Taking a break today.

Pretty much what the title says. I might take the whole week off–not sure yet. I’m fine; I’m just having one of those hyper-critical, happy-with-nothing-I-write days, so I need to step away from the pressure of the blue “publish, publish right now” button. (Oh, wait, that’s not what that says? Oops.) I actually tried to do a post earlier–you might’ve seen it, if you were here in the middle of the afternoon–and, well, see above. So now that post is gone,¬†and you’re getting this instead.

Sidebar, for those of you who are really curious about this other post (cough, Future Emi): it was about homemade bookmarks. Only I more or less covered the basics of that project in my previous post about homemade bookmarks, except for the mention of tiny stamps. And I wasn’t satisfied with the artwork this time. I am planning to make more bookmarks, though, so this may not be the end of that topic.

As ever, thank you for stopping by this blog! I hope you’re all having a good Monday, that you had a lovely weekend, and that you have a wonderful week!

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A Rainy Sunday Afternoon in Napa

Yesterday was one of those days when I just wanted to get out of town for a while. So I headed off to Napa for some food, some more food, and then, to mix things up, some more food.

The good news: I’m not much into wine, so the rain didn’t get in the way of any wine-tasting plans. Places where I stopped:

  • Oxbow Public Market
  • Bel Aire Plaza

Oxbow was surprisingly crowded for such a damp day, but I found myself enjoying it. The close-packed people, the rain falling outside: it was all wonderful. I snagged an ahi burger at Gott’s, and then, since finding seating at Oxbow is often a bit of a challenge, I ate in my car before heading off to Bel Aire Plaza, which was quieter.

Napa is pricey, so that’s something to keep in mind. (One reason why I can’t be going out there all the time.) But for yesterday, it was nice to have a treat. And both Oxbow and Bel Aire are relatively friendly stops for rainy weather. Oxbow is mostly indoors, except for places like Gott’s, so once you get to the main building, you could theoretically stay there for a while. Bel Aire you might want to bring an umbrella to, if you’re planning to walk to the different stores. But (unless you feel a need to seek out dirt) you’ll basically be walking on sidewalks and concrete when you’re outside. That’s great for me, because honestly, I’m not that fond of walking on dirt or grass or nature-stuff in sunny weather. In wet weather: sidewalks, please.

With that, I hope you all managed to stay dry this weekend! And, as ever, that you’re having a wonderful Monday.

Making Tiny Rubber Stamps

One of my test pages. Pencil: Pentel Twist-Erase XP. The notebook is a Nakabayashi. Stamp: is supposed to be a mug. I'm hoping it actually looks like one.

One of my test pages. Pencil: Pentel Twist-Erase XP. The notebook is a Nakabayashi. Stamp is supposed to be a mug. I’m hoping it actually looks like one.

I love tiny stamps. You can get some nice sets–I actually have some that I bought a while back, that I really like. (“Diary stamps” was the search term that finally worked for me, I think.) But I’ve also found that I get vaguely discontented using someone else’s images. Even if my images are a lot less finessed, less professional, I like seeing them. So yesterday, I set out to make some small stamps for a journal/calendar-type thing I’m trying.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a craft project, and I have to say, it felt really good. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten a lot of what I learned from making the first set of rubber stamps, so I had to learn again. And I don’t know what tutorials/instructions I used the last time–this time, I just winged it based on what I remembered.

I’m assuming you already know the basics of rubber stamp carving, but if you don’t, I think this is one of the tutorials I used for my first pass, who knows how many months ago. There’s another tutorial here, which I may or may not have seen before making my first stamps, but the way the X-Acto knife is used is quite similar to how I used my X-Acto knife this time, so there you go.

With that, here are the tools I found most useful in making particularly small stamps:

  • A piece of paper to draw the design on
  • Carving rubber to transfer the design onto (see tutorial links)
  • An X-Acto knife to trace the design once it’s on the carving rubber (see the second link)
  • A mechanical pencil. The “mechanical” part is important, because I used the metal tip to carve away rubber. It was really good for getting into tight spaces. I used a Pentel Twist-Erase XP, if that helps. I found the X-Acto knife/mechanical pencil team far more useful for the tiny stamps than a linoleum cutter.
  • Foam mounting tape. I’m sure I read somewhere, during my first foray into rubber stamp carving, that foam (though perhaps not specifically foam mounting tape) is the right way to mount these things, but I can’t remember where. I also remember reading a lot about adhesives, getting really confused, and then just buying foam mounting tape instead, which… I’ll talk about in a second.
  • Tiny wooden blocks to mount the stamps on
  • A stamp pad

Other tips: obviously, be super careful with the X-Acto knife. (And, for that matter, with the pencil.) Also, the foam mounting tape probably isn’t the best way of mounting stamps–I have found that it doesn’t stick as permanently as one might wish. But it is super easy to apply, which is a win for me. I don’t use my stamps enough to need a heavy-duty adhesive.

Like most of the projects I do, this one is pretty easy–the complexity of the carving depends on the complexity of the image. (I did carve another stamp on Sunday, but it… did not go as well. Or maybe it’s ok; I’m just not sold on it yet. The point is, the mug was a lot simpler.) I’m thinking I’ll add more stamps as needed. And I’ll try to use some of the stamps I already have, because they’re fantastic.

With that, I’ll let you all get back to your Monday. Good luck to anyone who’s planning to try a craft project! And to everyone else: I hope your week is off to a good start, and that it’s full of (to sort of quote my sample calendar/journal entry above) only the best things happening, and wonderful stuff to note!

Opening My Heart to Books (and Cats)

Ok, that title sounds really melodramatic, but I’m going to try to explain what I mean. First, though, some background: a couple weeks ago, as some of you may know, my mom’s cat passed away. That was obviously far harder for her than it was for me. But that cat was still part of my family for a long time. And also, losing him called back a lot of the emotions I had when I lost my own cat, about two and a half years ago.

I’m not going to go into detail about that here. Not now, and maybe not ever. In short: he was my cat for 16 years, and I loved him, and failed him, and missed him terribly, and now, two and half years later, even if the edge is off those feelings (for the most part), they’re still there. I’m not mentioning this because I need comfort, or anything. I just feel like there should be some context for this statement, made around that time, in my journal:

“[Book title, which I’m not going to name here, because it’s not fair to an enjoyable book] is not big or encompassing enough to fill the sad empty place in my heart. But I’m not looking for that right now. I’m looking for fun, easy, quick reads with happy endings, I guess. I chose [this book] because of that–because my mind can’t latch onto too much right now.” (For Future Emi: that’s on July 30th, in the plain brown notebook, because I know you’re going to care about that. Moving on.)

I’m not an expert on grief, but I think that was a reasonable reaction at the time. My heart was just so badly bruised, which sounds crazy to anyone who’s never had a cat, but it was. And it got more badly bruised as the year went on. (Suffice to say that losing my cat wasn’t the last bad thing that happened that year.)

Somewhere in between all of that, and picking up my own writing projects again (which typically don’t leave a lot of brain space for other people’s worlds), I suspect that keeping a certain distance from books got to be habit. Not to say I haven’t read any good books since my cat’s death–I have. And certainly, they haven’t all been “fun, easy, quick reads with happy endings.” But with apathy, depression, and what I now recognize as the fallout of some serious grief still dogging my mind after that year, I feel like my book screening process became a question of how much energy each book would demand of me. How much it would require of my mind and heart. Because I didn’t have that much to give, so I had to be careful with what I did have.

This is all subjective, of course–just the impression I have right now, looking back. The thing is, though, I’ve been slowly coming out of that. And I’m starting to wonder: at what point should I look for a book that’s going to really grab hold of my heart again? Should I look for it? Come to think of it, did I look for that before, or did I just not try to avoid it?

Either way, I think I need to stop being afraid to love books. Because that’s one of the reasons–maybe the reason, as basic as it is–that I’ve always been a reader. I love stories. And if I stay away from books I think I’ll love, then I can’t be surprised when this happens:

Reading Slump

From the post I wrote when… well, the title is pretty self-explanatory: “I’m back!”

Anyway, I’ll get there, I think. I hope. I want to hope? I’m still rather wary, it seems, of getting my heart broken again, by anything. But I think I’m recovering, too. It’s taken a lot of prayer. (I know I don’t talk about my faith a lot here, but I haven’t made this journey without God, and I shouldn’t and couldn’t pretend that I did, because that’s taking a lot more credit than I actually deserve.) It’s also taken time, of course. And it took, in some part, the persistent purring and meowing of a cat who didn’t even belong to me, but who helped mend my heart in ways I didn’t completely understand until he was gone.

I miss him, of course. His death has been a rainy spell on the road. But the good he did seems to be sticking even through that. I may be able, now, to care about books–and even possibly cats–the way I did before. Almost. Getting there. Starting to be ready to get there. To want to get there.

Someday, who knows, maybe I’ll actually blog about some of this in detail. I don’t know if I should. But I hope this post helped someone out there. It does get better on the other side. That’s always been my experience. And it still is. It’s ok if it doesn’t happen right away. It’s even ok if it takes a very long time. Healing can be like that. But it does get better. You start to care again. You start to feel.

So for now, I wish you all some joy and strength, peace, energy, a purring cat if you want one, a good book, and as always, a happy Monday. And thank you, as ever, for putting up with my ramblings. This blog continues to be helpful for me. And it’s probably largely because of how supportive everyone who’s commented has been that I feel like I can post something like this. Thank you all again, and hopefully, I’ll see you all next week with something a little lighter!