August 31, 2013

Do You Use The Things You Own?

Unread books and new planner.
I'm trying to go minimalist. Every once in a while I just want to get rid of everything. My goal is not to live with as little as I possibly can. My goal is to pare down what I have and actually make use of the things I own.

Most people have natural chances to minimize: they go to college and have to pick only the possessions they use most often, or they move and only have so much room to pack. I've pruned a ton in the last few years, but I have never moved so I've never really been forced to evaluate and prune everything. 

I have read about people whose choose to only have as many possessions that will fit in a tiny suitcase or others that keep their number of possessions under 100. Some even fight to get their number as small as possible. I find it admirable a beneficial to make do with less but I am not going to whittle my possessions down to an arbitrary number. As long as I am actually making use of an item, not just keeping it around, I see no reason to part with it.   

I am using criteria that I haven't really used before. I ask the simple question of "Do I use it?" Before, I was content with answering "Is it useful?" But have come to understand that just because it is useful doesn't mean that I make use of it.

This exercise has been very beneficial. There were things I hadn't touched or used in forever. It was easy to get rid of these things. But there was this group of things that I kept because I wanted to use them but never did. This was the group of items that hurt the most. I would look at this stuff all of the time and think of all of the reasons that I didn't use them: "Not enough time," "Don't know what to do with it," "It's not perfect for what I was thinking."

I have a large stockpile of books I want to read and art and craft supplies. I knew the "to read" books were a problem so put all of the "to read" books on their own shelf and put a sticky note on them with the date they were placed there with the intention of giving them away if I didn't get to them in a year. I've read plenty of books since, but I've revisited the shelf and I couldn't believe that most of the books had been on there for 2 years.

So I've reevaluated the books for if I still want to read them, re-tagged them, if so, and added an extra 30 minutes of reading a day specifically for these books. I've also decided to date any other items that I am not sure I use enough, and in a year, I will see how many times I actually use those items. 

But what I am most excited about is the art stuff. I've decided that I'm not going to buy any new supplies until I go through my stockpile and evaluate whether something i already own could work, even if it's not the perfect thing. I have found for me, the less I have, the more creative I have to be. Having too many art choices stop me from getting anything done as I wait around for the perfect thing or can't choose between so many options.

Recently, I had wanted to get a new planner and a smaller sketchbook for on location watercolor. I found a tiny notebook I hadn't used and an old watercolor pad that only had a few pages left on it and made some impromptu, crude solutions. They aren't perfect but they were fun to make and I'm actually using stuff I already own and creating more. I'm so excited. :) 

New sketchbook.
I'm strangely appreciate running out of things, lately. It means I'm using things. :)   So, do you really use the things you own?

August 28, 2013

Day at the Beach

A few days ago, I went to Wildwood, New Jersey with my family. It's rare that we all get a day off.  When I was little we used to go to the beach for a week every year. My mom and sisters and I would spend all day on the beach, playing in the sand and swimming with the waves. At night we would swim at the hotel, play mini golf or addle our brains on the boardwalk amusement rides. We haven't gone  in a few years as it's much harder to get everyone together. 

No trip to New Jersey is complete without some pizza. There is no good pizza anywhere near where we live. Boardwalk pizza is fantastic. It's flavorful and thick, but not too thick.

We didn't get on any rides this time as our bodies can really feel it now. :) It was a very fun day and I'm glad I got to spend it with my family.

August 23, 2013

August Sketchbook Challenge

Paint Doodle
I never thought much about the social nature of sketchbooks until I stopped having sketchbook people to chat with. One by one as all of my sketch buddies scattered, I picked up the pencil less and less. I was busy. I didn't feel like drawing. And I wasn't being challenged or inspired. But, I'd like to change that.

I'm taking part in The Sketchbook Challenge, a challenge created by artists to encourage other artists to keep doodling away. Each month they give a prompt and everyone sketches and posts their work on flickr.

For the challenges, it seems that a lot of people submit finished pieces. They are very beautiful, but as I am just trying to get back in the habit of sketching, I'll just be posting my sketchbook doodles. The theme this month is "Journeys." I decided to paint a scene from my last big journey.

I'm looking forward to finally drawing on a regular basis again. If you are an artist, I highly encourage you to check out the Sketchbook Challenge site and post your progress.

August 21, 2013

Trash or History?

Did you know that litter on National Park land belongs to the government? The same goes for anything interesting you might find.

If you find something really interesting in a national park, the proper protocol is to take photos of it, note it's location and notify the ranger.  Many people are unaware of this or don't think anything of picking up these items and keeping them or giving them to the rangers.

To many, artifacts are the treasure. But to anyone studying history, the context is the treasure. To illustrate, it is the difference between finding a button from a Civil War soldier and finding a button from a Civil War soldier who was only 16 years old and delivered a letter to Stonewall Jackson minutes before he was killed.  

Do you think that there are so many visitors that you shouldn't even bother keeping your eyes open? Very interesting things are found on historic sites each year. Weapons, ammunition, buttons, helmets, and coins are found on battlefields every year. Some visitors even find soldiers. 

Last year, a visitor stumbled upon the remains of a Civil War soldier at Antietam, in a groundhog hole. While no charges were filed against him for bringing the remains to the rangers, this man at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield wasn't so lucky. He found remains sticking out of a river bed, excavated them and sent them to the park service. He was fined over $5,000.


August 19, 2013

Middletown Peach Festival and Fun

This weekend I had a ton of fun at the Middletown Peach Festival in Delaware with the Victorians of Virtue and Valor. We marched in the parade and then occupied the yard in front of the historical society with period games, a fabulous Cinderella puppet show made from period patterns, a recruitment center, a silhouette artist and even a snake-oil salesman. 

While the festival isn't purely a historically based event, the event was lighthearted and there was a lot of interaction between reenactors and visitors.

Beautiful doll fashion show.

Salesman making some sales. 

The puppet show was beautiful and a huge draw for girls and boys alike.  Some visitors even play acted out the whole 15 minute Cinderella script. 

To finish off the day, the ladies tried their hands at a military volley.  

Then Sunday, Andy and I went to help out on tall ship, Gazela. We're joining the crew so will have more updates about the ship later this year.

Overall it was a fun and productive weekend. I was able to see friends and make new ones.

August 9, 2013

Period Shoes Hurt? Period Shoe Solutions Civil War Knitted Soles

You put on your period dress and walk outside in the nice, smoke filled air. Everything is perfect. You have a nice dress, a great bonnet and an awesome shawl. But something is wrong. It's your cute shoes. Every step you take, you feel the rubbing of your raw foot against hardened leather. Your shoes hurt and it's ruining what would otherwise be a good time.

Much of the uncomfortableness of period shoes would be assuaged by woolen socks, and everyday use molding shoes to fit more comfortably. But sometimes, reproduction shoes just don't fit quite right. Many times, they aren't made to our feet and never fit perfect.

There are a few period solutions to the problem, the most common one seems to be an insole made of "kid leather" glued inside the shoe. This would make shoes a little tighter and could cover any uncomfortable stitches or overlaps.  It is very simple to make this kind by tracing the bottom of your shoe onto leather and cutting it down as you need to make it fit.

For those who wanted a little more cushion, knitted insole patterns were widely published.

I've included 2 knitted patterns below. These patterns will have to be widened slightly to fit a modern day foot. If you have ever had the chance to look at period shoes, they are thinner than most of our shoes and feet today. The size of our feet is linked to our diets as children and modern people in general have larger feet even just compared to our grandparents. If you are a beginner, you can trace the bottom of your shoe to use as a template and increase and decrease stitches to match it.

I like the idea of sewing the knitting to muslin and sealing the outer edge with ribbon:

Plate 21

August 6, 2013

Garden Wedding!

This weekend I got to go to the most beautiful, intimate garden wedding ever! For those of you that don't know, I love garden weddings. I love small weddings. Small intimate weddings just ooze love. Only recently have people started shying away from small affairs in favor of enormous, lavish events.(Personally I don't believe in couples starting out their lives together in debt for a one day party.)


There's just something about small weddings that makes your heart feel the romance in the air. Many bigger gatherings just can't capture that.

Many of the details of a wedding are forgotten soon after the celebration dies down. But that feeling of love that burned in your heart when you witness two people can be felt years later.
This really was an awesome, love-filled wedding and I'm so happy I got to witness it. It was a beautiful wedding and such a happy celebration. Congratulations guys!

August 1, 2013

Know a Veteran? Record their Story!

The American Folklife Center, part of the Library of Congress, has been conducting an important ongoing project: The Veteran's History Project. The goal of the Veteran's History Project is to collect firsthand accounts from American war veterans, and civilians to aided war efforts from WWI to the present.

As more and more witnesses of these events pass away, their personal stories are lost with them. Many people experienced extraordinary things that they do not feel the need to share with anyone until someone asks. 

Many people discredit oral histories because they have long been associated with many problems.

Problems associated with oral history:

- Interviews conducted years after an event are subject to nostalgia, forgetfulness, embellishment, false memory, etc. 

- The interviewer's questions can make certain aspects seem more important to the interviewee than they really were. For instance, interviewers generally ask specific questions that they are interested in hearing about rather than letting the interviewee demonstrate what they believed was most important. 

-Interviewees may be reluctant to share things that they may be embarrassed of, especially if the interviewer is a family member. 

Even though there are many pitfalls in using and conducting oral histories, oral histories are still important.  Oral histories can bring up forgotten parts of history and give a human face and experience to historical events. Oral histories are good for recording emotions and feelings about events. Writers of history are quick to generalize the feelings of groups of people in the past but oral histories are one way to show the diversity of feelings and emotions that existed. In addition, they also show the diversity of experience. A farm girl might have different feelings about an event than a soldier she was standing next to.

If you would like to take part in the project, the American Folklife Center has put together resources for those interested and instructions on how to record and submit materials. 

-Here is a link to the project.
-Here is a link to their interview field kit.   
-Search to see some of the histories they have collected already.  
-Tips for Interviewers from the Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office to help interviewers minimize bias in their interviews.

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