Doodles: Floor to Ceiling Shelves & My New Book Blog

Until now, I've been blogging about my crafts, my life, and my obsession with books. Until recently, I thought that was okay. Now, I think it's a tad schizophrenic.

I've been studying the blogs that I really love, and have found they appeal to one or two specific niches. Not three. This is what sets "that's nice" blogs apart from "wowee-zowee" blogs--focus.

Of course, I still want to write about what I read. After all, books and reading is a major part of me. My solution? To create a separate blog to chart my reading adventures.

Don't worry! I will still write here just as frequently about my crafty, artsy things, and little life reflections. But, if you want to read about what I'm reading, check out Floor to Ceiling Shelves (that's the name of my new book blog).

I hope you will follow both, or at least take the time to peruse my new blog.

Thanks, and have a wonderful day!

Why "Hello" There

I just printed some new linocut cards! I love them, and isn't the eggplant purple the best? I'm proud of myself for mixing that color.

After making my fifth block, I finally think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole thing. My first block was a struggle, but as I went it got easier. Hopefully I'll get even better as time progresses.

What do you think? Do you like them?

My next block is going to be more of a portrait. Probably of my dog. :O) I want to try the artsier side of lino-cutting. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Bibliofiles: The Lovely Bones; #dreadful

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Fiction / Terrible Muck
368 Pages

So I found this book at Salvation Army for $0.50. I knew one of my dear friends had read it and raved about it. I also knew that when I was younger, this book was on the best sellers list, and critics were giving it outstanding reviews. After reading roughly one hundred pages, my response is, "What the HECK were you thinking, America?!"

Before I begin (in case you don't know this), this is not a YA novel. If it were in Barnes & Noble, it would be in the "adult fiction" section. I don't think anyone under the age of fourteen should read this. You should further note, I couldn't bring myself to finish the thing, so this review is incomplete.

Now, back to my review. This book is about a girl named Susie Salmon. She's in junior high. She just got her first kiss. She has plans to take the high school world by storm. And then, she is murdered by her disgusting neighbor, who just so happens to be a serial killer, Mr. Harvey. Well... looks like Susie won't be ruling the high school corridors, after all.

After her death, we see Susie in heaven. This isn't the heaven with pearly gates and gold-gilded floors; quite the contrary, this heaven is tailored to Susie's needs, specifically. So, there's a school, but there are no teachers. She only takes the classes she likes. She can set the hallways ablaze (literally), and not get in trouble. Apparently, the definition of heaven is the ultimate freedom to be an idiot without consequences; but I digress. Anyway, from her heaven, Susie can see the lives of those whose lives she touched with her untimely death. Her feelings as a "ghost" affect her family members--her dad especially. Susie's death seems to drive a divisive wedge between her family members as they all deal with their grief in different ways.

Really, this book wouldn't have been so bad if the writing were decent--but Sebold really uses some odd word choice in describing her characters and setting. For example, when speaking of a teenage girl who has a crush, Sebold writes, "Her heart, like an ingredient in a recipe, was reduced." Or later on, Sebold describes someone's eyes to look like "ferocious olives." Um, excuse me, but how can an olive be "ferocious."

Oh, and here's my favorite. When Susie describes her first kiss, Sebold writes it was "like an accident--a beautiful gasoline rainbow." I later realized she was talking about the psychedelic colors gasoline makes when in a water puddle; but seeing "accident" and "gasoline rainbow" made me imagine a massive car wreck scene with excessive pyrotechnics--and then I associated that image with something like a kiss... just too funny.

Combine some terrible, laugh-out-loud worthy descriptions with jumbled structured (an attempt to reflect Susie's state in limbo, no doubt) and a very slow to move plot (I wouldn't even call it a plot--just a large collection of descriptions); stir over medium-high and reduce. The result? A book I couldn't finish. And given that I'm usually of the mind that once I start a book, I have to finish, it says a lot that I deemed this one unworthy of my time.

In conclusion, what were you thinking, America?

More Linocut Tips

As you know from this post yesterday, I was very excited about getting finished carving my "world peas" block. So, I skipped the part where I analyze every last detail of my piece before carving, and just went for it. Ironically, I was thinking to myself how good I'd gotten at drawing everything I want backwards.

Then, I inked up the brayer and then my block and using a mason jar as a baron (another helpful, cost cutting trick), I transferred my print. I pulled the kozo paper off the block, admired my work for a little, and then to my horror, I realized I'd made a mistake!

I had made the "a's" backwards!

I considered making a new block, but then decided against it. After all, that would be a waste of a block I could use for something else. So, I set out to fix it in the best way I could and ended up with this:

It's not perfect, but I dare say, it'll do.

The lesson here? Well, normally, when I finish my sketch on the block, I hold it up to a mirror to make sure everything is satisfactory--especially my lettering. I was in a hurry, so I didn't do that. I suppose the lesson is twofold. Don't rush, and always check your block in the mirror before you carve. 

Also, like I said last time, warm up the lino with an iron. It makes it loads easier to carve.

Well, to all you carvers out there, best of luck to you. I'm still a beginning printer and I make lots of mistakes. I'm happy to say that so far, I've managed to squeeze a learning experience out of all of them. 

If you think you would be interested in buying one of these prints, let me know. I'm trying to feel the climate on opening an Etsy adventure.

Current Project

Here is what I've been working on for the past day or two. I came up with this concept a while ago (like my junior year...). It says "visualize world peas." Cute, huh?

And as I've been working on it, I've discovered a nifty trick for linocutting! As you can see, I have to cut away a LOT of extra lino for this block. To make it easier to cut away, I've been placing an iron on the portion I'm working on for around 30 seconds. It makes cutting away the linoleum feel like you are cutting away butter. If you try this, put your iron at a low setting. For example, my iron has 7 levels, and I have it at 3 to warm up the linoleum. The trick is, get it warm... not hot.

Anyway, I'll be sure to keep you posted! I should be pulling my first proofs by tomorrow--or maybe even tonight if I can find the time!

Doodles: Peacock

It's been a while since I shared my doodles with you all. That's mostly because I haven't been drawing much. I don't know why... I've just been in kind of a creative slump. It happens from time to time, even to the best of us (or in my case, the average of us).

Inspired by my recent henna tattoo work (I'll show you that in a future post) and maybe even Kung Fu Panda 2, I decided to draw a peacock. I really love the cool colors--it's simply a serene combination.

I colored it using watercolor pencils. I was going to use regular watercolors, but I figured the more control I had over the colors, the better the overall piece would turn out.

Hopefully this summer I'll be drawing and creating more often. During the school year, I felt like I never had any time to do creative things. Now that school is out, I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things.

Happy Wednesday!

The Good & Not as Good

  • I got accepted to the Ben Franklin Scholars program at Penn!
  • My snap peas are growing. 
  • I finished making more "Gee Thanks" cards for the lovelies who wished me well for graduation. (If you missed that post, see here). I'm thinking about starting an Etsy venture... What do you think?
  • I rescued my dog from a near drowning experience! (He ran off the end of a dock on accident... he's kind of dumb).

  • I have summer homework from the Ben Franklin Scholars program... ick.
  • Still no job... although I have mixed feelings about it. Not going to lie. I kind of like being lazy.
  • I got the Krazy Glue tube glued to the table yesterday. Pretty much the most epic of epic fails. My dad had to chip off the puddle of dried glue with a chisel last night. He wasn't happy. (Sorry, dad!)
  • I think I'm allergic to fuji apples... NOOOOOOOOO! (They're my favorite).

What Happened to Those Days?

Today as I was fighting a crusade against Richard the Dandy-lion-heart, I could hear two boys down the street pretending to rescue some damsel in distress. They were perhaps eight years old, and I was quite amused by their antics. I listened a little harder, expecting to hear them declare their allegiances to some princess, or another traditional "damsel." You have no idea how shocked I was to hear one of them say, "QUICK! WE NEED TO SAVE MEGAN FOX!!!"

Yeah. I didn't even believe it the first time I heard it. I mean, how do eight year olds even know who Megan Fox is--much less have an attraction to her.

And then, I heard his comrade reply, "We'll save you, Megan Fox!"

Turns out, I heard right the first time.

Honestly, I'm not very old. I'm just barely eighteen, in fact. And yet, so much seems to have changed since I was little.

When I was young, the boys were knights or pirates or firefighters or the like. And they didn't save Megan Fox--they saved princesses or the elderly or puppies. Conversely, girls didn't dress like miniature adults and dream of becoming a Hannah Montana or iCarly sensation. We pretended to be queens, fairies, doctors, cowgirls, chefs, and housewives.

As time passes, values become more shallow. I knew this, but somehow I thought that childhood would be impervious to the materialistic, fame-ridden clutches of the pop culture that surrounds us. I suppose that I was wrong.

This led me to the conclusion that we need to simplify our lives, if not for our own sake, then for the sake of the future generations. If we want to foster a healthy environment for these kids to grow up in, we probably need to nix this early idolatry of the beautiful and famous. I've seen second graders wearing Justin Bieber's face plastered on their shirts, with Zac Efron's face on their backpacks. This is an epidemic folks!

For this reason (if it were up to me), kids would go back to playing "make-believe" games, like doctor or house. And instead of video games, they would play with toys. I seriously think these things are very good for building a foundation of imaginations which is then followed by intellect and ingenuity.

I guess my point is, simplify. We need to simplify.

The Bibliofiles: Dystopias

I've decided reading is too much a part of my life to not include it regularly on my blog. For this reason, I've decided on having a regular feature called The Bibliophiles (clever, right? I'm quite pleased with myself). I'm pretty excited. This is just another step towards shaping this blog into a better reflection of the things I love. It won't be a weekly feature like my Series Sunday feature. It'll be something I run after I read something I feel you all would enjoy.

Without further ado, let's begin.

Lately, I've read a couple of "dystopia" style books that my friend lent me. If you liked the Hunger Games trilogy, I would recommend these books. They weren't quite as good, but they were entertaining reads, nonetheless.

First, comes the book  Maze Runner. I believe it is the first of a trilogy, and the concept is really interesting. Basically, the story follows a boy named Thomas who has been delivered to an odd colony of boys set in the middle of a maze. Thomas has no recollection of who he is, except his name. The maze is home to deadly creatures called Grievers, and yet, the boys are forced to run the maze every day in hopes of finding a way out.

The story was very interesting, but the prose was almost too stark for my preferences. I felt like the plot took a while to really get going. I would say it was worth it in the end.

Next is Unwindby Neal Shusterman. This book takes place in a time after the "Heartland War," which was essentially a second civil war between the pro-life and pro-choice divide. The war resulted in a treaty which ended abortion, but allowed parents to "unwind" their children between the ages of 13 and 18. "Unwinding" essentially means to harvest body parts and give them to people who are in need. Every body part must be used, under the law, so in this way (the ideology goes) that they child continues living--just in a divided state.

The story itself focuses around three teens--Connor, Lev, and Risa--who attempt to escape being unwound. What follows is a suspenseful tale that will keep you up until 3 AM (guilty...), but more than anything, will make you think. I thoroughly recommend this one.

NOTE: Shusterman really doesn't make his personal point of view regarding pro-choice and pro-life known in the course of his story telling. He doesn't force his beliefs on the reader--which I respect, immensely.

Hope you enjoy these! Happy reading, folks. :O)

Headband Tutorial Part 2: The Band

Here is Part 2 of my T-shirt headband tutorial. If you missed Part 1, go here.

1. Okay, so first, cut the T-shirt straight across, under the armpits.

2. Now, you should have a piece that looks like this. Trim off the hem at the bottom, and cut the piece in half so you have two "tubes" of fabric. DON'T CUT DOWN THE SEAM!

Now, align the fabric so the two seams are in the center, like shown below.

3. Set your sewing machine to the largest stitch available.

4. Now, sew down the seam without back-tacking.

5. Once you've sewn it, you can simply pull on one of the threads to gather the fabric.

6. Now, sew a 1/4 inch on either side of the center. This time, use smaller stitches and back-tack. 
Then, cut the fabric down the center, between the two parts you just sewed.

7. When you flip them right-side out, you should have two bands that look like this.

8. Next, cut a small rectangle of the t-shirt.

9. Using a glue gun, glue the rectangle around the seam. This covers any "awkward" looking stitching.

10. Finally, glue down the rosette you made in Part 1... and you are DONE!

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

When Instagram released their Android app a little while ago, I was pretty excited. After all, there was so much hype about it, it had to be the best app ever. From what I'd heard, it could allow a blind monkey with no thumbs to make a terrible picture into a work of "retro" looking art.

Well... I've had the app for a while. I don't really understand the point of the social networking part of it... but I do like some of the filters. Although, if you want a program that does the same thing, sans social network, and with more filters, try MagicHour. You can make your own filters, or download user generated ones. And you don't have to post every picture you take to your Instagram account.

Anyway, I do like some of the filters, so I decided to take Instagrams of my cookie baking from last night. I baked two batches of cookies--one for my family, and one for my third grade buddies (from the class I volunteer in). 30 cookies for 27 kids. 30 cookies for a family of 4. Yeah. I'd say it's distributed pretty evenly.

At any rate, in honor of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (who knew that existed?), here are my Instagram photos from baking cookies. :O)

Yum! This is seriously the best cookie baking technique ever. The cookies end up with a glazed, crackly sort of shine on the outside, and they are delicious. The trick is to melt the butter in a sauce pan until it has a nutty aroma. Then, pour it into a bowl and add the sugars, vanilla extract, and salt. After mixing that, add in your eggs. Then slowly mix in the flour mixture and finally add the chocolate chips. Trust me. The heated butter and sugar thing makes all the difference.

Happy baking!

Headband Tutorial Part 1: Rosettes

So, this is the first part of a two part series to make the headband gloriously resting on the noggin of yours truly below. Today, we'll be covering how to make the rosette embellishment. It's really not hard, so read on to learn how!

As I said, this headband was upcycled from an old Forever21 long sleeve t-shirt. It cost me $5, and I wore it for about a year.

And then it started to become a wee bit raggedy. Let's just say it's seen less "holey" days.

So, first thing you need to do is lay out your shirt, and cut off the sleeves. Save the torso for part two (where we'll make the headband part). Then, cut straight down the sleeve, using the seam as a guide. Now you have one large piece of t-shirt (or jersey, if you prefer).

Now, cut a felt circle about 1.25 inches across. This will become the base of your rosette. Then, cut 9 circles that are 1.5 inches across from the sleeve fabric. These will be your "petals."

Next, fold 8 "petals" into quarters, as pictured below.

Put a dab of hot glue on the corner of each folded "petal", and glue the "petals" down on the felt base. Once you have one layer of four, add another layer of four "petals" on top. Be sure to stagger the placement.

Now, take the ninth circle and fold it so it looks like the picture below. You may need to add a dab of glue to the inside before doing this. Then, glue this center in the center of the flower so that it stands up a little.

Then, fluff up those petals, and you've got a jersey cotton rosette! 

Now, make four of these (if you plan to make four headbands, that is). You'll probably need to use both sleeves to do so.

Headband Teaser

Well, I've finally gotten around to crafting stuff again! Yes, yes. You're all too kind. No, really--hold the applause.

So, today, I whipped out two of these headbands, and I'm planning on making two more. Why so many, you ask? Because, the materials cost me nothing! How, you ask? Because I made them by "upcycling" (a term I previously thought was only for hippy granola types) an old long sleeve t-shirt!

With material from one shirt, I can make four headbands--while using up almost all of the shirt. I hate wasting fabric, so this discovery made me quite giddy, indeed. 

Over the next week, I'll be posting a two part tutorial to make these headbands; and let me tell you, these suckers are pretty cute. So cute that you'll be digging in your closet, or going through the thrift store, or even sifting through dumpsters (just kidding... don't do that... that's nasty) to find a shirt so you can make your own headbands to wear and to give to others. 

Consider this your teaser, folks! Hopefully, I'll be seeing you around. 

Yet Another New Look

So... as you can see, the blog has a new look (again). I couldn't think of anything to write, so I decided to redesign my header and navigation bar. A few other things will be changing over the next week or so as well.

I have to say, I'm pleased with my new header. I basically collaged a few of my favorite doodles. It's much more personal, no? And to be honest, I was never a huge fan of my blue and pink color scheme. It was a wee bit too girly for me...

Well, I'm on summer break now, so theoretically, I should have more time to post. And, I'm planning on posting more. For now, I'm going to try and brainstorm some spiffy series ideas. Do you have any ideas?

Later, gators!

The End, As I Know It

Today was the last day of my high school career. We had a few finals (well, actually, I had no finals), and did our graduation practice (because twelve years of public education evidently hasn't taught us how to walk across a stage when our names are called). Then, of course there was pizza, soda, ice cream and cake--as there should be for such an occasion. It was pretty much an awesome day.

I know there are two camps when it comes to high school. One says it was the worst time of their lives... the other says it was the best. I have to say, I align myself with the latter; however, this is not to say there are not better days to come. 

For me, high school was a time of growth--a time to collect hats, if you will. I mean, I used to just have the "student" hat, which was nice, but not really that nice. As time moved on, I became a leader, a volunteer, a writer, a blogger, a Quaker (go Penn!), a civically engaged citizen, and most importantly, a friend (although, I've actually had that hat the longest, I suppose). Finally, by the time my junior year rolled around, I was taking ownership of my high school experience--and I was loving life because of it.

When I started out in high school, I was the girl who was very quiet, got good grades, and went home for the day. I would never have EVER guessed that I would become student body president later on, or that I'd ever pluck up the courage to talk in front of huge crowds on a microphone, or that I'd even muster up the resolve to actually become a published writer. Heck, I didn't even know if I would get into college, or find my way to my next class!

My point is this, life (not just high school) always has potential to be amazing, IF you're willing to take ownership. It is this mentality that I will be carrying into my college career, and even more importantly, into my every day. Get involved! Join a club! If you're in high school, don't be afraid to try new things. In fact, if you're any age, don't be afraid to try new things! But even more than that, give yourself the freedom to pursue the things you love. Don't ever deny yourself that right, because that right there is the essence of life.