Little Things That Make Me Happy

RosesThis is one of those weeks when I feel rather stressed, so instead of a text-heavy post, I just wanted to focus on a few things that make me happy. Like:

  • Roses. And flowers in general, if you don’t have allergies. At least, I like seeing things blooming everywhere in the spring.
  • A cup of tea
  • Getting more done than is actually on my “mandatory, must do” list. Even when I don’t get to everything on my supposedly-mandatory list, it’s nice to keep track of the other things I did, to remind myself that I actually did get things done.
  • Finding a pair of matching socks to wear

This is a lot like something I used to do to fight off depression: I used to draw up a list of highlights. I’m not saying that works for everyone, or every stage of depression, but I think it was a good exercise for me. Today, though, I’m putting a different spin on it, because there’s a lot in my life that makes me happy, and it’s easy to forget that when I’m overwhelmed by the chore list.

With that, back to my Monday. I hope yours is lovely, with at least a few happy things in it (more if possible, of course)!

Advertisements

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!

Gallery

To Oregon and Back Again

Last week, my mom’s much-beloved cat passed away, so this weekend, looking for some different scenery, the two of us took a trip to Oregon. I’m not quite ready to talk about the cat on this blog, and honestly I’m not sure if I will be any time soon (or maybe ever), but Oregon was lovely. There’s just something about the forest, all those towering trees, and a beautiful sky overhead.

A few wonderful things about Oregon, on a very quick pass through (part of) the southern edge:

  • I hate to sound like a broken record, but the scenery really is gorgeous.
  • No sales tax!
  • They pump gas for you, which I’m sure is quite nice when it’s chilly or rainy outside. (Although the weather was pretty good this time through–very little rain, and not as cold as it could’ve been.)

Of course, there is something to be said for California, and the sun, as well. So wherever you live, I hope you’re all having a splendid Monday! And that if you can’t travel at the moment, you enjoy these pictures from a weekend on the road.

 

Resting

My hand got injured, so I’m taking it easy today. Hopefully it will be better soon, and I’ll be back to typing normally, but in the meantime… I don’t know. Here’s this picture of my stuffed cat, Duncan, reading a book.

Reading Scarlet

The book Duncan is reading, as you may have noticed, is Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer. Duncan has great taste in books. Because he’s a smallish cat, he’s using a “book chair,” which is also awesome. (Closest link here, if you’re curious–I’m not sure it’s the same company, since I got mine ages ago, but anyway.)

And with that bit of random silliness (about the cat, not the book–Scarlet really is a fun read/reread), happy Tuesday to you all! I hope life is treating you well!

San Francisco Tea Weekend

Lately I’ve been wondering if it would be a good idea to switch to loose-leaf tea. It seems like it might be a more ethical way of drinking tea, and it’s also arguably a small thing that’s quite doable for me–most days, I only drink one cup of tea (maybe two), and I technically have enough time to make that cup a good one. So this weekend, I decided to investigate some tea shops in San Francisco and Berkeley, along with my friend Grace. (Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube! There might even be some pictures of me somewhere on one of those accounts, thus proving that I am a real person.)

The city was lovely, and the tea shops were a lot of fun. Here are the ones we visited, in order:

Red Blossom was definitely my favorite, in terms of both the particular teas that I like, and the price (not all their teas worked with my budget, but there were some good ones that did). I also really liked that you could open up the canisters and smell the tea without having to ask someone behind a counter to get things down. (Smelling teas: both fun and surprising.) That having been said, though, I didn’t have bad experiences at any of the tea shops. Unless you count not being able to make up my mind, and not having infinite money to spend on every tea that interested me.

We ended up buying teas from two of the places. From Red Blossom Tea Company, we bought keemun, genmaicha, and lychee black tea. And from Asha Tea House, I got the House Blend Assam. Then, the next evening, Grace and I tried brewing these teas for ourselves. (By which I mean that Grace brewed the teas, really. It worked out great for me.) The teas were still lovely, and we’re not loose-leaf experts or anything, so that bodes well for the future. I even managed to make some tea myself this morning, despite my complete lack of an infuser. And it was delicious.

All in all, I’d definitely like to try some more loose-leaf teas and tea shops. But the next step, for now: to try drinking only loose-leaf for a few days, and see if my taste buds notice the difference when confronted with bagged tea again. (My taste buds are not generally very picky about tea, so all bets are off there.)

Other notes:

  • Thanks to this article for helping start this particular adventure!
  • Loose-leaf tea is not as hard as I thought. You can tell because I made it, and enjoyed it. (Thanks to another article for helping clarify some things.) Supplies I used (aside from tea and water, of course): water heating device, spoon (for scooping out tea), measuring cup (for steeping the leaves–great because it pours really well), a sieve (for catching the tea leaves), and a mug.
  • Loose-leaf tea also does seem to taste subtler than bagged tea, but this might be partially because I expect it to. It also smells wonderful–not just in those splendid canisters, but the actual cup of tea. I don’t know if I’ve ever noticed that about bagged tea before.
  • I don’t mean for the book/reading/maybe-sometimes-writing posts to go away! I’ve just been enjoying life-type things recently.

As ever, happy Monday to you all! And now off to make another cup of tea work. Definitely work.

Random Breakfast Burrito

It’s Wednesday! I’m actually posting on a Wednesday!

And I’m cooking. Today is just all kinds of special.

So anyway, I was at the supermarket last night, looking for pre-made meals (as you do), when I thought, “There are probably a lot of things in that breakfast burrito that I don’t like. I could eat around them. Or I could make my own breakfast burrito. I’ve made scrambled eggs before. It can’t be that hard.”

And so it began.

Milling randomly through the supermarket, here are the things I ended up with:

  • Tortillas. Because that’s kind of important.
  • Cheese. I got the Mexican 4-cheese kind, because I wasn’t planning on adding a lot of spices, so I figured I could use the extra kick.
  • Sliced baby bella mushrooms. Because come on, like I was going to slice those things myself.
  • A red potato. After some hasty research on my phone, this seemed to be the right kind.
  • Chives. To be completely honest with you here, I’m not 100% sure what chives are, or what they’re supposed to do. But I’ve heard/read them mentioned in restaurants before, and I’m pretty sure they have to do with omelet-type things (sometimes, at least), and I’m also pretty sure I like them. Also sour cream and chives, right? That’s a thing.

Other ingredients I turned out to have at home, which was probably for the best:

  • Eggs. I already knew I had these, but it was still good that I was right.
  • Olives
  • Rosemary olive oil

And here’s how my cooking procedure went:

  • Take picture for blog. (Ok, that may not be a mandatory cooking step.)
  • Wash things, and then chop everything up. (See, I did end up slicing things!)
  • Lightly oil the skillet (pan?), probably for no reason since it was already non-stick.
  • Put some olive oil in the skillet/pan, and briefly cook the mushrooms in it. But forget about the potatoes until later, because who needs cooked potatoes?
  • Throw two eggs in. Realize you don’t have a spatula.
  • Improvise until you can find a spatula.
  • Throw in the rest of the ingredients, except for the chives. The container says to save those for the end.
  • Realize that you don’t have enough eggs. Add another egg. (I may have done that slightly earlier. I can’t remember.)
  • Realize that the potatoes are going to be undercooked. And also that your egg-to-other-stuff ratio is still off. And also that you probably need a bigger pan.
  • Debate fixing these things. Decide to just fix it next time. Add the chives as a sign that you’re committing to being done.
  • Realize you didn’t add the cheese. Sprinkle that on the tortilla before adding the omelet-type mix.
  • Eat!

All in all, this probably took me about 30-45 minutes. I wash my hands a lot when I cook, so that was part of it. And also, as you may be able to tell, I had no plan, so I just kind of pinwheeled my way through things. That having been said, the burrito wasn’t bad. A little bland, but I was going for something kind of basic, so it worked. The only real problem was that I ate it too fast, and the potatoes were (as noted) rather undercooked (hardly cooked at all, really), so I felt a little unwell right after eating it. But if it makes sense, it wasn’t an unclean, oily kind of unwell. It was a “you probably ate too fast and also undercooked your potatoes” kind of unwell.

I have 9 more tortillas, so I’m probably going to try this again, but I don’t know that I’ll document it. I suspect that all breakfast burritos look very similar, and the cooking process can’t be that different, either. Maybe more streamlined, and hopefully more competent, but not fundamentally different. Mishaps aside, though, I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out–it wasn’t bad for a first attempt. And I definitely learned some things (chives smell wonderful; also I probably need more spices; also, as I may have mentioned, I need to cook those potatoes better).

So anyway, this was my Wednesday morning. Hope yours is going well!

The earliest of the procrastinators… sort of.

Earliest of Procrastinators

The dark Galadriel of procrastination, as it were. One Ring to bind all the presents that I want to buy? Anyway.

This hastily-drawn picture is brought to you by a different kind of procrastination: blogging procrastination.

Seriously, though, I need to get some shopping done. Just not today, because it’s raining and I’m coughing a little, so you know.

Good luck to anyone who has to go outside today! Stay warm and dry and safe. Also, as cheesy as it feels to say this: thank you to everyone who liked last week’s post. And that’s pretty much all I can say about that, without starting to babble. That, and this: in case you’re curious, The Chapter persists. So does the anxiety–not always in the same degree, or attached to The Chapter, but in a general sense, it hasn’t evaporated. I’m working on it. And I’m still having fun (even having fun with The Chapter!), and still getting excited about things. I hope everyone reading this is managing that, too, in this sometimes stressful season. Strength and courage and joy to you all! In the parking lots, in the crowded store aisles…

Ok, I’m going to go now, before this post turns into some kind of epic about last-minute shopping.

Homemade Bookmark

Bookmark FrontBookmark BackThis is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I love bookmarks, but like a cat with expensive toys, I tend to ignore the store-bought ones and instead use things like receipts. They’re just so convenient. I don’t have to feel guilty about taking notes on them, and if they happen to be from the library, they usually have the due date of the book I’m reading printed right there.

But in my heart, I still want to have proper bookmarks. So with that in mind, I tried to come up with a bookmark that wouldn’t be too bad to look at, but that I also wouldn’t feel guilty about writing on.

This is what I ended up with. The banner-type thing on the front seems like a good place to keep track of books read using this bookmark. The blank books and postcards on the back are probably better for recording things like due dates and daily progress (if I feel like it).

I don’t know if it’ll actually work. But if it doesn’t, Barnes & Noble has some similar bookmarks available–I stumbled across them a while back, I think sometime after my first unsuccessful foray into designing my own bookmark. They don’t do exactly what I want, but I’m still dying to try them out, because it looks like they do some other things far better. And besides: bookmarks. Always room for more bookmarks. So either way, I get to have some fun.

In the meantime, though, here are the materials I used for this bookmark:

  • Strathmore mixed media paper (300 series)
  • Cutting mat and knife (some kind of paper slicer would probably be better, but I don’t have one of those)
  • Rulers (metal one for cutting the paper–again, not necessary if you have the paper slicer–and regular plastic one for most of the other stuff)
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Pens–I used Tombows, a Pigma Micron, and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. None of them bled through; the only problem was with the very edges of the bookmark. Some stuff leaked around the rim a tiny bit, but that was mostly because of my sloppy coloring. (I verified that later by coloring more carefully.) With these markers, I also didn’t notice any pilling (I hope that’s the right word)–the paper still feels smooth.

It’s a really easy project–you can decide for yourself how much or how little time you want to put into it, how intricate you want the designs to be, etc. Now all that’s left is to road test it. And maybe someday, when all those blank spaces are filled up, to put this bookmark in my treasury, with all my other “favorites” that I don’t want to risk losing.

At least there are always library receipts.

No post today. (Unless this counts.)

That face is supposed to look tired, not angry.

That face is supposed to look tired, not angry.

The holiday weekend kind of threw my night owl tendencies into overdrive (no work tomorrow! I can stay up as late as I want! Yaaay!). So yeah, this is me right now.

I may try to post something more substantial a little later this week, if I can get my brain in gear. But for now, as proof of my current sleep-deprived state, enjoy this attempt to draw the fancier version of my comic/doodle self.

And that's why you get the non-fancy version.

And that’s why you get the non-fancy version.

Happy Monday to everyone, just the same. And… I need more tea.