Friday, September 28, 2007

the handwritten scrapbook

Currently among the books in my rotating reading piles, kept handy to spark my imagination, is One Special Summer. It's a large (13" x 11") but slim book, like a children's picture book. Two young women, 22-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier and her 18-year-old sister Lee, chronicled their trip to Europe in 1951 with an illustrated journal which they gave to their parents as a thank-you gift on their return. It reminds me of my exuberance and humorous escapades when I traveled to those same places in the early 1960's when I was 19 (and of my own loved travel journals, long since lost during our many family moves).

But I keep this book handy in my inspiration pile because it suggests to me something important about the scrapbooking we do today. Over 50 years ago, we didn't have a legacy-oriented industry, with endless selections of acid-free paper and patterns, oodles of embellishments, pre-made word and title labels, enough tools to satisfy the most addicted tool junkie (like me), and easy access through online stores no matter where we live. But the urge to record the story of something special in one's individual tone of voice isn't new. In this book, Lee writes and Jackie illustrates with just pen and ink, because "when we gave presents to our mother . . . she far preferred something we had written or drawn to anything we might buy for her." The personalities shine through, although the photographs are few and the embellishments nil. Lee remembers other trips she took with Jackie, again with wonderful memories, but "I can only look back on those trips and think how marvelous it would have been if we had recorded them as we had this first one. Perhaps we had lost some special sense of time, in growing up."

Lee explains how she found her forgotten journal: "Earlier this year, in looking through an unexpected wealth of letters, diaries and old photographs for a book of reminiscences I am doing, I discovered that, since our grandfather's time, we have never thrown out as much as a postcard from a relative. My mother, after searching through her attics for material that might be useful, brought me this account of my first trip to Europe as one among several of her most precious possessions from us. We had forgotten about it. As I reread and thought about it, it seemed too much -- a kind of separate entity -- to include as part of my book. So here it is, just as we did it in 1951, with not a word or a pen stroke changed."

Doesn't this make you think about how the habit of saving precious family things has changed as we've become a more mobile society (without enough attics)? And how the habit of corresponding has changed as we focus more on the speed and ease of electronics and less on the slower body pace and rigor of thought in the handwritten? And how, when we recognize the urge to tell our story, we often resort to other people's "found" old photos -- and handwriting samples, because we've lost confidence in our own unschooled version? Somehow I sense, even in my classes, that the pendulum is swinging. Perhaps we are becoming a little impatient with scrapbooking when it becomes just a page crowded with photos and purchased embellishments, with not enough true individual story line.

Perhaps, as the industry and art form mature, more of us are seeking encouragement to return to the journal form of scrapbooking, where we combine those precious photos and desirable acid-free supports with the handwritten and doodled account of the "real" story, the emotions, the jokes, the near escapes for which there are no mass-produced substitutes. So that one day, when our scrapbooks are found saved in the attic, they are more than a collection of commercial papers and embellishments, more than the proverbial shoebox of photos transferred to book form, more of the personal story.


Monday, September 24, 2007

are you still reading books?

Yesterday as I browsed in the bookstore for my usual inspiration fix, I admired the many other browsers taking seriously this approach to finding out about life on the bigger scale. So many readers enjoying the comfortable arm chairs as they took deep draughts from their prospective purchases. Others enjoying their favorite Starbucks as they settled in at the bistro tables with their reading piles. Still others just plumped on the floor with books in their laps and books at their backs.

Do you keep hearing the worrying rumors that books are about to be displaced by electronic wizardry? I wonder. A couple weeks ago, in the TV biography of Starbucks' visionary expander, critics voiced their worries that he would displace "real" coffee. Last night, in the TV documentary on "Hippies," critics decried their radical cultural effect on authority that still ravishes our society. Somehow, despite dire predictions, hippie Steve Jobs grew up to be the establishment figure he aimed to be, while the personal computer now allows us to shop online for books and just about everything but Starbucks. We seem to exert the creative energy to preserve what we need, what we cherish, what brings meaning or enjoyment to our lives. Sometimes we need to be prodded, but a lot of us are still reading books.

One of my visual-treat purchases yesterday is Country Living's "Merry & Bright: 301 Festive Ideas for Celebrating Christmas." It's a compendium of visual prompts for those who enjoy decorating their homes in honor of the spirit and tradition of this holy day. Craft instructions and baking recipes complete the book. Yes, I know that it's a little early to be thinking about Christmas decorating. But it's occupying my mind because my daughter-in-law, who is currently staying with us since returning from Afghanistan, will be joining her husband (our middle son) on assignment in Iraq several weeks before Christmas. Happily, this Thursday she'll be meeting him in Finland to share his two-weeks' leave from Baghdad. So this year I've decided that a few early decorations, like putting up the glistening snow tree in the foyer and arranging our Finnish Tonttu and Joulupukki collections, will provide an extra cache of visual postcards and emotional talismans for her to carry with her while serving away from home. And yes, they are both powerhouse readers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

promises, promises

Except for the masked and inked canvases from Heidi Swapp's class at Creative Escape (which you may have spied doubling as a rug for my garden room in the previous post), the rest of my CE stuff was hitching its way home from Phoenix and finally arrived yesterday.  As soon as I finish prepping for my Saturday "Q is for Quotes" class and polishing off the Anna Griffin class samples for October, I intend to wedge in some progress on the CE class projects so I can share them.  

Meanwhile, youngest son at UVA continues to stork it on one leg, needing lots of help (he says) with survival basics.  For instance, he's happily accepting meals from any girl willing to cook for him.  And even a somewhat immobilized 22-year-old needs lots of food, so he's very appreciative. He's also finally hobbled his way over to hockey practice, because he needs the adrenalin fix, even if vicariously.  I sure hope the next four weeks go quickly for him, so he can finally rid himself of  "the boot" and put his foot on the floor.   Much as I love to see his handsome grin, repeatedly driving the couple-hour "commute" to UVA to help him shop for groceries, etc, is radically affecting my appreciation of the rolling Virginia countryside.  This last trip we even began speculating about how long it would have taken Thomas Jefferson to ride his horse from his Monticello home near UVA to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia to frame the Declaration of Independence and later to the new federal capitol being built in the swamps of DC.  Jefferson certainly didn't make the trip every couple days.  Of course, he probably didn't have his mother nearby to help out, either. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

adding the new littles

As more of the swap participants in Amy's Club Little House receive their new crossing-the-country exchanges each day, I thought a few more glimpses would add to the anticipation. Can you spot my new CLH littles in each room?

Here's the living room, where the lady of the house has just put aside her new knitting project to read today's mail while sampling her fresh bakery goodies, straight from the bakery's pink box still sitting on the buffet.

So many goodies came from the real size of that other box on the floor (the one with the famous "Inspire Co." tape) that it's hard to imagine. The bookcase is filled with new items still to be put away in their proper rooms.

Look at the gorgeous new shell mirror, shimmering with its summer beach memories, hanging over the buffet. Tucked in the right corner is the glossy new pink dollhouse, ready for her young granddaughters to furnish. From Inspire Co. itself is the miniature toy glitter house on its pedestal, perched beside the tea set on the buffet. And sprawling on the new CLH area rug is the friendliest little puppy.

In the sewing room, the (amazing) ironing board is already busily prepped for the lady's next dressmaking project. She has carried the sweet pink dollhouse in here, too, so she can start making its tiny curtains. The new shirts from Nordstrom's just need a few folds ironed out. Over the ironing board, the magnetic inspiration board hangs ready to showcase her favorite ideas, while the armoire is filled with more new supplies. Puppy has followed her, hoping for a treat, but the delightful pink bubblegum machine is for her granddaughters.

After the unpacking of so many new things, the lady decided she deserved another chocolatey treat in the garden room. The spiffy new oilskin tablecloth is set with the treats and flowers, while the restored candy-pink metal garden chair sets just the right jaunty tone. Of course, she's brought her glittery toy house to dress up the table, just for fun. A trashy beach novel awaits her stroll to the beach, where puppy also likes to play. The soft pink backpack is so comfy for carrying extra books. The new garden cupboard, painted a fresh spring green, and a new sprinkling can remind her of the gardening chores that also beckon, but for now it's time to relax while the day turns a little cool in anticipation of fall.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Club Little House elves session

Like good little elves, Lorraine, Pat and I swooped into Amy's house early Wednesday to be her Club Little House assistants for the day. From her newly painted miniature landscape above the family room mantel to the living room sofa rearranged along the long wall to open up more space, we scurried through all her rooms, crisscrossing our paths, cradling the "littles" as we sorted and packaged them to be shipped all over the country.

There were so many swap participants this round that Amy had set up 48 stations with BIG numbers so we could more easily find each swapper's handmades and make sure no one received their own "little" in return.

We used Amy's big tape machine to spread her special "Inspire" tape across all the box seams. Of course, like good little elves, we rechecked each package against its list and found out who the naughty packer was who got distracted by how cute the "littles" were.

To keep her elves happy, Amy prepared a deliciously fortifying lunch at her sunny table in the kitchen. And keeping with the "magnitude and madness" of it all, the star of the lunch was the specially prepared "cheese lava." We all agreed that this was a recipe worth honoring: Put your melted cheese mix in the microwave, punch in a fanciful time for heating, and when you hear that popping sound, open the microwave door. Voila! Erupting Cheese Lava. Couldn't have tasted better if we'd tried. Just look how artfully it decorated the serving bowl!

And guess what! The FedEx truck just backed down my long driveway to deliver my box with its Inspire tape. Excuse me just a minute while I prepare for you a sneak peek.

Monday, September 10, 2007

mannequin montage

The umpteenth day of 100-degree heat couldn't deter the determined ladies visiting Phoenix for Creative Escape.  I wish I could share with you immediately all the creative inspiration from this past week, but I'm not home yet and my class projects are temporarily in the caring hands of FedEx.  As soon as the projects and I are reunited, I promise to post about the fabulous classes and instructors and friends who made CE special for the second year. By the way, the fountain (photographed at 6 a.m. when the temperature was still around 90 degrees) was my view from my bedroom window in the Pointe Hilton Resort casita to the right.

Meanwhile, here's a small montage of another collectible that has started making a presence in my "studio" space.  I've been wanting to use dress mannequin forms for display, and this week in Phoenix offered some great examples.  Domestic Bliss, on Main Street in downtown Mesa, showcases shabby chic furniture and accessories, including a great old mannequin with a red neckline insert that may still wend its way east.  On Tuesday, Kristin, the charming owner, was willing to help me surprise Carol with a gift while Jeanette found an addition to her topiary collection.  There was so much to see in this exquisite shop that I totally forgot to photograph the coveted mannequin that wouldn't fit in my suitcase.  I guess it's time for FedEx to the rescue again.

But the next day Jeanette and I, needing more retail therapy, found Melrose Vintage, another Shabby Chic mecca combined with vintage-style scrapbooking supplies. Just inside the door
stood this great old display form, along with many other inviting vignettes of old and new glittery girly gotta-have stuff.  Chandeliers, pillows and linens, sofas and, among the varied displays, Anna Griffin's complete line accompanied by glitter words like "Dream" and "Believe" and the word "WISH" over the counter.

Then on Thursday, another fabulous mannequin received the "ooh and aah" treatment at CE's Trunk Show.  Jennifer Wagner's display of her projects included several great mini albums but the stars for me were these two flanking wire forms, especially the larger one covered in a delightful tag apron.

Still, the queen mannequin already in my studio space holds her own court, wearing a chic pink brocade covering à la Shabbyfufu.  She is ready for a whimsical ladies' tea whenever I complete my studio decor.  Also waiting my  attention is a wire form like Jennifer's, this one given to me by Carol when she visited in June. Right now I like to think these mannequins are standing in for some very creative women it is my pleasure to know. 

Monday, September 03, 2007

i have an escape plan

It's reunion time! Just over a year ago, I ventured into scrapbooking by diving into teaching classes at Scrapbooks Plus, followed quickly by attending classes myself at last September's Creative Escape in Phoenix.   After a year full of wonderful scrapping experiences, I'm excitedly heading back to Phoenix tomorrow for Creative Escape 2007 and the pleasure of rejoining some terrifically creative friends who have shared this year with me.  From the pink t-shirts to the logo luggage tags to the bulk adhesives, I'm ready to go!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

hangin' out with my own computer wizard

Held hostage by a cast and crutches, my youngest son is giving me some quality help updating my blog, not to mention upgrading all the supporting hardware. But inevitably he's run out of time, and I'm left with the fine-tuning. Any bets on how long this will take me to figure out?

Can it be so long ago when I was the only female taking her young children to the local computer classes in the early 70's, learning Pascal and becoming part of the just-exploding interest in personal computers? When did I turn into a relic from another age?

Thank heavens, his unexpected foot surgery (after an early misdiagnosis assured him he should walk on the "pulled tendon" to restore it) for broken arch bones and joint went well, with the surgeon videotaping the tricky and unusual operation for presentation at a podiatry convention. Now fortified with some screws in his foot, cast, crutches, and painkillers, he's acutely aware of his limited mobility. Ice hockey and reffing are on hold, as is the coveted bartending job. His motorcycle will rest forlornly in his parents' garage. His lively Sunday all-nighters as an EMT in Charlottesville will be suspended. His paramedic training will continue, but the clinic visits will be postponed (only patients should be seen hobbling through hospital wards on crutches). All this surely requires a treat, so, in order to facilitate his MPH classes at UVA, he has a handicapped parking pass and can be driven like a VIP right up to the class buildings. After chauffeuring him around several days, we were happy to hand him over to his housemates and friends who will continue to support him for the next six weeks.