April 2019 Recap

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Like last month, I’ve done some prototype work this April. For a while I’ve wondered about using felt as interfacing in various projects. We’ve already been using my two placemat prototypes for over six months; they seem to be holding well.

This time I started a purse. Here are the fabrics during the color test / fabric selection phase:

Purse Prototype Fabrics

I had two golden ribbons to choose between; if you look carefully, the one on the right has tone-on-tone striping. In the end, I decided on the plainer ribbon. I may have regrets, though…

A major roadblock for this project has been an 8-point applique star. I started that already in March by making a pattern. As this was to be a prototype, I wanted to use up some scraps from my remnants bin. In hindsight that wasn’t a very good decision; I had an inordinate amount of trouble with the star, since I foolishly selected two very slippery, knit-based fabrics: crushed velvet and faux chamois.

I did finish the star eventually, after much cursing and procrastination.

Applique Star WiP Pieced

Now I just can’t decide whether it’s good enough to apply on the purse. I guess that means not.

Well. You win some, you lose some. That’s just the nature of the creative process.

But: Having finished my taxes earlier than usual, I also had ample time to rearrange my workroom. That invariably meant flinging the smaller bookcases around. In addition, I took the opportunity to death clean some of my possessions, and all that lead to restyling my shelves. I made a curtain to hide some of the less than handsome binders and folders:

Bookcase Curtain Finished

The rest of the shelves aren’t quite there yet, but the curtain is looking great, don’t you think? 🙂

Since I moved my desk, my office phone handset was displaced. I made it a tiny end table out of two upcycled oatmeal containers, posterboard and a round tablecloth:

DIY Phone Table Finished

Here’s a secret: the tablecloth is actually one of my SCA veils, naturally well-washed and pressed. (SCA here means Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., i.e., a group of medieval re-enactors.)

In early April, we finally lost the last of the snow and got to enjoy the first leaf buds and flowers, albeit a little late. Spring is my favorite time of the year! 🙂

2019 First Dandelions2

Flowering Pear First Flower

We continue to experiment with new foods due to dietary restrictions. Here’s a dessert that happened to be all vegan: poached pears, roasted & salted cashews and almondmilk vanilla ice cream.

Poached Pears w Pecans

Will I sound too childish if I say OM NOM NOM!?! 🙂

And, of course, at the end of the month we saw Avengers: Endgame. I’m still mulling it over, but it definitely is a one-of-a-kind ending to a one-of-a-kind series of independent but interlinked movies.

A Social Media Day in the Life of a Microbusiness Owner

Behind the Scenes

This summer, Playfully Grownup Home turned five years old. Yay! To celebrate my level 5 business owner status, here’s a writeup of my workday two Sundays ago. It’s a fairly typical exemplar of what it’s like to work for myself and by myself.

Hooray Cross Stitch

A note on my schedule: before starting the business, I knew from stories and research that owners don’t get to enjoy terribly regular hours. However, after a few years, I had to make regular off-hours a priority following a surgery and recovery afterwards. I still work slightly off-kilter, though, following my ex-library job schedule: typically Sunday through Thursday, unless there are orders to ship on Friday and Saturday.

Tumblr Chibird Take Care Today Future You Appreciates

Jackie a.k.a. Chibird on Tumblr.

Sundays are my dedicated social media writing and planning days. Typically they vary a lot: some are chock-full, others very light, and sometimes – annoyingly – the latter turn into the former by the force of PEBCAC. That was this particular Sunday.

Morning (7:30-)

I woke up to Husband banging his toe on some clutter on the floor that I hadn’t yet stored away (sorry!) and decided to get up and get going.

During breakfast, I checked email, social media and Etsy shop status (no new orders overnight) plus read my morning news.

Before finishing my second mug of tea, I dove right into the day’s tasks with the hope that if I got everything done fast, I could play some WoW in the afternoon because the latest expansion is still new and exciting. Alas, that didn’t happen.

I first scheduled three pre-drafted posts to wrap up Playfully Grownup Tumblr for August and made a template for September 2018 tumbling. I like to draft well ahead of my posting schedule in case of emergencies. Right now I’m completely out of pre-drafted material, though; soon I’ll have to spend time finding photos and writing captions for two or three weeks’ worth.

Then I checked a previously written and scheduled blog post for mistakes (=final, final proofread) and drafted another one. I needed a few photos before I could finish scheduling the post, however.

I remembered there was a a potential post photo I’d taken, possibly on a smart phone, but I also needed to take at least one new one. Since the latter usually goes fast, I pulled out my camera. I snapped the shot I needed plus another one for fun, then edited and uploaded them with metadata. Once that’s done, it’s easy and fast to add photos to a blog post from a Flickr URL.

In contrast, finding the already-taken photo I was thinking about dragged on because I got a new phone just the previous week and hadn’t yet backed up all of the photos from the old one. Once all appropriate batteries had been charged and files transferred, I found the photo. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work for the post. (Ohwell; at least I got all of my assorted phone photos backed up.)

I then spent some time digging in my photo folders looking for a replacement. That done, I pulled a WoW screencap to finalize the post with. A round of proofreading and the post was ready to schedule. Wham bang – that’s the posts for August!

Moving on. While laying out the basic structure for September’s blog posts, I lost a bunch of notes in a copy&paste mishap. Argh!

Fortunately, I had a backup copy with at least partial if not full notes on an external drive. Setting up the drive and retrieving the file took maybe an extra 15-20 minutes (because I wasn’t working in my office at the time); not a lot, to be sure, but annoying because had I not gotten distracted for the crucial 5 seconds, I wouldn’t have been in this jam to begin with. (And it certainly highlighted the importance of backing up my data!) To alleviate the frustration, I made another pot of tea. Because tea is good.

Brewing Lunch Tea

Lunch (12:10-ish)

Over lunch, I caught up on the blogs I follow and read more news, including various San Jose Worldcon (Worldcon 76) reports. I also briefly popped in and out of social media.

Afternoon (13:00-)

Winding down lunch and getting back to work, I first double-checked that my hobby blog post for the coming week was scheduled correctly. It was. (Sometimes I suffer from an ID10T attack and they’re not.) Then I started to draft this post – the first for September – and dug up photos and links to add.

To clear my head a bit, I switched both tasks and my physical location (accounting and receipts tracking in my office) for an hour or so, then got back on the computer downstairs.

I’m not going to lie; sometimes blogging and social media in general feel like an insurmountably large amount of work for seemingly little return.

Snow Work in Progress

However, if there’s something I’ve learned in 5 years in business, it’s that persistence is vital. Even a genius cannot sustain any efforts without sticking to it. It also helps to create and keep to routines, especially for tasks that aren’t my strongest suit. That way I’ll have more time for my favorite tasks later. Also, hydration’s the boss. 🙂

If I’ve been on the computer all morning I can feel myself slowing down by three o’clock; so it was also this sample Sunday. Having lost time in the copy&paste mishap and backup retrieval, I was reluctant to call it quits yet, so I finished this post and created two more drafts. That makes three of September’s seven blog posts.

I’ll still have to proofread them and finish selecting photos, but otherwise they’re done. Also, at about five pages (including images), this post clocks more than I usually write per post, so I ended quite happy with the day’s accomplishments.

Evening (17:00-)

Between four and five, I typically check my Etsy and email for any new orders so I can start processing them. Around five, I wrapped up work. Sunday is also our sauna day; after Husband and I were nice and warm and sauna clean, dinner over an episode of Miss Fisher followed. Finally, we played some WoW together before bed (and books) around ten.

Experimental Cooking: Popcorn Nachos

DIY, Food & Drink

Due to various dietary restrictions (some old, some new), we’re trying out different versions of old favorites and recipes completely new to us. This means food experiments! Here’s Husband’s latest: popcorn nachos.

Experimental Cooking Popcorn Nachos

It works surprisingly well, even if the result is a bit crumbly. As long as you’re using a fork, it’s fine.

You don’t need a recipe as such, but here’s the how-to:

  • Pop a batch of corn and pick out the unpopped kernels. Spread in the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Top with a light layer of salsa, chopped peppers, olives, mozzarella, etc. – whatever you’d put on regular nachos.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Celcius until the cheese melts.

Did you try it? What did you think?

My Finland

My Spaces, This Is Important

Today, my native country Finland turns 100 years. I speak of Finland on this blog now and then because it’s a huge part of my identity.

My Finland Summer Flags Naantali

Sadas itsenaisyyspaiva joulukuun 6 2017

Here, to celebrate our first centennial, are a few aspects of my Finland. All photos by me unless otherwise mentioned.

 

My Finland is woods and access to nature

Finland is among the most forested countries in the world, and people inhabiting the area have lived off of its forests for millenia. I really love woods. I would feel exposed without woods around me.

My Finland Central Finland Woods

My Finland Nuuksio Natl Park

In Finland, nature is incorporated into even the largest cities, and not only as manicured lawns or shrubberies. In addition to national parks, we have relatively untouched areas of nature almost within a stone’s throw from anywhere. And lakes – thousands of lakes.

 

My Finland invests in infrastructure and future-conscious planning

Multiple modes of transportation are an inseparable part of modern community planning. I’ve been biking to get myself from A to B as long as I can remember, and LOVE the bicycle paths. There’s even wintertime maintenance on them! I also love Finland’s clean, safe, up-to-date public transit. To wit: the metro system in the greater Helsinki region was just extended.

My Finland Bike Path

Flickr JElliott Moving in Helsinki

J.Elliott on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

My Finland is multilingual and international

For centuries, Finland was stuck in between and fought over by two larger powers. We were first a part of the Swedish realm, then Russia took over. There’s no denying that Finland is a small country, population-wise, and a small market. That doesn’t stop us from connecting; on the contrary.

Finland is officially bilingual (Finnish and Swedish), and the Sami languages, Karelian, Romani and Finnish sign language have been legally recognized as minority languages. Apart from the newer minority languages, there are also older communities speaking Russian and Tatar, for example. Today, pupils learn the basics of a minimum of three languages besides their native one before they leave elementary school.

My Finland Turku Railway Sta Newspapers

I also happen to LOVE the Finnish language. It’s an agglutinative one, which means we can build massive words like mustaviinimarjamehutiivistepullonkorkissanikin (‘also in the cap of my bottle of black currant juice concentrate’), typically spelled as one despite the length. Finnish also employs vowel harmony, which means that for instance the back vowel a cannot appear in the same word as the front vowel ä – but because of agglutination, we can build a compound where both do appear. For example, there’s a (theoretical) word with only one consonant and seven vowels: hääyöaie (‘intention on wedding night’ – can’t really see anyone ever using that in everyday life).

 

My Finland Reads

Finns love reading, whether it’s newsprint, websites or physical books. Or Donald Duck!

My Finland Kirjasto in Helsinki

Finnish Reading March 2017

Several Finnish authors have achieved international fame.

Moomin Butt from Complete Comic Strip #1

 

My Finland designs beautiful things

Modern Finnish design has made a name for itself. Brands like Marimekko or Iittala and names like Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen are known internationally. I’m partial to jugend (art nouveau / national romanticism) and wood.

My Finland Natl Romantic Architecture

 

My Finland is playful

Finns don’t do just high design, we also allow our humor to blossom – check out, for instance, the huge Posankka statue in Turku that is a hybrid between a marzipan pig and a rubber duck.

My Finland Posankka

We also love games and playing. Recent Finnish game franchise hits include Max Payne and Angry Birds. I sometimes wonder if the speculative genre Finnish weird might have arisen from our tendency to play around with ideas and color outside the lines. Not to mention to innovate!

 

My Finland invests in technology

Almost as long as there’s been an administrative unit called Finland, it’s been poor. Only after the World Wars did we really start trying to improve our lot, and by and large have succeeded. From Fiskars (which started as a forge in 1649) to Nokia and Linux, to mention but a few examples, for a tiny country we’re doing darn well.

Legendary Pinking Shears

Flickr Museovirasto JOKALS4Vaa01-3 Leipomo vuonna 1998

The ruisleipä line in a bakery in Kotka from 1998. Photo by Lauri Sorvoja / JOKA via Museovirasto (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

My Finland is unabashedly geeky and nerdy

Since reading is a big pasttime in Finland and since we love our technology, it’s probably no surprise that we have an active SF/F / larp / anime community. Thanks to the efforts of the Finnish fan community plus supporters all around the world, we hosted Worldcon 75 in Helsinki this past August.

Eppu at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki Aug 2017

 

My Finland Loves Music

From traditional to tango, from classical to heavy metal – even the combination of the two! – music is everywhere in Finland. I’m not a terribly big fan of classical music, but Jean Sibelius is special. Here’s a version of his Finlandia Hymn by Cantus Vocal Emsemble, with lyrics (I believe) from a Unitarian Universalist hymn book:

The Finlandia Hymn by cantussings

The Eurovision Song Contest is popular, and various folk styles are making a comeback.

Pernilla Karlsson – “När Jag Blundar” (Finland) via escDjpo2012

Ulla Pirttijärvi is one of my favorite Sami vocalists. I’ve also grown to like the combination of traditional yoiks and contemporary music quite a lot.

Ulla Pirttijärvi ~ Lullaby via FamilyOfLightMember

 

My Finland sauna bathes

Sauna is the only truly wide-spread Finnish word. We have sauna often, sometimes multiple times a week, and many people still make their own sauna whisks.

Sauna Whisks for Sale

 

My Finland cares

Finland is not perfect, but by and large we take care of each other. Finland’s women gained the right to vote first in Europe, in 1906. In the first elections where women were allowed to vote they were also allowed ro run for office; we elected 19 female members of parliament that year. We’ve already had one female President. (High time for another!)

My Finland Bunnies

This year we legalized same-sex marriage and are experimenting with universal basic income. There’s still plenty to do, for instance abolishing the mandatory sterilization of trans people, reversing the trend of cutting from the care of the disabled and the old, trying to reduce domestic abuse and making sure the social security nets already in place hold.

My Finland in the Sky

In my Finland, there’s space to be who you are.

My Hugo Awards 2017 Reading Process

Books & Mags

As members of Worldcon75, Husband and I are participating in this year’s Hugo Awards voting. Here’s what may or may not have happened:

Me in May: We have until July 15 to get our Hugo votes in. Plenty of time! *starts reading at a leisurely pace*

Me in July: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

lady-fancifull-reading-film-gif

radicktv via Lady Fancifull.

*Cough cough.* 🙂

Colorful Book Bag Prototypes

Arts & Crafts, Colors, DIY

Some prototypes from a past sewing project:

Past Projects Book Bags

These small book bags / fold-away shopping bags all have slightly different construction or proportions. I kept changing details until I found a solution I was happy with.

The colors still make me smile. 🙂

Shop my book bags here.

21 SF/F Authors Project: The Most Memorable Books

Books & Mags

My latest “official” reading project is over. It took longer than expected, but that’s ok – reading is first and foremost a pleasure for me, not a race.

There were several books that I liked a lot, and, as I hoped, I discovered many authors that I’ve already added to my “read more of” list (Hopkinson, Mohanraj, Shawl, Okorafor, Walton and de Bodard, for example).

Below are my “best of” picks from the project – the books that have stayed with me most insistently.

The Last Man by Mary Shelley (1826; full writeup here)

21 Authors The Last Man

Despite some problems and datedness (extreeeeemely slow beginning; inclusion of super-long monologues with pedantic-sounding language to modern readers) the end-of-days tension and horror were created effectively and without viscera.

Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin (1969; full writeup here)

21 Authors Left Hand of Darkness

LeGuin just rocks so much.

Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (1988, full writeup here)

21 Authors Falling Free

My introduction to the quaddies in her Vorkosigan universe.

Warchild by Karin Lowachee (2002; full writeup here)

21 Authors Warchild

Emotionally charged story with excellent pacing and reveal. Like The Last Man, also without graphic violence, yet with palpable tension.

P.S. Find all posts in the project with the 21 authors tag.

21 SF/F Authors Project, Book 21: A Stranger in Olondria

Books & Mags

My latest reading project finishes with A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar (2013).

21 Authors A Stranger in Olondria

Jevick is the second son of a well-to-do pepper merchant from the village of Tyom on Tinimavet. When it becomes apparent that his big brother isn’t capable of continuing the family business, Jevick gets the training and attention instead, including a private tutor from the northern land of Olondria. Jevick learns to speak and read Olondrian, and falls in love with literature, which is non-existent on his native island.

After his father dies, Jevick takes his place on the yearly pepper selling trip to Olondria. On this journey, his first foray out as a merchant, he attends the Feast of Birds celebration and becomes haunted by the ghost of a sick Tinimavet girl. Seeking a cure for her ailment in the north, Jissavet traveled to Bain on the same boat as Jevick but died some time after reaching Olondria. Unable to sleep due to the ghost’s presence, Jevick turns to Olondrian priests for help, but gets entangled and used as a pawn in a struggle between two religions.

Olondria is an unusual fantasy novel – no dime-a-dozen cookie cutter books here. It’s emphatically not an action- or plot-centered novel. Some dramatic events do take place, but they’re not described in an action-y way.

It’s a story about stories with stories that contain stories and refer to yet other stories. In other words, there are a lot of allusions to world-internal myths, poems, songs, books, etc. I’ve seen Olondria compared to a literary memoir, and the comparison sounds apt. The language is very lyrical, ornate, erudite and a little melancholy or nostalgic at times.

The novel is also about love, travel, encountering the wider world through books, different circumstances of people even within the same ingroup and about growing apart from your family or country through different experiences. It’s not a long book, per se, but a literary and dense one, and a great example of how to tell rather than show.

I’d say that any book’s ability to enthrall readers depends entirely on the kind(s) of reading that they most enjoy, or at the very least the kind of literature they are in the mood for. In the end, Olondria didn’t really fit the particular reading mood that I was in, but I admired the novel and appreciated the skill it took to create.

P.S. Find all posts in the project with the 21 authors tag.