Friday, October 30, 2009

Untidy Friday

My in-laws are coming over for dinner tonight. That means one thing: I have to clean. And clean a lot! We haven’t entertained in awhile, and my dwelling is...um...less than presentable. As in there are still crumbs of dirt (yes--actual dirt) on my kitchen counter from the farm-fresh veggies I brought home yesterday. The Halloween pumpkins are currently sitting on an old towel in the entryway... thawing. I haven’t made my bed in 5 days. And my handwashables, which I finally got around to washing yesterday, are laid out across the dining room table, drying.


I could go on, but you get the point. I have some work to do. Which is why I won’t linger here long, or write any soul-searching introspective posts (it is a Friday, after all). Instead I’ll give you a few updates about what I’ve been doing this week, and what is coming up just around the corner.


What I’ve been doing:
Many of you have probably seen from the sidebar that I FINALLY opened up my DIY design pattern store (Yay!), and even listed my first item: Winter Napkins. Following close on its heels is a new pattern for Cardigan Pillow Covers, which I can’t wait to share! These projects, among others, are what I have been spending my time on this week.


What is to come:
Along those lines, I am already planning for the next series! Fashioned after last year’s Handmade Holiday series, I’ll be placing an emphasis during the coming season on do-it-yourself holiday gifts. You’ll get a peek at some of the projects from my store listings, and I’ve got more up my sleeve! The theme (of course) is rePurposing, and I am really excited to get started!



Until then, I wish you all a fun Halloween (hopefully yours will be warmer than ours!) and a pleasant extra hour of sleep!

See you Monday with more Be An Original posts!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Narrowing the Parameters


It is not a secret that women have always worn a lot of different hats. We are mothers, employees, wives, friends, homemakers, daughters, sisters, caretakers, and so on and so on. So when asked the question, “who do you want to be?” the process of answering can get overwhelming. And takes careful thought. And some investment of time.

Is it no wonder, then, that we often just pass over the question entirely?
Frankly it can feel like too much work to answer.




To help me tackle this query, then, I tried to narrow down the parameters a bit.
First I considered character. What, I asked, are the three most important character qualities that I want to be known for? And after debating a list of choices, I decided I wanted to have 1) wisdom, 2) leadership, and 3) courage (often displayed as confidence). There were admittedly a lot of other virtuous traits I could have chosen--like empathy, charity, and patience--and perhaps some of those would make the top of your list. But I had to start somewhere, so I started with my top three.




Then I moved onto money. I figured that my attitude and relationship with money
(or, more broadly, resources) said a lot about who I was, so I wanted to make sure the message was a good one. I determined that stewardship was my highest priority--meaning that above all things I wanted to be thankful and responsible with the money and resources I had. This meant being a conscientious consumer and a conservative spender. I also decided that I wanted to make money--to be profitable--during all the seasons of my life. Which led me to the next category: work.


I know that what we do isn’t who we are, but we can express who we are through our work.
And so I decided that my work had to provide an outlet for my creativity and intellect, and that it needed to profit my family. Since the job I was working at the time of this little personal inventory only satisfied the last measure--profit--I knew I needed to make a change.




Finally, a large part of who we are involves the relationships we have in our lives.
We don’t want our roles in relationships to completely define us, but we do want to be intentional about them. So I decided to examine mine and try to put them into order of importance. Was my role as a mother (well...future mother as in my case) more valuable to me than my role as a friend or a wife? If so, I would need to invest more into it. As such, I actually decided that Wife was my first priority (something I’m constantly trying to remember...), and that Mother came second, and Friend came third. Related to this, I also decided that Mother was more important to me than Worker, which gave me the permission to nurture my maternal side, and to ease up a bit on career.




In any event, this is a long-winded way of saying
that taking the time to explore who I wanted to be was worth the energy, and narrowing down the question helped me get to the answers.


So if you’re feeling introspective this weekend,
and have a bit of leisure time, consider the following:


:: what three character qualities do you want to be known by?
:: what do you want your money to say about you?

:: what kind of work would express your personality best?

:: and what relational roles are the most important to you?


Happy Introspection!


Glossary of Hats, all from handmade sellers on Etsy.com:

1. romantic chunky knit beret by crafts 2 cherish
2. knitcollar hood by hortensia handmade
3. 1940’s style linen hat by sanchia 845
4. havana fedora by tissage
5. birdcage by fatale femme

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snow Day


Today is a snow day for us Coloradoans. Currently the white stuff is falling down in buckets (does it snow in buckets, or is that just rain?), and I’m trying to avoid shoveling the driveway for as long as possible, which admittedly isn’t a great strategy when it comes to snow removal...




The weather, of course, threatens to put a serious damper on Halloween festivities, but it does make for excellent holiday inspiration. And since I’m currently working on some holiday DIY projects, this snowy day is a perfect fit to get me into the mood.



Later today (Yay!) I’ll be listing my first ever project download for purchase in my online store, so I thought that I would give you all a sneak peak by sharing a few photos with you. These pictures, plus the winter wonderland outside, make me want to cuddle down with a soft blanket, some hot tea, and a good book.



That is, after all, what snow days are for.




Stay tuned for more details about my store,
and come back tomorrow as we pick up on this week’s Be An Original theme: exploring who we want to be!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Disabling the Auto Pilot


Sunday at my house is football day.
Church followed by football to be more specific. It is a day for curling up on the couch with a project in my hand and watching a bunch of athletes pound into each other for fun.


During said football day,
I am exposed to a lot of commercials. Normally I tend to tune them out since they mainly promote cars and beer, but last Sunday I found myself paying attention to several advertisements featuring women.




And after watching them, I came to a not-so-original conclusion--women are supposed to be able to do it all.
These advertisements depicted them rushing around from one activity to the next without a break. They all worked full time in professional offices. They all had at least one child. They all worked out, and cooked and lounged with their husbands. And naturally their homes were beautiful, as were their wardrobes.


This depiction of the modern female, my friends, is what I call “auto pilot.”
It is the status quo lifestyle that we are encouraged to live. And it is, above all things, very, very busy.




Now here is where you might expect me to call for a rebellion
--to encourage us to throw off these crazy chains and forge a different path. But originality is not about rebellion. Teenagers can buck the status quo just because it is “tradition,” but we are grown ups. Originality is about intention.


As such, my unease with the images presented on football Sunday is not with the lifestyle they preach
(although it is fairly unrealistic), but with the automatic nature of it. “This,” the culture says, “is what women do.” And so we set our course sometime in our early twenties based on that model and away we go.




To be an original, however, is to choose a course based on who we want to be.
Sometimes that course looks very similar to the model mentioned above. But sometimes it does not. Without taking the time to choose, however, we often default to the auto pilot whether we like it or not.


Therefore, I would like to challenge us to disable the auto pilot this season.
To practice some intention and set our course based on who we want to be. And we may very well end up with the busy life depicted above, but the difference is that we’ll be in the driver seat.


Other Related Posts:

Being & Doing: reflections on a Monday morning
Making Do
A Talk on Trendy Cattle (and being an original consumer)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Being & Doing: reflections on a Monday morning


After almost two years of blogging, Monday mornings still give me pause.
I wake up like most people thinking of the work week ahead--the projects I need to do, the appointments I have, the leftover tasks I didn’t finish from the previous week. And during this quick mental survey of the days ahead, I can’t help but think about the Monday mornings of my past--the ones when I woke up and dreaded the week ahead. On those days I didn’t want to get out of bed. My to-do list held no interest for me. My appointments were void of purpose. My leftover tasks felt like heavy weights on my shoulders.




Those were difficult Mondays.


Fortunately my weekly kick-offs have since improved.
And the improvement began with a simple question: who do I want to be? Part of the answer--as you might guess--was that I wanted to be someone who enjoyed Monday mornings.




I find it interesting that we ask children
“what do you want to be when you grow up?” and expect them to answer with what they want to do. Because being and doing are not the same thing. Two years ago, for instance, I was doing the expected full-time career, but I wasn’t being who I wanted to be.




I bring this all up because a) it is Monday, and b) originality begins with “who do you want to be?”
My answer to the question--a creative entrepreneur/mom/wife/leader--was what led me to overhaul my cookie-cutter life in pursuit of something different. It is what led me here, to all of you.


Originality, then, is not something to do. Yes, there are plenty of original things we can do--many of them I write about here. But fundamentally I want to Be an Original. And that is what we’re going to gab about for the rest of this week. So stick around to hear more...and I hope you enjoy your Monday.

To read more about my "lifestyle makeover," click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Found Treasures

We are about to enter that time of year. You know--the one where we are bombarded with a gazillion things to buy, when the stores are warm and inviting, and the commercials are calling out our names. It won't be long. Our door handles won't even be cool from the warm touch of trick-or-treaters before the holiday season comes knocking.

And as I mentioned yesterday, I am preparing for said time of year with a list of projects, and a hankering for originality. So I've corralled a few items and objects from around my home that I intend to transform into holiday treats. Want a sneak peek?



These pine logs, for instance,
that have been warming the pavement on our back patio, are just begging to be transformed into holiday-illumination displays.

With belts, naturally. And candles.



And these tiny beads,
which I've been harboring for half a decade, might finally find a home on a certain tank top I own that could use a glitzy holiday makeover.



These vintage toys from my childhood won't be gifted away (Never!) I promise,
but I just might use their infant-sized apparel to inspire a few baby DIY projects of my own.



Finally, I have a pile of buttons crying out for a home...
perhaps destined to be sewn onto new cozy bedding designed especially for cold winter days.

If you can't tell already, the theme for these found treasures--and the projects that will stem from them--is making clever use of ordinary, round-the-house items. Are you excited? Me too! More coming soon--I promise!

Until then, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

--steph


To read other Be An Original posts, click here!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Making Do


I opened my email yesterday and was delighted to find a quick message from a friend. She had been reading my blog, and it reminded her of an old Depression-era saying: use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. (This friend, by the way, also writes “Scratch That!”--a blog about making things from scratch.)



It is true that I spend a lot of time talking up the benefits of repurposing, recycling, upcycling, and cutting back.
And of course I laud these practices because they are friendly to the community, the environment, and my pocketbook. But they also help me in my quest for originality--and that is what I want to talk about today.



Now many of you already know that I’m a magazine junkie.
I love the glossies--love them. Consequently I’m regularly exposed to a vast array of tantalizing images, from fashion to home design to shoes (oh the shoes...so many shoes...). And though I would happily skip to the stores to snatch up armfuls of merchandize, a) I don’t have the cash, and b) I’m burdened by a well-developed consumer conscience that persistently reminds me of the houseful of stuff I already own.


Furthermore, to pursue the acquisition of a glossy spread is essentially to be a drone.
Or a clone. Or a scone. (okay...not that last one. I got carried away with the rhyming.) In other words, it isn’t very original.




What is original, however, is lifting ideas from my surroundings, and trying to envision them reborn from my belongings.
Not only does limiting myself to “making do” and “using up” energize my creativity, but more often than not, I end up with designs and innovations that are better than a perfectly staged magazine page. Better because they are a) unique, and b) fashioned by my own hand.




Of course it’s very selfish of me to have all the upcycling fun,
so I am happy to announce that I will be launching a new venture shortly that will bring my DIY upcycling ideas to you--right in time for the holidays. I can’t wait to share more, so stay tuned!


Until then--happy making do!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kitchen Duty

I only have a few minutes to check in today. Why? Because as I mentioned yesterday, I’m cooking. And not just cooking for lunch or dinner. I’m cooking for the season.

Here’s the progress so far:

I’ve made 2 mac & cheeses ready to defrost and bake. Is there anything better than mac & cheese on a cold winter night? I think not!


I also churned out a double portion of one of my favorite family casseroles. It has peppered bacon in it. Ummmm....peppered bacon. A divine smell. Not perfume divine--that would be weird and would probably attract hungry men and curious animals. But divine nonetheless.


Additionally I’ve cooked a gallon of chicken. That’s right--a gallon. I chopped it all up and sauteed it in olive oil.


In case you were wondering--this is what a gallon of raw chicken looks like. Take my word for it that cooking that quantity of chicken takes awhile. You have to be dedicated. And what will I do with a gallon of cooked chicken? I’ll divide it up for chicken alfredo, red pepper pasta, stir fry, pad thai, soups and more! Is there any end to chicken’s usefulness?

On today’s docket is lentil soup,
chili, turkey meatballs, marinara sauce, pork tenderloin, thai beef and calzones.

And if you’re wondering what happened to Be An Original--don’t worry! I’ll be back tomorrow with thoughts on an old quote my friend sent me this morning: “ use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

Until then, you can find me in the kitchen....

Other posts about food:
A Cooking Student (on chicken parmesan)
Coq Au Vin
Pizza Adventure on the Grill

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Other Venture

In addition to my quest for originality this fall, I also have another venture on my to-do list, which is to get all stocked up before the winter hits.

No, I do not live on a homestead in cas
e you were wondering. I live in suburbia.

Then why, you might ask, do I feel the nee
d to stock up like a pioneer? We live in the 21st century, after all. Basic necessities, plus a whole bundle of unnecessary things (ahem...Target), are just a five minute drive away.


It’s a fair question. And perhaps I am a bit overzealous for winter preparation. It’s just that the idea of hunkering down for the colder months appeals to me, even if I don’t technically have to. Or, at the very least, having less to do during the crazy holiday season sounds marvelous.

So, necessity or not,
here are a few things I’m tackling in the next couple of weeks:


:: hosting a Cooking Extravaganza for me, myself and I. What is that, you ask? Well, it’s when I load up on enough groceries to feed a small army, lock myself in my kitchen, and cook for a day solid. Last year I set a record at 15 hours and 40 meals. This year I’m a little less ambitious... I’ll keep you updated as the cooking starts tomorrow!

:: storing up holiday supplies.
As in empty cereal boxes (they make great gift boxes!), plain wrapping paper (I embellish it and use it all year), and holiday foods & recipes.



:: filling my linen closets with basics, like toilet paper, medicine, soap, toothpaste, etc. The last thing I need is to discover that I only have one roll of toilet paper during an unexpected blizzard! Or an empty bottle of Tums after a holiday buffet.

Oh...and I only wish my linen closet looked like the one above!


:: winterizing my car. You won’t find me under the hood or anything--but I do plan to get an updated oil change, top off my fluids, check my tire pressure, and make sure my emergency kit is stowed in the back.

And no...my car doesn't look like that either.

How do you prepare for the winter? Share your tricks by posting a comment here!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Talk on Trendy Cattle (and being an original consumer)

I wanted to follow up Friday’s introduction (in levity) of planned obsolescence with a little more chatter on the subject.

As “the Detective” mentioned,
planned obsolescence is when manufacturers produce items that are intentionally designed to fall apart or break down within a relatively short window of time. This intention is orchestrated for one purpose: to get us to consume.


Now, there is A Lot we could say about consumerism these days. Depending on who you talk to, it is either the bane of our civilization or the salvation of it. And although both of those ideas are very intriguing to a closet nerd like myself, what I want to focus on...naturally...is originality.

In my opinion, planned obsolescence works best when we fit the mold.
In other words, when we predictably make purchases based on price (aka the lowest price always wins), and on trend. For instance, Old Navy can afford to make shoddy shirts (and let’s face it--they are shoddy) because a) they know we love a bargain, and b) they know that the trend will expire about the same time as the shirt will.


So am I saying that being original means you have spend more money and eschew trends? No, of course not. I’m just as eager to find the cheapest ruffled apparel I can get my hands on this season as the next lady. But according to an article I recently read in Time magazine, women today make 75% of the buying decisions in American homes. In other words, collectively we are The Consumer. And as a group, I’m remiss to say that we tend to behave like cattle. Trendy, fashionable cattle...but cattle nonetheless.

Being original, then, means that we need to exercise our “consumer identities” with some foresight and intention. This includes budgeting wisely, investing in quality, and wasting less. And if that sounds about as fun as a wet blanket, don’t worry--there are lots of clever ideas and conversations ahead that will spice up the concept, I promise!

But before all of that...what do you think? Are we more cattle or ranchers? Talk amongst yourselves...

Other Be An Original Posts:
Original Sweater
A Story...
Be An Original

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Case of the Faulty Hair Dryer

The following scene is loosely based on true events from my morning....

It was a sunny Friday morning when she walked into my office.


“Detective,” she said, “I have a problem.”


I put down my pen and looked up. The woman in front of me looked normal, wearing a fashionable brown dress (of the likes I’ve never seen before) and suede boots. But something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it until she started talking.


“It happened this morning,” she continued. “I was getting ready for the day like I always do. You know--brushing my teeth, applying my make up, getting dressed. But then when I went to dry my hair, something went wrong. I started the hair dryer and instead of firing up like it usually does, it made a low, strange noise, and then just shut down completely.”



“How long have you had the dryer?” I asked politely, finally understanding what was off about her appearance. It was her hair--sadly flat and dull, she resembled a wet cat. Not flattering. Not at all.

“Oh, for less than a year I think.”


“Well, these things happen, ma’am. Perhaps you’ve just worn it out. New hair dryers aren’t that expensive, you know.”


“Well, yes, I see your point. It’s just that this is the second time in a month that this has happened.”

“Really.”


“Uh huh. The first time was more dramatic. I was using a different hair dryer--one I use for travel--and suddenly it started making strange noises. Then I heard a Pop! and a shower of sparks burst out from the outlet, turning into flame. I could have been harmed.”


“I see. And how long had you had this dryer?”

“Oh, for longer I suppose, but I didn’t use it more than a handful of times a year.”


“Well, ma’am, I think what we have here is a case of planned obsolescence.”


“Planned what?”


“Obsolescence. It’s when manufacturers create products that are designed to break down within a short period of time.”


“But why would they do that?”


“Well, to make money, of course. And to save money. They can make a product with cheaper parts, keeping the item at a lower cost, and also design them to fall apart quickly so that you keep coming back to purchase another one.”



“So you’re saying that my hair dryers are basically designed to be disposable?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”


“That doesn’t seem right.”


“I don’t make the rules, ma’am. I just solve cases.”


“Well, thank you for your time, Detective. I guess I have to go buy a new hair dryer.”


"Good day, ma'am. And good luck with your hair."


Though this story is obviously dramatized, planned obsolescence is real indeed. And we'll talk more about it as our pursuit for originality continues.

And for the record...I am having a terrible hair day.


Have a good weekend!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin