I kind of think one should write a post on Leap Day, even if one doesn’t have anything of real import to say.  Cause it’s Leap Day, ya know–won’t happen again for four years.

Much as I like to blather on about nothing, I decided to try to think of something, like a meme, that I could post about in honor of this day.

So here’s what I decided on, and hope that you will participate in:  List four things you’d like to accomplish by next Leap Day.  The first should be something you know you will accomplish, the second should be something you have a reasonable expectation of accomplishing, the third should be something you will have to really push yourself to accomplish, and the fourth should be kind of a “pie in the sky” dream accomplishment.

I’ll begin:

1)  Complete the Santa Monica Muscle Beach traveling rings, forward and backward.  I’ve been working on this goal since January and will likely complete this goal in the next few months.

2)  Earn a profit from my jewelry business.
3)  Design and publish an original knit design (anywhere but on my own website)
4)  Write that novel!

Next, tag four people whose goals you’d like to see.  I’m tagging Creatress, Mick, Jen, and Candace.  Be sure to let the people you’re tagging know they’ve been tagged, either in the comments of their blogs, or email.

I woke up to a lovely surprise this morning.  A seller on Etsy called Ivy Lane Designs emailed me to let me know one of my items was featured on the front page.  That in itself is a very cool thing, and in this time of very slow sales, I need the promotion.  But when I looked, I saw that not only was I featured on the front page, I was also included in an article about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate today.

MLK

The item featured is this one:

408N_world_peace_cu
I wish peace was as simple as putting on a necklace.  Sadly, not so.  But however you choose to celebrate peace on this important day, remember that it truly does begin with you.

This year for Christmas, my family decided to give handmade gifts to each other.  It was my sister-in-law’s idea, and everyone embraced it.  Everyone except me, however.  I need to qualify that by saying that my intent was to purchase all or most of my gifts on Etsy because I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to make gifts for everyone (and Etsy is a handmade marketplace, so I figured handmade is handmade, right)?  And I did buy most of my gifts from Etsy.  Just not the ones I gave my family.

I got some really cool stuff from my family though, and I totally regretted not thinking harder about what I could make.  For some reason I got stuck in one of two places–jewelry (um, I think my family has enough jewelry made by me by now) and knitting.  I had these grand visions of knitting the bestest gifts ever, but you know how that goes.  It takes time to knit.  It never occurred to me to make something else.  The possibilities are endless!

That’s why this year I’m off and running.  I’ve already started making my Christmas gifts and I’m gonna do my best to make every single one.  Several members of my family admitted they’d already started their projects as well.  Should be interesting (and fun) to see what people come up with!

I talk about my jewelry studio a lot because it’s a very big part of my life.  It is such a great environment not only for making jewelry, but for discussing the business of selling it as well.  In addition, these women are my friends and there is a feeling of camaraderie and support that is very valuable to me.

Here we are, hard at work:

at_work
Even though I have most of this equipment at home, there are certain things, like the rolling mill, that I can’t install in my condo.  I also have access to a proper torch, which allows me to solder heavy things that a butane torch simply can’t handle:

keychain 

My teacher has hung photos of our work on the walls of the studio which is a constant inspiration.  I’m proud of my work, but frankly, it can’t touch some of the pieces made by his other students.  Simply stunning.

I think the best part of all of this, however, and what keeps me coming back, is that the type of jewelry making we’re doing is an ancient art.  The techniques we use have been used for thousands of years–when I go to museums and see jewelry, say, from ancient Egypt, I can look at it and see exactly how it was made and see techniques that I use in my own jewelry.  From tiny lumps of 24k gold or fine silver, we make the most lovely things, completely by hand.

image

Sometimes jewelry seems a very superficial thing to me, but I absolutely love the process of making it.  I am smitten.

I have never done this before so forgive me if I do it wrong.

4. Love it! This is my thing:
Jewelry making/goldsmithing, knitting, painting pictures of dogs, genealogy

3. I do or have dabbled in it:
Sewing, cooking, interior decoration, entertaining, gardening, singing, song writing, poetry, graphic design, web design, writing, wine tasting, screenwriting, filmmaking, knit design/pattern making, guitar playing, beading

2. Would love to try it; it’s on my list:
Dyeing fibers, spinning, furniture making, clothing design, tiling, mosaics, doll house making, glass blowing, pottery, quilting, acting, drawing, watercolors, doll making, wine making, piano playing, enameling, silk screening

1. I’ve got absolutely no interest:
Basket weaving, candle making, card making, soap making, flower arranging, balloon animal making, etching, glass bead making, lace making (needle lace, cutwork), lucet, paper-mâché, rug hooking, scrapbooking, stamping, tatting, wood carving, calligraphy, paper making, cross stitch, embroidery

This is very similar to my “things I want to learn” post, I know.  But I can never resist being part of the crowd.

There are so many crafts to learn, and so little time to learn (and do) them in.  And those who know me know I have much more free time than most people!

Still, if time permits, these crafts I am interested in learning:

1)  Pottery/ceramics
2)  Silk Screening – Easy Silk Screening Tutorial
3)  Enameling – Awhile back, I saw this jewelry designer profiled on HGTV and I’ve wanted to learn enamelling ever since
4)  Glass Blowing
5)  Spinning and Dyeing Yarn – I thought I was going to do that this year but still haven’t gotten around to it
6)  Wax carving for lost wax casting in jewelry design – I’ve actually done this before but didn’t really take to it.  I’m still very interested in the technique though
7)  Furniture making
8)  Pave setting in jewelry design

I’m also very interested in learning design on a more formal level, particularly graphic and interior design.  What I’d do with this knowledge, I’m not really sure, which is one of the reasons I’ve never really pursued either through formal classes.

What crafts are you interested in learning?

“I’m a lousy gardener.  I can never tell the soil from the dirt.”  –Woody Allen

I’m not the only creative person in my family, not by a long shot.  My mom is an avid gardener and the other day she sent me a photo of the flower box she made:

que_bonita
The box was made with an old wooden box my dad got at a garage sale.  She sanded it and hammered in the loose nails.  Next, she stained it with a yellow water-based stain and wrote the words with a black permanent marker.  She then sealed it with a water-based sealer.  For the legs, she attached an old TV tray she got at a flea market and removed the clips.  She painted the legs with a flat black paint and attached with clips she’d previously attached to the box.  Voila!  A nifty and very cute flower box.

And speaking of flowers, I had to show a photo of the gladiolus on my balcony:

 gladiolus
Definitely bonita.

My mom is also a very accomplished crochet artist.  Here is a photo of an afghan she recently made:
afghan_mom_front
I think it’s gorgeous, and she picked a great color.

I’ve never made an afghan, but I’m thinking it might be time for me to give it a try.  I prefer knitting to crochet (especially since I’m not that great at crochet) so maybe I’ll design and knit one this winter.

Tonight I looked at the website of an author I really enjoy:  Daniel Silva.  The urge was triggered by reading this article.  It is about a 60 year old Holocaust survivor who, since 1990, has been actively searching for his mother who he was separated from when they both went to a UN sponsored hospital for refugees in Munich.  He was adopted by an American family in 1950.  His mother, now 83, is living in Israel but has refused to reunite with him.  The connection to Daniel Silva is somewhat tenuous, but without going into too much detail, Silva’s main character is an Israeli spy named Gabriel Allon and the Holocaust is a central theme in the novels.  Whilst reading the article I realized that he must soon be having another book come out and hence the visit to his website.

The more important point of all this is that it got me thinking about my dreams and my hopes for accomplishing them.  As we grow older, I think we become a bit more realistic about what we will and will not accomplish in our lives, and the most important things become more focused.  In the past couple of years I’ve re-defined a lot of my dreams as goals and then set out to accomplish them.  Losing weight was a big one.  Running the marathon was an even bigger one.  I think one of the reasons being physically fit rates so high on my list of accomplishments is that I never thought of myself as a physically active person and now that I’ve worked hard and achieved so many of the dreams I had in that direction I look at it as a sort of benchmark for other goals and dreams I might have.

Pies in the Sky

When I was young, my true pie-in-the-sky dream was singing.  Oh, how I dreamt of being a singer.  Back in the 1970s, I was enamored of Marie Osmond and my best friend Debbie and I used to argue about which one of us sounded the most like her as we stood on a bed singing Paper Roses into a hair brush microphone.  (Oh, and for the record, I sounded more like her).

I’ll tell you this, if American Idol would’ve been around when I was in my 20s, I woulda been all over it.

The highlight of my singing career was four years as a soprano in the choir at Loyola Marymount University, led by perhaps one of the greatest choral directors ever, Paul Salamunovich.  Shortly after I graduated, he went on to direct the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The fact that I got to sing with him is one of the great opportunities I’ve had in my life, and I’ve never taken in for granted.  But for as much passion as I had for it, and I really did, I now know I was never destined to be a singer.  It was a great dream to have, but it was just that, a dream, never a goal to be systematically planned for and eventually achieved.  I no longer aspire to be a singer, though get me on the karaoke stage and it’s hard to get me off.  Being a singer was a big part of my identity when I was younger, but I’m completely okay with the fact that it no longer defines me at all.

So What am I Here For?

I have long considered myself a writer, for no truly legitimate reason.  From childhood until young adulthood I wrote poetry, but looking back I think that was a coping mechanism more than an actual talent or urge to write, and I say that because now that I’m fairly settled in life I have no desire to write anything even remotely poetic.  One of these days I’ll have to post one of my sonnets though, since that is one of the first places my creativity expressed itself.

I suppose I could argue that I am a writer.  I have a degree in screenwriting, I’ve written or contributed to several books on international education, I’ve become very chatty in my weblogs, and my husband and I even wrote a teleplay together.  Somehow, none of this counts though.  Why?  Because the one pie-in-the-sky dream that has defined me like no other is my desire to be a writer of novels, more specifically, mystery/suspense novels, like Daniel Silva (aha, you say, it’s all starting to make sense).  The problem is, I have no idea how or when I’m going to do it.  I only know that it is something I will do–an item on my to do list that I can’t cross off no matter how unlikely it seems I’ll ever do it.

It’s kind of silly in a way.  I consider myself an author, just an author who hasn’t written a book yet.  It’s something I plan to get around to eventually and therefore it is a part of my identity.  It’s like, I’m an author until I’m not an author, which I suppose will be the day I die (without ever having written a novel) or the day I decide I’m not an author any more.

Perhaps even sillier, being an author is a much bigger part of my identity then making jewelry, or painting pictures of dogs, or knitting, or whatever.  Those are things I do, not things I am.  There is a difference, however subtle it might be.

All of this begs the question, if you’re an author, then why aren’t you writing?  Oh, if only it were that simple.  I’m not actually sure why I’m not writing, though I suspect it’s for a lot of reasons.  Laziness.  Fear.  Lack of discipline.  All of the same reasons why so many of our dreams and goals are never accomplished.  And yet I have confidence I will eventually sit down and write it.  I guess you could consider me an undiscovered writer–undiscovered, even by myself.  When I’m ready, I will write that novel, just like I lost weight when I was ready–just like I ran that marathon.

I have recently finished knitting my first sock ever and I’m well under way on the second:

I had no immediate plans to knit a pair of socks, but I happened upon a Basic Sock Tutorial at Sweaterscapes.com and I decided it might be worth a try.

I suspected it wouldn’t be that difficult since I’d already successfully knitted a pair (or 12) of Knucks.  Not that they’re the same, but some of the principles are similar at least.  Anyway, the socks were easy enough.

I used the bamboo yarn I’d purchased in Japan:

I got about 100g each of 3 colors:  the light blue you see here, a very light beige, and the rust colored brown which I used for the socks.  My intention was to knit a scarf but now I think I will experiment with different sock designs using this same basic pattern.  The bamboo yarn is very soft and while I probably wouldn’t wear the socks with shoes because of the thickness, it does make for a good pair of lounging socks.

Possum Yarn?

My mother-in-law and her friend Marie recently completed a 5-week long trip to New Zealand and stopped at our house on their way back to England.  They mentioned the fantastic array of handcrafted items in New Zealand, and told me about a blend of possum-merino yarn which is apparently fantastically soft and luxurious.

I found a couple of online retailers for it,  so I’m thinking I might have to try it.

Sewing a Re-useable Shopping Bag

The other day I happened upon this tutorial at U-handbag.com:

Reusable Grocery Bag

While I’m all for reusing grocery bags, another very good use of this bag is for travel.  It would make a great fold-up bag to take with you to carry back all those wonderful souvenirs.

There are actually a lot of great handbag tutorials on this site, but my sewing skills are almost non-existent.  I’ve been thinking about taking a sewing class for a long time though, so this might be the perfect excuse.