Way back in ancient history, we gutted our kitchen, and in rebuilding it, I suggested we tile our backsplash in an argyle pattern. Though I now regret most of the decisions we made about the kitchen (for the love of puppies, why didn’t we put in white cabinetry?), I do so love that backsplash.
For years – years – we’ve had plans for Greg to build huge built-in bookshelves for an odd room at the front of the house. It’s an odd room because we think it was originally intended to be the master bedroom of our small, almost hundred-year-old bungalow. But it’s at the front of the house, with a door to the tiny front-door entranceway, and a window that’s under the porch so it gets about zero good daylight. Around six years ago, we opened up the wall between this room and the living room, which improved it considerably (we’d chosen the smaller back-of-house bedroom to be our bedroom; and anyway, after Owen came along we moved our bedroom to the basement where his room is), and we decided to use it like a second living room. Or, you know, a library, if we want to be all pretentious about it.
We put French doors in the opened-up wall, so we could have the option of using the room as a guest room. Which was good forward thinking on our part, since what used to be our guest room at the time we opened up that wall is now Owen’s room, and the small upstairs bedroom is my office/studio, and though there’s a sofa bed in there, it’s always nice not to have to vacate my home office when we have houseguests.
But the plan didn’t get off to an easy start. We suddenly had an infant in the house, then Greg was finishing up his degree and I was writing a book, and months passed and years passed and that room remained a half-finished mess. With no shelves, but with some water damage in the ceilings and walls from a leaky roof we’ve since had fixed.
Somewhere along the line, during our years of dreaming about finishing that room, Greg decided that he needed to design and build a half-height Murphy bed for it. Who wants to take up a huge, queen-size part of a wall when the whole point is to have wall-to-wall shelves, after all? The idea is a relatively simple one, and he was obsessed with it: Just like the mattress of a sofa bed folds into the sofa, the mattress of the half-height Murphy bed folds into its casing against the wall. (Ok, to be fair, I don’t think it’s exactly half height. Whatever). So this bed was to become the central part of the shelves he’d build.
So for about a year, we had a half-height Murphy bed in that otherwise-disaster of a room. Until now. This month, Greg built the shelves. And before he started the sawing and drilling and gluing and painting, we talked a lot about the dimensions and the design, and how to incorporate the half-height Murphy bed.
We knew we didn’t want the shelves to be perfectly symmetrical. We knew we wanted them to hold art and photos and doodads in addition to lots of books.
And so one day I said, “Hey, do you know what a log cabin quilt square looks like?” And he said, “No.” And so I googled it.
Which is how it came to be that Greg installed this beauty last night:
After a coat of primer.
I knew I’d love this room someday, friends, and that day is today.
Below is the reply I sent to a woman who emailed this morning asking me to blog about a topic I know nothing about. I get emails like this all the time. Usually I don’t open them, but for whatever reason I opened this one.
Instead of asking me to blog about things my readers will surely love, like winterized car mats, she, as you can see below, asked me to share tips about pregnancy.
Of course, though I’m a mother, I was only ever pregnant once, for about four weeks.
During the time leading up to our adoption of Owen, and in the posts introducing him to the world, I shared quite openly about adoption. Which I mention only because it’s here on the blog. In public. For anyone wondering about my pregnancy experience to find. (No links right now because I’m writing this on an airplane; I’ll update the post in the next few days.)
Now, I wasn’t hurt by this email from a stranger. I wasn’t even angry, or very annoyed. But it was such a perfect failure of a professional to look into a blogger they pitch that I decided to reply. You can see the exchange below, with my reply up top because I copied and pasted it from my email with identifying information redacted (I’m not out to shame; I’m out to implore pepople to do better).
Oh, and let’s not even go to the fact that I don’t write about things even remotely related to tips about pregnancy. I mean, you don’t have to dig back five years to discover a pitch like this is a waste of time.
So. Dear publicists, marketers and social-media outreach people: You can do so much better. I beg you to try. Please, please try.
Thanks, [REDACTED]. Only thing is, I don’t blog about parenting so much. But more importantly, we adopted our son, and I’ve never experienced a viable pregnancy.
I don’t usually reply to emails like yours, because they’re almost never in my interest nor in the interest of my audience, and they rarely indicate that the sender has actually read my blog, which is insulting and counterproductive.
I urge you to pass this email around to your colleagues, as a reminder that reaching out *well* is a far better use of your time, and your kindness, than going it half-assed.
Date: July 23, 2015 at 6:42:34 AM
To: [email protected] <[email protected]>>
Subject: Would love your advice
Happy Thursday! My name is [REDACTED] and I’m with [REDACTED]. I wanted to invite you to participate in our [REDACTED] project.
I remember my pregnancies well: anticipation, sore feet, exhaustion, and loads of unwanted advice. I believe your blog is in the unique position to change the tune on noisy advice. In a post on your blog, I would love to read nine tips for a healthy pregnancy based on your experience. How did you deal with multiple doctor visits, swollen ankles, and morning sickness? Sharing your insights could help future moms and their children’s health, too.
At the end of the month, our social team will be sharing some of our favorite [REDACTED] on social media using the hashtag [REDACTED].
Please let me know if I can count you in!
All the best,
I bought this adult colouring book before the New Yorker came out with their article about this thing that’s been going on for ages but now that the New Yorker covered it it seems totally new. I’m starting to feel concerned that journalists will treat colouring like they treat knitting, but instead the lazy, clichéd, offensive not your grandma’s it’ll be the lazy, unimaginative, not-as-interesting-as-the-real-story not your kid’s.
There’s no difference between us and kids when it comes to making stuff. Or at least there shouldn’t be. Experience making stuff shouldn’t take away from exploration, play, indulgence and fun.
Colour on, friends. Colour on!
PS My kid wants to colour with me when I colour in this book. Adult schmadult.
PPS #makefun is the tag I’ve decided on for posts and photos about the work (fun work) I’m doing about having fun making stuff. Follow along, and use it when you post about stuff you’re having fun making!
Kids, CreativeLive is having a huge sale on classes, and Embrace the Ugly is 30% off till July 27th! That’s just $27 for some serious slayage of creative demons.
The class was filmed live back in February, with students in the studio and participating via chat. We went deep, friends. Very deep. If you’ve been procrastinating about addressing your creative demons, this is a good, safe class for biting the bullet and just doing it.
A behind-the-scenes note about this class: My goal with Mighty Ugly from the very beginning has been to encourage everyone in the world to play with making stuff, to try new things, and to have fun doing it. Make It Mighty Ugly is kind of a marriage between doing exactly that and also addressing the underlying issues that keep us from doing that. My CreativeLive class is almost entirely about the underlying issues, and it’s unlikely that I’ll do anything – workshops or writing – that delves quite that deep into the emotional depths again. Certainly, my focus right now is on getting back to the fun.
That’s right, friends, as of today I’ve got one more year till 40. Put another way, today I am three bar mitzvahs!
I’m not doing anything particularly exciting beyond continuing our now fully established family tradition of eating breakfast for dinner (the boys will be making waffles tonight!). Greg gave me an Apple Watch as an early birthday present a couple of weeks ago, and this morning Owen gave me raspberries (do you call them zerberts? just me?) all over my face. All I really want is to see our friends more after a year of far, far too much work and work travel. We’re already doing that, so I am a very happy birthday girl.
Yesterday, my friend Liisa Facebooked that she didn’t really enjoy weaving and was selling her 10″ Cricket loom. I’ve been cooking a new book idea in my brain, and have had weaving poking at me through my thinking, so this seemed like a sign from the gods. Also, timely birthday coincidence. (Actually, I’m nearing the end of cooking the new book idea and am about ready to start writing up the proposal for it. So that’s a pretty fun way to start my year of being 39.)
So this is now sitting on my dining-room table, and I think after I post this I’m going to go set it up and give my first warp a whirl.
Do you weave? Got any tips for a total n00b?
Get my beginner and advanced-beginner crochet classes, or pretty much any other class at Craftsy, for super prices this weekend!
I intend to learn how to solder jewelry soon. Which seems relevant. Because it’s a Craftsy class.
[Whenever I link to my or any other Craftsy classes, I use an affiliate link. FYI.]
When Elise Blaha Cripe announced her new Get to Work Book, I nearly leaped through my computer screen to grab it.
Elise is a craft blogger, but unlike many products created by craft bloggers for their audience, the Get to Work Book has no colour in it. No trendy flourescent pops of pizzazz, no doodads to add to the feeling of it all. No assumption that we creative women need everything around us, including our tools, to be bedazzled and awash in rainbows in order for us to tolerate getting to work.
No. The wire-bound book is printed in greyscale, sandwiched between thick, matte kraft-board covers. Will I take some paint to it someday? Maybe. But I love the no-nonsense feel of the thing. It’s not about making work palatable, as if anyone who decides to create a job for themselves is disinclined to do the tedious bits; it’s about getting shit done.
And it is quite possibly the most expensive non-leather-bound day-planner I’ve ever seen. I forked over my cash, plus shipping to Canada from the U.S., without hesitation.
The book arrived just in time for its start date of July 1st, and since yesterday was Canada Day and I spent the day splitting my time between lounging on the beach and doing house chores, I finally cracked it open this morning. And I do believe I am in love.
The book marries the open-endedness of a bullet-journal notebook with the structure of my favourite academic planners from back in the day.
I’ll write more after I’ve used it for a while for a more detailed look, but for now, I’m confident I’m going to love this book. I think I’m going to love it hard. It’s possible I already do.
Did you get a Get to Work Book? What do you think of it? Are you using it as a bullet journal? Any tips or hacks?
PS It looks like the July-start books have sold out (congratulations, Elise!), but they’re taking pre-orders for the January-start version.
PPS Though I once moderated a panel Elise was on, I’m not affiliated with this product in any way. All gushing is entirely due to notebook nerdery.
I’m not entirely sure when I became obsessed with the idea of block printing. It may have been a few months ago, when Meighan O’Toole took Jen Hewitt’s block-printing class and started posting photos all over Instagram. Yes, that may have been when the seed took root in my brain. That may have been when I bought a lino-cut starter kit. I didn’t actually use that kit until this week, though, such was my obsession with the idea of block printing.
But I packed the kit, along with some other print-making stuff, when we went on our road trip. I had visions of carving stamps after Owen went to bed, and returning home with all kinds of things to print.
As it turned out, the weather was colder and far windier than we’d anticipated it would be in many places, and when it wasn’t super windy it was often very hot and so Owen went to bed later than usual, and anyway what I’m saying is that I hardly made anything at all on the trip, stamps and blocks included. (I also hardly knitted, and I didn’t bring out the watercolours even once.)
It was on one of the last nights of the trip that I finally said enough, and I pulled out a wee circle of rubber. I forgot to reverse the design for proper directional printing, but I made a stamp of our wee camper, and in the process of doing so I fell completely in love with block printing – not just the idea of it, but the actual act and product of it.
As I knew I would.
Block printing, see, like screen printing, is just so practical. You get the one-time thrill of creating something new, going through all the steps to make a stamp/screen, and then you can use that stamp/screen over and over and over again. In some ways, block printing is even more satisfying than screen printing: blocks take up less room to store than screens, they’re less fiddly to apply, and set-up and clean-up are faster and easier.
So when Owen decided that he wants the activity at his half-birthday party this weekend to be tie-dyeing t-shirts (just like last year, for he is a creature of habit) I knew that I had to make a stamp for those shirts. Obviously.
And so I sketched. And I ended up taking to the computer. And I printed. And I traced. And I drew. And I transferred. And I carved. And I printed. (And lest you think it all went perfectly in one go, take a look at the final photo on the right. I touched up the lino block twice before getting the small lines deep enough, and it took me a few goes to get a feel for how best to print on fabric vs. paper.) (I printed up a onesie, too, because I found one at the bottom of a pile and thought WELL DUH. That one’ll go to the next baby shower I attend.)
This weekend we’ll make a good-old classic mess (in a heat wave, no less) in our backyard, and when O’s friends get their tie-dyed shirts home and untie them so they can be washed, they’ll see that stamp on there reminding them that they made the shirt. (I have it in mind to make a quick stamp that says “in 2015″ to add on tonight in red, so then when parents dig up those shirts in a few years, they’ll remember when their kid made it.
Now I want to print everything. Fabric, postcards, greeting cards, random pieces of wood hanging around the workshop, the walls, my bedsheets. Everything.
Honolulu! Tuesday night, I hope you’ll join MK Carroll for some ugly making at Kaka’ako Agora to bash and slash your creative demons. The time difference between there and here is a little problematic, but I hope to Skype in at the beginning of the event.
MK will have a few gift bags to give away, including signed books and everything.
If this incredible poster is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing (free!) event. If you go, I hope you’ll share pics and reactions. Use the hashtag #mightyugly so I can find them!
Lots of people have asked me to share some details about the itinerary of our trip, and I’m happy to oblige. If this sort of thing excites and delights you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with more detailed questions.
In May-June this year, my husband, four-year-old son and I took a nearly 10,000km road trip around the American West with our tiny 1974 Trillium fiberglass camper trailer, beginning and ending at our home in Vancouver, Canada. (You can find photos and more about the trip if you look up #werkersontheroad on Instagram.)
A Few More Details
I planned our overall route to optimize the distance we could travel in the time we had. In order to do this – without having long drives every day – we decided to sacrifice some places we really wanted to visit. We chose those places based on how easy it would be to get there another time. For example, my favourite canyon in all the land is Bryce, but we didn’t go there (nor to Zion National Park). To go to those parks and also go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (where we wanted to go instead of the North Rim because of the vintage train you can take there from Williams, AZ, and we have a vintage-transportation-obsessed four-year-old) requires about a week, on account of having to drive around that giant hole in the ground. But you can easily get to Zion and Bryce from Las Vegas, and you can always get a cheap flight to Las Vegas. So one day, we’ll take a much shorter, week-long holiday and do just that. And we didn’t go to Yosemite, because we had to get to Southern California in time to meet my parents there for Legoland and Disneyland, which was a part of the trip that was booked long in advance of our more detailed route planning.
Originally, we intended to leave on May 3rd and return no later than June 12th (we ended up getting back home on the 10th). We booked campsites in state parks or RV campgrounds in the places I anticipated would be hardest to book on the fly due to popularity, etc. (Turns out I was wrong in most cases – in most places, at this time of year, we could have just driven up and gotten a site. This does not hold true for national park campgrounds that do not accept reservations – in most cases, we would have been out of luck if we’d tried to show up for a site at any of those, especially because, due to the distance we were covering, it was impossible for us to show up early enough in the day to snag one.) We held off on booking places to camp (both at a high-level in terms of the locale, and more granularly in terms of the exact campground) for other stops (Big Sur; Grants, NM, and everything after Yellowstone, for example).
In the end, we all wish we’d had more time for this trip. It was an ambitious itinerary for just thirty-eight days. At the same time, we managed to set aside thirty-eight days! That’s the time we had, and we milked it for all it was worth. And that involved throwing touristy stuff to the wind in favour of just chilling out sometimes. Because, especially with a young kid, you just need to do that occasionally.
We’re already discussing where we’ll go next, and how we’ll manage to carve out another big chunk of time. Ok, the details:
Here’s an interactive map of our driving itinerary. You can click on any of the numbered stops for more info about where we went, and for some photos. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you may need to click through to the post to see these embedded features.)
And here’s the itinerary in list form (scroll down within the embedded list to get to the bottom). Obviously, we went to more places than are listed here; these are mostly the places where we slept. If you have questions about what we did or saw in any particular place(s), don’t be shy.
Do you have a favourite of any of the places we went? (I’ll write more soon about our favourites!)