December 30, 2012

Project Life 2013

I have been a huge fan of the Project Life community for a couple of years now, and love seeing creative ways that people use this project. Love the format, and flexibility, and colors, but the stumbling block for me has always been the physicality of the entire thing.

For several years now I have been getting rid of paper, and doing most of my creative projects digitally. Yes, I still love paper and journals, and have a stash that will last me for a while. But when I look at all those physical albums that Project Lifers accumulate, I just can't do it. The only time I make physical photo albums these days is when I make gifts for my nieces and nephews. These albums are small and fun, and the kids love them. But I no longer want or need physical albums around. They are bulky and not portable. I still have dreams of chucking it all and running away, and need to be able to travel light.

Then I had a light bulb moment. Why not do this digitally? After all, I did participate in the December Daily project several years ago digitally and loved it. No fuss, no muss. And so very portable. So the investigation began. Would I have to create my own templates, etc? Did a quick web search and found there was lots going on digitally already. Like I said, this is one passionate community.

So here is where I am at. I found and bought ONE layered template. The one called Project Life - Template Design A. That cost me $2. And by the way people, Template Design D is simply Template Design A rotated 90 degrees. So save that extra two bucks for some chocolate and rotate. No, not you, the template. I use Photoshop Elements 9, but you could do this with any variety of free software out there.

Next steps? A lesson learned from the December Daily project is "preparation is an indicator of success". So here are my steps: (I've linked to relevant supplies below)

  1. Decided to use Template Design A as my foundation. I can always rotate if the urge arises.
  2. Decided on a background for my pages for the year. Also a freebie.
  3. Decided to create a two-page spread per week.
  4. Decided that my weeks would run Monday to Sunday. This took much longer to decide than I would have thought. There are pros and cons. Anyway, I digress.
  5. Decided not to buy the digital kits - the paper, journaling blocks, etc. While I do like some of them, did not love any enough to buy them. Also have my own digital stash waiting to be plundered.
  6. Explored sites like Pinterest, etc and found lots of lovely items designed specifically for Project Life and available for free. So downloaded those that caught my eye.
  7. Organized my digital work space so I can easily find what I need.
So, the unveiling. For the total cost of $2, this will be my foundation page for 2013. I am so excited to begin. If you are a Project Lifer, let me know. Would love to see your pages.

Relevant links:

December 28, 2012

Recent Reads

130. The Red Tree
I love everything about this picture book. I'd recommend reading it slowly, and really looking at the wonderful art. Put it aside and let it soak in. And then read it again. And again. Shaun Tan is rapidly becoming one of my fave authors. Rating: 5 stars.

131. Alif the Unseen
Technically I'd give this book 2.5 stars. This urban fantasy has all the right ingredients. A philosophical exploration of faith, and security, and hackers, and oppressive regimes, and forbidden love, and Djinn. However I was not sucked into the story, and I thought the characters rather tepid - even the Djinn! Rating: 3 stars.

132. The Nutcracker
I read the Eyewitness version illustrated by James Mayhew in preparation for seeing the ballet this week. Having not grown up in the US (or Europe for that matter), this is a story I do not know. Actually I had heard it was a children's story where toys came alive, but no-one said anything about mice! I used to think that the iconic image of the nutcracker was a toy soldier. In my defense, I did mention that I grew up on the equator right? Having no childhood memories to fall back on, I found the fable an OK read, but am ever so glad I did. Now when mice burst out on the stage of the ballet I won't be so puzzled.  Rating: 2 stars.

133. The Alexander Cipher
I am a fan of Alexander, so thought this would be fun archaeological/good guys/bad guys romp. After listening to 4 hours of the audio version have decided to call it quits. I found the writing rather formulaic, and don't get even me started on the women characters. Life is too short for bad books. Rating: 1 star.

134. poemcrazy
I'm not a huge fan of poetry. Had a teacher drain all the joy out of poems for me when I was a wee one. However, I am slowly finding my way back. This book is a fun creative tool for people who love words. Yes, there are lessons on how to put those words into poems, but it is the word play that hooked me. Love the idea of word banks. Interspersed with the lessons are anecdotes from the author's life and classes. And while I might not be rushing to my desk to write a poem, reading this book has clearly improved my personal journaling. Rating: 4 stars.

135. Lost & Found

This picture book collects three stories by the author: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. The Red Tree is my fave. The art consists of lovely paintings and collages that would actually stand quite well on their own. With deceptively simple text, these stories explore depression and what is lost and gained as we grow up, and when cultures clash. Rating: 4 stars.

December 27, 2012

Vegas Travel Journal

One of the fun things about travel for me is making and filling a travel journal. I realized today that I had not shared a video flip of my completed Bound for Vegas journal that I kept during a family visit in Dec 2011.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

December 26, 2012

Jessica Sprague's Photoshop Friday Tutorials

Hello my Chikadees. A heads up that the Photoshop Friday Tutorial Series self-paced class is on sale.

Works for both PSE and full versions of CS. I use PSE, and that software is like an onion. I keep peeling back layer upon layer, and am still so far from knowing it all. So while I impressed myself yesterday by creating my very first reusable layered template (whoo hoo!), there is always more I want to learn. You can see more about this class here. The deal expires Dec 31.

EDIT: Having just run through all 52 classes in the past week or so, I would highly recommend this class. So many things make sense now. Can't wait to put what I've learned to creative use.

December 24, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas

It is a busy time of year, so Santa recruits all the help he can get. No volunteers are turned away.
Many moons ago, we decided to take trips instead of buying presents. Wise beyond our years I tell you. Not only are the holidays stress free, we gift each other adventures, stories, and new experiences. And that is not something I can buy in a store. And is certainly not made in China (though a trip to China would be lovely). Cannot think what would be more precious to me.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday season.

December 23, 2012

Journal page

So looks like we survived the end of the world. For now. Am loving being home. Have several creative fires burning and will share soon. On another note, remember how I wanted to give my brain a workout so signed up for that online Astronomy class? Well, people I am here to tell you that my brain is all pumped up. Almost feels like it is busting out of my skull. That is how pumped up it is. And you know what? I notice a difference in problem solving - things are just firing better. Guess that old adage, if you don't use it you loose it, is dead on.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Pen and watercolors.
Thanks for checking in. Happy Holidays.

December 22, 2012

Bach's Christmas Oratorio

Since we are home for the holidays, we are doing holiday things about town. Recently we attended the Handel and Haydn Society's Bach Christmas Oratorio at Jordan Hall.
Program notes: "Embrace the holidays with H&H’s annual Bach Christmas celebration, featuring three cantatas from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Audience favorite John Finney, Associate Conductor and Chorusmaster, leads the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus in a moving rendition of this holiday treasure."
The acoustics at NEC's Jordan Hall are superb. I didn't even realize how muddy sound from most events were until I heard this concert. And because it was not a huge orchestra, I could hear the notes from each period instrument clearly. Such a wonderful way to ring in the holiday season.

December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice

We are celebrating the winter solstice here at 42 degrees North. The longest night of the year, so there will be a roaring fire tonight to help keep the darkness at bay. It is also the end of the Mayan calendar. No worries, here is what might have happened.
(Via Robert Perez)

December 20, 2012

Journal page

While browsing the magazine shelves at the bookstore, stumbled upon Hi-Fructose. The magazine showcased some really funky and talented artists. One that captivated me was Audrey Kawasaki. Simply love her style, and did a quick sketch of a portion of one of her paintings in my sketchbook.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Pen and watercolors.

December 19, 2012

Recent Reads

126. Void Moon
I'm a Connelly fan, so decided to try this standalone book - no Harry Bosch, no Mickey Haller, no Jack McEvoy. The audio version is wonderfully narrated by L. J. Ganser. Set in LA and Las Vegas, this heist story involves no cops. There are really no good guys in it either, and yet you root for Cassie Black, an ex-con in a Porsche. While not on par with Connelly's best works, this is a fun book to listen to while driving about. 3 stars.

127. Drinking at the Movies
Growing up can be hard to do, especially when one does not wish to. This autobiographical graphic novel covers the high and low times of the author over a period of two years. In that time she moves from San Francisco to New York, lives in several places, and gets fired from six or seven (I lost count) jobs. The author reflects on life, her relationships with family and friends, the meaning of home and work, all while drinking at the movies, and pretty much everywhere else too. Rating: 3 stars.

128. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This YA book is a wonderful departure from all the dystopian novels that are so popular today. The story unfolds in a series of letters, and we spend a critical year with Charlie, as he learns to "participate" in his life. A lovely coming-of-age novel for the mature YA reader. As an adult reader, I looked back fondly at my younger self, and cheered her on. Finding out who you are and your place in the world is hard work, but there are moments when (hopefully) we all feel special and "infinite". Rating: 4 stars.

129. The Last Straw
My older nieces and nephew loved the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series, so am reading along with the youngest one. This is the third in the series and was not as fun as the first two in my opinion. Rating: 2 stars.

December 18, 2012

10 Books Your Relatives Are Going to Be Talking About This Holiday Season That You’ve Never Heard Of

Going home for the holidays can be stressful. We are home alone for the holidays, and it is very relaxing and peaceful around here this year. However, if you are visiting family, get ready by reading this. Made me laugh out loud.

December 17, 2012

Journal page

One of my creative goals this year was to get more comfortable sketching faces. Check. And while they might not be the most flattering of portraits, I think I capture the essence of what I see. Lots more practice required, but am making progress.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Pen and markers.

December 15, 2012

School Shooting in CT

The news of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT yesterday rocked me. The gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children. Yes we are a nation reeling at this news, but will we do anything to prevent this from happening again?

December 14, 2012

Recent Reads

121. The Arrival
This wordless graphic novel is beautifully illustrated, and wonderfully depicts the universality of the immigrant experience. Rating: 4 stars.

122. Digital Art Wonderland
This book covers step by step instructions on how to create many layered digital collages. While I found that information useful, the collages created in the book are just not to my taste. Rating: 2 stars.

123. The Snow Child
Can you wish for something so fiercely that you wish it into existence? This fairy tale set in Alaska is told in three parts, and starts out strong. I really liked part one, but the rest of the story was one I did not find compelling. I did however really enjoy the relationship dynamics in the book. Rating: 3 stars.

124. The Power of Habit
Don't you just love when books change your mental maps, and you see things in a different light? This book is a fascinating look into personal and organizational habits. In a nutshell, the habit loop consists of a cue, the routine, a reward, and belief that change is possible. No, that is not a spoiler - the case studies in this book alone make it worth the read. And while the author touches on how to change "bad" habits, this is not a self help book. The audio version I listened to was narrated by Mike Chamberlain, and his reading detracted from my enjoyment of the book, though the subject matter was compelling enough that I pushed through to the end. Rating: 4 stars.

125. Journal Fodder 365
As person who has kept a visual journal for years, I found the art prompts rather basic. The most interesting part of this book for me were the writing prompts. If however, you are new to visual journaling, and that blank white page freaks you out, this would be a good book for you. Rating: 3 stars.

December 13, 2012

Journal page

There is much fun that one can have with stuffed animals, as can be seen from yesterday's post. I've got a thing for elephants. When my nephew was very little, he had a stuffed elephant and carried it around everywhere. He could not say elephant, so "ella" it was.
(Click on image to enlarge)
I like listening to audio books, music or podcasts while sketching. A fun way to use both sides of my brain. Pen and markers.

December 12, 2012

Astronomy Class Update

Do you remember that 9-week Astronomy class I'm taking online? We are into Week 3, and I am learning a lot. Things are getting connected in ways that make so much sense. And best of all, my brain is getting a great workout. Love that.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Study and homework time in our house is very intense. Need to add more brain food into the mix!

December 11, 2012

Journal page

There are times when I'm as prickly as a hedgehog. Lots of sharp edges. When that happens I can tell that I need some time alone. I turn off all input and go quiet.
(Click on image to enlarge)
This journal page captures my sharp edges. I find that sketching and color soothes me, and pretty soon I'm back to myself. Pen and markers.

December 10, 2012

Recent Reads

117. Sandman, Vol 10: The Wake
The finale of the Sandman series was a bit of a let down. I have loved this series, but this one did not grab me. Rating: 2 stars.

118. New York Drawings
This is a fun book to flip through. The author captures scenes that are quintessentially New York and has a style that I really like. I liked the juxtaposition of finished, published drawings with sketchbook ones. I would have rated the book higher if there was more insight into the drawings - what attracted his attention to a particular scene for example. Rating: 3 stars.

119. Flight Behavior
I am a fan of the author, and have read all but one of her books. As expected, the writing is luscious, and her insights into human nature dead on. I liked the book overall, however the story itself did not pull me in, and dragged in parts. Rating: 3 stars.

120. The Innocent
I listened to this audio book (narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy) on a long road trip. After seeing all the rave reviews this book got, I am simply astounded. I found the characters one-dimensional, the dialogue uninspired, and the plot rather weak. I would not have finished it if I had not been so road weary. Rating: 1 star.

December 9, 2012

Best of 2012

I love lists. And especially love "best of" book lists. So here are some that I'm keeping handy as I look for my next read:

New York Times Notable Children's Books 2012

New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012

Time Best of Everything 2012.

December 8, 2012

Books are the perfect gift

It is the season for gift giving, and in my humble opinion, books are the perfect gift to give, and for that matter to receive (hint, hint). Bought two this past week - one for my nephew Luke who turned 10, and one for a secret Santa book swap. Fun. For book ideas, check out this video by author John Green. I loved his book The Fault in Our Stars.

If embedded video does not play, click here.

December 7, 2012

Journal page

It is interesting how the media you use can totally change your sketching experience. Instead of my usual pen, I took out my watercolor pencils and quickly sketched a couple of people sitting in the bookstore cafe. A quick swipe with the water brush and I was done. So different from my usual style, but like it.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Pen and watercolor pencils.

December 6, 2012

December Daily

It is that time of the year again. I toyed with whether I was going to participate in the December Daily project this year, and opted not to. I did participate in the project in 2010. It is interesting to see what has changed in a couple of years, and what has stayed the same. You can watch a video of my digital pages here:

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

For more information on the project and supplies used, click here.

December 5, 2012

Reading right now

Am currently reading Journal Fodder 365 and PoemCrazy in print, and listening to Void Moon and The Power of Habit on audio.
What are you reading right now?

December 4, 2012

Patterned paper

Am back home from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and no trip to A2 is complete without a visit to Hollander's. I could use one of everything in the store. Check out some of this patterned paper:
 Wouldn't this pack be great for a seaside vacation journal?
 Some fab black and white ones.
 Other fun designs.
They have an incredible selection, and I ended up buying some to add to my stash. Will share later.

December 3, 2012

Dumb Ways to Die

Love this PSA

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

December 1, 2012

World AIDS Day

Today, December 1, is World AIDS day. You can learn more here.

Check out this ad that I saw on Danny Gregory's blog.