March 29, 2013

The Rules of Blogging

I had an epiphany the other day about blogging.

Since I started A Creative Yarn, I've been struggling with what kind of blog it should be. Is it a craft blog? Is it a lifestyle blog? Or should I force it to fit into some other category entirely? Force myself to stick with a particular format and write posts that sound, well, rather forced.

This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. Ha! Truth be told it really doesn't, but I found myself spending more time than need be wondering and overthinking the concept of this blog.

I've read a few books about blogging, participated in free online classes, even paid for a class once. They all pretty much have the same ideas. Much of the advice I've read is about driving traffic to your site, creating editorial calendars so you have a steady stream of content, social media, the importance of ALWAYS adding photos to your posts, brainstorming blog post ideas, tips on photography, and the type of content you should be posting.

The one thing I've never liked about blogging is the feeling that I should conform to the so called "blogging rules" of limiting your topics, posting often, constantly checking analytics, and promote, promote, promote. It's so easy to get caught up in comparing your blog to another one. In the past, I have wasted hours upon hours studying other blogs to figure out why one is more successful than the other.  Unless you plan on being a professional blogger, blogging shouldn't be a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is a creative outlet for me - one of many actually - so I want it to be an enjoyable hobby, not something that eats up my time.

Now, that brings me back to my epiphany about blogging. I've decided to say f*ck the rules and make up my own. I'm taking the pressure off and doing my own thing from now on. If one day I want to post a craft project I will. If the next day I want to write about a new book I'm reading, or how my diet is going, or post pictures of the dog getting a bath, or write a post that is all words and no pictures (yes, I said no pictures)  then by God I will,  and I will enjoy myself.

Here are my rules for blogging (in no particular order of importance):
  • I will post as frequently or infrequently as I want. 
  • Photos are optional. If I have a pic that I can incorporate into a post then great, but if I don't, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.
  • And speaking of photos - I'm not a professional photographer, so bad lighting or blurry shots will not deter me from using them in a post.
  • Posting about any topic is encouraged. I have a lot of interests, so I'm not going to limit what I write about to just one category. 
  • I'm going to keep the checking up on stats/analytics to a minimum. Checking once a month sounds reasonable to me.
  • Have fun and don't worry about what others think or what other bloggers are writing about. People are either going to like your blog or not, plain and simple.

How do you feel about the blogging rules? Are you a follower, a trailblazer or someone in between?



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Book Review: A Cottage By The Sea

Throughout the month of January I had been reading A Cottage By The Sea by Ciji Ware on the recommendation of my aunt. It's a modern day romance with a time travel twist to it. The book wasn't bad, but I'll admit it took me a while to get through it.

Blythe Barton Stowe is the protagonist in this story. The book begins with the finalization of a messy divorce from her famous Hollywood director (and cheating bastard) husband, Christopher Stowe. Blythe wants to get as far away as possible from the spotlight and lay low for awhile, so she goes to Cornwall, England. She ends up at Barton Hall, a place that family lore has led her to believe once belonged to her ancestors. There she meets hunk-a-burnin' love, Lucas Teague, the current owner of Barton Hall and a man with his own set of issues. But, as I said, he's a hunk-a-burnin' love, so of course sparks fly between them.

There is also a time-travel element to this story and it involves the large genealogy chart located in the library of Barton Hall. It seems that whenever Blythe touches a name on the chart, she is transported to the 1700s and gets caught up in the family drama of that time. I'm a fan of historical fiction, so I enjoyed that part of the storyline. Many questions arise with regard to her potential ancestors as well as a mystery. Will she find the answers? And how does Lucas Teague fit into the story?  I won't spill the beans, so you'll have to read it to find out.

I will say this. For me, the story seemed to drag at times, which is why it took me a few weeks to finish it. At one point I decided that I wouldn't bother reading on, but I changed my mind. I'm glad I did. It really started to pick up about halfway through and then it seemed like I couldn't put the book down. Overall, I gave this book 3 stars on Good Reads. If you like romance and historical fiction, you might want to give this one a try.



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March 28, 2013

Time For A Little Refocusing


I've been missing in action again. I haven't felt much like writing lately. Actually, I haven't felt like doing much of anything either. I stopped working on my Le Gran stole, which should have been finished by now. And my One Word project has not gotten off to a good start.

The word I chose for the year is Focus. I made a list of key things I wanted to focus on throughout this year. You know, things I want to try, things I want to improve upon...blah, blah, blah. Well I haven't focused on anything. Much of December was spent making lists of things I want to do in 2013, projects I want to take on, changes in my life that need to happen. I had grand plans, and I was going to start focusing on those plans the first day of January.

I planned on updating my blog at least three times a week. One of my days off each week was to be spent practicing my photography. I was going to designate a certain amount of time to sit and write every day. I was going to completely overhaul my diet and start exercising on a regular basis, organize the garage, read at least 2 books a month, and be more social, hang out with friends or maybe even get out and meet new people.

Guess what? That didn't happen, at least to the degree of gusto I thought it might happen. What I ended up doing was overwhelming myself with too many things to focus on at one time. I haven't updated my blog, haven't taken any pictures, haven't written much, didn't organize the garage, and haven't been very social at all. I started to focus a little on my diet but I haven't started exercising, and I'm still trying to read A Cottage by the Sea (I'm having a hard time getting through this book).

So I've decided the best thing for me to do is focus on one thing at a time, and I'm starting with writing. Writing a little bit every day to get in the habit. Writing is something that I really like to do, and it's also something I would like to earn a living from some day in some capacity, whether that means writing fiction, magazine articles, blogging, or some other kind of writing.

Starting now I'm refocusing on my word Focus. The way to reach a goal is to take baby steps to get there, at least that's the best way for me to accomplish anything, and that's what I'm going to do.



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A Reading Challenge For 2013


Something I need to do more of is read. I have two main excuses for not picking up a book more often - either I have no time to read or I'm just too tired.

If you're a member of Good Reads then you're probably familar with their annual reading challenge. It allows you to set a goal of how many books you want to read for the year and tracks your progress. Last year I challenged myself to read 20 books. If I'm lucky, I read maybe 3 to 5 books. Not impressive.

This year I've set a new challenge - read 25 books. I believe this is doable, and there's no reason for me not to reach my goal. I just need to be a little more creative with my time.

For this year's challenge, I'll be starting out with the book A Cottage By The Sea by Ciji Ware. I have no idea what the book is about, but I'm going on the recommendation of my aunt, who did enjoy the book. When I do finish it, I'll fill you in and let you know what I think.

How about you? Have you set any reading goals for yourself? In what creative ways do you find the time to squeeze in a little reading?



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March 27, 2013

Focus: The Word Of The Year



If you read my last post, then you know that I am starting a year-long project that I've dubbed My One Word Project, or MOWP. For those of you who aren't familiar, MOWP is a project where I'm choosing one single word that I want to incorporate into my life over the next year. The word of the year for me is Focus - something I lack and something I need.

For the past couple weeks I've been pondering about what I want to focus on in my life. I started out with a long list and narrowed it down to seven categories. Those being - in no particular order of importance:

  • Writing
  • Health
  • Work
  • Social Life
  • Organization
  • Photography
  • Other Creative Pursuits (i.e., crafting, blogging, reading)

I don't have any particular plan of action for how to carry out MOWP. Basically, I'm just gonna wing it and see what happens. At the beginning of each month, I am going to come up with a list of things I want to accomplish over those next 30 days. Right now, this seems like the best approach to take. The likelihood of overwhelming myself and losing focus will be slim if I give myself some direction of what I want to do on a month-by-month basis.

Over the course of the next year, I'll be doing a series of posts about the above categories of focus and you'll be reading a lot about My One Word Project as I document how things progress.

Oh, in case you're wondering about the significance of the above photo, blackeyed peas are supposed to bring you luck and prosperity in the new year as long as you eat them on New Year's Day. I will be eating them today...will you?

Happy New Year everyone!



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Out With The Old, In With The New


For some reason I seem to blow off blogging for the month of December. I did last year and the year before. So not posting this December was really no surprise for me. I don't know what it is about this particular month that causes me to become lazy and all but abandon my blog. I'm not any busier than any other month of the year - well maybe a little bit busier, but nothing too out of hand.

For me, December signifies the winding down of a year. It's usually a time when I go over in my head all the things I did over the past year, as well as those things that didn't get accomplished. Then of course, there's ample time spent on reflection of what's to come in the new year.

The beginning of a new year represents a clean slate. I don't know about you, but I always have a million ideas swirling around in my mind of things I want to do each year. New projects I want to take on. New goals I want to accomplish. New things I want to try. I get excited about the prospects of my annual goals, but I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with all of the things I want to do. And it never fails, I end up getting myself very unorganized and then I just lose focus all together.

Lack of focus is a recurring theme in my life, so in 2013 I want to concentrate on keeping myself centered.

For the past few weeks I've been doing a lot of thinking about the things I want to do in 2013. One thing I've decided to do is start a year-long project that I'm calling My One Word Project (MOWP for short). Ali Edwards teaches a class called One Little Word. Basically you choose a word that is something you want for yourself in the coming year. Something that will allow you to grow as a person. For example, in her class description, Ali mentions that some previous words she has chosen were play, peace, and vitality. The class offers creative projects and writing prompts to get you to focus on your word and incorporate that word into your life. Along the way, you document your progress in a scrapbook.

I have to say, I like this concept. I like the idea of how one word can give you direction. Direction is something I need. And you want to know something else that I need? I need focus. I lack focus. It's the main reason why many projects that I've started remain unfinished. Its the reason why I've yet to lose the weight that I need to lose, as well as exercise like I should. I'm unorganized and scattered brained at times, and it's all because I lack focus. So, if you haven't figured it out by now, my word for 2013 is...FOCUS.

I won't be participating in the One Little Word class, and I won't be scrapbooking my progress, but I'll be documenting my journey along the way right here through blog posts. I'm kind of excited and can't way to see where this project might take me.

What will your one word be for 2013?




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March 26, 2013

Work In Progress: Le Gran Stole



I am, without a doubt, the slowest knitter in the world. Case in point: the Le Gran Stole. I started this project on January 10, 2011. It’ll soon be January 2013 and I’m still not finished. This is an easy scarf/wrap done in a 2 x 2 rib. It’s fairly mindless knitting - the kind that would take most knitters a day or two to complete. At this point, I’m right around the halfway point and I really hope it doesn’t take another 2 years to finish the other half.



One thing I like about this wrap is the lacy, airy pattern. It's not too heavy, yet it'll be enough to keep the chill off during the mild winters we get down south. I did alter the pattern a little bit. The original was more like a wide scarf. I wanted something that seemed a little more substantial and wider, so I doubled the amount of cast on stitches.



The yarn I’m using gives me fits, though. It’s an acrylic/mohair/wool blend and likes to tangle itself up while I’m knitting, which causes me to stop what I’m doing and spend 15 minutes cursing while trying to unknot my yarn. Another reason it’s taking me so long to finish. I get a little irritated with it and set it aside to work on other projects.

However, lately, I’ve been spending some quality time with the Le Gran Stole and hope to have it finished before the end of this winter. We’ll see how that goes.


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How To Make A Ribbon Christmas Tree


This is a project that I did a year ago. Just like my Halloween sugar cookie recipe, this post originally appeared on my old website. I thought it was lost forever, but was fortunate enough to find a copy of the post in a document file.

Here's the post as it was written a year ago...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ah, it’s that time of year again – autumn and the beginning of the holiday season. There’s Halloween next month, Thanksgiving in November this week, and in a blink of an eye it’ll be Christmas morning. So you know what that means don’t you? It’s time to start making those wonderful holiday decorations!

A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Crafts magazine to start getting ideas for some holiday decorations. I found quite a few things that I want to make this year. One project that stood out to me was the Christmas Tree Concerto. It’s a Christmas tree made from a foam cone covered in loops of sheet music.

I decided to make my own version, only using loops of ribbon to cover the tree instead of sheet music. In my travels to Wal-Mart one week, I picked up a foam floral cone and some ribbon. When I started this project, I wasn’t sure how I was going to top my tree. The one in the magazine used a giant jingle bell, but I wanted to try something different, plus, I was fresh out of giant jingle bells. I tried a few options, with the help of my mother and sister, and settled on a simple package bow with some ribbons dangling down the sides.
Here’s how I made my tree.

Note: I do not recommend using a foam floral cone for this project. It was messy to use. The foam starts to crumble off and feels like sand, so you’re constantly wiping your hands. By the time I got to the top of the cone, the tip was weakened a bit from my constantly handling it, so they are a bit fragile. A regular Styrofoam cone would be a much sturdier choice.


Materials needed
  • Foam cone 3-7/8 inch x 8-7/8 inch
  • 3/8-inch wide ribbon in 2 colors – The rolls I used each had 18 feet per spool. You will need 2 spools of each color. I used the full 18 feet of each color and just a small amount from the second rolls. If you are using only one color for your tree, 3 spools will be enough.
  • Felt                                                         
  • Pins
  • Something to use as a tree topper – bow, ribbon, ornament, etc.
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors

Instructions:


Cut a piece of felt large enough to cover the bottom of the cone. Glue the felt to the cone with craft glue.


Begin cutting 4-inch long strips of ribbon.


Starting at the bottom of the cone, fold the strips of ribbon in half to form loops, making sure not to crease the ribbon. You want nice soft loops.


Begin pinning the first row around the entire cone, making sure the bottom of the loop is flush with the bottom of the cone.

With the second color, start pinning the second row. You’ll want to place the ribbon about a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch above the first row.

Continue pinning rows until you reach the top of the cone.

To hide the pins that are visible at the top row, cut a piece of ribbon long enough to fit around the tip of the cone. You can either glue this around the edge of that final row, or just wrap it around the edge, making sure to cover the pins, and pin in place using a pearl-tipped pin, which is the option I chose.


For the tree topper I recycled a used pre-made gift package bow. First, trim the bottom piece to about the same size as the cone tip. Then place a piece of double-stick tape on that bottom piece.

Next, cut about 6 or 7 long lengths of 1/8-inch wide, wire-edged ribbon and wrap each one around a pen to about halfway up the length of the ribbon to form curlicues. Place them on the double-stick tape to position them around all sides of the bow. Place a piece of regular tape on top of the ribbons to keep them in place.


Turn the bow over. Stick a couple of pins through the center of the bow, going through the tape and ribbons underneath, and then stick that into the top of the cone, and your Christmas tree is complete.



Happy crafting!




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March 25, 2013

A List of Favorites


In case you're wondering about the reference to Thanksgiving, this post appeared on my original blog back in November.  This post as well as the ones prior to it and the rest of the posts for March are being transferred over from my typepad blog. So the timing may seem a bit off on some. 
 
I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. I get to take part of the day off from work, hang out with the family and indulge in foods I only get to eat once or twice a year. Most of this week's favorites are fall/Thanksgiving inspired with a few non-holiday items sprinkled among the list.

Brussels Sprouts (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways)

A Letter

Apple Cider Caramels

More Caramels (because I love caramels)

Cornucopia, anyone?

Gourds!

A Quick Knit

Christmas is coming...

Color Inspiration

Words

Weekend Reading

Have a happy weekend!




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Pretty Boy


Roscoe went to the groomer's this week. I think he looks pretty dapper with his festive orange and brown plaid kerchief, don't you? Since the weather is cooler - that is below 90 degrees - we're letting his hair grow out a bit. The drier air also gives him the flyaways. Notice the hair on his head sticking straight up. He looks like a little chicken. Oh and he smells so good...for now.




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March 22, 2013

Craft Book Chronicles: I Made Some Pin Cushions


I have an obsession with pin cushions. It seems to be a bit of an odd obsession for someone who doesn't sew. That is, up until now. As I mentioned in Friday's post, I was working on a hand sewing project - that being the larger of the two pin cushions pictured above.


A year or so ago, I bought the book Pretty Little Pin Cushions, which is filled with the cutest projects created by a variety of crafters. I wanted to learn to sew and thought starting with a small project like a pin cushion would be perfect for me. Not too complicated - actually a fairly easy project - and something I can sew by hand. Sitting hunched over a sewing machine doesn't appeal to me at all. However, sitting crossed legged on the couch with needle and thread in hand is more up my alley.


Well, I have finally gotten around to teaching myself how to sew. I opted to try what appeared to be one of the easier, less complicated projects in the book to start out with - the Sweet Dreams pin cushion designed by Toni Weber. The project is pretty straight forward - cut a couple pieces of fabric, sew them together, stuff it, and tuft it. I can handle that.



The first one I made was the size the project instructions called for. I've had this fall-inspired leaf fabric for about as long as I've had this book, so I used it for the top of the cushion and a coordinating orangy check fabric for the bottom. When I picked up the fabric, I also bought some orange buttons to match, which I used for the center. The thread I used for the tufting is vintage embroidery floss that belonged to my grandmother. I was afraid it would break while I was wrapping it around the cushion, but it held up really well.


I was happy with the outcome of this project. It was really easy, particularly for a beginner, and only took a couple hours to complete. Instant gratification, and I think I like sewing because of that. Well, I was so impressed with myself, and feeling quite cocky about my so called new-found skills, that I decided to try to make another one.


I had some fabric left over from my Bee project and decided to make a smaller, more compact pin cushion. Interestingly enough, this one didn't go too smoothly. I had a really hard time getting the corners stuffed on this one as well as sewing up the seam. Three of the corners ended up rounded with the fourth being really pointy. It's also no longer square shaped as it's a little more narrow on one side. I don't know what went wrong - perhaps my cockiness got the better of me. I still like it even though it's not perfect. And although I have a lot to learn about this craft, I think sewing is my new favorite hobby.


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A List of Favorites: Sewing


I've been bitten by the sewing bug. This week I worked on a small hand sewing project and I've come to the conclusion that all I want to do now is sew. I went on a search for sewing blogs and came up with a small list of new favorites to visit.




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March 21, 2013

A Visit To The Library


Over the past week I did no crafting whatsoever, and I spent relatively little time on the computer searching for crafty DIY ideas. Instead I spent most of the week reading - something I don't seem to do enough of anymore.

A few weeks ago, while trying to download a library book to my Kindle, I discovered my library card had expired. I thought once you signed up for a card, you were in for life. I had no idea these things had an expiration date. So, last Monday I paid a visit to my local library, got my card renewed and checked out a few books while I was there.

I opted for Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Joyce Carol Oates' In Rough Country. All three books are actually collections of essays written by the authors. Two of them - the Joan Didion and Nora Ephron books - were on the recommended reading lists of a couple of creative writing classes I've taken in the past. I've also been wanting to read some Joyce Carol Oates as well and decided to pick up her book of essays.

So far I've read most of Slouching Towards Bethlehem. This collection was written in the 60s and gives the reader an idea of what the atmosphere was like back then, particularly in California. I Feel Bad About My Neck is about women and aging, and In Rough Country is collection of essays and reviews of a variety of authors whose works Oates has analyzed.

I also downloaded Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. I just love noir. I have the book The Big Sleep by Chandler and had a hard time getting through it. Farewell, My Lovely so far is riddled with blatant racial stereotypes, which are rather off putting. I'm not sure if I'll get through this one. I suppose it was a sign of the times back then, but still hard for me to overlook.

Writing is another one of my creative endeavors. In order to become a better writer you need to read, read, read, and I think I have enough to keep me busy for a little while.




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Evolution of the Bee - Part Two


When we left off in my last post, the bee was temporarily banished to the closet. While the bee waited patiently to be completed, I spent some time figuring how to finish this project. I decided I would turn it into a decorative potholder - one that will never get used of course. I worked hard on this thing and I certainly don't want to risk staining it up with tomato soup or refried beans.

I went on a search for the perfect backing fabric and lucked out with a great black and white floral print that tied into the vintage look of the bee motif. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is  that I’ve never sewn anything before, so not only was this my first official embroidery project, it was also my first hand-sewn project.


With the guidance of my mother’s sewing experience, I managed to cut out and hand sew together all of the pieces that made up this potholder.




Then came time to add the binding, and, again, the bee was placed on the back burner for another year. Actually, just 2 weeks shy of a full year. Last week, I added the binding around the edge of the potholder to finally complete this project.


So, what did I learn from this 2-year long saga of the bee?
  • Well, I learned that I really like embroidery. It’s relaxing and challenging all at the same time.  
  • I found out that my favorite stitch (so far) is the French knot.
  • Even though this took me an eternity to complete, the sense of accomplishment feels the same as if I would have finished it within a couple weeks or months.
  • I also found out that I enjoyed hand sewing so much that I'm now eager to embark on some sewing projects.
The embroidered busy bee is one project that I can cross off my list of UFOs (unfinished objects). Now...what to embroider next?



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March 20, 2013

Evolution of the Bee - Part One


The bee. It seems like eons ago when I started the bee. In fact, it was kind of a long time ago – January 2010 to be exact. Of course, the bee I’m speaking of is an embroidery project I decided to undertake almost 2 years ago in an effort to teach myself how to stitch.

Learning embroidery beyond the stamped samplers I tried as a kid has been on my craft to do list, and my interest in stitching lies more in free-form type embroidery or working with iron-on transfers rather than counted cross stitch. I’m particularly drawn to vintage style transfers like the bee.

So along I went, armed with the proper stitching paraphernalia, a new collection of DMC threads, and some of my mother’s stitching books to get me started.

As with any new venture, I was incredibly enthusiastic in the beginning. But then as everyday life got in the way, the bee ended up on the back burner for a long while.

IMG_2275

So I whittled away at it off and on for almost 2 years. I managed to finish the actual embroidery probably within a year, working on it in between other side projects I had started.



Then, the piece sat in a closet waiting to be made into something. It stayed in that closet for quite some time.

To Be Continued…


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