Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bleak House.

I went into Bleak House not really knowing what to expect. I tend to clump authors together who wrote within 20 or so years of each other, and think that since they wrote in roughly the same time period, they must be similar. I'm learning, of course, that's not true. :) The settings may be similar, but that's it. I have not yet read any of Charles Dickens' novels, and I had only seen two movie adaptations of them before this one (A Christmas Carol and Nicholas Nickleby). So I think I expected this story to be similar to something by Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell, except maybe more masculine.

Wow, could I have been more wrong? This story is full of suspense, secrets, hidden identities, murder, blackmail, disease, and a case of spontaneous human combustion {Seriously. I wouldn't even know what that was if it wasn't for a strange fellow in my public speaking class this spring who always gave speeches on the most unusual topics. One of them was spontaneous human combustion}.

It was amazing. And very long- about 8 hours, I think? When I look at the massive novel it's based on, though, I guess that makes sense. I had to watch it over several days on Netflix, and it was so interesting I could hardly wait to see the next episode. When I found out that a law case was a major part of the plot, I expected to find that part very boring- but it wasn't. The way the case is connected with the characters, you can't help but be interested!

It definitely had a dark, gloomy feel (the title sort of gives away that much). But there were moments of hope and humor. It was filmed beautifully and the cast was perfect.

I loved Esther. She was such a sweet, likable person. I liked Ada, but I didn't like Richard. I might have at first, but he got obnoxious pretty quickly. Mr. Jarndyce was supposed to be a good and generous character, I know, but sometimes he creeped me out a little. I couldn't stand the evil, greedy Mr. Tulkinghorn. Guppy...I actually liked him a little at first, because his awkardness was pitiful and endearing. My affection disappeared when he turned stalkerish and shallow (treating Esther the way he did after her illness was unforgivable!). I felt so sorry for poor Lady Dedlock and I wished things could have turned out differently for her.

And I loved the ending. I thought it was going in a direction which was going to leave me very disappointed, but thankfully Charles Dickens went for the happy ending. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a period drama geek like me. It's been over a week ago since I saw it, and I wish I had wrote this post immediately after finishing it so my words wouldn't be so vague. :)

I had bought the book several weeks ago, and after watching this, I don't feel nearly so intimidated by it as I did before. I plan on reading it soon.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thrift store finds.

I am officially finished with college classes! My last online class ends today, and I submitted my final assignment last night. I'm so thankful that I don't have to worry about it anymore. Also, thanks to everyone who commented about the value of handmade in my last post. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in feeling the way I do. :) Now I'm going to move from talking about the worth of handmade items to shopping for thrift store bargains...

Me and my mom hit a couple of thrift stores while we were in town today. I've recently become fascinated with the idea of collecting some gorgeous vintage Pyrex, so I had been itching to thrift. We went to our Goodwill and DAV thrift stores, and I found some fun stuff. :)

Our Goodwill has a nice record section (though they're a little higher compared to our other thrift stores- single records are $2, and sets are more) and an amazing book "section." I know I've mentioned this before, but there's basically a used bookstore inside. Anyway, here's what I found:

-The Best of Glenn Miller: Volume 2. No, I don't have volume 1, but one can never have too much Glenn Miller! He's my favorite big band leader. $2

-To Kill a Mockingbird. I have never read this. That makes me feel like a terrible reader, but it'll soon be remedied. :) I have seen the film, though (Gregory Peck!). $3- more than their paperbacks usually are, but still not bad. I saw this exact edition in Target today for $13. The cover is not my favorite {I'm a nerd about book covers}, but it'll do for the price. :)

-Joy of Cooking. The All-Purpose Cookbook, as the cover says. I had never heard of this book until I was reading My Life in France, Julia Child's autobiography/memoir, and she mentions loving this cookbook and meeting the author in Paris. I've been looking for two specific cookbooks at the Goodwill for several months now: this one and the Fannie Farmer cookbook (which was recommended to me by several people). I think this is the 1975 edition, but according to the reviews on Amazon, the older versions are better than the newer ones?? I have had this edition on my Amazon wishlist for almost 3 months now, and it's $23 on there. I paid $3 at Goodwill! And although the dustcover is a little stained (understandable :), the actual book is in perfect condition and even has two red ribbon bookmarks. :) I figure that now I'm finished with my college classes, I can't put off learning cooking skills any longer. Don't worry- I'll document it here and it should be very interesting. :)

Our DAV is one of those thrift stores that doesn't look very promising at first. It's sort of disorganized and not especially clean, to be honest. But I have found some awesome stuff there. They also have a lot of dishes and housewares, so we thought that would be a better place to find Pyrex than Goodwill (which has very little of those).

That's where I found this.

My first thought was not exactly a positive one. :) The color seemed sort of atrocious, but as soon as I got closer and looked at it, it grew on me tremendously. And then I opened it and knew that I had to buy it.

I sort of have a thing for vintage luggage. It's so unusual and sturdy and tacky (in a good way). I have five or six train cases, and this is my first piece of vintage luggage other than a train case. It cost $4.50.

The inside is ridiculously perfect. Like brand new. It makes me wonder if the previous owner ever even used it! And it only has the faintest bit of a musty smell that needs to be aired out (some of my train cases smelled strongly of old, stale perfume and make-up).

There are three pockets- two in the bottom section (one has a zipper, the other is elastic), and one on the divider. The divider separates the suitcase into two sections:

I love Samsonite! From the little bit of research I did online, this suitcase is likely from the 70s.

These two pictures show the correct color the best. It's a very 60s/70s shade of green. :)

And I didn't find this until I got home: the key, in the original packaging! Swoon. :) Along with a little square of white fabric- not sure what that is supposed to be.

I am super excited about my green suitcase, in case you can't tell. My family may be going on vacation to Florida this fall, and if we do, I'm taking this suitcase and one of the train cases as my luggage. {Hint, hint, Marmee and Father.}

The only Pyrex pieces I found were three little unusual cups. They were cute, but I didn't really know how I would use them, so I didn't get them. But I couldn't resist yellow (I dream of having a yellow kitchen someday). So I got these little mugs. According to the bottom, they were made in Italy. They were 50 cents each but 50% off today, so I got all three for 75 cents. They haven't been washed yet, so ignore any dirt or dust you may see. :)

Ollie (my brother's cat, whom I've sort of adopted) is so nosy. Apparently no one has ever talked to him about what curiosity does to cats. :) He was scared of the suitcase at first, but he loves to lay on plastic bags and paper so he couldn't stay away for long.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The value of handmade.

It happened again today. I was with my parents at our local community market, where our family sells all natural pastured poultry and free range eggs {and grass fed and finished lamb when we have it} raised on our farm. I always set up some of my items on the next table down. I don't really sell a lot at the market- the first week, back in May, was successful, but ever since then things have been slow for me.

Two ladies were looking at my wallets. One of them was holding one, talking about how much she liked it and how she was looking for something like that to fit in her purse. She asked me how much it was, and I told her (I also had a sign next to the wallets with the price). She quickly put the wallet back and walked away from my table.

My first reaction to this is to laugh. Nothing can cause more awkwardness than money. :) But then I get a little angry. People who don't sew, embroidery, crochet, knit, make jewelry, or do whatever kind of crafting or creating that you do don't understand. Because they don't make the items, they don't understand the process. They don't understand that you have to do the research, buy the materials, come up with the design, spend a good amount of time actually making the item, and bring the item to the venue to sell (which, if you sell on Etsy, involves taking item photographs, writing descriptions, advertising the item, and packaging and shipping it when it does sell).

Well, I can't say that everybody doesn't understand. Because some people do. Some people feel strongly about supporting handmade, even if they themselves don't actually craft anything to sell. And I seriously appreciate those people- thank you!

Because before I began sewing and crafting, I didn't get it. I'm not blaming anyone, because I was the same way! I'm a bargain shopper- I've always been. I shop clearance racks and use coupons. I rarely, if ever, pay full price for books, movies, or clothes. Before I got involved in the handmade scene, I probably would have scoffed at a $25 wallet. Because I didn't know how many hours of careful work went into that wallet.

So what's so special about handmade, anyway?

Handmade provides a personal connection between the creator and the customer. Handmade items aren't mass-produced in a factory on foreign soil by a faceless, underpaid worker, with an inspection sticker stuck somewhere inside. Handmade items are, from start to finish, the result of the creativity of somebody. Each stitch (or whatever the case may be) is made with care, and as ridiculously cheesy as it sounds, love. :) People who create handmade items are really excited about what they do. We love our job. We love making something beautiful and high quality, and the best feeling ever is when, hey, someone else loves what we make, too!

So I'm glad that now I realize the value of handmade. Sure, sometimes I see really beautiful handmade items that are out of my budget. But now I don't think, good grief, who's going to pay that?? I think, good. They have a lot of time and effort invested in that, and I know that someone will come along who is able to purchase that lovely item. (Most of the time, guys. Every once in a while I come across really over-priced stuff. For example, once a tiny little embroidery hoop with a small circle of crocheted "mold" or something made the front page of was around $100. Really? But most of the time, I find that people tend to underprice their items rather than overprice.)

Handmade items cost more because they're worth more. It's as simple as that. Crafters can't compete with big box stores and mass-produced items. I can't compete with Walmart or Target's wallet prices. But I don't have to. I'm selling a completely different item and a completely different experience.

So I'm through with apologizing for the prices of the items I make. Because I'm shy and like to avoid conflict, I won't be able to do anything other than ignore or laugh at comments (or reactions) people have to my items. Maybe that's why I wrote this post. Because if I was brave or eloquent enough, this is what I would say to those people.

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

One more little thing- I need to mention that I know that this kind of sticker shock (for lack of better phrase) is mostly connected to different geographical areas and the economy and culture of those areas, and just how people grew up. I live in a small Southern rural area, outside of a small town. Most of the people around here don't have a lot of money, or either their families struggled financially growing up. Selling handmade items in a rural area is a little different than selling them in wealthier urban areas, I think.

All areas have little quirks- things that people are willing to spend more money on, and things that they're less willing to spend money on. My dad faces this exact same thing sometimes with our farm products. People will walk up and say, in a very demanding way, "I'll take one of your chickens." We pull out a chicken and ask what size they'd prefer, and they ask how much they are. Dad tells the price per pound. They say, "Oh, that's more than I wanted to spend," and speedily walk away. Other customers don't even blink an eye at the price, because they know that our chickens are so much healthier and tastier than that pale, chemical-injected chicken you buy at the grocery store that came from a cramped, filthy chicken house. Ahem. :) My dad says that most people are willing to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars a year for pharmaceuticals but won't pay for good, healthy food.

Well, I'm glad I got all that off my chest. :) Now I can sit back with my bowl of awesome watermelon, listen to my scratchy record, and enjoy the thunderstorm we're having. And laugh because, after fiddling around with my record player and accidentally leaving it on the 45 setting instead of the 33, Frank Sinatra sounds like he just swallowed a lot of helium.

Also, yesterday I began my Etsy shop makeover with some new item photos and listing these wallets which have never been listed before. I also have some more items to list this weekend.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Etsy shop challenges.

Okay, so I went over my internet limit today. But there are two exceptions to the rule I didn't mention before: when I'm working on something for my last online class (which won't be an issue for much longer- it ends Tuesday! Yay!) or when I'm working on something related to my Etsy shop.

Technically, a majority of the time I spent online today was Etsy shop-related. I started my shop back in October with grand plans. It turns out that running an Etsy shop takes a fair amount of time, effort, and research. And I've been putting in very little of all of the above over the past several months.

But lately, I've been getting really excited about my shop again. About updating it and making it much better. About creating new items to list. About taking new item photos and writing new descriptions (both of which are not very fun and usually end with me feeling very frustrated).

I came across a fellow Etsy seller's blog today by accident, and soon discovered that it was full of useful tips about improving your shop. So that's why I went over my limit. :)

Here are some things that I want to work on with my shop:
-Filling it! I need to make so many more items. Also, I have between 5 and 10 items made that I've just been too lazy to list.

-Better photos. Mine are dark and shadowy and pretty boring! I want to make them light and pleasant and cohesive. I need to experiment with different setups and props.

-Branding. I want my items, my shop appearance, and my blog to all tie together. Similar colors, headings, etc. Right now, things are sort of all over the place. I just wish I had thought about this branding thing before I ordered new business cards.

-Renewing. My item views go way up when I relist or renew an item. I need to be doing this regularly. Or better yet, be creating new items regularly to list!

I'm not sure why I'm even writing this post...I don't know how many of you are interested in the challenges of being an Etsy shop owner. :) I don't want my blog to become too business-related. It drives me crazy when I go to the blog of a Etsian and all they ever write about is new items they've just listed in their shop. Some people say that you need to keep your business blog and personal blog separate, but I don't go for that {and no way do I want to have to keep up with two blogs!}. I like a nice balance. I started this personal blog long before I had an Etsy shop, and I love writing about books and old movies too much to stop it now. :) But the look of my blog might change a little, just to make it flow and connect with my shop.

I guess I feel like if I write these things out here, I'll be more motivated to follow through with them. And I'd like to document my shop makeover. I'd like you guys to see how things are now, and hopefully see improvements soon! :)

{Current shop header- soon to be changed?}

So, if you don't mind taking a minute, will you check out my shop? Do you guys have any tips for me? Things about my shop that you really like or that you think need to be changed?

P.S. I made the book necklace today! It was super quick and turned out adorable. You can find the tutorial here and make your own.

And I cut corners a little to make it even easier. I didn't make mine into a necklace- it's just a charm to slide onto one of my cheap chains. :) All I did was poke holes in the books and slide them on a head pin (with a little glue in between each), and then trim and curl the top of the pin into a circle. Seriously, it took like 10 minutes, and I love it. And yes, I wanted them a little crooked like that. All of my stacks of books are slightly wobbly. :)

Here it is being modeled on Jane. :)

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harvey the white rabbit and some embroidery.

In keeping with my new reform {the battle against time-wasting}, I have set myself a daily limit of no longer than one hour online (though I think I went a bit over today). This doesn't mean that I must spend an hour online each day. :) Just that I won't stay on any longer than an hour. Because of this, I've had to start writing my posts in parts, working on them over several days. :)

Last night, I finally got to see Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, on Netflix. I saw my cousin in a high school version of this play when I was about 10, and Harvey the six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch rabbit has stuck with me ever since. I've been wanting to see this movie for a long time. I wasn't was lovely and hilarious.

Jimmy Stewart just melts my heart {at the risk of sounding mushy :)}. Sure, I talk about hunky Cary Grant and talented Gene Kelly, but I've always loved Jimmy Stewart. I love his distinctive, drawling voice and how he uses his hands when he talks. I love that he seems so real and genuine, like a cousin or an uncle or a neighbor.

And the world would be a much more pleasant place if there were more Elwood P. Dowds around, don't you think? "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be,' she always called me Elwood, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

Today I watched Cinderfella, starring Jerry Lewis. I liked it a lot. While it wasn't an especially hilarious or witty film, it was just really good and sweet.

I learned four very important things from this film:
1. A strange man floating in your pool is most likely your fairy godfather.
2. If you ever need to attend a ball in disguise from your stepmother and stepbrothers, just add some grey to your hair, learn some smooth dance moves, and rent a red, rickrack-embellished (?) suit jacket, and it'll all work out. Really.
3. A princess and a handsome guy in a red, rickrack-embellished jacket can discover true love over the course of one little dance.
4. Ever since watching Never a Dull Moment, I have had an irrational fear of Henry Silva.

Really, though, I enjoyed this film. :) It's interesting having a guy in the role of Cinderella.

And now for some craftiness, which I know has been greatly lacking on my blog here lately. I've been doing a lot of embroidery lately!

I finished up my Emma cross stitch a couple of weeks ago. Sorry for the bad lighting- by the time I remembered to take a picture, it was getting dark. Anyway, this is my very first completed cross stitch project. While I prefer regular embroidery, this is a nice change every once and a while.

I've had this book-related series of patterns for a while, and I finally got around to stitching one! I love it, and it's sitting on one of my bookshelves now. My brother had to have surgery on his hand yesterday, and I did this one (and finished up the next one) while we were waiting at the hospital. It was really quick and enjoyable. The stitching, that is. Not the surgery or the waiting in the hospital. The text is in silver thread, and the fabric is dark navy blue. When my mom saw me working on it, she said "I read books?" I always took it to mean "I love books," but I guess it could be that, too. :)

When I saw this adorable pattern, I added it to my Etsy favorites. I bought it around the fourth of July when the shop owner had a sale. I worked on it over several days and finished it yesterday. The "frame" is actually one that used to hold an old clock that had broken. I was originally planning on painting the frame red, but it's a really pretty shade and it matched the embroidery so I left it.

This is the first embroidery project I've done where there was no color guide, so I pretty much chose the colors myself (though the aqua and red- a color combination I love- was heavily influenced by the pattern pictures on Etsy). I just chose colors that I really love, and I think that, somehow, they look really cute together.

Some close ups. I make all of my little embroidered girls brunettes, like me. :) I'm biased and I just can't bring myself to stitch up a blonde or auburn girl! Maybe someday.

This is a free pattern available at the September House blog. I added the text and the stray firefly, because it looked like it needed something else.

I had wanted to use some sort of glow in the dark or shiny embroidery floss for the fireflies, until I saw how much that stuff costs (about $2.50 a spool instead of the usual 40 cents? No, thank you). The bright yellow seems to glow, anyway, against the blue fabric. It reminds me of summer. :)

So here is the little space on my wall devoted to embroidery. I'm running out of room, and I still have my Emma piece to frame and hang, so I might have to move some things around. I've also got a couple of other pieces around my room. {My wall is not white, but a shade of light blue that just happens to photograph terribly.}

The topics of my next few posts include the Bleak House mini-series and hair. If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what will. :)

Until next time,

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I love the look of inky words scrawled on old paper. Even Jane Austen's rough drafts look beautiful- splotches, scribbles, and all. I would write all day if it would look like this.

{This handwritten manuscript of The Watsons recently sold for $1.6 million at auction.}

I wonder what my teacher would do if I submitted my online assignment typed in a Harry Potter font. :)

Isn't this the most adorable necklace ever? The tutorial is here- I got the supplies the other day and hope to make one tomorrow. The books are tiny! They come from the dollhouse aisle in Hobby Lobby, which is full of sweet little things. Dishes and chairs and wardrobes. I had a sudden desire to buy the blue farmhouse. If I ever have daughters, they'll have a beautiful dollhouse (okay, maybe my plastic, heavy-duty one when they're little, but a pretty wooden one when they're old enough :).

On a more serious note, I've come to a point where I need to rethink my priorities. I am a master procrastinator and time waster, and that has to change. I have so many things that I want to do {read, sew, craft, watch old movies, etc.} and so many things that I need to do {focus on finishing my last college class- it ends the 26th, thank goodness!, work on my homemaking skills (or lack of them), help out more around the house and farm, work on the not-so-fun aspects of an Etsy shop (taking item photos-ugh), etc.}.

And sometimes I have trouble balancing the things I want to do with the things I need to do. I tend to lean towards the "want" side, you know. But if I could stop wasting so much time, I think I would have time to balance everything nicely. Or at least more successfully than I do now.

For example, I just happened to look at my Etsy shop earlier today, and I realized that I was down to about eight items listed. I knew that I hadn't sold or deactivated that many listings, so I was puzzled. Then I realized that I had accidentally let half of my listings expire.

I'm not going to stop blogging (it's one of those I like to do). I'm just going to start limiting my time online- it's a big time waster for me. I haven't done much sewing in several weeks now, and not creating is driving me crazy. I need to make things. But first, I need to straighten up my sewing corner so I don't get incredibly stressed out when I try to make things. :)

I guess what I'm rambling about comes down to this: I want to spend my time more wisely. I want to see what's important and push aside the distractions.

Until next time,