31 December 2016

For Love and Exploration: New Hearth, Same Home

The Hunt and Hearth Mistress here, newly ensconced in her very own tower in Chicago, official practitioner of the clinical laboratory sciences, still a forester of dresses and a sailor on the ocean of shoes.

I suppose you might think that moving to one of the largest cities in the country, and multiplying the domestic space for which I am responsible would give me more to say, and I suppose I do have more to say, but there's also so much more for a domestic philosopher to do in the city.  Up until now I've spent so much time dreaming about what I would do when I reached this day--the simple, fun things, like dresses and dates, and the bigger things--like researching the mechanics of those things which hold people back from being their best selves, and and now I'm finally ready to roll up my vintage cardigan sleeves, and get my hands dirty.

But first, I'm sorting out my space, beginning with artwork, especially art prints by Etsy artist Claire Caufield, like this pen, ink, and watercolor of Venice:

Ms. Caufield's work is for my "love" room, where the literature, biographies, and Hunt & Hearth contingent of the library will be stored, as well as the artwork of, and photographs of, family and friends.  

As an honorary mermaid, former swimmer, and solo canoer (waiting for solo canoeing gender equality in the Olympics), I've always liked the idea of waterways in lieu of streets, and hence, the idea of Venice.  Plus, pinks, oranges, and mint greens, are favorite colors.  Pinks and golds feature prominently in the love room.  

Mint greens and lumberjack colors are more prominent in the the "exploration" room.  The exploration room is a sort of office, and the future home of the microscope. The design conceit features a sort of menagerie and men-harem of explorers, featuring works by Etsy artist Dick Vincent and Etsy artist Emily Winfield Martin's "The Tatooed Man."  

In addition to decorative developments, slightly more need-based improvements have been made--like non-slip hangers, spices (because you can make rice and beans taste like anything with spices), storage boxes (think Berenstein Bear boxes à la Best Nest You), and clothes.

For clothes, I must recommend the online thrift and consignment store:  ThredUp.  Always wanted black, leather boots, but didn't want to shell out a small fortune?  Want a few more dresses in your summer rotation?  The bag that completes your outfit?  Thrift and consignment are the economical person's means of accessing quality brands.  And ThredUp delivers that economy with convenience in adorable polka dot packaging.  Avoid the crowds and higher prices!  Stop buying new and start buying used!

My time is mine now.  My space is mine now.  My money is mine (and my creditors') now.  I am mistress in my own home, and it will be for love and exploration and learning--what my home has always been for.  What is your home for?

21 December 2015

Clip Art Illustrated Letters

Perhaps you didn't know this, or perhaps you did, but The Tale of Peter Rabbit began as an illustrated letter to a young family friend.  Now I don't possess Beatrix Potter's talent for illustration, but I like her idea of illustrating letters, so I have begun to incorporate my own fondness for old fashioned clip art--that is, clip art in hard copy--into my letter-writing.  If it sounds at all like fun, then I highly recommend that you try it.  In an age when adults are being recommended to return to coloring and jigsaw-puzzling as therapeutic, I recommend corresponding, and that with illustration.

I do most of my art-mining from catalogs and magazines.  I subscribe to catalogs for free, and try to get my magazines either at discount bookstores or in discounted lots on Ebay.  And then go through them with the dual purpose of pleasing both my own aesthetic sense, but also with my audience in mind.  I have amassed quite a library of clip art at this point, and use clear, plastic cases, designed for the storage of photographs, for the storage of clippings--some thirty-two small cases, plus larger portfolios for larger pieces.  One of the best gifts I ever received was a pair of stainless steel hair-cutting sheers, with a floral-patterned handle, from my mother.  (She gives the best gifts.)  Amassing clip art is a relaxing activity for me, much in the way that I imagine knitting is for others.  The making of envelopes is another use for found art, which I introduced you to in another post, How To Make Magazine-Page Envelopes, and there are still others uses, which I will introduce in future posts, but today I want to introduce you to the illustration of letters with found art.

Here are some illustrations of capable women for a capable sister.  Anne Bonney was a pirate lass who loved one Calico Jack, a pirate.  We've both loved a few pirates in our day.  The other is a fashion photoshoot image I can't get enough of.  My brother and I both collect images on our computers, and images of empowered women are a category we both find worthwhile.  Personally, I find women with swords symbolic; for him, it is women with guns.  This is one of my favorite images in this category.

An image to accompany a travel-themed passage for a letter to a penpal.  The addition of the luggage-laden lady to a moonscape is a tongue-and-cheek observation on my own tendency to what might charitably be called over-preparedness in packing.  I can only imagine undertaking interplanetary travel, so-laden.

I don't attempt fiction very often, but sometimes, within the confines of a letter, or perhaps even more challenging, on a postcard, I'll invent a small, picture-inspired world.  I have a sister who adores all things cute.  This is part of a border of Christmas tree ornaments which frame something... an adventure, an intratree dialogue, perhaps, starring the inhabitants of the border.  I find that images often make good story prompts.  I've tried sending images to correspondents before, asking to be told the story behind the image, but have yet to have any takers.

A custom "Air Mail" assignation.  I think I shall try more of these.

I have started including quasi-self portraits in some of my work--mostly of blonde women, with lit bulbs, in hats, garlands, bouquets, etc.  The first picture in this post is an instance of this.  I think it has something to do, in general, with being bright, and perhaps with bringing light.  I sent this piece to a penpal.  It is called "Bouquet of Bright:"

Be a Bright Something!

I sent it to him with this song:

Sealed With An Mmmm...: Wax Seals

If you've never worked with wax seals, then you're missing a fun part of the material aspect of correspondence!  Wax and seals can easily be purchased at stationery stores like Papyrus, or online at various Etsy shops.  Wax are available in a variety of colors, and seals are available in monograms and symbols to add a little more of your unique style to your letter.

To use a wax seal, simply select the seal and color of wax best-suited to your particular piece of correspondence.  Then, gently heat the wick on the wax and allow enough drops of wax to fall onto the envelope to cover an area roughly the size of the seal.  I usually keep a lighter in my box of quill pens, wax, and seals, for this purpose.  Then, blow out the flame, and use the end of the wax to gently smear the wax to cover the area of the seal.

  A variety of wax colors.  My favorites have a hint of glitter in the wax.

The G-clef and "A" were gifts from my mother.  The "M" I purchased on Etsy.

Allow several drops of wax to fall onto the area of the seal, before extinguishing the flame and gently smearing the wax to the area of the seal with the end of the wax stick.

Apply your seal firmly, and for some 5-10 seconds, to the center of the area of wax, being careful to apply it right-side-up.  Then, gently rock the seal to one side to be sure that the wax has hardened underneath, and rock the seal back-and-forth, if necessary, to allow it to detach from the wax.  Don't be disappointed if the seal is not perfect.  It should have a rough-hewn look, as though you sealed many things in the course of your day, and in a hurry.

Voila!  My "A" in sparkly green wax!  (I advise you to reinforce your seal-work with tape, as I imagine  modern postal services are bit rougher than delivery by horse and rider.)

I have a friend who collects older seals.  I love surprising a new pen pal with this accoutrement.  As if letter-writing wasn't already fun enough, now you can seal your correspondence with your monogram, a "heart," a "monk seal," or whatever best suits you!

02 December 2015

How To Make Magazine-Page Envelopes

Do you get tired of tucking your letters into the same, tired envelopes?  Let me share with you something I learned from my best friend, and you'll soon be conveying your missives in a manner far more exotic.

First, subscribe to free catalogs whose design and products you're fond of.  Anthropologie and Free People are favorite catalogs of mine.  Amass magazines of interest whenever possible.  I've occasionally purchased lots of old magazines on Ebay, though this can get expensive with shipping.  My local bargain bookstore also carries a rotating stock of outdated fashion magazines for a dollar each.  When you do get your hands on a magazine, don't just recycle it when you've finished reading, re-purpose those glossy ads and photoshoots into envelopes like so:

First, select an intriguing page for transformation.  This page is from an issue of the magazine Darling:  the Art of Being a Woman, with which my sister gifted me a subscription.  

Flip the page over, and fold the long sides in about one inch on each side.

Play with the fold to determine which portion of the image will make the best front piece.

When you've chosen a front piece, tape the sides together.  I'll place an address label just under his pocket square.  The action of the card flipping towards the viewer will first greet the recipient.  And then his arresting stare will greet her as she goes to open the envelope.

Here are some other things you might try:
This page could be colored in, or left for the recipient to color in.

 This lovely Hermès ad depicts a lighted igloo of scarves, and is suited to the season.

The easel's shoes, or perhaps the fact that the easel has shoes, is the most enchanting part of this page to me, so I made a very small fold at the bottom of the page, so that that aspect would remain on the front.  The address might even fit into the lower right corner to avoid obscuring the artwork.  I like that the blue in the tape echoes the blue lines in the painting.

Let a letter be more than it's words.  Let it be an event!   And let the curtain go up with a flourish, not at the envelope's unsealing, but at the opening of the mailbox's door!  Happy finding, folding, and sending!

Postcard Writing: To Someone In Particular (And To Anyone Else Who May Be Reading)

1.  If you have something sexy to say, write it in a tantalizing code, slipping breathy secrets just under the nose of the postal service.  Or send a recipe.  Or write a lot about nothing... but write about it in code... because then it could be anything.  And the ladies who work at the front desk in your boyfriend's building will be dying to know what it means!

2.  I'm reminded of a ridiculous Soviet era- romantic comedy, The Glass Bottom Boat, in which Doris Day calls her answering machine and leaves cryptic messages for her dog, Vladimir.  Write your post cards as though you are "not writing state secrets," and provide a little entertainment for the powers that be!

3.  Make up a story, perhaps based on the image on the front of the post card, practicing economical poesy or prose by fitting it entirely onto that little square!

4.  Be bold with your words of good cheer!  Perhaps someone else will see them and be cheered by them too!  You know how watching the opening scenes of Love Actually makes you feel?  That's what it's like.  It's being cheered by other people's "hello's" and "I love you's" too!  https://youtu.be/bAD2_MVMUlE

There's the art of eavesdropping, and there's the art of being eavesdropped.  The enterprising postcard-writer aspires to be worthy of the eavesdropper, or the eavesreader, as it were.

This postcard is from Etsy shop meeraleepatel.

18 September 2015

Hero Music

If you're like me, sometimes you forget that you're the hero of your own story, or perhaps that your story is worth telling.  It is for times such as these that you need some kick-ass theme music.  

Rhonda Rousey, one of the greatest MMA pound for pound fighters of all time, and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, walks out to Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation."

In the movie, The Holiday, Iris Simpson (Kate Winslet), while vacationing in Hollywood, meets retired screenwriter Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach).  The Screenwriters' Guild would like to honor him for his achievements, but he is embarrassed to navigate the event with a walker.  Iris's love interest, film composer Miles (Jack Black), writes Arthur a confidence-boosting theme song, which plays as he ascends the platform, sans walker.

Above left is Georgia May Jagger, the face of Marc Jacob's "Fight Like a Girl" against breast cancer campaign.  We can all corner the fight against cancer, by supporting those on the front lines. 

When you're feeling bit part-small, cue your walkout music, and get back in the ring!  Remember that there are people in your corner, that you're a hero to them, and that they're cheering you on!

Today I came across The Marketts' "Out Of Limits."  It's big, with a this-town-ain't-big-enough-for-the-both-of-us attitude.  It's Beatrix Kiddo, racing along on her yellow Ducati to settle old scores in Kill Bill.  When I hear this, I'm ready to fight!  What's your hero music?  

02 July 2015

Book Review: "#GIRLBOSS" by Sophia Amoruso

The time has come for the first book review!  And what better book to kick things off with than Nasty Gal CEO and Founder's inspirational, brand-spanking-new, girl-power memoir, #GIRLBOSS?!  In it, she traces her rise from slacker teen to fashion maven, highlighting hard-learned lessons, and outlining the ethos of the "girlboss," a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, believes in the beauty of her dreams, and perhaps most importantly, works her ass off in pursuit of them.*

31-year-old Sophia Amoruso explains that even those early, hourly wage jobs had something to teach her about showing up and working hard.  By far her biggest breakthrough, though, was in working long hours for herself, selling vintage through her eBay store.  She searched the thrift racks of San Francisco, painstakingly crafted the photoshoots that gave her products an edge, built relationships with her customers through social media, and built something great from the details up.  Now she leads a of one-of-a-kind, multi-million dollar fashion brand.  

Amoruso has a little preaching to do to the shopaholic.  She's a huge proponent of saving.  And she's not in favor of emotional shopping.  This was hard for me to hear.  I essentially shop with an imaginary currency called "like."  Whether or not I purchase something has historically had less to do with financial considerations, and more to do with the quantity of "like" it engenders, but I am a recovering shopaholic.  Listen to this girl, and keep some money in the bank!

"...[E]ach time you show up to work and work hard and do your best at everything you can do, you're planting seeds for a life that you can only hope will grow beyond your wildest dreams.  Take care of the little things--even the little things that you hate--and treat them as promises to your own future.  Soon you'll see that fortune favors the bold who get shit done." (121)  I like the idea of thinking of responsible decisions as promises to one's future.

As I was reading this book, it had my baby sister written all over it.  She has always lapped me in having her shit together.  She is the most natural, bad-ass girl boss I know.

Some of the proceeds of the book go to Amoruso's #GIRLBOSS Foundation, which funds the efforts of up-and-coming girl bosses.

Despite gearing her book toward young, female entrepreneurs, boy bosses can get on this train too!  Hard work and dreams are for everyone!

The name "Nasty Gal" comes from this same-titled Betty Davis song and album.

*I borrowed from:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -- attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt

25 May 2015

Star-Spangled Heart

I have a card from the Selective Service asking me to confirm whether I am, in fact, a girl, as according to their records, I am.  I tried to register because bellicose big sisters should be able to sign up instead of their artist little brothers.

I remember, working at a summer camp, crawling on my elbows through the tall grass to cross enemy lines during a game of capture the flag.  Or burrowing into a thicket of vines, and under a pile of leaves, as campers searched the campus hoping to gain 150 points by finding "the girl lifeguard."  Or earning the nickname "Baby Seal" after performing after dark maneuvers, in snake-infested waters, to recover the trampoline, which should have been taken in long before.  ("Baby" for forgetting it in the first place, and "Seal" for retrieving it under cover of darkness.)

I tried to enlist in the Navy twice during the recent wars, but was rejected, more or less, for being, in the parlance of my sister, "wimpy."

I have long been proud of the service of family and friends.  And I have made peace with my lot to stay home.  On Memorial Day, as we remember the sacrifices of our countrywomen and countrymen, I can't think of a better memorial than to endeavor to build a nation and a world worthy of their sacrifice, and to guard their children and their children's children from similar sacrifice.  For ultimately, success will not be measured in the hegemony of star-spangled hearts, but in the fellowship of all human hearts, in the breaking of bread, on a Memorial Day in the not too distant future, when we can remember together war as a thing of the past.  Perhaps this is a naive dream, but it is a beautiful dream, which I shall continue to dream.  For home is where the heart is, and my star-spangled heart is at home with humankind.

18 May 2015

ShoLoGlo: Shop Locally... In the Global Neighborhood

So it's not exactly shopping locally, but then it's not furthering most of the ills of globalization either.  It's shopping the local designer, the small designer, in the global neighborhood.  Three of my favorite websites support small scale designers, and I'd like to share them with you, so you can shop the global neighborhood too!

 Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade dealer of products from all over the world.  Included with each product is a description of its provenance, like this necklace from Ecuador.  They deal in mostly in handmade jewelry, apparel, and household goods.

Novica, like Ten Thousand Villages, also retails handmade products from all over the world.  They provide information about the individual artists as well, not simply the origin of the product, making it possible to follow favorite artists.  Neeru Goel's jewelry is a favorite.  I love the embroided shawls too!

Etsy, where I can correspond with designers, sometimes commissioning unique pieces, and often receiving a personalized note with my purchase.  These are a few of my favorite Etsy shops.

Whimsy Whimsical has the cutest woodland creatures on all manner of stationary, including bookplates!  She's based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

The Wheatfield by Katie Daisy is everything bright and uplifting.  Her shop features art prints of her original work, and other products, incorporating her artwork, like floral tape.  Repairs have never been so jovial!  She works out of Bend, Oregon.

My Lavaliere has retro jewelry in the art nouveau/whimsical vein.  It's a great place to look for unique pieces at decent prices.  My Lavaliere ships from Atlanta, Georgia.

For the romantic or steampunk, there's Art Inspired Gifts.  They sell pocket watches, both on chains and as necklaces, with exposed works and filigree covers.  These are beautiful pieces!  The magic happens in Oroville, California.

From reading octopus bookplates to cheery animals on recipe cards and adventurous animal 'fridge magnets, boygirlparty does all things office supplies,  à la San Diego, California, à la cute.

Bookplate Ink is my go-to source for bookplates, especially my beloved gnome plates.  I can't recommend both their products and their service highly enough! 

The Happy Hound, of Charlotte, North Carolina, produces elegant, black and white, monogrammed stationary, featuring animals, in the manner of a coat-of-arms.

You might think that Target has the corner on stylish duct tape, but your ducts have not been properly taped until you've been to The Lovely Desk.  These delectable office supplies will have you performing even the most mundane of office chores with relish.  The Lovely Desk ships from Manchester, United Kingdom.

Etsy shop-owners, from time-to-time, will close up shop while on vacation, or while filling orders.  The Locketfox is away at present, but I would encourage you to check back with her shop again soon.  She makes the loveliest of lockets.

I hope you'll take the time to visit some of my favorite shops in the global neighborhood, and I hope you'll tell me about some of yours!  Also, what do you think about my hypothesis, that shopping small scale designers, globally, is roughly on an ethical par with shopping locally? 

My Library: New Additions

I'm working this summer, and saving money for school, but I'm also allowing for a small trickling in of books.  When I'm feeling very thrifty, I use a stamp in lieu of a bookplate... a tree, or an owl, or a Japanese wave pattern with the words "This book belongs to [my name]."  But lately I've allowed a few new bookplates to trickle in as well.  I'm a fan of animals, especially of mammals.  And as someone who has studied the cost per unit of bookplates from a variety of sources, these wild animal illustration plates from The Lovely Desk, on Etsy, are well-priced.  But by far my favorite bookplate ever is the one above, of a solitary girl, dancing by starlight.  The illustrator is Dorothy Lathrop.

My use of the Amazon Wish List, watching used book prices, might be something akin to an investor watching stock prices.  There are better and worse times to buy books.  And I used to work for an online bookseller, so I can often read between the lines regarding a book's condition.  For instance, I don't buy anything in less than "Very Good" condition, unless the seller lists the condition as "Good" and explicitly states that the pages are clean.  Also "Ex Library" is pretty good indicator of clean pages.

My Amazon Wish List contains about 1800 books, subdivided into approximately 40 sub-wish lists, either by subject or by price.  Some of the subjects are Biography, Literature, Medicine, Philosophy, and Public Policy, all with subdivisions, and then I have, for instance, a $0.01 price list.  It's labor intensive, but since I don't have a large library budget, and since I enjoy watching the prices, I manually shift books around as the prices change, and then, as I'm gearing up to buy, I'll make a narrow down list, and look for opportunities to get the used titles I'm looking for from the same seller.  Amazon has an "Add to Wish List" button you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar, and use it to add items from any website on the internet.  It's a great way to keep track of gift ideas!

I am a Barnes and Noble member.  I am not sure that this was a prudent move for me.  They don't seem to have a wish list feature, although they did just send me coupons.  I was able to get a good deal on my Katie Daisy 2016 "Stay Wild At Heart" Planner, plus free shipping, as I am a member.  I bought her "Live Simply" Planner last year and loved it!  Not only are the calendar pages beautiful, but interspersed throughout is her artwork, with encouraging messages like "You Are So Loved" - a nice thing to turn the page and see after filling the previous page with stressful assignments.  A planner that destresses you?!  That's the kind of planner you want!  Here is a link to Katie Daisy's Etsy shop:  The Wheatfield

So far library building has proven a fun, and relatively inexpensive, hobby.  It gives me something to look forward to in the mail.  I have plenty of great books to read!  It serves as a sort of hope chest for moving in about a year.  I'm looking forward to giving my library a new home!

In the interest of further justifying my book purchases, and improving what may be my weakest area on the verbal portion of the GRE, reading comprehension, I'm going to start reviewing the blog-relevant elements of my library.  Stay tuned!  I like making introductions.  Perhaps you'll meet a book here that you like!