is a little person.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vacation Photo

It was great, but we're back now.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Gym Room

One of the reasons my significant other (SO) and I decided to buy our house was that it had a downstairs room that we thought would be perfect for use as an exercise room. Fast forward two years, one dog and one kid later and it's been used for only one thing, storage. There are many reasons for this failure but I'd like to get back on track. Here is the room after two organizing sessions. One day, I hope to proudly post a finished gym room like in my Pinterest board. Hopefully, you never get this far off track like we did.

Organizing my Utility Room...

There is not much to say here, so I'll let the photos do the talking. This is part of a larger effort on my part to free up physical space in my house to make way for future endeavors (like parenthood) as well as the unexpected. I do not want to be held back by previous endeavors (vacation souvenirs, sports equipment I no longer use, failed paintings, items I regret buying, furniture or decor that suited previous residences but don't fit in at my current home...). I am trying to pare down the items I own to include only those that are useful, with a few items that are sentimental sprinkled in - you know, my basics.

Step 6: Under the Sinks

A while ago, I found a 21-Day Home Organization Challenge, and slowly, I have been doing them. Step 6 (because there was no way I was going to get it all done in only 21 days) was conquering the area under the sink. And, here are my results:

The basic idea is always the following:

  • Remove items that belong someplace else
  • Toss items that can be thrown away (e.g. expired, broken, useless, duplicate, or empty items)
  • Donate items that can be donated (not applicable this time)
  • Consider making use of vertical space (not applicable this time)
  • Group like-items together (preferably by corralling them in some kind of storage container)
  • Do not fear empty space - it's a good thing to have leftover space

I have now done step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4, and step 6 (above). I did step 5 too but I really don't think the Internet needs to see the inside of my purse to prove it ;). Plus, my clean purse results lasted all of like ten hours, whereas I have been successfully making sure the other areas that are part of this challenge don't get recluttered.

DIY Needlekeep

When I cross stitch, I want a handy small yet noticeable (not easy to lose) place to put my needles. I decided that a "needle keep" (also called a "needle book") would be that place. I tried to buy a DIY kit for this item, but I could not find any such kits. Although normally I hate the results of my DIY efforts and sewing, and normally I prefer buying something ready-made if I can find it at an inexpensive price, I thought it would be artistically disingenuous to be cross stitching by hand while using an item made by a stranger to hold my supplies. So, despite these totally cute needle books on Etsy, I made my own using thread, a sewing needle, and two colors of felt.

Needle books on Etsy, from top left, going clockwise:

Cross Stitch Sunflower

Here is my finished gift. The sunflower was created using a kit. However, I added the lettering using an alphabet I made up (there was not as much horizontal space as most cross stitch alphabets require so I had to improvise) and a purple thread I bought seperately. Over all, this wound up being a somewhat expensive gift because I bought a frame (after spending twelve hours on this I wanted to protect it with a frame). Additionally, I had a lot of trouble with this pattern (as documented via twitter), because of the subtle variations in the colors (I could not always tell them apart) and because of the weird color names (salad dark, salad medium, salad light...). I still have two more cross stitch gifts I need to finish before the end of August!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Playroom... Still Working

Here is the new mood board. The older version of the mood board is here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pottery and Vase Shapes

Do you ever go on Etsy or Ebay and struggle for the words to search for exactly the kind of pottery you want? Different shapes have different names.

To be completely accurate...

  • Not included in the Modern Shapes of Pottery illustration above are turnip-shaped vases, mushroom-shaped vases, ethnic-shaped vases (e.g. African vases), buckets, planters, and platters.
  • Included in the Traditional Shapes above are the: amphora, hydria, oinochoe, olpe, krater, kylix, kantharos, and pyxis. Not included in the Traditional [Greek] Shapes of Pottery illustration is the lekythos shape, mainly because I found the funery-themed pottery to be kind of depressing. The source for shapes for this illustration is from the Polytropon Art website, although the lettering and layout is my own.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Say the Names of the Colors in Four Languages

This post could be subtitled:
"Orange" means Orange

I don't know why Americans, Frenchmen, and Germans can all agree to call orange "orange," but it's interesting nonetheless. I also think it's interesting that in America, the word "purple" usually means purple or violet, but in other countries purple and violet are separate and distinct colors from one another.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Six Tenets of Home Spending List

Ideally, you can afford to maintain your home as needed and, by saving up, you can afford to make periodic upgrades, and to do one room makeover a year. By "maintain your home," I mean that you can and do have routine maintenance performed (ex: yearly HVAC servicing) and can and do repair or replace all items that are unsafe, hazardous or broken (ex: a broken fence). By "periodic upgrades," I mean that you can go beyond maintenance and actually improve your home and thus increase its resale value and livability (ex: tearing down a wall between the kitchen and dining room to create a more open layout). By "room makeover," I mean that you can alter the functionality, comfort-level, and appearance of an existing room. Sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn – for example, if you suddenly had to renovate your whole house to make it wheelchair friendly – and your home spending budget will get blown out of the water. But for the most part, if you buy a house that you can comfortably afford, save up for larger purchases, have a rainy day fund, and be thoughtful with your home spending, then you will be able to do the three things I mentioned above (1. Maintain Your Home As Needed, 2. Upgrade Your Home Periodically, and 3. Do a Room Makeover Periodically).

Here are Six Tenets of Home Spending that will help you to be thoughtful with your home spending:

  1. Have a monthly home spending budget. Some months you will go over it, and others you will go under it, but it helps to have a general goal / target in mind.
  2. Make sure your spending habits are sustainable. For example, top-to-bottom holiday decorating for every holiday is financially unsound - it's better to prioritize one or two holidays a year and under-decorate for the rest.
  3. Track your expenditures and spending categories. So you can see where your money is going, here are some basic spending categories to get you started: mortgage or rent, utilities, education, entertainment, health care, transportation, clothing, food, and home furnishings. Create some additional categories (or subcategories) that are relevant to you, specifically – here are some ideas that might be applicable: books, charitable donations, restaurants, groceries, pets… You can track your spending yourself, or you can let a site like Mint.com to do it for you. One thing that’s nice about Mint is that it will show you a monthly pie chart that is divided into various spending categories, and you can customize the categories. Knowing how your money is being spent can help you make meaningful decisions about where to cut back on spending.
  4. Accept that everything you can buy is temporary. Nice items, although they do last longer than cheap items, will eventually wear out and need either replacing or repairing. I used to think of home furnishings and upgrades (e.g. new kitchen cabinets, flooring, hardware fixtures…) in terms of creating a nice infrastructure that I could then blissfully forget about. Subsequently, I realized that besides an initial investment cost, everything has an associated maintenance cost and time, a life span, a resale value, and a movability factor. Only once I consider all of these additional factors will I determine if an item is right for me.Take granite countertops for example – they require sealing annually, they last for a long time, they add to a home’s resale value, and I will not be taking them with me if I move / relocate.
  5. Avoid total gut jobs if possible. Frequently on design blogs and in shelter magazines, I see whole-house renovations. While these are great for before-and-after photo comparisons, these are very expensive, and usually not affordable or practical for most people. For example, even if you had saved up $50k to entirely renovate your kitchen, how long are you willing to subsist on takeout food and disposable cutlery? Additionally, doing a top-to-bottom large-scale renovation now will probably look dated in ten years. That’s because tastes change, and because buying everything at one time means that you’ll probably purchase (intentionally or not) things that are trendy / trending at that time. My case in point, the makeovers in reruns of the 2011 season of the HGTV show PropertyBrothers which now look very 2011. Assuming that your house was not the victim of a catastrophic event (like a flood) and that it is structurally sound, try to identify the things that must be replaced and focus on those “mandatory” things first, rather than doing a total gut job.
  6. Try to make double-duty purchases. These purchases fall into more spending categories than just one, just stretching the value of your buck. For example, if your hobby is building things (DIY), then your home DIY spending is both home spending and entertainment spending. Alternatively, if you love going to flea markets (or estate sales, or auctions, or yard sales), then money spent on those trips doubles as part of your entertainment budget. There are endless examples of double-duty items, and they’re not limited to just home spending. For example, to a person who loves to cook, high-quality spices and organic ingredients would count as both food and entertainment. If the food was particularly healthful, I might even include it in my health and wellness category. Generally speaking, you can justify spending slightly more on items if they’re double-duty (multi-category) items.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Cross Stitch Squirrel

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I committed myself to doing five cross stitch projects before the end of August. One of those was a cute gift for someone's birthday. Here is what I made:
my finished project

ironing the back
my custom details (I modified the pattern)
this is the original design from Etsy shop ChezSucreChez

Monday, June 30, 2014

Kid (and Adult) Craft Room

When I was growing up, I did not have a play room. This, combined with a lack of sufficient toy storage (furniture or containers) in my bedroom, meant that my toys cluttered up my bedroom (as well as any other room that I could get away with leaving them in).

So, now that I'm a mom, I want to make it a priority to give my kid(s) enough space to store his(their) things - toys, art supplies, and games. Currently, I am in the process of setting up a kids’ craft space even though my kid is under one year old! (#BePrepared) This space will also double as my own crafting / creating space.

The one thing from my childhood bedroom / home that I wish I had was a small (11"x14"?) poster-sized photograph of a full moon at night. I’ve tried to find something similar on Etsy but have not been successful yet.

Main Goals for my Kids’ and Adults’ Craft Room:
  • Plenty of space to create
  • Plenty of space to store supplies
  • It will be okay to get it messy
  • It will be inspiring and colorful
  • It will be (relatively) cat-proof
Additional Goals:
  • Have white walls with pops of color
  • Display my child's(children's) artwork and create artwork together
  • Specialize - instead of storing every craft item imaginable, I will be focusing on paper crafts and cross stitch for me, and coloring and painting for the kiddo(s)
  • I will cover a normal trashcan with a print of constellations or some map-like print
  • The sheets on the daybed are actually green, not rainbow stripes like in the mood board
  • I have a love/hate relationship with the rug in this space


Buyers' Remorse

Inspired by this post on Design*Sponge, I started thinking about my biggest purchasing regrets. They are:
  • 85% of all the shoes I've ever owned
  • A pressure cooker
  • A rug for my office

First, the shoes! Women's shoes never seem to fit my feet, which are wide at the ball of the foot and narrow at the heel, so 98% of all women's shoes are uncomfortable for me (except for tall boots, which somehow fit me). Other than my boots and my wedding shoes (some gloriously impractical steel blue high heels), I regret all of my shoe purchases because they never, ever fit. I'll try on everything in a store, none will fit, and then I'll convince myself that one of them did and go home with it. This includes running shoes - I've bought ones that are a size small and a size big to try and get something to fit and none ever do. Shoes I've regretted.

Second - the pressure cooker, which I registered for as a wedding present (technically I did not buy it) - I have never, ever used it. I'm too afraid to operate it and injury myself, yet I feel too guilty to donate it since it was a present and since I hope that someday I will muster up the courage to try it (probably while wearing safety googles because I'm still a scaredy-cat).

Third, the rug for my office - it sheds like crazy and it's probably too small for the space. I still like its design and colors, and I did get it for a good price on sale. But, I will never again buy a rug that is less than 7 feet in any direction - it's just not practical if you don't want to keep stepping on the ridged rug-to-floor transition area every 5 minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

House Tour, Master Bedroom

Earlier this year, after evaluating my "before bedroom," I created a Mood Board for my Bedroom. Some of the changes I have not implemented yet, like changing the wall color to "Meander Blue" by Sherwin Williams (instead of the current blue color, which is darker and less minty).

For reference, here is the "before" bedroom.
Here are the changes I made:
  • Got a gray headboard, thus making the bed the focus of the room
  • Got a white and tan duvet
  • Got a silver tray*
  • Got Euro shams
  • Got handmade ceramic bowls
  • Got a blue vase
  • Got a rope lamp, thus enhancing the beachy vibe
  • Got a blue rug, thus adding warmth
  • Got a grid-style gray table for left side of bed, thus replacing a wimpy magazine rack
  • Cut down trees outside right bedroom window, thus letting in more light
  • Installed a shelf for pictures, thus freeing up space on the top of the dresser
  • Installed a ledge for makeup, and got a mirror to go above it
  • Installed a hook*
*It's not visible in my photos.

The room is now better suited to reading because the new grid nightstand is higher, thus elevating my reading light, and because the euro shams and headboard are comfy to lean against. The room now also has added functionality as a makeup application area - my "makeup station" has a round mirror plus a ledge on which to store makeup brushes and a tin box containing eye shadow.

What I'm Not Going to Implement from the Mood Board
Much as I like the idea of having a plant in this room, my cats are not going to let that happen, so I'm not planning to add another potted plant (after doing so again and failing miserably, again). Also, although accent pillows are very cute, it's just not worth it to me since the bed already has four pillows (two Euros and two regulars) - taking off the two Euro ones is enough of a hassle without adding another pillow to the equation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cross Stitch Snake Pattern

It is hard to find a snake cross stitch pattern, but since 2013 was the year of the snake, I wanted to. I found one online that seemed to have that friendly nursery vibe I wanted, but I didn't like the colors, so I created my own in Adobe Illustrator with colors that I like better.

How I created this in Illustrator CS5: I set up my project as a 5 x 5 inch document in RGB mode* (File -> Document Color Mode -> RGB Color) with the grid set to major grid lines every 1 inch and 14 minor grid lines per inch (Edit -> Preferences -> Guides and Grid -> grid line every 1 inch and 14 sub-divisions), and snap-to-grid turned on (View -> place check-mark next to Snap to Grid). Obviously, I made sure my grid was visible (View -> place check-mark next to Show Grid). I created each box as a separate square using the Rectangle Tool. To select all of the squares in a given color, I used the Magic Wand Tool.

*Note: If you are creating an image primarily for print copies (from a printer), then choose CMYK mode. I chose RGB mode because I wanted to publish this graphic on the web.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Six-Month Kid Update

Inspired by this post from Emily Henderson, I'm doing my own 6-month update (1 month late)...

Day to day...
Most days have the same rhythm and schedule, enough said.

Currently, SeriousKiddo gets formula as well as baby food. If I could get people to do just one thing it would be to get them to be more understanding in that breastfeeding is harder for some people than for others. I was all set to breastfeed until I actually had my baby. He never, ever was able to nurse on me (hello pumping). And I did not produce enough milk – on my best day of pumping ever, I got 10 ounces (total, not per boob). Most days, we’re talking about 6 pumping sessions (sometimes up to 8 sessions) and 4.5 ounces of milk per day (total) – spending 30 minutes pumping and then cleaning equipment times for 6 sessions a day equals 3 hours of pumping activities per day WITHOUT the baby. Pumping means I couldn’t hold my baby because, duh, I was all hooked up. I was so tired of people asking me “why can’t he just latch on?” and “why can’t you produce more milk?” and their inuendo that I was somehow not trying hard enough. After 6 months of trying desperately to breastfeed, my body stopped producing milk altogether (I happened to be fighting back-to-back colds at the time, possibly a contributing factor). I am writing all of this in the hope that someone, anyone, reads this and decides to be more understanding. We, and our babies, are all made differently – breastfeeding may be awesome for one family and totally unworkable for another family.

Baby food...
I have no issues or concerns with paying $1.50 per container for Gerber 1st Foods (example). We started with veggies when SeriousKiddo was 5 1/2 months old. Within the last few weeks (when SeriousKiddo was around 6 3/4 months old), we started adding in baby food that had meat (turkey) or fruit. We didn't add fruit to his diet earlier because we didn't want him to develop a sweettooth, and so far it has worked! He will eat anything, except possibly cereal. He does not seem to like baby oatmeal or Cheerios.

Work life balance...
It has been challenging to say the least. Some people "get it" and others don't. By "get it", I mean that they are generally understanding or sympathetic. And it's not necessarily the people I would have expected... some people who don't have kids have been really understanding (these folks are usually petowners) - God bless these people. And some guys who I normally don't talk to have gone out of their way to come and tell me that when their kids were little (ages 0 - 5 years old), it was the BEST time of their lives - so sweet! But, there have been a couple of women who I would have thought would be understanding (they after all have kids) but they have actually been the opposite - they have been totally dismissive of anything I say that is even slightly negative (it can't all be roses). I listen carefully whenever they talk about their problems - I'm not asking for reciprocity, but a little tolerance when I'm having a less than stellar day would be nice.

Luckily, SeriousKiddo is pretty good about going to sleep, unless something is bothering him (like if he has cold, or if he is over-tired, or if he is teething). We haven't done "sleep training.” We just put SeriousKiddo down in his crib, which is in a separate room from us, and then we wait. First, we wait beside his crib, and tuck him in, rub his back, turn on his sound machine. If he starts to go to sleep, we leave the room. If he does not go to sleep, then we just assume he's not ready for bed yet, and we pick him up, feed him, hang out with him in another room, etc. We try to keep his crib a place for sleep only, so if he's not falling asleep, we don't want him in there. Once we leave his room while he's starting to drift off, we still listen, and if he starts to stir, we go back in there. Sometimes, it is as simple as putting his pacifier back in. If it's not that simple, then we'll pick him up and go hang out some more in the other room together with him. I basically just do whatever the baby wants - if he wants sleep, I'll let him, and if he doesn't, then I don't push the issue. Some days he sleeps much more than others – I'm not here to judge his schedule - I just support him in whatever he feels like doing.

Parenting Philosophy...
It would be difficult to summarize my parenting philosophy, but here are some things I am going to try to do:
- Support SeriousKiddo in whatever he wants to do (whatever he wants to be, whoever he wants to love...)
- Introduce him to art (but if he doesn't like it then I won't push it)
- Give him a happy childhood (adulthood is hard, so I'd like his kidhood to be as wonderful as possible)
- Set boundaries (no matter how cute it is, I am not going to laugh when he yanks my glasses off)

Support from family and friends...
Generally it has been amazing. I could not do parenthood alone. I feel incredibly grateful. I basically hibernated for the first few months of SeriousKiddo's life - his crying was unpredictable, it takes a ton of stuff to travel with him, I was learning and getting used to new routines for us, I was afraid of germs and him or I getting sick, and I was generally feeling stressed out all. the. time... It has been hard to bounce back from that period of hibernation now that SeriousKiddo is easier to travel with (because his crying is more predictable and I'm now better able to know what I need to do to prevent or stop it). Starting around month 4, and especially after month 5, it has been easier to go places with him and see people.

Creative pursuits or lack thereof...
I haven't been painting (I do watercolors), but that's because my "office" is not separated from the baby's room and he's sleeping a lot. I do not want to wake him up. However, I'm slowly getting set up to do art again. In the mean time, I'm finding something really reassuring and relaxing about cross stitch.

My post-baby body...
I have lost the weight in that I actually weigh less now than when I got pregnant. But, my body is definitely NOT the same as it used to be. For starters, my hips are wider. Most of my pre-baby jeans will never fit again – my bones are actually wider. It’s not flab – it’s that the baby realigned my bones. I used to have narrow hips and shop in the juniors section for size 7 jeans because adult jeans didn’t fit my narrow hips. And now, I finally have woman hips (which is kinda a bummer because juniors’ jeans are dirt cheap). Also, I have a stomach pooch (bulge) where the baby used to be. Although totally not sexy, I look at this pooch and think to myself, “Well, baby #2 could go in there some day, so I’ll worry about this later… like 10 years later.” I’m counting my calories and fitting in walks (down the block, around a store…) whenever possible, but I'm not hugely concerned about how my body looks right now.

And I thought organizing my digital media (photo files) was hard before the baby. OMG - I have photos I took, photos family took and emailed me, Facebook photos, Twitter photos... It's overwhelming. And despite that I now have all these great photos, I simultaneously feel like I need more photos, yet I am worried that I will lose the photos I already have. My favorite mode of communication right now is probably Twitter, but I wish that more of my Facebook friends were on Twitter (I hate The Facebook).

Concluding thoughts...
Having a baby was probably the best thing I will ever do. There is something surprisingly liberating about feeling like my life is no longer all about me. I am looking forward to the things that SeriousKiddo will do in his life more than I am looking forward to the things that I will do in mine. Meanwhile, I treasure all the little moments like grabbing his feet, patting his diapered butt, and tickling his tummy with one of his stuffed toys. There is almost something simultaneously vulnerable and terrifying about having a kid because, as a wise friend once told me, they become your heart. And the trouble with having your heart live outside your body is that you can no longer control it. Something terrible could happen to SeriousKiddo at any time in any place, even if (or especially if) I am not there. I do not have a solution for this very real fear - I can't rationalize some sort of philosophical "c'est la vie" type of argument that would make me feel more at ease. All I can do is control the small things like bumper-guards (for coffee table corners) and carseats and cabinet door looks (for the cleaning products cabinet), so I am controlling the sh*t out of that stuff right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wedding Anniversary Gifts Infographic

Recently, I made this wedding gifts infographic. Not bad, but not great. From a design perspective, it's a snoozer - I think there aren't enough saturated colors and there isn't enough contrast to make this graphic interesting. I like mellow colors, but these were too calm even for me. So, I created this updated one (more in order to polish my infographic-crafting skills than for any other reason)...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Caterpillar Continues (Cross Stitch)

As I mentioned in my earlier post on why I cross stitch, I am currently working on a cross stitch caterpillar project as a gift for my SIL when her baby arrives. Here is my progress so far!

Note: The idea of "days" is not strictly literal in my infographic above because each time I sat down to work on my project, I took a photo afterwards. So, if I had two cross stitching sessions during a day, that counts as two "days" in the infographic above.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cross Stitching (This is why I cross stitch)

I am going to be doing more cross stitch lately. Why?

1) I noticed that I spend a lot of money on gifts for friends and family, and being a new parent, I do not have a lot of money to spend. DIY gifts are from the heart and affordable. Currently, I'm making a caterpillar project for my sister-in-law's (SIL's) new baby. When it's finished, it will look like this:

Design and kit by Whistling Doe on Etsy.

2) I enjoy cross stitch, and I would like to get faster (and I will get faster the more often I do it). I have done several cross stitch projects in the past, and I find it relaxing and almost meditative. Here is my progress on my current caterpillar project after three days:

3) I have decided to focus on only the crafts that I love right now. For me, that means paper crafts (like handmade or hand-stamped cards), watercolors, and cross stitch. Although I have done many other types of crafting in the past (wreaths, fabric projects such as sewing, floral arranging, yarn projects such as crochet), right now I'd like to focus on being a specialist, rather than a generalist, and doing that means narrowing down my scope of projects, at least for now.

Monday, May 26, 2014

21 Day Organization Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 is organizing the laundry room. Oh my goodness, I had no idea it was so bad in there! Here is the original post with all of the days / steps.

Pre-organizing, we had been keeping some questionable items in here, including cat carriers, light bulbs, and spare wood. Post-organizing, everything in there makes sense.

Additionally, the cleaning and organizing bug (energy) spread into the guest bathroom, leading to a clean under-the-sink area, and a clean inside-the-medicine-cabinet area. Since the beginning of this 21-step organization challenge, I have come across quite a few "homeless" containers in our house. I am corralling them, and if they're still empty at the end of this challenge then I will donate them to charity.

Oh How I've Changed My 12 Basics...

Before I had my baby, I wrote this post on my twelve home basics - THE items that I needed*. However, our new addition changed a lot of the ways I think about things, sometimes on a subtle, quasi-subconscious level. Here are my current twelve basics. I am restricting this list to non-baby items**.

My Basics
1-my bed - Sleep is a must
2-my iPhone 5c - I take photos on it of the baby and I love FaceTime
3-our cabin-shaped incense burner - For when romance strikes
4-our pets - They complete our family
5-paper - I use an owl notebook as a journal (it is hard to find unlined books), plus I have many different kinds of paper on hand for creating art or handmade cards (watercolor paper, Origami paper, crepe paper), as well as some stationary whenever I need to say "Hello" or "Thank you"
6-hair ties - Babies pull hair when it is not tied back
7-the baby necklace - shortly before our baby arrived, my husband bought me a blue necklace that I was wearing when our baby was born
8-the baby fig tree - I am going insane trying to keep this little tree alive since the Froylan cat likes to destroy it, but it is the same age as our little one and I would like it to grow up into a big tree one day
9-my West Elm Henry loveseat in dove gray - this sofa reminds me of "my style" - soft, quasi-luxurious, light in color, and mellow
10-my Emu knee-high boots - I am known for my love of a good pair of boots, and these are very comfortable too
11-our first decoy duck, and our Korean wedding ducks - I do not need our whole collection of ducks (we have about ten), but I do need these three
12-my blue poppies print from Target - I love big artwork and the color blue

Why My Basics Changed

  • Tangible objects seem less important to me now that the baby has arrived, period.
  • There is a whole lot less space in our house for my stuff because the baby's stuff takes up a lot of space. I'd like to have as much space in my house as possible right now because soon that little guy will be crawling all over the place and I want him to have the room to do so. Less stuff = Less hazards + Less obstacles
  • I have less time to do general house cleaning (because the baby takes up a lot of time, as does cleaning his accouterments such as his bottles and clothes), and the less stuff I have, the easier it will be to clean the house. Less stuff = Do not have to clean it or maintain it anymore
  • Because I have less money and space for things for me since the little one arrived, I am now paying more attention to small items (like eye shadow) rather than items that would cost more and eat up more spatial real estate (like furniture).
  • I appreciate timeless things more now, but I've also realized that nothing is really timeless - everything is temporary in a sense.

I guess I just have a whole lot less tolerance than I did before for keeping my stuff, because I am all about that little baby.

*Note 1: Apparently, I had written the earlier post last year but never actually published it, so I retroactively published it.
**Note 2: If you really want to know, my twelve must-have baby items right now would be:
1-SpaSilk burp cloths, 2-Pampers Swaddlers diapers, 3-Huggies Natural Care diaper wipes, 4-my diaper bag / tote with matching diaper mat, 5-his crib, 6-a carseat, 7-A+D cream, 8-gum-drop pacifiers, 9-Sophie the Giraffe natural teether, 10-Philips Avent bottles, 11-his fuzzy soft lion nap blanket, and 12-his hand-knitted pumpkin hat.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anniversary Gifts by Year

I have been thinking about getting my hubby a DIY gift this year for our anniversary. I am thinking about cross-stitching the state where we got married with a heart over the location of the town where we had our ceremony. Will he like it? Who knows, he is not a sentimental guy.

However, I started to wonder, what are we supposed to get each other? Hallmark has an answer for that here.

An infographic it was not, which would make it difficult for me to Pin on Pinterest. So, I created the info graphic below (and spent way, way too much time creating the decorative little icons).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Three Properties of Color

Sometimes, color terminology can be a gray* area, pun intended. I would like to help by explaining the basics of color vocabulary here.

Sometimes, I write something that I want to remember, and so it was when I edited a certain Wikipedia page on the Elements of Art** and wrote this:
"There are three properties to color. The first is hue, which simply means the name we give to a color (red, yellow, blue, green, etc.). The second property is intensity, which refers to the vividness of the color. For example, we may describe an intense blue color as "bright, rich, and vibrant". We may conversely describe a low-intensity blue color as "dull, subtle and grayed". A color's intensity is sometimes referred to as its "colorfulness", its "saturation", its "purity" or its "strength". A color's perceived intensity is related to its perceived brightness (brighter colors are more intense). The third and final property of color is its value, meaning how light or dark it is. The terms shade and tint are in reference to value changes in colors. In painting, shades are created by adding black to a color, while tints are created by adding white to a color"***

And sometimes, when I really want to remember something, I create an infographic.

Some clarification here regarding the concepts described in the Wikipedia article.
  • First, what is considered a hue is debatable. If you are using paint, it is blue, red, and yellow. But if you are using light or RGB graphics, then it is red, green, and blue. Some people consider all the colors of the ROYGBIV rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) a hue.
  • Second, although Wikipedia puts color saturation under "colorfulness," if you are sitting in art class the words "color saturation" and "purity" will probably be used instead of the word "colorfulness."
If you are really interested in color and want to know more, I would recommend taking a color theory class at a local college. It was probably the best class I took when I got my minor in Fine Art. Alber's color theory book is also a great place to learn more.

*A fun side note is that "gray" and "grey" mean the same thing (unless you are talking about a specific person or specific thing, like Earl Grey tea). A minority of people insist that they are actually separate colors and that gray is a darker color whereas grey is lighter. However, the majority of people think the words are interchangeable and that the difference is merely that Americans prefer to spell it with an 'a' whereas the British prefer to spell it with an 'e'.
**I pasted what I wrote here because, since Wikipedia is an ever-evolving medium, what I wrote could be changed at any time. I wanted a static copy of what I wrote.
***I did not include my reference sources here, but I submitted the source information to Wikipedia when I submitted my verbiage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

21 Day Organization Challenge - Day 3 (and my Photoshop settings)

As I mentioned on Day 2, I am treating this as a 21-step process, rather than a 21-day process. Here is my original post with all of the steps laid out and the catchall infographic.

Day 3 is organizing the area under beds. There is nothing under my bed, and the shoes under the baby's crib are already tidy, so I tackled the troubled area under the guest bed / daybed.



The Process...
I started with tidying the top of the bed. Then I removed everything that was under the bed and dusted the floor. I organized the contents inside the IKEA Vardo underbed storage box (which you can't see to appreciate). The green-and-white box contained magazine clippings. I was able to take photos of the clippings with my iPhone and upload them to my Pinterest account using the iPhone Pinterest app (available in the iTunes store). I was then able to discard the originals.

Photoshop Photo-Editing Steps...
Speaking of processes, here is how I got these photos online. I took a couple of shots with my iPhone, then I emailed the photos to myself. From there, I downloaded the photos onto my computer and opened them in Photoshop*. I created five layers...

  • The bottom-most layer is the unaltered photo (marked 1 in the Layers palette).
  • The next two layers (marked 2 and 3) were added to minimize the appearance of wrinkles in the after photo. Basically, I used the Eyedropper tool (top circle on left), took a sample of the color of the sheet (by clicking on the sheet), and then "painted" over the sheet using the Paintbrush tool (middle circle on left). I set my paintbrush to a large size (172 pt**), reduced the opacity (to 36% opacity), and chose Overlay mode (instead of Normal mode). I used the Eraser tool (bottom-most circle on left) to blur the edges between my painting and the real edge of the sheet. For blending, I like to set my eraser to a relatively large size (131 pt**) and a reduced opacity (33%). For both painting and erasing, I usually like to reduce the opacity but keep the flow rate at 100%.
  • The next layer (marked 4) is the Curves layer, and you can see what settings I chose by looking at the histogram to the left of the Layers palette. I prefer to customize the Curves rather than use Auto Contrast or Auto Color. You just click create a new Adjustment Layer above your photo layer and toggle away. If you took your photo indoors, this usually means moving the right side of the blue "line" in towards the left a little.
  • Finally, I added my text layer (marked 5 and in a circle). I used black font, which is hex # 000000, and strong MV Boli font (in a circle in the Character palette). For online font, as a matter of personal preference because I think it improves readability, I usually space the characters slightly further apart than the default (the default is 0, but here I have used 175 pt**, which sounds like a lot unless you consider that I am using 200 pt** font).

Photoshop Notes:
*I have Adobe Photoshop CS 5. I am currently avoiding the newest version of Photoshop, CS 6, because it is subscription-based and cloud-only. You own nothing and you would have to pay every year in order to keep using it, which in my opinion is outrageous for the casual user.
*A point (abbreviated "pt") is the unit of text measurement. 72 pts = 1 inch. For my example, my original image as imported from my iPhone was 3264 pixels wide by 2448 pixels high, which is a huge size. I therefore used text, brushes and erasers that were equally huge, but then saved my final image as a JPEG that was much smaller. I prefer to adjust my image's size when I am saving it as a JPEG rather than at the beginning, but you could resize your image first and then use smaller font and brushes during your editing process(es).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Oh how I love a good info graphic. Reading this article in the Washington Post today led me to create this easy visual reminder.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

21 Day Organization Challenge - Day 2

I'm doing a 21-Day Organization Challenge, but I'm viewing it more as 21 steps. Whenever I have time to do a step, I'll do it. Today I did Day 2: The Coat Closet.

My Before Pic
I hesitate to post this photo since it looks worse than it was - for example, those crumpled things on the left were waiting to go outside to the recycling bin, and the shoes were not put away in the closet originally because they were wet. We had a bit of a rainpocalypse happen this week in our area.

My After Pic
The Process
The "After" pic is a little misleading since before I had even heard about the 21 Day Organization Challenge, I had wanted to improve my foyer and had therefore bought the two organizing bins on the top shelf, and I had moved some off-season items into storage. Tonight, I started with the area in front of the closet, then I moved items like hats into the bins, then I organized the shoes, and finally I sorted the hanging items by removing all of them from the closet and then only putting back clean, useful, well-fitting items in good condition.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

21 Day Organization Challenge - Day 1

I am a sucker for cute infographics. So when I saw this challenge on Pinterest...

...I actually got up off my couch and did Day 1: The Medicine Cabinet. I am not sure where this particular 21-day challenge came from (I tried searching online for the original post but could not find it). But the A Bowl Full of Lemons website has a similar challenge here (the medicine cabinet is Day 13 on their list).

Before I go further, I'd like to say that colorful infographics make even boring tasks seem more fun!

My Before Pics

My After Pics (my cabinet has three sections but I only got before pics of two of the sections since the third was always pretty tidy)

The Process
We all know that the hallmarks of organization are:

  1. place similar objects close to each other
  2. avoid keeping too many duplicates of the same item
  3. toss what you are not using and toss what you do not love
  4. don't keep less frequently used items in high-traffic areas

That is precisely what I did. My organizing bug spread to the cabinet below the sink as well (no pics, sorry).