Monday, June 27, 2011

Been making

My friends' special occasion requests are usually not too crazy -- trying a new restaurant, most of the time -- but, on the rare occasion, can be stretching. I figure, though, that's it's their day (birthday, wedding, what-have-you) and it's all about them, so I'm in. That resolve has gotten me through things like the possibility of a 10K run, my first trip to the spa (I don't like being touched by strangers) -- and oh, that one pole dancing lesson.

Sometimes, though, their occasions give me the perfect reason to fortify my crafting arsenal and activities (like this).  Other times, they warrant delving into a new craft altogether. Such was the case for MyKo's bridal shower.  I am, for some reason, obsessed with logos, and decided that I needed to create one for them. So I started sketching out variations of "M and M":

[logo sketches]

 I love the symmetry of the two Ms and debated whether I should connect or overlap them, and over whether to use "&" or "+."  I finally decided on an inverted version, with the "+" meaning "and" as well as symbolizing Christ at the center of their union. After MyKo approved, I began crafting in earnest.  I went back to my local art supply store and picked up a block and a linocut set -- which I'd wanted for a long time but could never quite justify!

[stamp block and carving tool]

Carving was harder than I thought, especially because my finished piece was only one square inch. After a few major blunders and two full drafts I ended up with the final version:


I wasn't entirely happy with it, but opted for "rustic charm point" rather than "imperfections" and the change in vocabulary did wonders to affect my attitude about the matter.  It helped that the shower was a country western theme, making the stamp look like a wrought-iron brand.

I stamped the backs of all the envelopes, and MyKo showed her fiance when she received her invite.  They both liked it, so much so that they asked me to send them a digitized copy so they could put it on their wedding favors!  WOW!  What a compliment and a treat to be involved in their wedding in such a meaningful way.  Thanks, M+M!

The shower was last weekend, so I have more stories and pictures to share as soon as I collect and upload photos.  For now, though, I've got to catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Been mailing

Though some weeks slip by with nothing sent and other weeks see three or four letters go out, I've been resolved to send out an average of one hand written letter each week.  I don't stick hard and fast to one letter a week -- though it doesn't seem impossible, does it? -- because I don't want to pressure myself to send something out just for the sake of meeting a deadline; the flexibility of averages, though, allows me to be a thoughtful correspondent while encouraging me to accelerate my thinking and writing processes.  Admittedly, it takes me a while to fully write out what I want to say (I write drafts!), yet more often than not the delay is getting the written letter to post!  My recent hand writing endeavors have given me a lot of penmanship practice and reignited my desire to get back to writing regularly.  I figure that blogging about it will provide more accountability, too. To wit:

Trying to keep up with birthdays challenges me to be mindful.  I keep a birthday calendar but haven't found it optimally useful since I don't refer to it daily.  Often it'll be the day before the birthday before I remember, and by then I'm too late to send a card; I want to do better!  I'm still thinking about a method to help me with this.  So far, I get messages from Facebook to alert me of birthdays that week, but I'd prefer to keep it analog.  Above, I got one card sent out on time, but the envelope with no stamp needed international postage, which I dilly-dallied on until way too late.  I still sent it, though!

I forgot to take a shot of the stack of invitations I sent out for MyKo's bridal shower last week, which puts me WAY above average!  In addition to those nearly 70 invitations, I wrote a more personal note, in red ink on pink paper.  I like how a good quality cotton paper can soak up the ink of a Sharpie pen.

And this week I've written two birthday cards and one letter.  There are a couple more birthday cards to write yet before week's end!

What are you writing these days, and to whom?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Been shopping

I broke my resolution against shopping.  Couldn't pass up a good sale at Banana Republic, especially when the salespeople were handing out cards for additional discounts and I get the card for 50%!!  I picked up a little bit of everything: top, jeans, skirt, dress.  The total ended up being something like $78; not bad, right?!  Here's what I got:

[BR buys]

The top is appropriate for work, and can be worn casually, too.  The jeans are a nice, dark wash with a slim, straight leg (I can't do the skinny jeans; they make me look like a tween skater!).  The skirt is silk, which means I'll be wearing it a lot this summer (olive is my new neutral).  And I love the dress because it'll be perfect for MyKo's wedding, it's got pockets, and the final price was 75% off the original tag -- score!  I sure can live with not following through on a resolution if it means adding meaningful and long-lasting pieces to my wardrobe!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Been writing

My "punishment" for not participating in the bachelorette 10K was to write name tags for the Jamaica wedding guests' destination gift bags. No sweat, as I had already volunteered to write the place cards for the reception.  It was fun matching all the names I'd written (several times) with faces as I met mostly everyone over the course of the wedding. (Of course, I felt like we were old friends, and they were like, "Who is you?")

The couple wanted to keep with a neutral color scheme (think sand and seashells) so I did the gift bag tags in a more casual script with a blue Sharpie for a nice pop of color.  The escort cards occasioned a trip to my local art supply store, where I picked up a couple italic nibs and inks in brown and gold.  The italic nibs couldn't handle my left-handedness, and I couldn't get the gold ink to run out smoothly -- and didn't have/make time to investigate -- so I ended up using my trusty old fountain pen and the brown ink.

The cards turned out pretty good!  Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of them finished to share here.  I was glad to hear from C that having the cards finished the look she was going for at the tables, which helped to ease her stress levels.  That's what friends -- and fun weddings -- are all about!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Been running

Before the wedding, there was the bachelorette party.  No strippers or bawdy behavior was involved, but it was nonetheless challenging.  The bride-to-be, ever the athlete and wanting to keep up with her look-awesome-in-my-wedding-dress fitness routine, wanted to do a 10K run, and then go to the spa.  She worried about me, though: I'd run probably less than a handful of times as an adult, and I don't like to be touched by strangers. "I realize these are the two things you like to do least, Jean. Are you going to be able to handle it?" she asked.  "It's for your bachelorette party," I replied, "Of course I'm in!"

I was truly all for it, but dilly-dallied on starting my running training.  And on the registering.  So when I finally went to the website, the race was full.  Most people initially said that I did that strategically, but I really didn't!  I truly wanted to try running!  And a 10K with other gals that I know seemed like such a cool way to start!  Alas.

I got to contribute to the fun by designing the bachelorette party favor/gift: a dry-weave running shirt.  I'm not a designer by any means, but it was fun to get the creative juices flowing to come up with a concept and see it all come together.  I envisioned something simple and graphic, and decided on shoes: running sneaks, spa slippers, and heels for going out. By brother, the art student, helped me with the graphics, but I did the layout and formatting -- on Microsoft Word! I also made a small graphic commemorating the name of the event for the front.  The final shirts were printed in black ink on grey shirts; the bride's shirt was white, of course:

They were a hit!  The ladies who came out for the run were glad not to have to wear the standard issue boxy t-shirts, and C got a lot of positive attention from people who noticed our "team."  One lady stopped her afterwards to show the shirt to her group of friends, saying, "I'm totally going to steal your idea."  Awesome!

I got one of those t-shirts, but was was I going to do with it?  Why, START RUNNING -- naturally!

You read that right.  I. Started. Running. Never thought I would. Seriously, never. I am a swimmer! Oh, the pounding, the sweat! My ears get cold!

But I started. I discovered podcasts (iPhone lurve) and just fininshed Week 4 of a 9-week couch-to-5K plan. Believe me, it's not easy. But. It's getting easier. Which means... I'm improving!  Four weeks ago I started off doing eight intervals of 60 seconds running, 90 seconds walking -- counting down each running segment, and relishing whenever I got to walk.  This week, I did three minutes running, 90 seconds walking, five minutes running, two and a half minutes walking. Will Rogers 5K? Catalina Eco 10K? Tinker Bell half marathon?  We'll see.

At 103 lbs., I'm not doing this to lose weight but rather to get active and healthy, a component of my Be Good to My Body set of resolutions. Plus, all my gals run, so it's something we can do together. After running by myself for three weeks, it was nice to put a run in before dinner with the gals.

It will probably do me some good to participate in a clinic to learn proper stride and pace and other technicalities, and I will probably break my buy-nothing-new resolution to get a proper pair of shoes, but will make do with what clothes I have:

Eventually I'd like to be able to run without the tunes, so I can use the time to flush out thoughts, decompress, and enjoy the amazing houses and landscapes in my neighborhood.  Running's not that intuitive to me (yet?) so right now,  the podcast gives me a feeling of running with a buddy, while providing music and interval timing.  One day I might even venture into running with actual people and not just a recorded voice.  One step at a time, though (literally!).

Running has definitely affected how I keep my schedule: if I have something to do after work, I make sure I change and hit the road within 15 minutes of walking in the door (or it'll never happen); once, knowing I was going to have a full evening, I woke up early to run before work.  The light and temperature felt very different with the waxing sun!  It was a long day, but I found myself not tired at all. I just might do that once a week, just to mix it up a bit. 'Cause I'm CRAZY like that.

*Deep breath and smile* I like where I am.  I like seeing the tremendous progress I've made over just four short weeks.  I like that I feel healthier and -- more importantly -- stronger.  Life's good.

What about you, reader? Are you taking up any new hobbies or new challenges?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Been knitting

I purchased the yarn* for this project in January, at a store on the Westside, when my friend was out visiting from WDC and wanted to get (back, properly) into knitting.  I hardly have anything pink in my wardrobe, so I thought: whynot?

The cast-on happened during the February trip to Japan, and it was slow going since then.  It came along on my daily train commute, but I was distracted for weeks with very interesting books.  Once I picked it up again, though, the pattern came out effortlessly (so easy to remember!).  Sure, it doesn't hurt that this is something like my fourth Swallowtail Shawl [pdf]; what can I say?  It's a great pattern.  So great that I want one for myself.  (I've knitted about at least a half dozen shawls and have nothing to show for it; they were all gifts!) Not everyone likes them, but I think the "nupps" give the lily-of-the-valley pattern a lot of texture and pop -- and it's kinda fun to say, "Nupps."

So if you've ever knit a shawl, you know that although the pattern looks complicated, the symmetry lets you know immediately if you've made a mistake, meaning you can correct it immediately (instead of five rows later).  I decided to take advantage of the symmetry during the blocking process.  Not only would I ensure that both halves would be the same size, I'd end up using only half as many pins.  What's not to love about that?!  It was actually fun to see both halves line up so perfectly on top of one another:

I finished this right around the Memorial Day weekend, and have worn it a few times.  It's light, floaty, and very warm -- which is especially handy during these days of fluctuating weather and against the blast of A/C on the train.  The pink adds a girly touch to my wardrobe of mostly greys and blacks and jeans.

Now that I'm done, my hands are itchy to be at needle and yarn again.  What shall I knit next? 


*Classic Elite Yarns, Silky Alpaca Lace (70% alpaca, 30% silk) in the sale bin

** I wanted a slightly larger shawl than the original (in Misti Alpaca lace and US4 needles), so I added one stitch on each end to make a three-stitch garter border, and used US5 needles.  Ended up using about 95% of the yarn -- booyah!