Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hobbies Stay in your Life Forever

How many of you still take part in, or wish you had time to take part in, a hobby or activity that gave you joy as a child? Not that it came as any brainstorm, but last night I realized that the chain of loving an activity is rarely broken as life goes on; it just gets put aside. I can’t think of anyone who loved something as a child and then disliking it as an adult; chances are, they gave it up for any number of reasons and simply never had the time, opportunity, or resources to get involved with it again.

My husband still fishes; my brother in law still collects coins, and I still take ballet class, not to mention reading mysteries before going to sleep and riding horses occasionally. We probably all have at least one love that’s totally ours alone that we don’t even want to share with a spouse, child or partner. Such hobbies don’t merely define us; they offer us refuge in our stressful lives. Age, location, health, career, and other life conditions aside, those activities have never cease to bring us joy, and assumingly always will. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Do we like those things because we’ve done them so long that we feel good at them, or do we just enjoy the level of comfort we have in their environs? It’s probably both. No matter what your hobby is-physical or sedentary-chances are, if you gave it your all as a kid, there is a magnetism that has pulled you towards it, and that will never completely cease.

In each and every ballet class (there must have been thousands), as I go through the time honored movements, I get the same rush of exhilaration as if I was doing so for the very first time. Standing at the barre and performing the combinations (which are basically the same but always different, if you can understand that) brings me home. It takes me back to my younger self, to studios in New York. It reminds me of countless variations in accompaniment, dozens of leotards, and thousands of other females (all pretty much looking the same). While I’m there, the rest of the world comes to a standstill, and a missing part of my existence is back in place.

It’s also good to know that the word “hobby” is quite broad in its interpretation. The description can include every manner of athletic, sport and team endeavor, intellectual pursuit, and collecting…in fact, almost anything can be considered a “hobby” if it falls under the category of an unpaid used of time. (It’s funny how when I taught dance, I no longer considered it a hobby.) The one consistent thread is that it requires time, but whether it’s a lot or a little, daily or monthly, alone or with others, but it’s totally up to us. Hobbies can include other individuals, and provide social fun such as Karaoke, a mental challenge like Chess, or competitiveness, like Poker. Yet the same range of needs can be found in lone hobbies: The creative fun of computer-generated Sims people, a mind-challenge of crossword puzzles, and perseverance for jigsaw puzzles may provide what our normal lives are lacking. That’s the beauty of hobbies; they wait patiently for us. Their friendship doesn’t fade, and our relationship with them rarely suffers.

I can’t imagine my life without ever having been exposed to my hobbies, and I have my parents to thank for that. I feel bad for people who don’t have at least one hobby to “take them away” and provide decades of happiness. But it’s never too late to find something that you might love doing in your spare time, something that brings you peace and enjoyment and offers a sense of purpose, albeit a minor one.

It’s wonderful to keep things close to us in our heart, not just in the sense of others but in the sense of activities. We need outlets for a sense of rejuvenation. If you need a little shove in that direction, give it some thought. You’ll be happy that you spent the time searching for a new hobby, or revisited an old one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scrapbooking on a Budget

The rising cost of scrapbook supplies is something you are likely to hear come up in conversation with any group of scrapbook enthusiasts. I always stop the conversation when it heads in this direction though, and remind everyone that the cost of scrapbooking does not have to be a budget breaker, and that it really is an affordable hobby. It might take a bit of ingenuity on the scrappers part, but the quality and uniqueness of ones layouts do not even need to be diminished just because of budget restraints.

Consider the amount of supplies that the average scrapper already owns. Scrapbooking can be addictive and it is commonplace to walk into one persons scrap area, or open up their tote of supplies, and discover enough supplies to keep that scrapper in pages for years to come, even if they never bought another single embellishment or piece of paper. I have been in some scrap rooms, mind you owned by a single scrapbooker, and felt as if I had walked into a dream store that I had just discovered. Sure, they might run out of adhesives, or some other consumable, but for the few dollars to replace those, no other money need be spent for a long, and I mean very long time to come. This is so common actually, that it is ordinary to see no buying threads on online groups, where someone will post to see how many layouts they can accomplish before they need to buy anything new or replace something that has been used up.

In addition, for those of us who do not have that many supplies, scrapping within a tight budget is still possible. Consider some of what we might have already in our homes, and other places, that we overlook when it comes to thinking about using on layouts.

Other craft supplies
As someone who crochets, cross-stitches, paints, and does a myriad of other crafts depending on the season and what I am in the mood to do, I actually have tidbits of various craft items tucked away in drawers and closets. I now try to look through these when I need something before I run out and buy. Fabric from your sewing supplies is always a beautiful addition to a layout, or even sewing directly onto the paper itself.

I cannot even begin to count the times I have found that perfect little whatever it is amidst my junk drawer mess, or found the perfect embellishment within my husband's tool shop. Do be careful about things being acid free, etc., but when in doubt, I just try to use the item creatively. For example, I wanted to use a couple very think metal spacers on a layout, and I was concerned about rust. To make it not such an issue, I made sure to adhere them away from the photos that I used.

Second Hand Stores
I have purchased everything from bottles filled with buttons to my newest acquisition, a Spiro graph, at a local second hand shop. Prices are always rock bottom, and not knowing what you might find can really get your creativity flowing when you do discover something. For example, I had never really given any thought to using a Spiro graph to make embellishments or to decorate backgrounds until I saw one sitting on a shelf with a mass of other toys. The minute I saw it though, my mind started filling with all sorts of ideas.

From paperclips to index cards, your desk is a wealth of scrapping supplies just waiting to be put to use multitasking for both work and imaginative fun. I actually keep a small glass candle cup on the back of my desk, and whenever I come across something that I think I might use, I toss it in it.

Your Own Photographs
How often have you looked through your stash of photos or files of them on your computer, and passed over a photograph as being nice, but not scrap worthy. What if you printed it and used it for a background, or cut it into strips to use as a border for another photo or phrase. For example, I had about a dozen photos of a beautiful sunset from a weekend getaway. After I scrapped the weekend getaway, I kept looking past the remaining photos. Then one day, when I was working on another layout that had very little color, and could not find much to sue to liven it up, I remembered the extra sunsets. I ended up taking two of them, and cutting them into strips to frame both the picture and a small phrase. It both livened up the layout, at no additional cost to me, and used up something that would have likely just sat in my photo folder forever, unused. To use a photo as a background image, just scan in to your computer, and in a graphics program, adjust the size of it to fill the sheet of paper that it will be printed on. You can even lower the opacity of it, or change the colors, even alter it to black and white or sepia tones for example. If you do not have a graphics program, there are free ones available online. A favorite of mine is Picasa that is put out by Google.

Be inventive and consider the possibility of almost anything you come across in your daily tasks. Some of the most ordinary items make some of the most awesome scrap supplies. It just takes some artistic creativity to recognize them sometimes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Carving Pumpkins this Fall

For many people, carving pumpkins is a link to the past, to their childhood when times were simpler. Whether carving one, or a couple dozen of them, there are things you can do to make it an enjoyable activity, and possibly even help you turn out jack-o-lantern artworks that will have the neighbors, kids and adults alike, spouting wows as they go by your orange glowing masterpieces.

This year, pumpkins are not as widely available as in years past, due to weather conditions that have greatly affected the crops overall. To help combat this, shop early, to afford yourself a good selection of pumpkins to choose from.

I like to look for those pumpkins that are both oddly shaped and a few that are typical, evenly round pumpkins. Depending on what sort of carving or face I have in mind, will often determine the overall shape I am in search of. In addition, if you plan to line a walkway with them, or place your finished creation in any place that it will not be able to be propped up or against something else, you will also need to look for those that have a somewhat natural flat spot towards the bottom, so that they will sit easily without toppling over.

Once you have chosen the perfect pumpkin for what you have in mind, bring them home. Next, decide where you are going to actually carve them at, keeping in mind that the actual cutting and digging out the guts will bring with it some mess, so choose someplace that you can easily clean up. For the actual cleaning, begin with the exterior of them before you do any actual marking or cutting. If you have a soft-sided old brush, lightly brush away any debris that might be on your future piece of artwork. If you absolutely must, you can take a damp washcloth and wipe the surface clean, but be sure to dry the exterior at this point, avoiding leaving the surface overly damp for any length of time, as this will only hasten the possibility of mold.

The top of the pumpkin should be cut first, so that you can clean the interior of the pumpkin out. Be sure to cut the top large enough to easily scoop out the insides, and if you plan to bake the seeds, have a bowl or other container at the ready to store them in. Clean the inside as thoroughly as you can, leaving as little to none of the threads and other guts as possible. The more of this left behind, the quicker the pumpkin will rot. We always use to say that the cleaner the house, the longer it would stand.

Once you have your design idea ready, you can either trace directly on the exterior of the pumpkin with a pen or marker, apply a transfer to follow, or just jump right in and freehand cut. If you have never tried this last suggestion, I highly recommend giving it a go. Some of my best designs throughout the years have been the result of those times I have just started cutting with nothing more than a very loose idea of what I want the finished jack-o-lantern to look like.

Transfers are a great way to create very intricate designs, and you may discover designs such as a cat sitting on the shoulder of a witch, to moons shining brightly over the initials RIP on a gravestone. These can often be found at the local grocery or five and dime type store. Some craft stores might also carry such items. If cute is more your style choices, cut out the word BOO! On the other hand, create a smiling but tooth missing pumpkin. Just about any design that is even remotely Halloween or Fall related, from traditional to off the wall, can be altered to work as a jack-o-lantern design.

When you have finished carving your masterpiece or whole entourage of them if that is more your thing, add a simple votive candle if the pumpkin is going to be located in a safe place, or insert a battery operated flame made specifically for lighting up pumpkins and other decorative items.