Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Tizzy Alert

I’m all in a tizzy and stuck somewhere between Heaven and Hell. Today was the third installment of my creative nonfiction writing class — the first writing class I’ve ever taken and one that’s taken 3 years to work myself up to — and now that the initial shock’s worn off a bit, I find my brain positively exploding with ideas. I’m feeling alive, creative, vital, motivated. I don’t just think, “I really should write today;” I’m dying to sit down and write. That’s the Heaven part.

I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to capture all my ideas, or that if I attempt it, I’ll get stuck somehow, and then it will feel like I’ve failed, and I will hate myself for it. Or, what if I don’t get stuck at all, but write something truly terrible, and then I’ll feel like I’ve failed, and I will hate myself for it. Or maybe I won’t realize that it’s terrible and present it to the class to widespread horror, and then I’ll feel like I’ve failed, and I will hate myself for it. (Detecting any themes?) Then there’s the tiny detail that we just moved on Saturday, and we’re welcoming 6 house guests 3 (!) days from now. For once, I have real excuses for not practicing my writing, and it’s exactly the time I least want them.

That was the Hell part, in case you missed it.

Of course, as with many things I long to do, even when given the opportunity to write today, I piddled around putting out fires instead of sitting at my desk. Where is that closet organizer? I’d wonder. And that led to a search for the magical sock drawers, which put me in a room with yet another bag of canned food that I’d missed earlier and now desperately needed to be put away. Or, I’d start walking toward my studio and realize that those boxes need to be broken down — stat. Ah, living with myself.

I’m giving myself some credit, though. I’ve come a long, long way over the past couple of years in putting first things first. I wouldn’t have been able to sustain a meditation practice without it. I notice that certain kinds of self-discipline, the constructive, nurturing kind, gets easier with practice. And after all, here I sit at my keyboard, typing all self-nurturing-like. I may not be typing those sparkly ideas swirling about in the little grey cells, not this very instant anyway, but I am writing. And relieving some tension. And maybe, just maybe, I’m having a little fun.


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I did it at last! My online sewing class may be over, but I’m still working my way through the projects.

Isn’t it adorable? I originally bought a different fabric for the apron, but it never felt right, so I went back to Jo-Ann’s and after a little digging, pounced on this cheery, chirpy summery print. I love it!

Can you tell I put the lemon print upside down? Oops. I don’t think it’s very obvious, but I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

I don’t need another apron, though, which is a shame because not only do I love this apron, I’d like to make more. It was time consuming — that is one loooooong piece of fabric to press and hem for the ruffle — but not difficult, and the reward is great. Maybe someone will get married? An apron would make a good shower gift, right? (Alongside something the bride registered for, of course.) Or, I can make a Christmas apron, maybe with little candy canes on the body and a candy cane stripe on the ruffles. SO cute!

Oh, and project #3 was this little drawstring bag, made from an old tablecloth and leftover homemade bias tape from the tool roll-up project.

The bag’s awkward dimensions had me stumped for a while; I couldn’t find a way to use it. If it was only a little shorter and narrower, it would be perfect for a wine bottle. Eventually, I found my bag of velcro hair rollers.

Lumpy, but better than the plastic bag:

I think I’d like to make these as re-usable gift bags for wrapping small presents.



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It’s been an odd week. Life is complicated. And at the moment, I’m tongue-tied about it. I try and try to write, but it just isn’t working. I know that sometimes writing is the best way to process something, but this isn’t one of those times. It’s still percolating, still just beyond reach. Meditation is probably a better soothing balm for this ache.

Actually, I think that’s why I haven’t written much on this blog over the past year. It’s been a really intense period for me — emotionally, physically, spiritually, developmentally — and I need so much energy to process it all that there’s not much left over to use for writing about it. I’m barely keeping up as it is!

So in lieu of my deepest, most confusing experiences and revelations of the week, I offer some simpler fare, like sewing project #2, the Tool Roll-Up, because maybe what I need right now isn’t to express my inner reality but to get a break from it.

The Tool Roll-Up it is, then.

Now, it’s supposed to have channel-stitching in that bottom portion (it’s a pocket) to create special compartments for each tool, but I haven’t decided yet which tools to put in it. The instructor suggested everything from sewing essentials to makeup brushes. I dunno. I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. In the meantime, I’m admiring the fabric.

Things I love:

  • The combination of fabrics. Isn’t that owl print adorable? I think it would be great for a nursery. Both it and the polka dot trim fabric (yes, I had to make my own bias tape) are from High Fashion here in Houston, which while overpriced, has a great selection. The ribbon is a relic from a bridal shower I threw years ago.
  • That I bought fabric in the first place. I’ve been terrified of buying fabric for years. I wander the aisles of fabric stores and never buy anything. It’s sad. One of the best things about taking a sewing class is being forced to make a decision. I’ve always stopped short of committing to fabric, but I’m discovering that it’s not that big a deal, and it’s a lot of fun besides. I’ve even managed not to panic that I bought 4 times too much fabric for that beach tote. I’ll find a use for it — eventually.
  • That I finished this project at all, because I made a lot of mistakes along the way, starting with the bias tape, and I had to do a lot of creative adapting to make it work.
  • That the “invisible stitches” on the front side are pretty invisible. It was my first time to Stitch the Ditch, and it was hard.

See? All but invisible:

What I don’t love: the other side.

Like I said, Stitching the Ditch was hard.

And led to all kinds of strange stitching on the opposite side.

Then I committed this crime.


Oh well. I’m trying not to take it too hard. I should be thankful that my first project, ye old beach tote, turned out as well as it did, and accept the problems with this project as part of the learning process. And, boy, did I learn a lot! — a lot of don’ts, particularly about making bias tape. Sigh. Somehow, Don’t Lessons are particularly effective when learned the hard way, so maybe I’m just taking the efficient path?

In any case, it looks very pretty when rolled up and tied.

Now I need to find something to store inside! Ideas??


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I’m torturing myself with an online sewing class. No, don’t get me wrong; the class itself is great. Alison making her projects in said class 10 times harder than they have to be? Not so great.

Our first real project, aside from some napkins, was a reversible tote bag. As described and assigned by our instructor, it was a piece of cake. The catch is that our instructor gave no dimensions. “Make the bag you want,” she said. Or maybe that’s just what I heard. Suddenly, all kinds of bells and whistles seemed like a really good idea. Who wants a square bag? Who wants a bag without interior pockets custom-fit to her gadgets? Who wants a bag without top stitching? Who wants a bag with a plain exterior? And who wants a flimsy bags?

You can see where this is going.

The simple reversible bag of an hour’s labor turned into a relatively elaborate non-reversible beach tote of 15 hours’ labor. Yup, 15 hours. I do not know what I’m doing. I do not sew. I’ve never top-stitched or applied interfacing or cut out fabric without a pattern or made interior pockets or any of it!

Oh, and those 14 hours needed to be spent on other projects for the class. You can guess how far behind I am by now, especially when you throw in a two-week vacation. Sheesh.

I’ll tell you what’s cool, though: this beach tote that I designed and sewed.


It features a flat bottom, angled sides, top stitching, heavy-duty interfacing, contrast lining, and custom-made interior pockets for my iPhone, Kindle, and pens and pencils.

Also note that nice contrasting band around the top of the bag, which I even matched up along the sides.

And it’s big enough to carry a baby elephant. I look like a midget hauling it around.

J thinks this is okay. “It will hide your stomach when you’re pregnant,” he points out.


Other functions include Picnic Bag. It’s big enough to hold the blanket, food, drinks, and a baseball bat for J’s head.

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I’d say I have a love/hate relationship with baking, but mostly I just hate it. It’s so…precise…and prone to inexplicable error. Like the caramel sauce/black sugar goo episode over Christmas. Or when I attempted caramel sauce again last month and it was grainy for no apparent reason. Gah!

But today I’m celebrating a wild success. Behold:

It’s a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting — light, fluffy, dreamy peanut butter frosting.

I impressed myself. I’ve never tried to decorate a cake before.

There are less glamorous and triumphant parts of the story, like how I broke a bottle of stevia all over the floor and smeared peanut butter frosting on every surface in sight (including me) in the process, but the real point is that when it came to the finished product, I was pleased and J was pleased and even the neighbor was impressed, which never hurts. (Really, her effusions were most gratifying and enough to give any half-conscious Leo heart palpitations.)

Why the hearts? Since we were out of the country for Valentine’s Day, J and I celebrated this past weekend. I have fond memories of my childhood Valentine’s Days, with cards and little baskets of goodies from my mom, so I like to celebrate it now, but just the fun, light side of it. Last year I left candy trails around the apartment leading to small gifts for J. It was great! This year I planned a living room picnic complete with a fancy beer, Chuy’s takeout chips and salsa, Star Pizza delivered to the door, and the chocolate and peanut butter confection — most of J’s favorite food groups.

I also presented him with this gift, to hold his other favorite food group:

Good times.

Finally, one more shot of the cake for me to treasure and use for comfort the next time I stand alone amidst the wreckage of a baking disaster:

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Remember this space?

Well, I’m finally putting that desk to use for some crafty goodness!

We’re sending Christmas cards and newsletters for the first time this year, so while on one hand I’m discovering how overwhelming the process can be, on the other hand I’m finding that it’s an awful lot of fun. I picked blank cards from Paper Source and then dolled them up with these little guys:

Do you know about stickles??? Okay, you probably do, but humor me in all my newbie enthusiasm. Stickles are the bomb. They make my day. They make everything pretty. You can apply glitter (I love glitter!) quickly, easily, precisely, and with no mess. No kidding.

Out of 80 cards, there are 4 or 5 different patterns, so each one ends up looking a little different. Here’s another print, though it’s hard to see the glitter and gem stones in this light.

This is a new area of exploration for me. I’m trying to bring more fun, self-expression, and creative play into my life, so I made over my sunroom with, among other things, crafts in mind. It was a bit of a leap of faith because I haven’t done anything like this since before high school. But it’s great! When I’m feeling too brain dead to read or too tired to do anything active, crafts fit the bill perfectly. I find them soothing and surprisingly cheering. I had a brief blue bout this weekend, but after half an hour with stickles in hand, the world seemed just a bit brighter. And prettier too.

I hope to finish printing off newsletters, writing messages in the cards, addressing and stamping envelopes, and dumping the whole pile in the mail by the end of the week. After that, anything’s fair game. Pillows for the living room, perhaps?

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In case you need a refresher, here’s my terrifying “before” shot:

Now, hold your breath, because just 7 days and $115 later, behold the transformation:

Can you believe that?? I’m still in shock — glorious, happy shock, but shock.

The chair and foot rest came first. New at Ikea, they cost about $140, plus tax. I picked them up off Craigslist for $40. The man who sold them to me listed the set for $45, but when I arrived, before I could say anything, he offered, “How about just $40, since you had to drive so far.” Um, sure, that works for me. $40 it is. I handed over the money, and then he proceeded to tell me all the reasons I might not want the chair. It could have dust in it, you know. They vacuumed it regularly, and it probably got only a week’s worth of use, but you just never know how much dust is still there. Then he looked it over for defects. A scratch on the leg. And the dust — oh, the dust! Poor fellow. I’m very pleased with my purchase anyway. I’m not crazy about the oatmeal color of the cushion, and I prefer the look of birch veneer, but for $40, I’m not complaining. It is very comfortable and takes up far less space than my old reading chair:

Next on Craigslist, I found an Ikea Expedit bookcase that works vertically or horizontally with four baskets. Retail? $122. I carted it away for $50 ($10 off the asking price). I’ve found it very useful to show up before offering less money. Anyone who’s done much Craigslisting understands the frustration of the no-show. You can get a dozen emails, but no one will appear in person. So when someone finally does land on your doorstep, you’d better believe you’ll take a little less!

Getting the darn thing home in our Honda Fit, though, was quite a challenge. By the time my brother and I wedged it into the back of the car far enough to latch the hatch, the front seats were so close to the dashboard that our foreheads almost touched the windshield. We laughed hysterically as we struggled to arrange ourselves. Finally, after regaining our composure and with my knees in my chest and my elbows barely functional, we trucked home very, very slowly. I’ve rarely felt so aware of my mortality; we felt we might fly through the windshield at any moment. I’m glad it’s over.

Finally, the unfinished desk with storage space popped up on Craigslist for only $25. I don’t know how much it cost new, but I’m sure I got a steal of a deal. The top sags a bit in the middle on one side because the lady had been storing a giant television on top of it. Annoying, but since I want to do crafts and other messy things on it, I think it will be just fine. I don’t need a showpiece.

I feel extremely pleased with my progress so far and look forward to finishing the room. I achieved everything Justice and I put on our wish list:

  • Storage space — the bookcase with baskets, plus the nifty drawers and cabinet space in the desk
  • Horizontal work space for two — two people can sit and work together comfortably at the desk, so long as the chairs are staggered
  • Comfortable reading place — my new chair is an absolute dream
  • Comfortable place to write — this has been solved since these pictures were taken. I’ll post about my solution in the next post.
  • Nice place to entertain a friend — it would be a stretch to call the current folding desk chairs “comfortable,” but I’m on the lookout for replacements. As soon as we get them, we’ll have met this goal too. At least I already have the perfect tea set to use!

Now it’s time to do some decorating — walls, curtains, pillows, slip covers, mirrors, art, and accessories. My favorite part!

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