Monday, December 31, 2012

My obligatory New Year's resolution post

It is here. Well, almost. In less than an hour it will be 2013 on the East Coast. And, not being a party animal at all, I am in the FamCave, at my desk, writing this blog. I actually bought cheap champagne to make mimosas at midnight, but who am I kidding? I will surely be asleep by 11:55.

Before I crash for the night, I will publicly commit to a New Year's resolution. I usually don't make resolutions because I have the attention span of a gnat and forget them within days of the new year. But this year I am determined to give this a try. So here goes...

I have this idea. And it is actually a good one because it will motivate me and keep me focused throughout the coming year. I am pledging to create something new every day in 2013.

What does this mean? To encourage my own creativity and challenge myself to learn new skills, I am defining this broadly, to include crafting, designing, writing, and generally making anything new. My goal is to take on new crafting projects, continue my technical and marketing copy writing work, and even take on a little creative writing to stretch myself artistically. A recent Pinterest convert, I have been pinning like crazy, making lists of creative sources of inspiration in 2013. I am starting the new year with a modest list of projects, including these:

Crocheting - I learned to knit and crochet when I was a kid, and now my daughter has inspired me to relearn and expand my knowledge of all things yarn. I am collecting patterns and tutorials on Pinterest and have big plans for this year!

Making Amurigumi Animals - I have loved these cute little yarn creatures for years, but 2013 will be the Year of the Knit Creature for me! Stay tuned!

Expanding my photography hobby, including digital photography and crazy, artsy, lomo photography

Learning to create beaded and wire jewelry - This just looks like so much fun, and I want to create the kinds of beautiful pieces I admire on Etsy.

Encouraging my daughter's film making efforts because she is awesome and talented and I know she will continue to create amazing things!

Writing this blog - I am taking a blog design course and plan to set aside time each day to code, design, research, and learn as I develop this blog into something you will want to read every day.

And there is much more I plan to do this year, so watch this space!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2013 is a blessed and wonderful year for all of you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Sell Thirty-One products, and I LOVE it!

Among many other things I am a Thirty-One Gifts Independent Consultant. I joined because I love the products, but lately life and work have slowed down my business. Now I have to pull out all the stops to close a party in December to maintain my status and my downline. I really LOVE working with Thirty-One and want to remain active with my great team. So here is my shamless plug for customers, along with an enticing special offer in December:

For every $31 you spend with me right now, you can get one of the above products - in any available pattern - for just $5! You can even get the Thermal Tote, one of my FAVORITE items, for $5!

I love Thirty-One, which I am sure I've said before, and I think it is a great company. I am very excited to promote the new catalog, and I also know you will love the fantastic products in the current catalog, so please shop with me online here:

Kristi's Online December Party - Grab your favorite Fall items before they are gone forever!

You can also call me at 717-781-2661 or email me at kristi at frenzmail dot net. to place your order or talk to me about hosting a party or becoming a consultant. I look forward to talking to you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hipster? Or Just Awesome?

I was watching an episode of The Simpsons with the fam the other night. Now, as a rule, I don't watch that show. I claim not to like it, but I do permit myself a chuckle or two when Jesse makes me watch it. A recent episode elicited roaring laughter, however, when the Simpsons tackled that enigmatic creature known as "The Hipster."

The following is written with all possible irony and humor.

It is safe to say that I have gleaned all of my understanding of The Hipster from television shows. And my 19 year-old cousin who seems to despise The Hipster in all its forms. This limited information has lead me to conclude that I am a hipster. Let's examine the facts, as I understand them:

1) Hipsters crochet and knit and generally create hip crafty things for themselves. CHECK. It is entirely possible that everyone in my family will receive a handmade gift, if I can manage it. Regard my Pinterest crocheting board.

2) Hipsters wear cool eyeglasses. CHECK. I have cool, retro, bright red specs. They are awesome.

3) Hipsters listen to vinyl. CHECK. Of course, I was buying vinyl when it was affordable and commonplace. I started my collection long before it was cool to pay $21 for the new Gotye album.

I hasten to admit that I did, in fact, pay too much for that Gotye album. And it was worth it. And I have not one, but two turntables. To my credit, my vinyl collection is far larger than any you will find in a moody, scarf-wearing, college student's dorm room.

4) Hipsters like cool mid-century retro decor. CHECK. I mean, have you seen my house? It is a work in progress, but rest assured it is clever, quirky, and eclectic in a hip way.

5) Hipsters shop at Urban Outfitters. CHECK. It is my current favorite store. Many tchotchkes are purchased from UO at each visit.

6) Hipsters wear their hair in bangs, like Zooey Deschanel. CHECK. I never expose my forehead for the world to see.

7) Hipsters love film photography. CHECK. I liked it when it was the only option, and I still use it now. I have a shelf in my fridge for film, and I am planning to document this Christmas on expired Polaroid film. Yes. I am THAT cool.

8) Hipsters wear Skeletoes shoes. CHECK. You know those awesome sneaks with cozy little spaces for each toe? Well, I have a pair for biking, and I love them. According to The Simpsons, Hipsters wear these.

9) Hipsters like to ride their bikes. CHECK. I have a nifty Schwinn hybrid that I am slowly transforming into an old school-style cruiser bike, complete with bicycle basket repurposed from a storage basket I found at Home Goods.

10) Hipsters blog about their lives. Well, obviously, CHECK.

CONCLUSION: I am a hipster, although clearly I am not. I couldn't lie convincingly enough about my age to be a hipster. But I like all the things that are awesome. The difference, of course, is that I like these things genuinely, not ironically. I am mature, evolved, and clearly awesome. I was a hipster before The Hipster.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fun with Jelly Lenses, Pt. 2

Now that I've finally figured out how to manage my fun little Jelly Lenses, I am ready to discover how they can enhance my Android-phoneography experience. I decided to start with a simple series of comparison shots to understand how each lens changes the look of my camera phone photos. Some lens effects were fun, some were crap, and others did not appear to make any difference at all. Have a look...

I started with a photo taken with the default camera app on my Android Hero HTC 4G at 8M:

The first Jelly Lens I tried was the Soft Focus. It definitely gave me a soft focus but also sacrificed some of the quality I expect from my phone lens.
Disappointed, I switched to the Vignette lens, which not only did not give me a nice vignette effect, but also degraded the image quality.

The Wide Angle lens was the first Jelly Lens to give me a noticeable effect, so this one is probably a keeper.

Encouraged, I tried the 3 Mirage lens, and I was rather pleased with the results. I have a lens filter for my Holga that gives me a similar effect.

I had doubts about the next lens, called "Polorization" on the package. I am pretty sure they meant to say "Polarization," but who knows? This lens didn't give me anything I will be able to use in my camera phone journey.

The Close-up lens really surprised me. It allowed me to focus on tiny details in the subject flowers and was much better than I expected. This will become part of my phoneography kit!

I loved the filter effect I got with the Antique lens! Of course, I could easily achieve this effect or something similar with almost any phone app.

Finally, I was pretty thrilled with the Star lens and its crazy blue filter. Again, it wouldn't be hard to achieve this effect via software, but it wasn't a total disappointment.

I was disappointed to discover that, although these lenses are touted as being able to adhere to the camera phone lens, the design made it difficult for me to make these lenses stick to my phone. In fact, I had some "mistake" photos taken when the lens fell off my phone in mid-shot.

We paid about $12 for these 8 lenses, and they are worth about that much. You can find Jelly Lenses on some of my favorite toy camera and photography accessory sites, but they generally charge $4 to $6 each for similar lenses. We found these on ebay and purchased them from an overseas vendor. We waited 3 weeks for delivery, so there was definitely a trade-off for the lower price.

I plan to carry the wide angle, close-up, star, and antique lenses on Android-phoneography adventures, and I consider the $12 money well spent.

I would love to hear from readers about alternative phone lens options that have worked for them, so feel free to comment below!

Fun with Jelly Lenses, Pt. 1

I love love LOVE taking photos with my Hero HTC 4G camera phone. I have always been a shutterbug and being able to document my world online gives me the real-time journal I always wanted. I am more than a little obsessed with the many Android-based camera apps available, but these don't permit the image manipulation I want. My awesome partner, Jesse, recently opened a new Android-phoneagraphy world for me when he gave me a set of cheap Jelly Lenses.

As you can see, I now have quite an assortment of lens options, from the classic Vignette to Mirage to Close-up. I was a little overwhelmed by the quantity and got a little stuck when I realized these little toys were difficult to tell apart in on their little key fobs. So my new Jelly Lenses went into a drawer.

Today, while bored, I hit on a simple solution that will (hopefully) work for me. I grabbed Jesse's cherished label maker and got to work.

So there I was, with a pile of tiny labels. I almost gave up when wrestling them from the paper backing became a losing battle. Eventually, I triumphed over the little sticky buggers and ended up with little tags wrapped around the tails of each lens. Would they survive the chaos of my purse? Let's find out. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Making my own fonts is so awesome!

Yesterday morning, my daughter and I were drawing pictures in the frost on my car. I observed "that writing would make a great font." I then extracted a memory from deep inside my addled morning brain and announced that there existed an iPad app for font-making. And this turned out to be true.

I spent the morning finding the blog post tucked away in the corner of my memory. By evening, we had acquired iFontMaker and a fancy new stylus. We were ready to go!

Hours later, I made this:

And now I am on my way to a customized, personally redesigned blog that will reflect my personality AND my access to cool gadgets. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finding Joy Every Day

I was sitting in my doctor's office yesterday, waiting for my appointment. Without a 3G signal I was bored, and my eyes wandered to a magazine on the counter. I think it was Good Housekeeping, a publication I would not normally read. But I needed something to do, so I scanned the articles. A short piece about finding joy caught my eye. I am all about being positive and looking at the bright side these days, so this looked like a worthy read.

The author talked about looking for reasons to be grateful each day. By doing this, we bring ourselves closer to finding joy in our daily lives. It sounds so simple, but it isn't. How often do you find yourself focusing on what you don't have or what isn't going well? I know how easy it is to get bogged down in the negative stuff because I spent years letting that drag me down. At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I am determined to turn that thinking around. In case you hadn't noticed, that is the point of this blog.

This fits perfectly with my Facebook friends' November obsession: a daily countdown of things for which they are thankful. Although I rarely jump on the bandwagon, I decided to give it a try. So here are the things for which I am most grateful today:

1) My partner and best friend, Jesse

2) My beautiful daughter, Genevieve

3) The opportunity to freelance with a fantastic company called Lion Tutors. (I get to create study materials for Penn State business undergrads. It is like taking refresher courses in Management and Marketing every semester, and I even get paid!)

4) My growing Initials, Inc. business, which gives me the opportunity to earn money while selling purses and bags (one of my obsessions) while meeting wonderful women and getting to know this great town of State College, PA.

5) The opportunity to redesign this blog and my website and learn more about web design and coding.

6) A wonderful home office where I can create, connect, and earn a living surrounded by things I love. This precious space allows me to blog, research, and live my dream every day!

And with all these inspiring thoughts in my head, I am about to embark on a blog design course so I can make this little blog a true reflection of my style, my vision, and my personality.

Stay tuned for more about my home-based business and how it is enabling me to build a better life for me and my daughter!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking time to relax, create

My daughter Genevieve recently decided to learn crocheting. Her lessons have not been going well, because I am not a good crochet teacher. It would seem that I learned it incorrectly and have been doing it wrong for decades. This weekend, while shopping, I decided to grab some crochet hooks, beautiful soft yarn (Lily Sugar 'n Cream), and a beginner's book. I started over from scratch, and I made this:
Sure, it's only a little square consisting of three simple stitches (chain stitch, single crochet, and slip stitch). But it is a start, and I hope it will inspire my daughter to try again. I forgot how relaxing and centering crocheting and creating can be! As I worked, my mind was flooded with fond memories of my childhood, when a cherished babysitter taught me how to knit and crochet. She used to make little outfits for my Barbie dolls and help me make special gifts for my family. Now I hope to do this for my little girl and create for her some special memories! So it isn't always about work. Sometimes it feels wonderful to make something out of nothing and share the beauty with the people we love most.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happiness is an awesome workspace

It has been years since I worked full time, away from home, in an actual office, but some of my earliest workspace comfort habits persist. I think we all have a ritual to prepare ourselves for the workday. For me, it was always important to have a hot cup of coffee at the ready as I checked my email and browsed my favorite news sites. It focused me. Not much has changed in the intervening years, except now the coffee is decaf and I check Facebook first. Having more recently worked in a classroom environment, I haven't had an actual office or desk for years. I've been on my feet and engaged with kids in a wonderful and positive way.

But work circumstances change, and I was forced to reinvent my work persona after a layoff earlier this year. We discovered that I had the luxury of flexibility to create my own work, and I spent the last six months developing my own business opportunities and structuring our living space to accommodate my new ventures. (More on those in a future post.) It has been fun! I love to nest, and work-nesting is really something!

As you can see, I still have my coffee, outfitted in a cool Dunkin Donuts mug (I have a collection now). This aerial view was achieved by standing on my cushion-y desk chair in a way that was probably unsafe, but necessary, I assure you. My favorite computers are poised and ready to work, with a new iPad on hand just in case. My desk is covered in gadgets and toys. After all, who says work can't be fun?
My awesome best friend and love of my life, Jesse, hung my uke and baby banjo on the wall for inspiration. I can barely play either, but having them looking down on me every day is bound to guilt me into practicing. We recently built an inspiring collection of Lomography cameras and Jesse gave them a display shelf. I have found that having things in front of me and ready to use increases the chances that I will actually use them.
I couldn't function without my shiny MacBook Pro. This is my third MacBook, purchased last fall after the Great Iced Tea Disaster of 2011 destroyed its predecessor. I do almost everything on this wonderful machine! I love that a laptop makes every room a potential workspace! I am running OS 10.7.5 and recently started exploring new productivity tools in the Mac App store. I also have a red HP laptop, but it just sleeps on my desk and angers me when I am occasionally forced to use it.

I have tons of computer-based organizational and note-taking tools, but I still think best when I have everything on the wall in front of me, organized with brightly-colored sticky notes. I am using the memo board in the background to sketch plans for this blog.

Squeeze is my favorite band of EVER. I got this poster on a recent tour, after which I probably stalked the band for hours. I love having a reminder of all the fun I have following my favorite musicians. It gives me something to work for!
Music has always been an incredibly important part of my workday. When I was a teacher, I used music to help my students learn math. When I worked in nonprofit development, I always had a stereo in my office. For years, I worked to the accompaniment of the University of Pennsylvania's WXPN. These days, I alternate between Sirius/XM radio, Radio Paradise, and a bunch of fun online radio stations (including XPN). All of these great sources of music are made better by our seriously awesome stereo! Regard the gorgeous Vestax turntable that frequently spins my vinyl collection. Music is absolutely necessary as I build my business and find my rhythm as a writer and creator.

This is where I get to spend my workdays. I honestly don't think life can get any better than this!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The unifying theme in my life is happiness

For weeks I have been pondering whether to start a new blog to tie together my work and personal interests. Being an eclectic person with interests all over the place, I was unable to find a unifying theme. This morning, while enjoying my coffee and listening to Radio Paradise, I hit on an idea that just seemed to encapsulate my mood over the past few months - Happiness.
Yeah, I know it's corny. Extremely corny. But that is ok, because it is true. Everything I do today - my freelance work as a content creator with Lion Tutors, selling personalized purses and bags as an Independent Consultant, and experimenting with photography - is tied to, and contributes to, my happiness. The people I see every day - especially my precious daughter and my beautiful partner in crime, Jesse, are the reasons for my happiness. And this over-the-top sense of being HAPPY motivates me to work, love, live, and create in this crazy world.
So it is settled. I christen this blog Enjoying the Happy. And herein you will find nifty tips and tricks to harness your own happy. Because why should I have all the fun? How is that for corny? I think it works.