AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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The sewing year begins…now! Go!

Because I firmly believe the year starts on April 1 (everything is subjective, right?) I’ve made some resolutions.  Including blogging here once a week about sewing and sewing related things. Yes, really, I’m gonna do it.  I’m settled in enough at the new house that I have good sewing space and I need to get going on it!  (No new house pictures yet, still waiting until there isn’t a stack of boxes in the living room.)

Today I bought these boots, in my size for $9 at the Goodwill on Berry Rd.  But what does one wear with such boots (besides the obvious skinny jeans or leggings)?  Conveniently I’ve started cutting out these patterns:

I think the Lisette will be view B (in grey canvas and hopefully a cool print fabric that I just haven’t discovered yet) and I’m already starting on 2258, view C (but without the waist tie in black canvas, brown stretch twill and some dark stretch denim).  Which means boots are now practical for summer if we have enough cute skirts, right?

I also have two dress refashions in the works.  Hopefully one will work for a wedding I’m attending in a couple weeks and the other will just be a cute summer dress.  I remembered to take before pictures, so surely I can remember to blog about them when I’m done.  I plan on making the view E Lisette top in a couple prints too, hopefully including one in this fabric.  It’s my goal not to buy any new clothes this summer and make or refashion everything I wear, preferably using my fairly substantial stash of fabric.  Is everyone else excited about spring sewing?


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Honey, I’m home!

Haha!  I was just looking at that picture of the living room of my new apartment in my last post.  “What a nice room,” I thought.  Is does not look like that now.  Right now it looks like some sort of mad bomber set off a device filled with card board boxes and crafts supplies.  I haven’t even looked in the (surely tidy) closet which Shan so generously unpacked and hung all my clothes in.  Thus this morning I dressed in the only known clean pair of work pants (washed on Friday and left all weekend crushed in the bottom of a laundry basket, luckily I had the foresight to borrow an ironing board from my landlord yesterday to make curtains) and sweater despite the crazy warm temps here, I knew where the sweaters were (it’s a light a weight one as I could find).

A big, giant thank you to the men who hauled all my furniture up the stairs and did not break or damage anything.  Everything is in the place and ready to go, except, well I have only a lone office chair to sit it, which has been moving between the sewing table and the computer desk all weekend.  I think when I finally get around to having a couch it will be the most exciting thing ever.  Or, you know, even a single chair that doesn’t roll.

Here is my Amazon wish list, it is lofty and full of exciting home things I need (psst, my birthday is in 67 days!) or just want (there’s a lot of wanting going on).  I’m hoping to spend the next couple weeks scouring thrift and antique stores to find a drop leaf table for the kitchen and a couple chairs for in there.  And shelves, or something for shelf use. And anything else I see that I might need. It’s weird I feel like I have a relatively minimalist kitchen set up (at least as minimalist as it can be for someone who likes to cook) and yet I’m still surprised by house much stuff one needs even for a small household. I have purchased hundreds and hundreds of dollars of things in the past few weeks and still there’s more (always more).  I can barely comprehend how much stuff it takes to set up a new household for one person.  I totally understand the origin of wedding registries now. It’s just craziness.  Anyway, if you won the lottery this weekend, feel free to get on Amazon and buy me that couch.  In the meantime I’m contemplating how I can build one from the boxes, boxes everywhere (and not a place to sit) and few throw pillows.

Here is the picture I posted on FB yesterday of the kitchen:

I meant to take one this morning of the sea of  unpacking misery, but alas, did not remember too (although I did take out the trash!).  Here’s hoping I can make today a short work day and start making a dent in the mess, yeah?


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There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do

So I’m moving in a couple weeks. Trying to keep it as low key and not stressful as possible.  I figured the best way to do that was to embark on a bunch of really ambitious projects right before moving.  Hahahaha!  Sometimes I am dumb.  Still most of these projects revolve around refinishing or painting furniture that I’ve been meaning to update or fix forever and would love to have in its finished form in the new house.  Thus it’s been fun and I need something to keep me busy and out of trouble anyway.

Oh my!  Look at this tiny, pretty indoor pond.   I have been messing with terrariums for a bit now, on and off.  My new apartment has great light and I’m hoping to be more successful with my terrariums this spring.  But look at these amazing water terrariums, which, uh, I guess are aquariums, but just for plants!  So pretty.  There might be one of these in my future once I’m settled and done with everything else.

Also I love this hippo shower curtain, although I’m not buying it because I got clear shower curtains to take advantage of the light from all the windows in the new bathroom.  I’m hoping to get lucky some day and find fabric like this curtain, I love the cute little helpers the hippos have!

Here are some random bits about my new apartment:

My current commute is a marathon round trip: 26.1 miles
New commute: 21 miles
Annual driving miles eliminated: 1300
New apartment currently only has one (1) interior door
Ratio of wall light switches to interior doors: 1:1 (heh, most the lights have pull cords from the ceiling rather than switches)
Number of hobbit sized closets in the new space: 3
Number of hobbit sized people living in the apartment: 1 (me)
Amount of support provided by quite overly generous mother, both emotional and financial, in this move: incalculable (but surely somewhere in the billions)
Number of friends I realized I have while dealing with the things surrounding moving: 129,567 (if we are calculating at a rate that measures each person’s individual emotional worth)
Days until I move: 14
Things needed doing by then: 570,000
Personal excitement level about the new apartment, on a scale of 1-10: 42

Here is a sneak peak at a ‘before’ picture of the apartment:


Looking forward to having many after pictures to show!

(Title quoted from the peerless Bill Watterson.)


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My house, in the middle of my street

I know I’ve been promising pictures of the new house for months.  Well I have them, although I wonder why I took them when the house was so messy (don’t you go saying that it’s always messy).   If you want to see the whole house, endless hallways and all, I’ve put a set up at Flickr. I some how skipped the bed room all together, and the porches, and the laundry room and the bathroom (the tile is cool), but you’ll get some idea from the pics, I guess.

The house has many good points, but for the first time ever I have my own dedicated sewing room!  Look:

Ha!  These pictures didn’t seem so dark originally.  But there it is, in all it’s messy, lavender glory. It has fabric and notions and machines and books and shoes and a little TV for DVD movies to keep me company.  I want to get another table, for cutting, to put where the red tupperware bins are currently.  So yeah, I should get on some sewing projects, huh?


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the beginning of the before and afters

I have been sewing.  Really mostly I’ve made a bunch of wadders (a technical term I described to Talks to Owls as something so bad/frustrating/messed up that you just want to wad it up and through it on the floor, but he’d already troubled it out and was laughing because he’s so mean).  I don’t know what’s causing my mediocrity but I am struggling to break through.  I have many unfinished projects or small projects I’ve been meaning to do, so I’ve begun some of them, in hopes of getting my stitchery mojo back.

I keep a file of inspiration images.  Expensive, simple dresses that I’m sure I could make.  I don’t usually look back at these mostly because I’m often happy with what I’ve made, but generally it doesn’t actually look anything like the inspiration I started with.

This is from Anthropologie about 2 years ago:

And here’s my version of it:

Not really the same at all, but good enough, eh?

Now, I’m going to go finish something so I can finally have something to show here.  And maybe in the showing, or the finishing, or the work I”ll find my way back to being able to create pretty things, yeah?


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filling in the cracks

I really need to get some pictures taken of the new house for you all.  Also I need to get some pictures up on the walls in the new house.  In the mean time here’s some before and afters of my minor home improvements.

Here’s my sewing room pre-paint:

It just wasn’t a relaxing blue.  Too much like a plastic cap on a water bottle or something. So I fixed it:

Pretty! And inspiring! Will soon get some pics of it now that it’s all full of furniture.  It lacks a comfy sitting chair, but is otherwise and excellent personal retreat.

The living room is gorgeous with greenish grey walls, a huge fireplace and rich, dark wood floors.  Some creepy clown painted just the wall over the fireplace this hideous, yucky, utterly uncoordinated red:

This picture does not even begin to demonstrate how much this red really, really does not fit in this room.  Painting would have required exactly matching the surrounding paint. Too much trouble.  Instead we upholstered it with some heavy black twill fabric I had laying around:

Now it’s a lovely, theatery media center.  Also we have no fancy cable in favor of internet TV.  I’m so stupidly pleased with Netflix streaming.

—-

It’s not my usual source of content for you but here’s two celebrity photos that have made me really happy this week:

Manly (there’s an alternate universe where I’m married to Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood is my dad and they are besties)

WHEEEEEEEEEE! (look at that face!  Also, wow, I wish I looked as effortlessly cool as Alyson Hannigan when I was just hanging out)


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I can I can I can I will

I am moved.  Mostly settled. I have a relatively regular schedule for the next 6 or so weeks. I will sew. I will sew. I will sew. I will sew. (And I will blog about it, but regular internet at home will go a long way towards making that happen for sure.)

I have my sewing room mostly ready to go.  I have a blouse muslin cut out (hopefully one that will end up being wearable).  After the blouse, for my next project, I have purchased this pattern:

Crepe by Collette Patterns

I am super excited about it, although I haven’t even cut out the fabric for the muslin yet and I’m already imagining modifications to it.  My muslin is going to be this weird pima cotton:


I am also imagining this dress in heavier, winterier fabric.  Maybe plaid, maybe something slubby and woolen looking.  Both would require me to acquire oxfords at some point.

Now I am going to finish my day’s work so I really can leave early and go do something about these projects!


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shopping related injuries and retail therapy

I went thrifting Monday and stupidly didn’t get a cart.  Last night my left arm hurt and I quickly realized that it was from carrying armloads of stuff around the store for hours.  Oops.  My old lady status increases daily as I realize things like this.

Most of my purchases were project related but I did manage to find one fantastic dress for myself.  New, tags still on.  The stitching is slightly ripped at the waist, but easily enough fixed.  Indeed it needs slight alterations for perfect fit in that area anyway.  And new buttons and a matching slip, as it is fairly see through.  Still, even with the work ahead of me it was well worth the dollar I pair for it.

And an up close of the pattern:

Turquoise buttons and a turquoise slip and it will be perfect of spring ever arrives.

Remember my “no spend” for February?  No non-necessities (I don’t count dollar dresses in this). I was doing FANTASTIC.  Until yesterday.  But sometimes the universe says, hey, here’s the perfect $80 shoes at 70% off and you can’t say no.

$23 worth of love.  Think these shoes, this dress.

You may well wonder what I was doing in a shoe store if I’m not spending money unnecessarily?  Well I was hopefully looking for inexpensive, but quality and comfortable shoes for work.  Walking for hours on concrete floors seems to take the comfort out of shoes quickly.  I find I need at least three pairs to rotate between and at least one of those comes to the end of it’s useful life for waiting tables in three or so months.  I did manage to find a new pair of clogs.  And again, my old lady status rises daily:


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Dreaming of spring

Color, color, color, color!  Can y’all help me?  I’m trying to decide on color palette for the website I’m doing for my budding project.  Tell me if you like one of these choices better.  The overall background would be white, clean and easy to read. These color groups would accent the design.

Which do you like better?

A:

or

B:

I’m leaning toward the purple but in general I always choose purple if it’s an option, so I thought I’d solicit some help from you,  my lovely friends.

And while I am thinking about color, let me tell you about this fabric.  I am OBSESSED with it.  It’s expensive.  I am on a “no spend” restriction for February (meaning nothing expenses but necessities) and yes, I guess I could wait until March to buy it.  But wow, I want it so badly.  My head is swimming with spring skirts and gorgeous summer dresses made of this print.  Maybe it’s just because winter has had me so down and this fabric is so spring-like.  I’m not sure but I WANT it.  Just look:

It’s amazing, right?

And it comes in many pretty colorways:

I want it so badly! But at $17 a yard it is prohibitively expensive (I’d need at least 3 yards to fulfill my dreams of what to do with this fabric).  Then again, it might be worth eating nothing but rice and vegetables for weeks to make up the difference.


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Prelude to a preview

I am not quite ready to start talking here about what I’ve been doing.  Soon soon soon I will be boring or exciting you with tales of a nifty new project on a regular basis.  For now here is a tiny preview what I am doing.

This is my to-do pile.  Items of thrifted clothing waiting to be refashioned in to something more wonderful than what they were before.

The items on hangers are finished, or almost finished (mostly waiting on a tiny bit of handwork to be completely done).  My sewing room is over run with brightly colored items that as they are now shouldn’t be worn (because of their ugliness), but soon hopefully will become wonderful.

Here’s a few things in progress, just waiting for zippers or hems or other finishing details.

Merveilleux, non? I am very excited to show you what’s coming!  (Of course what’s really holding me up is taking and editing pictures, for some reason that’s just really hard for me.)


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How to brighten a grey day

A while back, while looking for something completely different, I came across this shirt.  It seems cute in a novelty sort of way and I immediately thought, “I could do better than that.”  So I gave it a shot.  I started with this, XL men’s heavy flannel shirt:

I cut it down, made cap sleeves, added bust darts (although not waist ones), and carefully sewed together the left over pieces to make a mini scarf-like tie at the neck.

It fits fairly well.  I pleased with the pattern I (partially) used and definitely would try something like again.  It went together very quickly (since I save the original button placket from the shirt and thus didn’t have to do any of the hard parts of shirt construction).

Apparently I look haughty when I wear it (yeah, I don’t know what’s going on in this picture but I was too lazy to take another one, as all the others I took came out oddly blurry).  I love the bow tied on it when it’s hanging, but it felt weird on, so I just looped it in single knot and let the ends hang down.  If I was going to do this again I’d want an even bigger shirt because there wasn’t really enough fabric to make the tie at the neck, or perhaps I could use contrasting fabric.  Or find two matching shirts.  I don’t know exactly, but yes, more fabric on the tie would lovely.


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Well that took all day


So my whole plan for the day was to finish up the unfinished sewing projects that are half done and covering most of my workspace on my sewing table.  This morning I thought I’d just organize my sewing table a little before I got started.  I really, really should have taken a “before” picture.

Clicking on the picture above will take you to Flickr so you can see my notes on the picture.

My little round of organizing ended up taking ALL DAY.  I cleaned the sewing table.  I sorted out everything that wasn’t necessary or sewing related and put it away else where.  I took all my hand drafted patterns and all my cut but unfinished sewing projects and put each one on a clippy clothes hanger.  I threw away scraps, threads and empty boxes.  I dusted and rearranged.

Even after all that I was still left with a pile on the right hand side of my sewing machine: scissors, pins, hand sewing needles, measuring tape, seam rippers, marking pencil.  All of which is generally buried in a pile of the loose thread ends cut off at the end of each seam stitched.  I have long been wanting a little weighted mini trash can for these threads.  So today I took the rest of the afternoon and made myself one.  You can see it there, on the right side of the table.  It’s AWESOME.  I used this tutorial, which was pretty quick and easy considering the lovely outcome.  All I need to finish now is to find someone with a drill and bit that will make a 1.5″ diameter hole, so I can drill through the center of the table and drop the sewing machine cords straight down.

So, go on, click through to Flickr and see the exciting details.

Now it’s dinner time and then maybe I’ll spend the evening actually finishing those projects I set out to work on this morning.


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A little black (plaid) dress

I can’t remember exactly where I found this dress, but I stumbled across it online somewhere:

I loved the idea of this dress, it seemed a little young for me, maybe, but simple enough to recreate, so I tried my hand at it.  Only a few mishaps and an afternoon’s worth of work and I have it:

Overall I’m pretty happy with it. I love the way the bias strips in the neckline and hem came out.  After wearing it for a night I see I need to adjust the neckline a little.  It’s just too wide and slips off my shoulders.  I’m not sure yet quite what I’ll do.  I might just handstitch it closed a little further on each side.  I’m also considering a little inverted box pleat on the outside of each arm.  It would match the pleat detailing on the front and bring the sleeves in a little.

The basic pattern came out a little sack like, so I brought it in about three inches just at the waist, so it has a little more shape.  I put on-seam pockets instead of the front patch pockets.  They worked out great except initially I sewed each one on backwards with French seams.  I ended up just covering the mistake with bias tape, so there’s a little black ribbon band right inside each pocket.  I also think it looks better belted but I didn’t think any belt I had was perfect.  I might sew all the scraps of the fabric I have left together and make a simple tie belt for it.  It’s a lovely midweight homespum cotton, so it breathes well but has a nice bit of texture to it.

In the next few days hopefully I’ll have a preview of some of my new (soon not to be) secret project. I’ve been working on it.  I seem to keep getting bogged down in the part where I take pictures to show you.  Soon, though, I swear.


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Tennessee is green in spring (if we can make it until then)

Yeah, so 23°F.  I could be planning, working, doing all sorts of things.  Or I could crawl under many blankets and watch episodes of 30 Rock on my laptop and fantasize about having Liz Lemon‘s wardrobe. Like this dress.  She has it in a couple colors.  And man, do I need one.  Of course I immediately think I should just make one: find, modify or draft my own pattern.  Get some cotton jersey, maybe in green (but probably in purple). And get too it.  Especially if I’m going to be up late at night, I should at least be practicing sewing with knits.  And yet, it’s so damn cold, all I am doing is huddling under blankets  and thinking about Liz Lemon’s wardrobe.  Yes, winter is a sad, sad time for me.

Actually it’s not as bad as all that.  I’m dressed and Libelle and I are going to go outside and find food (warm restaurant food, not like foraging in the woods or anything).  We might even run errands or *gasp* walk a little. And then of course it’s back to blankets and TV watching.  I don’t actually feel guilty about hibernating.  I”ll get stuff done later in the week when it’s tolerably warm and I feel functional.

Picture is what my porch will be like when the warm weather returns.


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darkness comes on standard time

As I did at exactly this time last year, I have taken the refashion pledge:

I pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of “new” manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thriftiness brings!

So I will probably be doing most of my sewing blog posts over there, but I will try and link them here when they go up.

I made Thai green curry for dinner to stave off the depression of the first Standard time early sunset. Spicy, wonderful nom nom noms!  And hopefully to help me feel better.

The past two months of house guests, lots of running around, plenty of work and then, most recently, being sick, have left me feeling broke down and worn out.  I have need-to-do projects stacked knee-high around the house. I feel the need to just catch up on my life.  Like not even the projects, just you know, being me who isn’t hosting guests or sick or at work.  Ugh.  Lots of sewing will surely help. I should get started on that. 🙂

This weekend I spent a bunch of time fantasizing about a lovely, relaxing summer holiday here.  My mom is just now flying back from here, which also seems about right for where I’d rather be right now.  I did, after many false starts, finally book my tickets to Seattle for the winter holidays.  Dec 20-28.  I’m very much looking forward to that too.

I didn’t do anything for Halloween, but come home and put on pajamas. Lame, maybe, but so relaxing.  I’ve been thinking about my Gramma Marge and my Grampa Ray a lot today. El Día de los Muertos means honoring them.  For a while now I’ve been wanting to make a standing El Día de los Muertos altar for them in miniature.  I should perhaps take some time today to put down my plans for it so that I can start making the little pieces of it over the coming year.  I will light a candle for them tonight.

Picture today is my dining room fireplace “altar” for honoring the dead.


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(but not a real green dress, that’s cruel)

Final autumn dress (the previous ones are here and here).

This is the before:

Rhinestone buttons, ill-fitting bodice, awkward sleeves. But gorgeous fabric.

And after, with a few adjustments:

Took in side seams and bust darts, removed and re-set sleeves, shortened sleeves and skirt length, changed buttons and belt. I actually won’t wear this with fancy stockings and shoes, but rather with a flats and boots.  The angle is weird here too, camera low and tilting up, the dress looks shorter here than it appears when looking at it straight on.

I need to find a halfway decent photographer who wants to pad out their portfolio taking pictures of things I’ve sewn.  I am a really crummy photographer.  Although I suppose setting up the camera and using the self timer like this doesn’t really work out for anyone.


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and you in your autumn sweater

I just ate a very healthy dinner.  I slept for 10 hours last night.  Now I need to take my vitamins and drink about 3 more glasses of water, sleep 8 more hours and hopefully be all back to normal.  Rock star weekend seriously took it’s toll on me.

I did manage to finish a few projects and take a couple pictures.  First up is my new winter coat.

It’s wool, and new with the tags on.  Apparently from Italy and cost 119 euros.  I got it for $15 at a thrift store.  I am very pleased with this.  It’s purple!   (Also how cute are my boots?)  I do need to shorten the sleeves on it a bit, but otherwise, seriously, how awesome, right?

I also finished a couple dresses.  This one is a midweight blend, shirred at the waist, with pockets.  It’s designed, hopefully, to work under a cardigan in the fall and maybe over a turtleneck in the winter.  It only barely resembles what I had imagined when I started shopping for the fabric, but I’m pretty darn happy with it.

I have one more dress finished, though not yet photographed.  I made a lined jacket for a friend.  Which really was just me taking his jean jacket and one of his sweatshirts and sewing them together, but it came out pretty well I think (we’ll see when I give it back to him tomorrow).  I did most all of my mending over the wekend as well (just have a pair of pjs that need a little altering left to finish).  So I’m all ready.  I have a VERY ambitious list of new projects to start, many of which are already cut out.  I am feeling ready to get started now that I’ve finished my fall wardrobe.  Although I am pining for a pair of grey boots like these.  I know, I know, I really do already have enough pairs of boots, but look how pretty!!  And affordable.  Unlike these, which are my dream boots (in green, so impractical, price and reviews also make them impractical, but so GORGEOUS).


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Fall 2009 wardrobe

Here are the promised pictures of recent sewing projects:

Autumn plaid blouse.  Made from a reproduction vintage cotton, that has a lovely weight to it.  Grey/black/cream/brown plaid that hopefully will go with everything.

White blouse.  The first thing I made on the new machine.  Shown here with my fantastic shoes and purple handbag.  (Vanity pics of shoes and handbag because my mom asked to see both.)

Rainy day dress!!  In cotton that looks like PNW drizzle to me.  Ribbon detail on neckline. Dress is fairly structured, fully lined and was definitely harder to make than I thought.

Up close of the ribbon detail and the fabric.  It’s “homespun” quilting cotton, made as reproduction fabric from 100 years ago or so.  Lovely uneven grey stripes.  The ribbon is just pleated grey grosgrain ribbon.

I have one more dress to make for Fall/Winter (f only I can find the fabric) and one more blouse (if only I can find a pattern).  And more pictures coming soon of things I made for someone other than me.


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toys, of a sort

So my new machine has 7 of these 10 must have features.  I’m not sure I’d need the other 3.  Of course I didn’t know I needed the 7 I have until I had them.  I have to confess, sewing is MUCH easier with the new machine.  The speed adjustment really keeps me from rushing things so I can make much straighter lines and much smoother curves.  Although I should probably break out some scrap fabric and spend some time drilling myself on curves though.  Slow definitely helps but I imagine practice will help the most.

I have a few things finished that I really need to photograph, I don’t know why I’ve been unable to do that as it doesn’t really take that much time.  I did get one of these.    Which is like the coolest toy ever for a camera.  I can’t believe how well it works.  Who ever though of this is a genius! So, yes, pictures sooner than later.

After playing with someone else’s I am dying for an iPod Touch.  I actually don’t desire an iPhone.  I’m fine with a little Samsung flip phone.  I really kind of only want it to be a phone.  I’m not sure I’m comfortable combining everything.  But the iPod Touch?  WAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNT.  It looks amazingly perfect for travel. Music and movies?  Games?  Wi-fi web browsing?  I do wish there was non-Apple equivalent (I’d buy it right now), but I’m seriously considering socking away $5 a day for a few weeks and just getting one.  My iPod is coming up on 4 years now, it might actually be time for a replacement.  And fancy, shiny, fun step up.  It can be the reward I set for myself for finishing my next series of projects.

Picture from vincentchow.net