personal

why I won’t be liking so much stuff on Facebook anymore

 

rawpixel-unsplash-phone.pngImage via Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I was sitting behind a young woman on the bus. My seat was positioned higher than the seat where she sat, giving me a perfect view of her phone as she scrolled through Instagram. I don’t actively try to read other people’s screens, but the way this lady was interacting with the photo app caught my attention. She was scrolling through her feed with a speed and fervor I’d never personally witnessed. Each photo was glanced at for a mere second (at most), before being liked. And she was liking every single photo in her feed. Pets, food, fashion… The actual content of the image didn’t seem to matter. Everything was getting a double-click. It was mesmerizing. (more…)

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dog person, cat owner

cat feline kitty

Ms. Bonkers D. Bobcat, the only cat worthy of her own blog post, IMO.

I’ve always wanted a dog. When I was a toddler, the only VHS I owned was Disney’s Lady & the Tramp. I watched it so much that my mom still knows entire scenes by heart some 30 years later. (more…)

on drawing again

pastel still lifestill life | pastel, charcoal and gesso on kraft paper

I used to draw a lot. Majoring in illustration meant it was a priority for four years of my life. I spent hours in the classroom and at home drawing and painting everything: hands, feet, still lives, nude models, cartoons, doodles. It was necessary practice, and often part of my homework.

After graduation creating art fell by the wayside. After moving I simply did not have the space to set up a studio. Drawing and painting can be very messy and often means leaving that mess out for several days (or weeks) while the piece comes together. Creating in a shared space is incredibly difficult, so it became a lot easier to work on less space consuming projects. Graphic and web design became my new passions. Each project was nicely contained to my hard drive, I could work virtually anywhere with zero cleanup required.

I absolutely love working digitally, but it often feels like something was missing. I’ve always loved working with my hands, creating something physical that can be touched and held afterward feels special. A second move meant I now had studio space, and I started crafting and scrapbooking to fill this void. But I rarely picked up a pencil or charcoal. I started paintings, but never got past the underdrawing. My passion for drawing and painting wasn’t there.

Late last year my husband signed us up for a one day drawing workshop at the Art Gallery of NSW. He also likes to draw cartoons, and thought this would be a fun activity for us to try.

Drawing again for the first time in over five years was strange. I felt stiff at first. My hand wasn’t doing what my mind wanted it to. After ten minutes I realized I was holding the pencil wrong. Suddenly I could hear every drawing and painting instructor I had in college saying in unison, “Draw from the wrist!” Things went smoother from there, but I was reminded of another saying a professor used to often say, “Everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them. You have to keep practicing until you get to the good ones.” I was still in the under 10k range.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. I do rather like my pastel still life. Once I started holding the tools correctly the drawing came together well. I especially loved the colors, though my use of compliments outed me as someone who’s “done this before” to my fellow workshop goers. And the smell of workable fixative being sprayed took me right back to my college days.

Will I keep drawing? I’d like to. I have the space now, I just need to set about reacquiring all the tools I left behind when I moved to Australia. Getting my hands dirty again was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. I also have many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and paintings, many gift ideas. I guess my 2015 resolution is to get on that. Christmas is less than 12 months away…

butterfly in the sky: why i contributed to the reading rainbow kickstarter campaign

readingrainbowTo say that PBS programming was a big part of my childhood is an understatement. PBS shows were everything. I grew up on Sesame Street and Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, transitioned to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Ghostwriter as I grew up, and even developed a love for Arthur‘s off beat humor in high school. But of all the shows PBS broadcast into my living room over the years, none made an impact on me quite like Reading Rainbow.  Big Bird may have helped me learn how to read, but LeVar Burton taught me to love it.

Contributing to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign was an easy decision. Of course there was a heavy nostalgia factor involved; this is probably a big motivator for many people my age. I haven’t watched the show in decades, but the theme song is still stuck in my head (“Butterfly in the skyyyyyy/I can go twice as hiiiiiiigh!”). My favorite part of each episode was always the book narrated by a celebrity, and I have particularly strong memories of Buddy Ebsen reading Paul Bunyan and Lorne Greene’s  rendition of Ox-Cart Man. The famous voices may have been lost on me, but the stories they read went on to become some of my favorites.

Childhood memories aside, I want to bring Reading Rainbow back in a big way for another important reason. Rainbow was created to foster a love of reading. Its magic certainly worked on me– I have a rapidly filling bookshelf and a few years worth of reading lists to prove it. I have no doubt that LeVar and his team can do the same for a new generation of children, even though they are meeting them online instead of on the television.

While there’s been some criticism that this won’t do much to improve literacy rates in the US, I would beg to differ. This may not be a perfect analogy, but math was always my least favorite school subject. My teachers’ constant refrains of “You’ll need to use this in real life!” did nothing to spark my interest. Of course I understood the practical applications of math as a kid– balancing a checkbook, measuring in cooking, making a budget– but they were all very grown up and boring.

Where I came alive in the classroom was during reading. It wasn’t phonics worksheets or spelling tests that inspired me to learn this necessary skill– it was the books I saw every day in the classroom, at home, in the library, and on Reading Rainbow. As much as I loved the illustrations, I wanted to know what the words said too. Learning to read became important to me because I recognized that the adults in my life weren’t always available to read to me, and if I couldn’t read to myself then I was missing half the story. The practical applications of literacy would become apparent to me as I grew older, but at the start I just wanted to escape into a fun story. This is what inspired me to practice and do my homework, not the knowledge that I’d one day need to understand legal contracts or read street signs.

To me, Reading Rainbow is an important tool in promoting literacy. Will it decrease illiteracy rates in the US by itself? No, but putting it in the hands of kids who are struggling to read will encourage them to keep practicing. Providing the app to children who would rather play on a tablet will show them that reading is more fun and rewarding than Angry Birds. Bringing Reading Rainbow in classrooms will inspire a new generation of students to pick up a book, where they can “go anywhere” and “be anything.” But you don’t have to take my word for it.

centerpieces

In my previous post I shared my inspiration and final save the dates for my wedding last July. This time I’ll be sharing the reception centerpieces.

When designing the centerpieces I wanted to accomplish two things: 1. play on the movie theme in a fun way, and 2. save money. Early on in planning stages I noticed a trend of non-floral centerpieces on Pinterest. I liked this idea, it was a nice nod to the couple’s shared interests. These decorations were also unique, and if I chose to forgo flowers completely, would be much less expensive than traditional centerpieces.

inspiration1

book & photo frame centerpiece from CJ’s Off the Square blog; rolled sheet music centerpiece from Wedding Bee forums/Andrea Dozier Boutique Photography

Next I needed to brainstorm objects that would bring to mind a movie theater. Movie reels, popcorn, 3D glasses, clapperboards, boxed candies… there were lots of fun options! I wanted a variety of heights and shapes, so I chose a combination of popcorn boxes, boxed theater candies, and 3D glasses.

final_product

sweetheart table decorations, photography by Alexandra Siebenthal; guests having fun with centerpiece items in the photo booth; smaller centerpiece placed on cocktail tables, photography by Alexandra Siebenthal

I stuffed the popcorn boxes with crumpled newspaper, and had them topped with popcorn. Other than that I didn’t have a specific vision for what the centerpieces would look like. I left that detail up to the venue’s coordinator the day of. She did a great job, even adding some science fiction movie postcards I had originally ordered as thank you cards for additional height and color.

The final product turned out great! These centerpieces were a big hit with our guests. They loved wearing the 3D glasses and snacking on the candy and popcorn throughout the evening. The decorations were a fun nod to the movie theme and added to the casual feel of the event.

And the best part (as far as our bank account is concerned)– this all cost less than $60! I did have a little help in the form of an Amazon gift card I earned through MyPoints.com, but even without that the total would have only cost around $100. Not too shabby considering  some floral centerpieces can cost $100 each.

centerpiecesPin friendly image– feel free to share!

Want to recreate these centerpieces? Here’s where I found everything:

  • Popcorn boxes from Amazon.com
  • Unsalted, unbuttered popcorn from my local grocery store (I didn’t want butter to stain the venue’s linens!)
  • Boxed theater candy from Wal-Mart (Our local store had a big bin with a large variety at $0.98 per box.)
  • 3D glasses from Amazon.com
  • Science Fiction movie poster postcard book from Amazon.com
  • Tea lights provided by the venue (but you can purchase them quite cheaply from Ikea)

save the date

For those of you who don’t know, I was married this past July. Since crafting, design, and baking have always been a big part of my life, I knew I’d be DIYing some aspects of the wedding. Now that the wedding is past and I have more time to post, I’d like to share some of that planning here.

To start, I’ll write a bit about our save the date cards. Early on in the planning my husband, Ben, and I decided to have a movie theme for the event. We also wanted the wedding and reception to be laid back and casual, so what better way to set the tone than through this first announcement to our guests.
inspirationWedding Chicks Mad Men inspired Save the Date; design seeds macro purple; design seeds ranunculus petals

While our wedding theme was movies, my inspiration actually came from a save the date card referencing the tv show Mad Men. I loved the silhouette, bold colors, and strong fonts in this card. The color palette is inspired by the bird of paradise, my favorite flower. However, I opted for subtler hues of purple and orange for a softer feel.

finalproduct‘Amity Jack’ font via dafont.com; ‘SF Distant Galaxy’ font via dafont.com; printed by Moo.com

I used the Mad Men card as a jumping off point and created postcards featuring each of our favorite movies: Jaws for me, and Star Wars for Ben (his favorite is Episode V, but I used the Episode IV poster because it’s more recognizable). We realize neither of these movies scream “romance,” but we felt that was part of the fun. And they would definitely be uniquely us! I added wedding bouquets and a garter to the original movie posters, and downloaded the film fonts for added authenticity.

It was fun designing my own save the date cards. However, I realized I am a very demanding client! I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, but I spent a lot more time reworking the graphics, swapping colors, and nudging pixels than I expected. Still, I’m very pleased with the final product and received many rave reviews from our guests!

Pinterest was a great resource for finding wedding inspiration, and is where I found the Mad Men save the date cards. I can’t recommend the site enough for those who need help planning a big event. Should any of you wish to pin my inspiration and final product, here’s a full graphic:

savethedates