School is Back in Session

by Carly on August 26, 2013, one comment

It’s that time of year again, time for sharpened pencils, apples, and pink erasers (here’s a question to mull over for the spirit of this time of year–why are most erasers pink?). As you add this question to the list of to-dos, I have compiled a list of my own to hopefully help make your list a little easier. I’ve pulled together a collection of helpful back-to-school items and resources for both the student and the possibly the parent (I am a college student, so most of these things are more useful for older students).

Apps:

We live in the age of technology. As much as I have a love/hate relationship with technology, I know that without it everything would take much longer and I would often be bored. So with that in mind, I picked out some apps that I find helpful.

  1. Evernote: this app is a note-taking app that organizes your notes into folders and individual pages. It can be on your computer, phone, and tablet and syncs between all three. This is really helpful if you don’t have your computer on you and you want to check some notes you took in class the other day. All you have to do is look it up on your phone. You can also share notes with other evernoters.
  2. Dropbox: This is one of my favorites. It’s easy to use and very helpful for sharing documents and other files. It’s also a good way to back up important files off your regular hard drive. All you have to do is either upload the file from your computer into dropbox, or actually drag and drop files in.
  3. Smartr: This is an app I haven’t actually used yet, but it seems like one I will use. It’s basically virtual flashcards. The cool thing about this app is that you can categorize the stacks of cards by subject, chapter, book, etc. Also, you can use pictures with them. I have Art History this semester, so that aspect will probably come in handy.

Notebooks/Planners:

Even though technology is taking over the world, I’m still a big fan of good ‘ole paper. There is just something about having something tangible to take notes on that screens and keyboards can’t beat. Below are some of my favorite notebooks and planners.

  1. Moleskine: This company makes very classic notebooks of all sizes and colors. They also make notebooks for all sorts of different interests. Whether you want a sketchbook, a music journal, or a recipe notebook, they’ve got it. I also like the options they have for planners.
  2. Circa: This is a product from Levenger that Amy currently uses. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve been jealous of Amy’s since she got it. It is more of system of organizing than a notebook. You can add whatever pages to it that you want. So it’s great for people who love customizing.

Random Stuff:

These are products that I use and really like, but don’t have a place in the other two categories. However, that doesn’t make them any less important to my school survival.

  1. Bic Pencils and Pens: They are cheap and come in bulk. I always end up losing all of my pencils, so these make me feel much less annoyed when it happens.
  2. CamelBak Bottles: I like these because they don’t leak, and they have a fun bite valve. Also, there is a lifetime guarantee.
  3. Sticky Tags: I don’t know if these have another name, but they are great for marking a page in a book or even a sentence on a page. Some highlighters come with these built in, also, so you have twice the marking capability.

 

I hope this compilation helps make back to school easier

Tools to Change the World

by Amy on August 19, 2013, 2 comments

My husband was an Apple fan back before it was cool. So it goes without saying that we keep up on the Apple news. We pay attention to what new products are coming out and like to see all the new features of the operating system. And yes, we actually sit and watch the annual keynote address if it is available for streaming on our Apple TV.

But, every year there’s something about this keynote address that strikes me. There is an overriding message that is especially apparent with the Apple brand, but I think it is a message that echoes through much of our consumer driven society. It is the idea that “our products will change the world.”

It’s not a bad sentiment. Changing the world is a goal worth pursing. And it’s certainly not a bad marketing ploy. Because in essence this extends out to mean that if you want to get in on the action and make a difference or do something great, then you need to get these products. And people start to believe it. It’s a message that bombards us each and every day:

“Be more productive with this new app!” “Be more beautiful and influential with these new clothes!” “Save the earth by buying these glass storage containers!” “Be more important!” “Be more creative!” “Be better!”

For example: I always have feelings that I should be more organized and productive. I have so many ideas, I figure if only I had a better system I could actually make some of them happen! And I have fallen for the idea that a new product is going to make me a machine – churning out the products of my great ideas over and over again. This is evidenced by the veritable wasteland of productivity apps I have on my phone. But none of those apps changed the world, because none of those apps change me. It’s only when I sit down and decide I want to work that anything gets done, no matter how organized my lists are or how often they beep and flash at me.

Because here’s the thing: It’s not the product that can change the world. It’s the person. And the people who are truly world changers can do it with any tool they can get their hands on, whether it’s an iPhone or a hammer or a pen or a sewing machine.

So good for those companies that want people to change the world. But just remember, they also want your money. And you can change the world on your own.

Ask the Sisters: Dream Work Space

by Amy, Erin, & Carly on August 12, 2013, 2 comments

Since there are three of us and four weeks in a month, we have decided to use the fourth week to collaborate on a post. This week we are answering a reader question: “How would you describe your dream work space?”

Amy Says:

I’ve been dreaming of my future home since I was a little girl. Now that I’m an adult and actually have some control over the home I’m in, I’ve discovered that my dreams are generally ridiculously expensive. But it’s still fun to dream. When it comes to my dream workspace, here’s what it would include.

  1. First of all, it will be called my studio, not office. A studio sounds like a lot of creative work is going on in there, and I’m assuming I’m doing my dream work in my dream workspace.

  2. Lots of windows. The amount of sunlight in my environment is often directly related to my mood. I’m thinking at least one wall of floor to ceiling windows, with maybe a skylight.

  3. A big table. When I really get into a project I find I use a lot of surface area. So I want a great big table, probably something rustic and farmhouse-y. I want to feel like I can make a mess on it without worrying about ruining it. Counter height would be nice so I can stand or sit in a stylish stool.

  4. A comfy armchair, with ottoman and blanket. I’ve learned that I’m not really a desk person. I keep trying to have a productive desk area to work at like a real grown up, but I always find myself gravitating back toward the couch. So my dream space will have a good chair for sitting in to do anything involving a book/laptop/iPad/notebook.

  5. Space for Inspiration. I’m picuturing a good sized portion of a wall that is taken up with a bulletin board and chalkboard. Right now I file pretty things away and sketch on index cards, but I’d love to have a place to keep all of those things in view without having to feel organized about it.

  6. Cubbies! I can be a pack rat, especially when it come to pretty crafty things. Lots of cubbies could bring a little order to the madness. Maybe.

Here’s my pinterest board of spaces that I could see myself working in. 

Erin Says:

I love being surrounded by natural things most of the time, but for some reason I imagine my dream workspace being located in a city.  Maybe I find cities to be more creatively stimulating, or maybe I’m just imagining how peaceful and orderly my space would feel in contrast to that sort of hectic fast-paced lifestyle.  Either way, that is where my brain has placed this space.  Instead of linking Pinterest inspirations, I decided to draw a rough sketch of the layout of my dream workspace and give a quick description of what I would put in each separate area:

(The black rectangles are various forms of seating)

(The black rectangles are various forms of seating)

1) The Art Studio
 This would be a big white room- totally empty, with skylights for natural lighting but no side windows because I get easily distracted.  There would also be a nice stereo system with surround sound speakers for whatever music I feel like playing.  I want this space to be like a blank canvas.  I don’t want anything to be occupying the room except the project I have chosen to work on at that time.
2) The Art Supply Closet
 I would store all of my art supplies in a large closet so that I could keep the studio free of everything except the project that I’m working on.  Nothing fancy, just a long room with lots of shelves.
3) Hallway
It’s a hallway to connect the two main rooms, duh.
4) The Writing Room
This room would be small, cozy, and decorated in rich, inviting colors.  In it I would keep a writing desk and chair with a laptop computer that only has a word processor- no internet access (again, to eliminate distraction).  Other seating provided would be a lounge chair with an ottoman and an area rug for the times when I feel like stretching out.  I would also have a white noise machine to keep background noise from ruining my concentration.  And finally I would have an area for snacks and coffee to keep my energy up.
5) The Research Room
This is essentially a library.  I would keep a variety of books to come up with ideas and inspirations for my art and writing projects. I’d also have a computer with Internet access and a printer.  Any notes or essential pages would be sorted and organized on my sorting table.  The library would also have several options for seating and large windows I could look out of to observe the world outside and use it as inspiration for projects.
6) The Rooftop
I would like a nice spacious outdoor space as my break area.  I think a rooftop retreat would be best.  I’d just keep a chair for lounging and a table and chairs for having short visits with friends during my breaks.

 

Carly Says:

Let me give you a tour of my dream workspace. First, you need to knock on the double wooden doors that are big enough to allow a baby elephant through comfortably. I’ll open one of the doors for you, because you’re hopefully not the size of a baby elephant, and let you inside. You step into the spacious room with the feeling of not having left the outdoors. This is because the wall to your right is made up entirely of windows. Nothing hinders your view of the forest, nor the sunlight’s path into the room.

You continue into the room, hearing the sound of your steps against the wooden floors and notice the wall directly opposite to you is full of books. It stretches from the ceiling to the floor and from one wall to the other. As you get closer you notice the books are interspersed with sculptures and nick nacks. Beside you, facing the windows is a small, plush couch. It’s the perfect size for one person and looks as if it could be moved around to accommodate the sitter’s viewing preference.

You turn back to the bookshelves and examine some of the titles, until I ask whether you would like something to drink. You turn around and see that I’m standing by a long counter against the opposite wall of the windows. A hefty, wooden table is obstructing your view of me as I look into the small refrigerator under the counter. I realize I have nothing but water, but you accept. As you walk over to get it, you notice the table has remnants of paint and clay on it. It is then that you see several paint brushes on the counter, next to a sink the size of a small tub. You ask if I’ve been working on something lately. I say yes and lead you to the wall with the door.

The wall is covered with drawings and notes. There is a roomy desk in the corner with numerous drawers and a comfy looking rolling chair. I show you what I’m working on and then ask if you would like to go out onto the deck. You’re surprised when you see the glass doors that lead outside. They blend into the windows and deck is a step down from the level of the building, so you don’t see it from the back of the room. As we step out, you notice that we stand at the height of the tops of the trees. It gives you the feeling of floating.

To help you visualize.

Art Time: Finished Product Included

by Erin on August 5, 2013, 2 comments

When I have enough energy left over after a busy week, I like to spend a couple of hours of the weekend making some art. Although I mainly do it just for fun, it is a lot more fulfilling if I come out of my art time with something good to put on my wall, give away, or maybe sell. Unfortunately this is usually where I run into problems. For all of the time I spend painting, drawing, printing, or sculpting, I have very little to show for it. Something always trips me up. So this summer I set out to identify my artistic hang-ups and apply that knowledge to my next project in the hopes of producing more art to put on walls and less to hide away in my closet. Here’s how it went:

My hang-ups One of the biggest things I struggle with is impatience. I hate to admit this, but I’m just plain lazy sometimes. If painting portraits were my full time job and I did it for 40 hours a week, I’d be really good at it by now. But since painting and drawing are just hobbies for me, I really hate spending my art time doing practice drawings to develop my skills. I want to have a finished product by the end of my time. This is why I normally steer clear of realism. I mainly shoot for creating a lovely abstract piece. Good idea, right? There’s so much freedom in the abstract, so what could go wrong? I’ll tell you.

Where there is freedom, there is someone who will abuse it, and I am such a person. I start off with such simple and good intentions. “Oh, I’ll do a few lines in blue over here and then come in with a big yellow splatter on the other side. Piece of cake!” But then I see another color that must be included, and for some reason I decide there should be more triangles, and pretty soon I have a muddy mess of colors with no real shapes or structure. I’ve decided that if I want to come away with anything that looks good, I have to give myself some boundaries, come up with a game plan and stick to it.

Based on this knowledge of my artistic hang-ups, here are the choices I made for my latest project:

What medium should I use? The quickest and easiest choice was pen and paper. Preparation and cleanup simply involved taking the cap off of the pen and putting it back on again.

What style? Abstract of course! But I decided to limit myself to the basics: geometric shapes, straight lines, curved lines, and a few wavy lines. Nothing too organic because I wanted structure. I also stuck to just a couple of patterns: parallel lines, dots, and checks.

What size? I think this was my wisest choice of all. I decided to make 2.5″x3.5″ cards that could be grouped together into a larger piece. This was a very satisfying process because I was able to fill up each card in a matter of minutes and view it as a finished product on its own. Then I could either continue making some more or just call it quits for the day and still feel good about what I had completed.

What colors? I made three different sets, each with a limited palette. In the first set I used colored card stock as my base and drew on it with a black marker and a white paint pen for ultimate contrast. The second set was made on white card stock and I used a set of pens that were sold together for people like me who make bad color decisions when left to their own devices. And finally, on the third set I went wild and bought some metallic gold and bronze paint pens to use on black card stock.

And here are the results!

Colors!

Colors!

Pen set of black, brown, gray, and orange.

Pen set of black, brown, gray, and orange.

Gettin' wild with metallics!

Gettin’ wild with metallics!

I don’t think they’ll be hanging in the Louvre anytime soon, but they are interesting to look at, cohesive, and complete. I’m just happy to have actually finished three sets! Art time was a success!

My Sister Says Photography Challenge!

by Amy, Erin, & Carly on August 2, 2013, no comments

For the month of August my sisters and I have agreed to a little challenge. We are all going to commit to taking a picture every day for 30 days. We hope that this challenge will help us grow in our photography skills in some way. Maybe we’ll get better at using our cameras. Maybe we’ll just get more creative with composition or find unique subjects to explore. At the very least, maybe it will help form a habit of thinking creatively each day.

We’ll be posting our photos periodically throughout the month. You can take a look at them here.

Attempts at Gardening

by Carly on July 29, 2013, no comments

Summertime and the livin’ is easy…. Well, at least for this summer. Coming home from college for the summer is nice. I like the sudden change from stress-filled finals time to slow, slumber filled days in the sun. It’s like unbuckling a belt that’s a notch too tight. However, it can get old rather quickly, so, employment, hobbies, and friends must come in to save summer from being a complete waste. This summer monotony was broken by creating a garden even bigger than last summer, which now makes it my second attempt at enhancing my green thumb.

Some snapshots of my garden.

Some snapshots of my garden.

The garden has been somewhat successful so far. We managed to get several green beans even though our dog, Eujane, snacked on them while we weren’t watching and then decided that she liked them so much that she couldn’t part with them even in her sleep. So, as you can guess, the green beans were crushed by the sleeping dog and therefore hanging on the edge of their existence. So the green beans (or the remnants of the green beans) have been pulled out and new seeds have been planted.

Another rather tragic discovery was made this week regarding the broccoli plants. Worms. More specifically, cabbage worms. More specifically than that, cabbage worms eating broccoli leaves. Interestingly, broccoli is part of the cabbage family. I had never thought of broccoli and cabbage being in the same family, but I believe most families have some surprising relations. Anyway, I hadn’t been out to check the garden in a few days because of a series of rainy days that were consumed by other duties and the discovery was made a tad too late. Most of the leaves have been nibbled on, some completely devoured. So, I’m afraid the broccoli is now caput.

Before and after the cabbage worms.

Before and after the cabbage worms.

However, the rest of the garden is intact. It’s just taking a while for everything to grow. But, that’s understandable. It took me 16 or 17 years to grow to my full size, so a few weeks isn’t bad. Several peas have been picked and the lettuce is almost ready. Salads will be made! (I become much more excited about vegetables when I’ve witnessed their growth and can pick them directly from the backyard.) Just this week two peppers have ripened and are bright and shiny and ready to eat. Though, they will have to be eaten by someone else, because I don’t like the taste of peppers. I just like to have something colorful in the garden.

veggies

A collection of homegrown green beans and peas.

I suppose I could make a lot of analogies between growth and the necessity for both rainy days and sunny days, but I don’t feel like it. Instead, I’ll encourage you to start a new project or try something that you don’t know what will be the end result. Last year it was starting a garden, which I have continued into this year and hopefully years to come. This year my new project is starting this blog with my sisters. Who knows how it will go. It could bloom and produce many fruits, or it could be eaten by Cabbage worms. Nevertheless, whatever the end result, the experience and the knowledge gained is the most important part. Let’s see what happens!

It’s amazing what a little rearranging can do

by Amy on July 22, 2013, no comments

I learned the value of rearranging as a young girl. I had aspirations of being an interior designer at the time, so I would practice on my own room. I didn’t really have any money of my own to speak of, and my parents weren’t about to shell out a hundred bucks every time I decided I wanted to try something new in my room. Because it happened a lot. But they were generally supportive if I wanted to move around the stuff I already had. I managed to find new ways to arrange my furniture pretty frequently, despite the fact that my room was only about 10×12’. ( Yes, I have memorized the dimensions of my childhood bedroom. I’m telling you, I rearranged my furniture a lot.)

There are a lot of benefits to rearranging a space, particularly if you aren’t happy with your current situation. So, if you’ve been feeling like a room or even your whole house isn’t working for you, here are some reasons to try rearranging.

It’s cheap!

You don’t have to spend money to move around what you already have. Need I say more?

You don’t add to the clutter.

Most people are not good about getting rid of something old every time they purchase something new. So when you get something new, whether it be a throw pillow, a side table, or some handy organizational receptacle, chances are you will still have your old pillow, side table, or plastic bin to find space for.

You’ll probably end up cleaning, organizing, and purging at the same time.

If I’m going to be moving a pile of stuff to a new place, I’m going to want to reduce the size of that pile as much as I can. And then I’m going to make sure everything in that pile actually belongs there and doesn’t need to go to another pile. And then I’m going to clean the floor or shelf that the pile was on since it’s the first time I’ve seen it in months. And suddenly I have a much cleaner room, just because I wanted to move the dresser to another wall.

Sometimes your needs for a room change, and your furniture arrangement should reflect that!

For example, when we first moved into our house I had the furniture arranged just how I liked it. But a few months down the road my baby learned how to move. And get into things. And generally wreak havoc. So some things had to change. The bookshelves went into another room (babies like to pull books off shelves, in case you didn’t know) and some cabinets and drawers were moved in (hello, child safety latches!). We had to bring in the play pen so we could plop him down somewhere safe if we needed to leave the room for a moment. A trunk with lots of hazardous hinges and latches and sharp corners was moved from the middle of the room and replaced with a much cushier ottoman (the better to bang heads on, my dear). It took me several attempts to find an arrangement that worked with all these new elements, but now I’m very happy with the room and feel like it works for us very well. I know that circumstances will change again soon enough, and with it will probably come some more adjustments to our furniture placement.

Two words: feng shui.

I’m not an expert in this ancient art, but I do know that if a room doesn’t flow well, it’s not going to feel comfortable. Many times if a room just feels off to me, I find it usually has to do with how well the room accommodates the natural flow of activity and traffic. When I walk in my front door and find I’m walking back and forth across the room to put my shoes, coat, purse, and planner away, then that generally means something needs to be rearranged. Or if you find you’re naturally putting things down in places they don’t belong (and thus making the room look cluttered) then you probably need to rearrange so the place these things belong is where you put them down. You want you movement through a room to feel natural and not like things are always in the way when you try to do something or get somewhere. A room with good flow will feel bigger, calmer, and more comfortable.

So if you’re needing something new to happen in your space, move your couch! You may end up feeling like you have a whole new room!