All posts by Jaelithe

#StainedGlass window is finally done! #crafting #inspiration

This is it! The 6′ x 3′ window I’ve been working on since 2010 is finally done.

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The pictures speak for themselves, so you can stop reading if you don’t want to know any more, but below I’ve put a few thoughts on the process.

IMG_1155 Finished piece waiting on the table in the garage.

Why did it take so long? Life gets in the way. Given the amount of time I have to work on this type of project, had I done it straight through (meaning, had I not gotten pregnant had a small baby, and taken a couple of years off of glass crafting because it takes time and concentration, both of which I didn’t have), I think it would have taken a couple of months. But it’s that much sweeter to see it hanging in our morning room knowing that it’s been waiting for me for a while now.

This has been my largest piece to date, and one that I did every step entirely on my own (other than installation; my wonderful husband and father did that for me) — all my own cutting, foiling, soldering, etc. Feels really good to have accomplished it!

IMG_1186 One of the boys working on installing the window.

A few lessons I learned along the way:

1) Making your own design is fun, and doesn’t have to be hard. I don’t think of myself as an artist, but I couldn’t find a design that quite did what I needed it to do (i.e. covering the strips that were already between the glass in the window this went in front of). Turns out, you don’t have to be a great artist to make your own design — just try it and see what you get. Plus, unless you go crazy on colors and textures, just about any glass looks nice together.

2) It’s always good to consult with professionals. The advice I got from the glass shop (Leaded Glass Design over in Cuyahoga Falls) was invaluable. For example, I did not know the value of an exact cardboard template until the people at the glass shop mentioned it. I actually ended up taking a “large panel” class there to make sure I did everything right, and it was very helpful.

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Finished window, installed. Cardboard template is resting on the scaffolding below.

3) Don’t be afraid of the glass. I also got great advice from a professional installer (who ended up telling us we didn’t need to pay him to do it, but instead told us how to do it on our own). There’s so much fear when you’ve put this much effort into something. Mostly fear that it will break. The installer told us to be careful, take precaution, but he said that if you’re afraid of the glass you’re much more likely to drop it than if you lift and carry it as if you’re not afraid.

All in all, it’s been a great journey. Now I get to decide what my next glass project will be!

Happy Crafting!

5 tips to get past #writer’s block #writing #amwriting

5 tips to get past writer’s block

I recently read a post by a fellow writer who talked about how she doesn’t have the luxury for writer’s block. Like me, she is a busy mother who also works, so when there’s time to write we MUST take advantage of that time or lose it. With so little extra time, losing it takes a heavy toll.

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Her contention was that she doesn’t get writer’s block because she can’t afford to. I agree with her, but as I pondered the post I realized that I do sometimes get writer’s block, I’ve just had to come up with ways to deal with it as quickly as possible. Here are five of those ways:

1) Read something

That’s right, grab someone else’s work and read it. Flip through a magazine. Read a chapter of one of the books you’re in the middle of. You could even read a short story or a chapter of one of your other pieces of writing. Sometimes, a turn of phrase will catch your fancy, or an idea will lead you to further research. Inspiration can come from places you don’t expect.*

2) Take a brain break

Yep, seems counter-intuitive. Take a break when there’s no time to waste? But the truth is that you can’t force it, either. So do something else — something that you’ve been wanting to do; something that gets your juices flowing. Just be sure to set a timer (about 15 min usually works for me) so that you can try to get back to writing while you’ve still got time to do it.

3) Write something else

So you’ve got a block that won’t let you move forward with your main story and characters? Write a different story. Maybe with different characters. Or maybe just a totally different part of this story that you haven’t gotten to yet. Maybe skip to the end you’ve envisioned and write that scene. Either way, the key is to keep writing.

4) Draw a picture

This tip came from one of the pieces I read in preparation for NaNoWriMo last fall. Sometimes, the reason you’re blocked is because you just can’t picture it. No matter whether you’re good at drawing or whether (like me) your drawings are still riddled with stick figures, try sketching something about your story. Maybe it’s something your characters are wearing. Maybe it’s a map of their city, street, or house. Or maybe you just try a quick Tangle (see my post on Zentangle for more info). But just using that part of your brain can help get the other creative parts working as well.

5) Walk the stairs

It is well known that exercise can get your brain working again. However, if you’ve got limited time to write, you probably can’t throw on your sweats and head to the gym either. So you take the exercise you can get. Walk up and down the stairs three or four times. Or you could do a few yoga poses, squats, or sit ups. Just take five minutes to get your body moving and your blood flowing to your brain. Then get yourself back into that chair and write.

I hope these tips help you get past your next bout of writer’s block!

Happy writing!

*For example, I was once writing a tricky scene on a pirate ship, and got an idea from reading a few chapters of a Geronimo Stilton book to my kids.

(image: Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak; from Wikimedia Commons)

#CherryBlossom #crossstitch

Just wanted to share. This is the cross stitch that I entered in the needlework show at the library (she’s about 14×16 on 18 count Aida fabric):

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Here are some close-ups of the cool details, including cording and backstitching with complementary colors as well as gold thread in some places:

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Her belt is also corded, and I had to learn how to do lazy daisies for her hair:

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This is how she looks displayed on my wall with two smaller companion pieces I made to go with her:

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Happy stitching!

6 Reasons we use @ABCmouse for #homeschooling

6 reasons we use ABCmouse

We’ve been using a program called ABCmouse to supplement our homeschooling efforts. We use it more on some days than others, and it certainly doesn’t replace the work we do in workbooks or with hands-on projects. However, there are many reasons why we love the program.*

1) Good for both kids

Both kids (6 and 3 years old) can use it — in fact, I was surprised at how quickly the 3-year-old picked up how to navigate the program!

2) Age-appropriate activities

With different levels to choose from, the activities that each of the kids receives in their respective lessons are age-appropriate, so they don’t get frustrated.

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3) High production value

The graphics are great, and the whole site has a very high production value. For example, the ABC videos are super cute. I literally can’t get some of the songs out of my head (“Bobby Bugsby had a Bike. A Birthday present from his Brother Mike…”), and the videos are engaging. The three-year old recognizes more letters from these than from my drilling with him.

In fact, if you don’t want to pay for the whole program, it would be well worth it to just get the ABC videos (available on their own in an iPad app).

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4) Wide variety

There are so many activities that there’s something for each of them no matter what mood they’re in. Puzzles. Mazes. Books. Letters. Fables. Pets. Reward tickets. And so many more!

5) Provides an activity when you don’t have any hands available

It’s good for the 6-year-old to supplement math and reading, but there’s also a side-benefit: sometimes when I’m trying to work on a specific project with my 6-year-old, this is a good way to get the 3-year-old involved in something that he enjoys and that keeps him occupied for 10 or 20 minutes.

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6) iPad-ready

We just got the kids iPad minis, and the full version of ABC mouse is available as an app (it’s called Early Learning Academy) — you just sign in with the UN and PW you created on the computer. That makes it even easier for us to use when we’re traveling. Also, no more fights about who gets to go first. 🙂

So, in my humble opinion, ABC mouse is worth a look for anyone who has younger children, particularly if you’re homeschooling.

Happy homeschooling!

*To be clear, ABC mouse didn’t tell me to write this post, didn’t give me anything for free, and probably doesn’t even know who I am other than a name in a database. I just really love this resource and wanted to share.

You can do it too! #Kumihimo with #beads, #beading

Looking at some of the amazing beaded Kumihimo* projects in the book I have (see below for a link to it), I was initially a little bit nervous. But when I finally tried one, it turned out not to be so bad. Here’s what I made on my first try:

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Here’s what I learned from it:

1) You can’t tell, but that’s two colors of beads (white and light green). Unfortunately, the mint-colored thread I used overpowered the white beads and they all ended up looking like the same color. I’ll use white cord if I’m using white beads next time.

2) I used a ton of cord to make sure I’d have enough and it ended up being way more than what I needed. There is a way to figure out how much cord and how many beads you need, which is shared in this book: Braiding with Beads 2 – Braiding Solutions on the Kumihimo Disk by Karen DeSousa.

I ended up capping the ends right near the beads and turning it into a bracelet. In any case, I’ll definitely try another beaded project as this one was fun and turned out looking beautiful. 🙂

Happy Kumihimo-ing!

*If you don’ t know what Kumihimo is, check out my post on the subject from a few weeks ago: What is Kumihimo?

Three tips for succeeding at #CampNaNoWriMo — week 1 in review #amwriting #writing

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Dear mom and dad,

Here I am at Camp NaNoWriMo!

As you know, I was super excited to come to Camp NaNo for the first time this year. In fact, before camp began I was thinking, “Yay! The support of NaNoWriMo in a spring month! I can’t wait to get writing!”

I’m writing to let you know how my camp experience has been going so far.

Here’s what happened on April 1st:

“Well, it’s not REALLY NaNoWriMo — I mean, I got to pick my own goal and it’s lower than normal NaNoWriMo — so I could blow off the first day and still be okay.”

Here’s what happened on April 3rd:

“Even with my lower-than-50K goal I still need to get almost 1,000 words per day. Better get going!”

One week in, with a goal of 7,000 words the first week, I’ve only completed about 2,000 words. (cue Debbie Downer music: wah wah wah waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.)

But you taught me to always look on the bright side. Just call my Pollyanna! Here’s what I plan to do for the rest of the month to re-start my momentum:

Tips for Camp NaNoWriMo

1) Treat it just like you treat NaNo in November.

That means no excuses. Somehow, in November I managed to find time to finish 50,000 words even with work, kids, laundry, etc. So this month, I need to stop letting work be an excuse. And just because I set myself a goal of 30K rather than 50, I still need to take it just as seriously if I actually want to meet that goal. (And I do. I soooooooooo do.)

2) Shoot to exceed, rather than just meet the goal

For most of us, even when we’re not using excuses, there just isn’t time to always write every day. Given that, rather than shooting to meet goal each time I sit down, I’m going to write as much as I possibly can. If that falls short, meets, or exceeds the goal for the day, I’m going to be proud of myself for getting it done. And if it exceeds enough times, hopefully I can make up for what I missed.

3) Make use of the time you have

Who says writing has to all happen in one big block during the day, anyway? Back in November, I took my Chromebook everywhere I went. If I was in a waiting room for 20 minutes, that meant 20 minutes of writing. In an effort to catch up to my goal for Camp, I’m pledging to myself that I’ll do the same this month.

Bonus tip:

There are SO many resources available at the Camp NaNoWriMo site (cabin mates, pep talks, writing resources, etc) — if you’re not already taking advantage of these, this would be a good time to start doing that. (Yes, I was talking particularly to myself just there, but you’re welcome to take that advice as well.)

After taking the time to write all of this, I’m pumped! Maybe I’ll take this momentum and get going on catching up. 30K, here I come!

Happy writing!

P.S. If you’re at Camp NaNo as well, feel free to message me and say hello! I’m JaeRuss on the site.

Boosting the #brain with #zentangle? #doodles #writing

I recently heard (apparently late, because TONS of people already do this) about a technique to enhance creativity called Zentangle. According to their website:

“Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.”

It intrigued me. I’m definitely not someone who draws — in fact, when I “doodle” it’s mostly in words — so I thought this could be a good way to try to exercise a different part of my brain. In fact, some people said that they use it as a quick way to get the creative juices flowing before they do their writing.

The idea is that you take a small space, randomly separate it into smaller areas, then doodle those in, not worrying about making it perfect. I used the website and some YouTube tutorials to get the gist, and bought one book to get some pattern ideas:

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Here’s my first tangle:  

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I also tried to figure out a slightly more complicated pattern:

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I thought that doing this for a few minutes before sitting down for a writing session might help me get focused, but haven’t tried that yet. I’ll report back once I do to let you know whether it helped me, but I’d love anyone’s opinion who has already tried it — did it work for you?

Happy tangling!

A fun way to learn the #calendar in #homeschool

A friend gave us this really amazing calendar (she found it at a garage sale, but it would probably be pretty easy to make one like it). It’s made with velcro so it’s easy for the kids to use.  As you see, it has the day, date, month, year, weather, and season.

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It has become our first-thing-in-the-morning ritual, and really helping my 6-year-old to understand how days, months, years, and seasons work. Plus, it’s fun.

Happy homeschooling!

Any day now. Finishing my #StainedGlass #window

This is the 6ft x 3ft (see my husband standing behind it to get a sense of the scale) stained glass window that I designed to fit in front of a particular window in my house. I’ve been working on it for… what year was my son born? That’s right. I started more than three years ago.

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It hasn’t taken so long because it was particularly tricky to make. It’s just hard to work on glass projects when you have a baby and a curious toddler in the house.

But the kids are getting older, and this is the year. (You hear me, Amy? We’re really doing it this year!) I’ve just got to finish the edging along the bottom, fit the two halves more permanently together, and install the darn thing.

Wish me luck!

Happy crafting.

Choose your own #romance adventure #writing

A while back, I answered an ad for a company that was starting a line of “choose your own adventure” style romance stories. While romance isn’t my forte, it seemed like a cool concept so I decided to take a stab at it. Though I sent in my entry in July of last year, I never heard back. I don’t know whether my writing wasn’t good enough, or if they just had filled their need before I entered, but I thought my first and only attempt at writing romance should get some air time, so I’ve reproduced it below.

The task was to write in second person (“you do this, you do that”), to stay under 2500 words, to make it to the first place where the reader would have to make a choice, and to get at least one paragraph in to each branch of the first choice.

Please enjoy — whether that means reading because you really like this type of story, or just laughing at my attempt.  🙂

Happy reading!

———————————————————————————————————-

You roll over, and his warm body is still there. Running your hands gently down his back, you feel him give a small shudder of awareness. Now that you know he’s awake, you gently kiss his shoulder, asking a question with silent lips. When he starts to turn, you feel your body warming up in anticipation, particularly when his hand slides down your thigh. Just as he is turning his face to yours, but before you can make out any distinct features, you are interrupted by a loud ringing.

You open your eyes and realize that you’ve just been dragged out of a very pleasant dream. If it weren’t for your phone ringing, you would have had a few more minutes of blissful sleep, and your body might not be aching so much for something that just isn’t going to happen this morning. Damn.

With no time to luxuriate in the afterimages of a hard body and soft eyes, you hardly have a moment to wonder who the mystery man in your dream was before you quickly check the screen and see that it’s your boss calling. As the Executive Admin to Shawn Whittington, the CEO of a small, but growing, international company, you have grown used to calls at strange hours. Shawn doesn’t call for personal reasons, so you know he probably needs you to do something before you get to the office. “Hello?” you say, trying to sound like you weren’t just pulled out of dreamland.

“Kelly. I hope I didn’t wake you?” His voice is deep, and you always find it soothing. You have to concentrate to not fall back to sleep.

“No, no. Of course not,” you lie, hoping that you don’t sound too tired. Or annoyed, given that you were just about to get intimate with your dream man. Scrubbing a weary hand over your face you ask, “what can I do for you?”

“I need you to pick up coffee on the way to the office for the board meeting this morning.” He sounds almost apologetic.

“Of course,” you say. You can’t understand why Shawn can’t just pick up coffee himself, but of course that’s why he pays you so well. “Any special orders?”

“The usual. It’s just the eight of us this morning,” he says.

Great. You were pulled out of your amazing dream to get eight specialized coffees because you work for a bunch of prima donnas, half of whom need half decaf, and the other half of whom will only take soy. “I’ll have those in the conference room by the time you’re in this morning,” you say, gritting your teeth to keep yourself from groaning in frustration. It’s lucky you keep a spreadsheet of the executive board’s current dietary habits.

“Thanks.” he says. It feels like he hesitates a moment. His voice softens as if he’s going to say something meant for your ears alone. He starts to say, “Kelly…” but before you can ask if there’s anything else he ends lamely with, “thanks a lot,” and hangs up.

What could he have been about to say? It was almost like he was going to ask you an intimate question, or confess a dark secret. But it’s just Shawn, who is both 10 years older than you and your boss, so that can’t possibly have been it. Can it?

You picture Shawn’s classically handsome face. His coal dark hair that’s tousled just enough to look like it wasn’t done on purpose, and chocolate brown eyes that you could melt in… Your dream must have affected you more than you thought if you’re thinking about Shawn this way. You’ve got to pull it together.

You glance at the clock. You’re tempted to close your eyes and try to conjure up the vision of dream man once more, but now that you have to stop and get coffees you need to get up right away. Taking just one more minute to wonder whose face you would have seen if he’d had time to turn around, you sigh and get up to head to the shower.

**********************

You rush into the office, late again. Stopping for all of the coffees for the executive team is a real chore, particularly since you’ve got to juggle your purse and the cardboard containers stacked on top of each other, all without spilling on your dress. Sherry, the receptionist, frowns at you as you try to sneak past. Given the look on her face, you’re surprised she hasn’t actually burst into flames. This thought is so funny, that you have to hold in a giggle until you make it past the harpy.

As you head to your desk and your grimace becomes the giggle you’ve been trying to suppress, you accidentally catch the eye of Jeremy, one of the newest additions to the company, heading the other direction down the hall. His look of confusion quickly turns into a twinkle in his eye as he realizes that you’re stifling a giggle.

Amazingly, he stops and says, “Kelly, right? May I help you carry those?”

For a moment, you’re totally flustered. First, you had no idea he knew your name. Second, he’s so incredibly handsome. You look directly into his dark blue eyes and you’re suddenly transported back to your dream. You realize you’re blushing furiously, and try to cover it by looking down at your full hands.

“Thank you, but I’ve got it,” you mumble.

“Really, it’s no trouble,” he says, taking the coffees out of your hands. “To the conference room?” he asks.

You nod and follow, your brain still reeling too much to say anything else. “Get it under control,” you think. And then, “stupid dream.” Walking behind him is a treat, though, as you get to see his amazing body. With those broad shoulders, narrow waist, and firm butt, he must work out. You almost ask out loud, but think better of it. Imagining what he’d say if he caught you staring makes you giggle again, but you hold it down, which causes you to burst into hiccups.

Arriving at the conference room, he asks, “right on the table?”

You really have to get control of your thoughts, because for a moment you think he’s asking whether you want to do something else on the table. By the time you realize he means the coffee, you are blushing again, and your hiccups are worse. “>hic< Yes, set them right on the >hic< table, please,” you say.

He leans down to set the coffee on the table, his golden-bronze hair glinting in the halogen lighting, giving you a heart-stopping view of the exact part of his anatomy you’d just been admiring. When he straightens up and turns to face you, the twinkle is back.

You feel completely stupid, and before you can stop yourself you snap, “what?! >hic<”

His grin widens and he says, “your hiccups are really cute.”

Before you can say another word, he’s headed back out to the hallway to continue whatever he’d been about to do before he stopped to act as your fetch boy. You start to wonder if you’ve had him pegged all wrong…

 *********************

At the end of the day, after taking meeting notes, planning lunch, and putting out all of the fires that come up in a normal day for an Executive Admin, you’re ready to crawl into bed with a good book. Just as you’re getting ready to go, Jeremy walks up.

“A bunch of us are going out for drinks around the corner after work. Interested?” He looks at you expectantly.

You can’t really believe he’s asking you to go out. Yes, it’s with a group, but you are still definitely interested. You look up into his dark blue eyes and say, “I’d love to go. Where do you want me?” Oops! “I mean, where do I meet everyone?” you say, hoping he didn’t notice your slip, but blushing furiously when his smile widens.

Too much of a gentleman to bring attention to your embarrassment, he merely gives you the details and says, “see you in a half hour.” He begins to turn away, but turns back to say, “we’d better exchange phone numbers in case something happens…?”

Is he asking for your phone number? Your heart is pounding as you give him your number, and he takes your phone to put his number in. He smiles again before heading back to his office, and your stomach feels fluttery.

You duck into your boss’s office to make sure he doesn’t need anything, but the smile on your face fades when you see his head down on his desk. Tentatively, you say, “sir?” And then, when that feels too formal, you walk right up to his desk and say, “Shawn?”

He lifts his head and you can see that his eyes are red. “A hard day.” He tries to smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Is there anything I can do?” you ask, feeling helpless, but wanting to be supportive of a man who has been a great boss to you for many years, and who is obviously unhappy. Suddenly, you remember what day it is.

He obviously sees the realization cross your face, because he grimaces. If you thought he would have wanted you to, you’d have had flowers on his desk, but you know him well enough to know he isn’t the type to want to commemorate the first anniversary of his wife’s death. If anything, he’d be the kind to want to forget it.

Trying another tack, you smile and say, “let me get you something to drink. I just restocked the break room fridge with the smoothies you like…”

He shakes his head as he says, “I could really go for something a little more…”

“There are some people going out for an after work drink…” you begin, but stop when you see the look on his face. He doesn’t want company right now, and a noisy bar is probably the last place he wants to be, but he also shouldn’t be alone.

“I’ll be fine, really,” he says. He smiles a real smile this time, and your heart clenches at the thought of this sweet man sitting by himself, thinking about a wife whom he loved, and whom he’ll never see again.

Before you give yourself time to think, you say, “I could stay.” He looks a little bit taken aback, but also a little bit hopeful.

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” he says firmly, but his brown, melted chocolate eyes seem to be saying something else.

Do you keep your date with Jeremy, even though it’s not really a date? He could definitely be your dream man, but you’re not sure that he thinks of you that way. He’s always been kind, and he did seem like he was flirting this morning…

Or do you stay and help your boss, who is certainly hurting for company and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, he’s your boss, but he is absolutely delicious to look at, smart, funny, and he needs someone. Could that be you?

Either way, your evening just got a lot more interesting.

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[if you choose to go to the bar with Jeremy]

“You’re right sir,” you say. What were you even thinking a moment ago? A fifteen-year age difference, and he’s your boss. It’s a good thing you came to your senses.

“There’s probably someone better suited to…  Is there someone I could call?”

“No, Kelly,” he says, “I think it’s best if I just go home. Thanks for doing another great job today.”

“And you’re sure you won’t join us at the bar?” you ask, mostly to be kind. He knows as well as you do that no one really wants the boss to come along.

“I’m sure,” he says, smiling a genuine smile. “Go on. Have fun.”

You smile back, then head to the door, anticipating seeing Jeremy again.

*************************

[if you choose to stay with Shawn]

“Of course I’m going to stay,” you say.

With a look of relief that he can’t quite hide, Shawn reaches down and pulls a bottle of scotch and two glasses out of his bottom desk drawer. At your raised eyebrows, he looks a little bit sheepish and says, “care for a drink?”

Not really expecting an answer, you grin and say, “do you always keep that in there?” Then, remembering Jeremy, you say, “I’ll be right back,” and head out into the hall to make a quick call.