Monday, January 17, 2022

JeanR's Dec mailing - Portrait contest


This stylish set came from JeanR. Fun colors and clever way to tie the celebrate stamp into the winter holidays. The card has a very retro feel - and it is a perfect design for valentines - just flip those triangle over and  turn them into hearts. The star could become a rectangle - for the greeting.


During my non-productive moments, I find some of the competition programs to be entertaining. For the longest time, Project Runway was a favorite because I learned to sew when I was 9 or 10 and enjoyed many years of sewing - until three kids transitioned me into the *mending and costume* years. Project Runway usually had very interesting challenges and I could relate to the process of interpreting a challenge while still making something that reflected one's own point of view. 

The Great British Baking show was about 50/50 of interest to me because I do enjoy baking. However, the time constraint bothered me. I'd rather give people an adequate amount of time to execute their vision. I stumbled across another British series, Portrait Artist of the Year. Oh.My.Gosh. As a painting major, I always wished I had had time to learn how to do portraits. There are a ton of videos on YouTube of the competition - and I have only watched two - so it is hard to know which one to link to. 

The first one I watched had 3 well known people, posing for groups of 4 artists. The artists were chosen to participate based on self portraits. Out of the winner in each of the 3 groups, one finalist was chosen and from those three - a winner was chosen. That person won a commission ($10,000) to paint a portrait of a very famous person and the painting would become part of a collection in a major portrait museum.

I watched a full hour of a most recent winner - and what he went through to produce a museum quality portrait. It was sooooo interesting -- to someone with an abundance of watching people push paint around - with skill. I will link to that video. You'd have to search around to find other videos. This appears to be the 3rd season - and there might be 9 episodes.

The channel is All Documentary - so there are other topics. I tried the landscape series - but it didn't catch my interest the way the portraits did. But if you are fond of landscapes -- you might like it.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Smash's Dec Envelope (more DSM)

Look at all this loveliness from Smash. More pointed pen work. And I think it would be very inspirational for valentines.

And there was a bookmark, too. 
I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the goodies I get in the mail. 
Technically, I did just tell you. Maybe I'm saying that the words I choose do not reflect the magnitude of my appreciation. Yeah. That's better.

Here is my list of favorite things about life in DSM.

1.  The longest it takes to get to the airport from anywhere in the city limits is 14 minutes. From the furthest suburb - it might be 21 minutes. And the airport is roughly in the center of the city. 

2.  Bauder's ice cream - nationally ranked, within walking distance of my house. It's an old fashioned soda fountain and they make the ice cream in house. Ice cream isn't even that high on my list of lusted-after-no-nos- except when somebody says *Bauders* and then it takes a ton of willpower to not go. 

3.  La Quercia cured meats - a newer company - the founder lives a couple blocks from me. He had a perfectly good career but the prosciutto he had in Italy and the abundance of hogs in Iowa inspired him to start a company to rival the products he enjoyed in Italy.  You'll see it on menus in fine dining establishments all over the US.

4.  Fancy Breads. A local bakery that has my third favorite bread in the whole world. My first favorite is no longer available. My second is the baguette at Fairway Market in Stamford CT. Fancy Breads, here in DSM, has some weird distinctive flavor that many people are addicted to. I can't explain it.

The airport and 3 things to eat.  I'll have to work on this list. There must be other things about DSM that are wonderful. It's compact - doesn't take long to get anywhere and there is always plenty of parking.

I have always enjoyed the people I meet here. Most of the time people are pretty friendly and polite - even at places. you might not expect it - like the DOT. I still have PTSD from that one lady at a post office in *a big city.* Yikes. 

I won't name the big city because I think you can find ornery people anywhere. And I have experienced tons of very nice people in very large cities.

Actually, I just recalled one of MrW's cousins who grew up in DC. She spent some time visiting us and when we would head out on errands - she thought it was pretty amazing how friendly people were - and I have heard that from other transplants - so I guess the Midwestern *Nice* is an actual thing - and I appreciate it.

Oh, this is getting too long. But, I remember my daughter bringing a friend from Chicago to visit for a weekend and she thought our neighborhood was *Pleasantville.* And Iowa has been one of the most eager-to-sponsor-refugees. There were/are 20+ different languages spoken at our neighborhood high school. And that is why people are so nice to me at the DOT - because I speak English. They are polite to the non-English speaking people, too. But, I can tell that it's an extra layer of work - and can be very challenging. 

Even the postal workers have to try hard to communicate with people who are struggling. For example, I have watched them explaining to people that they are not at the right office to pay their taxes. 

Apologies for the length of this. I have to start the Feb postings ASAP - so no time to edit.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Lauren's Dec env - Why Duh Moines?


My usual comment on Lauren's envelopes -- soooo cute, soooo clever.
I saved the card and it is already scheduled to pop up on Dec 24, 2022.
I need to get some of those stamps!!!!


Back in December, Leslie wondered (in a comment) why I refer to our fair city as Duh Moines. I try to be nice about the middle-ness of life in the midwest. We are clearly different from *costal people.* I tend to see the humor when there is good natured rivalry between states or regions of the country. Lots of us have been places where people will poke fun at the concept of being from Des Moines. So, not being a native - it's my leftover *turf-swagger* from my upbringing in the Twin Cities - to call it Duh Moines.

Technically, Duh is phonetically correct - and I wouldn't mind changing it to Duh Moin.

There is one other circumstance that probably makes me poke fun at DSM. A few of the locals (and they are usually natives) exaggerate how wonderful some of the local features of DSM are. For example -- they will  overstate how wonderful our very regional museum is. It's not a bad museum -- but I have been to other regional museums that are so much better. Milwaukee for one. I usually win this argument by pointing out that our museum is one of the few (maybe the only) regional museum that can't get people to pay to see the works. It has always been free - except that one time a new director thought it was egregious that we did not charge - and she instituted a fee for visiting the museum - and everybody stopped coming. They had to revert to *free.* So -- I think that says something.

There will be a list coming up - with all the wonderful things about life in DSM.


P.S. Museums keep track of attendance and they receive grant money based on how many people visit. So, the lack of paying visitors would have also reduced their grant funds - which would have probably put them out of business

Friday, January 14, 2022

Maggie's Dec envelope (cupid-santa)

I saw some images on Maggie's IG before this arrived and was looking forward to seeing it in person. That stamp is perfect with the gold and black. Not doing any holiday mailings has left me with an empty spot so now I have a yearning to do something like this.

Perhaps I can figure out a way to valentine-ize it.

Even the back is pretty - and that is exactly how it arrived with that sticker over the return address.
Below is the card that was inside -- it's so cute. I wonder if it could be turned into a cupid. Do cupids require scanty apparel? I can't even remember if they have wings. What the heck are they? More on this topic coming up.

When I came back to review this a day before it pops up, I had no memory of what I'd written and no idea about what I might add to the topic - unless it was research into what cupids are - or maybe cupid is just one *creature* - like Santa.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Sharon's Dec env - Grant Wood


Isn't this pretty? Sharon might have a wedge brush or maybe she can do this with a round pointed brush. The card inside was in it's own envelope and I was so happy to get one of those new stamps - and without the cancellation. There is a lot of holiday mail yet to come on the blog. Maybe we can look at holiday designs and see fun ways to morph them into valentines. The ornament could easily become a heart with additional heart designs.


If you want to delve into oddities, this odd-day item is from a blog that specializes in what they call *ridiculously interesting* things. 

Although the couple in the iconic painting are often mistaken as husband and wife, Wood intended them to be read as a father with his spinster daughter. He chose his sister Nan and his dentist (Dr. Byron McKeeby) to model.

I knew someone (who has passed away) who went to Dr. McKeeby when she was a little girl in Cedar Rapids. I have already posted (in Dec 20, 2016) about Grant Wood, his very cool studio that is open for visitors as well as that little house in Eldon, Iowa which you can visit and stand in front of it and take your picture. 

Link to the blog where I found this - which could be a rabbit hole if you need one today. Warning - there is some creepy, weird stuff, if you surf off of the link. You have been warned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Jeri's Dec envelope

There are lots of examples of Jeri's work on the blog. She often does very tiny lettering, which I always love. This one is stellar because the shape of the name and address is a subtle echo of the shape of the skull. Most of Jeri's envelopes end up in my all-time-favorite file - and this one will. I even love that the Day of the Dead stamp worked so well for a holiday mailing.

From a design standpoint, I can see how some people would not love the amount of open space there is on this one. I, however, love it. Even the shapes on the cancel work nicely. It's nice that the skull did not get smudged. 

I finally got around to buying some of these stamps and am feeling inspired to get back to mail art. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

From Christina - Off topic - Food

Christina mentioned Fong's Pizza on the inside of the card which means she's been to DSM. We have a bar/restaurant that was a Chinese restaurant for many, many decades. Mr Wilson and I went there on dates circa 1976-78. In 2009, new owners wanted to preserve the vintage Asian decor but they wanted it to be more of a bar. They also had a large collection of tiki style bar ware - so they came up with a fusion of Asian and pizza. The crab rangoon pizza in sooooo good. Alton Brown raved about the place.

When they first opened (and the crab rangoon pizza was a sensation) - I did extensive research online trying to find a recipe for crab rangoon pizza. There was nothing. Now, there are all kinds of recipes. There are probably all kinds of stories about the origin and all kinds of not-very-close recipes. Unless the story starts with Fong's Pizza in DSM, Iowa, it's not the true story. 

I looked at a couple recipes and will link to one that I think is pretty close. The only thing they forgot (or did not know about - because they never had the original) is the crunchy topping -- crispy won ton - crunchy little strips of fried wonton noodles that you can buy in a bag.

Here is what they list as the ingredients on the website:

Crab Rangoon base, surimi, green onion, mozzarella, and asiago topped with crispy wontons and sweet chili sauce.

Actually - their whole menu is pretty cool. I'll link to that. And I've made the crab rangoon pizza on top of a flour tortilla in a toaster oven and it is delicious. If you are not opposed to the fake crab (surimi) - it works just fine. I suppose you could use real crab - and it would be delicious.

Link to crab rangoon pizza recipe

Link to Fong's menu - with so many ideas. if you like to make fun pizzas or flatbreads

And don't get me started about how many terrible recipes there are for the original Buffalo chicken wings. I've been to the Anchor Bar -- and it's just butter and hot sauce. Anything other than that should not be allowed to say *Buffalo.* Grrrr

Monday, January 10, 2022

From CathyO in Dec

More lovely work by CathyO.
She nails her caps on the italic because they are not too tall. My apologies for mentioning this every time I see them, but it is one of the most common mistakes in italics.
Composition is nicely balanced. I bought two sizes of the wedge brushes and have done a tiny bit of experimenting.

The card is so pretty - and I like seeing her work on both black and white.
Notice the red rules above and below the image that was layered onto a white card.
It's a perfect little detail and so much smarter than trying to do a border.
Highly steal worthy idea.

Even numbered days are supposed to talk about design, lettering, art, etc. Odd days are supposed to include my random topics. 


Update: the whole even-odd-topic thing has fizzled out. But, I'm OK with that. Further apologies for mindless jabbering about my process. 


Sunday, January 9, 2022

From Sharon

This is a perfect layout for Valentine's Day. It will be easy to morph the skull into a heart. The photo does not show how gorgeous the stamp is on that particular shade of orange. Thanks, Sharon. And thank you for the kind comment on the triangle tree I sent for your December envelope. 

It is currently Dec 11 and I am wildly excited that I have the blog filled up until Jan 9th and my new system of filling the dates is going very well. Any time something starts going well, I get suspicious. It can't possibly last. And talking about how well things are going is probably a very bad idea. 

And then -- I notice this is an ODD date, so I need to add something odd off the list.

Now it is Jan 8 - more than 25% of the month is gone and I need to be working on the Feb posts. My apologies to Meg. I had intended (yesterday) to write more about her beautiful Neuland - and did not get around to it. I am nearing the end of my pet sitting and wish I had taken before and after photos of the house. My son moved in last spring and then in November, he inherited several boxes of wonderful stuff from my down-sizing brother. Hunter has not made time to get anything organized - so, I went ahead and organized. It was so much fun. There is a huge part of me that is nervous about *butting in.* But it looks soooo much nicer. I figure the quality pet sitting will be all that he cares about. 

Also - thank you to Sydney who let us know what she used on the pretty pink flowered envelope: Posca acrylic paint pens. 

There were also some good suggestions for job titles and high fives for Troy for stepping up to be the person who can help with the blog - who does not have an official job title yet. I always enjoy comments. Thanks!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

From Meg (words?) Wacky cakes

I love these - and hope to come back and say more.
At the moment, it is Dec 17 and I am having my final day of rest before the week of anticipation that the grandkids will be having before Christmas. 

The NYTimes had an article today about the latest style in cake decorating -- wacky and whimsical. That is right up my alley. I'm wistful that I am not young enough to dive into the world of wacky, whimsical cakes. At one time I had all kinds cake decorating paraphernalia and had all kinds of fun trying alternative things and I'm annoyed that I did not take pictures. Sadly, I did not save all the paraphernalia - so I ended up buying some new stuff and hope the grand kids are old enough to enjoy it.

The article had a link to someone here is Chicago who has gotten plenty of attention.

Here is another site that has been around for a long time. I thought I had linked to it previously, but I didn't find anything in a search. Warning: some of the comments are not kid-friendly. Some of the Cake Wrecks - are sum-thin' else.
They are definitely way beyond wacky and whimsical.

This was on the Dec 16th post. The link is to the main page - so there will be different cakes by the time this post pops up.


Friday, January 7, 2022

From Leslie in October (odd-day topic - adjusting)

Leslie has so much fun - this was what she did for the October exchange. That's an adorable little devil-cat  on the back. The loopty-loo-boos are so much fun. You could do loopty-hearts for Valentine's Day. Dots. Scribbles. That's plenty to work with.

The add-on for the day is from a folder that I forgot about. It's stuff I was going to go back and look at - before I bonked my head. Now, I do not have the attention span to delve into interesting websites. Even if I did have time to look at it and recommended it - it's probably not for everyone. So, if you have spare  time to fill, take a look. If not, dive into something else that looks interesting. Or, drag yourself kicking and screaming over to that chore you are avoiding - and just get it out of the way. 


Right before I inserted the link to The Isolation Journals - I thought I would click on just one of their free prompts. I chose The Anti-bucket List. It's not for everyone - but, it was good for me. Not that I have terminal illness - but I have had to adjust to letting go of a number of things that I was not planning on letting go of so soon. Technically, we are all terminal, but most of us have not had a predictable timeline dropped on us.

Link to the main website of The Isolation Journals. with all kinds of blurbs to read.

Here is their [About] blurb:

Transforming life's interruptions into creative grist

Founded by writer Suleika Jaouad, the Isolation Journals is an artist-led community and publishing platform that cultivates creativity and fosters connection in challenging times. 

Each week we send out a journaling prompt from some of the world’s most renowned writers, celebrated artists, inspiring community leaders and unsung heroes. The Isolation Journals began during the coronavirus pandemic, and from our community of 100,000 participants, we have built a living archive of human creativity to document an unforgettable era. We believe in the power of creative expression to edify, heal, and unite.

It’s free and all are welcome.


Thursday, January 6, 2022

From Sydney - Welcome aboard, Troy

This one is from Sydney. I think she only exchanged once - maybe twice. This is so lovely. I can't figure out how she got the color on the paper. I don't think it was done on a printer. It looks hand done. The outlines are gold gel pen - and I'm sure this must have taken a very long time. It's very precise. Maybe Sydney will see this and let us know what she's used. There is no bleed through or overlap - so it doesn't look like markers. But, it doesn't feel like gouache either. If I don't hear from her, I guess I could write and ask.....

**** A longish read / portions are silly / but I'm serious about the whole plan

 In early December as I was recombobulating and sending out the Dec exchange lists, I had to email Troy to ask if he would send a birthday card to someone on his list who had signed up to do cards, but, I had not gotten her onto a list with other card makers. He kindly agreed to do a card and then offered additional help with the exchange - if I needed help.

Oh.My.Gosh. Yes - I need help. I need someone who will agree to keep the exchanges running if something happens to me. It will be a comfort to all of us to know that the exchange has a team running it and not JustJean. So here is the plan. Troy will be installed as the new *job-title-to-be-determined.*

The reason I am so excited about Troy joining the team is because all I had to do was start a silly thread about job titles and he was all over it. I originally called him my lieutenant - but I'm not sure I want to go with a military model. Although, Brigadier General would be a nice title for me. 

Many years ago, I pondered creating my own order of scribes based on religious orders. I wanted to be Mother Superior. But, I don't want to make light of religious orders. Business titles are boring. I don't want to be Chairman of the Board. Military, religious, business, political - none of them seem quite right. If anyone has any other systems that have good titles, let me know. 

In the meantime, Troy tossed out some titles that he said were not serious, but I think a couple of them sound just fine - and I added my corresponding title:

Assistant Pusher (I would be the Grand High Pusher). 

Mail Rat (I would be the Goddess/Empress of Mail), 

Envelope Junkie (I would be the Capo - or there might be some other good mafia titles that I don't know about - and maybe the drug world has some that are not mafia related - I'm not up on my mafia and drug terminology. I'm not enamored with crime/drug related titles) 

PTE Mini Me - (I would be Doctor Envelope - or Dr Evilope). Who wants to be Nurse Ratchet?

Oh, I just remembered a good system with titles -- It's an old idea - my university. I started one so that I could offer PhDs in penmanship. I think the top dog at a university is the President? I don't even know. So Troy can be a Dean or a Provost (whatever that is) Clearly, I need to do some research. Feel free to apply for whatever positions you'd like. But you have to be willing to actually participate. Unless you have some compelling reason for being worthy of a title whilst doing nothing.

Anyone interested in being on the team, let me know. You will get the password to the blog as well as the new email address that I am starting on the February exchange. We will ease our way into the team approach - but, I think it will be a lot of fun for everyone. 

Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Troy.

I forgot to check this post yesterday - and I already have the new email up and running. Thanks to everyone who made the change so smooth.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

From Janet - a movie

As you might have read yesterday, the blog is going to have odd-topics (off-topics) on odd days and as luck would have it, I just watched one of the oddest films I have ever seen. At first, I was questioning if I really needed to spend time on a film about a guy who was obsessed with a particular purveyor of onion rings. The blurb about the film indicated that the film turned out to be about something way bigger than onion rings. So you know from the git-go that it is supposed to take you somewhere that you feel was worth the time spent on the film. I was soooo skeptical - for soooooo long. It started to feel voyeuristic - to be watching people who were struggling. But, in the end - it tied up all the story lines and it was a glimpse into the world of being obsessed - whether it was a harmless obsession or one that approaches some of life's more difficult situations.

I talk about my obsessions (stamps, envelopes, fonts) in a light hearted manner. I'm aware that for some people (families) obsessions can turn the corner or cross a line and cause serious struggles. So, I assure you, I am sensitive to talking about obsessions. I do not recommend the movie for everyone. It is quirky. If you like to delve into unusual obsessions (onion rings/gambling/film-making/Minnesotans) This link will work for people in DSM with a library card or people who have Kanopy.

This link is to Amazon Prime - where it is looks like it is $4 to watch it


Janet: don't read anything into being added to a post about obsession. It is purely random which envelopes get hooked up to which blurbs. Although, from what I have observed, Janet is *obsessed* with all kinds of lovely things. 

The font is so good with that stamp. It was smart to place the stamp a little low and to the left of where the cancel was going to be. That page behind the envelope is from a *reverse coloring book.* I might try to add something to it. Janet says the gold blob creature in the lower right corner was an ooops. We always enjoy seeing a good *oops-disguise.* This would be a very good font to try if you have never done any lettering. It is so forgiving. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

From Maggie. 30 topics?


Pointed pen loveliness from Maggie. She tried the clear envelopes to keep the artwork pristine. These are the envelopes I recommended when I launched my campaign to keep loose bits off the envelopes. You do need to put the stamps on the outer envelope.

I love the masked candy corn on the flap.
I can't remember if I have posted Maggie's IG account. Lots of good stuff.

Here is my Dec 6th brainstorm: create 30 or 31 topics so that I don't harp on any one thing too much. My intuition tells me that half the fun of being a daily reader is not knowing what direction I will be heading on any given day.

Here is what we have had so far - followed by the kinds of things I post from time to time

1 Exchange sign up -- 2 Getting organized -- 3 Deep thoughts -- 

Additional topics - let's see if I can come up with 27 or 28 more topics. After I get to 13 or 14 - I will stop - because I need to alternate the days so that I have art and design tips on the even days and odd topics on the odd days.

4 food 5 interesting houses, places, things to look at 6 places to visit or things to make 7 movies 8 books 9 medical rants 10 rants about friends and relatives 11 combobulation 12 how to keep the blog true to itself 13 USPS 14 everything we need to know 15 who knew? 16 topics we don't touch with a ten foot pole 17 stoicism

Well that was easy. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me if there is anything in the off-topic category that you think should be on the list. 

I don't have to make a list for the art and design days - there are an infinite number of topics therein.

You may enjoy knowing ahead of time if it is an off-topic (odd) day or an art day. If the off-topics annoy you, you can just skip them, although, they will have envelopes.

Monday, January 3, 2022

From Patty and Debbie. Deep thoughts

 Most of the time I like to keep the blog focused on art and design. Sometimes I lapse into silliness or ranting. Today we are going deep. Hopefully, I'll spend as little time as possible in the deep zone. Most (or all) of my plans don't seem to be working out. (Yesterday, Jan 2, I replaced some gibberish with that underlined sentence.)

As I write this on Dec 6, I have stumbled across this remark by D in a recent NYTimes article. D is Denzel Washington. Only his very closest friends are allowed to call him D. I look forward to getting a cease and desist order from him. 

This line popped out at me:

“I’m more interested in directing because I’m more interested in helping others,” he said. “What I do, what I make, what I made — all of that — is that going to help me on the last day of my life? It’s about, Who have you lifted up? Who have we made better?

Back to Jean's comments:  I have no idea if anyone is lifted up or made better by the blog. I do know that I am lifted up by comments and emails and notes or letters inside actual envelopes from all y'all. I won't be sharing anything specific, but I assure you, Denzel would be very impressed with the kind thoughts sent by my posse. 

Thanks again to all y'all. And I hope I am not getting redundant with too many return thank yous. Reviewing October and November mail has a way of getting me all whooped up with thankfulness. 

From Patty. I thought I had already posted this one, so I added a second. As it turned out, I have not posted this one, but, these two look nice together - so we get two today.
The one below is from Debbie. Those markers really pop and they look great with the stamp.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Organizational device. Oct mail from Rachael

 A couple days ago there was a link to the Type Worship guy. He partners with another guy - link below - who has a very funny blog post about how to be organized.

My apologies to Elliott (if he has a tracker and discovers that I have linked to his site) for dissing him about his idea that he thinks is a good idea. I'm fine with the obsessive nature of his design project -- the idea is great -- but losing the sticky edge that was provided by the Post-It system seems like an epic fail. Did he even look into custom Post-Its? Sorry, Elliott. Great idea - flawed execution. 


This image is a perfect pairing for my scathing critique. An edgy piece of original artwork from Rachael. It arrived in a wonderful envelope. I always appreciate the extra touch when the return address coordinates. On second thought - the *monster* seems almost friendly.

I neeeeeed to do some of that lettering. I love the owl.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

BIG NEWS for Exchangers - PLEASE read about the new email for sign-ups

Happy Holiday mail from Tome. Perfect style with the Santa stamp and I imagine the USPS appreciated the clear address in all caps.

IMPORTANT NOTICE -- will be the new email for the exchanges

Hopefully everyone will see this notice and sign up at the new email. My Yahoo account has too much activity and I need to split off the exchange. I have also recruited a helper - who might handle sign-ups and lists at some point.

To sign up for the January exchange, please send the following info, in the format shown, indicating:

(CARDS) if you wish to exchange handmade cards -- (Birthday) if you have a birthday in January -- (2 Lists) if you are willing to be on two lists if I need to make the lists come out even.

Jane Smith (CARDS)

123 Oak Street

Ames, IA 50010

(Birthday) (2 Lists)

I will confirm when I receive your email. If you do not hear from me within 24 hours, send another email. Lists will be emailed to participants on Jan 5th.

FIRST TIME EXCHANGERS:  There is additional info and helpful tips at this page on the blog:

I like the return address labels that wrap around the envelope. The happy little towns on holiday cards are so sweet. 2022 might be the year that I use up enough envelopes to warrant buying a whole case of kraft envelopes.


Friday, December 31, 2021

Which was worse 2020 or 2021? + CathyO's vintage mail

 Here are some words from Kathleen Norris:

Life is easier than you think: all that is necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable.

Fiona Dempster posted that quote back in September. She started her Thursday Thoughts in 2010, the same year I started PTE. The quote came from page 18 of 106 pages in her *quote folder.* I think Fiona is way more organized than I am. She used this quote right after NZ had a 5.8 earthquake - on top of everything else that's been going on. 

My litmus test on any given day is this: If there were no trips to the ER (or covid scares) and the plumbing, heating, electricity, appliances, internet connection are all working, didn't have to call a tow truck - then there is nothing to complain about.

I am not expecting 2022 to be better at all. Hopefully, that does not sound dismal. Since we do not get any previews of the future - let's just pretend like we're ready to face anything and everything. Heaven knows I've had a whole year of watching other people cope with stuff that I would not have traded for my own brush with whatever that was I brushed with.

Happy New Year.


The next envelope in my disorganized folder of Oct-Nov-Dec envelopes is this super fun card and envelope from CathyO. It's an idea that would work for any season or holiday - with a little tweaking of the image. Wonderful lettering. It looks like a font, but it is hand lettered. I have a ton of goofy vintage photos. Maybe I will appropriate the idea and use it for my valentines and other mailings.

Happy New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Type Worship + Mia's bones

 Yesterday's post mentioned surfing through Australia and England. This guy made the claim that The John Stevens Shop is the *oldest* continuously running business in the US. That is not correct, but, we'll let it go. He has a ton of inspirational stuff on his website. Obviously, he uses the computer to make everything slick and symmetrical. But, he does have one piece that he drew by hand because the end product was letterpress and letterpress is just so beautifully forgiving.

I apologize for the salty language. We have already covered the topic of salty language and those of us who are in the gray years will continue to avoid the salty language. I noticed over the T-day weekend that while my daughter and her husband continue to have a strict rule against salty language, the dad bought a very funny birthday card for the mom. It had a salty word on it and he thought he had kept it hidden at the store where he had taken their 8 year old daughter to pick out a birthday gift. Nothing gets past 8 year olds. She came racing in the house, told her brother that dad bought a card with a bad word, then the two of them raced to tell the mom. Of course, it all came across as comical and it seems like the kids are mature enough to know what the bad words are and still refrain from using them. 

Something else I found out that seems like progress. I asked my granddaughter if any of the girls in her 2nd grade class had short hair. During drop off and pick up at the playground, it seemed as though all the girls had long hair. She brought out a booklet with class pictures and pointed to the girls with short hair. Then she pointed to one kid with chin length hair and said, "Thatcher is not a boy or a girl." Later I asked my daughter about Thatcher and she said that as far as she can tell, non-binary people are no big deal to the kids in the class. It's just a random public school not too far from Wrigleyville in Chicago -- so, maybe there is some growing kindness and acceptance in the future.

A portion of Jamie's salty artwork

And a lovely envelope from Mia in Canada. Once again - there was no planning in this pair, but they are cousins because they are items turned into letters - pencils and bones. I've done both and can imagine doing some more. Someday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

RIP to the year 2021 + env from Leslie

On Dec 4th, my morning surf took me to Australia, England, and back to the US. I frequently mention world famous lettering artist, John Stevens and every now and then I run across *the other* John Stevens. It is a shop on the list of the oldest continuously running businesses in the US. (founded in 1705) Their website is a spectacular rabbit hole full of all kinds of lovely images. They do their lettering with a brush on the stone and then carve it. My mind is blown (in more ways than one) that people can do this. Happy surfing. I even enjoyed the map and wandering around on street view.

From Leslie. I love this envelope made from what I am pretty sure is the USPS stamp catalogue. If you order stamps online, you also get a very nice quarterly catalogue. I'm not happy with the USPS worker who drew the Sharpie line across the butterfly. Grrrr. 

The technique of rubbing across a textured surface would be a fun one to try.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Medical appointment warning + Envelope from Chuck

 By the way, I've been meaning to mention something that goes along with the Patient Portal warning from earlier this year. If someone tells you that you have an appointment to have your broken bones set - be prepared to fall (virtually) through the cracks. And while you are down there - be prepared to have a very difficult time getting anyone to respond to you. Keep in mind, you are not allowed to have any food or water, so you will not be in tip top shape as you navigate the situation. And then later, be prepared to fight with your insurance company to fill a simple prescription for pain meds. This did not happen to me - but it was painful to hear about it. 

The worst part is that there are fewer and fewer ways to actually talk to people who might be able to straighten out things that are not going as planned. Electronic communication has caught on and nobody worked the bugs out before they embraced the exciting new concept. It seemed like a good idea - and lots of people/agencies/companies/etc have jumped on board -- but, it reminds me a lot of the excitement surrounding the Titanic when it was new and exciting. And now--- just as then --- there are a lot of people left *floating.*


Here is Chuck's November envelope - a pilgrim/gnome. I suppose I could insert my trip report now that it is the 28th and I should be home. I'm writing this on the 25th - right after brunch. The grandkids have plenty to keep them occupied for the rest of the day. The adults are dazed and confused. There was a covid scare (thankfully everyone was negative) but two of us had/have a generic head cold - so everyone is a little off. It's good the kids are getting old enough to handle some quick changes of plans. The mom and dad are ready to switch from traditional holidays to an alternative - a trip to a beach. The kids are not on board at all. 

Next challenge -- make it through 8-10 weeks of winter. No more falling.

Monday, December 27, 2021

From Smash -- Danny Gregory

Long-time pen pal and inspirator (I think I made that word up) Sue AKA Smash - surprised me with this one. I LOVE it -- but I do not recall seeing anything like this from her previously. I love both he lettering as well as the design. I feel some appropriating coming on.

 I've mentioned Danny Gregory from time to time. You may sign up to get his weekly emails. 

He usually has something inspirational. This time is sounds like Danny is having an existential crisis.  It's very long - and spoiler alert - it's a long dither about dithering. So, I am offering it as a random piece of writing because Danny is happy to have people like me provide some publicity for people like him. If your head is screwed on straight today, you don't need to read it. If you are dithering, you may read it and know that you are not alone. 

I am not dithering today because I only have 4 days left to fill for the whole year.

Hi jean wilson,

I could sort of, maybe, use a new desk chair. 
Mine occasionally decides to slowly ease me to the floor while I’m working.  People on Zoom report watching me slowly descend out of sight as I talk.  
It’s somewhat disconcerting.  
So I spend some time online shopping for chairs, reading reviews, and looking at shipping costs.
I usually write in Scrivener, but is it the ideal writing app for me? I take notes in Google Keep. I like the markup capabilities of a new app called Craft. I spend some time reading comparison reviews of other apps. Then I subscribe to a podcast from Lit and Latte in which different writers talk about their process. I listen to half an episode while I start to make swatches of my new colored pencils on watercolor and drawing paper. I make a couple more swatches, then sharpen all my pencils and arrange them precisely according to the spectrum.
This reminds me of a cool Danish artist I might bring to Sketchbook Skool, so I open her page on Instagram, then start looking at people she follows. Every 4th post on Instagram is now an annoying ad, but then I click on one that shows me a new camera stand that’s kind of neat. Huh, I wonder if they carry it on Amazon…..

Soon the afternoon is gone.

The thing is, I didn’t intend to spend today buying chairs or downloading apps, or sharpening pencils.
I intended to spend it writing this essay for you.
Instead, I dithered.

Dithering is all about rearranging (or shopping for) deck chairs on the Titanic of my mind. Burning through the time allotted doing things that seem industrious and look like Work — after all, I do sorta need a chair, a writing app, swatches, etc., kinda. But they are all really just Procrastination, the slow cousin of Perfectionism.
And Perfectionism is the hardest-working sidekick of that voice in my head, the Monkey.

There are a zillion things vaguely adjacent to my dream, my creative goal, that the Monkey uses to keep me away from actually sitting down and making. And every day, there are new distractions, new websites, new TV shows, new products being shipped to new art supply stores.  
Perhaps some are perfectly legitimate assets that can help me make better work.  
But are they worth the time? Are they worth wandering off course and getting lost in the shrubbery?

It’s all about my goal. If an activity isn’t moving me towards it, it is dithering.
My goal is to write a lot and regularly. My other goal is to fill sketchbook pages. I feel so centered and accomplished at the end of a day of doing these things.
To reach that goal, I don’t need new chairs or arranged pencils.  
I just need to dirty pages.

So I pull up a dining room chair, open Google Docs, and write and write and write.
When I have cranked out many good, bad or indifferent pages, then I’ll allow myself, briefly and only then, to browse fonts and try out different margin widths.

The Monkey doesn’t want me to reach my goals. 
Because doing so might disrupt the status quo. 
What if I write a whole book-worth of good pages? Then I might talk to my publisher, who might want me to go on tour and meet new people who will invite me to new things and expose me to new ideas, all of which could be risky and different and terrifying to this creature that would much prefer I just sat huddled in a blanket paging through  

Sometimes, I feel like such a weakling. 
It takes energy, focus, a muscular core to stay on task and not dither. That can seem like hard work. 
But writing or drawing gets me in the flow state, which energizes and makes me happy, whereas dithering leaves me feeling depleted, dull, and slightly ashamed.

It all comes down to a simple question. 
What do we want to do with ourselves? How do we want to use that creative spark burning inside us? 
Do we want to slowly smother it in crap and distraction? Or do we want to make something cool? A body of work, a completed project, a book, a show, something that makes us proud and happy.

Maybe you don’t have a goal.
Maybe your monkey has convinced you that you aren’t trying to be professional, that you don’t want to publish a book or open a store or have a gallery show, that you just like playing around with art, that my perspective is not for you. 
Maybe your monkey has whispered so many dithering commands in your ear so often that you are lulled into a compliant stupor.

But I doubt you’d have read so far into this email if that were true.

I think deep down, you know that focussing and committing and doing will help you draw better or write more or get back to that dream you had at six or twelve or twenty or forty-four. 
Dithering will just drain away your energy, your days,  and your bank account.

Your pal,

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Story Objects -- From Thomas

Vera's work popped up in an email and. I do not recall seeing her work so I'm not sure how I got on her mailing list, but I am sure glad I did. I probably won't have time to do anything like this - but it's been fun to just surf around on her website. You can buy the kits to make the houses or you can get downloadable files to cut your own on a Cricut. She says you could - in theory - do all the cutting by hand. That's tempting, but I gave myself a very bad case of tennis elbow from too much cutting by hand. Besides, I do not need little paper houses. Maybe someday the grandkids will be old enough and have an interest in building paper houses. 

Vera van Wolferen Link to her website


This lovely envelope is from Thomas. He pops in to exchange once in a while. I like the leaf card, too. I never met a leaf I didn't like, except poison ivy. That stuff is nasty. Thank you for participating in the October exchange Thomas. I used to get Thomas and Troy mixed up because they both lived in Texas - but Troy moved to New Orleans. And thanks to the USPS for leaving off the cancel as well as a vicious Sharpie-slash.