Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Memory Chain

Here's an idea my family has enjoyed for almost 30 years now that has kept us from getting too distracted by the little stresses and reminded us of what's most important....

Years ago, when my husband and I were first married and about to join my parents, my sister, brother-in-law & 2 nephews and my brother and sister-in-law for a Christmas Eve dinner, I was anticipating all the little stresses that would go along with such an event. Which serving dish was appropriate for what...whose recipe to use for something-or-other...did the napkins match and did somebody remember to iron you want me to wash that for you, no, I just did that, Mother...etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the commentary on my haircut and my outfit! Maybe your family isn't like that, but mine was back then, or so it seemed to me at the time.

I was determined to find a way to deflect all the tension and remind everybody to have fun and enjoy each other. So here's what I came up with...a Christmas Memory Chain.

I cut strips of construction paper to make a paper chain. On each link I wrote a Christmas memory. I started with the kind of things you think of when you say "It's just not Christmas until..." or "You know it's really Christmas when...." and then branched out to funny or sweet things I remembered from Christmases past. I had no trouble coming up with things to write! Here are some of them:

Red & Green Hershey's Kisses in a silver candy dish (My mom put that out every year!)

Candles lit in every room

"What size does your mother wear?! (My dad could never remember!)

Steve & Eydie on the radio

Christmas Ideals magazines sent every year from Aunt Fiesty (yes, I really did have an "Aunt Fiesty!" That wasn't her real name...we just called her that because she was!)

"You can't come in here!" (something my mother always yelled from behind a closed door when she was wrapping presents!)

A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV

The weatherman's radar showing Santa's getting close!

Aunt Becky's "pregnant" Christmas tree (flat on one side and rounded on the fit perfectly up against her window!)

So many more, but I won't bore you with them all here!

I gathered my paper chain and we took it with us to my sister's house.

At some point in the evening I got up and I hung this paper chain around the bookshelves in my sister's living room. Right away everybody started asking what it was and what it was for. I just told them to go read it. They did.

They'd read one and smile. They'd read another and grin even bigger. By the time they read a third they'd be laughing and reading them to each other out loud!

We had a wonderful time reliving some great Christmas memories. Good thing I'd brought along more blank links for the chain because we thought of lots more things to add to it.

Now, each year, we all notice things that should be added to our Christmas Memory chains, whether figuratively or literally. Whether I use an actual paper chain now or not, there's always something that happens every year that makes me say "Oh, there's a good one for the Memory Chain!"

So, whether you're looking for something to get your extended family laughing or just an excuse to tell stories to your kids, you might want to give this a try this year. It might become a tradition for your family, too! (You can keep the kids busy decorating the links of the chain, too!) Let me know how it works for you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Packages and Choir Dolls

For the past couple of days I've been gathering everything that must be mailed to members of my extended family for Christmas. Since I live in Maryland and most everybody else lives in Texas, that's a lot of people. Now, my thing isn't about spending a lot of money and shopping for the next big thing. Mainly because I don't have a lot money...never have...never expect to. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say. In my family, make that poverty is the mother of creativity!

I don't know if my mother made these because of a lack of money for buying decorations or if it was just a burst of creativity. I say a burst because with my mom we saw a steady stream of creativity and talent every day of our lives. But I remember when she made these choir dolls by folding magazines, spray painting them and adding a few other details. They're made with a copy of Look magazine, one Good Housekeeping and a TV Guide. My dad drew the faces and cut them out. I helped by staying out of the way!

These choir dolls were put on display in a place of honor atop the piano every year at Christmastime until they practically fell apart. I still have these original dolls. One year I started to make new bodies for them, finding current magazines of the appropriate sizes and I made an interesting discovery. Today's magazines have at least four times the amount of pages that magazines had in the early sixties! If I try that again I'll have to do it with with much less than a whole magazine! I'll get to it someday. In the meantime, here's a picture of the originals:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma!

Yesterday was my grandmother's birthday...her 100th birthday!

I didn't get to go to the party since she lives in Texas and I live in Maryland, but I sent flowers to honor the occasion. I talked to my sister tonight and got a good report of the festivities and it sounds like a good time was had by all, especially Grandma!

A few weeks ago I was in Texas for a brief visit and my sister and brother-in-law and I went to see Grandma. We had brought along some old family photos we'd found that we'd never seen before. One photo showed what appeared to be a large family gathering of some kind...several couples with kids of all ages, one mother holding her baby in her lap. We showed it to her and asked if she knew anything about it. She perked right up and said "Oh, yes! That baby is me! I was six months old!" She said it was a family reunion and she pointed to each person, reciting their names and relationships, telling us the whole story of the event as though it had just happened last week.

We were spellbound. Well, at least I was. My sister was scrambling to write down everything she was telling us so we could have it all documented!

100 years. She told me once how she used to pick cotton as a child of 6 or 7, with the hot Oklahoma dirt burning the soles of her bare feet as she dragged that long sack of cotton behind her. And yesterday, I was ordering flowers for her over the internet and now I'm sharing the story with all of you. 100 years...amazing....

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sale Time!

It's sale time...I mean that two ways. First, I have things on sale in my Etsy shop. All my pocket mirrors and notecards are 10% off now through Dec. 8th. This is part of the Etsy Blogger Street Team's Holiday Sale. And second, I'm hoping that this sale will lead to ...uh...sales!

Here are some of the pocket mirrors I have, which are all made from recycled magazine images and are each One Of a Kind. These would make perfect stocking stuffers or wrap them up and put them under the Christmas tree!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hot Pink Christmas

I'm thinking about some new color combinations for my Christmas Puzzle Balls, so I thought I'd try one out on a friend of mine. Here's what she (and her daughter) said about it:

Here is a few (not really great) pics of the kid with her favorite Christmas Ornament.
It's a mini puzzle ball made by Donna Pool.
She can take it off the tree and it comes apart in three peices and she has to figure out how to put it back together.

She really loves it!

She's so excited b/c of all the ornaments on the tree... she knows that that one... she can take it off and play with it!

So what do you think? Leave a comment and tell me if you think I should make more like this to post in my Etsy shop. I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flying Teddy Bears

I only had a handful of Teddy Bears in my Etsy shop so when I sold two recently I resolved to make more. As soon as those two arrived, the buyer came back to my shop to buy two others I had in stock, too! Now I'm down to one. They're just flying out of my shop these days! Wish my fingers could fly, too, since I stitch these entirely by hand!

I think part of the interest is because of all the toy recalls. These are very baby safe, very soft, throw them in the washer kind of toys. I think a lot of moms are looking for something like that. So I guess I'd better step away from the computer and get back to stitching Teddy Bears!

Here are the most recent bears to go:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And there I Am...Again!

Something new to help you find your way around all those wonderful Etsy artist's shops:

Just click on the categories in the sidebar there and you'll get a glimpse at what each artist has in their shop. This is just a sampling of artists who have submitted their shops to this particular blog, but it's a good place to start.

I submitted my shop when I saw that there was a category for "Miscellaneous and Eclectic", because I can't seem to stick to one particular type of project! So, click on that category, and there I am, on page 2:

Take a look around the blog and click on anything that looks, maybe my stuff!

Etsy Mini Blog

Monday, November 19, 2007

And There I Am!

The Eco Etsy blog has been featuring the different Etsy sellers who are participating in the 20% off sale running through Nov. 30th. This time, it's my turn! Check it out:

I think this is my personal favorite among the standard size Puzzle Ball ornaments I currently have in my shop:

And this is my favorite among the Mini Puzzle Balls:

If you see anything you're interested in, better get it while you can. These take a while to make and if your favorite design sells out before Christmas, I may or may not have time to make you another one!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eco Sale on Etsy 20% off

I belong to several of's Street Teams as a way to get to know other sellers, learn about how Etsy works, and help promote each other's shops.

Yesterday was the beginning of a sale for members of the Eco Etsy Street Team. Participating members have taken 20% off the price of selected products in their shops from Nov. 17-30. Everyone who buys one of these items will be entered in a drawing for free items from some of these sellers that will take place on Dec. 1. Take a look at the Eco Etsy blog to find out more about it and to see featured discounted items from member's shops.

I've discounted all the Puzzle Balls and photo notecards in my shop and changed the prices on these items accordingly. If you see something you like, just go through the checkout process as usual.

My fingers are sewing like crazy these days, but I can only stitch so fast, so if you see something you like, grab it while you can!

Click here to see this one in my Etsy shop

Click here to see this one in my Etsy shop

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Just Like Mom? Not Hardly!

My mom was a home ec major so there are a lot of things she did that I'll never do!

Some of it is because of technology...I don't have to iron everything because of perma-press fabrics, for example.

Some of it is because I overloaded on it while I was kid. I had so many Toni home perms and restless nights on sponge rollers and pin-curls that I've always sworn I would never get between my daughters and their hair. When my daughter dyed her hair hot pink I secretly admired her sense of adventure, knowing that if I'd tried something like that when I was a teen-ager my mother would have keeled over!

One thing my mother always did that I will never do is to keep a list of the menus for the evening meals of the week. She'd always cook a nice meal, everything in serving dishes on a neatly set table...with a centerpiece, no less...every night of the week (except for Wednesdays, when we had supper at the church). And we always knew what we were having every night because we'd check the notepad in the drawer next to the refrigerator. Meat, 2 veggies, bread, dessert...all planned not only for nutritional value but also according to texture and color. No, I'm not kidding...home ec major, remember? When I got to the meal-planning unit in my junior high home ec class, I told my group, "Oh, I've got this one covered!" She also had another notepad with a grocery list in progress, with items listed according to their sections in the grocery store...dairy, produce, meats, etc. She'd add to it during the week as she noticed things we needed, then take it with her when it was time to shop. Not a bad system, huh?

These days our schedule is pretty unpredictable...I tell my friends we try to plan things five minutes in advance! There's no way I could even know who will be home for dinner, much less plan what to fix every night. Not that I'm the one who does the husband is the chef in our family!

Well, I just returned from a trip back home to Dallas to help my sister go through my parents' house and decide what to do with all the stuff. My mom died about a year and a half ago and my dad recently remarried and moved to another town with his new bride and he wants to sell the house. As we were going through the things in the kitchen, just for grins I checked that drawer next to the refrigerator...and there they were. Two notepads, one for meals, one for groceries. I have to say it really stopped me in my tracks, seeing my mother's handwriting there and realizing they'd been there for all the years my mom had been housebound and later, bedridden, before her death from a chronic lung disease. The notepad with the meal plans on it was dated "Dec. 13, 1999". Here's a picture:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fall Y'all Giveaway

Today I'm participating in the Etsymom's Fall Y'all Giveaway!

Here's a picture of the giveaway I've provided for today:

Go here to read all about it. And then go here to see what the whole Fall Y'all Giveaway is all about.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stitching Blind

I've been asked how it is that I can sew such tiny stitches when making my Puzzle Balls, particularly the Mini-Puzzle Balls. Part of the answer can be found in the photo above. I've been wearing bifocals for a few years now. But in the past few months, as it became obvious that I needed a new pair of glasses, I opted for some additional assistance...clip on magnifying lenses. They make all the difference in the world when working on small projects, whether Puzzle Balls or Teddy Bears!

I finally had my eyes checked and this time got a prescription for trifocals. When I picked up my new glasses yesterday I thought they were great...because I'd needed new glasses for a long time and I'd been walking around without any glasses at all for a couple of hours while they put new lenses in my old frames. After getting home and wearing the new glasses for a while, though, it quickly became apparent that something wasn't right. I went back to the doctor today, had my eyes checked again and discovered that the prescription was wrong in both lenses. It wasn't off by much, but just enough to drive me crazy and give me headaches.

So, new glasses will be made, but I'll have to wait another week to ten days for them. In the meantime, I have to wear the glasses that don't work or none at all. I can see well enough to manage at home with most tasks, as long as I don't mind squinting now and then and adjusting my distance to the TV and computer, but I figured I wouldn't be doing any stitching. Then my husband had a brilliant idea...and drove me to pick out a cheap pair of reading glasses at the nearest store. Those will do just fine until my new trifocals are ready, so I'll finally be able to finish those Teddy Bears and Puzzle Balls that have been calling my name.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taking Pictures

Soon after setting up my shop on it became apparent that one of the biggest challenges would be taking good pictures of the products I hoped to sell. I've mentioned before in my blog that I've been a photographer for quite a while, but small-product or table-top photography was never my specialty.

The key to any good photograph is the lighting, though, and I've had a lot of practice being aware of what the light is doing before I ever push that shutter button. So I thought I'd show you what I've been doing to get pictures like these:

I've seen where others have posted instructions for making your own light box or tent for small product photography and I've tried doing that, but my set up is simpler. I live in a very small house and I'm operating on a very small budget, so I needed something cheap that I could set up and take down quickly and store in a very small space. Here's what I came up with:

I use the light coming in through the sliding glass doors to my deck (which means I have certain times of the day that work best for this). I bought a couple of pieces of foamboard and scored one down the middle with an exacto knife, then folded it in half. One serves as the surface I place my object on as well as bouncing some light from the top of the frame. Another piece of foamboard, trimmed and scored and standing on end serves as a reflector when place opposite the light source, filling in shadows on the left side of the object. I can easily reposition the reflector as needed depending on the light coming from outside and the size of my subject. When I'm done, I can fold these pieces of foamboard flat and store them easily, even in my small house.

Here's another reflector I use that bounces a little more light. I recycled an old cannister of Instant Breakfast that has a silvered interior, cut the rims off , then cut it in half. When I set that opposite the light source I get more light wrapping around a small object like this:

Here's another view of the same thing:

I cropped this photo to take out the reflector on the left of the frame and used it for this listing in my Etsy shop:
(Edited to add: Since the link to this blog is still being shared from time to time, I'll try to keep this link updated to always show something currently listed in my shop.)

It's all about being aware of the light. It might help to set your camera to use the spot meter, if it has that capability (if you don't know what that means, leave me a comment and I'll explain further). You can also cover your foamboard reflector with aluminum foil if you need more light. If you try these tips, leave me a comment and let me know how it worked for you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

UMHB Lanyards

It's always interesting to find out how people find me, whether they're stopping by my blog here, or my Vox blog or my Etsy shop. I use Statcounter to keep track of such things for this blog (don't worry, it doesn't reveal any private details about my readers!) and tonight I checked to see where my recent visitors have come from.

I discovered that one visitor came from an AOL Search for "UMHB Lanyards". Apparently, one of the sites that popped up when somebody was searching for UMHB Lanyards was my blog! My last blog entry, "Tagged Again" mentioned the fact that I had worked as a photographer on the campus at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas. It also mentioned that I used to teach crafts at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Encampment, and that I could no doubt make a lanyard in my sleep!

And that's all it took for somebody who was looking for UMHB Lanyards to find me instead!

Gee...I hope they found their lanyards.....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Office Treasures

Items from my shop are currently featured in two different Treasuries on Etsy, both related to offices:

Click here to go to this one.

Click here to see that one.

When I think back on my days as an office worker, I think the "Frustration" one is particularly appropriate to the theme!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tagged Again!

I've been tagged once before, but this time I was tagged by three different people: CozyMoments, TPDesigns, and mooretaste.

So, now I'll list eight things about myself. I got a combination of eight or six items mentioned by my three taggers, so I figured I'd go ahead and do eight.

It took me a little while to think up more things about myself I could list this time around, but here goes.

1. I've been a songwriter.... I wrote about a dozen songs when I was in college, singing and playing my guitar frequently at a summer camp and for the Baptist Student Union on my campus. Mind you, I didn't say they were good songs, but my friends seemed to enjoy them. One was about the camp where I worked one summer and the kids even gave me a standing ovation! But they were kids...what did they know?!

2. I've been a published writer.... I wrote for a couple of years for the Womens Missionary Union. I had a blast doing it, learned a lot, and met some fascinating people. But one day I had to set aside an article I was working on because I'd gotten a call-back from a missionary in Thailand to interview her for another article. I had to park the phone on my shoulder to talk to her while my hands were busy changing my daughter's diaper and it suddenly occurred to me ...perhaps I should wait a few years before taking on that many deadlines!

3. I've been a published photographer.... Some of my photos appeared in the WMU publications I also wrote for, some in other Baptist publications, and quite a few in the alumni magazine of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas where I worked with the PR Department for about three years. It's always a kick to see your name in print!

4. I've been a cartoonist.... Okay, don't get excited. I just doodled some cartoons for my junior high school paper. No autographs, please!

5. I've been a crafts teacher. I worked five summers in a row at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Encampment in Cedar Hill, Texas. Four of those years I was director of the crafts program. Give me a little plastic lacing and I can make a lanyard in my sleep!

6. I've been a guitar teacher.... Besides giving tips to beginning guitar players here and there, I've actually been paid to give guitar lessons a couple of times. I also taught a couple of guitar classes during Music Week at my church. Just me vs. seventeen beginning guitar students in one class...the biggest challenge was keeping the guitars all tuned up!

7. I've been on TV a couple of times.... Again, don't get too excited. I worked as a production assistant for two shows on the old ACTS (America Christian Television System) Network, which later was sold or merged with something else. But it was a great experience since part of my job was scheduling guests for talk shows and hosting them while they were in our studios. Another job where I met some fascinating people! A couple of times, they needed me to appear on the show. Once they had someone on who was evaluating colors, you know, figuring out if you were a "winter", or "spring", etc. I agree with my Aunt Becky who has always said her color was in Red Tag Special! Turns out I'm one of the rare people who can be just about any season of the year, so I posed a challenge to our guest for that show! Another time they were doing a feature about parenting preschoolers, and since I was the parent of a preschooler at the time, my preschooler and I appeared for a brief interview. We took a picture of my daughter getting her make-up done for TV to add to her scrapbook!

8. I've been there, done that, and will never grow my hair long again!

Now here's who I'm tagging...each of you have to list eight things about yourself and tag eight others:



Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meet Brother Blotz

I want to introduce you all to a new feature in my Etsy shop.

Meet Brother Blotz:

Brother Blotz was born the same year I was, another product of Doug Dillard's creativity, I guess you could say. Yes, my father is Doug Dillard. Throughout my childhood, Bro. Blotz was featured in numerous Baptist publications, as illustrations in books, and starred in a series of cartoon books of his own. To quote my father's website: "Brother Blotz cartoons use humor to poke holes in our pomposity, chide us for our inconsistencies, and hopefully make us want to do better. He first appeared in print in 1961."

Brother Blotz, one of my favorite pastors, taught us all that even in church, we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously.

When I got my first button machine I realized I could finally do something I'd always wanted to do...put Brother Blotz's image on a button.

So I scanned some pages from the first book, "Meet Brother Blotz" and the cover and made the buttons pictured above. My father loved them! A few months later I attended a conference where I knew I would encounter several of my father's old friends and I took a few of the buttons to give to them. Usually, when I attend these events, my dad says "If you see anybody I know, tell them hello", so I thought the buttons would be a nice touch.

Then I recalled the sweatshirts my father had made for the family when I was a kid and decided to duplicate the design on 2 1/4 inch buttons:

When I sent them to my dad he got the idea that I should make these available in my Etsy shop and he would link to it from his website, And that's what we're going to do.

Brother Blotz now has his own section in my Etsy shop, with buttons, keychains and magnets available for purchase. So, if any of Brother Blotz's friends and family are looking for unique gifts, they'll know where to find them!

Here's to you, Brother Blotz...and thanks, Dad!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I live near Annapolis, Maryland and a lot of my neighbors commute to offices in DC everyday. People around here work for the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other government agencies (not that they can tell us anything about what they do). We knew people who were in the Pentagon that day.

I was on my way back from a quick trip to the store when I heard the news of the first plane on the radio. The announcers were speculating about whether or not it was an accident when the second plane hit and I thought, "That's no accident!". I hurried home, turned on the TV and called my husband at the church where he was working at the time and told him what was happening. They had a TV at the church, but it was hooked up to a vcr, not to cable TV. He turned it on and rigged up a make-shift antenna to get the signal of the local ABC station and everybody there gathered around. At home, I didn't want to be alone and I called one of my friends whose son was in my daughter's class and we talked a while as we watched the news.

Turned out lot of the parents in our neighborhood were picking their kids up early from school, just wanting to have them at home with them, I guess, or maybe panicking about their safety. I had called the school and was assured that the kids were fine and they were trying to go on with school as usual so the kids wouldn't be frightened. But my daughter told me she was one of only a couple of kids left in her class by the end of the day.

The oddest thing to me was the lack of planes in the sky. We live in the flight path of BWI airport so there are always airliners flying overhead...but not on that day...and not for several days afterward. What we did see was fighter jets...we're close enough that they would turn around overhead as they made their regular patrols over DC. We're used to seeing the Blue Angels come to town for air shows over the Naval Academy, but these guys meant business.

I have friends in New York City who say it's hard to take when people tell them that it's time to move on with their lives.

When you hear the phrase "move on", you think about leaving it behind you and getting back to life as it was. But that doesn't happen with something like this, and I don't think it should. Yes, you have to get on with life, but something like this stays with you, along with the lessons you learned that day. We all have our own political viewpoints, but I don't think today is a day to argue about those...just a day to remember what it means to you to be an American.

It's a day to remember to tell people you love them and to make the most of every day. Not because, as some would ominously say, you never know when it will be your last. (I think it's too depressing to think of it like that.) But we should make the most of every day because every day has the potential to be a life-changer, for you or for someone else. Every day is precious, no matter how ordinary it may seem.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Panama Canal

A couple of posts ago I had been tagged by somebody, and I listed among my "six things about me" that I had operated the gates of the Panama Canal. That raised a couple of eyebrows among my readers and prompted requests for the rest of the story. I'll do you one better...I have pictures.

In 1974, I spent the summer with my aunt & uncle, who were missionaries in Guatemala at the time. I was 16 years old (you do the math) and had never traveled farther than a few hours from my home in Dallas, Texas. The whole story is much too long to tell here, but it was truly an amazing experience in so many ways.

After spending a few weeks at their home in Guatemala City, we drove to meetings with other missionaries in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. My aunt & uncle had met a man from Panama who had brought his church's youth choir to their church in Guatemala and he had told them if they ever came to Panama, he'd give them a tour of the Miraflores Locks where he worked. So they took him up on his offer.

I confess the photographer in me cringes when I look at these pictures, but these were taken with a Kodak Instamatic on 126 film, long before I knew what I was doing. And these slides have been stored away for years, not always under the best of conditions. Did I mention that the lab messed them up when they were developed? They did, so I had to do a little digital manipulation to bring out the images the best I could. Here they are....

Here's a picture of me (on the right), my cousin and a friend (daughter of missionaries) in front of the Miraflores Locks. We're standing on top of one of the gates.

We went up into that control tower you see behind us in the picture and stood on the balcony watching the locks fill up and the boats come through. At that time, every ship that came through the canal had to display the American Flag, since it was still American territory. This was an amazing moment when we saw a Soviet ship come through...flying the American flag! Here it is:

We waved to all the sailors, taking pictures of them. You can see in one of those pictures that they were taking pictures of us, too!

It took quite a while for the water to drain between the different sections of the lock so the gates could be opened. I loved watching all the pelicans flying around while we don't see many pelicans in Dallas! Here's one that shows the difference in the water level as it drained and filled up:

And we did, indeed operate the gates ourselves. We toured inside the control tower. They had a huge mock-up of the locks laid out simulating the whole process with buttons and levers all around. Of course none of it made sense to us. But when our friend said "push that button" my cousin did, and when he told me "now, pull that lever" I did. And outside those huge nine-story tall gates began to swing open!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vintage Camera: Miranda G

In my last post I mentioned that I collect vintage cameras. I thought I'd share one of them with you. It's the one that really got me started on this kick.

When I was in college, my dad gave me his old Miranda G outfit. A fully mechanical 35mm SLR, with a 50 f1.9 lens, a 135 f3.5 lens and a 2x teleconverter. Having only used Kodak Instamatics up to this point, I was eager to try it out. He also gave me a small hand-held light meter...a necessity with this camera, since it had no meter built in.

I would point the meter at the palm of my hand in bright sunlight (or the brightest part of a room), then again in the shadows (or the darkest part of a room) and that would give me my range of F-stops and shutter speeds. Then I'd tuck the light meter in the back pocket of my jeans and wouldn't need to take it out again unless the light changed. Shooting this way forced me to be aware of how the light fell on my subject...or didn't...and adjust my settings accordingly. Of course, back then, I wouldn't know if I'd done it right until days later when I'd get my prints back from the lab. That was before the invention of the 1-hour labs!

I discovered that those old Miranda lenses were pretty sharp. Later when I decided it would be nice if I could get another lens or two to add to this outfit, I started doing some research about Miranda cameras. No internet access then, so I got most of my information from Shutterbug magazine. I found out that the Miranda camera company had been out of business for awhile, but back in the 1960's they had a good reputation and were used by some pros. They were one of the camera companies, along with Nikon, to come out of Japan and catch the attention of the working pros of the time.

But the camera I had, the Miranda G, was a professional model. It had mirror lock-up, a feature considered a necessity for doing good copy work. It also had a removable pentaprism with several different versions available, including a couple with light meters, one with a flip up viewer (like you'd find on the Rolleiflex), and one with a flip-up magnifying viewfinder. It also had interchangeable focusing screens so you could pick your preference.

But what really set the Miranda apart was the lens mount. It was a dual mount, with an external bayonet and and internal screw mount. With these two mounts and a variety of adapters Miranda made, you could use your Miranda SLR with just about any lens on the market, including Nikon, Pentax, and even Leica lenses.

I always thought this was a very elegant looking camera, with some distinctive features. The front-mounted shutter release was one of them. I found that I could easily take pictures at slower shutter speeds with this camera that with others because the placement of the shutter release allowed me to gently squeeze it between my finger on the front of the camera and my thumb on the back, making camera-shake much less likely.

You can read more about Miranda Cameras here.

Now here are a few photos of my Miranda G:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged by Hip Kid.

The Rules: Each player starts this game with 6 weird things about themselves. People who get tagged need to write on their own blog 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says you're tagged in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

So, without further ado...

6 weird things about me:

1. I collect vintage cameras

2. I spent my 16th summer in Central America (most of it without a passport)

3. I taught myself to play the guitar

4. I love stitching tiny things that would drive most people crazy

5. I'm never sure what to say when people ask "What do you do?" because I do so many things

6. I've operated the gates of the Panama Canal

Now, I'm tagging these six people:

Have fun guys!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Do Overs

I started another Mini-Puzzle Ball a couple of days ago, this time cutting out pieces for two different ones at the same time. That way I've got another one ready to go when the first one is finished.

All those tiny stitches can actually be a sort of therapy for me. It's as though I'm channeling all my perfectionist tendencies into those stitches. My living room/crafting workshop is a disaster area...but, by golly, those stitches sure are neat, aren't they!?!

It used to be that I would sew all the little sections together before starting to trim the seams, turn them inside out and stuff them all, then assemble the ball. These days, though, particularly with the tiniest ones, I've decided to trim, turn & stuff the first section I finish. That gives me a better idea of what the finished product will look like.

This time, though, I trimmed it a little too close. When I used the pointed end of a pair of scissors to work the corners out, I had a blow-out. I had trimmed the seam too close and there just weren't enough threads left to hold it together there. Here's what I mean:

Determined to keep from making the same mistake again, I picked up the next pieces of fabric in my prepared stack and kept stitching. After I had successfully completed the second attempt at my first section of this puzzle ball, I cut out two more pieces of fabric to replace the ones I'd wasted on my first attempt. Of course, with a project this's not much waste!

When it's finished, this Mini-Puzzle Ball will be available in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Treasuries Abound!

I was delighted yesterday to discover I was featured in one of Etsy's Treasuries. Treasuries are like a mini-gallery of items from all kinds of Etsy sellers. Any Etsy seller can set up a Treasury and pick out an assortment of products from different Etsy shops, usually around a theme. A certain color, or activity or topic of some kind. Here's one I'm in now, featuring sellers who are all part of the EtsyMom Street Team:

And here's the one I just found out about today, also featuring EtsyMoms:

I hope you'll click on those links and go check out those treasuries for yourself to get a closer look at all the wonderful things made be these featured EtsyMoms!

Popular Pocket Mirrors

I've gotten lots of comments on the pocket mirrors I've listed in my Etsy shop and I've just sold another one:

I'll be posting more soon!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My cat, Sebastian

Sebastian has made a brief appearance in this blog once before, in my previous entry about ACEO's but I think it's time to make a formal introduction.

Sebastian and his sister, Snowflake (she'll be the subject of my next entry) were rescued from neglectful next-door neighbors when they were just a few weeks old. We could tell that Sebastian would be the larger of the two, but we didn't know that he would grow into a beautiful Maine Coon cat, or as close as you can get to it without the pedigree.

I always thought Sebastian was a little like a 10-year-old boy. He'd let you pet him, and he'd enjoy it for awhile. But then he'd shake it off and go his own way like a kid wiping off the lipstick kiss of an overbearing distant relative. He was also my watch-cat...yes, like a watch-dog. When he heard someone coming to the door, he'd come running as if to say "Who are you and why are you coming to my house?!"

And when Sebastian was truly satisfied he'd smile. I explained to my daughter that this is the way cats smile...they slowly close and open their eyes. That's all. They'll look right at you, then slowly, their eyes will close and you can almost here them saying "Aahhhhh".

That's what Sebastian was doing when he posed for this first photograph. Oh, he seemed to enjoy having his picture taken when he saw me take out my camera. I did my best to do him justice. I've included photos of the keychains I made with these, too, which are now available in my etsy shop.